January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
October 18, 2013
So, the other night I was reclining in the big comfy chair, trying to decide what to have for my evening libation while paging through a pocket-sized book called The Standard Cocktail Guide: A Manual of Mixed Drinks Written for the American Host by Crosby Gaige, published in 1944. It’s a handy little book, if not as exuberantly fun at Mr. Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. But well worth picking up if you ever see it. I knew, before deciding on a drink, a couple facts. One: I wanted to make a drink using iced crushed in my new McSology Lewis bag (a dandy Lewis bag made here in Seattle out of 100% cotton canvas, and available for $48 for the professional-sized model and $26 for the home-bartender version, if after reading this you want one). Two: I wanted to make a drink I didn’t know. Three: I wanted to make a drink out of this book. Four: I wanted to use the last bit of mint from the mint plant out back. I ended up with the Santa Cruz Daisy, though admittedly I modified it perhaps nearly out of Daisy-dom, cause I went with a mint instead of fruit topping, and I used crushed and not shaved ice. But it was still massively delicious.
The Santa Cruz Daisy (Sort Of)
2 ounces white rum
1/4 ounce maraschino
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Fresh mint sprigs
Splash of soda water
1. Add the rum, maraschino, simple syrup to a mixing glass and stir well.
2. Crush a bunch of ice in your Lewis bag and revel in the crushing.
3. Fill a goblet or other swell glass with ice, and strain the mix gently over it, topping with more ice as needed.
4. Add a splash of soda and garnish with mint sprigs.
July 19, 2013
One of my favorite old-timey books of cocktails and drinks is called Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. It’s by Crosby Gaige (hah!), who was a bon vivant about town in the early-to-mid part of last century. The book is a gas, as well as having bunches of good recipes. Recently, I tapped into it when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to imbibe, and found a fine recipe called Ants in the Pants, in The Old Gin Mill section – which makes sense, cause I wanted some gin. There was one wrinkle, however. The recipe called for Grand Marnier, which I was somehow out of (quick, Grand Marnier people, send me a bottle. Oops, too slow). Which led to me subbing in Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao, which yeah, I know is different, but it’s so so so good. And you know what? The drink ended up delicious, and I think Mr. Gaige himself would have approved. Oh, the change did make me alter the title, as you can see if you can read, and why would you be here if you couldn’t? Because where I come from, drinks have individual names, like people. And individual gins, which here should be Alpinist Gin, from the Seattle Distilling Company, if you can find it. It’s got the juniper hopping, but also has some other herbally and botanical goodness that adds a lot to the drink.
Pants in the Pants
2 ounces Alpinist Gin
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (I used Cocchi Torino, and suggest it)
1 dash fresh lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add it all why dontcha.
2. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.
February 25, 2009
I was looking through my library (which isn’t like the booze Library of Alexandria or something, but which is an agreeable little stack of books about drinks, drinking, and more drinking) the other night for recipes for the Betsy Ross, because my pal Andrew had asked about it (for his new bar, which I talked about below. Really, this is turning into the Andrew Bohrer admiration society). Anywho, the flag-making patriot-in-liquid form as far as I found goes back to 1941 (and by the way, history buffs, I’m not saying I made a complete search of every known record and microfilm and microfiche, but just that I looked through the books in the above mentioned library), to a recipe in one of my favorites, the jolly Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion. Which was published in 1941, as you might have surmised. Now, this is a winding road way of getting here, but while tracking down the info, I re-noticed another drink, across the page from Betsy Ross, a drink with the enticing and intriguing name, “Mrs. Solomon Wears Slacks.” Which is one of the top twenty-five drink names. Or, at least, that’s what I’m saying today. In honor of Mr. Gaige’s (or whomever’s) naming prowess, I made the mix, a brandy-based affair, and it was pretty swell. I even sugared the Champagne flute’s rim, as suggested, getting sweetly jiggy with it. I mussed around with the Slacks some (gawd, that’s fun to say), but the basic ingredients stayed the same (I went a snitch higher on curaçao and bitters, and brandy for that matter). I suggest serving it up at those affairs where slacks are worn, or anytime you want to be a bit daring (which slacks were in 1941. And that’s how I’m wearing it).
2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1. Put a good helping of sugar (but not a mound or anything) on a saucer. Wet the outside rim of a Champagne flute (I used a lemon slice, but you could also rotate it through water on a saucer–just don’t get any water in the glass). Carefully rotate the outside rim of the glass through the sugar–but you don’t want to get any sugar on the inside. No, no, not a grain. So, be careful.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with ice cubes. Add the brandy, curaçao, and bitters. Stir well.
3. Strain the mix into the flute. Garnish with the lemon twist (making sure now, that you get that swoosh of lemon oils from the twist into the drink and not into the atmosphere at large). Now, dance!