The Gushing Groom

Wedding season's sprung up early this year here at the blog. Last week, besides my trucking down to NJ to attend Cousin Mark's fiancee's shower, one of you e'd me desperate for help with a groom's cocktail to serve at his upcoming nuptials. Why desperate? Because of when upcoming: This very gracious gentleman, Jon, e'd me on a Wednesday needing a recipe for the reception on Saturday. Ladeeeeez, dudes and wedding planning OMG AMIRITE??!?

Obligatory awwwWWW! pic of Mark and his fiancee, Molly!

Now, let it be known that a) I lurve weddings (all the more so having had my own); b) I think the idea of a bride's cocktail and a groom's cocktail is an idea whose time has come (the PhoBlograpHusband and I had his-and-her cakes; how rated-G were we?); c) I am happy to be asked by Jon and whomever else to help them craft their own wedding's signature cocktails. ("If there's something you'd like to try/Ask me I won't say now/How could I?")

In Jon's case, he and his betrothed had already settled on a Her recipe, cheekily named The Blushing Bride: Prosecco (a blush sparkler!), Aperol and OJ. Go, Jon! I consider that a fantastic wedding cocktail for several key reasons:

- A simple recipe with few ingredients means it can be churned out fast and/or in large quantities.

- It's a pretty color.

- Non-cocktailers will be put at ease by its two more familiar, quotidian ingredients (OJ and bubbly), thus assuaging any trepidation they may have about the less-familiar third (Aperol, an Italian liqueur which of course wouldn't hurt a fly).

So, that left the question of what kind of cocktail to craft for Him. As Jon put it, "I love alcohol and love Scotch and bourbon... can you think of a drink that most people can drink? I can handle any type of liquor, but I have seen people turn down 21-year-old single malts because they don't like the taste!" I hear you, Jon.

The Him cocktail should reflect the Hers in certain ways, I thought, so I wanted to tie in the Aperol, make it a motif throughout. Scotch + Aperol = quite interesting and good, really. And then I thought we'd mimic the Blushing Bride's fizz by adding either club soda or ginger ale (it wound up being ginger ale). Oh-so-many reflective motifs -- where's my Master's in Critical Cocktail Theory, please?

I further recommended to Jon serving The Gushing Groom in a likewise flute, as pictured in this post, but Jon told me he went with double old-fashioned glasses. Jon, that is just such a right-on, manly-it-up choice. (His exact words: "Some guys might be flute-averse.") Please quit making me look bad, Jon.

The Gushing Groom

1 ounce The Arran Malt 14-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

1/2 ounce Aperol

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Ginger ale to fill

Combine Scotch, Aperol and bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly. Strain into ice-filled double old-fashioned glass. Top with ginger alge.

Tasting Notes

Of course, you can use ginger beer instead of ginger ale. You can garnish with a lemon twist, an orange twist, or whatever sprig or blossom is a part of your groomsmen's boutonnieres.

Scotch is not 1000% my bag, but the Arran Malt (coincidentally, a wedding gift we received) is a fave of mine because it's not super-peaty. Then again, it's not super-easy to find on your average liquor-store shelf, either. I mean, really, it's no coincidence that the only reason we have it is because its expense counts as "really nice wedding gift." So to sub, Sean recommends plain, old Dewar's, or Johnnie Walker Black for a shelf up. You all might have even better suggestions, which you should totally leave in the comments.

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The Presbyterian

Why did it take thirty-nevermind years of life for me to discover the Presbyterian?

A few months ago, a gaggle of us went to Little Branch, one of the elder statesmen of the New York/pre-Prohibition style/pay-$14-for-a-cocktail-and-beg-for-more temples of cocktailing. Little Branch's menu does things a little differently that other bars of its ilk -- in fact, let's diverge for a paragraph or two and talk a bit about that, the organization of cocktail menus. (God, what a cocktail dork I am; this stuff actually excites me.)

Death & Co.'s menu, for example, is primarily categorized by cocktails' base liquors: gin, rum, whiskey, etc. (No vodka, of course, as 't'wasn't what Americans drank way back when.) Those groupings are subdivided into shaken cocktails and stirred ones. I like this because 1) today we're largely conditioned to think about drinks by base liquor, making this menu accessible at first glance; 2) subdividing into shaken and stirred, the menu still gives customers something new to think about, the idea that proper cocktail making includes how you physically amalgamate your ingredients.

Clover Club in Brooklyn (which I just went to for the first time last weekend and ooh! Lots to share with y'all soon!) pays greater attention to the type of cocktail rather than what's the base liquor, like I talked about the other week -- "Collins & Fizzes," "Sours & Daisies" -- and then has a catchall "Cocktails" list and, curiously, one for "Rye" but no other liquors. It's fascinating and full of helpfully written, witty bits of copy, but still takes more digesting.

And then there's Little Branch's menu, which I stole and have read over and over and still find sort of opaque. The best way I can describe its organization is to literally spell it out:

I. Standard Cocktails

A. Tart & Mildly Sweet

1. Lime Drinks

a. Daiquiri

b. Gimlet

c. Brandy Shake

d. Gin or Rum Rickey

2. Lemon Drinks

a. Sour

b. Tom Collins

c. Rye Fizz

d. Fix

3. House Ginger Beer

a. Hiball

b. Dark & Stormy

c. Moscow Mule

d. Presbyterian

B. Spirit Forward

1. Martini

a. Oliver Twist

b. Gibson

2. Manhattan

a. Brooklyn

b. Rob Roy

c. Tipperary

3. Sazerac

4. Old Fashioned

Where's my mixologist's decoder ring?! It's a bit all over the place, a bit hard to wrap your mind around, and I feel bad for the cocktail waitresses there, because my guess is that they have to spend a lot of time answering questions.

I don't think any of us ordered a Presbyterian that night, but I was intrigued, and actually all the more so when I read how basic and simple, and thereby sort of refreshingly elegant, a Presbyterian is: It's just bourbon, ginger ale and club soda. It's crisp, it's light, it's a bit WASPy, and it's exactly what I'd want to quaff at the family cocktail hour, after a round of tennis with Mumsy.

I hope this is one y'all can add to your at-home arsenal, 'cuz seriously, you can't ask for more supermarket-friendly ingredients, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is to bother to make myself a Manhattan.

The Presbyterian

2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Equal parts ginger ale and club soda

Fill a Collins glass (the nice, tall, slender ones) with lovely and perfect, prep-school ice cubes. Pour in the bourbon, followed by your equal parts ginger ale and club soda to fill. Garnish with lemon slice or twist. If you've got a nice, slender ice tea spoon -- you know, like you keep at the Nantucket summer home -- give it a few gentle stirs. Discuss the stock market and the poors.

Tasting Notes:

Can you use ginger beer instead of ginger ale? Can you do unequal parts of the ginger-whatever and club? Surely.

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The World's Greatest Shandygaff

Folks, I couldn't care less that it's St. Patrick's Day -- and as you're all high-functioning alcoholics experienced drinkers like me, I know you feel the same way. It's amateur night out there, and we're all contentedly holed up in our respective abodes, our home bars pressed into service.

'Tis nothing wrong, of course, with tipping a glass towards the Irish in mature fashion. And as we're cocktailers first and foremost, the glass to tip is a Pilsner, in which you've crafted the World's Greatest Shandygaff.

For the longest time, I thought a Shandygaff (nickname: Shandy) was just beer and lemonade, or beer and Sprite, or beer and fizzy lemonade. But once I started doing my research, a whole world of Shandy possibilities opened up to me, so much so that I feel quite good about sharing this relatively intricate recipe under the auspices of a cocktail blog.

One caveat drinktor: If you fix yourself a Shandygaff, what you'll have in common with the green-puke spewers clogging the sidewalks tonight is that you won't notice how drunk you can get off a Shandygaff (or three) until it's too late. This Shandygaff is eminently quaffable, which is code for goes down way too easy. Erin Go *Burp*!

The World's Greatest Shandygaff

6 ounces Samuel Adams Noble Pils

6 ounces Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Begin with about 3 or 4 generically-sized ice cubes in a Pilsner glass. Pour into the glass, in sequential order, the Grand Marnier, the lemon juice, the beer and the ginger ale. Top with a dash of bitters. Give a quick stir if you like.

Tasting Notes:

I wouldn't say that the Noble Pils was my first choice of beer; it was just the best of what my neighborhood bodegas had to offer. Having said that, its medium body and especially its hoppiness (for a Pils) served me well. Having now said that, I must add that I'm dying to try making this drink with a black lager.

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The Moscow Mule

There are plenty of reasons to drink, but only two good ones:

1. To achieve that flush of heady, giddy, tingly optimism that comes quick on the heels of the day's first tipple. (All successive swigs are nothing but guileless attempts at holding onto this fleet feeling, although I still over-partake all the time.)

2. To imagine being in another time and place, preferably involving fedoras, topcoats, garters, nylons, evening gloves, watch fobs, spats, held doors, cigarette holders, cigarette cases and the right to make use of all this enchanting cigarette paraphernalia indoors. (I'm not anti-smoking bans; I'm just saying there's nothing romantic about going outside to smoke. Besides, I quit smoking, although I still over-partake all the time.)

I love (love, love, love) The Moscow Mule -- vodka mixed with ginger beer and lime juice, on the rocks -- for conjuring both of these moods so effortlessly.

The story of how the Moscow Mule came to be (no matter which version you choose to believe; I go by former WSJ cocktail columnist Eric Felten's account, as I do with most things booze-related) is in itself a perfect little piece of throwback Americana: Invented in Hollywood (of all places!) by an enterprising bartender who was simply looking for a way to move some dead stock; christened hip by Tinseltown's postwar bevy of celebrities; marketed through copper mugs, engraved with the likeness of a mule, by the bar's proprietor and the man behind a then-flailing Smirnoff brand. Luck and hustle.

Also by pure luck, this weekend my fridge happened to be stocked with both ginger beer and fresh limes, and the thrill of fashioning myself a Moscow Mule for the first time in ages was eclipsed only by the spicy bliss of the cocktail itself. The Moscow Mule surprises me every time I have one. So few ingredients, but such a multifaceted flavor!

The only way to improve upon my positive associations with this drink was to go by the recipe offered online at the Mad Men Cocktail Guide. Barkeep, another round of three-piece suits and pillbox hats for everyone!

The Moscow Mule

(Adapted, with little changed, from the Mad Men Cocktail Guide at

1 1/4 ounces Ketel One vodka

3 ounces Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost

1/4 ounce fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon simple syrup

1 drop Old Honey Barn Kentucky Mint Julep Mixer

Mint sprig and/or lime, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled highball or Collins glass -- or a copper mug, if you wish to go all-the-way old-school. Stir briskly for a few seconds. Garnish to your liking with mint sprig and/or lime wheel/peel/etc.

Tasting Notes:

OK, so I lied. What we had in the fridge that I thought was ginger beer turned out to be ginger ale. The hubs picked it up and, because this is an unfiltered ginger ale, it looked to me more like ginger beer. And, I would say, tastes an awful lot like it, too. I mean, if my choices were ginger beer by Goya or ginger ale by Bruce Cost, ain't no choice at all.

Now, about that mint julep mixer. I want to say that when I was at The Royale, Tonya and I tried making Moscow Mules with mint-steeped simple syrup. As my fridge this weekend contained no fresh mint, but still wanting a bit of mintyness in the glass, I added exactly one drop of that syrup (which is all kinds of artificial and ridiculous, but we bought it at the Buffalo Trace gift shop in Kentucky, so...). I believe it added a little something to the drink -- but again, with a cocktail this dizzyingly complex, who knows?


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