The world of cocktails is full of origin stories. The older and more well known a drink is, the more fascination surrounds its beginnings. Unfortunately, the details surrounding a beverage's journey from inspired idea to regional or even national prominence are usually hidden in the folds of inebriation. In the absence of fact, speculation abounds. Did the Martini originate in Martinez, California? Was the Manhattan created at the Manhattan Club in New York City for a banquet hosted by Winston Churchill's mother? Tall tales and outright mistruths are more common than actual facts. Usually nothing can illuminate the mysteries of a cocktail's birth. Luckily, those life-altering moments when you are wobbling on the cusp of change tend to stand out and are that much easier to recall, even if an event's importance is only acknowledged in retrospect. As time passes, those memories become embedded into our identity, like squares of fabric into a quilt--prominently displayed and openly cherished. I thought it was high time to share my own origin story, or at least as it pertains to classic cocktails.
Tracy and I were living in a one-story fourplex on a dead-end street in Portland, OR. As a freelance editor, I spent a lot of time in that house. At that time, cocktails were barely on my radar. While I did enjoy the occasional Manhattan or dram of bourbon, beer was my beverage of choice. But I had always been interested in mixing drinks, and when the occasion arose, I usually wielded the shaker. So when my twenty-seventh birthday rolled around, I was sort of a blank slate just waiting for the right decoration. Anything could have happened. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the next big thing was just around the corner, though I never would have guessed it. But while I was busy tearing wrapping paper, many spheres of influence were converging.
Awaiting its turn alongside a new set of bar tools, consequently, was the Art of the Bar. It's funny, but not entirely surprising, that it all started with a book. Little did I know that this particular cocktail book would not only drastically alter my drinking habits, but also the entire landscape of my life. To this day I remember flipping through its glossy pages lined with beautiful cocktails, both new and old. Now it was probably the stylistic design that spoke loudest to me, all of those gorgeous garnishes dangling off the edges of beautiful stemware. I have always had an eye for great stems. But the effect of that book were instantaneous. I told Tracy right then and there that I was going to make each and every one of them. Though the years have passed and I still love looking through its pages, I never did make it to every cocktail. As my interest in cocktails grew, both newly released cocktail books and vintage bar books stole my attentions. Though I hate to admit it, more often than not, it sits on a book shelf waiting for me to get the urge to flip through its pages again.
Recently, while searching for cocktails with both sherry and tequila, the Internet led me to the Choke Artist. Though the name sounded vaguely familiar, my interest was piqued as the drink brought Cynar into the mix with the tequila and sherry that held my interest. I quickly discovered where I had run into this libation before: the Choke Artist is the creation of Jeffrey Hollinger and Rob Schwartz and is included in the Art of the Bar. It was one of the ones that had I had missed all those years ago. But then again, it wouldn't have even been on my radar back then. I hadn't yet acquired a taste for tequila and it would still have been a couple of years before I truly discovered sherry. I am sure I didn't even know what Cynar was. All that has changed of course. This drink is definitely one to try.
Choke Artist (as adapted)
1 1/2 ounces anejo tequila
1 ounce Cynar
3/4 ounce manzanilla sherry
2 dashes Regan's orange bitters
Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.