The Savoy Hotel

From what my Facebook feed tells me, summer is already in the air for many of you Americans. For me, it's hit a balmy 45 degrees F two days in a row and I'm ready to cartwheel down the sidewalk in short shorts even though the sidewalk's still encrusted with shin-high piles of dirtsnow on either side.

While walking the dogs this morning in nothing but a heavy wool coat (wheee!) I noticed that construction has finally started on a new SAQ that'll be located a full 1 2/3 blocks closer to us than the SAQ that's currently closest to us. Even better, the new one is clearly too big to be a SAQ Express, which means maybe they'll carry something other than wine and Jack Daniel's.

(The different kinds of SAQs (government-run liquor stores) up here in Quebec are SAQ Express (bodega), SAQ Depot (warehouse) SAQ Signature and SAQ Selection (the difference being?). It's kinda like Gap, BabyGap, etc.)

Anyway, this is good because as I've said lately, what reduced amount of cocktailing I've been doing has been confined to those liquors I already have in the cupboard. Yes, I am lazy and a miser, but if you take away one of those obstacles to my leaving the house and purchasing more al-kee-hall -- i.e., the booze now lives on a shelf a whole 100 seconds closer to me! -- I'll relent.

Exhibit A: Here's a cocktail I would've never seen coming nor given a second glance. Three liquors, all of which we had in the house. It's intended to be served as a layered drink. That and the fact that it's 1 1/2 ounces total means to me that it's more of a shot than a cocktail, but we tried it both ways (layered and mixed) and approve either preparation. It's on the sweet side, but not as sweet as you might think. For some reason I can't contemplate this cocktail without also wishing I had a smoking jacket to don while partaking. (See mixed-into-a-cocktail-glass photo below to see what I mean. It's begging for a fireplace and a pipe!)

The Savoy Hotel

1/2 ounce brandy

1/2 ounce Benedictine

1/2 ounce dark creme de cacao

Pour the three ingredients, in order, into a shot glass. Hold a spoon upside-down over the mouth of the glass as you pour (hitting the backside of the spoon, then the glass) to get the layering effect. Note that the middle and top layers are very similar in color and so you may have to stare hard to actually see whether you've achieved a good and proper layer between them. Alternatively, shake all three ingredients over ice in a shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. In which case, garnish with a lemon twist for a little brightness.

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The Swamp Thing

Guest post by the very British Nick Leftley, senior editor at Maxim and a mate made for drinking with

A few months ago, I was out on a tequila-tasting night courtesy of the charming and spectacularly agave-obsessed folks at Don Julio. After tasting every variety of tequila they make (and at this point, I'd personally recommend the Don Julio 1942, an Anejo tequila that's creamy, peppery and as good for sipping as most decent Scotches), master distiller Enrique de Colsa introduced us to the concept of the Luxury Drop.

The Luxury Drop ­ -- rather than, as it sounds, being hurled out of a helicopter made of crushed velvet  --­ is Don Julio's attempt to bring civilization to the untamed wilds of the classic tequila shot. Everyone who's ever licked salt off the base of their thumb before throwing back a shot of cheap, nasty tequila and shoving a wedge of lemon through their grimace can probably agree that, as traditional as it is, it is also to classy drinking what eating a sandwich you found in the dumpster is to fine dining. (Anyone who has never taken this shot has clearly never actually been in a bar, ever).

That's why Don Julio want to re-invent it as something special, while still retaining the basic character, and to this end have invited several of the world's finest chefs and mixologists to whip up surprising and delicious alternatives. There are just three rules to making one: it has to involve a shot of tequila; it has to have a routine (something other than just downing the shot); and it has to have a name.

At this point in the proceedings, a large table covered in cocktail ingredients was unveiled, and every person present was invited to try their hand at inventing a Luxury Drop. So, brusquely bypassing the mounds of glistening strawberries and blueberries for the fripperies they were, I grabbed a handful of fresh basil and went to work. The murky green concoction I ended up with tasted like a delicious salad that's somehow managed to get wasted in an Italian bistro on its way out for tacos. Success! Briefly stuck for an appetizing name to give something that looked like particularly verdant marshland (and, also, being a huge nerd), I named it, in typically classy fashion, Swamp Thing.

Enrique ­ -- who, lest we forget, is Don Julio's master distiller ­ -- declared it to be one of the finest shots he's ever taken, and guys, this man knows about tequila shots. And so, in the happiest ­ and smuggest of all possible endings, a few days later I received a bottle of Don Julio 1942, signed by Enrique himself, to say thanks for inventing the Swamp Thing.

And we all lived drunkily ever after.

The Swamp Thing

2 shots silver tequila

Juice of half a lime

Spoonful agave syrup

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Cracked black pepper

Muddle the basil leaves in a shaker, then shake vigorously with the tequila, lime, syrup and ice. Strain into a couple of shot glasses, then sprinkle the black pepper on the base of your thumb. Lick off the pepper, down the shot.

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