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slkinsey

Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails

78 posts in this topic

I was browsing around Amazon.com the other day, and happened to notice that Dr. Cocktail's new book was out. It's called Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to Don the Beachcomber' Zombie : 80 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them. This is a wonderful book and a must-have for the classic cocktail enthusiast. In short, exactly what we would expect from Ted Haig.

As the title suggests (and as he points out in the introduction), "what you'll find here are recipes you'll never find in a bar or restaurant." While that's not entirely correct for every recipe if one is fortunate enough to live in a center of the cocktail renaissance like NYC, this little book serves up plenty of intriguing and unknown potables that will tickle your fancy, not to mention your tastebuds. The Jupiter Cocktail, the Coffee Cocktail (neither looks nor tastes like coffee), the Seelback Cocktail, the Pendennis Cocktail and other unknowns are featured along with a few that are more familiar to the internet cocktail crowd, such as the Aviation and the Twentieth Century Cocktail. There's even a recipe for a Ritz Sidecar that sells for 400 Euros!

All that said, it is really not accurate to describe this book as a collection of recipes or even as a bartending guide. Fundamentally it is about history and telling the story behind each cocktail. Ted Haig is known as the leading cocktail historian of the day, and his book does not disappoint. After starting with a short introduction on "cocktail archeology" -- including a very interesting section on how Prohibition led to blended whiskey, the popularity of highballs and ultimately to the dominance of vodka -- he goes right to the drinks and works a little history lesson into each one. Reading about the Golden Dawn, one learns about the United Kingdoms Bartenders Guild that flourished especially during the Prohibition years and created many distinctive cocktails (one also wonders if the drink was named after the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). The recipe for the Jack Rose Cocktail leads to a discussion on Applejack, the unfairly neglected American apple brandy. And so it goes.

The book is also lavishly illustrated with pictures of antique bottles, barware and other cocktail-related items from the author's collection. It's a great read, and something every cocktail enthusiast should peruse.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Hear, hear! This book is a must-have for the dedicated cocktail fiend (and who among us isn't one of those). A wonderful selection of cocktails, most of which are pretty durn rare and all of which beat the hell out of at least 90% of the new, artificially-flavored vodka-and-fruit juice-and-fruity-liqueur concoctions that are being pushed on us these days. Lots of cocktail history to wallow in and almost an overabundance of photos from Doc's massive collection of old booze and booze-related paraphernalia. Jokes, too.

Reasonable adults might want to differ on a couple of the precise formulae, but that's what discussion groups are for.

--DW


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Harm not one grey hair on my dear cocktail's head!

Oh. go ahead. I futz around the the recipes myself to this day. They are, in a word, malleable.

I'm so pleased that such fine egulleteers have seen fit to lavish my book in this manner and with nary a bribe from Yours Truly. At least between the Book, the website ( http://www.cocktaildb.com/ )

and the New York Times Magazine article of this weekend, I am released from at least *some* of my responsibilty to sheepishly explain my protracted absence from this great forum. Nonetheless, mea culpa - I have been away too long.

What has happened during my sojourn? Is Steven whaling away on the gin these days? Is Balma compounding her own bitters and creating award winning recipes with them? Is JAZ still successfully keeping the ravening horde in line? (That would be us.)

Again, many thanks for the compliments on the book. I was a labor of love, and I want to do it again! If there was one cocktail, discovered during book research, that I rate as worth the price of the tome, it is the Blinker. I will drink one to your health this evening!

Best of best wishes!

--Doc.

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Good to see you back, Doc! Would love it if you could share some stories about the book, or maybe some things that didn't quite make it into the book.

Congrats on the Times Magazine feature, too. What a coup! I was going to start a thread on that, too, but haven't had a chance yet.

I am also happy to report that I'm steadily chipping away at Steven's ginphobia and he's gradually becoming a cocktailophile -- although Audrey Saunders did more on that score in one evening at Bemelmans than I have in the last six months. I know he loved her Gin Gin Mule, and really... who wouldn't?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Honestly, I had a great editor who did not fight me about the tone of the book or my "voice". She helped clarify for me things that, while seeming obvious to me, might've confused some who do not live and breathe cocktails. For this reason, there really wasn't anything of my writing that didn't make it into the book. The argument I lost was over the size of the bottle shots. I wanted them bigger and the glass-and-drink shots smaller. I also wanted to lead with the stories and end with the recipes. On those points, the publisher got her way. I had a major hand in the graphic design of the book, though, and I took the bottle photos (some of which were cut because of the @#$%!! large glass shots.) Still, they let me take their concept (new, trendy, kicky drinks) and stand it on it's head. They also, obviously printed it BEAUTIFULLY so it all seems like a tempest in a teapot now. The book is selling quite well, so I think there is mutual goodwill on all sides now. I DO feel I could do more volumes of this book since I am forever logging additional deserving-but-forgotten cocktails. And the stories never cease.

--Doc.

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Definitely a great tome. I skimmed through Sam's copy, but have now ordered my own, so it should be here soon. And when it arrives, I'll look up the Blinker recipe.

Compared with some publishing stories I've heard, it sounds like you had a pretty smooth ride. Congratulations both on the book and the article.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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I just ordered this, too, and can't wait to get my copy. Congratulations, Doc, on both the book and the website!

I looked up the Blinker on the website. Sounds great. I want to try one tonight, but I'm not really a rye drinker, so I'll have to pick some up. Will I be able to find the Triple? Any other brand recommendations? Thanks!

Cheers,

Squeat

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...I'm not really a rye drinker, so I'll have to pick some up. Will I be able to find the Triple? Any other brand recommendations? Thanks!

The bottle is most likely from a historical (aka defunct) brand of rye. I don't think it means that you have to use that brand to make the drink. In fact, if you click here you can see pictures of many other old rye bottles.

As for currently available ryes, Old Overholt is fairly ubiquitous and reasonably priced. Make sure you get "straight rye whiskey" and not "Canadian rye whiskey." Wild Turkey makes an very good 101 proof straight rye whiskey. Van Winkle Family Reserve rye is excellent, although more expensive -- I tend to use it in cocktails where the full flavor of the rye can really come through, like a Sazerac. I'm sure the Doc has some other recommendations. Rye used to be the #1 alcohol with many different brands, but now it has sadly declined to almost-obscurity and a very limited number of brands. It's too bad, because rye really works better than bourbon in many cocktails.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thanks, Sam. I suspected as much. I think I'll go with Wild Turkey, since it's the rye I'm most familiar with.

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I highly recommend Old Overholt. It's less sharp than the Wild Turkey, while still being rich and full-bodied. It's not just ubiquitous for being common, it's ubiquitous for being good. Yeah, there are a new wealth of ryes out there today, for which I am grateful, but good old Overholt makes very satisfying Old Fashions, Sazeracs and Blinkers for me! I use Michter's for special moments, but I almost don't have to.

--Doc.

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Cool. Old Overholt it is, then. Thanks! I figure it's about two hours 'til Blinker time!

Cheers!

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Oh crap. My bad. My very bad. Squeat, I owe you an apology. How to say this....the recipe on CocktailDB.com is *correct* but it ain't right, or vice versa. What I mean is, I changed a key ingredient in the book and -OUCH- it made all the difference.

The original 1934 recipe called for grenadine, but during Prohibition in far-flung places they often substituted raspberry syrup, and THERE is the rub. I tried it with this drink and it was superb. Not just any raspberry syrup, either. I use either Knott's Berry Farm or Smucker's Raspberry syrups. They are thick and very very natural.

I trust the original Blinker was no worse than mediocre, but I hope you'll try my version (which I promise will soon grace CocktailDB) for something far more worthy.

I am sorry, Squeat. I urged you toward a boring cocktail.

I hang my head in chagrin.

Here's the GREAT recipe:

Doc's Blinker

2 ounces rye whiskey.

1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice.

1 teaspoon raspberry syrup.

Combine with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until very cold & strain into a cocktail glass.

--Doc.


Edited by drcocktail (log)

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Hey Doc--

Just reading through your bit on the Aviation, which I found amusing both because it is amusing and because of your preference for the Blue Moon, an Aviation made with Creme Yvette (flavored with violets) rather than maraschino (flavored with the fruit, pits, stems and leaves of the maraska cherry). Why is this amusing? I append the following quote from Hugo R. Ensslin's Recipes for Mixed Drinks, from 1916--the last New York bartender's guide published before Prohibition (Ensslin was the head bartender at New York's Hotel Wallick, which was on 43rd St next door to the notorious Hotel Metropole):

"Aviation

1/3 Lemon Juice

2/3 El Bart Gin [Doc--you've probably got that, no?]

2 Dashes Maraschino

2 Dashes Creme de Violette

Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain and serve."

So you CAN have your cake and eat it too. In any case, the creme de violette turns the drink a lovely, pale, pale blue, like a New England sky in late summer.

(This recipe, and almost every other in Ensslin's book, was plundered by Patrich Gavin Duffy; if you eliminate the drinks from Ensslin and from the Savoy book from Duffy's, there are very few left indeed.)

A toute a l'heure,

--DW


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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The book looks fascinating. Being somewhat of a contrarian by nature, I got into cocktails as a reaction against the popularity of nasty cocktails - "tini" appended to fill-in-the-blank as if it were a legitimate standalone etymological unit. I thought to myself, back in the days of sophistication - well, vast wealth disparity - the preferred high society tipple wasn't topped with whipped cream. So I struck out looking for the old school ... only to realize that I could almost never order these drinks at the bar without getting, at best, a blank stare from the bartender ... and, at worst, outright annoyance or aggression. But I digress.

A weekend ago I was in New York City and was able to have a good discussion with the bartender at WD-50 about obscure ingredients - Falernum, Amer Picon, Kummel (sp?), etc. When I asked for a cocktail with maraschino liqueur other than an Aviation he made a very nice Brooklyn. This surprised me because of the fact that WD-50 positions itself as forward, experimental, nouveau American, whatever. I was expecting the drink selection to go that way as well but, instead, found that they saw the way forward as "conservative" - in the sense of maintaining what works from tradition and tweaking it. At the end of the meal we were served a bourbon based cocktail made with an elderflower infused syrup and several other ingredients. The bartender (Eban, I believe) explained that the concept was to create a cool (in temperature ... and in affect, I assume) "hot toddy" by using a high proof, warming bourbon and an herb with warming and soothing (anxiety reducing) properties.

Just an interesting anecdote. Any precedent for the use of elderflower in cocktails or liqueurs?

rien

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I am sorry, Squeat. I urged you toward a boring cocktail.

I hang my head in chagrin.

Here's the GREAT recipe:

Not to worry, Doc! As it happened my Friday night (and my entire weekend, for that matter) turned out very differently than I had planned. No rye was purchased, no Blinkers were made. I did manage to pop into Safeway for a different reason at one point and had a look at their selection... can you believe they had NO RYE WHISKEY AT ALL?!? Safeway SUCKS!

Anyway, the Blinker has been rescheduled for later this week with the superior recipe! (I'm sure my favorite local liquor store will have at least a few ryes.)

Thanks, and I will post a review.

Cheers,

Squeat

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Actually, Safeway notwithstanding, rye is probably not your main problem. Finding good raspberry syrup is a BIG hassle. I always use canned grapefruit juice because it's easy and works great in this cocktail, but I recommend avoiding the pink stuff as a tad too sweet. It's getting so that, in my neck of the woods, the pink stuff is all that is available. I may just break down and buy a REAL grapefruit and see where going au naturel gets me!

--Doc.

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I've got a question about Creme Yvette substitutes-- what is the opinion on using the Monin Violet flavored syrup? Can it fill in successfully for the liquer that is nearly totally unavailable?


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I may just break down and buy a REAL grapefruit and see where going au naturel gets me!

That may not help--more and more I've been finding stores only carrying the pink kind. Could the sour grapefruit be an endangered species?

--DW


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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If you combine Monin syrup and vodka until you achieve a flavor like pastilles - and not particularly syrupy, you'll have an approximation of it.

--Doc

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My copy of the book arrived in yesterday's mail and I spent a couple of very happy hours with it last night. Absolutely delightful from the dedication ("Nurse Cocktail" -- brilliant!) to the afterword mourning ingredients past. And all the intriguing libations in between! Makes a great companion to Grimes' history, and will ensure many evenings of fun in the coming weeks and months.

Last night after work I stopped off at John Walker & Co. downtown and procured a bottle of Old Overholt. They had a couple of other interesting-looking brands as well. I think it is time to beef up this sorely understocked (read hitherto non-existent) shelf of my liquor cabinet -- Anchor's Old Potrero is probably next, since I'm a big fan of Fritz Maytag's products. I'm all set with fresh ripe sour grapefruits from the produce store at home (I'm a bit of a stickler for fresh fruit juices). All I have to do now is track down the raspberry syrup! If I can't find it, I'll experiment with pureed raspberries and simple syrup.

I was happy to see the Vesper in the book. I'm proud to say that during my years behind the bar I enthusiastically promoted the Vesper. I've been a fan of the Fleming Bond novels (especially Casino Royale) since they fuelled my adolescent fantasies, and I always felt that Vesper Lynd doubly betrayed Bond not only by being a double agent (and offing herself), but also by prompting him to foreswear this exquisite elixir. (A side note here -- in the novels, at least (I never was a fan of the movies and haven't seen very many of them) Bond drinks at least as much gin as he does vodka, and an awful lot of bourbon and scotch, and oceans of champagne! There's an amusing website about his beverage consumption here.)

Cheers, (and Doc: Thanks and congratulations!)

Squeat

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All I have to do now is track down the raspberry syrup! If I can't find it, I'll experiment with pureed raspberries and simple syrup.

I was happy to see the Vesper in the book. I'm proud to say that during my years behind the bar I enthusiastically promoted the Vesper. I've been a fan of the Fleming Bond novels (especially Casino Royale) since they fuelled my adolescent fantasies, and I always felt that Vesper Lynd doubly betrayed Bond not only by being a double agent (and offing herself), but also by prompting him to foreswear this exquisite elixir. 

The raspberry syrup may not be so hard. I tried a peek on Vons.com (Vons is our local Safeway offspring) and they list the Knotts Berry Farm syrup mentioned by Dr. Cocktail. This weekend I shall have to see if my local Vons carries it.

You know, I looked forward to trying a Vesper ever since reading Casino Royale as a kid, but when I actually did I was disappointed. I love a gin martini, but to me the Vesper tasted weirdly harsh and unpleasant, with no hint of the Lillet, either. I used the 3:1:1/2 recipe with Tanqueray gin and Finlandia vodka. (I don't know much about vodka, so I must admit I chose based on the fact that the bottle had cute little reindeer on it.) Might I like the Vesper better with James Bond's choice of Gordon's gin? Plymouth gin? Different vodka? An attractive secret agent sitting across from me? Any advice would be appreciated. :smile:

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You know, I looked forward to trying a Vesper ever since reading Casino Royale as a kid, but when I actually did I was disappointed.  I love a gin martini, but to me the Vesper tasted weirdly harsh and unpleasant, with no hint of the Lillet, either.  I used the 3:1:1/2 recipe with Tanqueray gin and Finlandia vodka.  (I don't know much about vodka, so I must admit I chose based on the fact that the bottle had cute little reindeer on it.)  Might I like the Vesper better with James Bond's choice of Gordon's gin?  Plymouth gin?  Different vodka?  An attractive secret agent sitting across from me?  Any advice would be appreciated.  :smile:

I never had that reaction. Vodka, even old Smiroff, never appeared to make Vespers harsh to me. The one thing that DOES seem very important is the lemon twist. Not a tiny little spiral, but a broad swath twisted smartly right over the surface of the drink. That's my secret weapon!

--Doc.

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The raspberry syrup may not be so hard.  I tried a peek on Vons.com (Vons is our local Safeway offspring) and they list the Knotts Berry Farm syrup mentioned by Dr. Cocktail.  This weekend I shall have to see if my local Vons carries it.

Actually, my Safeway had the Smuckers' but not the Knotts Berry Farm! Go figure.

Anyway, I shook up a couple of Blinkers last night for a friend and myself. Delicious. Really, really fine drink. We both enjoyed them immensely, and this is going into my regular repertoire. I can see where it might be a bit drab with Grenadine, but the raspberry and the fresh grapefruit juice really made it sing. I think I still might try it with a fresh raspberry coulis and do a side-by-side comparison, but it will be difficult to improve on.

As for the Vesper, I agree the lemon oil on the surface is absolutely essential. I used to pour these using Bombay gin and Stoli vodka. As I recall, I liked to pour the Lillet a bit heavier than the strict 3:1:1/2. Probably closer to 3:1:3/4. I'm sure an attractive secret agent would be an excellent additional garnish!

Cheers,

Squeat

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I finally tracked down some raspberry syrup (who'd have thought it would be that difficult?) and gave the Blinker a try. Tasty. Like almost all rye- and bourbon- based drinks, it's not something I'd drink more than one of, but one is very nice.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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