The Really Good Pickle Martini

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If you are a minutia-obsessed Seinfeld fan like I am (Is it possible to be any other kind of Seinfeld fan? Minutia is that dude's umwelt) then you remember the episode wherein Jerry tries to decipher the note he scribbled in the middle of the night while half-asleep. He finally figures out it's a line from a sci-fi B-movie he'd been up late watching. A line, it turns out, that's actually not that funny.

Such it's been for me the past few weeks with a drink name and recipe I came across and jotted down and now I'm all like, wuh? The drink's called The Filthy Narwhal, and Googling it comes up goose eggs as far as a source or point of origin.* I think I may have seen it on the online cocktail menu of some resto in Boston. I have no idea why I think that, seeing as I can't remember the last time I was in Boston, nor do I have any plans to be in Boston, but so fire the synapses of my sleep-deprived memory these days.

What I need no help recalling is what about the Filthy Narwhal made me want to copy it down -- it's got a pickle garnish! I [heart] pickles. When I shove pastrami down my piehole dine respectably at a Katz's or a Schwartz's or any other Jewish deli, I'm mainly in it for the pickles. (Maybe I just have a thing for foods that are green?)

On a different** episode of Seinfeld, Seinfeld said, "I've never had a really good pickle." While this statement should bring much shame on Jerome and his Hebrew roots, I am here to state that you can have a really good pickle martini. Like, The Really Good Pickle Martini.

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Now, the trick to a really good pickle martini is that the cocktail should contain pickle juice but should not taste absolutely and entirely like pickle. You don't want it to be so over the top that it becomes more gimmick than potable. That's a tricky trick because pickle juice is powerful. (Say that 10 times fast.) And in fact, the Filthy Narwhal sidesteps this quandary entirely; it doesn't contain any pickle juice, only vodka and dry vermouth with a garnish of organic dill pickle and blue-cheese stuffed olive. (Yes, I wrote all that down, but didn't write down where it came from.)

This martini is really rilly good, y'all. The flavor profile has a bit of brine to it but it's still very much a proper martini even though it tastes noticeably different from a standard martini, and honestly, if you think it's just another dirty martini, believe me when I tell you it's not dirty at all. (It even looks all but clear.) The pickle garnish exudes a snappy olfactory element as you dive in so that your nose as well as tongue gets in on the fun. (Now that's a bit dirty.)

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I'm just gonna say it: I am master of my domain. (Yes, we're still talking about cocktails.)

The Really Good Pickle Martini

2 ounces Gordon's Dry Gin

1/4 ounce Martini & Rossi dry vermouth

1/4 ounce pickle juice

Dill pickle, to garnish (I used a pickle slice, the kind they sell in jars for putting on sandwiches)

Pour gin, vermouth and pickle juice into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add your pickle garish, preferably skewered.

*UPDATE: Source found! I was close; it's not from a cocktail menu at a Boston resto but a Burlington, VT resto. Still a wuh? but at least I'll sleep better tonight.

**CORRECTION: It's the SAME episode!! What are the odds?!? I hang my head in Seinfeld-fan shame.

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The Smith and Curran

For as much as I love booze, there is one virgin elixir I just might adore even more than all the liquor in the world, and that is a chocolate egg cream.

Oh, how I could rhapsodize about an egg cream, its gloriously proportioned trifecta of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer (neither eggs nor cream). When you’re this crazy about egg creams, you know that they must be made with Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup if they’re worth a damn, and you purchase specially marked pint glasses from Junior’s in Brooklyn that indicate how much of each ingredient to use, and you hunt online for genuine, old-fashioned seltzer bottles (which must be refilled regularly with carbon-dioxide cartridges, at no small expense), because you can’t get a good, fizzy head on a homemade egg cream with seltzer from a silly twist-cap bottle.

Now, several years ago in St. Louis, I read in one of the local rags about a cocktail called something like Smith and Kearns, which was basically an alcoholic egg cream: seltzer, some sort of light cream and Kahlua. I refused to trust this, first and foremost because Smith and Kearns sounds like the name of a steakhouse, not a chocolaty cocktail. Second, I usually don’t care for the taste of chocolate in my liquor-ful libations. And third, Kahlua? Give me a break.

Recently, on one of my many flips through Eric Felten’s book How’s Your Drink?, I came across the Smith and Curran. It turns out, according to Felten’s meticulous research, that “Kearns” is how the latter half of the cocktail’s moniker got bastardized over the years, and that Misters Smith and Curran were oilmen in North Dakota who once asked their favorite bartender to whip up a mixer that might soothe their nasty hangovers. (It’s a pretty good story; you can read it here.) Also, it should be made with creme de cacao, not Kahlua. At that, the only thing left for me to do was to try it, and hopefully, finally remedy my disconnect between nonalcoholic and alcoholic egg creams.

I have sucked down hundreds of egg creams in my day, usually lacking the self-restraint to time it well with the completion of my accompanying sandwich (tuna salad on whole wheat toast with lettuce and tomato, thank you very much -- pickle on the side, please). At first taste of the Smith and Curran, I declared that I really liked it but wouldn’t care to drink a whole one because doing so would be a bit too dessert-y for me. (See: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale.) Then Sean tried it and corrected me: “I want to drink this entire glass right now,” he stated. Then I realized he was, of course, right. It wasn't that I didn't want to enjoy the entire thing; it was that I didn't want to have to enjoy the entire thing in any sort of proper, time-meted, decorum-concerned way.

The Smith and Curran

(Adapted from How’s Your Drink?)

2 1/4 ounces dark creme de cacao

1 ounce half and half

A little bit of seltzer

Build ingredients in a highball, over ice, in the order given. Stir briskly for just about five seconds -- says Felten, "just enough to mix the ingredients, but not so much as to dissipate the soda."

Tasting Notes:

Felten's published recipe does not denote whether to use light or dark creme de cacao. We actually did a first pass using light, which seemed to produce quite a frothy head (that's what she said) but, in turn, a not-heavy-enough body. On a second take, we switched to the dark creme de cacao and added a dash more than the two ounces he calls for. This measurement gave the drink its desired heft, with a more chocolate-forward flavor profile, although you do lose quite a bit on the head (that's what she said).

As much as I advocate owning a seltzer bottle, I do not endorse using it to make a Smith and Curran. The reason being, those puppies are stur-rong, and chances are trying to add just a quick hit of seltzer into a highball glass that's already half-full with liquid will only result in that liquid being blown out of the glass and onto your tabletop. However, do always try to use a never-been-opened bottle or can of seltzer so that your cocktail's as fizzy as possible.

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