The Gushing Groom

Wedding season's sprung up early this year here at the blog. Last week, besides my trucking down to NJ to attend Cousin Mark's fiancee's shower, one of you e'd me desperate for help with a groom's cocktail to serve at his upcoming nuptials. Why desperate? Because of when upcoming: This very gracious gentleman, Jon, e'd me on a Wednesday needing a recipe for the reception on Saturday. Ladeeeeez, dudes and wedding planning OMG AMIRITE??!?

Obligatory awwwWWW! pic of Mark and his fiancee, Molly!

Now, let it be known that a) I lurve weddings (all the more so having had my own); b) I think the idea of a bride's cocktail and a groom's cocktail is an idea whose time has come (the PhoBlograpHusband and I had his-and-her cakes; how rated-G were we?); c) I am happy to be asked by Jon and whomever else to help them craft their own wedding's signature cocktails. ("If there's something you'd like to try/Ask me I won't say now/How could I?")

In Jon's case, he and his betrothed had already settled on a Her recipe, cheekily named The Blushing Bride: Prosecco (a blush sparkler!), Aperol and OJ. Go, Jon! I consider that a fantastic wedding cocktail for several key reasons:

- A simple recipe with few ingredients means it can be churned out fast and/or in large quantities.

- It's a pretty color.

- Non-cocktailers will be put at ease by its two more familiar, quotidian ingredients (OJ and bubbly), thus assuaging any trepidation they may have about the less-familiar third (Aperol, an Italian liqueur which of course wouldn't hurt a fly).

So, that left the question of what kind of cocktail to craft for Him. As Jon put it, "I love alcohol and love Scotch and bourbon... can you think of a drink that most people can drink? I can handle any type of liquor, but I have seen people turn down 21-year-old single malts because they don't like the taste!" I hear you, Jon.

The Him cocktail should reflect the Hers in certain ways, I thought, so I wanted to tie in the Aperol, make it a motif throughout. Scotch + Aperol = quite interesting and good, really. And then I thought we'd mimic the Blushing Bride's fizz by adding either club soda or ginger ale (it wound up being ginger ale). Oh-so-many reflective motifs -- where's my Master's in Critical Cocktail Theory, please?

I further recommended to Jon serving The Gushing Groom in a likewise flute, as pictured in this post, but Jon told me he went with double old-fashioned glasses. Jon, that is just such a right-on, manly-it-up choice. (His exact words: "Some guys might be flute-averse.") Please quit making me look bad, Jon.

The Gushing Groom

1 ounce The Arran Malt 14-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

1/2 ounce Aperol

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Ginger ale to fill

Combine Scotch, Aperol and bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly. Strain into ice-filled double old-fashioned glass. Top with ginger alge.

Tasting Notes

Of course, you can use ginger beer instead of ginger ale. You can garnish with a lemon twist, an orange twist, or whatever sprig or blossom is a part of your groomsmen's boutonnieres.

Scotch is not 1000% my bag, but the Arran Malt (coincidentally, a wedding gift we received) is a fave of mine because it's not super-peaty. Then again, it's not super-easy to find on your average liquor-store shelf, either. I mean, really, it's no coincidence that the only reason we have it is because its expense counts as "really nice wedding gift." So to sub, Sean recommends plain, old Dewar's, or Johnnie Walker Black for a shelf up. You all might have even better suggestions, which you should totally leave in the comments.

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The Afterbird

My gosh, today kinda sucks, no? Not to rain (or snow, as it is up here in the Great White North) on anyone's Thanksgiving Eve Parade, but this is always a busy and stressful day. What with the last-minute cleaning and shopping and cooking and fretting that your mother-in-law is going to get stuck in a snowbank somewhere north of Albany on her drive up to see you. And, even if you're the self-employed, work-at-home type like me, the assignments you're trying to get out the virtual door before getting yourself out your actual one, where walkway clearing awaits so Mom doesn't kill herself on her way from her car to your apartment. Meanwhile, your dog won't let you type at full speed because she likes her paw held while snuggling on the couch next to you, which results in typos like this one that just happened: "ci 980hkmn."

Phew, *breathe*! My point is, I've got one more to-do to put on your list today, and it is worthwhile and it is this: Buy Underberg at your neighborhood's finer liquor store. (Or Dean & Deluca.)

Last November on TastingTable.com, I read about this pocket-sized vial of Germanic, herbaceous elixir: "This shockingly bitter, aggressively alcoholic Germanic beverage is meant to be taken in one swig from its handsome miniature bottle, which promises that 'after a good meal' it will confer brightness and alertness upon the drinker." Of course, they don't have Thanksgiving in Deutschland, but they do have Oktoberfest. For that reason alone I'll take their word on its overindulgence countereffects.

Mere days after I read this, the PhoBlograpHusband and I were stocking up on holiday booze essentials at The Wine Library in New Jersey and there was Underberg, lined up on the shelf next to the bitters. They come three 2/3-ounce bottles to a box the size of a cigarette case. I dutifully purchased one and held onto it for almost a year. Now I am here to share with you the digestif cocktail I invented so that you can incorporate your Underberg into your post-pie euphoria.

What does Underberg taste like straight? Like acrid licorice, like smoked Jagermeister. Kinda gah, if you ask me. Definitely not something I'd have any natural inclination to swig in one swallow.

As you may well know from my recent posts, the liquor supply chez Lorre is way low as of late. (Mom-in-law is bringing us a bottle of Buffalo Trace this afternoon! Go Mom-in-law!) At the same time, I happened to have some raw egg yolks, with a bit of whites, kept in an airtight container in the fridge, left over from when I made my Bathtub Gin(ger). Furthermore, I have been hellbent for months on devising a successful flip, a cocktail that makes use of a whole, raw egg instead of just the whites; I'd made a Cynar Flip a long while back, based on a recipe from a bar in Boston, but have had no luck writing a flip recipe of my own from scratch. Maybe now was the time; Underberg is as potent and pungent as Cynar, after all.

I wound up going a little crazy coming up with this cocktail, in what I think of as a very good kind of crazy. Adding raw egg to Underberg mellowed out the start of the cocktail but still left it with a long, unpleasant finish. I scoured my liquor shelf and decided to try yet another ingredient that I'd long longed to find a use for: Hispaniola Mamajuana, a Dominican, rum-based, herbaceous-yet-soft liqueur. (You learn about stuff like Hispaniola Mamajuana when you spend three years of your life living In The Heights.) The Hispaniola worked wonders on rounding the whole thing out, start to (still nice and long) finish. Then came the espresso (by which I mean, black coffee, but we're not fancy with the caffeine around here) and -- and this is great, truly! -- the Tabasco, which melded with the bitter herbs at the finish in a tongue-tickling way and reminded me a bit of a Sandinista. (Wait a minute, she said as she looked at the meager Google results for "Sandinista recipe." You mean nobody knows what a Sandinista is outside of St. Louis? The blog will remedy this soon. To the blogmobile!)

At this point, all that was missing was some heft and body -- I think the raw egg took some of that away -- which I added back with the Benedictine.

This cocktail is loopy, yes. But then again, so's your Grandma Ruthie when she takes her dentures out and puts them on the dinner table. It's in the spirit of the holiday! Let us rejoice and be thankful.

The Afterbird

1 1/2 ounces Underberg

1 ounce Hispaniola

1 ounce Benedictine

1 whole, raw egg

 3 drops Tabasco

1/2 ounce freshly made espresso

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake shake shake shake shake it! Seriously, shake it a lot, because you've got liquid ingredients of every possibly viscosity in there and you need to mix it all up really well. Strain into a cocktail glass that's been very very very well chilled. Seriously, like very well chilled, because thanks to the egg, this drink can get thin-tasting quickly and the chilled glass will combat that.

Tasting Notes

I have a hunch you could take this cocktail even further. Specifically, I suspect that an aged tequila (anejo or reposado) would be a good base liquor, in addition to or instead of the Benedictine, to drive up the heat quotient. If you'd rather emphasize the smoky, try adding an ounce of Scotch. Also, I am quite sure you could garnish this with sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, maybe even cayenne pepper. (Tell me if you do! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P.S. Look how foamy this cocktail is!

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The Hot Cha!

In Montreal, Halloween's a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM...).

We'll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world's greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I'm so excited!

Yes it is cold here in Canada on the day before November -- although, jeez, nothing like y'all are getting in the NYC <--> DC Eastern corridor; say hello to balmy Quebec! -- so after telling myself I must wear my Under Armour tonight, the second thing I told myself was to concoct a hot cocktail, something sippable from a Thermos.

When I worked at Redbook ages ago, I once edited a piece on healthy winter snacks. (Ask your Grandma if you're not sure what Redbook is.) One of them was to heat up a glass of cranberry juice in the microwave and sprinkle some cinnamon in it. It's actually quite good and for some reason I've always remembered that, so that's what came to mind for the Hot Cha! The rest pretty much wrote itself, almost as if I were possessed... by ghosts... OOOOoooooOOOOO!

The Hot Cha!

1 1/4 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

4 ounces cranberry juice

1/2 ounce honey lemon water

3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange peel

Heat the cranberry juice, orange peel and cinnamon stick in the microwave together for a minute-ish. While that's nuking, mix the Scotch, Calvados, bitters and honey lemon water in a separate vessel and stir vigorously without ice. Combine the two in a Thermos, or a baby bottle if you want to go as a drunk baby this Halloween.

Tasting Notes

We're fans of the Arran Scotch around here; we also don't keep many other Scotches in the house. Sean recommends Dewar's as a great pick for this recipe because of its bite.

To make honey lemon water, just stir honey, water and a couple lemon slices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's cooked down to a consistency somewhere between the honey and the water. I use two parts water to one part honey.

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Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda

Yesterday was also Grandparents' Day. I have a soft spot for that day because when I was in the third grade, I guess there had been some sort of grade-wide or school-wide announcement that to recognize the holiday, your grandparents were welcome to come sit in on class on a particular afternoon; mine were the only ones who showed up to Ms. Nichols' classroom. These were my mother's parents, who were really the only grandparents I ever had.

As my mother tells it, as seniors her parents came to swap the personalities each had embodied during their child-raising years. My Grandpa had been the fearmongering disciplinarian of my Mom's childhood (imposingly tall, his carriage had borne the obscure menace of a Hitchcock villain) while Grandma was the good cop, the parent you'd go to after the other one had said no, or the parent you'd run and hide behind when the other was chasing you down for a spanking. As I knew them, though, Grandpa was a peaceable, lovable giant and Grandma was a rusty, old broad who could turn on you in an ashy-tipped flick of one of her Vantages.

When I was around nine, we were at my grandparents' for my Grandpa's birthday. In the kitchen helping to get the cake ready with Grandma, my overzealousness had somehow rubbed her the wrong way, and she irascibly blurted out that I should go suck an egg. I thought it was the meanest thing anyone had ever said to me. I retreated to the living room couch, refusing to return to the kitchen for dessert, even though listening to everyone else sing "Happy Birthday" made me feel excruciatingly alone. A little while later, Grandpa came into the living room by himself with a piece of cake for me. That still makes me cry.

As you might have guessed by now, Grandma was the drinker of the two. Put a Scotch and soda in one of her hands, a lit Vantage in the other, sit her bony ass down in front of a Mets game and you'd witness a 75-year-old completely in her cups. I don't think the fact that she drank Scotch and sodas had anything to do with the fact that I went through a yearlong Scotch-and-soda phase in my early 20s; for that, you could thank the tech crew at The Bottom Line in the West Village, where I waited tables. Likewise, the fact that I never really liked the taste of Scotch and sodas really was just a tastebud thing, not some psychological harbinger of what-have-you.

So I guess, Grandma, if you're reading this from that big, old Citi Field game box in the sky, you may consider Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda my olive branch to your egg suck. True, I didn't make this drink in one of your old cruise-ship highballs (btw, you swiped those, didn't you?), but I did make it big, so you'll never need get up in the middle of an inning to refresh your glass.

Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda

2 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3/4 ounce Otima 10 Year Tawny Port

2 dashes orange blosssom water

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Club soda, to fill

Lemon twist, to garnish

Combine Scotch, port, orange blossom water and bitters in a tall, ice-filled Collins glass. Stir briskly. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes

I'll talk about this more some other time, but The Arran Malt: This is a Scotch that we received from one of Sean's cousins as a wedding gift (albeit late enough to qualify as a first-anniversary gift; thanks, Chris!). Chris' father's family stems from the Isle of Arran where it's distilled. Sean and I have become big, big fans of this Scotch whisky... because it tastes so much like bourbon whiskey! Low on the peaty and high on the caramelly. Yum.

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The Blood and Sand

Guest post by Joshua Brown, a St. Louis-based, full-time technology geek and part-time bourbon connoisseur

I’m a sucker for “old timey” cocktails, particularly those that have gone out of mainstream favor. I think this comes from a love of the art of cocktail crafting, frequently lost now where the most quaffed drinks tend to have a list of all their components in their names (“Jack and Coke," or “Gin and Tonic”). This affection of mine—born, I suspect, from watching my father opt recurringly for the venerable Manhattan—hasn’t always cast me in a favorable light in the eyes of bartenders. In one case, I had admittedly pushed my luck too far at an open-bar gala. I started with a Manhattan (familiar enough), moved to a Sidecar, and then crossed the line in ordering a Sazerac. This was met with a dumbfounded stare, and then a, “Godammit, nobody drinks that old shit anymore!”

Today’s drink was born in a time where the word “silent” in front of “movie” was itself unspoken as the default.

Rudolph Valentino starred as the matador Juan Gallardo in Fred Niblo’s Blood and Sand (1922); billed as “his greatest role," this is actually not the film for which he is best known. Regardless, this drink is one of the relatively few cocktails that anchor their flavor profile with Scotch.

This particular cocktail must navigate deftly between Scylla and Charybdis -- it must allow the Scotch to speak without causing the drink to taste of ashtray; and it must avoid the cloying sweetness brought on by its mixers. To solve the first issue, I rely on blended scotch, Grant’s in this case. There are many good options here, as well as some single-malts that come from the Highlands region (Glenmorangie, I’m looking at you here). To solve the second issue, I suggest reducing the mixers from some of the standard recipes, replacing the orange juice with a more suitable namesake (blood orange juice) and also adding two bittering agents: Stirrings Blood Orange bitters, and Campari.

The Blood and Sand

1 ½ ounces Grant's Blended Scotch Whisky

¾ ounce Cherry Heering

¾ ounce blood orange juice, strained

¾ ounce sweet vermouth

1 teaspoon Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters

1 teaspoon Campari

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Flame orange peel over the drink, then rub on the rim.

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