Cocktail of the day: The Hearst

This is one I came across thanks to David Wondrich, who writes about cocktails for Esquire magazine. Apparently this was created at the Waldorf-Astoria Bar by some of William Randolph’s old “minions”, although I don’t know if the Old Man ever drank them himself. It’s a delightful cocktail, good for those who still say they don’t like Martinis (um, like me). If I’m going to drink a cocktail named after Hearst, though … I feel compelled to create a cocktail called the “Welles”. Stay tuned.

THE HEARST COCKTAIL

2 ounces London dry gin (or Plymouth gin, if you can find it).
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
One dash orange bitters.
One dash Angostura bitters.

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice,
stir until ice-cold and strain into a cocktail glass.

Wondrich describes this one as “suave”, and that it is. I’d be able to walk any bartender through this one too, except for the criminal lack of ubiquity of orange bitters. Let’s hope Regan’s changes that within the next couple of years.

 
 
 
 

UPDATE, 2010: Eight years later, I love Martinis to the depths of my soul.

Still love the Hearst, too.

Cocktail of the day: The Negroni

This one is a testament to conquering fear. Fear no gin! Fear no sweet vermouth! Fear no Campari!

I have at various times feared all of these ingredients, and have since made great progress. I still can’t drink a classic, traditional gin martini (although I’m working on it), but there are now myriad gin cocktails that I absolutely adore. My former dislike of vermouth has been abating, due to my love for Manhattans (when properly made) and other cocktails in which a modicum of vermouth lends great spiciness and complexity. And Campari … well, so far I can’t do it on the rocks like some hardy Italians can, and a Campari and soda is still a wee bit bitter for me. If it’s balanced with something sweet, though, even just a touch, it’s truly amazing stuff.

Given my previous fears, a Negroni was one cocktail I just wasn’t going to attempt. I was afraid of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, and here’s a drink that’s made with all three. Zoinks. Even as I made my progress and thought to myself, “Gee, y’know, one of these days I oughta just try one,” I never quite got around to it.

Chance intervened. Sunday evening I was having drinks with my friends Gregg and Michael at the Traxx Bar, located in L.A.’s fabulous 1939 Art Deco masterpiece, Union Station, right across from its parent restaurant of the same name. The bartender was cheerful and friendly, although fortunately I had my crop with me; she attempted to serve my Manhattan on the rocks, and with no bitters! That’s one of those drinks that is always served up, unless the customer asks specifically for it on the rocks. Then I watched her make the drink (which I always do now, so I can shout a warning before he or she tries to do something like squirt soda into my Old Fashioned), and it was just Maker’s Mark and Martini & Rossi, shakeshakeshake.

When I ordered it, I had specifically said, “And don’t be shy with the bitters!” … and she had put none. “Uh, Angostura bitters, please!”, I interjected. She looked at me and said, “Oh, okay … I always leave them out because nobody likes bitters anymore!”

Such utter sacrilege. Coming from a professional bartender! My dear, without bitters it is simply not a Manhattan. It’s just whiskey and vermouth, thank you. The things we cocktailians have to put up with days, sweet sufferin’ JAY-sus … but I digress. The subsequently corrected Manhattan was lovely, thank you, but then Michael ordered a Negroni.

Wham, there it was. Right in front of me. He sipped it and smiled a beatific smile. “Hey, can I have a taste of that?” Sure thing! *sip*

Complex. Spicy. Bitter, although not overly so. The tiniest bit of sweetness to offset that. A perfect aperitif, a drink to wake up your taste buds and shout “Ciao, ragazzo bello! Come stai?”

Bene, grazie!

THE NEGRONI

1 ounce gin.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 ounce Campari.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with half an orange wheel, or a cherry if you don’t have any oranges.

As usual, if you’re in the Long Island Iced Tea or Sex on the Beach crowd, don’t bother with this; you’ve got a long way to go. If you drink “Appletinis” made with that vile Borg-green Pucker crap, ditto. If you have a palate and you’re adventurous and want to try something that may surprise you, give this one a shot next time you go out to a decent bar. Paul Harrington says you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it; I’m hoping you’ll love it.

You can mess with the proportions as well. Some people like a little bit more gin, on the order of an ounce. We’ve become quite fond of the Cinnabar Negroni, in which the Campari is doubled and a dash of orange bitters is added. To keep the cocktail from being too large, we usually make it with 1-1/2 ounces Campari and 3/4 ounce each of gin and sweet vermouth.

Cocktail of the day: Ritz 75

The Hemingway Bar of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris is renowned for its cocktails, and for the top-notch skills of its main bartender, Mr. Colin Peter Field. Field has written a book called Les Cocktails du Ritz Paris, which by all accounts is outstanding. There’s just been an English translation released, but Amazon don’t seem to be carrying it as yet. I’ll fill you in on how to get it in a bit.

Here’s one of Field’s creations, his variation on the venerable French 75, which looks really tasty. I’ll be off to pick up a half-bottle of bubbly and some fresh mandarines to try this one out, tout suite!

THE RITZ 75

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh mandarine juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces gin
Champagne

In a tall Collins glass, add the first four ingredients over ice, stir to mix, then fill with Champagne (you may substitute cava or prosecco, whatever good white sparkling wine you have on hand). Garnish with a wheel of lime and a wheel of mandarine.

Fortunately this is easy to make at home. If you have one at the Ritz it’ll set you back €30. *faint*

The English language version is now readily available via Amazon. Enjoy! (Thanks to Robert, Fernando, Rafael and everyone else on the DrinkBoy community for turning me on to this!)

Cocktail of the day: The Vieux Carré

One of my favorite bars in New Orleans is the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel. There’s a piano bar in the back with comfy booths, and a faux-starlit sky on the ceiling — very nice atmosphere. My favorite spot in here is actually at the bar, which is built from parts of an actual old carousel (or “flying horses”, as we used to call them as kids in New Orleans) and the barstools revolve around the circular bar. Not to worry, it’s slow enough that you won’t get dizzy, unless you have way too much to drink.

As I think every good bar should, this bar has a signature cocktail. I always find it amusing that the last several times I went to the Carousel, the cocktail waitresses seem not to be familiar with the drink, but all the bartenders know how to make it, and one said that he gets at least a half-dozen orders for it every shift. It was invented in 1938 by the man who was then their head bartender, Mr. Walter Bergeron (11 years before this particular bar was built), and he named the drink for the French name for the French Quarter. In New Orleans you say “French Quarter” if you’re speaking English, but if you’re speaking French it’s not “le Quartier Français”, it’s called “le Vieux Carré” (the Old Square). In New Orleans we say “VOO ka-RAY.”

THE VIEUX CARRÉ COCKTAIL

1 ounce rye whiskey.
1 ounce Cognac.
1 ounce sweet vermouth.
1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.

Half-fill a double Old Fashioned glass with ice, add ingredients
and stir to mix. Garnish with a stemless cherry.

It’s mighty, mighty good. If you can’t find Peychaud’s Bitters in your area, order some (click “Food,” then “Mixes”) — they’re cheap. If you’re serious about cocktails, your bar is not complete without them.

Cocktail of the day: The Serrano Cocktail

One thing we unfortunately didn’t get to do was to meet the Bellagio’s “beverage specialist” while were in Vegas. We had a nice chat with our waitress, who was a fellow New Orleanian, and she told us that given our interest in cocktails we should definitely meet Tony Abou-Ganim. He creates all the specialty cocktails for the hotel’s bars, and she said he enjoys talking to fellow enthusiasts. Alas, time and group inertia and tiredness intervened, so we didn’t get back over there when he was on the premises.

By sheer coincidence, the very day I got back I saw him on Food Network’s “Molto Mario” (one of my very favorite shows), eating Mario’s food but more importantly, making him a cocktail.

From his appearance on the show I learned that not only does he create cocktails for the bars, but for the hotel’s elegant restaurants as well. He created this one for Picasso, one of the five-star dining establishments within the fabulous Bellagio, and named it after its chef, the renowned Spanish chef Julián Serrano. It’s a very nice aperitivo, and I bet it’d be spectacular with blood oranges.

THE SERRANO COCKTAIL
(Created by Tony Abou-Ganim)

1-1/4 ounces vodka.
5/8 ounce Limoncello.
5/8 ounce Campari.
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice.

Mix the ingredients over cracked ice in a cocktail shaker,
then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a
spiral twist of lime.

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