Tag Archives: cocktail

Cocktail of the Hour — the Aviation

Aviation line.

Flying in style.

To truly enjoy the Aviation and appreciate its name, you have to think back to when air travel was a luxury. Picture a elegant seating area inhabited by suave gentlemen and well-coifed ladies. Imagine full-service dinners on tables with real table cloths served by happy stewardesses (term used for historical effect).

In that context, the Aviation’s name and makeup makes more sense. It’s a bit of a mystery — I couldn’t find much background on this Prohibition-era cocktail other than it was inspired by the air travel available around that time. It’s a crisp cocktail with a tart bite and a dry finish. Per the recipes I found online, it’s also incredibly versatile.

Per Wondrich’s article on Esquireit’s made with maraschino liqueur, but no crème de violette. This recipe first appeared in Harry Craddock’s 1930 edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book, and makes the drink reminiscent of the icy cloudscape that passengers experience when they fly.

According to most other sources, the crème de violette is essential: it provides the drink’s recognizable hazy purple-blue color. Either way, it’s a gorgeous drink that can call up memories of a simpler — and more glamorous — time. To find your way back, experiment with the proportions until you find what takes you back.

Recipe:
1 tsp Crème de Violette (optional)
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
2 oz gin

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled, about 12-18 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry (optional).

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Cocktail of the Hour — the Ramos Gin Fizz

The Ramos Gin Fizz is one of the most time-intensive and physically challenging drinks for bartenders. In fact, its original instructions call for a 12-minute-long hard shake. Though most modern bars will shake it for two to five minutes, it still requires an intense physical effort. As a result, some bars will charge a lot more for this libation if it’s ordered during peak service hours.

Out of respect for my fellow bartenders, I’d been hesitant to post about it. With the advent of spring, this delicious, traditional New Orleans cocktail is something I’ve been craving on a regular basis. As well, its surprisingly straightforward place in history should be discussed and respected.

With all that said, please be considerate of your bartender when ordering this drink.

Historically, this drink has its origins  in the 1880s. Henry Ramos, a New Orleans bartender of the time, created this drink and ignited a craze. It became so popular that he had at least ten bartenders on the clock every night to keep up with demand. It’s not hard to see why — its creamy, fluffy texture is reminiscent of Lebanese ice cream and its taste is light, delicate, floral and entirely tasty.

As with most classics, variations on this drink have been made with different syrups, juices and garnishes. As spring approaches, experiment with different gins (I prefer either the Old Tom style) or different proportions to fit your taste.

Recipe:

1 dash orange flower water (orange blossom water is the same thing)
1 egg white
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.5 0z simple syrup
.75 oz heavy whipping cream
2 oz gin

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Shake vigorously without ice for at least 45 seconds. Add ice and shake vigorously for several minutes until the tin is frosty. Strain into a chilled Collins glass and top with soda water to create the foam cap.

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Cocktail of the Hour — the Manhattan

manhattan drink 2After researching a lot of cocktails with contentious origins, it comes as no surprise that the ever-popular Manhattan has many origin legends. The drink was definitely a bar staple by the 1860s, but the details of where and when it was created are largely lost to history. One of the most interesting stories was that it was invented for a party thrown by Winston Churchill’s mother at the Manhattan Club. Unfortunately, the historical record indicates that she was across the pond giving birth during the time of this party.

Other sources give credit to a bartender named Black who worked in another bar in Manhattan. If this was the case, it’s likely that this libation was created to be one of the five cocktails named for New York City’s five main boroughs. Despite its lack of historical figures, this tale is likely the most true.

Interestingly, putting together an original Manhattan is almost as  impossible as piecing together its backstory. The oldest recorded recipe calls for a few dashes of Boker’s bitters in equal parts rye whiskey and sweet vermouth. A few decades ago, the original Boker’s bitters went out of production, so unless you’re willing to shell out some serious cash for a vintage bottle, you’re unlikely to ever taste the most historic Manhattan.

As well, modern palates (and bartenders) favor spirit-heavy drinks over vermouth-heavy drinks. As a result, the most popular recipe for a Manhattan calls for a 2:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth. Thanks to a few marketing campaigns featuring the Manhattan, bourbon has largely eclipsed rye in common recipes. Though this substitution doesn’t affect the presentation, it gives the drink a much smoother, sweeter taste overall than a rye Manhattan.

manhattan spread 4The rye Manhattan is a dark, slightly sweet cocktail with a hint of spice from the whiskey. An orange peel garnish adds a citrusy nose that compliments the wine and dark fruit of the first sip. Garnishing with a maraschino cherry, by contrast, adds a very sweet finish to a sweet, but balanced drink. Though the origins of this practice are unclear, written records would seem to indicate that the orange peel garnish came first.

Choosing complimentary vermouths and whiskeys is one of the biggest parts of making a delicious Manhattan. For example, a more bitter vermouth like Punt e Mes won’t necessarily compliment either the boldness of Rittenhouse rye or a smooth bourbon. However, a more rounded, earthier vermouth like Cocchi Vermouth di Turino or Carpano Antica Formula can bring out the best qualities in either liquor.

Since no two people have the exact same taste preferences, experimentation is the best way to find our your favorite drink recipes. Try out different combinations and see what works for you.

Recipe:
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Heering cherry liqueur
1 oz sweet vermouth

2 oz rye whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well incorporated. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel or maraschino cherry depending on your preference.

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Cocktail of the Hour — the Ward 8

photo (1)

Out of all the contentious drinks I’ve featured so far, the Ward 8 might just top them all. With at least three origin stories and hundreds of recipes, the diversity of its manifestations almost rivals the Old Fashioned’s. In fact, when a New York Sun writer called for readers to submit their Ward 8 recipes in the 1940s, he received more than 500 replies.

People get territorial over their whiskey cocktails.

According to the available mishmash of cocktail history, Boston was definitely the Ward 8’s birthplace. It was probably created within a decade of 1900, and is most likely named for one of the city’s voting districts. The most popular backstory is that it was created to celebrate a political boss’s election victory in north Boston, but this story seems to have originated in 1951. Other sources credit other bartenders who worked at the hotel where this alleged party occurred and yet others give credit to other venues.

The Ward 8 is a whiskey sour sweetened with grenadine. The use of orange juice and the amount of grenadine varies by recipe, but however it’s made, it usually turns out light, spicy and slightly dry. Since so many recipes for this beverage exist, I’m not going off the reservation by saying that if my recipe doesn’t suit your fancy, tweak it until it does.

Ward 8
1 tsp – .5 oz grenadine (to taste)
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz orange juice
2 oz whiskey
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin. Shake vigorously for 13-17 seconds or until cooled through and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

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Cocktails, food and more cocktails

photo (13)Before you get worried, let me clarify: the title describes my reading list, not my nightly routine. Currently, I’ve got a foot-high stack of cocktail history books on my coffee table and a couple more in my bag. As both a craft bartender and food/drink writer, deep dives into cocktail history and lore have sharpened my skills and deepened my interest in the subject.

I’m also lucky to have friends and loved ones who loan me books. Since the craft cocktail movement is still building here in Birmingham, it is also relatively new to public understanding. As a result, local libraries don’t have much related material. My coworkers and friends have been invaluable in pointing me towards the best history and reference books in the field. Here are a few books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed:

  • Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book This funky, modern cocktail book breaks down every part of the bar experience into interesting and manageable segments. All pieces of drink-making and preparation are explained, including infusions and syrups specific to each recipe. Though some home bartenders may have to rebalance a few recipes to please their own palates, it’s a wonderfully accessible primer on all things bar-related.
  • Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion or The Bartender’s Guide Thomas’s historical cocktail guide is delightfully Victorian without being prudish. Widely considered the great-great-great grandfather of modern mixology, Thomas is responsible for much of the flair and technique that made the American Cock-Tail into what it’s become today. However, many of the recipes are written in measurements vague enough to kill even the best constructed drink. Luckily, modern cocktail historian David Wondrich has written a fantastic biography of Jerry Thomas called Imbibe! that translates and, in some cases, slightly rebalances these cocktails for the modern palate.
  • Wondrich also crafted a fantastic history of punch in Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. At once sassy and informative, this guide traces the drink’s origins, takes a stab at its exact date of birth, goes on to give historical recipes with translated, user friendly modern equivalents.
  • David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks is an unintentionally hilarious, overtly sexist and absolutely curmudgeonly take on bartending. Embury himself never worked a bar shift, but had such strong ideas of how drinks should be made that he taught seminars on the matter after Prohibition. I’m only a few chapters in, but have laughed out loud multiple times.
  • Brad Thomas Parsons’s Bitters is both historical and practical for the home bartender. If you’ve ever been curious on what exactly bitters are or how they’re made, pick up a copy and enjoy. (Disclaimer: I’ve only read the introduction).
  • Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails is a delightful romp through pre- and post-Prohibition cocktails. Home bartenders beware: some of the recipes aren’t balanced for modern tastes. Some drinks might not be to your taste.

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Cocktail of the Hour — Blood and Sand

20131102-123144.jpgAs much as I love all things whisk(e)y, I’m still dipping my toes in the peaty waters of scotch and scotch cocktails. One of my recent favorites is the classic Blood & Sand. Composed of equal parts blended scotch, Heering cherry, orange juice and sweet vermouth, the drink is surprisingly smooth and sensuous.

This tipple first appears on the radar in Henry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book. Its name is most likely derived from the 1922 movie that starred Rudolph Valentino, but its history is otherwise unknown. More recently, its revival was almost halted by its ingredient list. In fact, master bartender Dale DeGroff rediscovered the recipe in the mid-1990s and was so intrigued by the combination that he both doubted its value and had to try one.

Though the ingredients might seem incompatible at first glance, the result is a rich, almost-tropical-punch drink. Rich cherry liqueur adds weight, sweetness and velvety texture that’s balanced by the orange juice’s acidity. The scotch gives the drink the smoky, peaty notes that are grounded by the rich wine-y-ness of the sweet vermouth. On paper, it appears of be a cacophony of tastes, but in reality, it all comes together for a right, delicious experience.

Recipe:

.75 oz orange juice
.75 oz Heering cherry
.75 oz sweet vermouth
.75 oz blended scotch 

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake until well-mixed, about 13-17 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and serve.

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Cocktail of the Hour — the Negroni

Image c/o Angel Negrin

Image c/o Angel Negrin

Despite all of the amazing alcoholic products exported from Italy, it’s not a place known for its cocktails. Since the country didn’t have to get creative to make illegal spirits palatable, few recipes have emerged. However, a few Italian cocktails have become critical parts of cocktail history.

One that has inspired endless variations is the Negroni. Like many other cocktails, this one doesn’t have a clear cut backstory. Its origin is traced by some back to 1919. At that time, Count Camillo Negroni is said to have ordered an Americano (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth) with gin and no soda.

The result was and is a cocktail with a beautiful ruby tone. Taste-wise, the Campari adds a bitterness and sweetness that plays around the gin’s herbaceous bite. Sweet vermouth balances these flavors with a smoky, wine-y earthiness. Though many bartenders have rebalanced this cocktail to please modern palates, others argue passionately that these variations are not actually Negronis.

For that reason, I’ve included the original recipe. By what I can tell, it’s also the most historical, so it’s the best suited for my purposes. Other interesting variations to try include the Boulevardier (sub bourbon for gin), a 1794 (sub rye for gin) or a Boulevarista (sub tequila for gin). With one Google search, I uncovered more than twenty variations, and scores of others exist in books and bars all over the world. With the number of possibilities available, it’s just a matter of finding one that’s to your taste.

Recipe:

1 oz Campari

1 oz sweet vermouth

1 oz gin

Combine in a mixing glass and stir for 12-15 seconds or until combined to taste. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.

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