Flame on!

I just watched “Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s” again yesterday. It’s a wonderful documentary about the demise of the hoary old Hollywood classic restaurant in Beverly Hills (“The dishes were hearty; the drinks were large.”) — its final week and its closing night. It was legendary and exclusive — movie stars, presidents and royalty dined there since 1936. But as the review in Daily Variety put it:

By the ’80s and ’90s, Chasen’s had become something of a relic, a bastion of blue-hairs and Reagan Republicans that was eclipsed by other trendy (and much lower-cholesterol) hot spots. By 1995, the end was in sight, but when the owners posted the closing notice, tout Hollywood decided that they just had to make the scene; as one patron observes, nobody comes to visit you when you’re sick, but everyone turns out for the funeral.

Among many other things (including its star-studded clientele), the restaurant was famous for its bartender Pepe Ruiz, and the drink he invented for Dean Martin — the Flame of Love Martini.

It takes some effort to make (although not 20 minutes, as the bitchy banquet captain complained), but it’s quite a drink, particularly if you like vodka martinis. This is my slight variation — I think Pepe served this on the rocks (at least he did with the one he made for Ed MacMahon in the film), but I don’t like Martinis on the rocks. I’d do this straight up. I don’t think Pepe garnished his, but I like garnishes in drinks — a long, thin twist of orange would be really pretty here.

Making this drink takes practice. I haven’t gotten the technique nailed just yet. Pepe makes it look a lot easier than it is (then again, he invented it and has made thousands of them).

Pepe’s Flame of Love Martini

3 ounces Stolichnaya vodka
1/2 teaspoon fino sherry (Pepe used Domecq La Ina Fino)
2 or 3 large slices orange peel
Twist of orange peel, about 3″, thin

Chill the glass thoroughly. Pepe used a wine glass, I like a martini glass. Add the sherry to the glass, swirl to coat completely, and pour out the excess.

Take one of the orange peels, light a match or lighter, and squeeze the orange peel several times over the match into the glass, so that the cascading orange oil will flambé as it falls onto the sherry-coated glass; you’ll probably need two peels to get enough oilB. Do this about 8 times.

Stir the vodka with ice in a cocktail shaker to chill, then strain into the coated glass. Squeeze the second orange peel over the drink, then fan it vigorously around the rim of the glass so that it’s coated with orange oil. I like to add a thin twist of orange to the glass for a garnish. Serve, and drink like Dean Martin.

After Chasen’s closed, all the equipment and fixtures were sold off. They kept the memorabilia, though, and Maud and Dave Chasen’s grandson opened another Chasen’s on Cañon Drive in Beverly Hills in 1997 (two doors down from the fabulous Spago Beverly Hills), featuring lots of the old photographs and such from the original restaurant. Unfortunately it closed permanently in April of last year, falling victim to the same thing that closed the original — people stopped going there.

Le Normandie

Now that I’ll be picking up my new bottle of Calvados on the way home from work tonight, I’ve given some thought to makeing cocktails with it rather than simply drinking it neat. Don’t get me wrong — a snifter of Calvados after (or even during) dinner is absolutely superb. It seems to me, though, that the intense apple flavor and aroma of this magnificent brandy would lend itself wonderfully to a good cocktail recipe.

After my parents came back from their first trip to France several years ago they were raving about Calvados, the superb apple brandy made in Normandy. Dad told me about what became his favorite cocktail while on this trip, a simple mixture of Calvados and apple juice on the rocks. He wasn’t sure of the proportions, and this seems to be perhaps the best way to drink this brandy if you’re going to mix it. Also recommended is 1/3 Calvados and 2/3 tonic water, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Oddly enough, I haven’t been able to find any reference to the supposedly classic Calvados/apple juice cocktail on the web, although many Calvados makers produce a product called Pommeau de Normandie, which is a mixture of Calvados and apple juice that’s aged anywhere from 1-3 years in oaken casks (and which sounds fabulous). I’ll experiment more with the proportions in my on-the-spot mixture thereof, and let y’all know.

In the meantime, have a look at his recipe, which I found on the website of a Calvados distillery. This looks potentially tasty, but use a good product like Apry rather than a cheap apricot brandy (don’t use Hiram Walker!)

Le Normandie

1-1/2 ounces of Calvados
1 ounce apricot brandy (Apry is a good brand)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 thin slice of apple (brushed with lemon juice to prevent discoloration)
1 long thin piece of lemon peel

Pour the liquors and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker over cracked ice, shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the slice of apple and lemon peel.

The Footloose Cocktail

UPDATED in April 2012

ORIGINAL ARTICLE from 2000: Wesly and I have grown fond of many “classic” (i.e., more commonly quaffed by sophisticated cocktail drinkers 60+ years ago) cocktails, one of which is the Fancy-Free, consisting of 2 ounces of Bourbon, 1/2 ounce of Maraschino and a dash each of Angostura and orange bitters. Wes, who seemed to be itching to create something new, decided that he was going to concoct a cocktail called … the “Footloose”. In an ideal world, once this cocktail has been unleashed, one could theoretically walk into a bar and say, “My friend here will have a Footloose, and I’d be delighted with a Fancy-Free.” (Sadly, this world has yet to come into existence.)

Regarding his Top Sekrit Cocktail Project, I got mysterious updates all week as he tweaked unnamed ingredients and their relative proportions. I was finally presented with one last Friday. Initial impression … pretty! Pink not unlike a Cosmopolitan, but slightly opaque and with a lovely green twist of lime floating in it — a nice change from the usual lemon. The aroma was familiar yet unfamiliar, with a bouquet of fruit that I couldn’t quite place. I sipped it, and the familiar-yet-unfamiliar sensation intensified. It’s a yummy drink, but I just couldn’t place the ingredients. It was fruity without being cloyingly sweet, and with a nice bite to it (or, as my friend Jordan said, “Oh, like Paul Lynde.” Heh. I was tempted to ask Wesly to call it the “Uncle Arthur” after that). The contrasting color of the lime twist made for a beautiful garnish too.

He finally let me in on the ingredients. They combined together so well that I might never have guessed. I found it to be very different and quite nice. Try one sometime. We often refer to it as our “Cosmo Killer.”

The Footloose Cocktail
(Original recipe created by Wesly Moore, 2000)

2 ounces Stolichnaya Razberi raspberry-infused vodka
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice (NOT Rose’s!)
2 big dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a long twist of lime.

2012 update: Despite the fact that after 12 years we still can’t walk into a bar and ask for a Footloose and a Fancy-Free (or most of the time even a Fancy-Free, for that matter, unless it’s a really good bar who know their history), the Footloose has done rather well for itself. Gary Regan was kind enough to include it it The Joy of Mixology (it helped that he really liked it, so yay!), and it has been out there a bit.

Wesly is still proud of his first original cocktail, as he should be, but these days he’s wont to point out that it’s not the kind of drink that he’d make anymore. Many if not most of us had our flavored vodka period a dozen or so years ago and we’re long past that; Wesly is as well. (This is not to mention our infused vodka period, although I must say that apple-infused vodka I used to make was pretty good. But I digress.)

We weren’t ready to completely give up on the good ol’ Footloose, though. Fortunately, last year a new product came on the market which made us think the old girl was ripe for reintroduction. Nolet’s Silver Gin, produced by the same family that makes Ketel One vodka in the Netherlands, decided to make a “London-style” gin, although Nolet’s gin is decidedly not a London dry. It does contain juniper and licorice and some of the other typical gin botanicals, but Nolet’s decided to go fruity and floral with their gin. The primary flavor is raspberry, plus peach and Turkish rose. It’s a weird gin — I almost hesitate to call it a gin at all; this is most certainly not a Martini gin — but I like it; it’s a really good spirit. As soon as I tasted that raspberry-forward flavor profile, I knew what cocktail I wanted to try it in first.

Unsurprisingly, it works beautifully in a Footloose. There’s enough raspberry flavor to make that magical familiar-yet-new fruitiness with the Cointreau, lime and bitters, but the other botanicals give it a depth and sophistication you would never get from using a raspberry-flavored vodka. This cocktail is now officially rewritten as seen below, although in honor of the original (and its publication history!) we’re appending a numeral to the name. Oh, we’ve cut down on the Cointreau as well, given that our palates prefer less sweet cocktails these days. Feel free to use the original proportion if you prefer your drinks that way, or if your limes are particularly tart. (For us, the tarter the better, though!)

Footloose No. 2

2 ounces Nolet’s Silver Gin
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
2 big dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Combine with ice in a shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds until chilled. Double-strain into a chiilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime peel.

 

And while we’re at it, how ’bout a cocktail?

A tip from Wes and a little dig into a heretofore unnoticed DrinkBoy link revealed a “new” (to me, but undoubtedly old) cocktail that has been a favorite of mine for the last couple of weeks …

The Fancy-Free

2 ounces Bourbon whisky
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur (I use Luxardo)
1 – 2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 – 2 dashes orange bitters

Shake with cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry. Yum.

Wes came across another old cocktail recipe recently, gave it a shake, and now he’s quite fond of it. Since neither of us like vermouth, we’ve reduced the amount the original recipe calls for (and at half of that, it gives the drink just enough tang without having a too-assertive vermouth flavor), but vermouth lovers may feel free to follow the original recipe. This drink was named after the Algonquin Hotel in New York.

Algonquin

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice

Same drill as above … shake, strain, chilled, cherry. Sip. Aaaah.

(Okay … after two drinks, now I’m ready for all this election crap to follow.)

Consider the Lillets…

(Stop groaning. It’s only going to get worse from here.)

Wes and I were browsing yesterday at a nifty antique shop and, naturally, stopped to peruse the barware section. They had a book on vintage barware, and in it was a recipe for a cocktail that sounded fascinating, and not only because I loved the name — the Tiger Lillet.

Lillet Blanc is, of course, the French aperitif white wine with hints of citrus and spice, and I’m quite fond of it. The recipe they printed didn’t quite add up, though — it called for 1/3 Lillet, 1/3 Van der Hum (a South African tangerine liqueur based on brandy) and 1/6 “Maraschino syrup”. Hmm. That’s only 5/6 of a drink. And what do they mean by Maraschino syrup? Do they mean Maraschino liqueur, or the thin sweet “juice” that the maraschino cherries come in? Was there a cocktail flavoring product back then that was a low- or no-alcohol cherry syrup? Despite this hole in the recipe, I thought the drink sounded very promising.

The web to the rescue! I found a site that had a more complete recipe which stated, as did the book, that the drink was the winner of the World Cocktail Championship in London in 1952, and was created by a barman named Mr. J. Jones (now that’s an unusual name). Here’s the actual recipe:

Tiger Lillet

1/3 Lillet.
1/3 Van der Hum.
1/6 Dry Vermouth.
1/6 Maraschino.

Shake and Strain. Serve with small piece of Orange Peel.

BZZZZZT! The dry vermouth just killed it for me. I do not like vermouth of any kind. I do not like it in a bar, I do not like it in a car. I do not like it in my drink; tastes quite nasty, that I think.

So … how to go about changing this drink to suit my taste? Well, for starters, in all my digging through the two finest wine and spirits shops in Los Angeles, I’d never once seen Van der Hum liqueur. Fortunately, right there in my bar cabinet is a bottle of Mandarine Napoléon, another tangerine liqueur that’s based on brandy, which I thought would make an excellent substitute. We’re also fine for the Maraschino — I love Liquore de Maraschino, and I have a bottle of Luxardo’s fine product right there in my bar.

Now, to replace the vermouth. For a 3-ounce drink, I’m really only substituting one tablespoon’s worth of liquor. I think the 1/3 Lillet content takes care of the aperitif wine flavor without adding more from vermouth, so I thought a bit about what might complement the flavor of both the Lillet and the Mandarine Napoléon. Cointreau and Grand Marnier were out, because I thought we had the citrus flavor covered. How ’bout … Cognac? Hmmmmm. Complimentary flavor, keeps it all French (“IT IS BELGIAN!” shrieks Poirot predictably, while sipping a cordial glass of Mandarine Napoléon) and gives it a slight extra kick. I like it. I liked it even better when I mixed one up and drank it last night.

Now, to name the drink. I can’t call it a Tiger Lillet anymore, since one ingredient has changed. That’s one of the cardinal laws of cooking — if you steal a recipe, you can get away with it by changing an ingredient or two, and then changing the name of the dish.

What’s Up, Tiger Lillet? I like Woody Allen, but that’s too close to the original. Calla Lillet? Kate Hepburn might like it, but I dunno… Gilded Lillet? Hrmm. Lillet Munster? Too silly! Lillet of the Valley? Lillet of the Field? Bleuchh. I really didn’t consider Consider The Lillet, either.

Finally, it struck me. I named the drink for someone I’ve really liked for a very long time and whose work has given me a great deal of enjoyment over the years. And that’s the truthhhhhh.

Lillet Tomlin

1 ounce Lillet.
1 ounce Mandarine Napoleon.
1/2 ounce Cognac.
1/2 ounce Maraschino liqueur.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry WITH STEM, and a thin slice of orange perched on the rim of the glass.

Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to whom you are speaking.

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