Tag Archives: gin

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 Tom Collins

photo (3)Over the past two weeks, the weather in Alabama has ranged from snowy and cold to severe thunderstorms and highs in the 70s. Since we’re quite confused about whether to turn on the heat or air conditioning, I thought it would be a great time to feature a cocktail named for a troublemaker — the Tom Collins.

Cocktail historians will tell you that this drink was named for a 19th century bartender, a prank that shares his name or both. The prank was pretty simple: a mischievous chap would pick a target and convince him that a fellow named Tom Collins was either looking for him or had been taking full advantage of him. It was such a popular gag that the height of its popularity has been dubbed the Great Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.

Some commerce-minded bartender proceeded to name a drink after the hoax. After that point, unsuspecting victims who barged into pubs clamoring for Tom Collins would find themselves served a rather delicious beverage. Credit for the drink’s creation is where the story gets murky. Many sources give this honor to John Collins, a waiter from London’s Limmer’s Old House. If the drink originally bore his name, it’s likely that the change came from substituting Old Tom gin for another style.

Though its exact origin may be unclear, the Tom Collins first appeared in Jerry Thomas’s 1876 The Bartender’s Guide. Since then, it’s become one of the most iconic and refreshing summer cocktails. Like the French 75, its light, fizzy, citrusy deliciousness is built around a potent base spirit that packs a wallop. As the Girl Scouts say, be prepared.

Recipe

1 oz simple syrup
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz gin (preferably Old Tom gin)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake for 12-15 seconds or until cold. Strain into a chilled Collins glass over ice. Top with club soda or sparkling water to taste.

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Cocktail of the hour — the French 75

photo (1)Since it’s my birthday week, I thought that an easy, bubbly cocktail would be perfect for the Cocktail of the Hour re-inauguration. The French 75 is just gin, citrus, sugar and champagne (or prosecco, if you’re partial). Despite its simplicity, the drink packs a kick much like its namesake — an accurate and quick-firing field gun used in World War I.

Per cocktail lore, this lovely libation was most likely named by a Parisian bartender around 1915ish, but its roots go back much further. In the 19th century, upper class folks on both sides of the pond drank a mixture of bubbly, citrus, sugar and ice. Dump in a little bit of readily available gin and voila, the French 75.

Other stories indicate that the French 75 was also, in some circles, a brandy drink. The shift away from brandy may have been caused by the wine shortage that also changed the Sazerac’s base liquor. Personally, I prefer gin to brandy here — gin makes the cocktail herbaceous while brandy slightly spices and sweetens it. If I can get my hands on a bottle of Pierre Ferrand 1840, I’ll try it again and report back.

It’s also possible that a bartender subbed champagne for soda in a Tom Collins as some early versions of the recipe specify that the drink is served over ice. In this version of the French 75’s origin story, it’s not clear if the substitution was intentional. Regardless, the result was delicious.

Like the daiquiri and gimlet, this cocktail probably existed for decades before it was named, so history buffs and cocktail nerds alike can savor its qualities.

Recipe:
1 oz gin
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Shake for 12-18 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into a champagne flute or coupe glass and top with 1 – 2 ounces of champagne.

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Cocktail of the Hour: The Southside

The SouthsideAs the story goes, the Southside was named for the South Side of Chicago’s bootlegging joints. During Prohibition, citrus and sugar were mixed with bathtub gin to make it drinkable. Even if it wasn’t one of the creations of that era, it is still a delicious gimlet variation. In the years since, it has become an institution at many country clubs. Even Tory Burch has claimed a vodka-based version of this drink as her favorite.

The version documented in Townsend’s The Bartender’s Book is gin-based, and the spirit’s botanicals add a layer of complexity to the taste. Fortunately, we don’t live during Prohibition, and many of the products previously unavailable in Alabama are now here. Experimenting with different gins will yield slight changes in the cocktail’s flavor and body, but the citrus and mint are somewhat forgiving.

This beverage is best made while the weather is warm and mint is in season. Since we’ve only got a few weeks left that meet both requirements, shake one (or few) up for the perfect picnic/tailgating/afternoon tipple.

Recipe:

4-6 mint leaves

1 dash Angostura bitters*

1 oz lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

2 oz gin of your choice

Lightly bruise — do not pulverize — mint leaves in the shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake for 10-12 seconds to combine. Strain into a chilled glass.

*Editor’s note: the traditional Southside isn’t made with bitters, but they add depth of flavor. Try it both ways!

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