The Stork Club

stork redo

The real reason we all drink, I think, when you get right down to it (and I'm paraphrasing myself here), is to whisk(ey) ourselves away in our mind's eyes to another place and time, preferably involving fedoras, garters, cigarette holders, evening gloves, watch fobs and other accoutrements of a halcyon generation past.

This is certainly true when you now do all your drinking at 9 p.m. in your messy kitchen, with your kid finalllllly asleep a couple rooms away, a geriatric dog who perpetually smells like pee hanging out at your feet and a mound of dirty dishes staring you down from across the room.

But I don't want any of you to think, now that I've got a daughter and a book that happens to be called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, that this blog is taking a permanent turn towards all things parental. Far from it (just a little for my first week back, perhaps), and my proof to you of this is the Stork Club cocktail.

Stork Club Logo 001 (1)

In the book, I recommend the Stork Club as the perfect potable to toast the anticipation of a second (or third, or fourth) child. (And p.s., why my publisher let me get away with recommending that an expectant woman drink alcohol is beyond me, but good on 'em, I guess.) While the cocktail's name may sound like I made it up for the sake of the book, I didn't. The Stork Club was a real place in New York City that enjoyed a 35-year run (1929 to 1965, by most accounts) as the place to see and be seen -- and, I'd imagine, the picture-perfect place we all imagine when we imagine that other place we go to on our little magic cocktail rides. (A theory as to why the cocktail tops gin with lots of citrus is that bathtub gin was the hooch of the day during the Prohibition, and that its awful taste was often masked with lots of juice. Note the overlap between the Stork Club's opening and the end of Prohibition.)

Fruit

Take a gander at the Stork Club's commemorative website and you'll see what I mean. A scene from All About Eve was set at the Stork Club; so was a second-season scene from Mad Men. Enough said; pass me my make-believe mink stole.

The Stork Club

(From The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

1 1/2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1 dash Angostura bitters

Lime and/or orange twist, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with citrus twists.

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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 Moscow Mule

There are plenty of reasons to drink, but only two good ones:

1. To achieve that flush of heady, giddy, tingly optimism that comes quick on the heels of the day's first tipple. (All successive swigs are nothing but guileless attempts at holding onto this fleet feeling, although I still over-partake all the time.)

2. To imagine being in another time and place, preferably involving fedoras, topcoats, garters, nylons, evening gloves, watch fobs, spats, held doors, cigarette holders, cigarette cases and the right to make use of all this enchanting cigarette paraphernalia indoors. (I'm not anti-smoking bans; I'm just saying there's nothing romantic about going outside to smoke. Besides, I quit smoking, although I still over-partake all the time.)

I love (love, love, love) The Moscow Mule -- vodka mixed with ginger beer and lime juice, on the rocks -- for conjuring both of these moods so effortlessly.

The story of how the Moscow Mule came to be (no matter which version you choose to believe; I go by former WSJ cocktail columnist Eric Felten's account, as I do with most things booze-related) is in itself a perfect little piece of throwback Americana: Invented in Hollywood (of all places!) by an enterprising bartender who was simply looking for a way to move some dead stock; christened hip by Tinseltown's postwar bevy of celebrities; marketed through copper mugs, engraved with the likeness of a mule, by the bar's proprietor and the man behind a then-flailing Smirnoff brand. Luck and hustle.

Also by pure luck, this weekend my fridge happened to be stocked with both ginger beer and fresh limes, and the thrill of fashioning myself a Moscow Mule for the first time in ages was eclipsed only by the spicy bliss of the cocktail itself. The Moscow Mule surprises me every time I have one. So few ingredients, but such a multifaceted flavor!

The only way to improve upon my positive associations with this drink was to go by the recipe offered online at the Mad Men Cocktail Guide. Barkeep, another round of three-piece suits and pillbox hats for everyone!

The Moscow Mule

(Adapted, with little changed, from the Mad Men Cocktail Guide at amctv.com)

1 1/4 ounces Ketel One vodka

3 ounces Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost

1/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon simple syrup

1 drop Old Honey Barn Kentucky Mint Julep Mixer

Mint sprig and/or lime, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled highball or Collins glass -- or a copper mug, if you wish to go all-the-way old-school. Stir briskly for a few seconds. Garnish to your liking with mint sprig and/or lime wheel/peel/etc.

Tasting Notes:

OK, so I lied. What we had in the fridge that I thought was ginger beer turned out to be ginger ale. The hubs picked it up and, because this is an unfiltered ginger ale, it looked to me more like ginger beer. And, I would say, tastes an awful lot like it, too. I mean, if my choices were ginger beer by Goya or ginger ale by Bruce Cost, ain't no choice at all.

Now, about that mint julep mixer. I want to say that when I was at The Royale, Tonya and I tried making Moscow Mules with mint-steeped simple syrup. As my fridge this weekend contained no fresh mint, but still wanting a bit of mintyness in the glass, I added exactly one drop of that syrup (which is all kinds of artificial and ridiculous, but we bought it at the Buffalo Trace gift shop in Kentucky, so...). I believe it added a little something to the drink -- but again, with a cocktail this dizzyingly complex, who knows?

 

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