Another short story with an increasingly ominous tone. Evelyn Waugh's The Man Who Liked Dickens which would eventually factor into his novel A Handful of Dust. Catastrophe befalls an Englishman while on expedition deep in the Brazilian jungle. Perilously close to death Henty is rescued and nursed back to health by Mr. McMaster who can not read yet has an abiding love for Dickens. As Henty's health improves he is only too happy to read to McMaster. For a while at least.

At their midday meal Mr. McMaster said, "Mr. Henty, the Indians tell me that you have been trying to speak with them. It is easier that you say anything you wish through me. You realize, do you not, that they would do nothing without my authority. They regard themselves, quite rightly in most cases, as my children."

"Well, as a matter of fact, I was asking them about a canoe."

"So they gave me to understand…and now if you have finished your meal perhaps we might have another chapter. I am quite absorbed in the book."

They finished Dombey and Son; nearly a year had passed since Henty had left England, and his gloomy foreboding of permanent exile became suddenly acute when, between the pages of Martin Chuzzlewit, he found a document written in pencil in irregular characters.

Year 1919
I James McMaster of Brazil do swear to Barnabas Washington of Georgetown that if he finish this book in fact Martin Chuzzlewit I will let him go away back as soon as finished.

[McMaster has mentioned a previous reader to Henty; one who was educated at Georgetown, and who now lies buried on McMaster's property. The particulars of his demise however were not addressed.]

There followed a heavy pencil X, and after it: Mr. McMaster made this mark signed Barnabas Washington.

"Mr. McMaster," said Henty. "I must speak frankly. You saved my life, and when I get back to civilization I will reward you to the best of my ability. I will give you anything within reason. But at present you are keeping me here against my will. I demand to be released."

"But, my friend, what is keeping you? You are under no restraint. Go when you like."

"You know very well that I can't get away without your help."

"In that case you must humor an old man. Read me another chapter."

- Evelyn Waugh, The Man Who Liked Dickens, 1933

Alleviate.JPG

I'm trying to take it easy on these posts and just let them happen as they happen. Ideally, the words will run the show as elements of the text overlap, or nod to, qualities embodied by a drink (not too dissimilar from the section in the 69 Colebrooke Row book where stories were written specifically for a drink). Mood, location, ingredients...whatever, I just want to get out of the way and see what unfolds. And in the spirit of getting out of the way I don't mind it when that connection is a shortcut tying in only to the drink's name. When I saw the title of this drink from Food & Wine's Cocktails 2015 this story came immediately to mind. So I got some stuff together and set about making a drink*.

 

To Alleviate Apparent Death - Jay Schroeder, Frontera Grill, Chicago
2 oz Dark Cocoa Tequila
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth, Antica
1/4 oz Walnut Liqueur, Nux Alpina
-1/2 tsp Simple
1/2 inch long piece of guajillo chile
Garnish - Orange Peel

Muddle chile with simple, add the rest, stir with ice, strain, up.

Dark Cocoa Tequila - In a jar muddle 1/4 tsp dark cocoa nibs with 1/4 oz anejo tequila (Chinaco specified) until nibs are finely crushed. Add six oz tequila, cover and shake once daily for three days. Strain.

- I cheated on the walnut liqueur. After trying sub-par versions with hazelnut and amaretto because they have been languishing in the back of the cabinet for who-knows-how-long I ended up increasing the simple to 1 tsp and muddled a chunk of walnut with the chile. I suppose, short of buying a bottle of walnut liqueur, making a walnut simple would have been the way to go. However, the muddled version (after several strainings) worked out fine.

 

*or at least started the prep so I could make the drink a couple days later.

Posted
AuthorTrey

Next up, John Cheever. From one of his better-known stories, The Swimmer. In it, Ned Merrill decides to head home from a friend's house and plans a route that will allow him to swim through the pools of numerous other friends and acquaintances. It starts off bright and vibrant but a surreal and unsettling quality descends throughout the course of the afternoon.

The Hallorans were friends, an elderly couple of enormous wealth who seemed to bask in the suspicion that they might be Communists. They were zealous reformers but they were not Communists, and yet when they were accused, as they sometimes were, of subversion, it seemed to gratify and excite them. Their beech hedge was yellow and he guessed this had been blighted like the Levys' maple. He called hullo, hullo, to warn the Hallorans of his approach, to palliate his invasion of their privacy. The Hallorans, for reasons that had never been explained to him, did not wear bathing suits. No explanations were in order, really. Their nakedness was a detail in their uncompromising zeal for reform and he stepped politely out of his trunks before he went through the opening in the hedge.

Mrs. Halloran, a stout woman with white hair and a serene face, was reading the Times. Mr. Halloran was taking beech leaves out of the water with a scoop. They seemed not surprised or displeased to see him. Their pool was perhaps the oldest in the country, a fieldstone rectangle, fed by a brook. It had no filter or pump and its waters were the opaque gold of the stream.

"I'm swimming across the county," Ned said.

"Why, I didn't know one could," exclaimed Mrs. Halloran.

"Well, I've made it from the Westerhazys'," Ned said. "That must be about four miles."

He left his trunks at the deep end, walked to the shallow end, and swam this stretch. As he was pulling himself out of the water he heard Mrs. Halloran say, "We've been terribly sorry to hear about all your misfortunes, Neddy."

"My misfortunes?" Ned asked. "I don't know what you mean."

"Why, we heard that you'd sold the house and that your poor children..."

"I don't recall having sold the house," Ned said, "and the girls are at home."

"Yes," Mrs. Halloran sighed. "Yes..." Her voice filled the air with an unseasonable melancholy and Ned spoke briskly. "Thank you for the swim."

"Well, have a nice trip," said Mrs. Halloran.

Beyond the hedge he pulled on his trunks and fastened them. They were loose and he wondered if, during the space of an afternoon, he could have lost some weight. He was cold and he was tired and the naked Hallorans and their dark water had depressed him. The swim was too much for his strength but how could he have guessed this, sliding down the banister that morning and sitting in the Westerhazys' sun? His arms were lame. His legs felt rubbery and ached at the joints. The worst of it was the cold in his bones and the feeling that he might never be warm again. Leaves were falling down around him and he smelled wood smoke on the wind. Who would be burning wood at this time of year? - John Cheever, The Swimmer, 1964

By the end of the afternoon it becomes clear that summer has transitioned to fall and Ned's perceived status is at serious odds with the actual circumstances of his life. His tour of swimming pools seemed whimsical at first but interactions along the way gradually turn sour and reveal that he is broke, alienated and somewhat delusional. The effect on Ned is disorienting. He finishes his journey but the house which he returns to, his home, is abandoned and appears to have been that way for a while.

 

If I had focused more on ingredients and what I thought Ned was probably drinking throughout his journey I probably would have chosen a Martini or a Gin and Tonic. Or maybe just a shot of whiskey.  However, I like the way the afternoon hours get distorted here. How long was the second half of this day? Weeks? Months? Years?

Which got me to thinking of this drink from Beta Cocktails:

The Arbitrary Nature of Time - Maks Pazuniak, Beta Cocktails, 2011
1 1/4 oz Wild Turkey 101
1 oz Campari
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters
2 dashes Bitterman's Mole Bitters
Garnish - Orange Peel

Stir, strain, large cube

Posted
AuthorTrey

I'm going to dispense with the normal format for a little bit and focus instead on someone else's words. That someone else will change from time to time unless I get in a rut. Which I don't mind. Ruts aren't always bad. There will still be drinks of course and they'll be connected to the text but at times that connection may be tenuous. There's also a very good chance drinks will be featured which we have previously written about (but not with random passages from books and stuff).

Up first, Thomas Pynchon and the banana madness at the beginning of Gravity's Rainbow.

With a clattering of chairs, upended shell cases, benches, and ottomans, Pirate's mob gather at the shores of the great refectory table, a southern island well across a tropic or two from chill Corydon Throsp's mediaeval fantasies, crowded now over the swirling dark grain of its walnut uplands with banana omelets, banana sandwiches, banana casseroles, mashed bananas molded in the shape of a British lion rampant, blended with eggs into batter for French toast, squeezed out a pastry nozzle across the quivering creamy reaches of a banana blancmange to spell out the words C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre* (attributed to a French observer during the Charge of the Light Brigade) which Pirate has appropriated as his motto...tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since the summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugsfull of banana mead...banana croissants and banana kreplach, and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyrenees also containing a clandestine radio transmitter...

The phone call, when it comes, rips easily across the room, the hangovers, the grabassing, the clatter of dishes, the shoptalk, the bitter chuckles, like a rude metal double-fart, and Pirate knows it's got to be for him. Bloat, who's nearest, takes it, forkful of bananes glacees poised fashionably in the air. Pirate takes up a last dipper of mead, feels it go valving down his throat as if it's time, time in its summer tranquility, he swallows. - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, 1973

 

BananaBreakfast.JPG

 

Bananas. I'm not a big banana person. I eat them a lot more than I mix with them...and I hardly ever eat them. The passage above left a mark though. I can still picture it years and years later. People hanging out of bunks and milling about sleepily while banana insanity commences in the kitchen. I love it even though I do not love bananas.

This one, the drink and its creation, was fun. At first I thought something with chocolate and maybe a 20th Century riff. The ill-conceived nature of this experiment became apparent immediately. Eventually though...what about bananas and cream? And while we're at it, why not some sort of weird Ramos-inspired concoction? Why not indeed.

If bananas aren't a part of your regular diet this one might start off weird. Heck, it might stay that way. This is after all an odd duck. It may not get regular attention around the house but I liked it alright at the beginning and even more at the end.

 

Banana Breakfast
2 oz Aged Rum
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Banana Simple
1 oz Heavy Cream
1/2 Egg White
2-3 dashes Peychaud's
Soda - go easy here, just an ounce or so

Dry shake, shake, Collins, soda, fine strain.

If I do make it again I might sub vanilla for the Peychaud's.

Banana simple - Cut a peeled banana into discs and warm in a skillet over medium heat until the slices get pretty soft. Or just use an old banana. Add 100g sugar and 100g water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Cool and strain.

 

*It's magnificent, but it's not war.

Posted
AuthorTrey

More snow = more botched plans = more time at home = a few more drinks.

The Violet Hour. I like how those words call to mind the transition from late afternoon to evening. In addition to being the evocative term DeVoto used to describe the cocktail hour*, the Violet Hour is also the name of a great drink from a well-known Chicago bar of the same name. And it's the title of an excellent album by The Clientele.

While DeVoto may have shunned the Manhattan (there were only two drinks he considered worthwhile - straight whiskey and the Martini) the Violet Hour (drink) is a Manhattan at heart. Some of the vermouth used is dry so I suppose it's a twist on the 'perfect' variation. Either way, it carves out its own territory by tweaking the vermouth and adding a little bit of rum to the mix. Hearty, flavorful, rich and molasses-y Black Strap rum. Less than a teaspoon, but that's enough. Perhaps not as elegant and rich as your favorite Manhattan (we all have favorites) but, in this case, sacrificing a little luxury offers a glimpse of adventure.

The Violet Hour

The Violet Hour

The Gatehouse started out as a reverse Black Manhattan. I tweaked things a little bit and, probably because the snow is making me crazy, I added some vodka. Actually, that's only partially true. The snow is making me crazy but I also took some inspiration from the Gypsy Queen. I often neglect vodka based drinks but I like how the vodka in the Gypsy Queen allows the Benedictine an opportunity to stretch out and anchor the drink. Half of the Gatehouse is Averna, the other half is split between bourbon and vodka. Averna drives things for sure (rich, dark, bitter) but its sweeter and heavier qualities are lengthened by the vodka which also frees up some space for the bourbon.

Gatehouse. The walls of 'Fort Awesome Christmas Icicle', situated inside the perimeter of our kids' backyard sled run, are fortified by icicles (and our discarded Christmas tree).

Gatehouse. The walls of 'Fort Awesome Christmas Icicle', situated inside the perimeter of our kids' backyard sled run, are fortified by icicles (and our discarded Christmas tree).

Lastly, the Meanwhile. Oh wait, what's this? A drink with Cynar and Campari? No way. I'll forgo the usual business about how much I love those two ingredients and mix them with almost everything and just say that combining them with Yellow Chartreuse (equal parts) is delicious. Silky smooth and intensely herbal. There's a bitter quality of course, especially on the finish, but the full ounce of Yellow Chartreuse is what makes this drink work. It softens things and keeps the Cynar and Campari in check but stops short of overwhelming the drink with its own sweet and herbal flavor. This is one of those drinks that kind of tastes like cough syrup. For some people that might be a deal breaker. For me, it's a deal maker (sorry, I plead the snow). Really though, I liked the cough syrup we always had on hand when I was a kid. It was yellow...medicinal...rich...sweet...wait a second, that sounds familiar.

Meanwhile...

Meanwhile...

Violet Hour- Toby Maloney, The Violet Hour, Chicago, Il
2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Dry Vermouth
+1/2 tsp Cruzan Blackstrap
3 dashes Fee's Old Fashioned Bitters

Build over ice

 

Gatehouse
1 1/2 oz Averna
3/4 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Vodka
Garnish - Lemon Peel

Build over ice

 

Meanwhile
1 oz Cynar
1 oz Campari
1 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Stir, strain, up

 

 

*This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affectations glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn. - Bernard DeVoto, The Hour, 1948

We've received a fair amount of snow over the last week. I'm not sure of the exact amount. Probably somewhere between three and four feet. Sure, shoveling and dealing with parking bans is a pain. In general though, I don't mind the snow too much. Mostly because it has a tendency to reinforce, heck, encourage even, a natural tendency of mine - to stay at home. Who wants to drive around in a blizzard? Nobody, that's who. The following drinks have helped us get through numerous rounds of snow removal while softening the impact of repeated 'Did-the-furnace-just-kick-on-again?' groans.

Up first is the Puritan. Gin, dry vermouth, Yellow Chartreuse. This one falls somewhere between another favorite, the California Palace (gin, dry vermouth, Green Chartreuse, maraschino) and the Alaska (gin, Yellow Chartreuse). More rounded and complete than the latter but not quite as heavy and herbal as the former. The end result is a gentle variation on a classic (not dry) Martini.

 

The Puritan under a tree of drying ramen noodles. Totally off topic - after a couple of weeks spent finding/making various ingredients I finally managed to put together the ramen from Ivan Orkin's book. It was fantastic. I ended up with a ton of leftovers though and dried the noodles pictured above.

The Puritan under a tree of drying ramen noodles. Totally off topic - after a couple of weeks spent finding/making various ingredients I finally managed to put together the ramen from Ivan Orkin's book. It was fantastic. I ended up with a ton of leftovers though and dried the noodles pictured above.

Next, a riff on the Boulevardier that has been a house staple for a couple of years now. I love splitting the vermouth called for in various recipes with Cynar. In the case of the Boulevardier however, using Cynar to replace it altogether makes for a darker, heavier and more bitter version. Whiskey, Campari, Cynar - I'm sure I'm not the first person to go down that road. That's probably because drinks like the Boulevardier, while fantastic in their own right, are incredibly malleable and a lot of fun to experiment with. Toby Cecchini has a great article along those lines here.

Our yard is pretty small. It does have a three foot hill on one side though and that comes in handy when sledding is involved. Our kids can still fit in the small dish-style sleds so when the temperature looks like it's going to hold for a while and the snow is abundant we add few feet of snow to the hill and carve out a small sled run. If you squint you may be able to make out the track's contours above. Fortunately, this drink did not go sliding down the hill and spill all over the place.

Our yard is pretty small. It does have a three foot hill on one side though and that comes in handy when sledding is involved. Our kids can still fit in the small dish-style sleds so when the temperature looks like it's going to hold for a while and the snow is abundant we add few feet of snow to the hill and carve out a small sled run. If you squint you may be able to make out the track's contours above. Fortunately, this drink did not go sliding down the hill and spill all over the place.

Lastly, a punch. Ever since reading David Wondrich's book on the subject I have found myself turning toward this festive and often (but not always) low alcohol crowd-pleaser.

You need people around for punch. Usually. There are times however, when there are no plans involving company yet the afternoon seems to lend itself to a glass or two of punch. You could, in such a situation, scale everything down and make a small batch. Or, if the punch in question happens to be your most favorite punch in the world and you have all of the ingredients on hand and you were planning on making it for a get together anyway that got called off...well, in that case, you might as well go ahead with the full amount. There are worse things than having a few day's worth of punch bottled and chilling in the fridge. Such was the case this past Sunday. Super Bowl plans fell through but I had already psyched myself up for a batch of Regent's Punch.

There are many worthwhile punches out there. Books, blogs and articles abound with punches new and old. For my money however, Regent's Punch stands alone. Brandy, rum, maraschino, tea, citrus and sparkling wine? I'm in! It's much more than that though. It's rich with super funky rums and brandy yet light and festive with sparkling wine and citrus. The green tea is subtle and the maraschino lingers in the background adding to the sweetness and texture. That description falls well short though. Regent's Punch is sublime. This one is a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Much greater. Seville oranges are only available around here for a couple of months. When I got a text from Sean, who had spotted them at Whole Foods, I knew this one was in my immediate future.

Citrus, sugar, tea and liquor. Classic punch foundation.

Citrus, sugar, tea and liquor. Classic punch foundation.

In an effort to keep this around for a couple of days I bottled everything but the sparkling wine and added that per glass.

In an effort to keep this around for a couple of days I bottled everything but the sparkling wine and added that per glass.

 

Puritan - Frederick Knowles, The Cocktail Book: A Sideboard Manual for Gentleman, 1900 (or 1912, or 1926 sources seem somewhat inconsistent)
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
2 tsp Yellow Chartreuse
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Garnish - Lemon Peel

Stir, Strain, Up

 

Boulevardier Riff
2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Cynar
Garnish - Orange Peel

Build over ice

I usually make the Boulevardier with 1 1/2 oz Bourbon but lately I find that an extra half ounce comes in handy for this one. Probably because it's been below freezing for weeks and I love bourbon.

 

Regent's Punch - early 18th century, via David Wondrich's Punch
2 Lemons
2 Oranges
1 Seville Orange
4 oz Sugar
1 pint Green Tea
8 oz Cognac
2 oz Jamaican Rum
2 oz Batavia Arrack
2 oz Maraschino*
1 bottle Champagne

Peel the citrus and muddle the sugar with the peels in a bowl. Let this sit for at least half an hour. You want the oil from the peels to mix thoroughly with the sugar. Make the tea and add it to the sugar/citrus stirring to dissolve the sugar. Juice and strain the citrus and add that to the mix as well. Strain, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the liquor and refrigerate for an hour. Pour into a bowl, add the Champagne and a large block of ice.


*Rich pineapple syrup can be subbed for the maraschino. Make a 2:1 simple syrup dissolving 4 cups demerara sugar with 2 cups water over low heat. Let cool. Add a pineapple cut into half inch pieces to the syrup and let sit overnight. Strain.

Here's another one from Amanda's notebook of 'three-ish ingredient drinks'.

The Preakness is a Manhattan riff from the 1930s which takes the whiskey/vermouth/bitters combination and adds some Benedictine. If you have a deep-seated fondness for the Manhattan and are looking for something similar it's worth a spin. The Preakness still hits the notes for which the Manhattan is revered - rich, boozy and full of flavor. Pulling the vermouth back a touch enables Benedictine to come in and play off the contributions made by the vermouth without wrecking the balance. The result falls somewhere between a Manhattan and PDT's version of the De la Lousiane.

Until putting this post together I thought the Preakness was the signature drink of the Preakness horse race in Baltimore. The Kentucky Derby has the Mint Julep so why not? Well, it turns out the Preakness (horse race) does have its own drink - The Black Eyed Susan. The drink that goes by that name combines vodka, St. Germain, lime, pineapple and orange juice (though in the past rum, whiskey and triple sec have stood in for some of those ingredients).

The history of the Preakness (drink) isn't completely removed from the race however. It was the winning submission to a contest associated with the first annual Preakness Ball, an event held on the eve of the race. Eventually the Black Eyed Susan would replace the Preakness. But it stood for a while. And we're all better for it.

 

 

 

Preakness - George (that's it, no last name that I could find), Emerson Hotel, Baltimore, 1936
2 oz Rye
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth*
1/4 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura
Garnish - Lemon Peel

 

Stir, Strain, Up

*As is the case with most drinks that have been around for a while exact amounts vary from source to source. A lot of recipes have 1 1/2 oz for the rye. Sometimes I go 1/2 oz on the vermouth, other times 3/4. Brands, proof, preference and mood are the usual factors involved when deciding how that ratio ends up.

Posted
AuthorTrey

Today did not start off well. I made the mistake of trying to balance the checkbook before I made coffee which wasn't smart and probably had something to do with the paper getting jammed in the adding machine (yes, that's how I do it - just like your grandparents). Something else got screwed up, I can't remember what, but it was probably mundane and inconvenient. Like realizing that the movies by the dvd player are several days overdue (which is another old person thing that happens regularly around here). Basically, from the outset, this day was looking lousy.

Of course I'm running out of bitters. And oranges. Fortunately however, not whiskey.

Of course I'm running out of bitters. And oranges. Fortunately however, not whiskey.

Ordinarily, when I have an extra hour or two in the afternoon, and am looking to clear my head* I listen to music and walk around a nearby antique mall. Most of the stuff I can't really afford but that doesn't diminish the pleasure involved in looking at old pictures, books, art, kitchen odds and ends, tools, and just piles of stuff from a totally different era. Plus, they often have awesome glasses and barware.

Today, however, no walk to an antique store was going to dislodge the impact Christmas, and it's aftermath, were having on my constitution. Today, what today needed was a break. A nice…little…pause. The less effort the better. Today needed an Old Fashioned. And possibly a nap by the wood stove.

Oh whoops, did I use the 3 oz measure?

Oh whoops, did I use the 3 oz measure?

Eventually, I suppose the day turned out to be a push. Which, considering how things started, I view as a hearty endorsement of the Old Fashioned.

 

Old Fashioned
2-3 oz Spirit
1/2 tsp Sugar
Water - I don't know, 1-2 tsp probably
2-3 dashes Bitters
Garnish - Orange or Lemon peel

In a mixing glass dissolve sugar in water and bitters. Add booze and ice. Stir and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Or, if you're so inclined, just build it in the glass.
 

 

*Processing the day's grumpiness on paper:

-If this day drove a car it would break down in front of me on a narrow one way street.
-It would not fully seal the lid on my cup of coffee and this realization would be painful and inconvenient.
-It would say something rude to someone and look to me for encouragement.
-It would be a patch of mud on the town's sledding hill.
-It would be a bird, or a squirrel, that didn't get out of the road as my noisy car approached (can't you hear this thing?) and I would have to swerve, testing the power steering before the car had fully warmed up.
-This day is a branch on the tree down the street, signaling me as it sticks out over the river like a middle finger, ringed with my new lure and a bunch of line.
-This day is oil, leaking out of the sandwich in my bag, through the paper and onto the cloth cover of a book I ordered from the friggin UK. Shit!
-This day's phone has no signal.
-This day's shirt has come untucked and the holes in its shoes are registering only now that the sidewalk is dotted with puddles.
-Today's batteries weren't fully charged and ran out too early.
-Today's spinach wasn't washed so well.
-Its socks are wrong feeling.
-Today didn't say excuse me when it spun around the corner and collided into the morning. It just stood there like a jerk.

 

Posted
AuthorTrey

I had not heard about Coquito until recently. When I came across it online and saw 'Puerto Rican Coconut Egg Nog' I knew what shape the weekend holiday beverage routine would take. The rich, creamy goodness that defines egg nog is present but instead of heavy cream, whole milk and eggs (yolks and whites) the body here consists of coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and egg yolks. Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves contribute their festive holiday flavors but so does ginger, adding a welcome spicy bite that peeks through all of that rich sweetness.

I did very limited research on this one. In part because I'm still in lazy holiday mode but also because the recipe I found turned out to be pretty solid. I did enough to gather that Coquito is Puerto Rican (it was in the title of the recipe after all) in origin. Eventually I went back and checked out a few other recipes. The core is consistent among the half dozen or so that I looked through - egg yolks, evaporated milk, coconut milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. And rum, if alcohol is involved. Some of them also use cream of coconut (instead of coconut milk) which would push the sweetness even further. Ginger was in about half of the recipes I came across. I'm glad the one I made had that in there though; I like the way the spice comes through the tropical sweetness.

None of the ones I came across had regular milk which is listed in the recipe below. While I really enjoyed the flavors involved in the recipe I used, until I added some whole milk it was just too rich, heavy and sweet for my taste. Adding a little milk, and a hefty amount of extra rum, seemed to bring things in line. The result is still a rich and heavy egg nog. I just don't feel the need to lay down halfway in.

In my mind egg nog season is Thanksgiving to New Years though those bookends have been known to shift around our house. The ground is white and the temperature isn't supposed to get much higher than the single digits for the next few days so I don't mind having this stuff around for a little while. And, if it's like the egg nog I'm used to making, a couple of weeks in the fridge might make things even better.

 

Coquito - adapted from Maria del Mar Sacasa's version here
1 (12 oz) can Evaporated Milk
8 Whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 (2 inch) piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch discs
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 (13.5 oz) can Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Whole Milk (optional)*
1 1/4 cups White Rum
1/2 cup Aged Rum
4 Large Egg Yolks
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
Garnish - more Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Bring evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon stick and ginger to boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes then strain off solids and let cool to room temp.

In a blender add the spiced milk (from above), sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend until fully combined and foamy. About 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate. Yields 2 quarts.

*I added this to cut some of the sweetness of the coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk. I suppose I could have pulled back on those two items but I like how this recipe uses the whole can for that stuff. I could easily imagine a couple ounces of either of those two languishing for months in the back of the fridge.

Posted
AuthorTrey

I like a good Martinez. That's not much of a secret, at least around my house. While there are a lot of great drinks in the world this is one of the ones that I continue to come back to. Again and again. Switch up the gin or vermouth, adjust the ratio, try different bitters, it doesn't matter, this one consistently hits the mark.

To make one you will need gin (old tom if possible), sweet vermouth, maraschino and bitters. Historically, its origin situates it between two of the most iconic drinks out there: the Manhattan and the Martini. It's sweet but not too sweet, herbal, rich, smooth and luxurious. It's also fairly accommodating to tweaks and adjustments (which often involve the role played by vermouth).

Then of course, there's fernet. Which doesn't really need an introduction. It doesn't even need friends but don't tell that to tasty drinks like the Toronto, Bonsoni, DLB, Industry Sour, Fanciulli, etc...Below, there's a Martinez, then a couple of drinks that will likely have some appeal if you have a soft spot for gin, sweet vermouth and fernet.

First up is the Hanky Panky*, which takes the Martinez and subs fernet for the maraschino, then there's the Don't Give Up the Ship which tweaks the Hanky Panky's ratios and adds some curacao. In my head, the connection between these three is a six degrees of separation thing. Except instead of six it's three and instead of actors it's booze. But then I started wondering - does that make Kevin Bacon a Martinez? It does for the purpose at hand I suppose. Hmm, a Benton's Old Fashioned seems the more obvious choice, or perhaps a Presbyterian (what denomination was that anti-dancing preacher?), but then again...hold on, that will have to be a post for another time.

 

 

Martinez

Martinez

Just your basic Martinez. Which is to say, an incredibly delicious drink. I usually use old tom for the gin but in the interest of being thorough I mixed up a version with London dry as well. Just to make sure. Both were great, the differences being what you'd expect depending on the gin used. Hayman's was softer, rounder and sweeter while Beefeater was sharper with substantially more juniper. When I manage to have Ransom on hand I can guarantee you that the Martinez will play a significant role in its inevitable depletion. That gin is fantastic in this drink.

Hanky Panky

Hanky Panky

Take your soft and round Martinez, replace the bitters and the sweet, funky maraschino with fernet and the result is a darker, more mysterious drink. While the fernet here is not difficult to pick out (is it ever?) the quantity, 1/4 oz, allows it to support and enhance the gin/vermouth combination, not redirect it.

Don't Give Up the Ship

Don't Give Up the Ship

So good. Cointreau and fernet are doing something really nice here. More than oranges and herbs. Cointreau adds an edge and a slight bite as fernet jumps in with an 'Oh yeah? How about this!' Rich and bitter flavors unfold while gin guides the whole affair with its proof and juniper-y goodness. I do love this drink.

 

Martinez - Jerry Thomas, Bartender's Guide, 1887
1 1/2 oz Old Tom Gin
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Maraschino
2 dashes Boker's (sub Angostura, orange bitters are also nice)
Garnish - Lemon Twist

Stir, strain, up

 

Hanky Panky - Ada Coleman, Savoy, early 20th century
1 1/2 oz Gin, London Dry
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet
Garnish - Orange Twist

Stir, strain, up

- Old tom may have been used and in fact makes a fine drink.

 

Don't Give Up the Ship - Crosby Gaige, Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, 1941
1 1/2 oz Gin, London Dry
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Fernet
1 dash Orange Bitters
Garnish - Orange Peel

Stir, strain, up

- There are other specs around for this drink but I happily defer to the rigorous scientific experiments done here. Since reading that post (and many others on that blog) I have left this drink alone. I make it and I enjoy it.
 

 

*Bonus track. The Hanky Panky is a great drink and I realize that 100 years ago a statement like "By Jove! That is the real hanky panky!" probably wasn't uncommon. It's hard to say it now though without a chuckle. Which, at this point, for me at least, is part of the drink's charm. However, in that spirit, and in the spirit of riffs and laughs and late night drink-fueled inspiration I offer the:

Straight Face
1 1/2 oz Mezcal, Vida
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth, Cocchi
1/4 oz Fernet
Garnish - Lemon Twist

Stir, strain, up

Posted
AuthorTrey

Recently, I purchased Tony Conigliaro's book 69 Colebrooke Row. It celebrates the fifth anniversary of his unnamed London bar located at that address. Like Conigliaro's previous book, Drinks (titled The Cocktail Lab in the US), pleasure here is less likely to be derived from replicating the drinks (few home bars, or even professional ones, will have the equipment needed to make the various ingredients listed in the back) than from seeing what someone can do when their kitchen and lab acumen aligns with their interest in mixed drinks.

The book's introduction, by David Wondrich, evaluates the bar in the context of how the world's great cities are both physical places (the way things are) and heroic ones (the way we imagine things are). Our ideas of London make it "one of the great mental cities" and we romanticize a version full of interesting people, places...and bars. The thing is, Wondrich explains, 69 Colebrooke Row exists in both realms. 

Licorice Whiskey Sour

Licorice Whiskey Sour

This book, at times, can read like a screenplay, a short story, a postcard, or notes taken from a botany class. The drinks are intense, thoughtful, calculated and ambitious and while there are numerous ones featured, care is also taken to illuminate the atmosphere of the bar itself.

Throughout the book there is a compelling notion at play - that a particular moment or experience has meaningful contextual elements. The development of ingredients in the bar's lab (not just a kitchen, a full-on lab) and the way they get assembled when creating a drink is often an effort to channel those elements. If an experience can be triggered viscerally by certain aromas and flavors then menu items at the bar frequently aim to incorporate those qualities and allow the contents of a glass to function as a similar catalyst. The book nods to these elements with references to film noir, mystery, music, memories, smells, sounds, sights, etc. 

Recipes get a brief explanation of the factors involved in each drink's creation - the inspiration, why it works, what it's seeking to achieve. These notes often accompany individual ingredients as well. Those bits of information, often explaining the groundwork of a drink, are fascinating. A drink's journey here involves more than carefully selecting bottles and attempting to arrange or supplement their contents in a way that teases out some curious or welcome or unanticipated harmony. At this bar, those cues embedded in the details of a moment often facilitate the creation of new ingredients. Those products then enable a drink to conjure things like the scent of a barbershop and the invigorating sensation of a fresh cut and shave, bees buzzing between flowers, the heady perfume worn by women of an earlier era, or the patrons of a warm Spanish bar entranced by the movements of a flamenco dancer.

I don't have a sous vide machine so I used a small picnic cooler to approximate the hot water bath necessary to make the Rose Negroni. It held the temperature (52°C/126°F) fine for the 20 minutes specified in the recipe.

I don't have a sous vide machine so I used a small picnic cooler to approximate the hot water bath necessary to make the Rose Negroni. It held the temperature (52°C/126°F) fine for the 20 minutes specified in the recipe.

Rose Negroni

Rose Negroni

Conigliaro says the drinks at 69 Colebrooke Row were designed to tell stories. The middle section of the book takes that concept a step further. The font, the pictures, even the paper's appearance all change. Here, drinks are introduced with a snapshot of typewritten text heavily inspired by pulp magazines ("She's smart. She's loaded with sin. She's got him all fired up.") The corresponding photos are staged in a way that evoke qualities referenced in the text while the story itself ties into the flavors involved. It's an interesting approach to describing a drink and reading it is a blast. A glimpse into the thoughts of a man as he walks through the woods surrounded by trees, with moss and mushrooms underfoot is part of the story accompanying the Woodland Martini. Aspects of that environment get channeled into the drink (dried shitake, stripped pine bark, leaf smoke, etc) and manipulated in an effort to tap into the feeling of venturing deep into a forest. 

There are several things I enjoy about this book. I like reading what the regulars, including some of the musicians that play there, have to say about the bar. The photographs are beautiful and so are the illustrations. There are plenty of recipes and even the ones for ingredients I may never make are fun to look through. I also find it appealing that those ingredients, as complicated as they are, aren't designed to focus a patron's attention on the lab work. While that is, to me, a captivating component, it's not something the customer needs to reconcile themselves with if all they want is to relax and unwind with a tasty cocktail in hand. It's seems unlikely that the lab even gets brought up unless the customer's interest in such matters becomes apparent. At that point, then, it's on, because the work done there, service prep basically, is shared by the bartenders. The lab itself might be separate from the bar but not the knowledge of what's going on there. 

 

Army and Navy. One of the classics featured in the book.

Army and Navy. One of the classics featured in the book.

Ultimately, the book is a collection of drinks offered at the bar over the last five years. Through their description the process of how those drinks were developed also comes into focus. There is a certain element of theater engendered by the bar and the book reflects that as well. I haven't been there so I can't say for sure, but I feel like it also manages to illuminate the bar's vibe, the bartender/customer interactions, the music and the way those things shift throughout the night. I don't mind that I can't make most of the drinks. I'm glad someone is because they look awesome. 

Bars are more than the drink someone puts in front of you. They're specific, insular environments. When they resonate with people they stand a better chance of succeeding and taking on a life of their own. Here, in addition to those drinks, Conigliaro provides a lot of the intangible stuff swirling about his bar's interior. Apparently, 69 Colebrooke Row is tucked away on a side street and, in my own imagined world, it's one heck of a neighborhood bar.

 

 

Licorice Whiskey Sour - Tony Conigliaro, 69 Colebrooke Row, London
50 ml Whiskey
25 ml Lemon Juice
25 ml Egg White
15 ml Liquorice Syrup*
3 dashes Angostura
Garnish - Ground Licorice

Dry shake, then with ice. Strain, up.

*Licorice Syrup 
40 g Licorice Powder
500 ml Cold Water
750 g Caster Sugar

Mix licorice powder and water in saucepan. Add sugar and apply heat gently until sugar dissolves (10 min). Bottle and store in a cool, dry place.

notes: The nose is full of licorice, lemon and whiskey (I used bourbon). A tasty version of a whisky sour with intriguing earthiness. The licorice becomes more prominent on the finish and lingers pleasantly on the tongue long after traces of the other ingredients have vanished.

 

Rose Negroni - Tony Conigliaro, 69 Colebrooke Row, London
60 ml Rose Negroni Blend*
Garnish - Rose Petal

Stir, strain, rocks.

*Rose Negroni Blend
230 ml Gin
230 ml Campari
230 ml Sweet Vermouth 
23 g Pink Peppercorns
11.5 g Dried Rose Petals
2.5 g Rose Water

Vacuum seal all ingredients and cook sous vide at 52 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool, bottle and refrigerate. 

notes: Bright and lightly floral. Applying the ingredients to heat softens the edges and allows things to thoroughly integrate. Pink peppercorns aren't something I've used before so I was unsure what to expect. Not at all biting or hot the spice they offer seemed vibrant and floral which tied in well with the vermouth and rose petals/water.

 

Army and Navy - classic
50 ml Gin
25 ml Lemon Juice
15 ml Orgeat*

Shake, strain, up.

*Orgeat
1 kg Blanched Almonds
1.6 l Water
10 ml Orange Blossom Water
1.4 kg Caster Sugar

*Blend almonds to a fine powder using a Thermomix (I'll probably never own one but it sure looks incredible). Combine all but sugar and let stand for 2 hours. Fine strain. Put liquid in a saucepan over low heat, gradually add sugar stirring to dissolve. Bottle and refrigerate. 

notes: A very nice gin sour with orgeat standing in for the sweetener and adding enough nuttiness to spin things in an interesting direction but not so much that it takes over. Citrusy, clean and bright with subtle floral notes from the orange blossom water. The orgeat I used is from this recipe. It's delicious and I had plenty on hand.

 

 

The 69 Colebrooke Row book is available here.