The Joy of a Pineapple: Castle Harbour Special

Whenever I see pineapple, whether it is the actual word in a book or on a menu, or the actual fruit at the grocery store or even perched on the lip of a glass, I can't help but think of summer. And not these paltry Northwest summers, where we long for warm temperatures just as much as a break from the rain. And also not those disgustingly humid summer days of the East Coast, where you are trapped on your couch coated in a thin later of sweat, while the heat drains all of your energy. No, these are not the summer days that I associate with pineapple, or else I would probably never want to look at another one. Pineapple means sunshine, dry heat, and a slight breeze, but just enough to rustle the leaves and flowers and keep the bugs at bay. In short, a totally idealized, absolutely perfect summer day. So yes, pineapple makes me smile and dream of sitting outside in the sun. That is a nice reaction to have while looking at a Charles Baker recipe.

This libation is rimmed with a sense of yearning for the past. Castle Harbor, located on the northeastern edge of Bermuda, is a large natural harbor located between the northeastern edge of Bermuda and St. David's island. In 1928, when Charles Baker spent several weeks there, its isolation and beauty struck him so intensely that the very small description he offers rings with a nostalgia. To look at pictures of Castle Harbor today, with Bermuda's airport perched on one side and its golf course and numerous hotel resorts situated on the other, it's hard to imagine unsettled islands with "white and pink beaches in utter seclusion except . . . the screaming nesting sea birds." I imagine this vision of a vacation paradise untouched by civilization was almost as rare by the time Baker was writing the Gentleman's Companion as it is now. He was lucky to have experienced it, and sometimes you even get the sense that he knew it. But just sometimes.

The drink itself sounded delicious. A mixture of rum, lime juice, syrup and fruit--it could easily be described as a type of rum punch. Though, as with many other Baker drinks, a substantial amount of rum provides the very firm backbone of this drink, the pineapple is definitely the star. As Baker describes the Bermuda-based Gosling Brothers outfitting his little hotel, his Castle Harbor Special most likely revolved around Gosling's Black Seal Rum, the dark black strap rum used most famously in the Dark 'n Stormy.

The drink also calls for sweet pineapple soda fountain syrup. Though the consistency or actual sweetness of this syrup remains a mystery, I would guess it falls somewhere in the region of what Torani might offer. Some bars and bloggers have used pineapple gum syrup as a substitution. On top of the smidgen of pineapple syrup, the recipe also includes a teaspoon of grenadine. When I first read it, I was worried about the sweetness level. Baker must have agreed because just a sentence later he says the drink is perfectly good without the grenadine. Also, he says leaving out the grenadine makes for less competition between delicate flavors. Though I would never describe either pineapple or grenadine as delicate, I followed his suggestion and omitted the grenadine. I'm sure that even in such a small amount, the grenadine was primarily used to ramp up the color and make it look more tropical.

Castle Harbour Special (original)

4 small pieces pineapple
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp sweet pineapple soda fountain syrup
1 tsp grenadine
1 1/2 jiggers dark rum (2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 jigger light rum (3/4 ounce)

Stir with a lump of ice and strain into a goblet half-filled with crushed ice.

Soda fountain syrup must have been really sweet. When I made this with my homemade pineapple syrup, I quickly heard Tracy say, "Um, I think this is a bit sour." Now, in general we appreciate tart, refreshing drinks, but this was a bit much. The teaspoon of pineapple syrup couldn't even touch the lime juice. I never taste a Baker drink for balance--the point is to taste it the way he intended, not the way I would fix it. Usually it is a flaw in the design of his recipe, but here it is a flaw in the substitution. So, instead of tossing it, I adjusted the sweet-to-sour ratio, matching the lime juice with pineapple syrup. It was much better.

The drink tasted mostly of lime and rum, but there was a nice pineapple hint to it. Perhaps if I had used pineapple gum, the original proportions would have worked and maybe the pineapple flavors would have been more apparent. I also chose to shake this drink with the semi-candied pineapple chunks that were left over from making the syrup. Perhaps muddling those pieces would have encouraged even more pineapple flavor and also provided more balance to the lime juice. I also decided to stick with the original amount of rum. Three ounces of rum is not so unusual for a tropical drink, and is an amount commonly seen in tiki drink recipes. Given the fact that the drink is served over fresh cracked ice, I figured over time the ice would take care of the proof.

Castle Harbour Special (as adapted)

4 small pieces pineapple
3/4ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple syrup
2 1/4 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounce light rum

Shake ingredients with cracked ice. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with pineapple chunks.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Lemonhart 80 Demerara rum, Cruzan light rum, and homemade pineapple syrup (see below).

Pineapple Syrup (as originally published at cocktailchronicles.com)

4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 small pineapple
smidgen of vodka or other neutral-flavored spirits

Mix the sugar and water until fully dissolved. Add the pineapple (skinned and cubed), and let sit for 24 hours. Remove the pineapple, pressing with a hand juicer to get some juice into the mix. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine strainer, and add the spirits for preservative. Refrigerate.

Truly wonderful summer days are the stuff of legend and yearning, just ask anyone mid-winter.  But the idea of nostalgia can't really contain them, namely, because technically tomorrow could be one of those days (not really). Sure there is a certain pang of longing. But it is not the same as the feelings associated with a place, or time, you can never go back to because it doesn't exist any longer. Even in the 1940s, Charles Baker could not rediscover the joys he found on his first visit to Castle Harbor. And perhaps there really is no way to re-experience even a fictionalized, idealized version of a perfect summer day, if we ever really have truly have. Maybe our memories of what a perfect summer day can be, as exaggerated over time as they are, create the need for feeling like as if something has been lost in time, something that is unreachable in the future. I don't know--it's certainly is complicated. What I do know is that for me pineapple symbolizes blissful days and a certain carefree feeling. This drink took me to a different place, away from the dreary Spring, away from the need for coats and sweaters. It seems that this is an important part of what the Gentleman's Companion has to offer a contemporary audience, a certain measure of escapism--even to an imperfect past.


When Memory Fails: The Aviation

Some cocktails are just unforgettable. They stand out like planets against the starry night sky, luminous, non-flickering orbs. You remember that mind-blowing first sip as the new flavors sparked against your tired taste buds, and you looked down into the glass in awe thinking, What have I been doing all of these years? The Aviation should be one of these cocktails. For so many, it has provided that first glimpse of what a truly balanced classic cocktail should taste like, regardless of whether the creme de violette is included and regardless of whether the imbiber has any knowledge of its history. It stands on its own without being anchored to a specific time or context.

The Aviation was once regarded as the cocktail enthusiasts' handshake, though I am unsure if it still retains that title. And though it is one of my favorite cocktails, I can't for the life of me remember where or when I first had one. I can't even conjure up a context, much less any initial taste revelations. Other important cocktail memories do not so easily recede. The first Brooklyn I ever tasted was at the Zig Zag Cafe--I was seated at the bar in the first days of Spring about three years ago. That first unique sip of rye and dry vermouth stood out then, and the Brooklyn is still my favorite cocktail. I also drank my first Pink Lady at the Zig Zag. Murray asked me whether I wanted it with applejack and I had to pause. At that time I didn't know it came any other way. The Pink Lady was also my first experience with egg whites in a cocktail and to this day I can still recall how that velvety texture opened my mind. So many other memories pop into my mind almost without invitation: my first Manhattan at the Remington in graduate school in Boston; my first Sazerac, which I horribly butchered at my in-laws house one Christmas many years ago. But that initial Aviation is hopelessly missing, forever lost like so many other outstanding and not so outstanding cocktails.

Its a funny thing to consider--how a cocktail can be on the edge of extinction and then become so beloved by a world of hobbyists. Granted, the idea of "extinction" might be a gross overstatement in this case. As cocktail manuals came and went after Prohibition, and so many other cocktails were consigned to the abyss, the Aviation maintained its presence, in one way or another. It may not have been a popular drink (and there's really no way to track that information), but it was still around at least for a while, if only just to help fill up cocktail books. By the 1960s, along with so many other classic cocktails, the Aviation had been relegated to the past. By this time the violette of the original was already long gone.

It is not entirely clear to me who first reintroduced the violette version of the Aviation. Some people lay it at the feet of David Wondrich, and that seems entirely likely. In his Killer Cocktails, published in 2005, Wondrich mentions the violette version, though it is not the main recipe. Reference was also made to this sky-tinted version in the first edition of Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, published in 2004. Though both cocktail historians were obviously aware of the 1916 version before their books went to print, we may never really know who is responsible for resurrecting it.

When Haus Alpenz began importing creme de violette in 2007, the mystery surrounding the actual taste of the Ensslin version was at last solved. If you could track down a bottle or find a bar that stocked it, you could sip that refreshing floral libation and form your own opinion about which version was better. I often wonder if it was precisely because the ingredients were hard to find (maraschino liqueur wasn't all that accessible in the early 2000s) in addition to the historical interest that led to the elevation of the Aviation to near mythic status. When you consider all of the elements that are wrapped up in one cocktail--the obscure ingredients, its complicated path through history, its differing versions, its first mention buried in an obscure cocktail manual (at least it was 5 years ago)--it's easy to see how this cocktail could so easily become something bigger than just ingredients in a glass.

Now that the Aviation is so readily available, the real question becomes which do you prefer, with or without violette. Personally, I enjoy the violette version with its floral notes playing against the woody notes of the maraschino liqueur and the botanics of the gin. It's not completely because in general I am a cocktail purist. Sitting on a porch or deck pretty much anywhere on a warm evening, when there is just enough of a breeze to warrant an extra layer, listening to the sounds of the city and sipping an herbal refreshing beverage sounds just about perfect in my mind. And at that moment, when a light sheen of condensation is just beginning to show on the outside of the glass, and the last bit of light is holding out as long as it can against the encroaching blue of night, it really doesn't matter when or where I first tasted an Aviation, it only matters that I am tasting it now.

Aviation (per Robert Hess's Essential Bartender's Guide)

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce creme de violette

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Whitley Neil gin, Maraska maraschino, and Rothman and Winter violette.


An Ode to the Corpse Reviver #2

Morning restoratives, or corpse revivers, were initially created when someone had the brilliant thought to combine bitters with their morning slings. Mind you, consuming morning slings was a customary practice at the time, adding bitters was the novelty. After a night of heavy drinking, what better way to clear the head, settle the stomach, and calm the nerves than a dram of booze, a couple dashes of bitters, and a little sweetener to mellow it all out.

These eye openers, fog cutters, and morning glories came in many forms and included almost anything that could potentially soften the effects of a hangover. Therefore, the ingredients were often a matter of taste. Perhaps the chosen cure combined a bit of milk and sugar mixed with your morning dram. After absinthe became popular, it often found its way into many anti-fogmatics, mostly because of its refreshing flavor and stomach settling powers. Its extreme potency was usually tamed with some sweetener and ice. Other pick-me-ups revolved around citrus and employed its tart flavors, not to mention the natural sugars and vitamins, to help bring the sparkle back to eyes clouded over with heaviness. The truth is that when strong morning tipples were common--and we're not talking about today's tame bloody marys and mimosas--everything was fair game. An entire category of drinks, with clever monikers, was devoted to helping the masses face a new day, often in spite of the one before.

Unfortunately, after the onset of Prohibition, only a few survived. And while the practice of partaking in a morning beverage barely survived, its days were also numbered. One thing to be thankful for though, is that the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is still alive and kicking.

Corpse Reviver #2

3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Lillet
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1 dash absinthe

Shake first four ingredients. Strain into a chilled, absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry. (I have also seen it garnished with an orange twist.)

Notes on Ingredients: I used Bellringer gin and Absinthe Verte de Fougerolles

Few things in the world are as perfect as a properly made Corpse Reviver No. 2. The only down side is that few things haven't been said about it--this libation is one of the darlings of the cocktail community. From its history to the individual ingredients to the ways those ingredients have changed, thus forever altering the landscape of the beverage, almost every iota of information related to the Corpse Reviver No. 2 has been exposed or unearthed. And why not? It is a wondrous libation. With its four main ingredients in equal portions not only is it elegant and refined, but also easy to remember. And while the intricacy of the flavors is a key part of its success, the touch of absinthe is what truly showcases the beauty of restraint that the Corpse 2 symbolizes. That little hint of anise is where balance is found.

I am not going to bore you with sundry details that you can easily find elsewhere. The important thing is that many people have found inspiration in this cocktail, whether drinkers or bartenders. The Corpse 2 has provoked the creation of new cocktails as numerous bartenders have riffed on its proven recipe. These  variations can stand on their own, all of them are unnumbered and therefore their Corpse 2 reference passes unacknowledged. In a series of posts, I plan on further exploring these homages to the Corpse 2. I am sure I will miss some, but it will be a fitting ode to one of my favorite drinks.


A Gin Milkshake: Charles Baker's Cafe de Paris Cocktail

Some cocktail recipes just scream off the page, "I am wonderful. Make me now!" And then there are the ones that don't look like they would work on paper but are amazing in actuality. The Blood and Sand instantly comes to mind. Many of the drink descriptions in the Gentleman's Companion, mingled as they are with narrative, evoke a history that most people couldn't even imagine--exotic ports of call, palaces, underground caves--except perhaps in the world of celluloid. The Cafe de Paris is not, however, one of those showstopping cocktails. Never did I look at the recipe and think that it was going to knock my socks off. But sometimes there is a hidden story hidden that makes the entire experience that much more interesting. The Cafe de Paris actually became more vibrant the more I explored its possible history and it took me on a journey all its own.

Charles Baker offers little in the way of beginnings. He states that the cocktail is "from 'MONTE,' a place well-mentioned in our previous volume on foods; sampled first in 1931." Considering that I do not own Knife, Fork and Spoon, his note is a bit of a dead end, especially since "MONTE" is curiously vague, and the date means little even in context. The Cafe de Paris is also curiously absent from many of the cocktail guides that I own. The volumes where it has been collected are the Savoy Cocktail Guide (1930), Boothby's 1934 reprint the World's Drink and How to Mix Them, and Harry McElhone's Barflies and Cocktails (1927). But it is in this last source where we find our first real clue, as McElhone includes, "Recipe from the Cafe de Paris, Broadway, New York."

Located at the corner of Forty-Second Street and Seventh Avenue in the heart of Times Square, the Cafe de Paris, originally named the Cafe de L'Opera, opened its doors in December 1909. One of the most opulent hotels of the time, it was designed in an "Assyrian" style, stood eight stories tall and contained a twenty-foot wide staircase outfitted with crouching bronze Assyrian lions. Decadent, indeed. But unfortunately, a mandatory formal dress code and poor service (dishes often arrived cold) proved to be its undoing. By 1910, Louis Martin, one of the successful owners of the Martin Cafe, had entered the picture to attempt a  rescue mission. After his intervention, the restaurant/lounge became one of the most popular cabarets before World War I started. Vernon and Irene Castle, who popularized modern ballroom dancing for American audiences, made their debut at the Cafe de Paris's height in 1912. Their story was later immortalized on the silver screen in the Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. However, even the Castles' success could not permanently save the Cafe de Paris. Louis Martin resigned in 1914 and the Cafe de Paris soon closed its doors forever.

But that still doesn't connect all of the dots. How did a recipe from the Cafe de Paris make its way into a cocktail manual written in 1927, almost ten years after it closed? What's even more curious is that this cocktail didn't find its way into Robert Vermiere's Cocktails: Here's How written in 1923? Could it be that Harry McElhone himself provides the key? Harry McElhone is most famous for Harry's New York Bar, which he bought in 1923. Located in Paris, it is still open today. Before he relocated, Harry could be found behind the stick at Ciro's Club where he landed after World War I ended in 1918. But in 1912, when the Castles were dancing their way into America's hearts in the Tenderloin district of New York City, where was our man Harry? Just seventeen blocks north, bartending at the famous Oak Bar at the Plaza Hotel.

Unfortunately, this is where the trail runs cold. There is no formal link between Harry McElhone in 1912, when he had newly arrived at the Plaza Hotel in 1911 and the Cafe de Paris cocktail. It is very likely though that during his stint in New York he would have come across the Cafe de Paris cocktail at some point. Even today drink recipes tend to travel around cities and among bartenders. But there is no reason to believe that the Cafe de Paris cocktail was overly popular, considering how many cocktail manuals passed it over. The last potential lead I uncovered turned out to be, sadly, beyond my reach: Harry McElhone published the first impression of his ABC's of Cocktails in 1918. Subsequent impressions followed. If the Cafe de Paris is included it would definitely show that McElhone is responsible for the survival of the Cafe de Paris cocktail even while its namesake did not and it would potentially fill one of the remaining blanks in its history. In the meantime, as with most cocktail history, it just seems natural that a certain shroud of vagueness is blanketing yet another cocktail origin story.

Cafe de Paris Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 tsp anisette
1/2 egg white
1 tsp heavy cream

Dry shake ingredients to emulsify egg white. Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Sambuca instead of anisette and Bellringer gin.

This was one surprising cocktail. As with most Baker drinks that include any anise at all, I expected to be bowled over. But the drink was deliciously restrained, with a delicate licorice flavor that mingled well with the botanic flavors of the gin. The texture was creamy and smooth, as would be expected from a cream and egg white drink, but the actual flavors were dry and refreshing. Unfortunately, the taste of the cream was just a bit too much for me. I am sure another might be okay with this, however. I do think that perhaps the addition of orange bitters would smarten it up and make it more than just a really good frothy gin milkshake with a hint of anise. All in all, my initial doubts were confirmed--this drink doesn't really suit my taste, as pleasant as I found it initially. But it also wasn't as bad as it could have been considering the ingredients and Baker's poor reputation. Sometimes just that tiniest of differences is all that separates a good cocktail from a bad one.


A Refreshing Cooler: The Barbados Buck

Bucks are one of those drink categories that stretch far back into history. A simple combination of a spirit, citrus, and ginger beer, they require little to no effort to make and are completely delicious year-round. Beat the heat with one in the summer, and its bright, gingery flavors will quench your thirst. Use a dark spirit, and the spicy ginger beer and richness of the barrel-aged spirit can reinvigorate a palate weary from a winter of endless Manhattans. As Charles Baker explains, the buck also can act as a fine bracer. I will take his word for it. Considering the strength of the cocktails he enjoyed, he certainly had a powerful need for a good bracer.

While it is unfortunate that the term "buck" no longer immediately translates for many modern drinkers, bucks also go by another more recognizable name: the mule, as in that most famous of mules, the Moscow Mule. The vehicle of vodka's conquest of American taste buds on the 1950s, the Moscow Mule is just a vodka buck in a fancy copper mug. The variations on the buck are endless: gin buck, Kentucky buck, Shanghai buck, gin-gin mule--the list goes on. Hey, add lime juice to a Dark 'n' Stormy and you've got yourself a rum buck. No matter which spirit you decide on, the most important part of the equation is the ginger beer. Not just any will do. The easiest place to start--skip the ginger ale. To maximize the flavors and really experience the glory of this drink, you need a ginger beer with some serious ginger kick.  Whether you chose Reed's, Fentimans, Blenheim, or Bundaberg, this is one place where bigger and bolder is definitely better. Or you can always take matters into your own hands, and make some ginger beer at home.

When I first ran across the Barbados Buck in Jigger, Beaker and Glass, I think I did a little jig. It was like finding a forgotten five-dollar bill in your jeans, a happy surprise. It just doesn't get more straightforward. Granted, as with all Baker concoctions, his buck is enormous and therefore, I halved the proportions.

Barbados Buck

3/4 ounce aged, dark rum
3/4 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/8 ounce simple syrup
7-8 ounces ginger beer

Build over a lump of ice in an eight to ten ounce glass. Top with ginger beer. Stir gently to incorporate. (I added a lime wedge garnish.)

Notes on Ingredients: I used Cruzan light rum, Mt. Gay rum and Reed's Extra ginger beer and honey syrup.

This drink was refreshing and tasty as expected, and disappeared much too quickly. I blame this on the amount of ginger beer. Once you added the rum, syrup, and juice, even with a "large lump" of ice as prescribed, filling the glass with ginger beer required adding at least five ounces of soda. Thus, the drink tasted mostly of ginger beer with a hint of lime and rum. Either using a smaller glass, or adding more rum, lime juice and syrup, or just decreasing the ginger beer would easily solve this problem. But maybe that extra ginger beer helps this drink function as a bracer, instead of a more potent beverage. So, I conclude, to each his own. And as with most things, the way you construct this drink will depend entirely on what you are looking for. Substituting pimento dram for the syrup or even adding a few dashes of aromatic bitters, as a brilliant red float, would also add some interesting notes.

On a less serious note, Charles Baker tell us that he was introduced to this refreshing cooler after "lying naked on a sugarwhite beach, discussing Gilbert and Sullivan" with two gents he knew from back in the day. I know I raised an eyebrow. But let's give Charlie the benefit of the doubt and say that it was a different time--though just how different, we shall never really know.


A Journey to Bavaria: The Bridegroom's Cup

What is it about light, crisp libations that make them so perfect for summer. Many classics are notorious for how well they can stand up to the heat: the Pimm's Cup, the Sherry Cobbler, the Americano, or almost any aperitif on the rocks. Whether based on fortified wine or smoothed out in a long drink, these drinks offer flavor without all of the booziness of stronger cocktails. They are true session beverages, if we may borrow the lingo of brewers, like a wonderful punch. Lower in strength, they are perfect all day beverages, if only hypothetically. I know few things as thirst-quenching as a nice sangria or Rose when the temperatures soar. Even an ice cold Peroni or Asahi will do--bubbly and dry with just a hint of bitterness. The Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup easily falls into this category, as it is a sort of riff on sangria with its wine, brandy, and fruit. Even Charles Baker notes that it would be "doubly nice on a hot summer's day." Perhaps his mention of "doubly" is linked with the size of this drink; though Baker drinks tend to come in large proportions, this one is the largest calling for half a bottle of Rhine wine.

Unfortunately for me, I came upon the BB Cup, as I have taken to calling it, when the temperature outside was barely clearing 50 degrees and clouds lined the sky. I think it even rained. Cold, damp, dark was not what this drink was meant for. Alas, the downside of traveling through Jigger, Beaker, and Flask in a linear fashion is that certain drinks will be unseasonable. In the dead of August, I will probably be constructing hot punches. C'est la vie.

Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup (as interpreted)

6 ounces Dry Riesling
3/4 ounce kirschwasser
1/2 tsp granulated sugar (approximately)
2-3 hulled and quartered strawberries

Muddle strawberries with sugar and chill. Fill large chilled goblet one-third full of cracked ice. Add Riesling and kirschwasser. Stir lightly. Carefully spoon in strawberries, about 1 1/2 tablespoons total.

The aroma was full of the characteristic nutty, flavors of the kirsch. On the first taste, though, it was the tartness of the wine that was most prevalent. The cherry notes of the kirsch became more apparent near the end of each sip. While each sip was dry and refreshing, the Riesling's acidity accumulated as I progressed. This fact made the first half much more interesting than the second. As the drink warmed up, more of the woody notes came across. The kirsch went extremely well with the dry wine though, which gave me hope that this drink could be improved. The strawberries added a nice touch once they were in range; they had sunk to the bottom of the glass. I am not completely sure if Baker meant for the muddled strawberry component to be a floating garnish, but mine refused to linger on the surface. Perhaps if they had, the strawberries would have contributed more of a presence throughout. As it was, I simply spooned them out after about two-thirds of the way through the drink

I was very interested in this libation, though curious is probably a better word. It was a new experience because I had never tasted Riesling before. Picking one out wasn't all that hard, but I did choose a dry Riesling to ensure that the drink would be appropriate for a hot day. The kirsch-Riesling combination didn't seem all that weird considering that they are produced in the same part of the world. All in all, the shortcomings of the Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup were few. The wine's acidity was too strong, and the strawberries were not used to good effect. In order to tame some of the acidity, I decided to use strawberry liqueur in place of the actual fruit. I thought the increased sugar content might help soften the tannins. Also, by lengthening the drink with club soda into a sort of spritzer, I hoped to mellow out the some of the Riesling's boldness while still staying true to the original ingredients.

 Bavarian Bridegroom's Cup (adapted)

3 ounces Dry Riesling
3/4 ounce kirschwasser
3/4 ounce creme de fraise
1 1/2 ounces club soda

Stir first three ingredients with ice in a mixing glass for about 15-20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a slice of strawberry. 

The strawberry garnish mingled with the nuttiness of the kirsch combined to greet my nose. The drink was still quite tart and had that customary woody, cherry note at the end of each sip. By adding the club soda, the drink gained a pleasant effervescence that further highlighted the intersection of the Riesling and the kirsch. The creme de fraise contributed a nice berry note that was provided more of a balance to the dryness of the wine. The tannins were still present on the swallow, but they seemed more subdued. The strawberry flavors of the creme de fraise were most apparent on the after taste. I found this drink more refreshing as the new elements helped balance out the strong wine flavors and contributed to an even better summer spritzer.


Funky Rum and the Millionaire

Almost any cocktail with Jamaican rum is going to catch my eye these days. Partially because I love the intense flavors, but mostly because I need no excuse to bring out the Smith and Cross. Recently, I started thinking, what happens if I run out. I hate to even utter it out loud, but the truth is with consumption comes exhaustion. Someday my cupboard may indeed be bare, and I certainly can't count on the liquor stores in Washington--oh, the number of times they've let me down. And of course, no adequate substitute exists for Smith and Cross's funky hogo flavor. Or does it? I remember once sitting at the bar at Vessel, and I ordered a Palmetto, one of my favorite cocktails. Oddly enough the entire bar was out of dark Jamaican rums. So, Jim Romdall set off to replicate the flavors by blending other rums. It was completely amazing, though I don't remember how he did it. I do recall that is was a wonderfully tasty Palmetto, and it did capture much of the flavor of Jamaican rum, or at least what is able to shine through the intense flavors of Carpano Antica. Fortunately, I am not out of Jamaican rum and do not need to replicate his efforts. Instead I am just going to try to create a Smith and Cross-like taste using the Jamaican rums I have on hand. Though perhaps I will just create an entirely different monster in the process.

But why choose the Millionaire? Is it anticlimactic to admit to randomness? Or perhaps not complete randomness. How about a happy accident?  I was poking around the Internet, looking for arrack sour recipes, and somehow, there it was just waiting for me. The citrus element initially provoked my interest, but the sloe gin-rum combination sealed the deal. It also gave me a chance to use my homemade apricot brandy.

The earliest recipe I could find for a Millionaire cocktail is in Jacob Straub's Drinks (1914), though it is not the same Millionaire. Straub's version, which also appears in many other cocktail volumes from the 1920s, includes orange bitters (Straub only), rye whiskey, grenadine, curacao, an egg white, and sometimes a bit of pastis (Vermiere 1922). The Jamaican rum variation does, however, appear two years later in Hugo Ensslin's 1916 cocktail book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks. His recipe calls for equal parts of Jamaican rum, apricot brandy, and sloe gin, with the juice of one lime and a dash of grenadine. Thank god Ted Haigh re-envisioned the proportions when he included his version in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. By 1930, another version of the Millionaire had turned up. In the Savoy Cocktail Book, Harry Craddock includes two Millionaires: Ensslin's rum version (#1) and a second version of absinthe, anisette, gin and an egg white. Straub's whiskey version is strangely absent. It will turn up again in William Boothby's 1934 reprint of World Drinks, which collects all three versions. This whiskey version seems to have had the most staying power as it crops up in other cocktail manuals during the forties: Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide (1947), which collects all of the previous recipes and then some, Esquire Handbook for Hosts (1949) and David Embury's Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948). Notably in both Embury and the Esquire Handbook, the whiskey version is the sole Millionaire. It is notable, however, that Embury does toss aside the rum version in a sentence. And these are just the mentions I can track in the volumes I own. The Jamaican rum version doesn't seem to crop up many places beyond 1940. Ted Haigh notes that he found the rum version in The How and When published in 1937, where it was listed as the fourth variation. Haigh explains that when he changed the ratios, he was attempting to dial back the sweetness from the liqueurs and amp up the rum while balancing the citrus. His variation proved too tart for my palate, so I cut back the lime juice a little.

Millionaire (as adapted from Vintage Cocktails)

1 1/2 ounce Jamaican rum
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 apricot brandy
3/4 ounce sloe gin

Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Plymouth Sloe Gin and a homemade apricot brandy. I used 1 ounce Appleton with 1/2 ounce Wray & Nephew overproof.

The aroma was full of the funky Wray and Nephew as well as the lime and apricot. I could also detect a richness that I attributed to the  apricot brandy and the Appletons. Even with less lime juice, this drink was still quite tart as the lime and apricot were dominant. Despite the sourness, a considerable amount of richness came through as well. I am sure that the homemade apricot brandy was at least partially responsible. When I made my apricot brandy, I infused brandy with apricots, pits and all, and then sweetened it to taste. While this is not a true apricot brandy, as it includes barrel-aged brandy and all of its associated flavors, it does contribute a certain depth and nuttiness from the pits that a lot of apricot brandies do not have. A commercial apricot liqueur would add more sweetness and a crisp tartness without the richness and nutty flavors. The funky, brown sugar flavors of the rum were most prominent on the after taste. As the drink warmed up, the tart berry notes of the sloe gin became more apparent  before the rum notes took over. Because I used the Plymouth sloe gin, which is not notoriously sweet, this added a nice dryness to the drink. All in all this was a very pleasant, tart drink, and though the ingredients seemed a bit strange on paper, they performed very well in the glass.

Post Script: Rum Conclusions

As I sipped on this cocktail, I was constantly aware of the funkiness of the rum. The richness of the Appletons with the vegetal, funky flavors of the Wray & Nephew do adequately approximate the taste of Smith and Cross, at least when it is mixed with citrus juices and other strong flavors. The substitution is only slightly lower in proof when mixed 2 parts Appletons to 1 part Wray & Nephew and will bring a similar strength when mixed (Smith and Cross, 100 proof, Combo 95 proof). I am not sure how this substitution would work in a more spirit driven cocktail.

When tasting them side by side, neat, the Smith and Cross is dryer, earthier and higher in proof than the substitute. Also I detect more of a molasses flavor. As far as the funky level, the two do seem within the same ballpark, at least to me. The Appletons/Wray & Nephew is milder and has more vanilla notes. The Wray & Nephew does, however, add a vegetal aroma and taste that provides a different sort of funky flavor than anything in the Smith and Cross, though it is by no means a bad addition. Of course no true substitute exists but when working within a cocktail, I think it would be close enough.