The Presbyterian

Why did it take thirty-nevermind years of life for me to discover the Presbyterian?

A few months ago, a gaggle of us went to Little Branch, one of the elder statesmen of the New York/pre-Prohibition style/pay-$14-for-a-cocktail-and-beg-for-more temples of cocktailing. Little Branch's menu does things a little differently that other bars of its ilk -- in fact, let's diverge for a paragraph or two and talk a bit about that, the organization of cocktail menus. (God, what a cocktail dork I am; this stuff actually excites me.)

Death & Co.'s menu, for example, is primarily categorized by cocktails' base liquors: gin, rum, whiskey, etc. (No vodka, of course, as 't'wasn't what Americans drank way back when.) Those groupings are subdivided into shaken cocktails and stirred ones. I like this because 1) today we're largely conditioned to think about drinks by base liquor, making this menu accessible at first glance; 2) subdividing into shaken and stirred, the menu still gives customers something new to think about, the idea that proper cocktail making includes how you physically amalgamate your ingredients.

Clover Club in Brooklyn (which I just went to for the first time last weekend and ooh! Lots to share with y'all soon!) pays greater attention to the type of cocktail rather than what's the base liquor, like I talked about the other week -- "Collins & Fizzes," "Sours & Daisies" -- and then has a catchall "Cocktails" list and, curiously, one for "Rye" but no other liquors. It's fascinating and full of helpfully written, witty bits of copy, but still takes more digesting.

And then there's Little Branch's menu, which I stole and have read over and over and still find sort of opaque. The best way I can describe its organization is to literally spell it out:

I. Standard Cocktails

A. Tart & Mildly Sweet

1. Lime Drinks

a. Daiquiri

b. Gimlet

c. Brandy Shake

d. Gin or Rum Rickey

2. Lemon Drinks

a. Sour

b. Tom Collins

c. Rye Fizz

d. Fix

3. House Ginger Beer

a. Hiball

b. Dark & Stormy

c. Moscow Mule

d. Presbyterian

B. Spirit Forward

1. Martini

a. Oliver Twist

b. Gibson

2. Manhattan

a. Brooklyn

b. Rob Roy

c. Tipperary

3. Sazerac

4. Old Fashioned

Where's my mixologist's decoder ring?! It's a bit all over the place, a bit hard to wrap your mind around, and I feel bad for the cocktail waitresses there, because my guess is that they have to spend a lot of time answering questions.

I don't think any of us ordered a Presbyterian that night, but I was intrigued, and actually all the more so when I read how basic and simple, and thereby sort of refreshingly elegant, a Presbyterian is: It's just bourbon, ginger ale and club soda. It's crisp, it's light, it's a bit WASPy, and it's exactly what I'd want to quaff at the family cocktail hour, after a round of tennis with Mumsy.

I hope this is one y'all can add to your at-home arsenal, 'cuz seriously, you can't ask for more supermarket-friendly ingredients, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is to bother to make myself a Manhattan.

The Presbyterian

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Equal parts ginger ale and club soda

Fill a Collins glass (the nice, tall, slender ones) with lovely and perfect, prep-school ice cubes. Pour in the bourbon, followed by your equal parts ginger ale and club soda to fill. Garnish with lemon slice or twist. If you've got a nice, slender ice tea spoon -- you know, like you keep at the Nantucket summer home -- give it a few gentle stirs. Discuss the stock market and the poors.

Tasting Notes:

Can you use ginger beer instead of ginger ale? Can you do unequal parts of the ginger-whatever and club? Surely.

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The Chingon

Remember when I first started this blog and for a scant time held weekly "You Name It!" contests for as-yet-unchristened cocktails? Don't worry, it's okay that you don't. The point is, naming cocktails is not my forte.

Given that, I should really do more due diligence researching the names other people have given their cocktail creations. Like if I'd bothered to Google "Bumboo," yesterday's drink, I'd have learned that a bumbo, aka bumboo, is actually a certain category of drink -- albeit a pretty obscure one, as only one of my cocktail guidebooks mentions it -- traditionally made with dark rum, grenadine and some sort of nutmeg or cinnamon spice. Knowing that about Bumboo's etymology, for one thing, would have informed me as to why Death & Company probably chose to go with the Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters, noted on its manufacturer's website as containing a cinnamon note.

So what's a Chingon? It's Mexican slang for badass. Things I think are badass about this drink: Its orangey-yowza color, for one. The way the citrus plays against the orgeat (hints of Mai Tai) and the B&B (although note that the original Death & Co. recipe calls for just Benedictine). Most badass of all: That it is a cocktail mere mortals can easily wrap their shakers around, as the most exotic ingredient is the orgeat syrup -- which you should totally invest in anyway, because spring's around the corner and oh yes we will be making Mai Tais.

The Chingon

(Adapted from Death & Company)

2 ounces Sauza Conmemorativo

1 1/4 ounces B&B

3/4 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce orange juice

2 teaspoons Fee Brothers Orgeat Cordial Syrup

Orange peel, for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

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The Grand Street

We had some friends over yesterday afternoon (U know who U R! Luv U lots! Stay as sweet as U R! SIT!) to do some cocktailing, so I wanted to start this week with the drink that ran away from the pack, the hands-down favorite, the one cocktail to rule them all!

How freaking good am I talking? What Stephanie said: "I would wear this as perfume." Michelle: "This is the Most. Intriguing. Cocktail. I have ever tasted." And then more Michelle: "I would order a second one of these just so I could spend more time with it."

To mention ordering it is apropos, as you can do just that at Death & Co. Have I said yet that I try to swipe ask for a menu to take home every time I go there? I'm hoping to work my way through the latest copy I've got, which dates back to the fall. For my second attempt at that endeavor, I chose the Grand Street simply because I had all of its ingredients on hand, although those ingredients scared the poop out of me a little bit.

Specifically, the Cynar, which is an artichoke-flavored liqueur. At least, that's what I think I'm being told to think given that there's a picture of an artichoke on the label. To me, Cynar tastes nothing like artichoke and quite a bit like shoe polish. I lump it in with Fernet Branca as one of those alleged digestifs that I happen to believe would give me a stummyache if I sipped it straight. (We had Cynar at The Royale, where one guy used to order it mixed with Coke. I think he was somehow trying to show off.)

Combine that with the fact that I'm supposed to combine that with Luxardo -- a maraschino liqueur? geez Louise! -- and Punt e Mes, an extra-bitter Italian vermouth, and my big hurdle, obvs, was deciding on each ingredient's measurements; all I had to go on was the order in which they're listed on the menu. Luckily, I think I hit on some awfully good proportions on the first try, judging by audience reaction. (Ur so sweet guyz!)

The Grand Street

(Adapted from Death & Co.)

2 ounces Tanqueray gin

1/2 ounce Punt e Mes

1/4 ounce Cynar

1/4 ounce Luxardo

Grapefruit peel, for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously for about 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub the outside of the grapefruit peel (i.e. not the pith side) around the rim of the glass before garnishing drink with it.

Tasting Notes:

Just to see what would happen, I made this drink a second time with Bulldog Gin instead of Tanqueray. Boo, Bulldog! Whereas the Tanqueray provided such a fragrant layer of botanicals that underscored the drink from start to finish, the Bulldog really added nothing. It rendered the Grand Street pedestrian and saccharine.

Death & Co., by the by, makes this with Beefeater Gin. I really do think gin is a liquor where a middle-shelf product -- Tanqueray, Beefeater, etc. -- can take you quite far.

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