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New York’s oldest bartender, and the Algonquin Cocktail

Hoy Wong, of New York’s famous Algonquin Hotel, has been behind the stick for a good while now.

Marilyn Monroe came Wednesdays for lunch and ordered a Beefeater martini, very dry. Danny Kaye pulled his jacket over his head to avoid being recognized. Judy Garland sat in a corner drinking Johnnie Walker Red.

“Judy Garland, very sad,” said Hoy Wong, who is about to be feted by his employer of 27 years, the Algonquin Hotel, on the occasion of his 90th birthday. “She always had a cocktail glass in her hand.”

Wong, or Mr. Hoy, as he is known, has been working as a bartender for 58 years. Unless another candidate steps forward, his bosses seem safe in calling him the city’s oldest bartender.

“He never misses a day,” said Bill Liles, the Algonquin’s general manager. “If the weather’s bad he shows up early. It’s just really an honor to work with someone like Mr. Hoy.”

I so, so want to visit Mr. Hoy and have him make me a Martini! OK all youse New Yorkers out there … go pay the man your respects, and please tell him I said happy birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hoy!

In honor of Mr. Hoy Wong, we present a cocktail named for the venerable hotel where he plies his trade, and the “Round Table” of people like Dorothy Parker, Roberty Benchley and Noel Coward who used to hang out there. Better still, it’s a rye cocktail, and as Wes is fond of saying, what the world needs now is more rye cocktails.

The Algonquin Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces straight rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce pineapple juice.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish optional, your call.

 

Cocktail(s) of the Day: Tipperary

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and all that.) Ná cuir ceist orm … níl a fhois agam! (I do know, actually; I just like saying that.) Oh, and NO feckin’ green beer today, please. Black.

Okay, so it’s St. Patrick’s Day … there may be drinking involved. (No! I don’t believe it!)

If I were to offer a Cocktail of the Day today, it might be simply this:

Guinness Draught

One pint Guinness, poured properly. Sip through the head. Savor. Enjoy. Repeat.

There’s a caveat, though — make sure that the places you order Guinness from the tap actually do it well. A couple of weeks ago we went with some friends to The Knitting Factory in Hollywood to see The Sacred Cowboys, a country/Southern rock band whose lead singer is W. Earl Brown, whom you may know better as Dan Dority, Al Swearingen’s evil henchman on “Deadwood”. They were great, but I swear … the Guinness I was served there was without a doubt the most god-awful pint it has ever been my displeasure to have pass my lips. It tasted old, stale, heavily metallic and … well, Jaysis knows what other shite was in that line. It may have been the single most disagreeable pint of Guinness served to anyone since Arthur Guinness started his brewery in Dublin in 1759. Needless to say, do not ever order a Guinness at The Knitting Factory. (Andy said even the whiskey tasted “off”, so you’re probably better off with bottled beer.)

If there isn’t a decent pub in your neighborhood, apparently you can just order a pre-built pub and they’ll deliver it to you (which I find fascinating and bizarre).

Speaking of whiskey … it should be Irish this weekend, of course. We have a pretty decent collection at home, consisting of, if I recall correctly: John Powers Gold Label, John Powers 12 Year Old, Jameson, Jameson 12 Year Old, Tullamore Dew, Kilbeggan, Locke’s 8 Year Old Single Malt, Redbreast 12 Year Old, Paddy, Bushmills, Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt, Bushmills 21 Year Old, Midleton Very Rare 2003.

There will be sipping.

Then there’s the cocktail question. Well, sad to say, Ireland isn’t much of a cocktail-drinking country. I love the pints and the pure drop, but when were were last there I did miss the ould cocktail. (The Octagon Bar at the Clarence in Dublin filled the bill, although at an eye-popping €15.50 per drink for starters.)

There isn’t really a “typically Irish” cocktail, although you’ll see lots of things with Irish names, many green for the sake of being green, and that greenness coming from awful doses of green crème de menthe. (“What about Irish Coffee?” you ask. Follow the link for a bit on that.)

There’s one cocktail I’m quite fond of that’s becoming associated with this day, although I doubt that a single person in Ireland will drink one today (as opposed to the 150 pints of Guinness that are being pulled per second for each of the 24 hours of St. Paddy’s Day). It’s Irish whiskey-based and quite lovely, but calls for a bit of a tolerance for the intensely herbal liqueur Chartreuse (a tolerance very much worth acquiring). I believe the original recipe came from Hugo Ensslin in 1919, but this is the version appearing in the Savoy Cocktail Book:

The Tipperary Cocktail
(original version)

3/4 ounce Irish whiskey.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.

Stir with ice for no less than 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass.

In yesterday’s edition of The Cocktailian, Gary Regan’s fortnightly column in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Professor, our cocktailian bartender, offers a different version; same ingredients, different proportions — “More whiskey, less vermouth, less Chartreuse.” This is the way to go for me.

The Tipperary Cocktail
(The Professor’s modern variation)

2 ounces Irish whiskey.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce green Chartreuse.

Pour the Chartreuse into a chilled cocktail glass, and by tilting the glass and rotating it at the same time, coat the entire interior of the glass. Discard the excess Chartreuse. Fill a mixing glass two-thirds full of ice and add the whiskey and the vermouth. Stir for approximately 30 seconds and strain into the prepared cocktail glass.

Plus there’s the Dubliner, and its sibling, my own St. Dominic’s Preview. I think you’ll have plenty to drink to celebrate the day. If you do follow all of the above suggestions … well, try to space them out a bit.

P.S. — Here’s a version of the Tipperary from Larousse des Cocktails by Fernando Castellon in which he uses rye instead of Irish. It’s a good variation, but you’re not allowed to make it on St. Patrick’s Day. Use a nice, big, spicy rye and the best sweet vermouth you’ve got (Carpano Punt E Mes or Antica Formula).

Tipperary Cocktail No. 2

2 ounces rye whiskey.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse.

Stir with ice; strain into a cocktail glass.

 

Version française, Larousse des Cocktails

4 cl de rye whiskey
2 cl de vermouth rosso
1 cl de liqueur Chartreuse verte
5 ou 6 glaçons

Mettez les glaçons et les ingrédients dans le verre à mélange.
Remuez à l’aide d’une cuillère à mélange pendant 8 à 10 secondes.
Filtrez au-dessus du verre martini à l’aide d’une passoire à glaçons.
Servez aussitôt.

The Diamondback Cocktail

This was contributed by cocktailian bartender extraordinaire Murray Stenson, of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle. Murray said, “Monday you mentioned Chartreuse, Tuesday you mentioned rye … why not try this one? It has become popular at the Zig Zag.” We did. Wow!

The Diamondback Cocktail
(from Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier)

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce applejack (we used Laird’s 100 proof apple brandy).

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
No garnish.

This was really, really good; complex, sublime, beautifully balanced. Wes said that he found it a very summery cocktail, much to his surprise, given the ingredients. I loved it, and was immediately curious to try it again with yellow Chartreuse. Murray said in other topic’s comments section that they’ve tried a Green Diamondback, Yellow Diamondback and even a green/yellow combination with success. “‘Sublime’ is a perfect description,” he said. Why thank you; ’twas the first word that popped into my head. And thanks for sending the recipe, too!

The Scofflaw

Normally we tend to think of long drinks, or gin-based drinks like a Gin and Tonic or Tom Collins as a refreshing summer drink, and not necessarily one made with rye whiskey. This is an exception, with a nice balance of sweet and tart, a brilliant red color and a lovely flavor as well.

Paul Harrington describes this drink thusly: “This whiskey cocktail used to be as bad as it sounds.” Back during the dark days of Prohibition, it was made with Canadian whiskey, often of rotgut quality, that flowed over the border for all the American scofflaws to drink.

I find most common blended Canadian whiskey to be inferior stuff (the vilest example of which is that Canadian Mist stuff that comes in a 1.75 liter plastic jug; never drink whiskey that comes in a plastic container, or any spirits for that matter), so if you want this to be a nice drink instead of a bad drink use real, proper rye whiskey.

Canadian whiskey is a lot of grain neutral spirits blended with grain whiskey, some of which used to be rye in the olden days but today is almost entirely corn, is generally very mild and without distinctive character and by law can contain up to 9% of “additives”, including prune juice. (Oy.)

There are some fine Canadian whiskies on the market, like the release of Canadian Club 30 year, but stick with a good solid rye for this one.

Scofflaw

2 ounces rye whiskey (Bourbon may be substituted).
1 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/4 ounce real pomegranate grenadine.
1 dash orange bitters.

Shake and strain. Lemon twist garnish.

 
 

We usually make this with the slightly milder ryes like Old Overholt or Pikesville.
And while you’re sipping your Scofflaw, visit a fine cocktail weblog called Scofflaw’s Den, run by my friends Marshall and SeanMike.

Liberal Cocktail

Because what the world needs now is more rye cocktails. Because what the world needs now is more Liberals. Because I don’t think a “Conservative Cocktail” would taste good. (I don’t stock vitriol in my bar, anyway.)

http://www.gumbopages.com/looka/images/liberal.jpg
Liberal Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/4 ounce Amer Picon (Torani Amer).
1 dash orange bitters.
Lemon twist.

Combine with cracked ice in a shaker or mixing glass. Stir for no less than 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.

Express the oil from a lemon twist onto the surface of the drink and garnish with the twist.

This is a really good drink.

If you’re serious about cocktails, I once again highly recommend picking up a bottle or two of Torani Amer. It’s a wonderful product, and in its recent reformulation works well in cocktails that call for Amer Picon. It’s not exactly the same as the Picon of old was, but it’s close enough (and it it’s close enough for all those California Basques for their Picon Punch, it’s close enough for me).

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