* You are viewing the archive for January, 2005

The Hunting Horn

This one’s from a recent addition to my collection of cocktail books: The Saloon in the Home, or A Garden of Rumblossoms, compiled by Ridgely Hunt and George S. Chappell, with many lavish engravings by John Held, Jr. It was published in 1930, three years before the end of Prohibition (my copy is autographed by the authors and inscribed December 1930), and is a collection of temperance songs, poems, stories, sermons and rants … interspersed with lots and lots of cocktail recipes. It’s hilarious, and I love it.

This cocktail falls right into the same category as the Manhattan, Rob Roy and Rory O’More/Tom Moore cocktails — just substitute the base spirit and stick to the classic formula.

The Hunting Horn

2 ounces applejack (use Laird’s bonded straight apple brandy).
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Stir with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a cherry.

We rather liked it.

You could try spiffing this up somewhat by using Calvados instead of applejack, and you could spiff it up even more by using Carpano Antica Formula or Punt e Mes instead of garden variety Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth.

On the same page of the book were two little temperance anecdotes and another cocktail recipe (which we have yet to try); I’ll share those with you too.

OH YEAH?

“Ten years from now hundreds of thousands of men who voted against us and struggled to keep the saloon, will go down on their knees and thank God they were overwhelmed at the ballot-box and this temptation far removed from them.”

– William Jennings Bryan, Columbus, Ohio, November 19, 1918.

AN UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT

“Very early yesterday morning, I saw a young gentleman of my acquaintance whom I knew to be too fond of ardent spirits, sitting upon a doorstep, quite exhausted from a daring feat he had been performing. On his knee were two strong door knockers, three bell pulls, and part of an area railing, all of which he had drunkenly taken into custody.”

– Dr. Henry Monroe, 1865.

The Whitney

One part Scotch whiskey.
One part Sherry.
The juice of half a Lemon.
One tablespoon of Grenadine.

Here’s to Mr. Bryan and Dr. Monroe … drink up!

The Verena Abbott Cocktail

This one’s an original, with several inspirations, and it took me a while to get right. I’m still not sure if I’m satisfied with it, but it is pretty darn good … and I’m not sure I can make it any better.

The first inspiration came from breakfast — Wes and I got some beautiful ruby red grapefruit in our box from Organic Express (now called Spud) a while back, and he was reminded of how his mom used to prepare them for breakfast. Halve them, score the sections, sprinkle with a generous amount of brown sugar and under the broiler until the sugar melts. Mmmmmmm, good good.

Next came from my near-obsession with the long-defunct product called Abbott’s Bitters. We tasted Abbott’s (after having heard about them for a long while) on our very first visit to Dr. Cocktail’s house a few years ago. He made us a classic Champagne Cocktail, which is very simple: a sugar cube in a Champagne flute, soak the cube with bitters, and fill with Champagne. He used Abbott’s, and more than soaked it — he must have used six or seven dashes. Abbott’s hasn’t been made since 1950, and the original formula hasn’t been made since the early 1940s, so vintage bottles of Abbott’s tend to be slightly evaporated, with a commensurate concentration of flavor.

The flavor of this stuff was amazing, deep and complex, with the “apple/pumpkin pie spices” (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), hints of ginger and orange, and its complexity no doubt coming from the fact that it was the only bitters to have been barrel-aged. I was hooked.

Doc was kind and generous enough to present us with a bottle as a housewarming present, and as the level on that bottle began to go down, I was desperate to find more. Fortunately I had some lucky breaks, and I now have three 18-ounce bottles of the stuff, probably enough to last me for many years, if not the rest of my life, if I use it judiciously.

I also began collecting some Abbott’s memorabilia, including recipe booklets, matchbooks, an Abbott’s muddler, etc., and one of the recipe books (as well as the paper wrappers of the large bottles) had a recipe for what they called a “Grape Fruit Cocktail”:

I was a little reticent to use an entire teaspoon of Abbott’s Bitters on a half a grapefruit (the stuff hasn’t been made in 55 years, and the good stuff hasn’t been made for over 60, and is rarer than the proverbial hen’s teeth), so we decided to try good ol’ Angostura Bitters instead. About eight dashes on a half a grapefruit, sprinkled with dark brown sugar and under the broiler until the sugar melts.
Holy bejeebies, was that good. Serve that to your guests for breakfast sometime.

The second time we made this I said, “I want to make a cocktail that tastes like this.” I had several false starts — combinations of base spirit, grapefruit juice, brown sugar syrup and bitters that just didn’t work at all. I knew I was on the right track, but I got tired of myriad combinations that still didn’t taste right. Then one night it was Wes’ turn to mix our nightly cocktail, and he pulled one from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology called the Bennett Cocktail, a classic 4:2:1 proportion of gin, lime juice and simple syrup with Angostura bitters that was delicious.

DING! The lightbulb went off over my head. Although I rarely use flavored vodkas anymore I’d just found a good deal on all four flavors of Charbay’s excellent fruit-infused vodkas (if you’re going to use flavored vodkas, Charbay and Hangar One are pretty much the best), and I’d been looking for something to do with them. I tried another version of my “Grape Fruit Cocktail”, and it worked.

I did a little tweaking of proportions here and there to see if it improved it any, and it didn’t. I think sticking with the classic proportion is the way to go. I like it a lot, although it’s not my favorite of my originals (that’d be the Hoskins), but I like it well enough. If you’re looking for a breakfast cocktail, this would work rather well.

I was torn about what to name it, and decided as I was writing this post. It’s named both after Wes’ mom and after Mr. C. W. Abbott, bitters-maker — the twin inspirations for the drink.

Verena Abbott Cocktail
(or, “Grape Fruit Cocktail”)

2 ounces Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka.
1 ounce fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.
1/2 ounce dark brown sugar syrup.
4 healthy dashes Angostura bitters.

To make brown sugar syrup, combine 1/2 cup dark brown sugar with 1/4 cup hot water. Heat gently until sugar is dissolved; cool and store in the fridge in a jar. Makes about 2/3 cup.

To make the cocktail, combine all ingredients in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish: use a channel knife to make a long, curly twist of grapefruit peel, and drape over the edge of the glass.

If you’re feeling extraordinarily, foolishly extravagant, substitute 2-3 dashes of Abbott’s Bitters for the Angostura.

The more I think about the name, the more I like it. It sounds like a Hollywood character actress from Prohibition times, kinda.

R.I.P, Snoring Hellbeast (and Cocktail of the Day)

Well, it only took them eight feckin’ months, but my insurance company finally approved payment for my sleep apnea device (the Modified UCLA Herbst Mandibular Advancement Device, or MUCLAH-MAD, as we say in the the biz (actually, we don’t say that at all)). There’s a grand I now don’t have to cough up to an increasingly annoyed doctor’s billing company, which is a great relief.

Wes cheered, and suggested we celebrate with a cocktail (as distinct from all those other evenings when we simply have a cocktail with no celebration involved). He wondered if there was a Procrastinator Cocktail, a Slowpoke Cocktail, a Cheapskate Cocktail or a Forgetful Cocktail. (Do you think he was trying to tell me something?) Alas, none existed in CocktailDB, and none of the three in-progress originals we’re working on seemed to fit those names. Via CocktailDB, his is the closest he came up with.

Elephants Sometimes Forget

1 ounce gin.
3/4 ounce Cherry Heering.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1 dash orange bitters.

Shake and strain; no garnish specified.

This was really good, with a perfect balance between sweet and tart. Unfortunately there was no attribution for its origin or its silly name.

The Bennett Cocktail

No time to waste in cushioning our systems, and Gawd knows we need the relaxation and civilization involved with cocktailian cuisine.

Wes found this one in Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, and when we tried it not only did we love it, but it set off a huge lightbulb over my head. The proportions of this drink sent me back to the drawing board with some ingredients I’d been struggling with in order to create a new drink, and after one last try I nailed it. I’ll post it as soon as I think of what to name it. In the meantime, enjoy this one from the 1930s.

The Bennett Cocktail

2 ounces gin.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.

Shake and strain; lime wheel garnish.

The combination of lime and bitters, always a superb one, works beautifully here.

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

[NOTE: Cinnabar, alas, closed in 2005. She is sorely missed.]

Well, what we did, to answer Ella Fitzgerald’s musical question, was go to Cinnabar.

Wes and I went with our friends Chris and MJ to our favorite local restaurant’s annual end of the year bash, featuring a multi-course prix-fixe dinner, a jazz combo, hats and noisemakers, bubbly and a steady flow of cocktails from their renowned cocktailian bar.

As Cinnabar is one of those rare places where you can get a really good cocktail, we made certain to hit the bar first. As I may have mentioned before, their bar (including the back bar) was rescued from the late, lameneted Yee Mee Loo bar in Downtown L.A., which was bought up and scheduled for demolition about 14 years ago (then sadly sat derelict because the raze-and-build-condos plan didn’t come off quite like the developers planned). It’s gorgeous, and there are always fun and interesting people around it. Behind the stick was Eric, the new bartender hired to replace our pal Bob, their longtime weekend bartender who left to go back to school. We’re still keeping an eye on Eric — really nice guy who made us spectacular Booker’s Old Fashioneds, but something was a little off with that Negroni I had later. Next time I’ll have to ask him how he makes it, because Cinnabar is famous for their own take on the Negroni (basically doubling the Campari and adding orange bitters), a take we’ve become particularly fond of:

The Cinnabar Negroni

2 ounces Campari.
1 ounce gin.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
2 dashes orange bitters.

Shake and strain; orange wheel garnish.

This is a big, delicious, bitter slap upside the head, in the best possible way. Wake up that palate and get it ready for some food!

We caused a bit of a ruckus when it became apparent that no one had remembered to notify the restaurant that one of our party was a vegetarian (“I keel you!”, said co-owner Flame, with much justification), but Chef Damon came through beautifully, and our vegetarian didn’t go hungry (although we probably could have gotten more of a planned menu if we had remembered to call … oh well).

Here was the menu I chose:

Amuse Bouche:
Sevruga Caviar on a Crispy Potato Lollypop, with Lemon Crème Fraîche.
A thin slice of potato, stuck on a lollypop stick and fried crisp until it’s like a thick chip … whimsical! Plopped on the side was the dollop of crème fraîche and the caviar.

Appetizers:
1. Foie Gras Terrine with Lemon Pear Compote
. Just say “foie gras” to me and I’m all over it. About a 3/8″ slice of terrine, which went well with the sweet compote. It was gone very, very quickly.)

2. Dungeness Crab Cake in Shredded Phyllo with Avocado Vinaigrette. This was one of the highlights of the meal. It looked gorgeous, like a bird’s nest or some kind of chrysalis, sitting in a pool of thick, green, spicy vinaigrette. The crab cake was wrapped in the shredded phyllo and quickly deep-fried, but was light and crisp and without the slightest trace of oiliness. The sweet crabmeat and the spicy vinaigrette were perfect together.

Intermezzo:
Lychee Sorbet, served in a Champagne flute.
This was wonderful, not too sweet and a perfect palate cleanser. I lucked out, as Wes and MJ were served a raspberry sorbet (” … the kiiind you find in a second-hand store” … um … sorry) which was good but not as good as the lychee.)

Main course:
Filet Mignon and Foie Gras wrapped in Phyllo with a Ruby Port Glaze.
Okay, there’s a bit of a motif here … I was going for foie gras all around, having chosen this entrée instead of the Roasted Maine Lobster Tail with Tarragon Hollandaise and the Macadamia-Crusted Turbot with Lime Leaf Butter and a Rock Shrimp Spring Roll, so I ended up doubling up on the phyllo as well. No worries; how often do I get to eat phyllo anyway? This was solid, not shredded, and the dish was like an upscale Beef Wellington. The filet was perfect; tender and medium rare. On top inside the pastry was a luxurious level of richnessa added from the slice of foie gras, and the tart Port sauce cut right through all that richness with a fruity tang. I so rarely eat filet that this was a real treat. I washed it down with a glass of the house Bordeaux, which I forgot to write down.

Dessert:
Ginger Macadamia Nut Cake with Citrus Chocolate Mousse and Chocolate Sauce.
The other choice was a mixed berry mini-cheesecake with a berry coulis, which I’m sure was good, but … jeez, in the face of this other choice, who in the world would order it?! We did see someone at the next table who had one, and I imagined him to be some kind of chocolate hater whom I regarded with a mixture of contempt and pity. This dessert was out of this world — rich rich rich without being overwhelming, with the touch of spiciness from the ginger keeping the richness in check. I looked both ways and wiped up the chocolate sauce with my finger when no one was looking.)

We were having such a good time that I didn’t even think to take pictures of the dishes (duh) until the dessert arrived, even though I had meant to shoot the entire meal. Ah well. If my mind weren’t so absent and if my camera weren’t so clunky, I’d probably manage to do it. I’ll have to work on at least one of those this year. Anyway, here’s dessert:

It tasted even better than it looks.

Then came party hats, noisemakers, bubbly and FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (*hoooooooonk*) Hugs, kisses, Auld Lang Syne.

It was a really fun way to spend New Year’s, and we’ll probably do it again. To cap it all off, they weren’t in a hurry to get rid of everybody, so we hung out for another hour or so and sobered up enough to drive home safely. Now I’ve gotta spend the next week eating rabbit food to make up for all that foie gras …