The Tuxedo Martini

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Ceci n'est pas une Cosmopolitan

Girly-looking, manly-named!

Here we have a Tuxedo Martini. It is of a piece with the Stork Club, a cocktail I blogged a few weeks back, in that both were christened after the New York City hotspots where they were invented. Allow me to quote my ever-dogeared copy of Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails:

"Created at the Tuxedo Club, New York, circa 1885. A year later this was the birthplace of the tuxedo, when a tobacco magnate, Griswold Lorillard, wore the first ever tailless dinner jacket  and named the style after the club."

A few things:

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- Griswold. Lorillard. That's like National Lampoon's Vacation + Gilmore Girls-ish surname somehow = The hoity-toitiest moniker EVER. Clearly, Griz did not just invent the tuxedo, but also the monocle and the spat.

- Having said that, there is apparently some dispute as to the veracity of that whole sartorial yarn.

- Invented in 1885! That is one seriously ancient cocktail. By comparison, the Stork Club (the business, not the drink) didn't even open until 1929. This makes me think of Midnight in Paris, when modern-day Owen Wilson and Roaring 20s-era Marion Cotillard time-travel back even further to the Belle Epoque. The Tuxedo is one ultra-hyper-meta nostalgic tipple, is what I'm saying. And also, as I've said before, a perfectly imagined era of yore is a perfectly good reason to prepare oneself a cocktail.

So how's it taste?

The Tuxedo's got an alcohol-y middle to its flavor profile, as any wet martini is wont to have. Of course, the fact that my brain keeps processing its visuals and telling me it's a Cosmo only adds to that wobbliness. The finish, however, is the bomb, with an intruguing and not-at-all-over-the-top sweetness to it.

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The Tuxedo Martini

(This recipe's kinda like a mash-up between the one in Difford's and the one in my Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

2 ounces vodka or dry gin

1 1/2 ounces Martini & Rossi dry vermouth

1/2 teaspoon Luxardo

4 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and mix briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run the pithy side of your twist along the lip of your glass, then use it to garnish.

Tasting Notes

Maybe some folks would have my head for suggesting that this cocktail could be made with either vodka or gin. My feeling is, the other ingredients are quite potent and powerful, such that if vodka's your jam, or it's all you have on hand, etc., it's going to suffice.

Difford, by the by, uses Tio Pepe fine sherry instead of Luxardo in his recipe, as well as Angostura orange bitters instead of Peychaud's.

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El Presidente #4

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In some circles, the El Presidente is otherwise known as a Cuban Martini. It's also one of those cocktails with slippery origins; in my Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails, this is the fourth of four known El Presidente recipes printed. Variations include:

- El Presidente #1: Light rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine; a slim change-up on a classic daiquiri, replacing its simple syrup with pineapple juice. (Which, now that I think about it, is a great idea.)

- El Presidente #2: Light rum, dry vermouth, bitters. Difford's describes it as "bone dry" and "rather like a rum-based, old-school Martini."

- El Presidente #3: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau, grenadine. A Trader Vic's recipe, of which Vic himself allegedly said, "This is the real recipe." (But I think he claims that about all of his concoctions? At least about the Mai Tai, which he said he flat-out invented.)

- El Presidente #4: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau. "Dry but not bone dry, with balanced fruit from the triple sec and vermouth." Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!

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Now that I've tasted this, I might actually propose a fifth version with a splash of club soda or even tonic. The former because of  the mojito-Cuban link, the latter because this El Presidente also manages to remind me of a nice, sweaty gin and tonic, which is actually one of my most favorite things to drink on the first hot day of summer.

But as-is is still a-plenty good. Crisp, light... dare I say, in its own weird way, Moscato d'Asti-like? (There I go with the fizzy thing again.)

Just try it.

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El Presidente #4

(Taken pretty much straight-up from Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails)

1 ½ ounces Bacardi Superior light rum

¾ ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth

½ ounce Cointreau

Lemon, lime and/or orange twists, to garnish

Pour all liquid ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add your garnish.

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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 Dirty Gin Martini with Pickled White Asparagus Spears

The second time I lived in Manhattan, which was for about 30 months, I had an annual ritual (you do the math) of meeting up with m'gays at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in the West Village and drinking a big, fat, dirty vodka martini. This ritual was perfect for a number of reasons -- for two, the Knickerbocker is a bona fide throwback of a joint, its prices equally retro -- but I guess the main one was that this was the only time I would ever allow/fancy myself a dirty vodka martini; it had to be with these friends, sitting at this bar, where the bartender, whomever it was on a particular evening, would always serve the cocktails oversized, even saving the little extra in the bottom of the shaker to top off my glass after I'd taken a few sips.

Now, one could argue that there's a lot that's less than perfect about this scenario. All-booze cocktails ought to be stirred, not shaken, lest you "bruise" the liquors (I believe purists are particularly strident in their anti-bruised-booze stance when it comes to gin); you're not supposed to want any diluted-down "extra" besmirching your drink; martinis are passe and dirty-anything is an abomination on par with Red Bull or drinks that approximate birthday cake.

For me, having all these little rules in place about exactly when I'd indulge in a dirty vodka martini somehow made drinking one OK. Like how dieters rationalize their way right into the ice-cream case at PathMark, perhaps, or the way the editors of the Approval Matrix can rhapsodize with equal gushiness about Roc-A-Fella and Evan Ziporyn's electric gamelan music. Look at me, the highbrow gettin' all lowbrow! What naughtiness! I'm gonna go watch Millionaire Matchmaker now even though I claim my favorite show is Downton Abbey! I could not only justify but revel in the dirty martini's briny tang, which I love so much, because I wasn't just ordering a cocktail; I was having a moment. (I must also admit, I don't love the dirty-martini taste enough to want it regularly; once yearly jibed with how often I'd get an guttural, gustatorial hankering for one.)

The PhoBlograpHusband found these white pickled asparagus spears on sale at our Montreal supermarket not long ago. Occasionally we buy groceries here based on how much the packaging makes us laugh, like the time I bought fish sticks because it said on the box, "Now In A Box!" (WTF did they used to come in??!? #thatswhatshesaid), and M'Lord asparagus spears clearly fit that bill ("#foodforthe1percent," I joked online at the time). I think it was Sean who said they and their brine would make a great basis for a dirty martini. As for me? Now that I'm up in Montreal and having a hard time finding where m'newgays at, I thought that was a smashing idea, and perhaps the start of a whole, new ritual.

One more thing, speaking of high-falutin vs. lowdown rituals: I don't care what Rachel Maddow proselytizes, I say eat the garnish. OK, so maybe not if it's got a rind on it, but Especially Yes if it's a big, honking, salty-briny kinda garnish like a nice, long swizzle-skewer of stuffed olives or white pickled asparagus spears, which is half the fun of ordering something like a dirty martini. (I mean, srsly, who doesn't want to be this girl?). Or house-brandied cherries. ALWAYS eat house-brandied cherries.

The Dirty Gin Martini with Pickled White Asparagus Spears

2 ounces Bombay Dry Gin

About 1/3 ounce Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth

About 1/3 ounce pickled white asparagus brine

Pickled white asparagus spears and fresh dill (optional) to garnish

Combine gin, vermouth and brine in an ice-filled mixing glass and use a bar spoon to mix as fast (yet smoothly) as you can. Strain into a well-chilled martini or cocktail glass. Garnish to your liking with white pickled asparagus spears, and perhaps a sprig of dill as well.

Tasting Notes

Yes, I used to enjoy dirty vodka martinis at Knickerbocker, but I made a gin martini here. Why? Because I wanted to try one (honestly, I've had gin martinis, and I've had dirty vodka martinis, but I don't think I've ever had a dirty gin martini). And because we have no vodka in the house at present. And also I guess a little because I do think it's time for me to grow up a little bit more (she said, as she sipped a dirty gin martini while six months' pregnant.)

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The More Perfect Cocktail

Just as I often cannot keep it in my pants for Eric Felten, the PhoBlograpHusband's got it bad for Old Mr. Boston, the circa-1935 Official Bartenders Guide we received from a friend. It's quite the thorough, reliably voiced tome, considering it doubles as a hardcover, portable advertisement for Old Mr. Boston's erstwhile products, such as Old Mr. Boston Blended Whiskey and Connoisseur Creme de Cacao. (There's even a glossy-paged centerfold replete with handsome liquor ads. Oh 1935, how naughty wast thou!)

Anyway, Sean was thumbing through the thing the other day and happened upon the Perfect Cocktail and asked if he should whip it out up for the blog. I figured, yes, of course, why not, as we can talk about the concept of "perfect" in cocktail-making, that it's not just a boast but that it actually means something, namely the addition of dry and sweet vermouths to a drink in equal measure.

Another mini history lesson is this: While these days nobody ever orders anything "perfect" unless they mean a Manhattan, back in the day, the assumption when you talked about a Perfect Cocktail was that gin would be your base liquor. Much like how the original Alexander was also a gin concoction until the Brandy Alexander came along with its swinging-from-the-chandeliers popularity -- and, hand in hand, its more sugary-sweet flavor profile -- and became the Alexander de rigueur. Or how Martini always meant gin and vermouth until vodka martinis started clouding up the whole affair. Of course, Martinis were derived from Martinezes which were derived from Manhattans... and the circle of life continues.

Anyway! The historical perspective I am trying to lay upon the Perfect Cocktail is, when we tasted the Old Mr. Boston recipe for the drink, we did not really like it at all upon first sip. This is what cocktails used to taste like before everything in our lives, from our morning cereal to our flouride toothpaste, started tasting like candy. It had such a grown-up, no-sweetness flavor profile that I dare say it was un-fun, and while Sean and I agreed that we could sit with it a spell, let it grow on us, learn to appreciate its odd angles, instead we just decided to do a couple dashes of Peychaud's, which rendered it more in line with our modern-day ideas of grown-up pleasure. It is Friday, after all; who wants to be assigned homework right before the weekend?

The More Perfect Cocktail

(which builds upon the Perfect Cocktail recipe as published in Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

Equal parts Bombay Dry Gin, Stock Sweet Vermouth and Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (we did 25ml, or about an ounce, each)

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

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