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 Afterbird

My gosh, today kinda sucks, no? Not to rain (or snow, as it is up here in the Great White North) on anyone's Thanksgiving Eve Parade, but this is always a busy and stressful day. What with the last-minute cleaning and shopping and cooking and fretting that your mother-in-law is going to get stuck in a snowbank somewhere north of Albany on her drive up to see you. And, even if you're the self-employed, work-at-home type like me, the assignments you're trying to get out the virtual door before getting yourself out your actual one, where walkway clearing awaits so Mom doesn't kill herself on her way from her car to your apartment. Meanwhile, your dog won't let you type at full speed because she likes her paw held while snuggling on the couch next to you, which results in typos like this one that just happened: "ci 980hkmn."

Phew, *breathe*! My point is, I've got one more to-do to put on your list today, and it is worthwhile and it is this: Buy Underberg at your neighborhood's finer liquor store. (Or Dean & Deluca.)

Last November on TastingTable.com, I read about this pocket-sized vial of Germanic, herbaceous elixir: "This shockingly bitter, aggressively alcoholic Germanic beverage is meant to be taken in one swig from its handsome miniature bottle, which promises that 'after a good meal' it will confer brightness and alertness upon the drinker." Of course, they don't have Thanksgiving in Deutschland, but they do have Oktoberfest. For that reason alone I'll take their word on its overindulgence countereffects.

Mere days after I read this, the PhoBlograpHusband and I were stocking up on holiday booze essentials at The Wine Library in New Jersey and there was Underberg, lined up on the shelf next to the bitters. They come three 2/3-ounce bottles to a box the size of a cigarette case. I dutifully purchased one and held onto it for almost a year. Now I am here to share with you the digestif cocktail I invented so that you can incorporate your Underberg into your post-pie euphoria.

What does Underberg taste like straight? Like acrid licorice, like smoked Jagermeister. Kinda gah, if you ask me. Definitely not something I'd have any natural inclination to swig in one swallow.

As you may well know from my recent posts, the liquor supply chez Lorre is way low as of late. (Mom-in-law is bringing us a bottle of Buffalo Trace this afternoon! Go Mom-in-law!) At the same time, I happened to have some raw egg yolks, with a bit of whites, kept in an airtight container in the fridge, left over from when I made my Bathtub Gin(ger). Furthermore, I have been hellbent for months on devising a successful flip, a cocktail that makes use of a whole, raw egg instead of just the whites; I'd made a Cynar Flip a long while back, based on a recipe from a bar in Boston, but have had no luck writing a flip recipe of my own from scratch. Maybe now was the time; Underberg is as potent and pungent as Cynar, after all.

I wound up going a little crazy coming up with this cocktail, in what I think of as a very good kind of crazy. Adding raw egg to Underberg mellowed out the start of the cocktail but still left it with a long, unpleasant finish. I scoured my liquor shelf and decided to try yet another ingredient that I'd long longed to find a use for: Hispaniola Mamajuana, a Dominican, rum-based, herbaceous-yet-soft liqueur. (You learn about stuff like Hispaniola Mamajuana when you spend three years of your life living In The Heights.) The Hispaniola worked wonders on rounding the whole thing out, start to (still nice and long) finish. Then came the espresso (by which I mean, black coffee, but we're not fancy with the caffeine around here) and -- and this is great, truly! -- the Tabasco, which melded with the bitter herbs at the finish in a tongue-tickling way and reminded me a bit of a Sandinista. (Wait a minute, she said as she looked at the meager Google results for "Sandinista recipe." You mean nobody knows what a Sandinista is outside of St. Louis? The blog will remedy this soon. To the blogmobile!)

At this point, all that was missing was some heft and body -- I think the raw egg took some of that away -- which I added back with the Benedictine.

This cocktail is loopy, yes. But then again, so's your Grandma Ruthie when she takes her dentures out and puts them on the dinner table. It's in the spirit of the holiday! Let us rejoice and be thankful.

The Afterbird

1 1/2 ounces Underberg

1 ounce Hispaniola

1 ounce Benedictine

1 whole, raw egg

 3 drops Tabasco

1/2 ounce freshly made espresso

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake shake shake shake shake it! Seriously, shake it a lot, because you've got liquid ingredients of every possibly viscosity in there and you need to mix it all up really well. Strain into a cocktail glass that's been very very very well chilled. Seriously, like very well chilled, because thanks to the egg, this drink can get thin-tasting quickly and the chilled glass will combat that.

Tasting Notes

I have a hunch you could take this cocktail even further. Specifically, I suspect that an aged tequila (anejo or reposado) would be a good base liquor, in addition to or instead of the Benedictine, to drive up the heat quotient. If you'd rather emphasize the smoky, try adding an ounce of Scotch. Also, I am quite sure you could garnish this with sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, maybe even cayenne pepper. (Tell me if you do! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P.S. Look how foamy this cocktail is!

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Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda

Yesterday was also Grandparents' Day. I have a soft spot for that day because when I was in the third grade, I guess there had been some sort of grade-wide or school-wide announcement that to recognize the holiday, your grandparents were welcome to come sit in on class on a particular afternoon; mine were the only ones who showed up to Ms. Nichols' classroom. These were my mother's parents, who were really the only grandparents I ever had.

As my mother tells it, as seniors her parents came to swap the personalities each had embodied during their child-raising years. My Grandpa had been the fearmongering disciplinarian of my Mom's childhood (imposingly tall, his carriage had borne the obscure menace of a Hitchcock villain) while Grandma was the good cop, the parent you'd go to after the other one had said no, or the parent you'd run and hide behind when the other was chasing you down for a spanking. As I knew them, though, Grandpa was a peaceable, lovable giant and Grandma was a rusty, old broad who could turn on you in an ashy-tipped flick of one of her Vantages.

When I was around nine, we were at my grandparents' for my Grandpa's birthday. In the kitchen helping to get the cake ready with Grandma, my overzealousness had somehow rubbed her the wrong way, and she irascibly blurted out that I should go suck an egg. I thought it was the meanest thing anyone had ever said to me. I retreated to the living room couch, refusing to return to the kitchen for dessert, even though listening to everyone else sing "Happy Birthday" made me feel excruciatingly alone. A little while later, Grandpa came into the living room by himself with a piece of cake for me. That still makes me cry.

As you might have guessed by now, Grandma was the drinker of the two. Put a Scotch and soda in one of her hands, a lit Vantage in the other, sit her bony ass down in front of a Mets game and you'd witness a 75-year-old completely in her cups. I don't think the fact that she drank Scotch and sodas had anything to do with the fact that I went through a yearlong Scotch-and-soda phase in my early 20s; for that, you could thank the tech crew at The Bottom Line in the West Village, where I waited tables. Likewise, the fact that I never really liked the taste of Scotch and sodas really was just a tastebud thing, not some psychological harbinger of what-have-you.

So I guess, Grandma, if you're reading this from that big, old Citi Field game box in the sky, you may consider Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda my olive branch to your egg suck. True, I didn't make this drink in one of your old cruise-ship highballs (btw, you swiped those, didn't you?), but I did make it big, so you'll never need get up in the middle of an inning to refresh your glass.

Grandma's Gussied-up Scotch and Soda

2 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3/4 ounce Otima 10 Year Tawny Port

2 dashes orange blosssom water

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Club soda, to fill

Lemon twist, to garnish

Combine Scotch, port, orange blossom water and bitters in a tall, ice-filled Collins glass. Stir briskly. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes

I'll talk about this more some other time, but The Arran Malt: This is a Scotch that we received from one of Sean's cousins as a wedding gift (albeit late enough to qualify as a first-anniversary gift; thanks, Chris!). Chris' father's family stems from the Isle of Arran where it's distilled. Sean and I have become big, big fans of this Scotch whisky... because it tastes so much like bourbon whiskey! Low on the peaty and high on the caramelly. Yum.

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The Cynar Flip

So about this Cynar stuff. It's starting to grow on me, intellectually if not gastronomically. Intellectually, the more I read straight off the website and paraphrase as I'm about to do now up on it, the more intrigued I get. It's been around since 1952 (that alone, the cinematic notion of la vita bella circa 1952, is enough to sweep my grandiose imagination off its size 11 feet). In 1995 Cynar was bought by the Campari Group... which also owns  Cabo Wabo Tequila, wtf? The U.S. is not among Cynar's top-five markets worldwide, although I have found pockets of American afi-Cynar-nados online; those are Brazil, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France, where apparently people like to spike their beer with it.

Gastronomically, I think I might be on the cusp of a whole Italian herbal liqueur movement. Seems everywhere I've gone lately, I've been confronted by bottles of Aperol and Amaro and I just get itchy with curiosity. They are fast replacing bitters in my bartending fancies/fantasies. (Am I going too fast? Quick primer, if so: What I'm talking about here are aperitifs (before-dinner drinks, usually on the light and crisp side) and digestifs (heavier after-dinner drinks). Aperol, which is a singular product like, say, Benedictine, is considered an aperitif. Amaro's a digestif and is a categorical name for a kind of drink the way, say, bourbon is. There are tons of different Amaro brands, and because they virtually all go by "Amaro [Italian brand name that sounds like a village]" their labels may read as if their surnames indicate something more than marketing, like some sort of regional appellation, but really they don't . One more thing: it's pronounced CHEE-nar. That's how they say it in these awesome commercials from the 1960s.)

As I've bemoaned before, the loamy, leathery flavor of Cynar is a highly acquired one, but slowly acquiring it I believe I am. A few months ago I'd printed out something from TastingTable about flips, which are cocktails made with a whole egg, and just recently while flipping through my binder o'drink things that catch my eye, I noticed a recipe for a Cynar flip, little more than Cynar, egg and simple syrup. Sold.

I've touted the use of egg whites in cocktails aplenty, which give you that great, frothy head (that's what she said) while rounding out a drink's harsher, more acidic elements. A whole egg gives you a drink with body just this side of batter-thick, as if your tongue has been ensconced in velvet, or better yet, Italian silk.

The Cynar Flip

(Adapted from Drink, a cocktail lounge in Boston, via TastingTable)

2 1/2 ounces Cynar

1 whole egg

1 teaspoon cilantro-infused simple syrup

Star anise, for garnish

Combine Cynar, egg and simple syrup in an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously for a really long time, like a minute. Strain into cocktail glass. Drop star anise on top for garnish.

Tasting Notes:

Drink's recipe calls for plain simple syrup, but a side-by-side sniff test of my Cynar bottle and my cilantro-infused simple syrup bottle led me to the olfactory-driven conclusion that they'd be a good match. The truth is, with an ingredient as forceful as Cynar and a whole egg in there, who knows if I would've been able to tell the difference.

To make cilantro-infused simple syrup: Heat on the stove in small pot equal parts sugar and water (one cup each is a good place to start) stirring consistently. Right when it comes to a full boil, remove from heat. Stir in a healthy handful of well-cleaned cilantro leaves. Once it's cooled down to around room temperature, strain through a good strainer or cheese cloth into a bottle for storage. You can keep this in your fridge for a good month or so.

Sean and I tried this at first and decided it needed the slightest bit of something extra. Not another liquid ingredient or something on the rim; I felt like what I really wanted was a piece of candied ginger that I could slice into and straddle atop the rim as a garnish, so I could trade nibbles of it for sips of cocktail, which is certainly thick and forward enough to match wits with it. Alas, we don't keep candied ginger in the house, but we do have star anise, a spice from China. As you can see, it allows for quite the dramatic presentation, but more importantly, the spice's way-potent, licorice-like fragrance was what we were going for. This is meant to be a purely smell-experienced garnish, in other words. You get a perfume-y little whiff of it right before the drink hits your lips, which turned out to be a  good je ne sais quoi.

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