The Aviator No. 1

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I'd like to talk about cocktail geekdom in this post, which I realize is like talking about the pink elephant we're all seeing in the room.

When Googling "aviator cocktail," one of the top search results is this 2008 story from the NYT's Dining section entitled "A Brotherhood Formed with Cocktails and Ice." While the boys'-clubbish headline does make me wince (here's one occasion where I'm all for a "personhood" amendment; how about "camaraderie," Gray Lady?) the story tickles my historical fancy, as I feel like it's sort of the ur-trend piece about us modern-day cocktailians (as one of those quoted in the piece preferred to be called, rather than "cocktail geek").

A recipe for the Aviation Cocktail No. 1 is one of two that accompany the piece. Note that I just wrote Aviation Cocktail No. 1, not Aviator Cocktail No. 1. [Inner cocktail geek jolted awake by persnickety clarification.] The latter is actually more obscure, it seems, and therefore much harder to come by online. [Geek full of pride for self, knows more obscure cocktail knowledge than most, is so cool!] And as the numerical nomenclature suggests, both the Aviation Cocktail and the Aviator Cocktail come in more than one accepted form. [Geeeeeekkkkyyyeeeeaaaahhhhh!]

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The difference between Aviation No. 1 and Aviation No. 2 is creme de violette. While both are considered "vintage" tipples, I guess even back in the day -- a day perhaps as far back as 1916, as an Aviation No. 1 recipe can be found in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published in that year -- creme de violette was hard to come by, as Aviation No. 2 omits it outright. This is not a bad thing, I'd say, as what's left sans creme is gin, Luxardo and lemon juice, a dangerously drinkable trifecta. [Reminds geek of geek's own, French Gimlet-esque recipe. Geek so money and don't even know it. Why geek talk like Cookie Monster? GEEK SMASH!]

The Aviator No. 1 builds on that heady trinity and adds creme de cassis -- perhaps to replace the original's creme de violette with a more commonly found ingredient? -- and egg white. While the egg white surely does it job and makes the drink damn good, I can't give you an historically justified reason for it. [Geek sad.]

An as long as I'm now gonna go ahead and deflate my inner geek ego, I have never, ever in my life managed to taste a drop of, or even find a bottle of, creme de violette. I think it's like the Godot of cocktail ingredients.

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The Aviator No. 1

(You can find this recipe or something similar in Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails, as well as my own The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

2 ounces dry gin

1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

1/4 ounce creme de cassis

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Raw egg white (say, the amount in a medium-sized egg)

Combine gin, Luxardo, lemon juice and egg white in an ice-less cocktail shaker. Shake for about 20 seconds. Next, add ice to fill, cap shaker again and shake for another 20-ish seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass. To finish, pour your quarter-ounce of creme de cassis into the center of the glass; it will sink to the bottom of the glass' V-shaped bowl and give the drink a layered look.

Tasting Notes

For extra egg-white froth, drop the coiled wire from a tktk strainer into your cocktail shaker for the first shake.

Difford says the drink tastes better when you forsake the layered look and shake the creme de cassis with the rest of the ingredients. Whatever, geek.

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The Pineapple Gimlet

I've been wanting to make this cocktail for months, ever since I scheduled my Midwestern roundabout (Mtl -->StL -->CHI -->TOR -->Mtl) for late April and knew I'd get the chance to revisit The Matchbox, that sliver of a Chicago watering hole that is basically the greatest bar on Earth. To sate myself in the weeks prior, I read through Matchbox's Yelp reviews and saw that, time and again, opiners were recommending the pineapple gimlet. Doesn't that sound ah-mah-zing? A pineapple gimlet!

And then the PhoBlograpHusband and I finally went to The Matchbox and got the last two seats at the bar during happy hour. It seemed foolish for me to order and pay for an entire cocktail that I could only take one sip of (per my own pregnancy rules) so I asked Sean to order himself a pineapple gimlet and he said no. He was in the mood for a Manhattan. I suppose I could choose to call my husband a big, fat jerk at this point but it's really OK. I pouted for a moment and then moved on.

Except not entirely, because I still just knew that I had to try making a pineapple gimlet of my own, at home, for you, me, the blog and that selfish hubs o'mine. And in fact, when that finally happened, it was Sean who took the wheel and hammered this recipe out (because every now and then in my 30-something weeks of pregnancy I just hit a wall and have to go sit comatosely for a while).

Sean did everything right with this pineapple gimlet recipe, and the cocktail is quite divine: light in body yet full and round in flavor. You taste the lime juice first, its citrus tang bullish out of the gate, and then for an aftertaste you get the comparatively soft and lilting taste of pineapple.

Sean used less egg white than I probably would have, resulting in a drink with more visual clarity (and probably more clarity on the palate as well). Usually, out of sheer laziness, I just plop the entire, raw white of an egg into my shaker, but here Sean carefully portioned out just half of the white. Adding raw egg white to a cocktail, as well as complementing the drink with a rim of confectioner's sugar, are two tricks I learned years ago thanks to The Matchbox.

The Pineapple Gimlet

(inspired by the offering on the menu at Matchbox, but I have no idea how similar our recipes may be)

2 ounces Akvinta Vodka

1/2 ounce triple sec

3/4 ounces freshly squeezed pineapple juice

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/2 of the raw white of a large egg

Confectioner's sugar, for the rim

Lime slice, to garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with confectioner's sugar and set aside. Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds (aka, a dry shake). Then fill with ice and do so again. Strain into your glass and add garnish.

Tasting Notes

Yeah, I made this a vodka pineapple gimlet rather than a gin one. Again, thought it might result in a flavor with more clarity, plus it gave me the chance to use our gifted Akvinta Vodka, which is clear-tasting in all those good vodka ways to say the least.

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The Bathtub Gin(ger)

In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.

First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!... Wait, I've never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.

Starting from scratch, here's how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won't be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they'd even give you money for it.

Attempt #1: Take everything I know and/or have at my disposal in the grapefruit and ginger departments, combine with appropriate cutesy wordplay and visual puns, pour into a glass. This means gin, sloe gin, ginger syrup and fresh grapefruit juice, plus some egg white (creating visual pun of frothiness = bubble bath) and a salted and sugared rim (because I like Salty Dogs).

Result: Salt overpowered EVERYTHING. Blergh.

Attempt #2: Nix salt/sugar rim, see what happens when you add in some Luxardo. Why? Because Luxardo's proven itself a stealth facilitator of awesomesauce cocktails before.

Result: All Luxardo, even though I only used half an ounce. Damn.

Attempt #3: Back to drawing board. Try using World's Greatest Cosmopolitan as a template, swapping out cranberry juice for grapefruit and ginger syrup for regular simple syrup. (Oh wait... I don't use simple syrup in the World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.) Keep all other elements of WGC intact: lime juice, triple sec, confectioner's-sugar rim.

Result:  Weirdly lacks a center. What starts out as the right amount of sweetness somehow evaporates into nothing. This is getting frustrating.

Attempt #4: Brainstorm other possible ingredients. Remember the beauty that is grapefruit-Campari sorbet. Graft Campari and a splash of sloe gin onto WGC recipe.

Result: Getting there...

Attempt #5: Spend way too much money on a bottle of Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka, all the while lamenting, "Whither art thou, Domaine de Canton?" Curse the SAQ for putting you in this predicament. Go home, construct a recipe using those elements you like best from attempts 1-4. Decide that the ginger syrup needs help; find ginger ale on sale.

Result: This...

The Bathtub Gin(ger)

2 ounces Bulldog Gin

1 ounce Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka

1/2 ounce Campari

2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

1 ounce ginger syrup

1 raw egg

About 2 ounces ginger ale

Confectioner's sugar, for the rim

Mint sprig, to garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with confectioner's sugar and set aside. Combine gin, vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice, ginger syrup and the white from raw egg in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Before straining contents of shaker into sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, pour about two ounces of ginger ale in the glass first. Garnish with mint sprig.

Tasting Notes

To make ginger syrup: Mix a half-cup of granulated sugar and a half-cup of water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While waiting for mixture to come to a boil, grate a thumb-sized piece of ginger into the pan. Stir until mixture reaches a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain into a container and let cool before using. This will make you more syrup than you need. You can refrigerate or freeze the rest.

As you probably already figured out, I poured the ginger ale into the empty cocktail glass first because I didn't want to shake the carbonation out of it. If you've got Domain de Canton on hand, try it in this recipe (instead of or in addition to ginger ale) and let me know what it tastes like!

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The Rose Is A Rose

Of course, the one time I am so besotted by my own cocktail invention that I vaingloriously choose to name the damn thing after myself -- the one time I do that, of course I encounter practically that exact cocktail not once but twice within the same week.

Why, the chances of such a coincidence are nearly as preposterous as the obtuse grandeur with which I declare: TO HELL WITH ALL THE OTHERS, IT IS I WHO HAS INVENTED THE GREATEST COCKTAIL EVER THOUGHT UP BY MAN -- OR WOMAN, BUT ESPECIALLY MAN!!

Let me back up.

The PhoBlograpHusband and I have been traveling recently to such exotic destinations as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and my parents' retirement bunker in Florida. While checking out Cincy's Findlay Market, I discovered Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices.

The Colonel De counter is a very happy place where you can sniff your way through dozens of spices, sugars and salts while totally geeking out and getting your foodie nerd on. Colonel De himself, with his beefy bratwurst of a mustache and gruff cheerfulness, is like Santa Claus, and his counter is like Candy Land. Colonel De used to work in IT (I think, something computers) and laughed when I asked him what the De was short for.

We left Colonel De's with 11 baggies of granulated, crystallized and/or powdery wondrousness, mixtures like Jalapeno Citrus Salt, Coffee Shop Sugar, Garlic Rosemary Salt, Mint Julep Sugar and Lavender Confectioners' Sugar. That last one I had designs on for the rim of a martini glass, a la the World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.

Jump to two weeks later, in Pittsburgh. I'm strolling the Strip, where you can buy Steelers paraphernalia, farmers' market produce or wackadoo foodie items like dog-biscuit biscotti. I am drawn into a Middle Eastern market by a sign advertising ouzo-flavored soda, and while there, I pick up orange blossom water and rose water, two ingredients I've been meaning to add to my cocktail cupboard, although I wasn't quite sure what I would do with them.

What I did was, I had folks over for one of our cocktail brainstorms, where I said to Mark, "I want to invent a drink that's got this lavender confectioners' sugar on the rim. I'm thinking rose water would play nicely, but I know it's pretty pungent and I don't want this to taste like you're drinking Grandma's perfume. What do you think?"

One of us then threw out the idea of including St.-Germain elderflower liqueur. We kinda liked where this was going, but also realized that things may be getting too over-the-top in the floral department; we weren't trying to design a freaking wedding bouquet here. We readily agreed upon gin as a base liquor given how well it mixes with St.-Germain, and then somewhere along the way we came up with lemon juice as a zingy note that would cut through the botanicals.

We mixed, we sipped, we liked... for the most part. What we had were four dynamic, flavor-forward liquids that tasted good together, but tasted a bit too... blaring. I thought what it needed was some mellowing and rounding out. I asked Mark, "What's your philosophy on raw egg in cocktails?" Mark said, "I'm not really into whole eggs, but egg whites, I'm totally down."

And that was that. We landed upon an awesome cocktail. It is interesting and quaffable and surprising and satisfying and so impressive, thought I -- until I was tooling around online a few days later and discovered that Urban, a very well-respected lounge in south St. Louis, makes a "Socialite" cocktail with "gin, elderflower liqueur, rose water and a squeeze of lemon." And then last Saturday, when I was having dinner at the place where we had our wedding reception, and spied on their cocktail menu a "Tea Rose Martini," made with "organic earl grey-infused gin, St. Germain liqueur, fresh lemon, rose water." (The very place where I celebrated my marriage! How could you, New Leaf?)

The Tea Rose Martini does right by using the earl grey's smoothness to temper down the other flavors. (I'll let you know what I think about the Socialite next time I'm in STL.) But still, folks, I gotta admit, this here Rose Is A Rose is Rose's best invention yet.

The Rose Is A Rose

1 1/2 ounces Bulldog Gin

1 1/2 ounces St.-Germain

1 tablespoon raw egg white

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon rosewater

Lavender confectioners' sugar, for the rim

Rim a martini glass with lavender confectioners' sugar and set aside. Combine all liquid ingredients, including egg white, in a martini shaker without ice and shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Add lots of ice to the shaker and shake again. Strain into martini glass.

Tasting Notes:

Colonel De's lavender confectioner's sugar is basically just plain, old confectioner's sugar mixed with dried lavender buds. If you know where to buy dried lavender buds, it won't be hard to make. And I'd actually recommend pulverizing the buds further with the sugar using a mortar and pestle, which I didn't do.

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The Pink Lady (aka The DebutAunt Highball)

And now for something completely self-glorifying!

In between blog posts here, I (and society at large) force myself to actually write for money. Sometimes, it's actually even fun! Like when I spent the bulk of 2010 happily employed as "Fairy GodWriter" to entrepreneur and SavvyAuntie.com founder Melanie Notkin during the researching, writing and editing of her first book, Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide For Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids -- a book which, ahem, happens to come out today.

Is the book awesome? Yes, it is, in that even if you have no interest in changing poopy diapers, it will make you believe that changing a poopy diaper would actually be fun. Is the book not just Auntie-savvy, but cocktail-savvy? Indeed, it is that, too, as it contains a pair of cocktail recipes courtesy of yours truly, perfectly geared to the woman who loves afternoon outings with someone else's little ones as much as she cherishes the well-earned cocktail she treats herself to once she's back home in her un-babyproofed lair.

The cocktail from the book that I want to talk about today is what we dubbed the DebutAunt Highball -- served as the signature cocktail at a DebutAunt Ball, which is like a shower for first-time Aunties. (If you love puns as much as I do, hoo man, you are going to love this book!) The DebutAunt Highball is a variation on the Pink Lady, a frothy, blush-hued tipple that harks back to 30s-era glamour, boa-trimmed piegnoirs, Ginger Rogers, and bubble-bath scenes in black-and-white talkies. The Pink Lady was Hollywood and high society (Eric Felten wrote in How's Your Drink? that Jayne Mansfield was a big fan of the concoction) but was also the Cosmopolitan of its day: A pink drink often ghettoized and ridiculed as being suitable for girlie girls only -- albeit not by everyone. As Felten also wrote, "In his book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, Ted Haigh laments that because of the exaggerated femininity of its name, no self-respecting man has ever bellied up to the bar to order a Pink Lady -- or at least not for himself. Haigh suggests the drink should be rechristened the 'Secret Cocktail' (the 'secret' being that one is actually drinking a Pink Lady)."

Women without kids of their own, as Savvy Auntie discusses, likewise can find themselves marginalized and maybe even a little derided for not fitting that "two-kids-one-husband-two-car-garage mold" (to quote the delightful book that you should buy right now), which led me to believe that the Pink Lady was a most fitting cocktail to adapt.

There are a number of different recipes out there for a Pink Lady, but even amongst those, I felt compelled to pare things back for Savvy Auntie, because as much as I'm a proud sister of the Auntourage, I didn't think it right to call for a relatively esoteric ingredient like applejack or cherry brandy in a mass-market book not about cocktails. (Really, my concern was that some folks might substitute Apple Pucker for the applejack, and then the Cocktail Police would be chasing me with sticks.)

But of course, for those of you here (which I hope includes some fellow Savvy Aunties -- welcome, GourmAunts and Bon VivAunts!), I reveal the Pink Lady in all its old-school allure.

The Pink Lady (aka The DebutAunt Highball)

(Adapted primarily from How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well, by Eric Felten)

2 ounces gin

2 ounces fresh lemon juice

1 ounce applejack or calvados

Splash of grenadine

1 tablespoon raw egg white

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously. Then fill shaker with ice and shake again. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass.

Tasting Notes:

See, even I don't have any applejack in the house. Hence, I used calvados.

Other Pink Lady recipes I've seen call for just cream and no egg white, or both cream and egg white. I think both seems a little redundant, no? Frothy is more important than creamy for this drink, so I stuck with just egg white.

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