1.23.2011

Baguio Skin

Charles Baker tells us that he encountered the Baguio Skin when he visited Baguio City, the then summer capitol of the Philippines, or as Baker refers to it: "the rainy season retreat of civil and military Manila." Located in the cooler mountainous region, Baguio City became the seat of the American colonial government, allowing the American soldiers and officials to escape the brutal tropical heat. As for why this drink is called a "skin," that takes a little more research. Initially I was confused--I always thought "skins" were traditionally served hot and made of a spirit, hot water, lemon peel, and  sugar. But there is more to it than that.

Originally, the only difference between a toddy and a skin was the inclusion of the lemon peel. To make it even more confusing, either of these drinks could be made cold, though technically then it would have been called sling. As nothing was standardized, these terms were all used interchangeably. But even before the time of the American colonist, there was another drink typically served hot and consisting of a spirit, notably whisk(e)y, hot water, sugar, and a small amount of lemon juice--this drink was just made in larger quantities. It was called Irish whiskey (or Scotch whisky) punch. When the lemon juice was absent, this mixture was called a toddy. So long before a toddy was practically interchangeable with sling or skin, toddy was closely related to punch.

But where does all this history really get us? The Baguio Skin's name is not curious because it is cold; it is because of the bitters. If we only take into account the ingredients, this drink resembles the old fashioned, the original cocktail. So where did those bitters come from? In some ways, the evolution of single serving drinks had to go backward to go forward. At some time between the end of Prohibition and the mid-1940s, the standard recipe for a toddy changed. A modern toddy is made with a spirit, a sweetener, hot water, some form of citrus (usually in the form of the peel or a wheel of a lemon or orange), and spices, sometimes in the form of actual cloves and cinnamon and sometimes as bitters. Sounds a lot like that recipe for a hot punch to me. In a way the old fashioned is just a stripped down, spirit forward single serving form of punch. It is just too bad that it took so many years to connect the two. But I am sure it was a hell of a ride.


Baguio Skin (as adapted)

1 tsp simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
2 thin slices lime
2 ounces rum (Mount Gay)

Combine bitters and syrup in an old-fashioned glass. Add lime slices and three ice cubes. Pour in rum and stir to combine. Top with a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg.

Notes on Ingredients: The original recipe calls for Bacardi Carte de Oro but I chose Mount Gay instead.

The fragrant nutmeg practically jumped out of the glass. At first the orange bitters and the vanilla and cane of the rum dominated the flavor profile. The lime contributed a hint of sourness and bitterness, and the nutmeg sitting on top of the ice provided its pleasant aroma on each sip. With its slight hint of sweetness, the drink was extremely refreshing and the ease of putting it together just screamed out vacation tipple. As the ice melted and the limes spent more time in the rum, their flavors were pulled into the forefront. By the end the drink was crisper, dryer, and more tart, almost in a daiquiri sort of way though with a hint of orange.

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