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Red Hook Cocktail

I was browsing through the eGullet Spirits and Cocktails forum yesterday, reading about vermouth, and stumbled across this one. It sounded vaguely familiar but I knew I had never tried it before, so it was a natural candidate for our evening’s cocktail. Unfortunately I was the only one who had one, though; Wes was feeling a bit off after trying a neighborhood hot dog stand advertising “Chile Dogs.” Let’s just say it was no Hot Doug’s, that the frank was good and the bun was fine but rather than “chile” it was an endlessly greasy industrial-grade commercial chili that did a bit of a number on him. He was craving a soothing digestivo (although it wasn’t quite into straight-shot-of-Branca territory), so the glass of Amaro Nonino I poured for him seemed to do nicely.

As for me, I got out the Rittenhouse rye and got to work on this drink, which was invented by bartender Enzo Errico of Milk & Honey in New York. You’ve undoubtedly heard me talk about Carpano’s Punt E Mes before, but in case you haven’t — it’s considered to be a sweet vermouth but is quite unlike the garden-variety sweet vermouths you find, in that it has a delightfully bitter characteristic to it, sort of halfway between sweet vermouth and Campari (maybe at or a little less than Aperol level) which, if substituted for regular sweet vermouth, lends considerable oomph to a drink.

I first thought of this as a wonderful Manhattan variation — we do make Manhattans with Punt E Mes sometimes — but further Googling led me to a piece Paul Clarke had written on this drink a couple of years ago. According to one of the commenters, Enzo’s inspiration for this drink came not from the Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, bitters) but from another favorite of ours, the Brooklyn (rye, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon and maraschino), with the Punt E Mes standing in for the sweet vermouth/Picon combination. Fascinating! I wonder what this drink would taste like with a dash of orange bitters tossed in. Before I start futzing with it, though, I made one as Enzo intended …

The Red Hook Cocktail

The Red Hook Cocktail
(by Enzo Errico, Milk & Honey, New York City)

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce Carpano Punt E Mes.
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for at least 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish is specified but I added two homemade brandied cherries.

It’s mighty, mighty good. It’s one of those combinations that seem so natural, even obvious, that you want to smack yourself on the forehead and say, “Jeez, why didn’t I think of this?!” (You didn’t think of it because you’re a big doof and Enzo is made of awesome, that’s why.) This one definitely goes on the fall cocktail menu. Yes, we have a menu on our bar at home for guests, which we change seasonally. What a coupla geeks.


Uptown Manhattan

This Manhattan variation comes from bartender Marco Dionysos, formerly of the Starlite Room in San Francisco. The sweet vermouth is replaced by one of the gentler yet still complex Italian amaros.

Uptown Manhattan
(created by Marco Dionysos)

2 ounces Bourbon.
1/2 ounce Amaro Nonino.
2 dashes orange bitters.
1 barspoon cherry brandy from jar of brandied cherries.
Orange peel.
Brandied cherry.

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame the orange peel over the surface of the drink and discard. Garnish with the cherry.

This works well with rye, too.

The brandied cherries we use are La Parisienne, and they’re wonderful. We get a 1 kilogram jar that lasts us for ages, and it’s easily mail-ordered from Marky’s.


Whiskey Sour

Chris McMillian, our master bartender at the Library Lounge in New Orleans, takes me (and us) on a trip to my childhood again. This was another of my dad’s favorites, along with the Old Fashioned and the drink that was probably most oft-consumed at family gatherings, the “Highball” (which in my family was always Seagram’s V.O. and 7-Up). This one, which went down smoother than the powerful Old Fashioned, was the one I was allowed to have a tiny sip of most often.

I hesitate to ever order one of these out, because most of the time you’ll get crap sour mix in it. If you go to fresh juice bar (which all bars will be before long if we do our jobs right), give one of these a try. I suspect it’s possible you’ve never had one made properly, or at the very least you haven’t had one in a long time.

You don’t need to go overboard on the whiskey for these, either. At home Wes and I particularly like Old Grand-Dad in a Whiskey Sour, and that’ll set us back the princely sum of about $10 a bottle.

I’m a tartness fanatic, so I will frequently invert the proportions of lemon juice and simple syrup. Adjust the proportions to your own taste; here’s how it’s usually made.

The Whiskey Sour

2 ounces Bourbon whiskey.
1 ounce simple syrup.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 egg white.

Combine ingredients in a shaker WITHOUT ice, and shake for 15-20 seconds to froth up the egg and emulsify the ingredients. Add ice and hard shake for 20 seconds, and pour into a sour glass or Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Dad never did put egg white in his, but managed to get a halfway-decent head on them anyway. I love the addition of egg white in a sour — don’t fear eggs in your drinks! Just wait until I start foisting flips on you (which include a whole egg … for a shiny coat).

[2010 update: Recently at Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, co-owner and bartender Justin Burrow served me a marvelous Whiskey Sour made with William Weller 107 proof Bourbon which had been infused with cacao nibs (“about a handful in about a pint of whiskey,” Justin said. Tremendous!]



Creole Fizz

This one’s a bit of a leftover from MxMo XIX, from Rick‘s mentioning getting his entry from Baker and also listing several other fascinating fizz recipes Baker had in The Gentleman’s Companion. (Speaking of which, I’ve had a tendency to skip around in that book, and I’ve actually never read it straight through from cover to cover. I oughta do that. Soon.) One of the ones Rick mentioned that really fascinated me was the Creole Fizz, which I thought I’d whip up since we’ve got some beautiful Plymouth Sloe Gin.

I mentioned this to Rick, and in shock and surprise he uttered an expletive that called into question the legitimacy of the circumstances of my birth. Such is the reaction among cocktailians when you mention this stuff, especially in the context of you having some when they don’t. (Hee hee. Sorry, didn’t mean to be a gloating bastard.) That’s because this is phenomenal stuff, redolent of the true fruit taste of the sloes, a perfect balance between sweet and tart, and none of the artifical cough syrupy flavor you get from pretty much every other sloe gin sold in this country. Fortunately he can get it the same place I got it — by mail, from Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were one of the only liquor shops in the U.K. willing to ship to the U.S., and I got mine quickly and with little trouble. Unfortunately, such bottled joy comes with hideously expensive shipping costs. The 700ml bottles (odd, why not 750ml?) cost £16.13 each without VAT. Shipping will run £22, for a grand total of £54.26, or about $109.05. That’s a lot … but I think it’s worth it if you care about quality, and only the best ingredients going into your cocktails. If all I have is bottom shelf, $8.95 a bottle sloe gin, then I’d rather not use any.

Let us implore the Plymouth company to export their sloe gin to the United States! [UPDATE: Our imploring worked! Plymouth Sloe Gin is now available in limited quantities in the U.S. for about $32 a bottle.]

In the meantime, let’s make a drink. Here’s Charles H. Baker’s description from his book The Gentleman’s Companion, Vol. I: Exotic Drink Book; or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Glass:


Lyle Saxon gave us this one way back in 1930 during a visit to New York, tellign us about his acquisition of the old French Creole House on Royal Street…. Take either the Aziz Special or the New Orleans Fizz and substitute an equal amount of good imported sloe gin, and cutting the cream down a trifle. Garnish with a sprig of fresh green mint and that’s all.

With all due apologies to Mr. Baker, I did tweak the proportions a bit. Here’s the drink as I made it last night:

The Creole Fizz

The Creole Fizz
(adapted from Charles H. Baker Jr.)

2 ounces Plymouth Sloe Gin.
1 ounce lemon juice.
1 ounce heavy cream.
1-1/2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar.
1 ounce egg white.
Soda water.
3 drops orange flower water.

Combine all ingredients but the soda with plenty of ice in a shaker. Shake until you are exhausted, and your hands are stuck to the metal like Flick’s tongue in “A Christmas Story” (at least one minute, preferable two or more).

Strain into a pretty glass, top with soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.

I can’t emphasize enough how much it’s worth it to procure Plymouth Sloe Gin. The use of any sloe gin other than Plymouth will make this drink infintely inferior.


Tchoupitoulas Street Fizz

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles … Chuck finally got his act together and remembered to participate in Mixology Monday! Well, barely.

Mixology Monday XIX: The Fizz

This month it’s being hosted by Gabriel at Cocktail Nerd, and because I’m behind on blog reading this week I missed the heads-up until last night. Rick emailed me to tell me he’d posted the New Orleans Fizz No. 1 and would I like tocontribute some history to the comments. “Oh, feck,” I thought, “I forgot MxMo again!!

I was determined not to miss it this time, so I leapt into last-minute frenzied research mode. Rick had gotten his fizz recipe from Charles Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion, and I didn’t want to be quite so much of a copycat is to mine one of Baker’s many other fizz offerings (although I might do one or two of them this week anyway, ’cause I haven’t done them before and some of them look fantastic). I didn’t want to do a gin fizz either, and decided to reach for an old standard — Stanely Clisby Arthur’s 1937 classic Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em (mine’s a sixth printing from 1944 and hasn’t fallen apart … yet). I double-checked it for fizzes, and it was fairly thin in that regard. We had the Ramos Gin Fizz, plus a couple of Collinses, and basic “Gin Fizzes,” consisting of gin, lemon juice, powdered sugar and seltzer water, either plain or in three other varieties — Silver (containing egg white), Golden (containing egg yolk) or Royal (containing a whole egg). Classic, yes, but not exactly floating my boat.

I tried to think of some other spirits I might like to see in a fizz, and since I’ve been enjoying rum so much lately, and since I’d never had one, I thought, “Hmm. How about a rum fizz?”

Off to CocktailDB, where a search for “fizz” in a drink name turned up 114 results, 15 of which were based on rum — some of which looked interesting, some of which really, really didn’t, and one of which was called simply … Rum Fizz — rum, cherry brandy, sugar, lemon juice and soda. Relatively simple, but I saw it as a place to start rather than something I wanted to try for this event. Most of these fizz recipes called for soda, but I wanted something else.

As I was flipping through Arthur’s book, I came across a recipe I hadn’t really noticed before — the Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle, described thusly:

1 split ginger beer
1 jigger Cuban style rum

Ginger beer is not to be had these days, but ginger ale will do as well. Mix with ice.

Guzzle is a somewhat inelegant word meaning to drink immoderately or frequently. Prior to the Civil War days the Iron Horse tavern was famed for its guzzle. As it increased in popularity among a certain New Orleans street it acquired the name of that street and became known as the Tchoupitoulas Street Guzzle. Tchoupitoulas (pronounced chop-a-TOO-las) was the name of an ancient Indian tribe that had its village in what is now the upper part of New Orleans. Just what sort of fire-water was their favorite guzzle history saith not.

Bingo. I had my idea for a more interesting rum fizz.

I played around with a few ideas, and settled on this combination for what I consider to be the first version of this drink. I whipped up a batch, Wes and I tasted them, and he declared it worthy of a writeup for Fizz Day.

For the rum, I used Old New Orleans Crystal Rum, but Cruzan Light 2-year-old Virgin Islands rum would work well, or any good light rum with some character (i.e., not Bacardi). I changed the lemon juice to lime, to give it more Caribbean character. I continued that by removing the cherry brandy (e.g. Cherry Heering) and substituting one of my favorite old/new liqueurs — it’s been around for ages but has only recently been available in this country — Clément Créole Shrubb. If you haven’t come across it or heard me mention it here before, it’s an orange liqueur not unlike Grand Marnier, but based on rum rather than Cognac and with a lovely, almost mysterious spicy quality. I had some rich demerara syrup left over from making Paul Clarke’s Swordfighter Swizzle, so I added a teaspoon of that for a bit more sweetness and depth from the bit of molasses in that sugar. Egg white for a foamy head, and Angostura bitters for a bit more spice to help tie it all together. And instead of soda, a nice, spicy ginger beer-type ginger ale. Not that wimpy, might-as-well-be-7Up Canada Dry stuff, we’re talking about the kind of ginger ale that’s intensely peppery, such that if you smell it after you open the bottle, you immediately sneeze. The result? Not too bad. Not too bad at all.

The Tchoupitoulas 
Street Fizz

The Tchoupitoulas Street Fizz

1-1/2 ounces white rum.
1 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce Clément Créole Shrubb.
1 teaspoon rich demerara syrup.
1 egg white.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
3 ounces (approx.) spicy ginger ale (we used Blenheim’s).

Combine all ingredients with plenty of ice in a shaker. Shake the living crap out of it for at least a minute, until your hands stick to the outside of the shaker and you get so exhausted that you realize how truly out of shape you are, and that you would have been totally put to shame by Henry C. Ramos’ shaker boys. Strain into a goblet, top with the ginger ale and garnish optionally with a little grated nutmeg and/or cinnamon.

(To make rich demerara sugar syrup, dissolve 2 parts demerara sugar (or else “Sugar in the Raw”) in 1 part hot water. Cool, store in a jar and keep in the fridge.)

I’m probably going to play around with this one a bit more, but not a bad start.