Treading in Mr. Baker's footsteps is not without its failures or surprises. This tends to create suspense, or at least hesitation. More often than not a simple glance at the list of ingredients stirs an involuntary shudder. The champagne cocktails have been more of a safe haven, though none of them have been a walk in the park, either. The flavors in this last one are not particularly challenging, but the Champagne Cocktail No. III does not come without obstacles:
"Choose a large tapering champagne glass; inside of this build a tower of 4 ice cubes, crown it with a lump of sugar saturated with 4 dashes of orange bitters. Against the sides of the glass lean 2 sticks of ripe fresh pineapple, encircle the tower with a spiral of green lime peel, and fill with well chilled champagne, medium dry, and not too acid in type. Now as the crowning gesture carefully float on 1 tbsp of cointreau"Even written on the page, the Jockey Club Cocktail blows right past difficult straight to impossible--at least in terms of my skill set. The idea of making a tower of ice cubes in a glass topped with a bitters-soaked sugar cube seems challenging enough without considering the pineapple spears. Don't even get me started on the lime twist.
The first problem I discovered rather quickly--I do not have tapering champagne glasses, only flutes and coupes. At first, this seemed unimportant--glassware is usually the least painful substitution. However, my decision to proceed instantly proved fatal. While a coupe wouldn't work because of its demure height, a champagne flute is equally flawed because of its narrow opening. While it was technically possible to stack four small ice cubes with the help of a bar spoon, as soon as I inserted one stick of pineapple, the entire structure immediately collapsed. Trying to get the lime twist to wrap around the flimsy "structure" required more patience than I could muster, and perhaps tweezers.
The folly of attempting to balance a slowly disintegrating sugar cube atop my column was instantly clear, so I opted for simple syrup and bitters instead. But as soon as I poured in the syrup, the ice structure collapsed. I understood then that this was inevitable. Ice floats. Only then did I understand how unimportant that tower really was--the ice was simply a vehicle for creating the pineapple and lime garnish. Though it was a eureka moment, I was less than amused. Had I grasped this fact earlier, I would have spent less time on the ice and more time positioning the lime twist. Alas, with my ice melting, I added the bitters, champagne and float. I only hoped that the flavors would be blind to my poor craftsmanship.
"Jockey Club Champagne Cocktail" (as adapted)
4 small square ice cubes
2 pineapple spears
1 lime twist
1 teaspoon simple syrup
4 dashes orange bitters
6 oz champage (demi-sec)
1/2 oz Cointreau
Build an ice-cube column flanked by pineapple spears.* Curl a long lime twist around the structure.** Add syrup, bitters, and then champagne. Carefully float Cointreau.
Notes on Ingredients: I used a 1:1 simple syrup, Regan's orange bitters, Graham Beck demi-sec sparkling wine. Also I substituted Clement Creole Shrub for the Cointreau on a lark, thinking the rum base would be a nice addition in the fruity environment.
* Good luck. Just remember that creating the garnish is the point, not where the ice ends up.
**Using a champagne glass with a larger opening will be key here unless you really want to use tweezers. Also, length may come in handy--I would recommend a crusta-style treatment.