Inauguration Day Cocktails

We had busy days Tuesday — up early to watch the inauguration (I was at work at 8am, setting it up on the big-ass TV) and home late. We didn’t think ahead to research an Inaugural Cocktail (although there was some awful-looking red, white and blues ones on some web sites) and just drank Old Fashioneds instead. Wes did some digging, adn we did come across Eric Felten’s recent article about an inaugural punch, along the lines of one served at Andrew Jackson’s inauguration, which was apparently quite a do:

“A monstrous crowd of people is in the city,” Daniel Webster wrote on Inauguration Day, 1829. “I never saw any thing like it before. Persons have come five hundred miles to see General Jackson; and they really seem to think that the country is rescued from some dreadful danger.”

After the oath and his address, the old general climbed on his horse and headed for the White House. As one witness told it: “The President was literally pursued by a motley concourse of people, riding, running helter-skelter, striving who should first gain admittance into the executive mansion, where it was understood that refreshments were to be distributed.”

The unruly bunch pushed into the White House, clods standing on the silk-upholstered furniture in muddy boots to get a glimpse of the new president (who was trying not to be crushed by his well-wishers). “The reign of King Mob seemed triumphant,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, appalled. When the stewards finally delivered buckets full of Orange Punch, the crowd lunged for the pails, overturning furniture, smashing the glassware, and — perhaps worst of all — spilling the punch itself. Quick-thinking waiters lugged the remaining barrels of punch out onto the White House lawn, enticing Jackson’s admirers to take the party outside.

John Steele Gordon has a more detailed account:

The crowd grew so dense that there were fears for Jackson’s safety. He soon escaped out a window and returned to his hotel. The crowd was finally lured out of the White House when the liquor was carried out onto the lawn. The place was a total shambles, with many thousands of dollars in damage due to broken glass and china and ruined upholstery and carpets.

Oh my. They should have had more buckets of punch at this inauguration, which might have helped the crowd move along a bit better.

In any case, Felten provides an excellent updated version of the type of orange punch that might well have been served to the teeming masses at the White House that day.

Andrew Jackson’s Inaugural Orange Punch
(Adapted by Eric Felten, with tweaking by me)

3 parts fresh orange juice.
1 part fresh lemon juice.
1 part mulled orange syrup.
1 part dark rum.
1 part Cognac.
2 parts soda water.

Mulled Orange Syrup:
Combine 1 cup sugar with the peel of one orange in a saucepan. Muddle the sugar with the orange peel until the orange oil is released from the peel, and the sugar becomes damp. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add some mulling spices to taste (a couple of cinnamon sticks, some whole cloves and allspice berries). After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let it sit for several hours. Strain.

Combine ingredients in a punch bowl with a large block of ice or optionally, for historical accuracy, in buckets. Serve in punch cups with a little crushed ice, and give each glass a dash of Angostura bitters or, even better, Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters. Okay, so Andy was inaugurated the year before Professor Jerry was born, but Dr. Siegert’s Angostura bitters weren’t exported until 1830, and it was years before his company was established to make the product on a large enough scale to keep up with the demand. So this is less historical accuracy than 19th Century flavor. Heck, try making up a batch of Boker’s Bitters, or Doc’s recipe based on Boker’s, H & H Aromatic Bitters.

Punch in a bucket, mmmm.

If you’re looking for other cocktail ideas, here’s what else we’ve been drinking this week. Wesly adapted the first one from a more traditional recipe to suit the whiskey used, and spiked it with a little bitters. We use Rittenhouse bonded rye most of the time, but Wes wanted to try this one with the 6-year Sazerac — it has a great flavor but is a little less punchy and forward than the Rittenhouse, so he upped the amount. “Playing to your base spirit,” he says.

Oriental Cocktail variation
(by Wesly)

2 ounces Sazerac 6-year rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
3/4 ounce Cointreau.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.

Combine ingredients with ice and shake for 12 seconds or so. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Next we tried one from the Savoy Cocktail Book. It calls for Candadian Club, but as we don’t keep that (or any blended Canadian for that matter), we substituted a lighter rye. Basically, it’s a Dry Manhattan spiked with a dash of maraschino and absinthe, which adds subtle tastiness.

Lawhill Cocktail

2 ounces Old Overholt rye whiskey.
1 ounce dry vermouth.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash maraschino liqueur.
1 dash absinthe.

Combine in mixing glass with ice, stir for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I like the old practice of adding one or two dashes of a liqueur to augment a recipe, or turn it into a new drink altogether — it’s really growing on me.