Me: Hey, J. and M. [our favorite married-couple-with-new-baby-in-Montreal friends] invited us over on Mother's Day afternoon for cocktails. J.'s mother and grandmother are in town. J. says her mother and I will get along because we're both drinkers.Read More
A million years ago Last year, I did some damage to a bottle of yellow Chartreuse. Actually, it was only half a bottle; a Francophone friend up here in Montreal asked me to bootleg him back from the States a 375ml-sized bottle of the stuff, and as I could only find the 750ml size, I shared it with him.
Anyway, I've had some yellow Chartreuse on hand, is what I'm saying, and it's one of those liqueurs (like ouzo) where a little goes a long way. Especially since it's got a peculiar flavor that doesn't go with every Old Tom, Dick and Harry. Even more especially because yellow Chartreuse, unlike its green cousin, is super 'spensive, so you want that shizz to last.
So if you're someone who's got a bottle of yellow Chartreuse on hand -- perhaps even because I suggested you go buy it -- here's an easy way to get some money's worth from that purchase. The Cheeky Monkey is an easy-breezy-peasy kinda cocktail. It's a cinch to whip up and goes down trouble-free -- yet thanks to the yellow Chartreuse, it's different enough not to put you to sleep.
(I mean, if you're a new mother* *obligatory plug for my new Martinis for Moms book it very well may put you to sleep, but that's just the general exhaustion talking.)
The Cheeky Monkey
1 ounce citrus-flavored vodka, like Absolut Citron or Ketel One Citroen)
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters (or a similar, orange-y bitters)
Orange twist, to garnish
Pour liquid ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add garnish.
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.
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.)
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
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.
Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put 'em together and what've you got? A 35-day month, but one that's worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.
When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe's inspiration from a restaurant's cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I'm paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.
Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn't wait to get down somebody's gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that's despite that fact that I'd subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.
Second to that in oh!-ness is how round and smooth aging has made it. This is obviously not as surprising -- that's what aging is supposed to do, round out the corners, sand down the edges. It makes this Manhattan dangerously drinkable. In fact, if you've ever fancied shooting a Manhattan, this would be how to do it. But of course, good shots only come to those who wait.
The Month-Old Manhattan
(Adapted from the cocktail menu at Eclipse Restaurant in St. Louis)
2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce triple sec
3/4 ounce Stock sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Orange peel, to garnish
Combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon without ice, and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand for one month in a cool, dry place.
To serve, pour jar's contents into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon until drink is well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish.
If the overly orangeness is scaring you off, my suggestion is to reduce the triple sec down to a half-ounce.
Damn you, St. Louis! Damn your exploding cocktail scene, three-and-a-half years after I move away. Damn you and your 150-libations-long cocktail menus and your Tales of the Cocktail award noms, your Ted Kilgores, your envy-inducing, membership-only cocktail boites that just happen to be housed in the most awesomest speakeasy-style restaurant space EVER.
And damn the recent cover story in Alive Magazine (a local lifestyle rag for chicks with meticulously maintained blonde highlights that I make fun of a lot in my head, but still) listing the top 20 cocktails in the city, which just so happened to be the current issue when I swung through town a few weeks ago, reeling as I customarily do from the timewarp-mindfuck that comes from revisiting my once-hometown, coupled with the fact that I'm still pregnant and can't shouldn't really no damnit can't drink anyway. You are killing me Saint Louis.
So yes, raging jealousy was my default reaction to this fine piece of journalism, followed closely by an intense desire to recreate at least one of these 20-best potations. I settled on the Month-Old Manhattan because, like many cocktails I've made of late, I already had all of the ingredients in the house. I haven't toyed with aging a cocktail in a while. The Month-Old Manhattan recipe came from Eclipse Restaurant, owned by my old bud Joe Edwards.
Joe Edwards is the king of the Loop, one of StL's happening-est nabes. Joe Edwards is a gentle, aging hippie and a shrewd, wickedly successful entrepreneur, whose hospitality and entertainment empire speaks to his endless love for all things Americana kitsch: Blueberry Hill (a resto/bar/college hangout/music venue where Chuck Berry still performs); Pin-Up Bowl; Flamingo Bowl; and the Moonrise Hotel, which houses Eclipse. I got to know Joe Edwards back when I was the restaurant critic at StL's alt-weekly. Also, Joe Edwards went to Duke. Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell!
So we mixed up the M.O.M. and found it's got a hell of a lot going for it besides its titular aging. This Manhattan is made with rye whiskey (as was the norm back in the day), sweet vermouth, bitters -- and, curiously, curacao. If I had Grand Marnier on hand I'd use that (Grand Marnier being a most upscale curacao) but I went downmarket and just used no-name triple sec.
Even unaged and no-name-triple-sec'd, I am already a big fan of this drink. The rye-curacao combo offers a rare scratchy-smooth-sweet trifecta on the palate.
The Month-Old Manhattan
(Adapted from Eclipse Restaurant, as published by Alive Magazine)
2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
3/4 ounce triple sec
3/4 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Clementine segment (rind on), to garnish
To make your aging sample, combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon (no ice necessary), and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand one month in a cool, dark place like a cupboard.
To drink straight away, stir all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass briskly for about 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or clementine segment, if desired.
Like I said, I was happily surprised by the smoothness and well-calibrated sweetness of the M.O.M. even using crappy triple sec, so I can only imagine that going with GrandMa as your curacao would knock your socks off. In fact, you might even want to try scaling back to 1/2 ounce GrandMa if you do so -- I'm just guessing on that, though. Cointreau would, of course, be a fine, middle-of-the-road substitute between those two.