American Trilogy

This morning I watched an amazing cocktail video, produced by Shlomo M. Godder at the bar Dutch Kills in New York City. It’s absolutely gorgeous — beautifully directed and photographed, entirely visual (no dialogue at all), nicely integrated graphics and lush music. It begins with a fascinating look at the unnamed bartender’s custom ice prep before shift, moving onto a cocktail that I had been making for quite a while and didn’t even know it.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Old Fashioned might just be my favorite cocktail ever. It’s certainly at the top of my “comfort cocktails” list, being the first one I ever learned to make — Dad taught me when I was a kid, and sometimes I’d get to make him one after he got home from work. That basic recipe, truly the first “cock-tail” ever, adheres to a very simple recipe — “spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” One of my favorite variations has been to make Old Fashioneds with half rye whiskey for spice, and half bonded applejack for the wonderful fruit flavors, along with a variety of different bitters. Turns out that for the last four years or so, head bartender Michael McIlroy of New York’s Milk & Honey has been making essentially the same drink for over three years now. I’m glad to know that my cocktailian brain is wired properly, at the very least!

His cocktail is called the American Trilogy, combining those two very American spirits with orange bitters. Whether he named his drink after Mickey Newbury’s song, an arrangement of 19th Century traditional songs that was a hit for Elvis Presley, I don’t know. It’s a decent guess, at least.

Make sure you use Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy for this drink (and for all drinks containing apple brandy if you’re not using Calvados), a 100% brandy product not to be confused with Laird’s other product, called Laird’s Applejack. “Applejack” is the proper name for American apple brandy, but Laird’s Applejack brand is not all apple brandy; it’s 60% grain neutral spirits (i.e., vodka), with only 40% actual apple brandy by volume. It’s an inferior product to be avoided if the bonded product is available, so don’t be fooled by the prettier bottle. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy is an outstanding product, and an indispensable part of your bar. I really wish they’d ditch that blend and concentrate on the bonded product, which is one of the finest spirits produced in the country.

In the video the bartender is shown muddling a sugar cube with a splash of water. I’m down on the use of sugar cubes in cocktails unless you can be certain that every granule of sugar is dissolved; I don’t like grit in my cocktails, and it takes time to do it this way. I much prefer a 2:1 simple syrup — either brown or demerara sugar in this case.

Thanks to Garret Richard for sending me the video — he’s becoming our semi-official Looka! New York correspondent!

(adapted from Michael McIlroy, Milk & Honey, NYC, 2007)

1 ounce rye whiskey (we like Rittenhouse bonded rye).
1 ounce Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy.
1 barspoon rich Demerara syrup.
2 dashes orange bitters.
Orange peel.

Combine with ice and stir for 20-30 seconds, strain over a large ice cube into a large Old Fashioned glass. Express the oil from the orange peel onto the drink and around the rim of the glass, and garnish with the peel.


5 Responses to “American Trilogy”

  1. Sam said:

    Feb 10, 11 at 5:15 am

    Your NYC correspondence may have already included these (, but there are a few other videos posted in the same series, detailing other drinks made at Dutch Kills. I particularly enjoyed their version of the Royal Smile. Though, I am a sucker for nearly all things Applejack. And I completely agree about Laird’s need to get rid of their blended bottling. It’s pure shelf clutter. And confusing and misleading to the uninformed shopper. If you haven’t checked out Dutch Kills, next time you’re in NYC, I highly recommend you do so. Maybe my favorite cocktail spot in the city.

    I’m a big fan of your site. Keep on keepin on.

  2. Chuck said:

    Feb 10, 11 at 8:14 am

    Thanks Sam – I’m going to feature each video and cocktail in a post over the next week or so.

    If all goes well we’ll FINALLY be going to New York this fall, and Dutch Kills is high on the list. The first thing I said when this video began was, “Wow, that bar is gorgeous!” You don’t happen to know that bartender’s name, do you?

  3. Sam said:

    Feb 12, 11 at 2:37 pm

    Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the bartender. Perhaps Mr. Godder, the videographer, could point you in the right direction.


  4. Chuck said:

    Feb 14, 11 at 3:48 pm

    I’m told his name is Abraham. I hope to see him and his colleagues behind that bar this fall!

  5. KeithP said:

    Feb 18, 11 at 2:19 pm

    Another great post Chuck. I too have experimented with an Old Fashioned paired with Applejack never thinking I was copying a real drink (just riffing).

    The video series is cool — I’ve seen them all.