A Vodka Old Fashioned?

It's difficult to find a vodka-based drink that I can get excited about. In general, this has been one of the reasons why I find it hard to get excited about vodka. Too many recipes call for vodka, citrus, and syrup, at their most simplistic, or vodka, muddled fruit, citrus, and a some crazy flavored syrup, at the other extreme. As a good friend of mine recently said, "Who wants to drink boozy lemonade." Nutshell moment, anyone? Indeed, who does want to drink boozy lemonade? Granted, sometimes I do--hello, whiskey sour. But that isn't the point. Why is there nothing else? At the end of the day, whether it's fresh peaches or kumquats, muddled basil or cilantro, or even chinese five-spice or lavender syrup, once you add the vodka, it's still just a variation of boozy lemonade.

It's true that some people just want the buzz. Good for them. And drinking a really great non-alcoholic beverage with herbs, spice and fruits, and even sometimes vinegar, can be a mind-blowing experience. But why is that all there is? Sure, there is a time and a place for everything, but sometimes the easy answer isn't the best answer. And it sure as hell shouldn't be the only answer. Where are the spirit-forward vodka drinks? There must be room for the challenging vodka drinks, for the kind of drink that makes you sit up and pay attention to what's going on in your mouth, that make you say "Wow. Really?" What about a drink with citrus, syrup, and vodka is going to do that?  Vodka does not stand in the way of flavor; that is its best and worst feature. But there are so many interesting flavors out there--using a blank canvas for lemonade seems like a waste.

So in spite of my rant, the search continues. Trying to find a complex, flavor-filled vodka-based drink can lead to bitterness and resentment, headaches and frustration. But then you stumble across something so unlikely, so interesting that your hope is renewed and you almost forget about the conundrum of boozy lemonade. Well, almost.

Delancey (from Killer Cocktails

2 ounces vodka (Dry Fly)
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura)

Combine the syrup and bitters in a chilled old fashioned glass. Add a large ice cube and vodka and give it a quick stir to incorporate. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I chose to use the Dry Fly as it has more flavor than most vodkas, but any vodka with flavor will do.

The Peychaud's bitters made this drink an almost neon pink, though I am sure the photo doesn't do it justice. Perhaps this fact alone would chase away many. The brightness of the lemon oils, the honey notes from the vodka and the smell of anise from the Peychaud's all contributed to the aroma. The first sip was extremely creamy and heavy with vanilla, characteristic of the Dry Fly. The bitters rounded out the flavors, with the orange standing out most on the swallow. As someone who is usually skeptical of vodka drinks, this drink was light and surprisingly refreshing. As the drink warmed up, the flavors of the lemon peel and the cherry notes of the Peychaud's became more apparent throughout.

Very few drinks allow vodka to be the star, where its subleties and nuances are showcased. There should be more. This vodka old fashioned hinges on the fact that a drink doesn't have to hit you over the head with flavor to command attention. Sometimes complexity and interest are not dependent on boldness and strength. Instead, the inherent qualities of the spirit are highlighted, just like in any other spirit-forward cocktail.


A Not So Suprising Pair: Rye and Aquavit

Nostalgia and cocktails go hand in hand. I can't count the times I have witnessed it. Sitting next to a stranger, you watch as this faraway look creeps over his face, his tone shifts to somewhere between excitable and reverent, and the memories of that first Sazerac or first sip of whiskey pour out. The emotions are palpable, as are the details, both inconsequential and vague, as his mind is pulled inward stretching back to grasp those last little vestiges of experience. To experience it all again. To be present in that past. And then gone. Without a warning, the thinnest thread has run out and we are jerked back to the now with one foot still in the memory, as if frozen in midair after the rug has been yanked. It takes a minute to adjust, even for a casual listener. Who knows what the body and mind have experienced in that moment. Each sensation new and old, felt and then lost. Proustian indeed.

Nostalgia doesn't have to directly correlate with the contents of the glass. Almost any memory could be stirred up, a person, a place. The human mind is ever so complicated. Though modern usage has associated nostalgia with a reverence for an idealized past, the word also communicates feelings of loss, of yearning. The original Greek defines nostalgia as an ache or pain associated with a homecoming or returning home--a sort of homesickness, where home is a specific place at a specific remembered point in time. But as we all know, nothing is quite the same as we remember it and those past moments are hopelessly out of reach. Ah, the familiar echoes of melancholy--another emotion so interlaced with nostalgia.

It was the Old Bay Ridge that did me in. This variation of the old fashioned was created by David Wondrich to honor the original Irish and Scandinavian settlers of that neighborhood situated along the southwestern edge of Brooklyn abutting the Upper Bay of New York Harbor. Recently, I have been making a lot of my old favorites, and old as they are memories always seem to be attached to them. It's the season, you see. Winter has become a time for self-reflection, and I am no stranger to the bittersweet pull of nostalgia.
I first encountered the Old Bay Ridge last year, during winter, while looking for cocktail recipes with aquavit. Happily I stumbled across the recipe in a blog about all things Brooklyn. To be honest, the nostalgia started there before I had even opened a bottle.

About eight years ago--my how time has passed--I lived in Brooklyn, on the top floor of a three-story walk up on the edges of Park Slope and Gowanus. If I am completely honest, it was was closer to Gowanus. Every time I reminisce about those two years I feel the familiar jolt of the bittersweet, that twinge of  melancholy. It doesn't really make sense, but each year it seems to get stronger and more strange. Back then, I had a wonderful job, a terrible commute, and friends nearby. But in no way was I happy there; the city's relentless energy urged me to look west. Sometimes I felt urged to look in any direction. In hindsight, I was counting down the days before I knew the destination. But as I sit looking out at the cloudy night sky, the entire experience seems like it was a rite of passage, a necessary obstacle that needed to be hurdled. But what does this have to do with rye and aquavit, a bit of syrup, some bitters, a chunk of ice and a sliver of lemon peel--I have no idea. Ah, melancholy and winter. I think it's time for a drink.

Old Bay Ridge (adapted from David Wondrich)

1 ounce Rittenhouse bonded rye
1/2  ounce Linie aquavit
1/2 ounce Krogstad aquavit
1 tsp simple syrup
3 dashes Boker's bitters

Combine syrup and bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Add ice and spirits. Give a quick stir to mix and garnish with a lemon peel.

Notes on Ingredients:  If you can't find Rittenhouse, another high-proof rye, even Wild Turkey, would work here. The original recipe calls for one ounce of aquavit. I find the Krogstad, with its intense anise notes, too bold for this drink on its own. The Linie is softer, with a more striking caraway flavor, but its still too mild to stand up to the overproof rye. To find balance, I like to split the difference. But to each her own: for a more caraway-driven experience, use the Linie, for anise, the Krogstad.

Underneath the lemon oils wafting up from the surface lies the faint smell of an undecipherable herbal aroma. I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly where it was coming from but it was obviously associated with the aquavit combination. The caraway and anise of the warring aquavits welcomed me into the glass. But there was also a nice taste of grains from the rye and the Linie. The heat from the overproof rye was also apparent at the beginning though it smoothed out with the ice melt. The bold rye flavors showed up most on the end of each sip. The most active part of the sip occurred somewhere in between, though, when the spirits were busy overlapping, each striving for attention. What a natural pairing rye and aquavit make! The cinnamon and clove from the bitters came across late in each sip. But as the drink progressed, the spices in the bitters and the rye formed the foundation of the drink and the lemon oils, caraway and anise dominated the aftertaste.


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.


Athol Brose, or Fun with Scotch and Cream

When I first came across the Athol Brose in the Gentleman's Companion, I was hesitant--and yes this does seem to be an ongoing theme. With scotch, honey, and cream, I wasn't sure how this story was going to end. After doing a bit of research, I realized that perhaps I had dodged a bullet, in the form of oatmeal water, which is made by soaking oatmeal in water and then straining out the oatmeal. Charles Baker provides three recipes for Athol Brose. Each is fundamentally the same except in terms of proportions and preparation. Thankfully, the dreaded oatmeal water is nowhere to be found. But given its long history, variations are not really that surprising.

According to Scottish legend, Athol Brose was created by the first Earl of Athol when he needed to waylay a fleeing enemy while awaiting reinforcements. After locating the rebel faction's hidden hideout, the Earl (or Duke in some accounts) sent some men to fill their well with oatmeal, whisky and honey. Instead of fleeing the men became thoroughly inebriated and were thus easily captured. Can't say that I believe an group of armed, drunk soldiers would be harmless, especially in the age of hand-to-hand combat, but then again what do I know of military strategy. No one really knows how long this mixture, traditionally consisting of oatmeal water, honey, scotch, and sometimes Drambuie, has been consumed in Scotland, but the earliest recorded recipe dates from 1475. Even today Athol Brose is still traditionally served on New Year's Eve in many Scottish homes.

My first attempt at making Athol Brose was not successful. I initially chose Baker's second listed recipe, which included heating up milk, adding it to a mixture of Scotch and honey, and then chilling it before consuming. After overheating the milk (oops) and watching it curdle in the whisky (double oops), I knew something was wrong. Even after straining it twice, little bits of curdled milk dotted the surface of my swamp water-colored drink. The texture was very thin, but the taste wasn't unpleasant. But good god was it ugly. So I decided to do some research and try again later. Much later.

Weeks passed and finally I found the courage to delve back into Athol Brose territory. After some exhaustive research, I was ready for the challenge. Recipe interpretation seemed to have been at the heart of my earlier mistakes: where I read "warm" to mean actually heat up on the stove, others read it to mean "dry shake." Ah. Also, I discovered, via Darcy O'Neil of artofdrink.com, that when dealing with dairy, cream is a bartender's best friend and so it should be mine as well. These insights definitely pointed me toward attempting the first recipe instead of trying to rectify my mistakes with the second.

Athol Brose (recipe #1)

Really old Liqueur Scotch whisky, 1 part (1 1/2 ounces)
Clear strained honey, 1 part (1 ounce honey syrup)
Cream, 1 part (1 ounce)

Shake ingredients in a shaker without ice first, and then again, hard, with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used a 1:1 honey syrup and Famous Grouse for the scotch.

Wow. Actually let me rephrase that, WOW. Who knew that cream, scotch and honey would taste so delicious. It reminded me of a scotch-flavored egg nog, though without nutmeg. Underneath the thick foam, the texture was velvety and smooth. The more floral flavors of the scotch stood out first, but they were followed and complimented by the honey kicking in its own floral complexities. I noticed the smokier notes of the scotch more on the swallow. I have to be honest though, this drink was a bit sweet. Balanced and with a certain dryness from the scotch, but still a bit sweet. But sweet in the same way that egg nog is sweet, or a brandy alexander. In fact, it seems to me that most cream drinks are a bit sweet. Of course the proportions could be played with further, either by decreasing the honey syrup or increasing the scotch portion. I am not a fan of sweet drinks, but I liked it so much that I was staring at an empty glass in something like five minutes. Given how surprisingly good this drink was, maybe my initial reaction about the oatmeal water was hasty. Only time will tell.


Drink Without a Name

Vodka sometimes gets a raw deal. Wait, did I actually say that out loud? (I mean write that out loud?) A few years ago, such sentiments never would have crossed my mind, much less my lips (fingers?). I had a lot to learn. It is easy to hate vodka. For a while it was even trendy to hate vodka, it might still be. I'm not going to suggest that there still aren't a lot of reasons for that hatred. But backlash has a kind of alluring appeal--the communal, mindless, mob mentality of it. Just pick up your torch and pitchfork and follow the guy in front of you. I have learned that I don't really hate vodka. I just don't drink it very often because I like a ton of flavor in my cocktails. And since vodka producers over the years have tried very hard to make a product with as little flavor as possible, and since they have made a pretty good living doing it, I would say all is fair. But that doesn't mean all vodkas are flavorless. It also doesn't mean that a cocktail with bold flavor can't have vodka in it. Those cocktails are just harder to find.

So what changed my mind? As little as two years ago, my primary use for vodka was as a tool, an ingredient that was useful only for making other yummy things. Infusions, yes. Bitters, yes. Preserving agent for syrups, yes. Base ingredient in a cocktail, please god no. But then I tasted some vodkas that had a lot of flavor, texture, and nuance. These vodkas were made to have flavor and thus weren't overly filtered, or distilled to death. I could taste actually taste the base ingredient, be it barley, corn, sugarcane or even grapes, but in a totally different way. It was such an eye-opening experience. Suddenly I started thinking that maybe my opinions about vodka weren't really fair. And mostly they weren't fair to me. I used to think I didn't like scotch, or tequila, or even gin--but then I tried some that I did like. It had more to do with individual brands and my taste buds than with an entire spirit category. And like everyone, some brands speak to me louder than others (or even in a wonderfully soft way). Just because I am not a fan of Jack Daniels doesn't mean I am not a fan of whiskey.

So I turned over a new leaf with vodka. I have decided to explore this new found tolerance with a few vodka-based cocktail classics, both modern and classic. Considering that these drink are classics, none of them call for the flavorful vodkas that so changed my mind. But in the name of personal growth, we shall see where this experiment with traditional vodka leads me. In these cocktails, the vodka's purpose is to soften the stronger flavors to bring about balance. The first drink I tried was Paul Harrington's Drink Without a Name.

Drink Without a Name

2 ounces vodka
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/8 ounce Green Chartreuse

Stir ingredients in a ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Chopin for the vodka.

The aromas of the orange oils and overwhelming herbal notes of the chartreuse greeted me when I took my first sip. As far as the taste is concerned, the vibrant flavors of orange were most apparent initially, before the green chartreuse took over. Even at one-eighth of an ounce the chartreuse still packed quite a punch. The Cointreau contributed a crisp, dry orange flavor, though on the swallow, it came across with more of a bitter orange flavor, in reminiscent of the peel. This drink had a creamy mouth feel and was quite refreshing. Considering how much I love green chartreuse, it was not surprising that I was very happy with this drink. Score one for vodka--never thought I would write that out loud either.


Aunt Emily, or the Golden Dawn?

Cocktail history is a slippery thing. Memories concerning anything that occurs while imbibing, especially if those memories concern the practice of imbibing, can be full of loopholes, black holes, misrememberings (both for good and ill) and pretty much anything else that can make makes something seemingly straightforward veer into the realm of murky. Inebriation is the always the culprit--that is a given. But I'm sure a contributing factor is that at the time no one is aware that history is happening. Maybe I am too cynical, but I doubt that John Collins, famous for creating a superbly refreshing, timeless libation, was consciously trying to acquire a place in the annals of cocktail history when he was making and serving his famous punches at Limmer's Hotel. He was just a man at a specific time and place doing a job. The only reason we know what we do about Mr. Collins is because someone cared to write it down and somebody else (David Wondrich) cared to find it. We are not so lucky with other cocktails, namely the Martini. The origins are unknown because when people were first drinking them, little as written about them. Can we really blame them? At the time it was just an amazing new drink. I know that when I sit at a bar, I am not thinking, "The next cocktail I order could be the next classic that will be remembered long after I am dead. Maybe I should write about it so that the origin story can be easily found." Okay, I lied.  I am a blogger--of course I think that. 

The Aunt Emily's story has some elements that are concrete, as there are concrete elements in the story of the John Collins, and also some that are more elusive, like the Martini's non-story. So basically, this cocktail's history poses more questions than it answers. At least to me, these loose ends are more curious and interesting than the drink itself. But we will get to that. Charles Baker ran into this drink in Havana, Cuba and noted that it was the "creation of Sloppy Joe, in Havana, Years before His Spot Got to Be a Sort of Half Way House for Every Itinerant American on the Island." Without any specific details from our friend Mr. Baker, it is almost impossible to piece together the information to properly date Baker's statement, or even when he was in Cuba for that matter. Here is what we do have: Sloppy Joe's opened in the early 1920s, and from looking though the indexes of two Sloppy Joe's cocktail manuals, I have been able to determine that the Aunt Emily was served sometime after the 1932-1933 season and sometime before 1935. Since Jigger, Beaker and Glass was published in 1939, Baker must have visited Cuba sometime between 1933 and 1939 and had this drink. Alas, there is no way to be sure that the Aunt Emily wasn't created or served even earlier than that and just didn't make it into the cocktail guide.  So far pretty straightforward, right?

Aunt Emily

3/4 ounce Calvados
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce apricot brandy
3/4 ounce orange juice
1 dash grenadine

Shake ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Boulard Pay D'Auge Calvados, Bellringer gin, homemade grenadine and apricot brandy.

When I was putting this drink together, somewhere before the apricot brandy but after the Calvados, I realized I had made a drink that was almost exactly the same only a few weeks before. After a bit of searching, I realized that the Aunt Emily is the identical twin of another classic drink, the Golden Dawn--same ingredients, same proportions. The only difference is that in the Aunt Emily the grenadine is added to the drink instead of sunk in with a cherry afterward. In Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh tells us that the Golden Dawn was named the "World Finest Cocktail" in a contest in 1930. To make things even more complicated, the Golden Dawn has two different published versions. The proportions for drink as printed in the Cafe Royal Cocktail  and UKBG Guide to Drinks match the equal proportions of the Aunt Emily. The version as printed in the New York Times and the Times (London) is slightly different--the amounts of gin and Calvados have been increased, and the orange juice and apricot brandy have been decreased.

The question becomes: Did the Golden Dawn or the Aunt Emily come first, or did they just spring into being almost simultaneously on two different islands thousands of miles apart? What makes the whole thing even more curious is that in Diffordsguide7, published in 2008, the Aunt Emily is listed with same proportions as the Times recipe for the Golden Dawn. Ah the twists and turns of history. But if there is a connection, I can't find any. Red herring, anyone?

Golden Dawn (Times version)

1 ounce Calvados
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1/2 ounce orange juice
1 dash pomegranate grenadine

Combine all ingredients except the pomegranate grenadine and shake like crazy in an iced cocktail shaker; strain into a cocktail glass. Drop a stemless cherry with no pick into the drink as garnish. Dribble a little real pomegranate grenadine through the drink. Do not stir.

The aroma of this cocktail is full of apricots and apples. On first taste, I noted that it tasted, well, fruity. The flavors of the orange juice and Calvados created the backbone of the drink, with the dry botanicals of the gin becoming more pronounced on the swallow. This drink was very dry, but it had an unexpectedly thick texture. I believe this was because I used homemade apricot brandy, which also contributed a nuttier flavor as I included the pits in my recipe. My overall impression was that this drink was a bit too sweet, but the flavor combinations were unusual and not unpleasant.

In my opinion, this drink does not rank high among those in Baker's book, but there have definitely been worse. If I made this again, I would definitely follow the Times version/modern version of the Golden Dawn/Aunt Emily and increase the spirits and decrease the apricot brandy and orange juice.


Astor Hotel Special

"Our epidemic of missing steamboats began in Shanghai and was the fault of this very blend--sitting in the charming old Astor, with fog setting in"
Charles Baker

During 1926, Charles Baker found himself on a world cruise because he was lucky playing the stock markets. Shanghai became a notorious port of call on this trip not only because he become so besotted that he effectively marooned himself there, but also because his proposal to a "delightful maiden" was rejected in favor of a man whose only claim to fame would be that he was kidnapped by a famous villain, Alan "Creepy" Karpis, a member of the notorious Ma Baker gang.

Imagine yourself sitting a bar stool as the evening fog has started to creep over the city. The popular tea dances are just beginning to start. You've got your arm around a delightful maiden that in just this ethereal light looks wiser than her years, and yet still more delicate than she really is. But perhaps all of that nonsense is just a reflection of you, already deep in your cups. The waiter in his white coat catches your eye and nods as you raise your hand for another round of specials. The couples swirl along the dance floor, filmy tiered dresses spinning into tuxedo jackets. Rye is being poured at every table. The weight of the evening pulses in your brow, bringing easy smiles and exaggerated gestures. A foghorn blows in the distance, lilting from somewhere off behind the jaunty call of the clarinet. Little do you know, or even care, that as the sound disappears into the fog, your bags and belongings are trailing across the harbor on their way to the next port. When the frosted white goblet is set before you, you catch the sly glimmer in your gal's eye before looking back at the creamy foam almost spilling out of the glass. If only we could all get so lost in the East.

The Astor Hotel Special

1 1/2 ounces cognac (2 oz brandy)
1 tsp maraschino liqueur 
2 tsp egg white
3/4 ounce absinthe (1/4 oz absinthe)
1/2 tsp lemon juice 
club soda (1 1/2 oz)

Dry shake all ingredients save club soda. Add ice and shake hard. Strain into a large wine goblet and add soda.

Trial Number One

What a disappointment. The milky brown color was not appetizing and the lack of foam was an immediate downer after all that shaking. The smell of licorice on the aroma practically knocked me down as I took a sip. And though I made some initial adjustments, balance was nowhere to be found. Simply increasing the brandy and decreasing the absinthe just didn't do enough. Even at a quarter ounce, the absinthe was pretty overwhelming. I could just barely make out the brandy and maraschino. The brightness of the lemon juice peeked out on the swallow, but mostly it was all absinthe all the time. The drink was drinkable, but not particularly enjoyable.

Trial Number Two

Revisiting the Astor Hotel Special a couple of weeks later, I decided to scrap my earlier efforts and go with my gut. My final revisions are below. Visually the drink looked better--a nice pinkish brown below a layer of white foam. I cut the absinthe even further, increased the lemon juice, and used an entire egg white. Because of the lemon juice adjustment, I upped the maraschino content to create balance. I added the lemon oils to the foam on a whim, but it seemed to work.

The lemon oils mingled with the absinthe in the aroma. With a smooth texture and a subtle fizziness, the drink was strikingly dry. The brandy contributed a richness throughout, while the lemon added brightness and balance. The maraschino was most apparent at the end of each sip where it worked well with the licorice flavors. The absinthe still ran the show, but all in all, a little tinkering produced a surprisingly refreshing libation. I can now understand why this drink might knock Mr. Baker's socks off, though I still feel like the maiden had a bit more to do with the marooning that he was willing to admit.

The Astor Hotel Special (as adapted)

2 oz brandy
1 1/2 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 egg white 
1 barspoon absinthe
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 oz club soda

Dry shake all ingredients save club soda. Add ice and shake again, hard. Strain into a large cocktail glass, add club soda, and express the oils of a lemon peel on top of the foam.