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 Dark 'n Stormy

OK, yes, I know Dark and Stormies are so 2009-at-Botanica. Even if I did not know that, it is a fact that the D'nS has jumped the fad shark because by the time the NYT gets around to running a story about something, that something has likely already filtered its way down into a TGI Friday's/Old Navy/insert corporate chain you love to mock here.*

The thing is, Dark and Stormies are good. So good. At our bon voyage boozeefest in July, our lushy-lush friends polished off an entire bottle of Myers's in one night thanks to Dark and Stormies. And they're so goddamned simple it's almost not fair. They're highballs, for Chrissakes. Why bother bashing your skull coming up with the GREATEST COCKTAIL EVER when it's so easy to just fix yourself a Dark and Stormy?

I must admit, I learned a few things D'nS-y from the Times story. Like the fact that it's technically a Bermudan cocktail. It's the shorts of cocktails! And that there's a whole legal meshuggas concerning Gosling's Black Seal Rum; the company that makes said rum owns the trademark on a "Dark 'n Stormy" (note specific punctuation), and the company's flacks seem none too happy that the drink is made with any dark and/or aged rum one's got on hand. The whole wrangle sounds kind of exhausting, actually, and makes me want a cocktail.

At LAB, they serve a Dark and Stormy with more than a hit of fresh lime juice, which is not uncommon, even if it is I guess technically illegal according to the trademark. I like it that way, but I'll err on the un-sue-able side and give you here the official recipe according to Gosling's.

The Dark 'n' Stormy (R in a circle)

(All credit due to this web page and I own nothing and blah blah no lawsuit please)

1 1/2 ounces Gosling's Black Seal Rum

Gosling's Stormy Ginger Beer

In a tall glass filled with ice add 1 1/2 ounces Gosling's Black Seal Rum and top with Gosling's Stormy Ginger Beer. Garnish with lemon or lime wedge (optional).

Tasting Notes:

pssssst, over here... Really, try it with like an ounce of fresh lime juice. This Tasting Note will now self-destruct.

* Yes, I am in large part blogging about Dark and Stormies because Mama wants a pageview bump.

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The Gingerman

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband

Cocktail inspiration can come from that cool new bottle of bitters at the liquor store, a request from a friend, or a competition. Other times it's from a cookie that you hid from yourself  in the back of a kitchen cabinet months before...

Many of your may remember the Drink our Booze-fest that Rose and I held for our NYC friends at the end of July. Late that very night, the Gingerman was born. While searching the kitchen for mixers, I discovered this little guy hiding behind a box of evaporated milk. (Don't ask me why we had a two-pound box of evaporated milk). He was just the right muse for my bourbon-soaked brain, and though I have no recollection of the creative process as it actually took place, the result was good. At least I must have thought it was good because I took pictures of it and even texted myself the recipe --

Sean Lorre show details Jul 24
1 1/4 gin
3/4 lic 43
3 dashes whiskey barrel aged bitters
1/2 ginger beer (reeds)
-- Sent from my Palm

With this trail of documentation, I later attempted to recreate the Gingerman. Turns out, it's good! The Licor 43, bitters and ginger beer trifecta produced the spice and sweetness that you associate with a gingerbread cookie, while the gin and lime provided the right balance that kept the drink from becoming syrupy and unpalatable.

The Gingerman

1 1/4 ounce Bulldog Gin

3/4 ounce Licor 43

3 dashes Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

Ginger beer, to taste

Lime wedge, to garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in gin, Licor 43 and bitters and mix briefly. Pour in ginger beer to fill or less for a stronger drink. Garnish with lime wedge.

Tasting Notes

I used Bulldog the second time I made this; who knows what I used that first time when I was drunk. But I think just about any mid-level gin --Tanqueray, Bombay, Beefeater -- would do.

Also note that my text said "1/2 ginger beer," I wasn't sure whether I meant that as a half-ounce or half the bottle. We tried both and found that either proportion worked, just a matter of if you like your drinks tall or short.

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The Mr. Smith

Many Royale customers, I'm sure, assume that the Mr. Smith cocktail is named after Royale proprietor Steven Smith -- or at least his father, who's also a part owner of the business and, truth be told, whose first name I can't remember because "Mr. Smith" was all I ever called him.

But none of that has anything to do with the Mr. Smith. The Mr. Smith is named after Jeff Smith, who might also be addressed as The Former Honorable Jeff Smith, Ph.D. Jeff was the subject of a documentary, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, about the time he popped his campaign cherry running for the congressional seat vacated by veteran Rep. Dick Gephardt, and how he narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Russ Carnahan, son of a famous Missouri politician, and how he was a short, Jewish, basketball-loving UNC grad.

Post-documentary, Jeff ran for a state senate seat, which he won. He then abdicated the seat a couple years later after pleading guilty to a cover-up concerning questionable campaign materials stemming from his congressional campaign. He went to federal prison for a year and a day.

If you're an STLer, you can probably recite this whole saga backwards and front. If you're not, I tell you all this because the documentary's worth a rental and because all the shit that came after it is just so unbelievable.

I served Jeff at The Royale a good handful of times. He would come in pretty-late-to-late, drink a bit more than modestly, and was loud in a way that was vibrant rather than obnoxious. He's one of those people who will somehow scam a smile out of you  -- whether or not you're in a good mood, whether or not you know him, whether or not you'd already decided that you don't like the guy (which was sometimes the position I took as he was, after all, a Tar Heel). Only after you found yourself smiling at his presence and demeanor would it occur to you that the guy has never bothered to remember your name. A politician!

But hey, fair's fair, so let me say: The Mr. Smith, which I believe Jeff verily invented himself, or at least he contributed heavily to its creation -- is a nifty sipper, an improbable collusion of four disparate tastes that taste mighty fine together, just the sort of aisle-bridging stuff I'm sure Jeff was into.

The Mr. Smith

(Adapted from The Royale)

2 ounces Hendrick's  Gin

About 3 ounces ginger beer

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

A dash of mint-infused simple syrup

Build this drink in a highball glass: syrup first, then gin, juice and beer. Stir briskly. Optional garnish with mint sprig.

Tasting Notes:

We didn't use Hendrick's for this at The Royale, I think we used Bombay Sapphire. I just thought the Hendrick's quixotic taste would add a little something.

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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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