The Birthday Cake Martini

Cherries

When I tended bar at The Royale Food & Spirits in St. Louis, floating in the ether inside that hallowed drinking hall was something called the Birthday Cake Shot. By "floating in the ether," I mean it was a concoction that wasn't in our top-secret, behind-the-bar recipe binder or on our official menu -- but it was on patrons' minds all the same, and many of them knew to ask for one on their (or their friends') birthdays. Hence, we tenders had to have the shot committed to memory.

Except I never quite did. Instead, I often and repeatedly annoyed my fellow bar employees by asking them to remind me what was in it. I resented the Birthday Cake Shot because I was there to make grown-up cocktails, goddamnit. The Birthday Cake Shot wasn't even a concoction so much as a contraption, because it was one of those where you had to do it by sucking on a slice of lemon at the finish, and maybe lick some sugar beforehand... again, I can't remember whatever particular gymnastics were involved. Also, there was Frangelico, and somehow the lemon and Frangelico wound up tasting like yellow cake mix when combined on the tongue. Anyway, you get the point -- it was one of those shots wherein its puerile overcomplications were taken as clever by the completely blotto.

So when it came time for me to include a Birthday Cake Martini in The Big Book of Martinis for Moms (because, hey, of course a book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms has to have a birthday-cake martini; I may be a cocktail snob, but I'm not an idiot), I decided that we were gonna do it a little more grown-up-like. Because hey, like it or not, growing up is in fact what a birthday is about.

Now let's jump to today for a sec. There's another reason why I posted the Birthday Cake Martini today, besides just it's-the-last-day-of-the-week-of-blogging-cocktails-from-my-book-oh-you-haven't-heard-about-my-book-yet? Today's also the birthday of two of my favorite ladies/drinking companions. Hi, Michelle! Hi, Harley! Michelle also just gave birth, like, 10 days ago, so she definitely needs someone to buy her my bookA DRINK!

BirthdayCakeMartini

The Birthday Cake Martini

(From The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

2 ounces cherry brandy

1 1/2 ounces dark creme de cacao

1/2 ounce Benedictine

Splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice (plus a little extra to sticky up the rim of your martini glass)

Confection's sugar, rainbow sprinkles and maraschino cherry for garnish

First, dunk the rim of your martini glass into a saucer of lemon juice to get the lip sticky. Then dunk it in a second saucer of confection's sugar. Set aside. Next, combine brandy, creme de cacao, Benedictine and lemon juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Carefully strain into your martini glass. Finish off with a maraschino cherry that you've rolled around in some sprinkles.

The Fort Washington Flip

There are oh, so many things that are inappropriate about the Fort Washington Flip at the time of this writing. One: It's clear from a quick scan of the cocktail's ingredients -- nutmeg, people; nutmeg -- that it ain't really meant to be quaffed in hot weather. (And it is hot up in herre, good people of places other than Montreal. It is so hot in Montreal today.) Two: Then I actually bothered to read the write-up this drink got on Serious Eats, like, four years ago (a time lapse that, while not outright inappropriate, surely gives away my occasional, self-loathsome tendencies towards procrastination) and, turns out, it was invented by a Cambridge, Mass. bartender in honor of Easter. Easter four years ago. An Easter that was  an "early Easter" that year. So again, faux pas sur moi. (If anyone else was surprised to read "Easter," because the nutmeg made you think Thanksgiving/Xmas... me, too!)

The Easter connection was represented through the use of a whole egg -- hence, this cocktail's proper nomenclature as a flip. (Flip = a whole, raw egg in the drink. There isn't a term for when you just use raw egg white, like in my World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.) I made this drink the other day, I made it myself and I made it diligently, not half-assed, and I poured it for the PhoBlograpHusband and for our next-door neighbors and then I poured some for myself (a teensy portion, I swear) and then I drank my teensy portion and then I went home and like 30 minutes later I said, "Oh God, Sean. I'm pregnant and I just drank raw egg."

This put me in one of those I'm-going-to-be-a-terrible-mother tailspins, but I won't bore you with all that. Suffice it to say, the fetus and I are still kicking. And now that that Charlie Brown-style guilt cloud has passed, I can speak to you positively about the Fort Washington Flip. It is endlessly pleasant. It is full of fun, pleasant ingredients that anyone can and should and probably will easily like.

And here is the mixology lesson behind the Fort Washington Flip: It is one of the few successful flips Sean and I have encountered over our years. Flips can be very tricky to figure out, calibrate and recipe-ize, you see, because when you add that whole egg, it tends to lay a thick, dense, creamy Army blanket of flavor-annihilation over whatever your other ingredients are. Flips we've experimented with have, more often than not, wound up tasting annulled. So I'm starting to suspect that it's not a coincidence that this flip and the other one I've blogged about most memorably, the Cynar Flip, have one key thing in common: No base liquor, only liqueur(s) included.

The Fort Washington Flip

(As published on SeriousEats.com, as invented by Misty Kalkofen, bar manager at Green Street in Cambridge, MA -- at least, she was four years ago)

1 1/2 ounces Laird's Applejack

3/4 ounces Benedictine

1/2 ounce maple syrup

1 fresh egg

Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

Pour everything but the egg and nutmeg into a cocktail shaker. Then add the egg, fill shaker with ice and "shake very vigorously for at least 10 seconds." Strain into chilled cocktail glass; garnish.

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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 Honeymoon

Do you ever wonder how so many cocktails are invented and everyone keeps them all straight -- or doesn't? Like how you can consult one Very Trustworthy Published Source and get Recipe A for a cocktail of some historical note, and then you reference Another Such Source and Recipe B is variegated enough that you're like, huh? Because if roads and bridges, whatever the recipe is for making them is, if those had been so casually bandied about we'd all be geographically stranded at best and dead from falling asphalt at worst.

Sometimes I think about those things. I thought about them recently while we were mixing Honeymoons. Doing so was actually the PhoBlograpHusband's idea, since we recently acquired our first-ever bottle of Applejack. We got Laird's, natch, because JERZEEEEE! (Like Laird's, Sean and I are from New Jersey.)

Anyway, here are different historical factoids about Honeymoons you can choose to accept or ignore at will, because apparently everybody else has:

- The Honeymoon was created in the 1930s in "a long since departed New York bar called Brown Derby."

- Or, the Honeymoon "is one of the signature cocktails from the Brown Derby in Hollywood that was probably featured alongside other 1930s legends."

- The cocktail also goes by The Farmer's Daughter.

- It is made with raw egg white, or not. Or, it is made with lemon juice, or not. Basically, there are permutations with and without either or both. ("Even if you are right, that'll be one plus one plus two plus one not one plus TWO plus one plus one.")

The morals of the story: Fobody's nerfect. The world is a strange and muddled place. Let's shut up and drink already.

The Honeymoon

(this is the recipe we like best for it)

2 ounces Laird's Applejack

1/2 ounce Benedictine

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lemon peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Tasting Notes

I am sure this tastes ah-MA-zing with an ounce of raw egg white as well. If you go this route, do a dry shake (in the shaker, all liquid ingredients, no ice) before your wet (with ice) one.

The Chow.com iteration of the recipe swaps in apple slices for lemon peel on the garnish, but then again, they also don't call for lemon juice. Just FYI.

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The Preakness Cocktail

In my rush of enthusiasm for all things post-vernal equinox, the Triple Crown is of course on my mind. I have a love/huh? relationship with horse racing which is also not a very deep relationship, but it's also a fun relationship. What I mean is, I really really don't understand horse racing, but when I lived in St. Louis I enjoyed playing "horse hooky" on summer afternoons, sneaking off with my friend Mike to the track, and of course there are all the cocktail traditions that go along with the sport.

The Preakness Cocktail actually bears a closer resemblance to a Manhattan than a mint julep, and it's not even the most "official" cocktail of the Preakness Stakes. That would be the Black-Eyed Susan, so named because the winning horse is ceremonially sheathed in a coverlet of Maryland's state flower. The Black-Eyed Susan, in turn, is like a first cousin to a Hurricane or some such monstrosity: it's made of vodka, cheap whiskey, sour mix and orange juice, garnished with an orange slice and a Maraschino cherry (skewered together on a cellophane-frilled toothpick, I'm sure). I believe it's what they serve to the muddied masses who buy the cheap tickets that allow them standing-room admission to the infield, which this May includes a Maroon 5 concert! Sounds about right.

Blech to all that! The Preakness Cocktail, I feel confident telling you even though I've never tasted a Black-Eyed Susan, is much better. It's a medicinal-tasting Manhattan, thanks to the Benedictine. (Yes, I know I've been big on Benedictine this winter. (Although actually not really, according to the archive.) Yay, winter's over! You probably won't see Benedictine here for a while.) A good five o'clock cocktail, this one, as it's all-alcohol, easy to whip up, quaffable but worth your contemplation on the way down.

The Preakness Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon

1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth

1/2 ounces Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass or tin shaker and stir thoroughly. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes

The traditional recipe, as you'll find it from many sources online, calls for blended whiskey instead of bourbon. But you all know that Rosie don't play that.

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