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Drinks Where Substitutes Are Better Than "Originals"


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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 06:39 PM

I just made a Test Pilot:

1 1/2 oz dark rum
3/4 oz light rum
1/2 oz lime
1/2 oz falernum
1/2 oz Cointreau
dash Herbsaint*
dash Angostura

Note the asterisk: I subbed in the outstanding Leopold Bros absinthe for the Herbsaint. It's tasty and all, but... It's not a Test Pilot. These tiki drinks need that Angostura/Herbsaint combo.

That is to say, the absinthe substitute isn't ersatz; it's authentic. Ditto the Pernod in a French Pearl: sub in absinthe and you have a completely different drink.

That got me wondering what other drinks are lessened by using "the real thing." Yes, I realize that Herbsaint was, for the tiki gods, the only game in town and are thus as real as it gets. But you get my point: in what drinks do absinthe substitutes, faux triple sec, and other not-quites make the libation?
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#2 brinza

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:22 PM

A lot times when making a Sazerac, I'll go with Herbsaint rather than actual absinthe. In fact, last week, in honor of Mardis Gras, I used my last shot of Thomas Handy Rye in a Sazerac and I used Herbsaint, mainly to keep it all New Orleans-y. It was one of the best Sazeracs I've ever made.

I happen to belong to the camp that says the Scofflaw should be made with Canadian whisky. The drink was invented during Prohibition and called for Canadian whisky. Sure, they probably would have preferred to make it with American rye, and were probably thinking (even if wrongly) of Canadian whisky as a rye stand-in, so they used what they had. To make a drink, whose name actually meant someone who consumed alcohol in defiance of Prohibition, using a spirit that was unavailable at the time seems illogical to me. But in this case, I'm not sure which would be designated the "real thing" and which is the substitute.
Mike

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#3 KatieLoeb

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 03:28 PM

Sort of a lateral idea, but the Ransom Old Tom gin subs really well into a Sazerac or a Brooklyn. Not at all the same drink, but truly delicious nonetheless.

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#4 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 06:00 PM

Thanks, brinza & Katie. I'll give both of those Sazeracs a go.
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#5 lesliec

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 06:56 PM

A recent find has been to substitute 50% vodka/50% limoncello when a recipe calls for citrus vodka. We tried this first on a White Orchid, one of the recipes that came with some Domain de Canton ginger liqueur.

I don't have the proportions to hand, but I think they're something like two parts citrus vodka/one part Domain de Canton/one part cranberry juice. I confess we've never actually had citrus vodka, but the limoncello version is wonderfully rich. Sit down before consuming!

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#6 haresfur

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 04:38 PM

Does a Bacardi cocktail made with any rum other than Bacardi count? :cool:

ETA: But I like Bacardi's bat label and their support for Bat Conservation International

Edited by haresfur, 18 March 2011 - 04:39 PM.

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#7 TAPrice

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 05:21 PM

That got me wondering what other drinks are lessened by using "the real thing." Yes, I realize that Herbsaint was, for the tiki gods, the only game in town and are thus as real as it gets. But you get my point: in what drinks do absinthe substitutes, faux triple sec, and other not-quites make the libation?


Which "Herbsaint" do you mean? The 90 proof version made with extracts that until recently was the only version available? That formula wasn't introduced until the 1970s.

The tiki gods were using something closer to the 100 proof Herbsaint Original that was introduced by the Sazerac Company recently.
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#8 Chris Amirault

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 08:13 AM

Good point: I have a very old bottle (still has the tax stamp on it) of the 90 proof formula. Who knows what relationship that has to the 100 proof stuff (the new version of which doesn't do it for me).
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#9 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 12:01 PM

The oldest labels (scans) for Herbsaint I have seen boast 120 proof, and when I discovered that the "original" being released was only going to be 100 proof, I became skeptical to a degree that has since been borne out by tasting the stuff. I hate to say this but the "original" Herbsaint is a strong contender for dullest pastis on the market, particularly given the price. I presume the lower proof was done so as to make it more accessable to those intimidated by the high proof of real absinthe, but it failed in a big way to live up to the reputation of the old stuff, of which one Absinthe afficionado said in the old pre-Lucid days, that if he could be guaranteed a steady supply of 1930's Herbsaint, he wouldn't particularly care if real absinthe ever became legal again or not.

That said I use 90 proof Herbsaint in tiki drinks. And in cooking--mmm.
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#10 EvergreenDan

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 12:08 PM

Andy -- What cooking do you do with pastis? Mussels come to mind. Candy / chocolate? Interesting.
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#11 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 12:35 PM

Andy -- What cooking do you do with pastis? Mussels come to mind. Candy / chocolate? Interesting.


Apart from the obvious soups and broths I also like to mix a tbs or so with a few oz of wine when deglazing a pan for fish sauces. Or pork sauces. Flambeeing finely diced sweet potatoes towards the end of a sautee is lovely, as is including a splash in the braising liquid for some beef cheeks or other long-cooking cut. Anything where fennel flavor is desired. Used a half cup last week in the brine for some lamb shoulders that were then rubbed with North African spices and slow-smoked.

Problem is the bottle I have now was bought when Herbsaint was $13/btl, and it is now about $20. Still an ok value I guess but the cynic in me can't help but feel that this was done to make the "original" seem like an acceptable step up.
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#12 slkinsey

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 01:32 PM

Does a Bacardi cocktail made with any rum other than Bacardi count? :cool:

Yes! If for no other reason than the fact that, back when the Bacardi Cocktail was in vogue, Bacardi white was the very best rum in its style. I recently had the opportunity to sample some Bacardi white from the early 1950s, both straight and in cocktails, and it was a revelation. Tasted alongside it, modern era Bacardi white tasted like rubbing alcohol. Absolute dreck. I'm not sure that there is a Cuban-style white rum available today that would measure up to that 1950s-era Bacardi white (maybe Banks?), but I would argue that a cocktail made with modern-era Bacardi gives not the slightest indication of what the Bacardi Cocktail is supposed to taste like.


A recent find has been to substitute 50% vodka/50% limoncello when a recipe calls for citrus vodka.

Sounds like that would significantly increase the sweetness.

Edited by slkinsey, 21 March 2011 - 01:34 PM.

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#13 eje

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 04:18 PM

[...]
I happen to belong to the camp that says the Scofflaw should be made with Canadian whisky. The drink was invented during Prohibition and called for Canadian whisky. Sure, they probably would have preferred to make it with American rye, and were probably thinking (even if wrongly) of Canadian whisky as a rye stand-in, so they used what they had. To make a drink, whose name actually meant someone who consumed alcohol in defiance of Prohibition, using a spirit that was unavailable at the time seems illogical to me. But in this case, I'm not sure which would be designated the "real thing" and which is the substitute.


Hm, actually, I believe the earliest recipes for the Scoff-law, from "Harry's ABC" and "Barflies and Cocktails", call for Rye, not Canadian Whiskey.

Fun Quote:

Chicago Tribune, January 27th, 1924: “Hardly has Boston added to the Gaiety of Nations by adding to Webster’s Dictionary the opprobrious term of “scoff-law” to indicate the chap who indicts the bootlegger, when Paris comes back with a “wet answer”—Jock, the genial bartender of Harry’s New York Bar, yesterday invented the Scoff-law Cocktail, and it has already become exceedingly popular among American prohibition dodgers.”

The Savoy Cocktail Book does call for Canadian Club, perhaps by 1930 Rye Whiskey had become harder to come by.
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#14 TAPrice

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 06:26 PM

The oldest labels (scans) for Herbsaint I have seen boast 120 proof, and when I discovered that the "original" being released was only going to be 100 proof, I became skeptical to a degree that has since been borne out by tasting the stuff. I hate to say this but the "original" Herbsaint is a strong contender for dullest pastis on the market, particularly given the price. I presume the lower proof was done so as to make it more accessable to those intimidated by the high proof of real absinthe, but it failed in a big way to live up to the reputation of the old stuff, of which one Absinthe afficionado said in the old pre-Lucid days, that if he could be guaranteed a steady supply of 1930's Herbsaint, he wouldn't particularly care if real absinthe ever became legal again or not.

That said I use 90 proof Herbsaint in tiki drinks. And in cooking--mmm.


Herbsaint was introduced in 1934. As early as 1937, Legendre was producing both a 100 and 120 proof version. I can't remember the exact dates, but I seem to recall that the 120 proof version was phased out quite early in its history.

As for why Sazerac Company, which bought Herbsaint from Legendre ages ago and also owns Buffalo Trace, produced the 100 proof version, a representative said the lower proof fit the philosophy of the company. I didn't fully understand the explanation, particularly given that Buffalo Trace has put out whiskeys as powerful as 141 proof.

Jay Hendricks, the Houston-based Herbsaint collector, provided Sazerac with unopened vintage bottles to check against the new version. He and the distillers both thought the recreation was an exact match for the 100 proof version. Maybe the 120 version was something else entirely?
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#15 brinza

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 06:54 AM


[...]
I happen to belong to the camp that says the Scofflaw should be made with Canadian whisky. The drink was invented during Prohibition and called for Canadian whisky. Sure, they probably would have preferred to make it with American rye, and were probably thinking (even if wrongly) of Canadian whisky as a rye stand-in, so they used what they had. To make a drink, whose name actually meant someone who consumed alcohol in defiance of Prohibition, using a spirit that was unavailable at the time seems illogical to me. But in this case, I'm not sure which would be designated the "real thing" and which is the substitute.


Hm, actually, I believe the earliest recipes for the Scoff-law, from "Harry's ABC" and "Barflies and Cocktails", call for Rye, not Canadian Whiskey.

Fun Quote:

Chicago Tribune, January 27th, 1924: “Hardly has Boston added to the Gaiety of Nations by adding to Webster’s Dictionary the opprobrious term of “scoff-law” to indicate the chap who indicts the bootlegger, when Paris comes back with a “wet answer”—Jock, the genial bartender of Harry’s New York Bar, yesterday invented the Scoff-law Cocktail, and it has already become exceedingly popular among American prohibition dodgers.”

The Savoy Cocktail Book does call for Canadian Club, perhaps by 1930 Rye Whiskey had become harder to come by.

Interesting. I wonder then, since the recipe was formulated for rye, if the formula should be adjusted when using Canadian Club, or does the Savoy recipe have different proportions than the one given in "Harry's ABC" and "Barflies and Cocktails"? (I don't have either of those last two books)
Mike

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#16 eje

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 10:13 AM



Hm, actually, I believe the earliest recipes for the Scoff-law, from "Harry's ABC" and "Barflies and Cocktails", call for Rye, not Canadian Whiskey.
[...]

Interesting. I wonder then, since the recipe was formulated for rye, if the formula should be adjusted when using Canadian Club, or does the Savoy recipe have different proportions than the one given in "Harry's ABC" and "Barflies and Cocktails"? (I don't have either of those last two books)

Nope, no difference between the Savoy and McElhone recipes, aside from the "Canadian Club" instead of "Rye Whiskey". This is typical for the Savoy Cocktail Book, almost all the recipes which call for Canadian Club in the Savoy Cocktail Book, call for some other sort of Whiskey in the books I suspect they are sourced from.
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#17 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 10:45 AM


The oldest labels (scans) for Herbsaint I have seen boast 120 proof, and when I discovered that the "original" being released was only going to be 100 proof, I became skeptical to a degree that has since been borne out by tasting the stuff. I hate to say this but the "original" Herbsaint is a strong contender for dullest pastis on the market, particularly given the price. I presume the lower proof was done so as to make it more accessable to those intimidated by the high proof of real absinthe, but it failed in a big way to live up to the reputation of the old stuff, of which one Absinthe afficionado said in the old pre-Lucid days, that if he could be guaranteed a steady supply of 1930's Herbsaint, he wouldn't particularly care if real absinthe ever became legal again or not.

That said I use 90 proof Herbsaint in tiki drinks. And in cooking--mmm.


Herbsaint was introduced in 1934. As early as 1937, Legendre was producing both a 100 and 120 proof version. I can't remember the exact dates, but I seem to recall that the 120 proof version was phased out quite early in its history.

As for why Sazerac Company, which bought Herbsaint from Legendre ages ago and also owns Buffalo Trace, produced the 100 proof version, a representative said the lower proof fit the philosophy of the company. I didn't fully understand the explanation, particularly given that Buffalo Trace has put out whiskeys as powerful as 141 proof.

Jay Hendricks, the Houston-based Herbsaint collector, provided Sazerac with unopened vintage bottles to check against the new version. He and the distillers both thought the recreation was an exact match for the 100 proof version. Maybe the 120 version was something else entirely?


Thanks for the info. Shame we'll probably never find out about the 120 proof. I guess it all comes down to tastes; to my palate the 100 proof just isn't terribly thrilling, but maybe I'll give it another shot. It's certainly within the realm of possibility that my disappointment in the lower proof colored my expectations. I'll at least try to have a more objective stance next time I sample.
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#18 EvergreenDan

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 11:55 AM

Perhaps not the same sort of thing: I like Paper Planes (equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, Lemon). But I love Paper Airplanes (sub Campari for Aperol and Ramazzotti for Nonino). I don't know the history, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was first made with the closest ingredients on hand.

Edited by EvergreenDan, 24 March 2011 - 11:56 AM.

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#19 KD1191

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 12:32 PM

Perhaps not the same sort of thing: I like Paper Planes (equal parts Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, Lemon). But I love Paper Airplanes (sub Campari for Aperol and Ramazzotti for Nonino). I don't know the history, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was first made with the closest ingredients on hand.

To the best of my knowledge, Ramazzotti doesn't enter into either the Paper Plane or the Paper Airplane. The latter is Toby Maloney's tweak (subbing Campari for Aperol) of Sam Ross's recipe.

I definitely also prefer the Campari version, but the drink can really go a lot of different ways simply based on the bourbon selection without getting into various amari.
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#20 BennyAdeline

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 11:08 PM

Using St. Germaine instead of vermouth in a Manhattan is godly. I know, I know, it's insane to say that but I believe it.

#21 haresfur

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 12:25 AM

Using St. Germaine instead of vermouth in a Manhattan is godly. I know, I know, it's insane to say that but I believe it.

Makes sense to me. I've used Ikea elderflower syrup instead of sugar in an "Old Fashioned" with good results. In fact, that sounds like a good plan for the evening.
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#22 turkoftheplains

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 08:32 PM

Reviving an old topic:

1. Cocchi Americano for dry vermouth, for life-changing but disconcertingly yellow Martinis and for perfect Perfect Manhattans. Cocchi for Lillet blanc in everything that calls for it.

2. Cruzan Black Strap for other brown spirits, particularly in citrus drinks. I'm starting to become a little embarrassed at my evangelism for this product. Since I first discovered it, I wouldn't think of using any other rum in a toddy either (but this isn't really a substitution.)

3. The Lemon Last Word (whatever the real name for this is) is at least as good as the revelatory original.

Edited by turkoftheplains, 29 October 2011 - 08:33 PM.


#23 EvergreenDan

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 04:34 AM

Cocchi Americano for dry vermouth, for life-changing but disconcertingly yellow Martinis and for perfect Perfect Manhattans.


According to cocktaildb, gin+Lillet is a Richmond Cocktail. Who knew? There are three other similar drinks with either an inverted ratio or a dash of bitters.

What else did you use in your Perfect Manhattan? Dry vermouth, I assume? (Otherwise I don't see the Perfect part)?
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#24 turkoftheplains

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 07:17 AM

According to cocktaildb, gin+Lillet is a Richmond Cocktail. Who knew? There are three other similar drinks with either an inverted ratio or a dash of bitters.


Interesting. I've inverted the ratio, and I've done this drink with various bitters. I always assume that anything I "invent" has been invented by someone else before 1930 (and probably reinvented by someone at TVH or similar), but it's always fascinating to find a source.

What else did you use in your Perfect Manhattan? Dry vermouth, I assume? (Otherwise I don't see the Perfect part)?


I'm using the Cocci as my dry, with either Vya or Punt e Mes as the sweet. Closer to a traditional Manhattan than a perfect, I know, but drier than it sounds.

#25 EvergreenDan

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 01:16 PM

I'm going to shove Ramazzotti in a Paper Airplane into the ring. It really has some magic going on that the original Nonino doesn't. The lemon works beautifully with the pie-spice flavors and sweetness of the Ramazzotti. The Campari contributes its brightness without totally taking center, uh, ring.
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#26 Tsiologist

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 04:40 PM

I will also echo that Ransom Old Tom is phenomenal is so many classics cocktails: Sazerac, Manhattan, or in place of Genever in an Improved Holland Gin Cocktail.

I love Matusalem or other stellar rum in a Red Hook. Never came up with any better name than just 'Rum Hook.'

Also Jamaica rum in a Bijou freaking rocks. I did coin a better name for that one: the Aratama (uncut gem) Cocktail. Appleton VX works nicely, but Smith & Cross is balls-kickingly delicious!

(Edited for Megabus fatigue...)

Edited by Tsiologist, 19 December 2011 - 04:42 PM.

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#27 ZombieAddict

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 04:15 PM

A local bar does the vieux carre with applejack for the whisky, Calvados for the brandy and dandelion and burdock bitters for the peychaud's. It is beyond delicious and it has substituted the original for my favorite cocktail.

I also like my sazeracs with bourbon instead of rye.