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This past October 4-6, 2012, the Boston Cocktail Summit celebrated the outstanding cocktail scene here in our city. I spent three days attending seminars, being all nerdy about booze and sipping quite a few delicious spirits and cocktails. One of the many seminars I attended was “I’ll Take Manhattan: A Social History of a Classic Cocktail” with Brother Cleve. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than sipping Manhattans while Boston cocktail legend Brother Cleve recounts the history and lasting legacy of this venerable and always delicious cocktail of cocktails?
The Manhattan. First served in NYC in the early 1870s, this cocktail never seems to go out of style. Sure, the preferred whiskey, the proportions of ingredients, the vermouth and the garnish may vary depending on decade, but each version is still one hell of a cocktail. Two early bartending books– How To Mix Drinks: The Barkeeper’s Handbook by George Winter and O.H. Byron’s The Modern Bartender’s Guide: How to Mix Fancy Drinks–both published in 1884 include a recipe for a Manhattan.
There were two major factors that lead to the creation of the Manhattan—the abundance of grains growing in the US and the arrival of vermouth from Italy. In the 18th-early 19th century, it was a lot easier to transport grain in a distilled, liquid form than in big bales of hay, so rye whiskey production was in full swing and was the brown liquor of choice for many Americans. And then in 1868 sweet Italian vermouth arrives in the US via Martini and Rossi. Someone puts together rye and vermouth, and the Manhattan is born.
The following are the four recipes that we sampled; recipes courtesy of Brother Cleve.
All cocktails are stirred with ice in a mixing glass, and strained into a chilled cocktail coupe.
This equal parts version is considered the original Manhattan, and remained popular until the second decade of the 20th century.
1 ½ oz Wild Turkey 101 bourbon
1 ½ oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
½ barspoon gum syrup (or simple syrup)
1 dash Orange Curaçao
1 dash Orange Bitters
garnish with lemon twist
Prohibition Era Manhattan
This is probably the best known version with a 2-1 ratio
2 oz Wild Turkey Rye
1 oz Cinzano Rosso vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
garnish with an olive and a lemon twist
Also known as the Perfect Manhattan, this version combines sweet and dry vermouth. As Brother Cleve told us “this is how my grandmother taught me to make a Manhattan.”
2 oz Wild Turkey 81 bourbon
½ oz Martini & Rossi Dry vermouth
½ oz Martini & Rossi Sweet vermouth
garnish with a cocktail cherry
This recent variation was created at Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco, 2007, and adds an amaro.
2 oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
1 oz Punt E Mes
½ oz Amaro Averna
1 dash Aromatic Bitters
garnish with Maraschino cherry
To Brother Cleve for an entertaining and informative exploration of the Manhattan, and to a classic cocktail that inspired our learning and imbibing. Cheers!
A couple weeks ago The Boston Shaker hosted a tasting event with Barritt’s Ginger Beer and my obsession with the stuff has now been revived. I love the contrast of spicy and sweet and because it combines well with such a variety of other flavors it’s a must for any summer bar.
Before the recipes, a bit about ginger beer. First produced in England in the mid-18th century, the early recipe included ginger, sugar, water, and lemon juice. This mixture was then combined with a yeast and bacteria combo, known as a ginger beer plant, which caused fermentation. Some of the early ginger beers could have had an alcohol content of up to 11%. Modern ginger beer, like the Barritt’s we sipped at the Boston Shaker, are not fermented, but rather carbonated (no boozy ginger beer here). Barritt’s was first produced in the 1870s by William John Barritt, a man looking to make a living to support his large family. Barritt took advantage of a small bottling machine in a dry goods store in Hamilton, Bermuda, and a delicious ginger beer was born.
The Bohemian Cooler
(created by Boston bartender Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli of Island Creek Oyster Bar)
1 ½ oz St. Germain
1 oz rye whiskey
¾ oz lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake over ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with 2 oz ginger beer. Garnish with lemon wheel.
This is a great summer drink—the richness of the rye, the flowery-sweet St. Germain, and the tart lemon juice are brightened and heightened by the spicy ginger beer. I just love this drink.
(created by Ezra Pattek of Bar Lab, Miami)
2 oz silver tequila
2 thin slices of jalapenos
½ lime, quarted
1 bar spoon agave nectar
Muddle jalapenos, limes and agave. Add tequila and shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with 2 oz ginger beer. Garnish with lime and jalapeno wheels.
Now this cocktail is not for the faint of heart (or taste buds)—this is quite spicy with both the jalapenos and ginger beer. This isn’t the kind of drink I would usually chose if I saw it on a menu, so I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed this.
My advice for this weekend (and my own personal plan)—grab a six pack of ginger beer and get shaking and mixing. If you aren’t up for the recipes above, try something simple like a Dark and Stormy, a simple combo of a dark rum, ginger beer and lime juice. Cheers!
You may talk of brisk Claret, sing Praises of Sherry,
Speak well of old Hock, Mum, Cider and Perry;
But you must drink Punch if you mean to be Merry.*
I grew up in a punch drinking family. Granted the stuff my family ladles out each Christmas is of the non-alcoholic variety—rainbow sherbert, gingerale, maybe some fruit and lots of ice. I had a glass yesterday, and even though many a boozy version have passed over these lips, this tame variety still says “party” to me. It is bubbly, colorful, and pretty tasty. And something about sharing a drink from a communal bowl seems especially appropriate for a holiday celebration, doesn’t it?
What is it about a giant bowl of fruited and sugared booze? For me, there is something nostalgic, comfortable and epic about it. Maybe it’s because as long as I can remember a punch bowl meant our special Christmas libation? Or because people have been enjoying this kind of communal drink since the 17th century? Or maybe it’s the seemingly endless variations of recipes—ranging from the very simple 2-3 ingredient variety to recipes with 10-15 ingredients?
Punch changed the way we drink. Its origins probably lie with 17th century sailors who had run out of beer or wine and were left with only brandy or some other spirit that was too much to drink on its own. To their booze they added some sugar, maybe a little water and some citrus (which had the added bonus of protecting against scurvy) and punch was born. The popularity of these mixtures catapulted distilled spirits out of the realm of medicine and into the public drinking consciousness, eventually opening the door for those other alcoholic mixtures we call cocktails. So, yes, punch changed the way we drink.
If you want to learn more about the history of punch read David Wondrich’s new book Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. Since the book’s launch party at Drink about a month ago, I have joined the ranks of punch loving Bostonians. Check out this book for a fascinating and entertaining history of punch; and my friends at Dudekicker share a great interview with Wondrich.
So with the punch craze is in full start-up mode, I, of course, made a punch for my own holiday party last weekend (which was a pretty fun party, if I do say so myself). I know I am about the 1,00,000th person to give this sage party hosting advice, but one of the best things about serving punch is that you are then free to actually enjoy your party, instead of spending the evening mixing something for each guest. The most you have to do is lift the ladle or replenish ingredients.
I chose a recipe for Harvest Punch shared by The Boston Shaker. It was a huge hit! With easy, yet interesting, flavors like rye, St. Germain, apple cider and ginger beer it pleased the variety of palates at the party, cocktail enthusiast and neophyte alike.
2 cups Rye Whiskey (I prefer Old Overholt; delicious and inexpensive)
1 ½ cups St. Germain
2 cups apple cider
½ cup lemon juice
2 12 oz. cans of ginger beer (I like Barretts)
Jerry Thomas bitters, to taste (the recipe calls for Angostura, but I thought the autumnal flavors of the JT bitters worked well here)
Mix in a large punch bowl over an ice ring or large block of ice (I made one using a tupperware container). Garnish with diced apples.
The ingredients may change, but the essence of punch remains—making merry with delicious spirits in the company of friends and loved ones. Now that’s something to be grateful for this Christmas season. Cheers!
*18th century song Wondrich quotes in Punch
Even though I was in NYC for less than 10 hours, I had to carve out a little time for a cocktail. So after exploring kitchen design and a Jackson Pollock painting that took my breath away at MOMA, I decided to end my day at Forty Four. The recently reincarnated lobby bar at the Royalton Hotel boasts a great menu that is the brain child of the Cocktail Collective—Eric Alperin (Varnish, LA), Richard Boccato (Dutch Kills, NYC), Simon Ford (global cocktail ambassador for Pernod Ricard USA), Misty Kalkofen (Drink, Boston) , John Lermayer (Florida Room, Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston), and Willy Shine (Contemporary Cocktails). On their own, each of these people are rockstars; put them all together and whoa!
The bar space is something else. From the exterior you might think the Royalton is a bank—a heavy granite façade with large columns flanking the entry way. As you walk through the large black doors, a second set of doors slowly glide open revealing the dimly lit length of the lobby, complete with dark furniture, wooden screened walls and two large fireplaces that look like walls of flames (a bit unnecessary on our visit since the temp was in the 60s). There is something ceremonial about the whole thing—I imagined this is what entering an ancient Egyptian temple might have been like.
The cocktail menu is fabulous—classics, new creations, and even bowls of punch (we would have a needed a few more people in our posse to justify the $250 bowl of punch). There were so many interesting options, I wished I had time for more than one drink, but alas a bus full of museum volunteers awaited my arrival. Since I have yet to meet a Last Word variation that I didn’t like, I chose The Other Word made with single village mezcal, lime juice, agave nectar, Yellow Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur. Once my palette got used to the smoky mezcal, the other flavors–herbaliness, nuttiness, tart, and earthly– emerge. Really delicious. Brian’s Reconciliation was also quite memorable. An homage to the Old Fashioned, this drink features rye, Amaro Lucano, orgeat and a Sambucca rinse and its like nothing I’ve ever drank before. Warm and rich, and slightly sweet.
The seating –modern, comfortable couches, benches, and chairs– create many seating nooks. Perfect, as Jeff commented, as a place to rest after a long day in the city or for a rapper’s entourage to hang out late night. Since we had been exploring the city since 10 am and at various times have referred to our little posse as Swizzle and the Bone Crushers or Yani Kohani and the Mulyatz (Don’t ask. I don’t even think I can explain.), we fit right in. Cheers!
It is day two of being sick and I am pretty bored with this scenario already. My energy level isn’t allowing me to do much other than sleep a lot, watch bad Lifetime movies and veg on the couch. To counter my own boredom, I mustered up the strength to post a short piece to tell you about a new good friend of mine—the hot toddy. This is an old drink whose history is a bit foggy. No one knows for sure who originally created this drink or who named it. There is perhaps some connection between what we enjoy as a hot toddy today and a warm Indian beverage made of fermented palm tree sap. The British trade with Indian in the 18th century is probably how the beverage made its way to the western world. Or the name has its origins in a 1721 poem that refers to water used for tea from Todian Spring, the water supply for Edinburgh. Since hot water is one of the most important ingredients in a hot toddy, maybe that’s where the warm drink got its name. Whatever its European origins are, Americans have been enjoying toddies since the colonial era with spirits of all kinds.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to quickly get a recipe from bartender Josey Packard. Here’s what she suggested:
Microwave 3 oz water, juice of half a lemon, teaspoon of honey until it’s very hot.
Then add 2 oz of whiskey—I used Old Overholt rye.
Oh, what a wonderfully warm way to soothe an aching body. The lemon, honey and rye are just perfect together. And its all warmed up so it soothes my scratchy throat. Hot booze when you’re sick is so good. Cheers!
[Sorry, no picture with this post, I don't have enough energy.]
In ancient Norse mythology the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, were reflections off the spectacular armor of the Valkyries, the warrior women who escorted the dead across the northern skies to the legendary Valhalla. For the Romans, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn. Each day to rejuvenate herself she flew across the northern sky to announce the coming of the sun. And Finnish folklore tells of mythical foxes that spark fires in the sky with their tales. You may be wondering what this mythology has to do with cocktails…
Comfortably seated at Craigie’s crowded bar (this is one popular place!), Holly and I enjoyed a Northern Lights while we waited for Maura to join us. This drink is SO good! With scotch, St. Germain, lemon and tiki bitters this cocktail has a wonderful range of flavors, like the beautiful spectrum of colors of the meteorological phenomenon of the same name. The smoky, sweet, and tart flavors are enhanced with house-made tiki bitters which feature ginger, orange essence and baking spices. One of the things that Holly and I liked best about this drink was the subtly of the St. Germain. Now, I totally love the elderflower liqueur, but it often takes over a drink. Here, however, the scotch holds it at bay and the St. Germain just adds a delicate bright sweetness. A drink that stands up to the legends of ancient mythology– complex, magical, and pleasing.
Maura soon joined us and we moved onto the Cocktail Whim. This was my 3rd adventure in this cocktail tasting and I love the concept more and more each time. Once again, Carrie served up four great drinks– three of which featured Benedictine, one of my favorite liqueurs. We started with a Belle du Jour—brandy, Benedictine, house-made grenadine topped with Champagne.
Our second drink was a classic daiquiri– rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Deliciously simple. Simply delicious. Next, we sipped on a Vieux Carre—rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychaud’s. The rich, complexity of this drink paired nicely with our delicious burgers. Our final drink, a Colleen Bawn—a flip made with brandy, Benedictine and yellow Chartreuse (and an egg, of course)– was a nice herbally ending to our tasting. Then as an extra treat, Carrie let us sample a drink she’s working on for next Sunday’s event at Green Street. All I’ll say is that it’s heavy on the smoky mezcal and leave the rest for next Sunday.
I love when a weekend from which you expect very little ends up being a great one. Not only did I enjoy great drinks at Drink and Deep Ellum with good friends, but I also learned a little bit about sweet vermouth and Swedish Punsch. While I am sure most people have at heard of, if not enjoyed, sweet vermouth, but many may be asking “What is Swedish Punsch?” I asked the same question during my first visit to Deep Ellum a couple months ago. Max answered the question for me, and now I will answer it for you.
But first, let’s talk about sweet vermouth. Friday night after work, Julie, Bridget and I went to Drink. After enjoying a a delicious mulled spiced wine, I asked Josey for a Little Guiseppe. This drink features Cynar, an artichoke based liqueur (it may sound strange, but trust me, its good stuff—buttery and complex) and sweet vermouth. As I enjoyed this rich drink with a flavor like nothing you can quite imagine, I asked Josey which vermouth she used. Before I knew what was happening there were 4 small glasses lined up in front of me and Josey was gathering bottles. And the lesson began.
Next came the Cinzano (which is what she uses in the Little Guiseppe), an Italian vermouth whose recipe dates back to the late 18th century recipe developed by two brothers in Turino. It is herbally and slightly sweet.
Then we tried Punt e Mes. Like just about all vermouth it is made with white grapes, so you taste a sweet cola-like flavor. But the wormwood here adds more bitterness at the end than the others.
The 4th and final vermouth, we tried was Carpano Antica. This was by far the best—after one sip, you just wanted more. Phil and I compared the flavor to a port. We also learned (and maybe everyone else knows this, but I didn’t, so I’ll share) to store vermouth in the refrigerator. It’s made from grapes like wine, with a spirit added plus herbs and barks for flavor, so it doesn’t have a shelf-life like pure spirits and keeps best in the fridge. This little impromptu lesson on sweet vermouth from Josey is one of the many reasons that I love Drink. You go in for a couple cocktails with friends and leave having expanded your palette and mind.
Here is the recipe that sparked the whole lesson:
The Little Guiseppe
2 oz Cynar
2 oz sweet vermouth (Cinzano)
Barspoon (or quick squeeze) lemon juice
6 dashes orange bitters
Stir. Serve in double old-fashioned glass with big chunk of ice. Add pinch of coarse salt.
And now onto Swedish Punsch…
So, Deep Ellum is quickly becoming one of my favorite places—killer cocktails, great beer selection, amazing food, and fun, knowledgeable staff. One each visit I have been treated very well by Max Toste, one of the owners, and bartender Casey Keenan. This Saturday night with Holly, Julie and Jim was no exception. Deep Ellum may be the only place in Boston where you can get this amazingly delicious stuff called Swedish Punsch. [They also have a great selection of Manhattans--10 ways. I think those deserve their own post, so more on that later.] Originally developed in Sweden in the mid-18th century, Max has revived this almost forgotten concoction (its so good, his recipe was recently featured in Imbibe magazine). The main ingredient is Batavia-Arrack, an Indonesian spirit made of sugarcane fermented with red rice. It’s a South East Asian version of rum. To that, simple syrup, lemon juice, nutmeg and cardamom are added. This is one of the most delicious things I have ever had the pleasure to drink. You taste the rich, smooth sweetness of the Batavia Arrack followed by the wonderfully distinct spiciness of nutmeg and cardamom.
I enjoyed the Swedish Punsch three ways. First, I had a Hesitation which is equal parts rye whiskey and punsch; then I had a Waldorf, equal parts gin and punsch. For my final punsch cocktail, I had a Contraband—gin, Batavia Arrack, Swedish Punsch, Agwa Coca leaf liqueur, and absinthe. While all of these were tasty, the Waldorf was my favorite because the flavor of the Swedish Punsch really shines here because it doesn’t really have to compete with any other flavors. The gin adds a nice, subtle background but allows the punsch to shine—which it totally deserves!
So, here’s to a weekend of good drinks with a little learning slipped in. Cheers!
Rye whiskey is not a spirit that I have much experience with, especially not mixing myself. But it has crossed my path a number of times over the last week , so I thought I should take a hint and try out a couple whiskey recipes. This also gave me an excuse to use some of the new cocktail “toys” (new juicers and strainers) that I got for Christmas. The two drinks I made both came from the New York Times (I’ve included the article links below).
For the last few months, I have been slowly making my way through The History of the World in Six Glasses (Tom Standage, 2005) and I just finished the section on whiskey. Here are the highlights of what I learned. As our nation expanded westward in the late 18th century, Scottish and Irish settlers started making spirits from cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn or barley. Whiskey quickly overtook rum which had dominated as the most popular booze in the colonial period. Whiskey became such an important part of American life that it even caused a military skirmish in 1794. Problems started when Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, even for private consumption, to raise money to pay off the debt from the American Revolution. A small band of farmers in Pennsylvania fought against the whiskey tax collectors sparking the Whiskey Rebellion. President George Washington brought together federal troops to handle the situation, but not before deaths on both sides. The rebels were weakened and eventually the excise was repealed. Interesting this moment in American history also contributed to the development of another spirit—as rebels moved farther west into Kentucky, in particular Bourbon County, where they took advantage of corn, an indigenous group, making a drink we now call bourbon.
Now that we’ve had our history lesson, onto the drinks…
My first cocktail, the Red Hook, was inspired by an article in today’s New York Times (Thanks for the article, Jeff!). The drink features rye whiskey (2 oz), Punt de Mes, or sweet vermouth (½ oz) and maraschino liqueur (½ oz). It’s pretty heavy on the whiskey, so if I make this again, I might amp up the maraschino a bit to try and mellow out the whiskey. I guess I need a little something to cut my whiskey.
For my second drink, I made a Monte Cassino, another drink recipe I found in the NY Times in an article about the 500th anniversary of Benedictine. This cocktail is spectacular! Developed by Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in NYC, it follows the formula of The Last Word (and I have yet to meet a variation of this drink that I did not like)—equal parts of 4 ingredients that combine bitter, herbal, sweet and sour. The Monte Cassino is ¾ ounce each of rye (the recipe called for Rittenhouse 100-proof, but I used Old Overholt), yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice. The Chartreuse and Benedictine both add a fabulous herbaliness and spiciness (between these two liqueurs there are almost 160 herbs and spices in this cocktail!), while the rye brings in a slight bitterness and the tart lemon rounds the whole thing out. I love the complexity of the disparate flavors, and the way they come surprising come together in perfect harmony. Spectacular!