Archive for the ‘to avoid’ Category

The Bunny Hug

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Mixology Monday: PastisThere was an … incident… in my early drinking years involving Egyptian beer and a bottle of arak (this arak, which is akin to ouzo, not Batavia arak, which is a different liquor entirely). It was formative. I have since avoided anise, licorice, and fennel scrupulously, eschewing even the occasional Red Vine in a darkened theater. An otherwise proud and broadminded omnivore, anise and related flavors have been my Achilles heel. Until relatively recently.

It was a Sazerac, mixed a year ago this week, which whispered suggestively that a wash of Herbsaint was nothing to be feared. Somewhat later, a Monkey Gland intimated that one might actually mix with Pernod — albeit a mere 1/2 teaspoon — to very salutary ends. And indeed, in Tuxedos, Turfs, and Trilby No. Twos undocumented, I have splashed the requisite dash with no dire consequences. I’ve actually found my palate probing some of the latter, looking for the lick of licorice that the pastis should provide, and not finding it!

And so to the inaugural Mixology Monday. Paul was generously broad in his requirements, but where’s the joy in submitting a drink like the Tuxedo, in which the dash of pastis vanishes under the weight of maraschino and Regans’ bitters? No, in this I would be guided by the precepts of Chairman Kaga, who demands of his iron chefs that they capture the very essence of the mystery ingredient. In this, I would challenge the advice of the inestimable Harry Craddock. In this, I would embrace pastis, in a ratio not heretofore attempted. I would mix The Bunny Hug:

1/2 oz. Pastis
1/2 oz. Whiskey
1/2 oz. London Dry Gin
Stirred and strained into a cocktail glass

Sheet Music for The Bunny HugCute name, no? Conjures up certain Heffnerian visions which one wouldn’t normally associate with absinthe. As it happens, the drink was likely named for a slow-grind ragtime dance, both hugely popular and hugely scandalous in the 1910s. Cedar Rapids has only recently legalized the Bunny Hug, after banning it in 1913. In Oregon, that same year, a man was stabbed 11 times for attempting to prevent the Bunny Hug from being danced in his establisment.

I’d thought I was prepared, but the Bunny Hug has proven me wrong. Not to say I didn’t have fair warning: The Savoy Cocktail Book explicitly states that “This cocktail should immediately be poured down the sink before it is too late.” Of course, Craddock’s pronouncement hasn’t stopped the Bunny Hug from making appearances in successive cocktail guides down to this day, and neither will mine, but we may dislike it for different reasons.

What does a drink named for a forbidden flapper’s dance taste like? I’m going to have to fall back on Wilde, and say that for those who like that sort of thing, it’s probably the sort of thing that they’d like. That thing being pastis.

Looking at the recipe, I assumed that H.C. merely disliked the flavor of commingled gin, whiskey and pastis, but I was curious as to what that would taste of. Drinking the Bunny Hug proved to be a bafflingly inconclusive experience — it was just like sipping a glass of slightly watered-down Pernod. That ounce of bourbon and gin may as well have been vodka, in that they were completely subsumed by the Green Fairy’s thujoneless juggernaut of a substitute.

I’ve a suspicion that the less pastis-averse may discern something other than Pernod in their Bunny Hugs — possibly something quite nasty if Craddock was any judge — but I’m at a loss to do so. I can stomach pastis in volume these days, if not particularly enjoy it, but it overwhelms my taste buds. Given that I seem to be confined to using it in drips and dashes, I’ll be particularly interested to read others’ contributions on today’s theme. I could stand to find a few more ways to use less pastis more often.

Update: Mixology Monday #1 is a done-deal. 7 other posts on pastis await your attention

The Yard of Flannel

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

It’s a damp and drizzly evening in Portland, and Ms. Thirsty is feeling a cold coming on. Of course, the ever-inventive science of mixology has produced countless potations for just such a circumstance, so it’s an excellent opportunity to investigate a traditional — if little-practiced — cure. Thus we embark upon our own version of the Cocktail Chronicles’ Gettin’ Jerry With It, taking a page (in this case, page 61) from Jerry Thomas’ seminal 1862 work, How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion. We have halved the Professor’s recipe, since a quart of this unknown commodity seemed a bit much, but otherwise faithfully reproduce his Egg Flip, aka (and more poetically) the Yard of Flannel.

1 pint ale
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
pinch nutmeg

Whisk eggs, sugar and nutmeg in a bowl, then bring ale to a boil. Once ale is boiling, pour slowly into egg mixture, whisking to prevent curdling. Transfer to a pitcher, then pour back and forth into another pitcher, from a great height, until exceedingly frothy.

It may be that in the New York of 1862, ale was ale was ale, and when Jerry Thomas said to use ale, you knew exactly what he meant. Not being much of a beer historian, I’m willing to entertain the notion. In the Pacific Northwest of 2005, however, ales range from sweet to sour, sharp to bitter, dark to light, herbal to malty, strong to mild, and countless other diametrically-opposed poles of the palate. There’s no such thing as generic ale, and unfortunately, ale is far-and-away the most significant component of this recipe. Your choice of ale will very much determine the character of your Yard of Flannel. Given the other ingredients in the drink, Pyramid Brewing’s seasonal Snow Cap Ale, described as “complex and spicy, yet deliciously smooth” seemed likely to fit the bill. Lagunitas’ Censored might have been a good candidate, too.

If a single rule governs the boiling of a pint of beer, it is this: watch it closely! Do not turn away to whisk-up your eggy ingredients. Get the egg, sugar and nutmeg business dealt with first, then, and only then, attend to the matter of the beer. A boiling pot of ale will likely develop a mighty head, and, unattended, will cascade forth from its saucepan, douse the flame and make a nasty puddle on your stovetop. This advice is informed by recent experience.

When pouring the hot ale into the bowl of whisked eggs and sugar, we are directed to proceed in small measures, stirring constantly lest curdling take place. Pouring and whisking as bidden, there was, indeed, no curdling … not proof that such care is necessary, but it certainly didn’t hurt. This done, decant from the bowl into one of two pitchers/mugs/steins/big-things-with-handles, that the fun may commence.

Thomas was famed for the spectacular production value of the Blue Blazer: flaming whiskey poured back-and-forth, at arms’ length, between two pitchers. The final step in the manufacture of a Yard of Flannel is a fluffier, gentler version of the same extreme showmanship. Instead of ropes of fire, however, you’re pouring cocktailian contrails, so if something goes wrong you’ll just need a mop and a shower, not a fire extinguisher and a skin graft.

Since the object of the exercise is to maximize frothiness, it’s worth considering the size of your vessels before beginning the pouring process. A fair head is going to develop from this flying font of beer, so reach for your largest steins. If you’ve no two vessels that can accommodate the equivalent of, say, 26 fluid ounces, set some of it aside. The exact manner of pouring is left to the reader, but assuming that your aim is true and you manage to keep the drink off the floor, you’ll soon be casting your very own yard of flannel: a three foot skein of tan, foamy liquid, falling from mug to mug. Keep in mind that while it’s coursing through the air, your flannel is cooling off, so pour back and forth only as much as is necessary to ensure the proper body without rendering it lukewarm.

A mug of flannelThe verdict? Well, it’s no Cock Ale, but astute readers will have noticed that this post has earned a simultaneous filing under both the “to avoid” and “to enjoy” sub-categories. When presented with Jerry Thomas’ cure for the common cold, Ms. Thirsty’s candid assessment was that “it certainly tastes like it has medicinal properties.” Granted, Ms. Thirsty doesn’t care much for dark ales, and had just been exploring the restorative powers inherent to 100° Southern Comfort, so perhaps hers was not the most objective palate in the house. Still, despite the brown sugar, this is a bitter brew, and unless one has made a habit of drinking hot beer, it’s not something one can readily wrap one’s head around. I’m not sure that I ever managed to quite accustom myself to it, but there is virtue in perseverance, and I began to find some merit in the Yard of Flannel about halfway through the drinking of it. The texture is silken, a bit like a well-steamed latte, and previously unnoticed flavors assert themselves. With Snow Cap, I found that a strong hazelnut nose arose from the Flannel. I’m not sure that I’d make one with Snow Cap again, but I’m a bit curious as to how other ales would bear up. Of course, I’m also a bit curious as to when exactly one would want to drink one of these concoctions. Personally, whether coming down with something or not, when it’s cold outside and I want to be warm on the inside, I instinctively turn to a hot toddy, like the Falkland Island Warmer — it just resonates with me. Probably an Ayurvedic thing, with Flips ill-suited to my doshas.

Incidentally, many recipes for the Yard of Flannel call for the addition of several ounces of rum, and warn against allowing the ale to come to a boil. Both of these modifications to Thomas’ strike me as damned good advice, and should I find myself pouring a Yard in the future, I’ll likely concern myself less with the letter and more with the spirit of the Professor’s directions.

I do think that everyone should try a Yard of Flannel (or its near-relative, the Ale Flip) at least once, if only to discover for oneself the joy of juggling streams of hot beer and raw eggs. Leave a comment if you do, making a note of the ale you employed. If there’s a perfect ale for flipping, I’d love to hear about it.

Between the Sheets

Monday, August 15th, 2005

Having found unexpected pleasure in the Monkey Gland, it seems wise to reserve judgment about other winkingly-named vintage drinks, in the hopes that some rise above mere novelty. And how better to honor the stimulating promise of the Monkey Gland than to move directly to third base with another salacious standard of the 30’s, the Between the Sheets?

1 1/2 oz. Cognac
1 1/2 oz. white or gold rum
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. lemon juice

Shake, strain, and garnish with a twist.

I can’t put a date to the drink, but Charles Baker’s 1939 Gentleman’s Companion — after a circuitous tale involving riots, stonings, tommy guns and girls being crushed to death by falling masonry — attributes the Between the Sheets’ origins to a certain Mr. Weber, keeping bar at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. It is, Baker declares, “totally sound, and already quite famous throughout the Near East.” His recipe, incidentally, calls for equal parts of everything.

The recipe above is from Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks, which in turn derives it from David Embury’s in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Embury suggests using lime as an alternative to the lemon, and calls for a gold rum. I’ve mixed the Between the Sheets with lemon and lime, Bacardi and Mount Gay Eclipse, but no variation manages to please. All are too tart by half, with nothing to really back up the citrus.

Embury may be a looming legend of mixology, but I confess that his recommended expression of the Between the Sheets was the one I committed to the sink. In this, I am in accord with Patrick Gavin Duffy, whom Wondrich notes flagged the BTS as being one he “personally [did] not recommend.” I deem it a cocktail to avoid.

Note: Other variations may yet prove palatable. Old Mr. Boston’s recipe calls for a scant 1/4 lemon’s juice, which addresses my concern about the tartness. Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (1949), on the other hand, presents a “Between-Sheets” comprised of 1/3 cognac, 1/3 crème de cacao, 1/3 cream, a dash of bitters, a teaspoon of sugar and a bit of lemon peel — just cognac and the garnish in common.

The Harlem Cocktail

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz pineapple juice
1/4 oz maraschino

Tried this one several days back without documenting — from the category it should be evident: I give it a Bronx cheer. Cited by an eGullet poster as having appeared in the 1935 edition of Mr Boston, my later edition of same provides a wholly different recipe. Regardless, the search for delicious drinks with pineapple continues to bear little fruit. This one proved unpleasant in an unremarkable way — neither good enough nor strong enough to merit sipping, the Harlem invited me to toss it back (or out) and move on. Another waste of good booze.

The Millionaire Cocktail (#2)

Monday, March 28th, 2005

1 oz. Plymouth gin
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 tsp. grenadine
1 tsp. pineapple juice
1 egg white

Shake with cracked ice and strain into double cocktail glass.

Not a winner. Rosy red and buoyed a bit by the egg white, it fails overall. It’s bland, sweet and uninspiring. Don’t waste your Plymouth on this one.

Recipe from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, © 1947. p. 155