Tag Archives: recipe

Cocktail of the hour — the Harvard

Photo credit to Brent Beachtel

Photo credit to Brent Beachtel

Before high fructose corn syrup was king, colleges had cocktails. Not the sugar-soaked-violently-neon-OMG-Spring-Break cocktails, but more sippable drinks that packed a wallop. During the early 1900s, the Harvard was one such cocktail. This cognac-based Manhattan variation has a rich, earthy and spicy from the brandy that’s balanced by the warmth and sweetness of vermouth.

The Harvard first appeared in print in George Kappeler’s 1895 Modern American Drinks. Like the Manhattan, the Harvard’s original recipe calls for equal parts liquor and vermouth. After these ingredients are mixed, the Harvard’s recipe diverges with a splash of soda water. In the original proportion, the brandy gets lost under the additional dilution.

Within the first 20 years of the 20th century, this cocktail was rebalanced to be more spirit-forward. This newer recipe has endured to present, and changes the ratio to two parts cognac to one part vermouth. Changing the ratio balances the liquor content with both the vermouth’s sweetness and prevents over dilution, leading to a much more balanced drink.

Interestingly, Harvard variations including Chartreuse, citrus juice, maraschino liqueur and other sweeteners are occasionally mentioned in pre-Prohibition documents. That said, these Fancy (or Improved) Harvards have mostly been lost to history. Besides, this solidly balanced cocktail needs very little tweaking; it’s lush and delicious in its original form.

Recipe
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz sweet vermouth

2 oz brandy

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 12-17 seconds or until well combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with some club soda. Garnish with an orange peel if feeling citrusy.

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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 Moscow Mule

Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris

Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris

As a disclaimer, the Moscow Mule is the first and will probably be the last vodka drink I feature here. With a name that translates literally as “little water,” this colorless and tasteless spirit doesn’t add anything to cocktails other than alcohol content. Too many other delicious products exist to focus much energy on a substance that is renowned for its ability to blend in.

Ranting aside, the Moscow Mule is almost solely responsible for making vodka popular. Back in 1934, Rudolf Kunnett bought the rights to a French vodka brand called Smirnoff. Five years later, employee Jack Martin convinced the Heublein Inc. corporation to buy out Kunnett. They then bottled all of the remaining stock with whiskey corks from another unsuccessful venture. Despite its popularity with a certain faction of day drinkers, the product still hadn’t caught on by 1946.

At this time, Martin started hanging out in a Hollywood joint called the Cock ‘n’ Bull Pub. The bar’s owner was having an equally bad time trying to sell the spicy ginger beer he had been bottling. When both ingredients were dumped into a copper mug (made by yet another struggling businessman) and a lime wedge squeezed on top, the Moscow Mule was born. Topped with a meaningless but catchy name, this mixed drink was marketed well and helped popularize vodka.

Though we have this drink to blame for the increasingly sweet and artificially fruity vodka drinks that followed, this simple and refreshing concoction may just serve as the gateway to  drinking a Southside or Tom Collins. If that’s the case, this vodka drink may just be able to cancel out a little bit of the harm it’s done to the popular palate.

Recipe

.5 oz lime juice

2 oz vodka

ginger beer

Squeeze or pour lime juice into a chilled Collins glass or copper mug. Add a few cubes of ice, then add vodka and, if desired, a splash of simple syrup. Fill to the brim with ginger beer and lightly stir to combine. 

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Cocktail of the Hour: the Improved Whiskey Cocktail

photo (8)I’m not much for the idea that the certain spirits should only be drunk during certain times of the year. If I waited for cold weather in Alabama to drink red wine or whiskey, I would still have a long time to wait. Luckily, even a spirituous* cocktail can revive a thirsty soul and cool him or her down.

One such beverage is the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. With recipes dating back to the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion or The Bartender’s Guide, this cocktail sprang from a source similar to the Old Fashioned. In the days of yore, few drinks had defined names. Simply enough, patrons wanting any sort of mixture of whiskey, water and sugar would order a Whiskey Cocktail.

As maraschino liqueur, absinthe and other spirits came on the scene, their introduction into this family of beverage spawned a new creation — the Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. About fourteen years later, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail joined its fancy counterpart in Thomas’s book. Since that time, both of the cocktails have been reformulated to fit more modern standards of measurement by David Wondrich in Imbibe! which was later picked up by The PDT Cocktail Book. This recipe is the one below.

Currently, the PDT recipe is my favorite riff on this particular cocktail. It’s a simple drink with sweet and bitter notes that balance and soften the edges of the rye whiskey. As they say, rye whiskey makes the band sound better, makes your baby cuter, makes itself taste sweeter, oh boy!

Recipe:

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 dash absinthe (or rinse the glass with absinthe)

.25 oz simple syrup

.25 oz maraschino liqueur

2 oz overproof rye whiskey

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and drop in a handful of crushed ice. Put a few whole cubes on top and stir til the drink is diluted to your taste or about 13-17 seconds. Garnish with a lemon peel.

*spirituous: A drink that contains (almost) all liquor and no citrus.

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Cocktail of the Hour: the Daiquiri

c/o Angel Negrin

National Rum Day pic c/o Angel Negrin

In much of the restaurant industry, “blender” is a curse word. They are not only loud, breakable and time-consuming, but also pretty much useless in classic recipes. Believe it or not, one such drink is the daiquiri.

Named for a Cuban beach, this beverage’s root date back to before the Spanish-American War. From there, its history gets hazy. Some sources suggest that the classic daiquiri’s proportions mimic the daily rations of rum, citrus and sugar given to British sailors, suggesting that their grog was a less refined version of this cocktail. Other stories suggest that, since sugar cane and lime are indigenous to Cuba, that it was a combination of available resources.

What we know for sure is that this drink — and many of its many variations — has served up inspiration for writers and artists of all kinds. Hemingway himself frequented Cuba’s La Florida (the self-proclaimed “Cradle of the Daiquiri”), and his drink made it into 1937’s Bar La Florida Cocktails as “The Henmiway Special.” Boasting translation skills on par with its spelling, this book is entertaining, but probably not the most reliable source.

After that point, the daiquiri became popular again in the 1940s and 1970s. Like many other cocktails, its most recognizable present form is actually a re-imagining from the 1960s/70s/80s that ratcheted up its sugar content to appeal to the public palate. Its most classic form, however, is a humble beverage that balances tart with sweet. Mix one up today to find out why it’s inspired countless variations.

Recipe:

2 oz white rum

1 oz lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds or until cooled through. Strain and serve straight up.

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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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Introducing — Cocktail of the Hour

Photo c/o Angel Negrin

Photo c/o Angel Negrin

At Octane, we bartenders use the daily dinner hour lull to Instagram pictures of drinks and their ingredients. Many of the cocktails are both beautifully colored and cleverly named. As a result, I’ve become somewhat engrossed in research on the subject.

Weekly Cocktail of the Hour posts will highlight one cocktail and its history as told by the books and online sites I frequent and love. This week, the Last Word hits the top of the list. Though the exact quantity varies, the basic recipe calls for equal parts gin, Maraschino liqueur, Green Chartreuse and lime juice.

Developed in Detroit right before the start of Prohibition, this cocktail is almost more famous for its disappearance than for its origin. Interestingly, the name’s origin remains a mystery.

After its introduction in the early 1920s, the Last Word almost entirely disappears from the historical record for 80 years. Though it resurfaced in Ted Saucier’s 1951 Bottoms Up, it remained obscure until it was rediscovered and brought back to fame in 2004 by Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe.

Though summer is drawing to a close, the Southern heat will most likely endure until early or mid-October. The lime’s acidity, Chartreuse’s earthiness, Maraschino’s sweetness and gin’s herbaceousness all come together to create a light, sippable cocktail you’ll want to keep in your glass all day long.

Recipe:

3/4 oz lime juice

3/4 oz Green Chartreuse

3/4 oz Maraschino liqueur

3/4 oz gin

Shake for 10-15 seconds or until cooled through. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

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