Friday, August 27, 2021

Classic Cocktails: the Old Pal

Another in the annals of lesser known siblings of more famous cocktails, the Old Pal is a clear riff on the Boulevardier that didn't quite make it into the big leagues. First printed in Harry McElhone’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, it dries out the more well-known version while retaining the same basic proportions.

Old Pal

1.25 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
1 oz Campari

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

The aromas lead with sweet fruit from the Campari, vegetal spices from the rye, and lemon from the garnish. The sip opens with big Campari and rye sweetness up front, gets rather fruity in the middle, then fades out through dry vermouth and prickly rye spices. The finish is rather dry from the vermouth and Campari bitterness, gently accented by the rye.

Is there a Negroni/Boulevardier style drink that isn't good? If there is, I haven't found it yet. This one is another win and possibly one of the first published references to Campari in a cocktail recipe (according to Old Man Drinks). I can also see this working with Bruto Americano if you want to lean into the rye or Luxardo Bitter if you want to take it in a sweeter vanilla direction. You could also soften it with blanc vermouth instead of dry, but that would be a more radical change to the profile and bring it back somewhere closer to a rye Boulevardier. However you choose to construct it, this is clearly a winner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Classic Cocktails: the Brooklyn

This is one of the classics, even if it hasn't achieved the fame of its across the river cousin. It's original form may have been closer since there appears to have been a misprint at some point, swapping what used to be sweet vermouth for dry. But given the way this is constructed, that may be for the best.

The Brooklyn Cocktail

2 oz rye whiskey
0.75 oz dry vermouth
2 tsp Amer Picon (sub Bigallet China-China Amer)
2 tsp maraschino liqueur

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

The aromas are very expressive, blending rye grain, vanilla, herbal notes, and orange peel. The sip begins with rye, orange, and maraschino sweetness, takes a dip into bittersweet as the vermouth comes to the fore, then fades out through maraschino. The finish is complexly bitter with dry rye, herbal notes from the vermouth, orange peel, and drying spices.

I have to admit that this is a drier drink than I usually prefer, but I can really see the appeal. Modifying the basic combination of rye and vermouth with touches of liqueur ups the sweetness just enough and adds a huge amount of complexity. This is also a good place to play around with orange-forward armaro. While the Bigallet is good, I can see this going in a darker direction with something like Ramazzotti.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

New Cocktails: Artemisia

I started out once again paging through The Art of the Shim for something on the lighter side. My first stop was the Chrysanthemum, originally from the Savoy Cocktail Book. The version in Shim is quite a bit drier at 8:1 vermouth:Bénédictine and while rather good, I felt like it was lacking something. My initial thought was "This needs some gin" and I proceeded to make another with a full ounce of gin and a bit more Bénédictine. While that was closer to the mark, the gin was a little too assertive and was throwing the drink out of balance. The third time was the charm and scaling the gin back made it just right.


2 oz dry vermouth
0.75 oz gin
0.5 oz Bénédictine
3 dashes of absinthe/pastis

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The aromas are dominated by the anise from the Herbsaint, alongside some rounded herbal notes from the Bénédictine. The sip opens with honey sweetness, quickly fading into herbal/pine bitterness from the Bénédictine and gin, there's a burst of something fruity, then sliding towards more tart dryness from the vermouth. The finish is long and driven by the vermouth, with herbal accents.

Now this hits the spot. While there were good things about the original, they really depended on the quality and complexity of the dry vermouth. Something unidimensional just wasn't going to give a particularly engaging drink. But the added depth from more Bénédictine and a solid dose of gin elevates this into something I can really get behind. 

Looking back at what's come before, I'm a little surprised that I haven't seen these proportions elsewhere. It basically inverts the proportions of the Poet's Dream and probably has a balance somewhere around the Guion. But I'll keep beating my drum for reverse proportion cocktails, even if, as with this drink, they're not necessarily any less potent than their more spirit-forward relatives.

Monday, August 9, 2021

New Cocktails: Rhum Agricole Punch

 I was poking through my old cocktail recipe bookmarks when I stumbled upon this gem from roughly a decade ago, courtesy of the long defunct Antifogmatic League, who got it from the also defunct Heaven's Dog bar in SF. Thankfully one of the bartenders had chimed in in the comments to note that the proportions were almost exactly correct, so off we go.

Rhum Agricole Punch

2 oz rhum agricole
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz cane syrup
0.25 oz allspice dram
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice, then strain into a glass with fresh ice and grate nutmeg on top.

The aromas are dominated by the nutmeg, with a bit of allspice and lime peeking through. The sip begins with spicy sweetness, passes through bright lime, then fades through grassy rhum into a dry woody finish. The finish has long bittersweet lime with a touch of woody spice from the Angostura and allspice.

This take on the Lion's Tail/Jasper's Jamaican formula works really well. It has enough complex to keep it from being boring, but it can also just be a pleasant long drink to sip on a warm day.

The character will depend a lot on your choice of rhum. Since I didn't have any higher proof aged rhum open at the moment, I had to go with the mellower and lower proof Rhum J.M. V.O. This produces a subtle drink where it slides in between the other components rather than putting itself front and center. A heftier 100-proof agricole will obviously give you a bigger, bolder drink, so pick your poison. Either choice is going to be good.