Remember Your Name + riffing on classics.
The dirty little secret of the craft cocktail movement (I dislike the term, but whatever) is that the vast majority of cocktails on the menu are just riffs on classic recipes. In fact I quite enjoy going through the modern cocktail menu – which is typically just a list of flavours followed by a price – trying to spot which one will be the Old Fash rehash, the Daiquiri derivative, the Manhattan mutation, the Collins conversion or the phoney Negroni. The tweaking of the age old classics might at first glance seem a little lazy but the truth is that there is really nowhere else to go as there has been no truly innovative cocktail formula in the last 50+ years. In the same way that there are only 7 story plots there are really only a limited number of cocktail formulae that are palatable to the masses: The Old Fashioned (spirit, sugar, bitters), the Daiquiri/Sour (spirit, sour, sugar), the Manhattan/Martini (spirit, vermouth, bitters) and the Collins/Planter’s Punch (spirit, sour, sugar, soda/juice). For those trying to create their own drinks for the first time take the advice of one who spent too long trying to create something new from scratch and just start by making small changes to some classic drinks. There’s absolutely no shame in it at all and it’s what all those “high end” craft cocktail bars are doing anyway. Example follows:
Let’s look at my variation on the Remember the Maine (which we recently discussed), itself a version of the Manhattan. I was looking for a “new” cognac based drink to add to my repertoire and the Remember the Maine looked like a good candidate. Switching one oaked spirit for another is a pretty safe bet but a bit of further fine tuning is often required. Bitters are a great way of nudging a drink in a desired direction and here I reached for Fee’s excellent Black Walnut bitters to create a woodier and deeper cocktail. I cut the cherry brandy by just a touch because I wanted the walnut bitters to come forward but you could easily leave it at half an ounce too. And that’s how easy it can be. My new cognac cocktail is different enough from the original yet familiar and comfortable. Were it appear on a modern craft cocktail menu it would be all:
Cognac – cherry – vermouth – absinthe – black walnut – 14
and not informing us we would be sipping on a hundred-year-old drink with a decidedly iffy back story. But that’s how it goes these days. It’ll need a clever name which preferably alludes to the original and thus we have the Remember Your Name.
Remember Your Name.
2oz/60ml Cognac (I used Courvoisier VS).
0.75 oz/22ml Italian Vermouth (I used Punt e Mes).
0.33oz/10ml Heering cherry brandy.
2 dashes Fee’s Black Walnut bitters.
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupé which has been rinsed (or spritzed) with absinthe. Garnish with a cocktail cherry (I used a real Maraschino cherry).
Toast Grant Hart (1961 – 2017).