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My friend Tim recently introduced me to The Thin Man, the 1934 detective film with the lovable Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is a retired detective, who loves his cocktails and reluctantly gets dragged back into solving crimes. His wife Nora has impeccable style and undeniable charm and can hold her own. [Nora to Nick: How many drinks have you had?; Nick: This will make six Martinis.; Nora to the waiter: All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.]
The best parts of the movie are the clothes (they had amazing style in the 1930s!), the flirty banter of Nick and Nora, and their love of cocktails. When we first meet Nick he is shaking a drink explaining the following to a staff of bartenders, “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”
So, for my inaugural viewing of the film, it was only appropriate to make one of the cocktails that Nick mentions. I chose the Bronx, featuring gin, both sweet and dry vermouths with orange juice added. Like most pre-prohibition cocktails, there are a few stories about this drinks origins. Dale DeGroff credits Johnny Solon with creating the drink while tending bar at the Waldorf-Astoria. For our drinks, I chose to bust open my newly purchased bottle of Carpano Antica (gosh that stuff is awesome!) and I think it added a nice richness to our Bronx.
The Bronx Cocktail
1 ½ oz gin
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz dry vermouth
1 oz orange juice
Shake well (to a two-step time, as Nick suggests). Strain and garnish with orange peel.
To Nick and Nora. Cheers!
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!