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Liquor Project of the Day

This came from the current issue of Saveur magazine, and intrigued me — I’d never thought of the flavors of oranges and coffee going together, and in combination with rum it made me go “Hmm.” It also involves arcane ritual, which I always find appealing.

The story behind the concoction goes like this:

In 1884 the British missionary Rev. G. A. Shaw wrote that a traveler arriving alte in a village in Madagascar “will be distressed and horrified to find that the demon of the rum barrel has been [there] before him.” The observation was likely sour grapes on Shaw’s part, since his well-documented habit of taking over the largest hut in town, even if it meant displacing its owners, surely guaranteed that no nightcap was ever placed before him. That was his loss, because, in the African island nation of Madagascar, they know what to do with rum: namely, customize it with local ingredients, from pineapples and cinnamon to vanilla beans and litchis.

Now, here’s how you go about making one. Where does the number and ritual come from? No idea (although it’s undoubtedly left over from the French influence in Madagascar. This appears to be a Malagasy adaptation of a homemade liqueur in France called “Quarante Quatre” (44), which is sometimes made with cloves.

However, I’m briefly reminded of one of the funniest episodes ever of “Malcolm in the Middle,” one of my favorite comedy programs ever. Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) is attempting to bond with her horridly unpleasant mother (Cloris Leachman), joining her and all the other old ladies of the Old Country in making a gigantic traditional pastry for some saint’s feast day back home. The thing’s enormous, and has dozens of layers, each one representing some battle or whatever. Apparently on layer 38 Lois got the exact number of raisins wrong, and her mother loudly demanded that the start the entire pastry over again. Lois protested; “What difference does it make if there are 126 raisins or 127? It’s going to taste exactly the same!” Her mother shrieked, “IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO TASTE GOOD, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE DIFFICULT TO MAKE!!”

Well, I digress a bit, but this made me think of that scene, although I suspect that this cordial will not only be a bit of a pain to make, but will also taste great.

The 44 Cordial

1 liter white rum (I’d use Cruzan or 10 Cane).
1 large navel orange.
44 coffee beans.
44 teaspoons of sugar (a little less than 1 scant cup).

Using a sharp paring knife make 44 slits all over the orange. Stuff a coffee bean into each slit. In a large widemouthed jar, add the 44 teaspoons of sugar and the rum; stir to dissolve. Add the orange and seal the jar. Keep it in a cool, dark place, agitating it occasionally, for 44 days. Then remove the orange and discard; strain the liqueur through cheesecloth and bottle. Store in the freezer until ready to drink.

According to Saveur, “the Malagasy version is best sipped neat or over ice, preceded by a toast to the Reverend Shaw.”

Cocktail of the Day: The Claridge

The results are in! The winner of this month’s Raiders of the Lost Cocktail is … not the drink I submitted. (D’oh.)

I liked it better than Paul did, but here was his observation: “I really wanted to like the Pisco-Apricot Tropical, from Charles Baker’s The South American Gentleman’s Companion. Fortunately, I’m accustomed to disappointment, so the fact that the drink didn’t work out wasn’t too much of a shock.”

Ouch. ­čÖé Here’s where I messed up, though … Paul made another observation: “Apricot brandy and pineapple — who knew the combination could be so tasty? If you see these two flavors together in a recipe, go for it.”

The other version of the Pisco-Apricot Tropicál that Baker listed as a variation added a pony of pineapple juice to the first recipe. We tried that one later and liked it a lot better. Unfortunately, thanks to my having waited until the last minute (again) I had already submitted the other one, so I blew it. I do still recommend the pineapply version, so give it a shot and see what yez think.

The one Paul chose as the winner, though, was absolutely sublime and blew both Pisco-Apricot Tropic├íls out of the water. We made them last night and loved them, and the drink will most definitely be added to our regular rotation. (Fair play to yez, Jay and Charlie!) I particularly recommend Rothman & Winter’s Orchard Apricot in this drink.


1-1/2 ounces gin.
1-1/2 ounces dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/2 ounce Cointreau.

Stir with ice for at least 30 seconds, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
No garnish.

The original recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book called for a half-jigger of each of the liqueurs, and Jay toned that down to a half pony. I haven’t tried the original version yet, but I will in fact take Paul’s word for it that it’s better, as I prefer drier cocktails; a full jigger of liqueurs might be a bit much for me, given my typical tastes. The use of the R&W apricot also lends a bit of extra dryness while not compromising on flavor (in fact, its flavor is exquisite).

The only problem with this recipe is that it makes a really big drink, bigger than we usually like to make. What I ended up doing was increasing the recipe by 50%, using 2-1/4 ounces each of gin and vermouth, and 3/4 ounce each for the liqueurs. This made two perfectly-sized drinks for Wes and me.


I’m glad I finally got a chance to participate in RotLC,and I’m looking forward to the next one. This time I’ll get my butt in gear earlier, do more digging and see if I can come up with the winner!


Cocktail of the Day: Le Coquetiez de Lion

I came across this one the Flickr photostream of Joerg Meyer, a bartender in Hamburg, Germany. This is the house cocktail at the bar where he works behind the stick, Le Lion – Bar de Paris, and Wes and I found it to be a delightful ap├ęritif. (Joerg’s original metric measurements, which I converted for non-metric hardheads like me, are provided in parentheses.)

Le Coquetiez de Lion
(“The Lion Cocktail”, Bar le Lion, Hamburg)

1-3/4 ounces (5 cl) Lillet blanc.
1 ounce (3 cl) gin, 47% ABV. (They don’t specify, but we used Junipero.)
5 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime twist.

Now that we have a drink, let’s drink to something …


Raiders of the Lost Cocktail: Apricot Brandy

This is the first time I’ve managed to get my lazy, absentminded, procrastinatory ass in gear and participate in what is now the third installment of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail, run by the folks over at The Spirit World. (NOTE: Site now defunct.) The general idea behind it is this: “While we are certain there are great new cocktails yet to be discovered, we are equally certain there are great old cocktails that have been lost to the vagaries of time and chance. Some have been recovered by the new masters, but many have not. They are out there, in books and magazines, but they are at risk…”

Raiders of the Lost Cocktail

I started digging through my old books (almost at the last minute of course, I being me) and started by escewing ones that lots of people probably already have, such as the Savoy Cocktail book. Given that I’d pulled out Charles Baker earlier this week he was still fresh in my mind, but lots of people already have his Gentleman’s Companion, but I’ll bet not quite as many people have his subsequent tomes, The South American Gentleman’s Companion, Being an Exotic Drinking Book Or, Up & Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker & Flask.

Our usual standard for apricot brandy (that is, sweet apricot liqueur with a brandy base, not a clear eau-de-vie or distillate of apricots, such as Hungarian barackpalinka or the outstanding Blume Marillen) is Marie Brizard’s most excellent Apry, but lately we’ve been enjoying the relatively new product by Rothman & Winter from Austria (and imported by our pal Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz), called Orchard Apricot. It’s slightly lower in alcohol than Apry (24% as opposed to 30%) and slightly less sweet (I forget the brix, and don’t have my refractometer handy … actually, come to think of it, I don’t have a refractometer), so you might have to adjust the balance in your cocktails to your own preferences when using it. While it doesn’t have quite as much alcohol or sugar, what it does have is a deep, rich, wonderful flavor of apricots!

In the book I found three contenders, and last night Wes and I had a tasting of two. We passed the glasses back and forth, tasted, swished them around, wrinkled and furrowed our brows, and declared that we had two good cocktails but only one clear winner. Here’s the one that came out on top, plus the runner-up and a special bonus cocktail (one you’ve perhaps seen before but richly deserves another view), all featuring lovely lovely apricot brandy.

The PISCO-APRICOT TROPICÁLS, an Exotic Pair of Cocktails which May be Served Frozen, or Shaken as a Standard Cocktail, from Lima Country Club, Lima Peru.

If you have been able to rat-out a crock of this charming and fragrant Peruvian Grape Brandy, see Shopping Index, try these 2 to vary the Pisco Sour listed on Page 143.

2 oz Pisco Brandy
1/4 to 1/2 pony Garnier’s Apricot liqueur.
Juice 1/2 small lime.
Small dash Angostura.

Eitiher put in pre-chilled electric mixer with fine ice and serve in big champagne cocktail glass in frozen form, or shake with big ice and strain into chilled stemmed cocktail glass.

Or use same ingredients and routine, only adding 1 pony of ripe pineapple juice to the mix — whether frozen or shaken and strained. GArnish this last with thin stick of ripe pineapple.

These also may be further varied by using some other cordial than Apricot liqueur, such as: White Cura├žao, Cointreau, Maraschino, peach liqueur or either type of Chartreuse. Miguel was the head bar-boy’s name. These were 2 of his specialties. Hope he’s still there if you should stay, as we did, at this lovely Club.

Well, chances are that by now Miguel is mixing at that Great Bar in the Sky, where all the liquor is premium, there’s cold running fresh fruit juices on tap and no such thing as sour mix or Pucker schnapps. Here’s how we did Miguel’s first concoction, and it’s my official entry in Raiders of the Lost Cocktail:

Pisco-Apricot Tropicál

2 ounces pisco.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.

The runner-up was still a fine drink, though, again in Charles’ words:

HERE’S another Brandy Business from the AMERICAN CLUB Bar in Buenos Aires, & Called a BRANDY MIST.

We lunched here 1 spring day with a group of expatriated men from the States, and upon hearing our mild wail upon the lack of mixed drinks of Latin creation to be found along the Rive Plate, this was suggested — was tested-out upon the spot. And accepted.

Pack an Old Fashioned Cocktail glass — with lip already rubbed with a sprig of crushed mint — with fine ice; hit it with 1 dash of Angostura and/or orange bitters. Now add 2 oz. really good Cognac brandy, not just any cheap California brand, 1/2 pony of veritable P. Garnier imported Peach Liqueur. Stir gently until chilled and garnish with 1 nice sprig of green mint which has been dipped into powdered sugar to give it a sparkling pleasantly frosted look. Garnier’s Apricotine will also work, our donor advised us — Apricotine, of course, being a superfine apricot-flavored liqueur distilled and made in Enghien-les-Bains, France.

Or, if you’re too lazy to read the Bard’s prose:

Brandy Mist

2 ounces Cognac.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.
2 mint sprigs.
Superfine sugar.

Rub the lip of an Old Fashioned glass with a sprig of crushed mint, then fill with crushed ice. Add the Cognac, apricot brandy and bitters, and stir for 20-30 seconds. Take the second mint sprig, moisten it and dip in the superfine sugar, and garnish with the frosted mint sprig.

While we did like this drink, the apricot didn’t shine quite as much, and Wes felt that the mint might have been a bit of a problem; although we like mint, it seemed as if it was fighting with the apricot a bit. I might actually increase the apricot to 3/4 ounce next time I make this, especially if using the lower-alcohol and -sugar R&W brand, and see how it goes. Mint-fighting or not, I think this one does deserve more tries.


Cocktail of the Day: Remember the Maine

“Hey, do we have any cherry brandy?”

Thus came the request from Wes as he was digging for last night’s libation, and the answer was indeed yes, we’re usually never without the Cherry Heering (or kirsch, if that’s what he mean, which it wasn’t). We still haven’t replaced our most recently drained 1.75l bottle of Maker’s Mark, so our new bottle of Bulleit Bourbon stepped in. Properly equipped, then he was off.

This one came out of Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology, and is an adaptation of one that initially came from the Bard of Cocktails, the great Charles H. Baker Jr. and his classic The Gentleman’s Companion, or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask. Both Wes and I are trying to recall whether Gary specified Bourbon or listed it as “Bourbon or rye” (will double-check later), but we think it’s the former. Having looked up Baker’s original rendernig of the recipe we see he specifies it as a rye cocktail and are eager to try that version. That said, when Gary makes adaptive changes it’s usually for a very good reason — balance and flavor being two big ones. Wes thinks that Bourbon might actually be his preference here, but we’ll see.

I like everything about this drink but its name, which refers to the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” of the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which our country capitalized on an explosion of unknown origin aboard the USS Maine and blamed it on Spain as a pretext for starting a war. (All this shit sounds sadly familiar, doesn’t it? Sigh.)

A little Googling revealed that the drink is also called “McKinley’s Delight,” which I prefer actually, and we speculated that it might have become a Bourbon drink when rye fell out of favor during Prohibition. Take two coming soon, but in the meantime here’s the version we thoroughly enjoyed last night.

McKinley’s Delight
(a.k.a. “Remember the Maine”)

2 ounces Bourbon.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce cherry brandy (like Cherry Heering).
2 dashes absinthe or pastis (or slightly less, to taste).
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir for no less than 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish is specified in the recipe, but given the flavor profile of this drink a Luxardo cherry or brandied cherry would not be inappropriate.

Here’s Charles Baker’s version, from The Gentleman’s Companion:

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated witih Bombs Going Off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3″ Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.

Treat this one with the respect it deserves, gentlemen. Take a tall bar glass and toss in 3 lumps of ice. Onto this foundation donate the following in order given: 1 jigger good rye whiskey, 1/2 jigger Italian vermouth, 1 to 2 tsp of cherry brandy, 1/2 tsp absinthe or Pernod Veritas. Stir briskly in clock-wise fashion — this makes it sea-going, presumably! — turn into a big chilled saucer champagne glass, twisting a curl of green lime or lemon peel over the top.

Mighty, mighty good.

Thing about this drink is that it’s really starting to catch on, and nobody calls it McKinley’s Delight. So I guess Remember the Maine it is.

And even better is this version! This is the one we’ve settled on — it’s closer to Baker’s version, and make it this way at home all the time.

Remember the Maine

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100 proof bonded rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth.
2 teaspoons Cherry Heering.
1/2 teaspoon absinthe.

Stir with ice for 30 seconds and strain. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Bourbon shmourbon. This one needs the rye, most definitely. Rittenhouse, preferably.