On the Nature of Slakethirst

April 30th, 2006

I’d like to direct your attention, Gentle Reader, to the RSS Feed for the Cocktails category. If you are subscribed to the full Slakethirst RSS feed, and are really only interested in the occasional drinks-related post, then you’ll probably want to switch-over.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Bunny Hug

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 Pie Slinger

April 9th, 2006

Here’s a random Sunday afternoon concoction. Not so different from an Applejack Sling, it turns out, but richer and more tannic. Almost tea-like.

2 oz. Laird’s applejack
1 oz. Meyer lemon juice
3/4 oz. Tuaca
3/4 oz. pimento dram
2 dashes Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitters

Shake well with cracked ice, strain into highball glass of crushed ice, top with a few squirts of seltzer

I’ve had some homemade pimento dram on hand for several months now, but haven’t really put it to much complicated use. It’s delicious just splashed into a rocks glass filled with ice and the brown spirit of your choice, which is how I’ve been been working my way through it to date. Do yourself a favor and make some, if you haven’t already… you can’t buy the stuff in the States these days, and it’s a unique addition anytime you’re in the mood for some tropical spice. There’s a boatload of sugar in it as well, which allows pimento dram to serve as a grenadine or simple syrup would, while delivering its allspice punch.

At any rate, a sunny(ish) April afternoon begged for a long(ish) drink of some sort. I was thinking of a Brandy Presbyterian — one of Dad’s favorites — when the unlabeled bottle of pimento dram caught my eye and begged to be included. As someone who’s baked more than his share of apple pies, this was a drink I couldn’t help but concoct. There are countless recipes said to approximate the flavor of hot apple pie — this one’s more like a nice slab of cold apple pie straight from the icebox: fruity, sour, tannic and spicy. It’s a very quaffable cooler.

The Jack Rose

January 17th, 2006

In a discussion of Laird’s Applejack, Catherine asks if there’s a definitive recipe for the Jack Rose. I can do no better than to quote David Embury, writing in 1948:

… if you will examine a dozen books of cocktail recipes, you will find formulas varying all the way from applejack and lemon juice half and half with a few dashes of grenadine to applejack and grenadine half and half with a few drops of lemon juice.

I haven’t found quite the diversity of opinion that Embury cites — doubtless his reference library was broader than mine — but there’s nothing approaching unanimity. Embury himself favors a strong:sour:sweet ratio of 8:2:1, his standard for Sours, while Ted Haigh’s recipe in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails calls for 1.5 oz applejack, 1 oz lemon juice, and “2 or more dashes” of grenadine, yielding a far more sour ratio of something like 12:8:1. The CocktailDB recipe, on the other hand, proposes a 3:1:1 ratio. David Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks opts for 4:2:1, Trader Vic would have the Jack Rose at a startling 2:2:1, and Regan’s Joy of Mixology instructs that we mix at 10:3:x, copping out with “grenadine to taste.”

Wondrich describes his version as “…smooth and sweetish and deeply deceptive. Sipping it, you can’t tell it contains liquor of any kind, let alone applejack.” Having made one à la Wondrich, I can confirm that assessment. Unfortunately, it’s not the drink I’m looking for, and neither is Haigh’s overly-tart version. De gustibus non disputandum est, but I cast my vote for Embury’s, in which the applejack is foremost. Thus, the Slakethirstian Jack Rose is comprised of:

2 oz. applejack
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. grenadine

Shaken and strained.

The Sunset Gun

January 7th, 2006

The notion of single-serving micro-infusions is pleasing, though the requisite hour’s wait makes the Sunset Gun no spur-of-the-moment tipple. Its name implies a certain ritualized consumption, wherein the daily infusing of a few drams of whiskey coincides with changing from tennis whites to dinner dress … the sort of comfortably civilized prelude to evening that Noël Coward and Graham Payn might have indulged in on the terrace of Firefly, gazing down at Blue Harbor as the sun sank below the horizon.

I came upon this one in H. Paul Jeffers’ 1997 High Spirits. He doesn’t lay claim to its origination, but a cursory leafing through the bookshelf finds no precedent. Google Book Search identifies a single subsequent appearance in the unfortunately-named Complete Idiot’s Guide to Mixing Drinks, however, and it’s quite similar to the CocktailDB’s Duppy Cocktail, in which the cloves are merely a garnish.

2 oz. whiskey
1/2 oz. curaçao
3 cloves
2 dashes Regans’ Orange Bitters #6

Steep cloves in the whiskey for 1 hour and remove. Stir whiskey and curaçao with cracked ice and strain. Return cloves to glass and top with bitters.

Jeffers is agnostic regarding the whiskey to employ — it needn’t even be whiskey with an “e” as far as he’s concerned, calling for “blended, rye or bourbon.” I’ve tried it with rye, but find this to be one of those drinks that does very well with Scotch. The blended whisky of choice chez Slakethirst is Teacher’s, which contributes lush, smoky notes to our Sunset Guns. Should foresight fail and sunset’s advent find you with uninfused whiskey, a dash of Fee’s Aromatic Bitters might serve in lieu of the hour-long marination of cloves, though not nearly as subtly, and at the cost of introducing extra bittering agents.