The Bonne-Bonne

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When I was penning The Big Book of Martinis for Moms -- because that's how one writes a book; one pens them ever so eloquently; one doesn't thrash at one's laptop until the "c" key gets permanently stuck or try to organize one's writer-blocked thoughts by haphazardly slapping a bajillion Post-Its on the wall like a mental patient -- I had an idea for a chocolate-cherry cocktail.

If you've readskimmed why haven't you bought this book yet please buy this seen the book, you know that the cocktail recipes therein each correspond to a particular feat of motherhood that deserves a potent, potable reward. So like babyproofing the house is an accomplishment that calls for a Rusty Nail, while helping with homework earns Mom a Brainstorm. The chocolate-cherry cocktail, I thought, would be a mother's just desserts on those blessed afternoons or evenings when she gets to do nothing at all, fluffy-slippered feet resting atop the coffee table. In other words, like drinking a bonbon.

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Unfortunately, I knew that actually inventing said cocktail would not be so easy-breezy. Chocolate and cherry are two very forceful flavors. I find that sometimes when I try to combine two big, bold tastes like that, I wind up with a flavor profile that's somehow less than, or even worse than, the sum of its parts. It can taste entirely like one flavor and none like the other, or two two can meld into something downright blech-y.

Anyway, one way I snuck around those problems was by relying on cranberry juice, which provided a lovely hue (seriously, cranberry juice really does pretty up a drink) as well as an easygoing companion, palate-wise, to my white creme de cacao.

The Bonne Bonne (which I've given a French feminine spelling) wound up not making it into the book. Quel mal-mal for the book but goody for us!

The Bonne Bonne

1 1/4 ounces vodka

3/4 ounce white creme de cacao

2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail

2 dashes chocolate bitters

Combine all four ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass.

Tasting Notes

I didn't have any Three Olives Cherry vodka on hand while testing out this recipe, but I'd bet it's an ever better ingredient to use in this instance that straight-up vodka.

An even bigger cheat: You can make a drink with equal parts chocolate vodka and cranberry juice. Not bad at all. (Ghetto Bonne Bonne, anyone?)

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The Grasshopper

Grasshopper 1

Have I really never discussed with you peeps my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream? Let me rephrase more accurately -- my looooove, my looovvvvvelurrrrrvemmmmnomonomnomnomohmommymygoddammmnnn for mint chocolate chip ice cream? That's just not possible. Is that possible?

[Point of information, as I've just now bothered to fact-check my own query: It is indeed not possible. I blogged about my mint-chocolate fetish last June when I made up the Alexander the Great, my mint chip-arak concoction. Yum.]

What's really not possible, then, is that it's taken me this long to talk about the Grasshopper.

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It is no mistake that in his book How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well, my cocktail-historian crush, Eric Felten, chooses to discuss the Grasshopper, an all-liqueur dessert cocktail, immediately following the Pink Lady and preceding the Smith and Curran (aka the electric egg cream). Of those three, actually, the Pink Lady could wipe the floor with the other two, because at least the Pink Lady contains gin (as well as applejack brandy, which is no joke, and raw egg white, which has its certain Rocky connotations even as it does lend a cocktail a cap of frilly froth).

According to Felten, the Grasshopper was "a fad cooked up by marketing johnnies around 1949. The Leroux Liqueurs Company of Philadelphia only made cordials, so what better drink for them to promote than one anchored by a pair of liqueurs... Sweet, creamy and pretty, the Grasshopper quickly became an iconic girly drink."

And then he goes on to cite various postwar scribes who damned the drink with faint praise ("so-called cocktail," "something of learned vulgarity") in a way that reminds me of how current-day critics love to jump on the Girls hate-wagon in what basically amounts to condescending woman-bashing codespeak.

(Yes, dammit, I am making a link between a dessert cocktail and HBO's latest zeitgeist-rattler. My husband is a Ph.D. student, I binged on the first season of Girls as if it were a bag of York Peppermint Patties (which is exactly what the Grasshopper tastes like YES IT TASTES LIKE THE WHOLE BAG) and I dream about cocktails constantly so... yeah.)

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When I was watching the PhoBlograpHusband edit these gorg Grasshopper pics he shot, I asked him, "Is that really just cream and creme de menthe and creme de cacao? Is that really all we put in there?" And he looked at me funny and I said, "I just can't believe -- it just doesn't seem like those are three ingredients that would really coalesce together as well as they do. I just can't believe how good this cocktail looks."

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See, I internalized the girly-bashing just a bit, when what I really need to internalize is another Grasshopper. In my belly. That's what she said!

The Grasshopper

(A classic; this recipe is based on my own from The Big Book of Martins for Moms)

1 ounce green creme de menthe

1 ounce white creme de cacao

1 to 2 ounces cream

Mint leaves or chocolate shavings, to garnish

Combine the three liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass. Top with mint leaves or chocolate shavings.

Tasting Notes

Obviously, the stiffer you like your drink, the closer you want to hold to that 1:1:1 ratio. Add that extra ounce of cream for your cousin who just turned 21.

What kind of cream? Half-and-half will work just fine if that's what you've got. Otherwise it's just what your tastebuds prefer. (Speaking of, I read in the New York Times' recent review of Salt Sugar Fat that there is no known point at which a creamy drink becomes too creamy for the average set of tastebuds. Too sweet is a measurable, reachable endpoint but not too fatty/creamy. Just a little cocktail-party factoid for you... and which I guess you could interpret to mean that your tastebuds would prefer melted butter. Gah. Stick to heavy or whipping cream at most.)

Felten says you can use either light (i.e. clear) or dark creme de cacao. I'd play it safe and stick with the light as I would not want to risk a swampy-hued Grasshopper. Felten, for what it's worth, describes the resulting shade as sage green. Revenge of the Sage Thing!!!

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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!

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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 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 Apparent Cocktail

Let me see if I can explain to you what I've done so far today. I woke up at what I consider an ungodly hour, cooked breakfast for others and then didn't bother to cook any for myself. I took the subway downtown -- I much prefer using the Bixi bikes, but the people who were my ward today don't ride bikes. Then I felt like I was dragged around walked around various (underground) malls looking at  various gewgaws and having near-arguments; in one memorable instance, I had to insist to one of my charges that yes, this is the hat you had on when you left the house this morning.

At 10:50 a.m. (also an ungodly hour, I barely believe in showing my face in public for any reason at that time of day) these annoying twits wanted lunch. By 12:40 p.m., they decided it was snack time. We came back to my place at 2:30 p.m. to take naps. Their naps didn't last as long as I wanted mine to, which means mine didn't last as long as I wanted mine to. Since then, I've been showing people how to use the phone or admonishing them not to touch this or that.

Why even think about having kids someday? Just babysit your in-from-out-of-town septuagenarian parents all day long!

I. NEED. A. DRINK. What's funny about today's drink being the Apparent Cocktail is... well, there are a few things, and my brain's too running-on-fumes to sort them out in a writerly fashion, so please bear with the following list of bullet points:

* It is more than Apparent that I need a drink.

* The recipe for this cocktail comes from my Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide,which, like my dad, has been in existence since 1935.

* The Apparent Cocktail reads like a desperation potion, something you slosh together into a McDonald's keepsake cup, should that be all you have on hand. Which I would totally do this afternoon if that's what it came to. However, in actuality the drink is sort of curiously elegant, light-bodied but flavorful start to finish. It tastes to me like what I imagine a pre-war digestif might taste like.

* Please have one for me today.

* Also, note to self: I have to investigate some of these Apparent (get it?) cocktail names from Mr. Boston. Some of them are quite weird, like this one Apparently is.

The Apparent Cocktail

(Adapted from the Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

1 1/4 ounces Bombay Dry gin

1 1/4 ounces creme de cacao (white)

Splash of Arak

2 roasted coffee beans, to garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Mix briskly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop in the coffee beans (they'll float).

Tasting Notes

The Old Mr. Boston book basically describes this drink as equal parts gin and white creme de cacao; I just decided on 1 1/4 because that's a jigger measurement I most prefer.

The recipe actually calls for a splash of absinthe; to my surprise when I made this drink over the weekend, we didn't have any in the house, so we figured something in the ouzo/arak/anise-flavored family would suffice and I did quite like it as we made it. Sambuca could even work in a pinch, though then I'd recommend shaking the drink since Sambuca's more viscous than these other liquids.

Now my mom's complaining that it's 5:20 p.m. and dinner isn't ready. I have to go.

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