The Cassis Cocktail

There's a whole flow chart of professional angst leading to today's drink, starting with this week's edition of "The Tipsy Diaries," a cocktail-centric column penned for the New York Times by its restaurant critic emeritus, Frank Bruni. Bruni's restaurant-writing tenure -- or I should say tenor; Bruni never refused the gooey puns that roiled forth from his brain, just as he couldn't seem to wrestle the keyboard away from his occasional alter ego, Frannie Von Furstinshow -- had its critics, some insidiously scathing in their put-downs.

Much of the disdain stemmed from the fact that Bruni had no professional food-writing background. But neither did I when I started writing restaurant reviews in St. Louis, so the worst I can say about him is 1) he went to UNC; 2) I am not him. And in order to become him, of course, I must destroy him.

Hence when I picked up this week's Tipsy Diaries, "Celestial Come-Ons and Other Booze-Selling Ploys," and read his lede, which picked on the preciousness of a particular whiskey's name, Angel's Envy, and its packaging (voluptuous bottle, winged logo) without mentioning how the name's a play on the phrase "angel's share," which is what whiskey makers call the portion of their potions that evaporate during aging (hence, the remainder we mortals get to enjoy would be "angel's envy")... well, don't think I wasn't one click away from zipping off quite the haughty letter to the editor.

Lucky for me and my interest in face-saving, I read through the end, where he does get around to explaining the connection. My next step was to attempt to sublimate my percolating agita  jealousy self-doubt Bruni's-envy into writing the most amazing whiskey cocktail recipe that ever ruled the land!!!

That also didn't happen, because I couldn't figure out how to add a tincture of pure liquid awesomeness to a shot of Blanton's Gold (the best whiskey we keep on hand chez Martelorre). I went looking for inspiration in one of my tomes, Bourbon At Its Best, which happens to have been written by a friend's brother-in-law (percolations rising) and where I found the elegantly simple tipple I needed to just shut me up and get some liquid anti-anxiety medication into me.

This cocktail keeps the syrupy pungency of the cassis in the background, a nice, now-for-something-completely-different pedestal on which to enjoy the bourbon's woodsy warmth.

The Cassis Cocktail

(Adapted from Bourbon At Its Best, by Ron Givens)

2 ounces Jim Beam Black bourbon

1 ounce Cinzano dry vermouth

2 teaspoons creme de cassis

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker or an ice-filled mixing glass. Shake/stir well for about 10 seconds. Strain into cocktail glass.

Tasting Notes:

We're running low on bourbons around here (*gasp!) and it was either Jim Beam Black or Maker's Mark. I was worried the latter combined with creme de cassis would result in something too sweet, so Jim Beam Black it was. I must say, though I'm not a fan of regular Jim Beam, Jim Beam Black and Jim Beam Rye are both highly respectable.

Yes, I realized as I was shaking this, I probably should've stirred, as you're supposed to do with all-liquor drinks. What can I say, I had some pent-up energy to get out. Plus, you'll see in the second picture those miniature ice floes you get when you shake really vigorously. Love those!

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