The Applejack Saze-wack

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Some people discover pencillin. Others spill battery acid and then somehow, suddenly, they've invented the phone. Me? I improvise Sazeracs with applejack brandy.

While riffling through my ever-beloved Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks by Simon Difford's recipe for a Sazerac. Ask any goomba how to make a classic one and you'll be told rye whiskey, bitters (Peychaud's, sometimes Angostura too), a sugar cube, and an old-fashioned glass coated with absinthe. Well, that's just not good enough for Monsieur Lord Simon Difford, Esq., Ph.D. VII...

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I know I reference Simon's namesake book a lot, and as a straight-up, serious-minded reference tome it practically cannot be beat. But I'm starting to think Simon Difford might be part peacock. He's quite the fancy lad; you can tell from his recipe write-ups, with their ostentatious notations. Oftentimes he'll call for "chilled mineral water (omit if wet ice)" which I will admit to you, my fellow peanut-gallery proletariats, I just don't get. Is Simon McFoppishstein making his cocktails with dry ice? Does he live in a space colony?

Rather than rye, Master Simon's Sazerac employs a mix of cognac and bourbon -- cognac because Mr. Peychaud often mixed his eponymous bitters with brandy, and bourbon "as is more communally used to make this drink today." (Um, no, Knight of OnePercentershire; us down here in Proleville use rye, not bourbon, and by the way, the word is commonly.)

Because I am a class warrior, I decided to take on Difford's rococo Sazerac. (Never mind that I've yet to craft an actual -- ahem, I'm sorry, communal -- Sazerac for this blog.) Then I discovered gravity our cognac had been 86'd by a PhoBlograpHusband who'd taken to secret brandy nightcaps as of late. So I grabbed the neck of my next-closest bottle: Applejack brandy.

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My new favorite way to describe bourbon-based cocktails is chewy, and the Applejack Saze-wack is like the freaking caramel nougat of bourbon-based cocktails: Mondo chewy. Nay, even rococo chewy. Freaking Baroque chewy. It's absolutely delish -- well-balanced, intriguing -- and my new favorite mistake.

The Applejack Saze-wack

(A riff on Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D.'s Simon Difford's Sazerac as found in his book on page 367)

2 ounces Laird's Applejack Brandy

2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon

1 ounce Lucid absinthe

1 ounce simple syrup

3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine brandy, bourbon, simple syrup and both bitters in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled, absinthe-coated highball, rocks or old-fashioned glass.

Tasting Notes

I will concede to Mr. Difford that his method for coating a glass with absinthe is preferable to the norm. Rather than rolling a splash of absinthe around the interior of a glass by hand, he simply fills the glass with ice, pours in his absinthe, then fills with cold water. (Or, as he insists upon, "chilled mineral water.") Then he lets that stand while preparing the cocktail. In this way, you can chill and coat the glass at the same time. Point, Difford! En garde!

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The Cheeky Monkey

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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

(From The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

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.

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The More Perfect Cocktail

Just as I often cannot keep it in my pants for Eric Felten, the PhoBlograpHusband's got it bad for Old Mr. Boston, the circa-1935 Official Bartenders Guide we received from a friend. It's quite the thorough, reliably voiced tome, considering it doubles as a hardcover, portable advertisement for Old Mr. Boston's erstwhile products, such as Old Mr. Boston Blended Whiskey and Connoisseur Creme de Cacao. (There's even a glossy-paged centerfold replete with handsome liquor ads. Oh 1935, how naughty wast thou!)

Anyway, Sean was thumbing through the thing the other day and happened upon the Perfect Cocktail and asked if he should whip it out up for the blog. I figured, yes, of course, why not, as we can talk about the concept of "perfect" in cocktail-making, that it's not just a boast but that it actually means something, namely the addition of dry and sweet vermouths to a drink in equal measure.

Another mini history lesson is this: While these days nobody ever orders anything "perfect" unless they mean a Manhattan, back in the day, the assumption when you talked about a Perfect Cocktail was that gin would be your base liquor. Much like how the original Alexander was also a gin concoction until the Brandy Alexander came along with its swinging-from-the-chandeliers popularity -- and, hand in hand, its more sugary-sweet flavor profile -- and became the Alexander de rigueur. Or how Martini always meant gin and vermouth until vodka martinis started clouding up the whole affair. Of course, Martinis were derived from Martinezes which were derived from Manhattans... and the circle of life continues.

Anyway! The historical perspective I am trying to lay upon the Perfect Cocktail is, when we tasted the Old Mr. Boston recipe for the drink, we did not really like it at all upon first sip. This is what cocktails used to taste like before everything in our lives, from our morning cereal to our flouride toothpaste, started tasting like candy. It had such a grown-up, no-sweetness flavor profile that I dare say it was un-fun, and while Sean and I agreed that we could sit with it a spell, let it grow on us, learn to appreciate its odd angles, instead we just decided to do a couple dashes of Peychaud's, which rendered it more in line with our modern-day ideas of grown-up pleasure. It is Friday, after all; who wants to be assigned homework right before the weekend?

The More Perfect Cocktail

(which builds upon the Perfect Cocktail recipe as published in Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

Equal parts Bombay Dry Gin, Stock Sweet Vermouth and Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (we did 25ml, or about an ounce, each)

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

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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 Alaska

Spring has come to Montreal one day ahead of schedule, and man, has it come correct. It's a splendiferous afternoon up here, one I've happily wasted flitting around like a little butterfly, gazing through my office window as neighbors garden their front yards and stray cats strut about the sidewalk, repeatedly checking to see if the snow in our backyard has completely melted (it has not) and just generally jumpy as a junebug and grinning like an idiot. Seasonal affective disorder -- what a real thing that is!

An hour or so ago I convinced the PhoBlograpHusband to take a stroll down Avenue Mont-Royal with me, just because, and also because I was hoping to find some sort of sidewalk-proffered gelato or sorbet. This weather's got citrus refreshment on my brain. We wound up settling for a carton of Five Alive -- pardonez-moi, Cinq Alive (actually, they call it Deli-Cinq, "deli " being short for delicious, not delicatessen) -- which I've dispensed into our Tovolo ice-pop molds.

While waiting for those to freeze, let's unironically enjoy a most ironically named cocktail, the Alaska. What a light and yummy cocktail perfect for in-the-sixties-and-sunny weather, with a sunny hue to boot. If you bought in on my yellow Chartreuse pitch from several weeks back, you'll be doubly pleased, because here's a recipe that makes good use of the liqueur.

I literally just saw two dudes walk past my window, one of them holding a bottle of limoncello. Spriiiiing!!!

The Alaska

(which I got from the Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide)

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounces yellow Chartreuse

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Lemon wheel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and mix swiftly. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish.

Tasting Notes

The recipe as I read it called for a lemon twist. As you can see, I could not resist a full wheel given my giddiness for all things zesty today.

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