By any other name…
Jack Rose + apple brandy
The Jack Rose is a positively ancient cocktail that was very popular a century ago but has gradually faded into relative obscurity. More’s the pity as it can be quite delightful when well made. It’s a cocktail that I neglected for a long time due to the unavailability of its base ingredient upon these shores. Applejack (aka Jersey Lightning) is an American apple brandy that turns out to be not even particularly available on its own shores with just one surviving mainstream* brand – Laird’s. However, whilst perusing my copy of David A. Embury’s 1948 classic cocktail manual The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks a solution emerged. Embury is of the opinion (and boy, does he have a lot of those) that calvados is a similar but superior apple brandy. Doh. It was so obvious! Aged French apple brandy in hand I proceeded to mix up the cocktail that I should really have tried a long time ago. And, damn, but isn’t the Jack Rose a delicious and deceptively simple little cocktail. Just apple brandy, lemon juice and grenadine but, make no mistake, quality of ingredients is key here and possibly the reason the Jack Rose fell from grace. Decent quality commercially available grenadine is a thing of the past and, while I can’t say for certain, the same may be at least partially true of applejack. America’s first home-grown spirit was originally made by repeatedly freezing (hard) apple cider and chucking away the ice – a process known as “jacking” – a kind of distillation-free way of making a potent liquor. These days applejack is made by distillation of apple juice and then mixing it with neutral spirit. On the other hand calvados is a traditionally made and aged apple brandy from the Normandy region of France that is available and affordable here in Europe. And if Embury says it’s better than applejack that’s good enough for me. After all he was a lawyer (as well as a the author of the first “modern” cocktail book) so we know we can trust him. Indeed the Jack Rose is one of his hallowed six classic cocktails along with the Daiquiri, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, Manhattan and Martini. Illustrious company. Mr Embury liked his cocktails notoriously dry/tart so we’ll go with his suggestion of balancing them to our own taste. This version hits the spot for me and I think you’ll like it too.
2oz/60ml apple brandy (applejack or calvados)**
1oz/30ml fresh lemon juice.
0.5oz/15ml grenadine, very preferably home-made.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupe.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
Toast David Embury (1886 – 1960), the greatest ever amateur cocktail-head.
*I say mainstream because there is absolutely certain to be some hipsters making some “small batch”, “artisanal” applejack somewhere.
**in either case preferably reasonably aged.
Celebrate good times, come on!
The Champagne Cocktail.
While there are many types of sparkling wine the one native to the Champagne region of France has pulled off perhaps the best marketing coup in history by permanently connecting their product with the act of celebration. Such that when you’ve got something to celebrate – like oh, I dunno the 100th cocktail recipe posted on your blog – Champagne is really the only way to to go. So today we’ll be making the classic Champagne Cocktail as first written down in the very first cocktail book The Bar-Tender’s Guide: How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion in 1862. There are a few variations on this drink but we’re going to stick to the original recipe because; Jerry Thomas! While it’s easy to think of the Champagne Cocktail as an embellished glass of bubbles I prefer to see it as a Champagne Old Fashioned: base + sugar + bitters and a lemon twist. The CC is a great option for when you’d like to serve something a bit different at a celebration but don’t want to get bogged down in too much work. Just prep your glasses in the fridge and add the bubbles as you serve. One of the beauties of this wonderful cocktail is that it changes as the sugar gradually dissolves, ending in a sweet grainy last sip that just makes you want to start all over again.
The thing is that a good Champagne is a beautiful and delicate thing. Its flavours are subtle and easily overshadowed by any cocktailisation. And it’s fucking expensive. Unless the occasion requires maximum flashness I suggest that we reserve the good stuff for sipping. But where does that leave us cocktailistas? Well there are a number of options for the creation of frizzante cocktails such as a lesser Champagne, Prosecco or various other sparkling wines. But my choice is Spanish cava. It has a similar production process to Champagne (some others don’t), has similar dryness to its big brother (others can be too sweet), has a robust fizziness and is relatively easy on the wallet. Freixenet Brut is a good starting point as it’s widely available in its distinctive black bottle and also comes in little mini bottles sold in 3 packs. Very handy. Other brands are also fine as cava tends to be pretty consistent (Cordoniu being a house favourite). If cava is expensive where you live then try a local dry sparkling wine. When buying a sparkling wine always be careful to check the label for the words “brut” or “extra dry” – even a semi/demi sec is far too sweet for either sipping or mixing.
Place a sugarcube on a saucer or napkin and soak it with a couple of dashes of Angostura* bitters.
Drop the cube into a chilled Champagne flute.
Gently fill with chilled dry sparkling wine (see text).
Garnish with a lemon twist (optional).
*While good old Angostura is the traditional bitters used in the Champagne Cocktail I think there is an excellent case for experimentation. I’m particularly partial to the use of orange bitters in my CC.
Toast yourselves dear readers – I would never have made it to 100 recipes without seeing that people were actually reading these ravings!
Speaking of which, having reached this landmark which involved churning out a recipe every week (or up to three in the early days), I might now just be posting as and when I feel like it without any particular schedule. In other words there won’t necessarily be the usual Friday recipe anymore but that doesn’t mean I’m winding things down or anything – in fact I’m hoping to mix things up even more! And another thing; please feel free to ask questions using the comments tool. I’m more than happy to answer any questions or get a bit of a discussion going.
Class in a glass.
Tanqueray N° Ten.
Gin is different from most other spirits in that it’s essentially a mixing spirit. It’s pretty unthinkable to have just a glass of neat gin – although I’m sure there must be some people who do. So while spirits such as whisky, cognac, tequila, mezcal and rum were adapted to mixing, gin has mixability in its very blood. Which is why gin is the cocktailista’s favourite spirit. Indeed gin had a long golden age in mixology from about 1900 until the usurper vodka sucker-punched it out of mainstream mixology somewhere in the late 1960s. Yes, the Dark Ages were particularly cruel to dear old gin. But those days are happily gone and you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last decade and a half not to have noticed a veritable gin renaissance. The selection of both big brand and “boutique” (or “craft”) gin is nothing short of bewildering so what should the budding home bartender stock? My approach is to have an affordable (but quality) mixing gin for the likes of a Singapore Sling where the gin is a minor component and a high quality gin for drinks where the gin is a key player, such as the Martini. I’ve been a bit mercurial with my choices in both of those categories and I’m looking to settle on something that will be my “house” gin in each. Which brings us to this review. Can Tanqueray N° Ten fit the bill in the high quality category on my cocktail shelf? Let’s find out!
Straight off the bat Tanqueray N° Ten looks the part; while the regular Tanqueray bottle is styled to look vaguely like a cocktail shaker T#10 elevates that aesthetic further to mimic some kind of fancy mid-century crystal shaker. Its fluted sides catch the light beautifully and also provide a pretty reliable grip. The closure looks and feels like a knurled steel cap and, even though it’s just cunningly disguised plastic, it gives a reliable seal and is easy to open and close. I’m a fan. The red wax seal (again plastic but convincing) and black-on-silver label completes the picture. Classy all round. The only thing that bothers me is the name; it feels to me that it should either be Tanqueray N° 10 or Tanqueray Ten, the combination they chose doesn’t sit quite right but that really is a pretty minor complaint. Notably Tanqueray N° Ten is bottled at 47.3% ABV*. In my view a gin bottled at above the typical 40% (or even 38% gawd-help-us) is a sign that the makers have not cut any corners in their quest for a superior spirit. A quick sniff in my sherry copita confirms this at once; this gin smells like it means business. Citrus and juniper (well, duh!) waft up convincingly. The first sip is curiously oily – in a good way – and once it settles it’s clear to me that this is a wonderfully balanced gin. Not too bitter, nor too sweet with juniper and citrus in equal measure, a touch of pepper and the merest hint of brine. I could sip this happily on its own – and remember this is north of 47%. When I compare it to other gins it effortlessly holds its own each time. Clearly a cut above the standard issue Tanqueray – which is a pretty decent gin in its own right – the T#10 strikes me as an extremely versatile gin at its price point. In a head to head with the similarly positioned Beefeater 24 the Tanqueray, at least to my taste, was streets ahead, leaving the B24 tasting somewhat flat by comparison. There are certainly gins with more complexity and left-field flavours but those gins would be niche products that wouldn’t necessarily shine in a wide range of different cocktails. Tanqueray N° Ten does again and again but what I did find was that it – rather strangely – failed to express itself in a Gin & Tonic quite as much as I had expected. But G&Ts are their own thing and we have other gins** that are available for such use anyway so I feel I can forgive it on that point. It does show, however, that no one gin can cover every base. Around these parts Tanqueray N° Ten sells for €25-30 per 700ml but often crops up on sale for under €23 which I think is cracking value for money.
It will come as little surprise than Tanqueray N° Ten finds a permanent place on my shelf and also earns itself a laudable:
* Indeed even regular Tanqueray is bottled at a healthy 43.1%.
**A few favourites being Blackwood’s, Drumshanbo Gunpowder and Plymouth.
Cheer up Winston – you’ll feel much better after one of these.
Once in a while one has too much of a good time and needs a little pick-me-up to restore ones sparkle the next day. Many hangover cures are pretty unpalatable but this one is an excellent drink in its own right. Created by Joe Scialom at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt in 1942 – just as the forces of fascism were approaching across the Western Desert – the Suffering Bastard was designed to be a hangover cure. And let’s face it; if you were about to go head-to-head with Rommel’s Afrika Corps it had better be a damn good one! Joe was too much of a gentleman and originally called the drink The Suffering Bar-Steward but nobody was under any illusions as to what was really meant. Joe went on to have a long globe-trotting cocktail career but his best known recipe got a bit mixed up over the years and the fact that Joe made later versions called the Dying Bastard and Dead Bastard probably didn’t help. In my view the original version is the best so why not start there? If the American war machine ran on Coca-Cola and the Nazi’s were powered by apfelsaft and Fanta* the British Empire was fueled by ginger beer so it should be no surprise that it’s a key ingredient. Indeed the entire recipe seems to be based on what would be readily available at any British style hotel bar. The original recipe calls for Roses Lime Cordial but that makes the drink too sweet and it is much the better for using fresh lime juice instead. What is really unusual about the Suffering Bastard is its use of two completely different base spirits – even if there’s little agreement about which two. These days we’d call that a “split base” (and we’ll be talking about it soon) and Death & Co of New York make claim on it as their idea – or at least their specialty. But we can see that Joe S was doing it 60+ years before them. We should also note that the SB adheres quite closely to the Tiki template and is often considered part of the Tiki canon. Despite the apparent randomness of the ingredients the Suffering Bastard is an extremely invigorating and tasty tonic. But does it work as a hangover cure? Trust me; I’m a bartender.
1oz / 30ml London dry gin.
1oz / 30ml Cognac or brandy** (I go for Courvoisier VS).
0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (and let’s treat that as a minimum).
Shake with ice and pour, unstrained, into a DOF glass.
Add 4oz / 120ml of a good spicy ginger beer and stir in gently.
Garnish with a slice of orange and a mint sprig.
Toast Joe Scialom: international barman of mystery (c.1910-2004?).
*Cracking story BTW – and the reason I call Fanta “Nazi-Cola”.
**Bourbon is often called for but was almost certainly a later substitution. My theory is that bourbon became readily available just as pre-nazi-occupation cognac supplies dried up.
We’ve been riffing on the the Dr Funk a lot recently but we need to be careful not to change it too much in case we create a monster. Hang on. I think I just had an idea…
What if we took a few limbs from the Dr Funk and Dr Faust then stitched them onto the torso of a whisky sour and then run a couple of million volts through the combo and serve it on the stem. More intense, more powerful, less pink. What would we call such a drink? I’m sure I’ll come up with something before the next deadline.
2oz / 60ml bourbon (I’d use a high voltage one such as Wild Turkey 101).
0.75oz / 22ml lemon juice (instead of the usual lime juice).
0.5oz / 15ml grenadine (preferably home-made).
1 tsp / 5ml absinthe.
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled champagne coupé.
Toast Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)
You could also make this with Scotch instead of bourbon in which case it would be a Dr Jekyll and which would bring us full circle to the Robert Louis Stevenson connection of the Dr Funk. A gin version would be the Dr Watson. While I don’t recommend it (you know how I feel about flavourless spirits) a vodka version would be a Dr Zhivago. You get the drift.
Is there a Doctor in the house?
Recently we looked at the tropical Doctor Funk cocktail and I promised you some variations of it. When embarking upon a variation voyage the first thing we consider is a change of base spirit. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but its always worth a bash. A couple of years back I created the Doctor Tulp by using Veld tulip vodka instead of the rum, shaking with crushed ice and using a reduced dose of absinthe as an aromatic float and it proved quite delightful. This time let’s make something a little more diabolical. Enter Doctor Faust (cue puff of smoke). Mezcal, as well as having a striking flavour afinity with absinthe, conjures the right image of smoke and brimstone and the labeling on some of the bottles does no harm either. There’s not much more to be said other than that a straight substitution of mezcal for rum works right out of the box. Plying a middle ground in the preparation by simply shaking all the ingredients with a mix of cubed and crushed ice simplifies matters and gives a more concentrated outcome which suits this iteration well. We can skip the Tiki garnish as well and leave this looking more medicinal. Now we can all have a little taste of the underworld without selling our soul to the devil.
1.5oz / 45ml Good quality mezcal (I used Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej).
0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.
0.5oz / 15ml grenadine (preferably home-made).
1 tsp / 5ml absinthe.
1oz / 30ml soda water.
Shake hard with a mixture of cubed and crushed ice and pour unstrained into a DoF glass.
Toast Marlowe and Goethe.
Watch this space for more Doctor Funk variations.
Absinthe makes the heart grow funkier.
The Doctor Funk is an interesting summer cooler that I don’t feel gets nearly the attention it deserves. In one sense it stands entirely alone: While the whole Tiki genre pretends to be Polynesian only the Doctor Funk actually is Polynesian. Almost. We’ll get to the story in a bit but first we need a brief introduction to the key ingredient of the Doctor Funk; absinthe.
No spirit is more misunderstood than absinthe. To understand what it really is we have to peel off layer upon layer of myth about this most unusual spirit. While often thought to have magical hallucinogenic properties absinthe, also known affectionately as “the green fairy”, is simply a strong neutral spirit infused with two key botanicals – anise and wormwood. Although originally Swiss it gained an enormous popularity in late 19th century France especially amongst those of a more Bohemian outlook. While it was simply strong (45-74% ABV), available and dirt cheap it soon got the blame for all of societies ills much as gin had in England a century earlier. Absinthe even got the rap for Vinnie van Gogh slicing his ear off, although we now know that had more to do with him being as mad as cheese. When a Swiss farmer murdered his family in 1905 after drinking two small glasses of absinthe (never mind the seven glasses of wine, six glasses of cognac, two creme de menthes, a brandy coffee and a partridge in a pear tree) enought was apparently enough: Bans on absinthe were in force in much of Europe and the US before the outbreak of the Great War. In fact Pernod, Ricard and Herbsaint (which is very nearly an anagram of absinthe) are simply de-wormwooded absinthes created to comply with the ban. Being outlawed for the best part of a century has only added to the absinthe mythos and it was that air of notoriety that fostered a cult following† in the 1990s around Hill’s absinth from the Czech Republic where there had never been a ban. Hill’s was pretty nasty stuff and was a completely different product that lacked the anise component and was astonishingly bitter but that didn’t stop if from becoming a popular underground bravado shooter. At least this had the effect of the bans being gradually lifted in the early naughties as science investigated and dismissed all of the alleged psychotropic effects. Thankfully the green fairy is now fully rehabilitated with much more authentic formulations coming out of France, Switzerland and further afield. As a general rule a spelling of absente or absinthe (with an “e” at the end) denotes the real stuff and please do take care as there is still a lot of BS absinthe out there. I particularly like the Grande Absente 69 brand for mixing. It is an extremely powerful flavour and usually used in very small amounts – such as in a Sazerac – so a small bottle (100ml or 350ml) is probably all you’ll ever need. I find it helpful to consider absinthe as a type of bitters and I find an atomiser loaded with it to be the most convenient method of dispersal – although in this case we’ll be using a whole teaspoon of the stuff.
Let’s get Funky.
Legend has it that this drink, or at least something like it, was created around 1890 in Samoa by a German gentleman whose name it takes. Doctor Bernhard Funk was the physician to the Scottish writer and traveller Robert Louis Stevenson, author of a couple of slightly popular books such as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island and Kidnapped and who spent his later years there. Mr Stevenson was a frail and sickly fellow and Dr Funk created a drink to provide him some relief from the sweltering heat. I’m totally buying into this theory as I can affirm that the Doctor Funk works admirably in this capacity and is my cooler of choice on those extremely rare days when the mercury hits 30ºC here in Amsterdam. It’s unlikely that the original recipe included rum but once Tiki legends Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic got their hands on it a few decades later it most certainly did. It’s a cracking little tiki drink that serves as a friendly introduction to the green fairy yet it somehow hasn’t quite found its place in modern cocktaildom such as, for example, the Jungle Bird. Let’s see if we can change that. I’m going to be exploring some variations of this drink soon but for now let’s familiarise ourselves with the classic version based on the recipe in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s indispensable Tiki manual, Remixed!
1.5oz / 45ml white rum (some recipes allow for darker rum – your choice).
0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.
0.5oz / 15ml grenadine (preferably home-made).
1 teaspoon / 5ml absinthe I used Grand Absente 69).
Shake with ice and strain into a tall glass or goblet full of ice. I prefer a mixture of crushed and cubed ice for this drink but either would do.
Add 1oz / 30ml soda water and stir in gently.
Garnish with a mint sprig. Feel free to Tiki it up a bit.
Toast the good Doctor and his illustrious patient.
†To which must admit to being a part of as a young man.
*Or should that be Doktor Funk?
Chief Lapu Lapu.
If there’s one drink that is represents the Tiki genre better than any other I believe it’s this one. Yes, Mai Tais, Zombies and Navy Grogs are better known these days but the Chief was a staple that almost ever Tiki bar worth its salt made during the late Tikizoic era (c.1950 – c.1970). While there endless variations this one sticks close to the one Jeff “Beachbum” Berry calls the “standard mid-century recipe” in Remixed! (which is essentially the Tiki Bible). Endless variation can be the death of a cocktail and while the Mai Tai and Zombie managed to – just barely – survive intact the Chief was not so lucky. Indeed Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan didn’t survive his encounter with the real Chief Lapu Lapu (Mactan, modern-day Phillipines, 1521) and thus the first true world tour was brought to an end on the wrong end of a bamboo spear – although some of the crew did later manage to complete the first circumnavigation of the planet. Where were we? Oh, yes. The liquid Lapu is a lovely citrus-heavy cooler with an excellent sweet/sour balance and full-on tropical hit courtesy of the passion fruit syrup. Assuming you’ve got (or have made) some PF syrup this is one of the simpler Tiki drinks to assemble and trust me when I tell you that it’s a real crowd-pleaser. It’s a rather large drink – which is a plus on a hot day – but is also suitable for splitting into two smaller ones of serving as a shared drink with two straws. But if you want the other half of my Lapu you’d better some more heavily armed than Magellan did.
Chief Lapu Lapu.
1.5oz / 45ml Dark Jamaican rum (Myers’s works well in this).
1.5oz / 45ml white rum.
1oz / 30ml fresh lemon juice*.
1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice*.
1oz / 30ml simple syrup (1:1 preferably demerara).
1oz / 30ml passion fruit syrup.
3oz / 90ml orange juice (good carton juice is fine here**).
Shake with ice and pour, unstrained, into a Tiki mug*** or tall glass. Add more ice to fill.
Toast Chief Lapu Lapu and Magellan. Pity they couldn’t have sorted out their differences over a drink or two.
*I’ve tweaked it just slightly by splitting the original 2oz of lemon juice into one each of lemon and lime. You can also use 2oz of lime. They all work but taste slightly different – the choice is yours.
**I prefer to use a good quality carton orange juice in this drink as it gives it a creamier texture than using freshly squeezed.
***I tend to use transparent Tikiware in my pictures to show the colour of the drinks but would normally use a ceramic novelty mug for a drink like this. The Lapu is a big drink so be sure to select a decent sized receptacle.
Who’s that writing?
John the Revelator.
I’ve recently become very fond of the combination of Suze and Amaro Montenegro. The marriage of the gentian bitterness of the Suze and the sweetness of the Montenegro play a great supporting role to quite a few base spirits – which I’m slowly working through to identify particularly good candidates. One that was really a revelation was some coffee infused bourbon that I’d made as an experiment and hadn’t yet found a home for. Time out while we make some of that:
Coffee infused bourbon.
I was very pleased with the way my tea infused rum turned out and a logical progression was to turn to coffee. Could we pull off a similar trick with that? Coffee is, of course, bitter, so a spirit with a little natural sweetness was the logical choice. And we’d already done rum so bourbon was going to be the way to go. The good news is that this is even easier. Put 300ml (10oz) of bourbon whisky in a clean jar. Fill a 2oz (60ml) jigger with whole dark roasted coffee beans and chuck them in the jar too. Wait 3 hours, shaking or stirring a few times if possible. Strain. Done. See told ya it was easy. Now what was I writing?
John the Revelator.
So 2 parts of our coffee bourbon and a part each of Suze and Montenegro is getting pretty close to something good. If I have a weakness it’s firing a couple of dashes of orange bitters at everything I see but, as usual, it seems to tie
the whole room the other ingredients together. Stir with ice yada, yada, yada – you know what to do by now. The name? Well what was playing on the stereo?
John the Revelator*.
1.5oz / 45ml coffee infused bourbon (see text).
0.75oz / 22ml Suze.
0.75 / 22ml Amaro Montenegro.
2 dashes of orange bitters.
Stir with ice and strain into a DOF glass containing a chunk (or ball) of clear ice. Can also be served “up”. Garnish with an orange twist.
Toast Blind Willie Johnson or any of the thousands of others who sang about this cocktail.
*He wrote the book of the seven seals.
Do your dance, do your dance, do your dance quick.
The Spanish Dancer is a subtle Daiquiri variation designed to be a minimum effort cocktail to make while on holiday. When you’re kicking back catching some rays outside your Spanish villa the last thing you want to be doing is going to all that effort to make some simple syrup so I cast a net [ouch!] a bit wider and snagged a bottle of the super sweet Spanish Licor 43. It’s one of the sweeter liqueurs so you can use it at the same ratio as 1:1 syrup and as an added bonus you get a kick of vanilla and some other spices to add a little complexity. However Cuarenta y Tres, as it’s also known, is tricksy stuff and doesn’t mix well with just any spirit but if used with a light touch (and preferably a dash of Angostura) it mixes quite nicely with any dry Spanish style rum. Which is quite handy as when you’re on vacation your choice of rums can be limiting but wherever you roam a bottle of such a nice dry gold rum should be readily available with the likes of Havana Club, Brugal, Abuelo, Matusalem, Bacardi 8, Don Q and Flor De Cana all being suitable candidates. Look, the Spanish Dancer certainly isn’t the best drink I’ve ever come up with but it’s one of the easiest, which is the whole point. It also batches up easily, doesn’t need a garnish, it’s great in hot weather, it isn’t too fussy about glassware and it’s relatively forgiving of small errors. Word up!
2oz / 60ml Spanish style gold rum.
0.75oz / 22ml fresh lime juice.
0.5oz / 15ml Licor 43 (aka Cuarenta y Tres).
1 dash of Angostura bitters (optional, but recommended).
Shake with ice and strained into a chilled champagne coupé – or a chilled wine glass, small tumbler etc. Can also be served on the rocks or even with a splash of soda.
Toast Carmen Amaya (1918 – 1963).