The Vieux Carre

I can feel another Eric Felten rager coming on -- my curious condition wherein I just want to make cocktails from his book, How's Your Drink? -- and as this one coincides with the advent of the new season of Mad Men, I give you the Vieux Carre.

First, please allow me to quote liberally from Felten's prose regarding the Vieux Carre's New Orleans origins (New Orligins?):

"Then there's the Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar, where the circular bar revolves slowly under a whimsical carnival canopy of carved wood, mirrors, and bare bulbs. The barstools don't go up and down, thankfully, but the experience can still be a little disorienting; get caught up in a conversation, and the next thing you know, you're on the other side of the room. Ask bartender Marvin Allen to mix you up a Vieux Carre, a terrific drink invented by the Carousel's barman in the 1930s, and unknown to most mixologists outside of the Hotel Monteleone."

He goes on to talk about the Crescent City's rightful place in history as the birthplace and current-day cultural keeper of the cocktail, and that's kind of where Mad Men comes in. One could make the argument that, as of the zeigeist-y right-now, Mad Men is carrying the mostwater for cocktail culture. The mustachioed, suspendered, arm-gartered, vested, tattooed mixologist, we're all tired of him and his haberdashery tropes, no? But we still can't get enough Mad Men, and when we watch Don Draper mix himself an Old Fashioned, zomg it looks so good. (Don would also chafe at the obligatory fawning that often seems expected from the modern-day barkeep.)

The only problem with Don is, he drinks Old Fashioneds! The man needs to evolve his whiskey-based cocktail repertoire, and I believe the Vieux Carre would be the perfect potable for the job. The Benedictine gives that needed sweetness (srsly, Don, you pussy) while the bitters likewise add a familiar component to a cocktail that otherwise offers something different.

Also, "vieux carre" translates to "old square," which is probably what Megan thinks of Don these days...

The Vieux Carre

(Adapted very little from How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well)

1 1/2 ounces St.-Remy Brandy

1/2 ounce Bulleit Rye Whiskey

1/2 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth

1/2 teaspoon Benedictine

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Mix all liquid ingredients over ice in a short glass. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Tasting Notes

Aside from noting the specific brands I used, the only change I made to Felten's recipe was using brandy instead of cognac. This is a swap we always make around here for spending-cap reasons.

Also, the Felten/Carousel Bar recipe calls for all ingredients to be mixed "over ice in a short glass." Meaning, build it in the glass rather than pre-stirring it in a shaker or mixing glass. This goes against today's conventional wisdom, which would probably dictate a vigorous mixing on its own in a separate vessel before pouring it over fresh ice in your drinking glass. But really, what would Don Draper do?

The Kraken Old Fashioned (a.k.a Caribbean Christmas)

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

While stocking up on booze in New Jersey over the holidays, this interesting little gem caught my eye...

I can't say particularly what drew me to The Kraken, if it was my childhood love of the original The Clash of the Titans (1981), my college-age infatuation with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (we all make mistakes), or the $15.99 price tag; perhaps all of the above. Whatever the attraction, we needed a dark rum and the Kraken seemed like a fun little toy to experiment with. It promised the type of dark, molasses-y qualities of Myers or Goslings Black Seal at half the price and with a hint of spice that can be quite lovely when not overdone. I'm looking at you, Cap'n...

After reading the label, checking out the website and tasting it, I have to admit, I'm still a little confused by this product. Although it's not what you would consider a craft liquor -- it contains caramel color and "natural flavors" -- I found The Kraken rather enjoyable.  It has an interesting nose, similar to Captain Morgan but more subtle and complex. It has little of the depth I associate with black rum but is robust enough to hold up to most anything you want to throw at it -- or more accurately, into it. It calls itself imported (via Jersey City, I might add...) but is bottled and, I guess, blended in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which I imagine is across the border from Johnsburg, Illinois. But I digress...

As Rose and I set out to concoct a few cocktails on New Year's Eve, I tasked myself with putting the Kraken to good use. As this was not the first project I took on for the night, and as my cocktail creativity usually declines as evenings wear on and inebriation mounts, and as I am finally aware of the fact that my late-night creations are usually not particularly inspired or even palatable, I opted to go with a variation on a theme. We had talked about Old Fashioneds earlier in the evening so I figured I would mine that particular vein for inspiration. Since I wasn't working with authentic ingredients, I went for the least old-school Old Fashioned recipe I knew. I have to say, for the booze in question, even though it would make Don Draper roll over in his grave, it worked really well.

The Kraken Old Fashioned

2 1/2 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 ounce club soda

4 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

2 half wheel orange slices

2 maraschino cherries

Muddle an orange slice, cherry and bitters at the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Fill glass with ice and add Kraken rum. Toss between the glass and a shaker tin to mix. Top with club soda and garnish with the other orange slice and cherry.

Tasting Notes

Although the recipe is based on the classic, the end result is closer to the Caribbean islands than a Manhattan speakeasy. I got a real tropical sense from the drink, while my cousin Chris said it "tasted like Christmas."  This could be a fun recipe to try with an assortment of aged and black rums and a variety of bitters as well. If you get to experimenting with the recipe, or with the Kraken, let us know!

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