Metropole Cocktail

Doing a bit of catch-up … we’ve been having lots of traditional “comfort cocktails” recently, especially Manhattans, especially when Wes makes them, as his Manhattan-making skills are vast and sublime. We’ve still been trying “new” ones (even though they may be decades or even a century old) though, and here’s one that came to us from Dave Wondrich’s stupendous book Imbibe!.

I’d seen this one around before, but the version he includes is the best I’ve ever seen, and the one that inspired me to try it, and fall in love with it. The original proportion on the brandy and vermouth was equal parts, but I prefer Paul E. Lowe’s “fine suggestion” of changing it to 2 parts brandy to 1 part vermouth, as specified in his 1904 tome Drinks as They Are Mixed.

Metropole Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Cognac.
3/4 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 teaspoon gum syrup or simple syrup.
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters.
1 dash orange bitters (I used Regans’.)

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker, stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry — a good brandied one, or Luxardo cherry in syrup, not those neon red abominations from the supermarket, please.

This was the house cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, opened in New York a couple of years before the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th. The owners had previously owned another hotel called the Metropolitan, which had its own cocktail as well (for that one, “replace both bitters with 3 dashes of Angostura, cut the Cognac in half and add a barspoon of gum”). The Metropole Cocktail is to the Metropolitan, according to Dave, “as the one hotel was to the other: more or less the same ingredients, but stronger, spicier and definitely flashier, yet not without style.”

This one goes in the regular rotation. I’ve really been enjoying brandy-based cocktails this week, and I’ll feature another one tomorrow.


The Last Word

This is absolutely one of my favorite cocktails ever. I, and we all, have Seattle bartender Murray Stenson to thank for this.

About five years ago back Murray was flipping through a 1951 cocktail book by Ted Saucier called Bottoms Up! and came across the recipe for this drink, which was created at the Detroit Athletic Club around the time of Prohibition, and put it on the menu at Zig Zag. Once resurrected it became an immediate hit (in fact, has become the de facto signature cocktail of Seattle), spread beyond Seattle to Portland and beyond, and took the cocktailian world by storm.

Unsurprising too, as it’s a spectacular drink. Complex, herbal, tart, a bit sweet and yet very easy to drink, The Last Word can take you to another world in a glass. Seriously, if you’ve never tasted this drink you owe it to yourself to try it.

The most distinct flavor component is the French herbal liqueur Chartreuse (of the green variety), still made by Carthusian monks with a secret recipe that to this day no one person knows (three monks are responsible for the recipe, each only knowing 1/3 of it). Powerful stuff at 110 proof and comprised of 130 herbs, it’s a bit of an onslaught the first time you try it, but it’ll quickly take you under its spell. Balanced by the fruitiness and nuttiness of the maraschino, the tartness and freshness of the lime and the strength and botanicals of the gin, this is cocktail alchemy at its zenith. It shouldn’t work as well as it does. Equal proportions? That much maraschino? Yep.

When making this drink at home make sure you use a robust gin, as a softer gin will get completely lost in this drink. We’re talking Beefeater or Tanqueray here.

The Last Word

3/4 ounce gin.
3/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.

Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

I’m a big fan of this drink, as are many others, but some feel there’s room for improvement. Bobby Heugel at Anvil in Houston wants more gin in his (“Hell, I want more gin in my cereal”), and feels the drink works a lot better with lemons than with limes. In fact, he says he’s stopped using limes entirely, and offers this variation as better suiting his taste:

Refined Speech

1-1/2 ounces Junipero Gin.
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.
1/2 ounce Lemon Juice.

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

“Now, clearly we have a very different drink than the original Last Word, but I think that changing ratios of this classic and switching citrus is well worth the experimenting. I rarely follow a recipe from a book. Sure, I start there, but ultimately the unique characteristics of the world’s spirits require adjustments in all cocktails. A good cocktail is the product of someone’s understanding of all the spirits and how they work together.”

Which one do you prefer?


Twentieth Century Cocktail

We’re drinking Champagne Cocktails tonight at midnight, people, but there’s no reason you can’t have one of these first, making a nod to the previous century while we attempt to hold out hope in our hearts that somehow someone can manage to pull the current one out of the toilet (Election Day could go a long way toward that lofty goal).

I spent the early part of Christmas Eve at The Swizzle Stick Bar at Café Adelaide, being attended to by the Queen of New Orleans Cocktails, Lu Brow, along with her excellent bartenders Mike, Kevin and Tommy. I began the evening with a most excellent Sazerac, continued with a most excellent Pegu Club (in which the teaspoon of lime juice came from two muddled lime half-wedges, which was a neat idea) and finally this one, which I was very pleasantly surprised to see on The Swizzle Stick’s spectacular cocktail menu (even better than the last time I was in, unsurprisingly, given that Lu is the Queen and Ti and Lally, proprietors of the restaurant, are The Cocktail Chicks). It’s a lovely, lovely drink, created in 1939 to commemorate Henry Dreyfus’ gorgeously designed locomotive that pulled the 20th Century Limited between New York and Chicago.

The Twentieth Century Cocktail

The Twentieth Century Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce Lillet blanc.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/2 ounce white crème de cacao.

Shake with cracked ice for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon peel.

Is it too early to create a Twenty-First Century Cocktail?


Tom and Jerry

Nope, it’s not a cartoon cat and mouse, and it wasn’t even named after them (although I have to wonder if they were named after it.) If you haven’t made aged eggnog, there’s only really one choice for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the venerable Tom & Jerry — a frothy, spiced eggnoggy concontion which is something you should turn into a holiday tradition.

Professor Jerry Thomas, our first great cocktailian bartender and the first to write a book about his craft (1862′s How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon-Vivant’s Companion), famously claimed to have invented this drink in the 1850s and named it for himself, but as the great man was prone to tall tales we can take that with a grain of salt — well, a salt mine, actually. His claim has been gently and fondly debunked of late, notably by both Dave Wondrich and Eric Felten in their recent tomes. No matter its origin, it remained a favorite for almost a century. In fact, several companies made custom Tom and Jerry serving bowls and mugs (check eBay; there are always several sets for sale. Homer Laughlin made one of my favorite designs.)

Even though he undoubtedly didn’t invent it there’s no reason we can’t toast the Professor along with the holiday season, though, as we quaff. The Tom & Jerry was once a staple of bars and homes for decades, although it’s fallen out of favor in the last 40 or 50 years. It’s a pity, because it’s a terrific drink. It’s about time that this holiday tradition returned to our tables.

There are a number of recipes floating about, more or less the same. Gary Regan of Ardent Spirits (and the author of the fabulous new book The Joy of Mixology) offers an all-in-one mix you ladle from a bowl, but the traditional method is to make a batter, then add spirits. Since some folks are a little leery of a raw egg batter, I’ll include both recipes here.

Tom and Jerry
(Traditional version)

Batter for 12 drinks:
12 eggs, separated.
3/4 cup sugar.
A touch of cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves, to taste.
12 ounces aged rum.
12 ounces brandy.
Very hot water or milk.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until thin and ribbony. Fold the whites into the yolks, then add a few pinches of cinnamon, allspice and cloves to taste.

To serve, preheat your mugs with hot water or keep in a warm oven. For each drink add one heaping tablespoon of batter, 1 ounce rum, 1 ounce of brandy, then fill with nearly-boiling water or milk. Top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Makes 12 drinks.


Tom and Jerry
(Premixed, “cooked” version)

12 eggs, separated.
1-1/2 cups sugar.
1 teaspoon baking soda.
9 cups milk.
3 cups aged rum.
3/4 cup brandy.
A touch of cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves, to taste.
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1-1/4 cups of the sugar, and the baking soda. Whisk until the mixture is creamy and thick.

2. Pour the milk into a large saucepan over moderate heat. Warm the milk until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and the milk is steaming hot.

3. Very gradually add some of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture to warm it. Whisk continuously until all of the milk is incorporated. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and set it over low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens just enough to lightly coat a spoon or until a thermometer reaches 160° to 165°F. Remove the pan from the heat and continue whisking for 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the rum and brandy, then add a few pinches of cinnamon, allspice and clove, to taste.

5. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

6. Ladle the Tom & Jerrys into warmed mugs and sprinkle each serving with a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Makes about 24 six-ounce drinks.

Thanks a million to Dr. Cocktail for serving these at his holiday party last year; I’m stealing this idea from him and making it an annual holiday tradition at our house.

Just one more … here’s libation goddess Audrey Saunders’ version:

Tom and Jerry
(21st Century version)

12 fresh eggs, yolks & whites separated.
2 pounds white sugar.
6 tablespoons fine Madagascar vanilla extract.
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting.
4 dashes Angostura bitters.
6 ounces boiling milk, per drink.
1 ounce Bacardi 8 añejo rum per drink, plus 1 ounce for batter.
1 ounce Courvoisier VS Cognac, per drink.

Prepare the batter: Beat egg yolks until they are thin as water. Add sugar, spices, 1 ounce of rum, and vanilla to egg yolks (while beating). Beat egg whites until stiff and fold them into the egg yolk mixture. Refrigerate.

To serve: Place 2 ounces of batter in an Irish coffee mug. Add 1 ounce of rum, and 1 ounce of cognac. Fill with 6 ounces of boiling milk. Dust with freshly grated nutmeg.

(From Imbibe!, by David Wondrich)

By the way, speaking of which … if you STILL haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet, hie thee to a bookstore and get Dave Wondrich’s Imbibe!, which’ll be the best present you could possibly give you your cocktailian (or even merely drinking) friends and family.

Add to that the aforementioned Eric Felten’s new How’s Your Drink?, as well as two more that I’ll review further a bit later on, Ti Martin and Lally Brennan’s In the Land of Cocktails, and Philip Collier’s Mixing New Orleans.

(Note — This article is an edited version of two posts I wrote in the old Looka! about this drink, on December 11, 2003 and again on December 24, 2007.)


Cocktail of the Day: Maurice

Courtesy of Gary Regan, via his book The Joy of Mixology. Someone gave us a big bag of oranges the other day, and Wes decided on this use to get things started. We’re unsure as to whether this drink is pronounced “mor-REESE” or “MOR-ris;” we chose the latter, in a nod to E. M. Forster.

The Maurice Cocktail

1 ounce gin.
1/2 ounce dry vermouth.
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice.
1 dash Angostura bitters.

Combine with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Orange juice — it’s not just for breakfast anymore.


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