The Gin Rickey

If that was Feh-bruary, I'm hoping this doesn't become Meh-rch.

Part of the reason I didn't post much last month was, Sean and I conducted a mega cocktailing session a couple weeks ago that yielded, like, 8 or so bloggable potations -- zero-ish of which I felt any excitement about. We were going for volume, and aiming to keep the necessary ingredients in line with what we already had on hand. Such cocktailing under pressure can still yield inspiring results -- and in fact, I always try to err on the side of fridge and pantry staples when composing recipes, because, you know, Shit At-Home Bartenders Have.

So maybe it was just Feh-bruary working its dour magic, or maybe the problem was that we relied on one book out of our entire cocktail reference library, a book I must now admit I find lacking in its organization, writing style, fonts and pretty much anything else you eyeball when you open a book.

(If you see this book cover, crack with caution...)

So, here I am with a backlog of recipes and a complete lack of anything to say about them... except, I suppose, this one. Because it doesn't matter how poorly laid-out a rickey recipe may be within the pages of a particular tome; a rickey recipe is forever timeless and foolproof (and boastworthy as its own mini-history lesson). Never mind the five inches of snow that's accumulated since this morning OF MARCH FIRST on the Montreal side street I look out at every day; wherever you're downing a rickey, it's at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. Writer's block may be the sad side effect of a neverending winter and a glut of who-cares concoctions, but a rickey can always get your juices flowing.

A rickey is one of those categories of cocktails -- well, firstly, it's not technically a cocktail, it's a highball; second, what I mean is, it's like a smash or a shrub or a julep -- defined not by its primary liquor but by all the other stuff, which in this case means lime juice, club soda and a lime garnish. So you can have a bourbon rickey, a Scotch rickey, a sloe gin rickey, a vodka rickey, a brandy rickey and so on. (Although whatever you do, don't have a vodka rickey. Drink with purpose!)

Really, the rickey embodies all those qualities that make me most love a five o'clock cocktail (it's not just a blog; it's a thing you can do!). It's a good and proper drink, imbued with history and flavor (the gin rickey's especially nice with its gimme combo of juniper and  citrus), and it's got that elegant simplicity thing going that allows a feeling of all-is-rightness to wash over me, even when I'm stuck in a glut of wrong.

The Gin Rickey

(Adapted from the book pictured above, and really, I"m not looking to start turf wars here, I just don't find this book as handy and delightful as many others)

2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Club soda

Lime wedge or wheel, to garnish

Pour gin, lime juice and club soda, in that order, into a tall, ice-filled Collins glass. Stir briefly. Garnish with lime wedge or wheel.

Tasting Notes

A less-tall highball glass will suit if you don't have a nice, tall, slender Collins glass. Trivia: Add simple syrup or sugar to a rickey and you have a Collins.

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The Presbyterian

Why did it take thirty-nevermind years of life for me to discover the Presbyterian?

A few months ago, a gaggle of us went to Little Branch, one of the elder statesmen of the New York/pre-Prohibition style/pay-$14-for-a-cocktail-and-beg-for-more temples of cocktailing. Little Branch's menu does things a little differently that other bars of its ilk -- in fact, let's diverge for a paragraph or two and talk a bit about that, the organization of cocktail menus. (God, what a cocktail dork I am; this stuff actually excites me.)

Death & Co.'s menu, for example, is primarily categorized by cocktails' base liquors: gin, rum, whiskey, etc. (No vodka, of course, as 't'wasn't what Americans drank way back when.) Those groupings are subdivided into shaken cocktails and stirred ones. I like this because 1) today we're largely conditioned to think about drinks by base liquor, making this menu accessible at first glance; 2) subdividing into shaken and stirred, the menu still gives customers something new to think about, the idea that proper cocktail making includes how you physically amalgamate your ingredients.

Clover Club in Brooklyn (which I just went to for the first time last weekend and ooh! Lots to share with y'all soon!) pays greater attention to the type of cocktail rather than what's the base liquor, like I talked about the other week -- "Collins & Fizzes," "Sours & Daisies" -- and then has a catchall "Cocktails" list and, curiously, one for "Rye" but no other liquors. It's fascinating and full of helpfully written, witty bits of copy, but still takes more digesting.

And then there's Little Branch's menu, which I stole and have read over and over and still find sort of opaque. The best way I can describe its organization is to literally spell it out:

I. Standard Cocktails

A. Tart & Mildly Sweet

1. Lime Drinks

a. Daiquiri

b. Gimlet

c. Brandy Shake

d. Gin or Rum Rickey

2. Lemon Drinks

a. Sour

b. Tom Collins

c. Rye Fizz

d. Fix

3. House Ginger Beer

a. Hiball

b. Dark & Stormy

c. Moscow Mule

d. Presbyterian

B. Spirit Forward

1. Martini

a. Oliver Twist

b. Gibson

2. Manhattan

a. Brooklyn

b. Rob Roy

c. Tipperary

3. Sazerac

4. Old Fashioned

Where's my mixologist's decoder ring?! It's a bit all over the place, a bit hard to wrap your mind around, and I feel bad for the cocktail waitresses there, because my guess is that they have to spend a lot of time answering questions.

I don't think any of us ordered a Presbyterian that night, but I was intrigued, and actually all the more so when I read how basic and simple, and thereby sort of refreshingly elegant, a Presbyterian is: It's just bourbon, ginger ale and club soda. It's crisp, it's light, it's a bit WASPy, and it's exactly what I'd want to quaff at the family cocktail hour, after a round of tennis with Mumsy.

I hope this is one y'all can add to your at-home arsenal, 'cuz seriously, you can't ask for more supermarket-friendly ingredients, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is to bother to make myself a Manhattan.

The Presbyterian

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Equal parts ginger ale and club soda

Fill a Collins glass (the nice, tall, slender ones) with lovely and perfect, prep-school ice cubes. Pour in the bourbon, followed by your equal parts ginger ale and club soda to fill. Garnish with lemon slice or twist. If you've got a nice, slender ice tea spoon -- you know, like you keep at the Nantucket summer home -- give it a few gentle stirs. Discuss the stock market and the poors.

Tasting Notes:

Can you use ginger beer instead of ginger ale? Can you do unequal parts of the ginger-whatever and club? Surely.

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