Cocktail of the Day: Rittenhouse Daisy

Our friend John served these at Seven Grand the other night. I didn’t get the exact description from him before leaving the bar, but decided to give it my interpretation. As John noted later in the comments, I didn’t get it quite right — unsurprisingly, after starting with two cocktails, then having tasted four whiskies at the first gathering of the Seven Grand Whiskey Society and then trying to rely on my unreliable memory as to what flavors I noted in the drink. I was pretty happy with my version, though, so I’ll leave it up — first though, here’s the one John made for us:

Rittenhouse Daisy
(by John Coltharp, Seven Grand, Los Angeles)

1-3/4 ounces Rittenhouse 100 bonded rye whiskey.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier.
1/2 ounce simple syrup.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
2 small splashes soda.

Combine with ice in a shaker and shake for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a Delmonico glass or an Old Fashioned glass.

That was mighty good. Now, my rather liberally-interpreted, memory-marinated-in-whiskey version that I came up with the next day, which isn’t too bad if’n I do say so myself.

Rittenhouse Daisy No. 2

2 ounces Rittenhouse bonded rye whiskey.
1 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse.
1 teaspoon simple syrup.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice in a shaker and shake for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a Delmonico glass or an Old Fashioned glass.

Back in the old days, a Daisy cocktail was spirit (brandy, rum, whiskey, gin, etc.) with lemon juice and sugar (differing from a sour in that there was usually only 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar) plus a few barspoons of grenadine. To a lesser extent then, and far more often now, I see herbal liqueurs like Bénédictine, Grand Marnier or yellow Chartreuse being used instead of grenadine. This is A Good Thing.

Why? Speaking of grenadine … as you know, it’s easy peasy to make at home with real pomegranate juice. This grenadine works beautifully in countless classic cocktails that callf or that ingredient. Sadly, what you see in bars these days is more often than not red-dyed sugar syrup with artificial flavoring of some kind, which hasn’t been within five miles of an actual pomegranate. This does not work well in cocktails. At all.

Last night I was served the most execrable Mai Tai ever (in a place which shall remain nameless, from a bartender who was later described to me as being at the bottom of the talent scale at this particular establishment). It was described on their menu quite nicely, with the proper classic recipe: two rums, orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice, orgeat and simple syrup. That sounded good enough for me. A tall glass was filled with ice (okay, tall rather than short, that’s OK too), some premix was added (uh oh … well, maybe it was a housemade Mai Tai mix with the lime and syrups). Rums were added (Myers’s Dark and … Bacardi, sigh. Then just as I was about to think I’d be satisfied the bartender added what looked like a full jigger of grenadine, turning the entire drink beet red. One sip revealed that it also rendered the drink undrinkable. Sigh.

I returned it, politely and apologetically, saying “I’m so sorry, but this is so sweet I can’t drink it. I wasn’t expecting all that grenadine, as the menu didn’t specify it,” and politely asked if I could exchange it for something else. It was exchanged, but the waves of attitude signifed that that bartender now hated me. Oh well. What’s a guy to do? I’m not paying $10 for an undrinkable cocktail, especially when it’s not made the way that the establishment’s menu (which even described the history of the drink and touted that this was the original, proper recipe) specifically says it’s made.

Just say no to fake grenadine, and to grenadine abuse!