Baker's Cherry Beauty: The Parisien Cherry Ripe

You should never judge a cocktail solely on the way that its recipe reads. I have been disappointed by cocktails that on paper sounded delicious and pleasantly surprised by ones that seemed to present at best a hot mess. Like when dealing with people, giving a cocktail a chance can often provide a deeper insight into what is really going on beneath the surface. At the very least you will learn exactly what it is that you don't like instead of just guessing what you might not like. Knowledge comes in having the concrete details. Perhaps there is no better time to reserve judgment than when dealing with a Charles Baker drink.

We catch up with our unreliable narrator and guide in the City of Lights, fresh from an outing to Bois du Boulogne where he took in a bit of tennis. And once again we are faced with a drink that at least on paper seems incredibly suspicious. But what really had my mixing tins quaking was the fact that even Baker proclaims the drink "one of the most foetid conceptions ever to come out of a shaker when served improperly chilled." Baker drinks issued without such admonitions can be scary, but with them . . . terrifying to the point of prompting an immediate fit of page-flipping. Truth be told, I almost skipped it. But because I actually had all of the major ingredients and have been proven wrong on more than one occasion, I proceeded hesitantly.

Parisien Cherry Ripe 

1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Cherry Marnier
3/4 ounce Kirsch

Blend with crushed ice. Float 1 tsp Cherry Marnier. Garnish with green and red maraschino cherries.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Beefeater gin and omitted the cherry garnish as I was out.

Notes on Method: Though normal practice would warrant stirring, as no juices or cream is included, Baker's requirement of extreme coldness prompted me to change tack. And while Baker describes using a Waring mixer, I chose instead to shake the ingredients with ice and strain the mixture over new freshly crushed ice. 
While this was not the vilest Baker concoction I have ever tasted, which surprised me, it definitely will not win any awards or new Baker followers. Initially it was just too much all cherry all the time. Though spirits make up 75 percent of the recipe, the Cherry Marnier still managed to dominate the drink with its slightly earthy, yet overwhelming sweetness. The dryness of the gin and the slightly nutty kirsch did pair nicely and actually peeked out on occasion, but it was not enough to save this cocktail. And as much as I love a good snow cone, this tipple only resonated on one note and could not hold my interest.

After perusing other cocktail guides as well as the Internet, I discovered that this drink actually predates Baker's world travels. This boozy cherry monster can be found in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) not under the moniker of the Parisien Cherry Ripe, but as one of a trio of drinks called the Rose Cocktail (French Style Nos. 1-3). Baker's cocktail and the French Rose No. 2 are exactly the same, except for Baker's decorative additions--the shaved ice and colorful maraschino cherries. The other two variations only include one cherry flavoring agent--either cherry liqueur or kirsch--not both. The French Rose Cocktail No. 1 replaces the kirsch with dry vermouth, while No. 3 replaces the cherry liqueur with syrup de groseille and the gin with dry vermouth.

While trying to figure out how to amend the Parisien Cherry Ripe, these two French Rose versions kept popping into my head. Perhaps the secret to fixing Baker's cocktail would be hidden in the differences. Both of these cocktails are noticeably less boozy. More important, though, might be their dryness as both call for dry vermouth. A bit of dryness certainly couldn't hurt. Though I usually try to stay true to the original ingredients, I decided an additional element might provide the balance and depth this cocktail was missing. Though dry vermouth may have been the natural choice, I chose to insert the acidity and dryness of sparkling wine. While it did help tone down the sweetness, it was the dash of orange bitters that really created an interesting contrast for the earthier flavors of the Cherry Marnier.

New Parisien Cherry Ripe

1 1/4 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Cherry Marnier
1/2 ounce Kirsch
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients with ice in a chilled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled champagne flute or coupe. Add 1 1/2 ounces of dry champagne or sparkling wine.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Beefeater gin, Angostura orange bitters, and Yellowtail sparkling wine.

Trying to improve upon a Baker cocktail often results in a concoction that is only marginally better than the original. Usually it is the initial ingredients that provide the biggest obstacles. Whether the original is off-balance, lacking depth, or completely undrinkable, sometimes only one factor will stand for improvement. In this case, adding dryness and acidity certainly helped, but the result still wasn't the home run I had been hoping for. You can't win them all.

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