When it comes to easy wins in cocktaildom it doesn’t get much better than the Red Hook. This indisputable modern classic requires just three ingredients in simple proportions and needs no bitters or garnish. Nice. However the Red Hook is fussy about having the right versions of those ingredients, which we’ll get to soon enough. Created precisely 20 years ago by Vincenzo Errico whom Sasha Petraske snatched away from London to mix at craft cocktail ground zero Milk & Honey and named after an area in Brooklyn the Red Hook is a drink that any bartender worth their salt should be able to create from memory. After all, there is no excuse when the spec is simply 4 parts rye, 1 part Italian vermouth and 1 part Maraschino liqueur stirred and served up. Done right the Red Hook is is like a boosted Manhattan; richer, with more body and complexity. Yet Hooky is fussy and needs a good mixing rye (I find Rittenhouse ideal), practically insists that the vermouth be Punt e Mes (it needs that bitter edge) and must use an authentic Italian/Croatian Maraschino liqueur. So we’d better discuss exactly what that last one means:
The Red Hook instantly sprang to mind when Mrs Proof recently returned from a trip to Croatia bringing with her – as she is wont to do – a bottle of the local tipple. Made from maraska cherries which are unique to that part of the world Maraschino cannot be replaced by other cherry based spirits because, as well as that particular type of cherry, it is also distilled with the pit which gives a unique dry, earthy, almondy bitterness that is very different from other cherry brandies – and indeed dodgy Maraschino knock-offs. In short you really need to go with the OG Maraschino when it is specifically called for. While originally Croatian the brands of Maraschino that most are familiar are Luxardo or (more rarely) Stock which are both Italian (long story) but in either case the pronunciation is mara-ski-no and not mara-she-no. Of course the Croatian stuff is every bit as good (yes, I’ve compared them) and carries extra kudos. While not called for in too many modern drinks Maraschino liqueur was one of a relatively small group of liqueurs that were leaned heavily on as the sweet component in cocktails 100+ years ago so it crops up in enough superb classics such as the Aviation and Last Word for it to be worth keeping in stock. Luxardo is the most reached for bottle but if you get a chance to grab some Croatian juice definitely go for it. Živjeli!
2oz/60ml Rye whisky (eg. Rittenhouse).
0.5oz/15ml Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.
0.5 oz/15ml Genuine Maraschino liqueur (see text).
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupe.
Toast Vincenzo Errico.