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, 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 Absolut (sorry) Maple Sour

Booze is at Defcon 1. Repeat: BOOZE IS AT DEFCON 1.

After drinking down our whiskey supply last week to the unspeakable amount of none, on Friday night the PhoBlograpHusband and I (were we drugged? hallucinating?) offered to supply the hard liquor at a friend's get-together in her nearby Plateau apartment. Sean put together an impressive travel bar backpack full of drinkies-poo: gin, both vermouths, Campari and I think dark rum and bitters. This was not the most experienced cocktailing crowd, which was more than fine, because all we had to do was mix up a nice round of Negronis and we were regarded as freaking geniuses.

Also dry geniuses: Four weeks to go 'til the end of Sean's semester, and what remains of the home stock is... vodka. And I think Calvados. And like two bottles of ouzo. So when Sean mentioned that he came across this Absolut Maple Sour recipe from a Google ad or spam mail (if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't fully cop to it either), what else was a girl to make? Times is tough, and recessions ain't just for breakfast anymore.

Now, this may be burying the lead, but I did NOT make this with Absolut. I have never kept Absolut in my house and have no plans to start. While I am an Absolut snob, I'm not an all-around vodka snob, because who's got the money or the inclination to care? Ketel One always served us fine back in the States. The vodka we happen to have on hand these days is Cupcake Vodka. Those readers who often find themselves purchasing bottles of cheap wine for their cutesy names (it's OK, we're all admitting embarrassing things here) will probably recognize the label from bottles of California vino; it's made by the same guys. And it's incredibly inexpensive and completely pleasant, two characteristics that can also be said about this recommendable sour itself.

The combination of the three ingredients of color gives this cocktail a trompe l'oeil orange tone. The taste is of an old fashioned as much as a sour, with the maple's sugared earthiness covering for the lack of whiskey more than you might expect.

The Absolut Maple Sour

1 1/2 ounces Cupcake  (or whatever you like) vodka

3/4 ounces maple syrup

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Lemon peel, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake until your hands are too cold to keep holding onto the tin. (Srsly, because that syrup is a mother to disperse well.) Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel.

Tasting Notes

Sean says, "This is good as outlined in the recipe above, but you could use a different liquor just as easily. You could also turn it into a maple Collins by adding soda."

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The Antithesis (L'antithese)

I've been trying to recall a good example of how much of a goody-two-shoes I was during my grade-school days. Kids called me "the A girl," in second grade I wrote a short story about a botanist, and once during a 7th-grade-wide trivia competition, I avoided elimination by successfully (and accurately, ahem) convincing the MC (my math teacher, I believe) that a peanut is, in fact, a legume. Take that, coolness!

Try as I might, though, I can't think of anything nerdy enough to compare to the eight-page dossier presented by my friend and Le LAB bartender Gabrielle to the panel of judges at Montreal Bar vs. Chef, her completely unrequired, written dissertation for the cocktail that, as it turned out, took first place. (Eight pages = first place. Must remember that for next time.)

In the weeks before the competition, Gabrielle told me she was considering a cocktail on the theme of Quebec ingredients. I'd actually toyed with the idea, too, until it became apparent that, beyond maple syrup and certain fruits (Quebec strawberries NOM), I didn't know enough to put them to best use. Really, anything I could've come up with would've been put to shame by Gabrielle's creation.

I think it's clear that Gab won because her cocktail was elegantly simple in presentation yet wildly complex in taste, with an impressively reasoned philosophy behind each ingredient:

Appleton Reserve Rum: Because they were sponsoring the contest, a-doy.

Gin Ungava: Made near Montreal in the touristy Eastern Townships using local herbs, "it brings to my cocktail that which the rum cannot: freshness, herbaceousness, acidity. Complementing the rum, it cannot offer a more beautiful contrast."

San Perrino Vermouth, a red-apple vermouth made just outside the city at la Maison des Futailles: "This aperitif is soft on the palate with a beautiful acidity and depth... It brings a balance between my spirits."

Labrador tea, aka Hudson's Bay or Indian tea, another Canadian specialty: "I wanted to reinforce the astringency of my recipe, and at the same time, balance it out."

Maple water: "To sweeten my recipe, I chose to use maple. I made a maple water (much less sweet than the syrup). I wanted to create a relatively dry cocktail, while maintaining a subtle maple flavor."

Lemon juice: "To achieve the perfect balance."

Homemade apple bitters: "I chose Angostura bitters as a base because I appreciate the character and depth it brings to the rum."

Clearly, Gab gets an A++ (or a check-plus-plus, remember those?) -- I mean, she had different ingredients going on down to the quarter-ounce. And, save the Angostura, she really did manage to keep all of her ingredients, alcoholic ou non, local.

In actuality, Gab gets a trip for two to Jamaica, which was the first-place prize. And, of course, when the A++ girl throws off the curve for the rest of us underachievers, what we get is homework. So pay attention, class! This recipe's involved. You may have to stay late.

The Antithesis

1 ounce Appleton Reserve Rum

1/2 ounce Gin Ungava

1/4 ounce San Perrino vermouth

1/2 ounce Labrador tea

1/4 ounce maple water

1 dash freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 dashes homemade apple bitters

Apple slices, to garnish

Put all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass, add ice and stir thoroughly. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a pair of apple slices.

Tasting Notes

To make the homemade apple bitters, I'm gonna give it to you straight from the future Jamaican tourist's mouth, which came out of said mouth in the form of milliliters. (Convert to ounces here.): Mix together 100 ml Angostura bitters, 45 ml apple brandy (she used Michel Jodoin), 30 ml Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, 30 ml Absinthe 55 and 15 ml smoked bitters. Cut up three-quarters of a Granny Smith apple into small cubes and add to the mixture. Gently mash apples with a pestle. Let steep for three weeks in a dark place. Filter before using.

Making maple water: You're basically making a maple simple syrup by boiling down equal parts water and pure, granulated maple sugar. Gab told me she also steeped some juniper berries while this mixture cooked down. Because she is an extra credit-bogarting geek. Just kidding.

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The Mapplethorpe

So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.

What I'm talking about is the fall-friendly, locavorish, apple-maple concoction Sean and I whipped up this weekend. We had some Calvados lying around, we had a bit left of our Sortilege maple liqueur (produit du Canada), we had terrific, local apples in peak season... and actually, we also had pomegranates on hand, because for reasons unknown the local grocer had them on sale for like 69 cents apiece (!!!). Sean took lead on this drink and tried to come up with something that incorporated all three. But as you might imagine, the drink came out physically and flavor-ly too muddled.

I suggested he drop the pomegranate part, that it tasted like we were trying too hard and to just trust in the apple and maple to see the drink though. (Yes, I worried that apple and maple was just so obvious. But as I've proven to myself a few times before, sometimes obvious is the exact-right way to go.)

Our new friend Farley -- who was having dinner with us that night, who likewise just moved to Montreal from the States  to study at McGill, who just started making his own beer at home but who knows so little about cocktails that he actually asked us what muddling was -- Farley asked me how I knew to get rid of the pomegranate. I basically told him to stick with me, kid.

The Mapplethorpe has a good amount of complexity. It gives your palate something to consider, but not so much that your brain isn't able to wander off on its own, contemplating the turn of the seasons and the taming of the shrew and whatever other lofty idealisms come to mind when you get the chance to curl into a cozy sweater and ponder brown leaves as they scatter down the street.

The Mapplethorpe

1 1/2 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces Sortilege

1/2 ounce lemon juice

2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Biters

Two apple slices

Maple syrup (optional)

Muddle an apple slice and the bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice and add Calvados, Sortilege and lemon juice. Shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with other apple slice, if you like, after dipping it in some maple syrup.

Tasting Notes

Don't be tempted to skip the lemon juice! It's an essential brightener for the rest of your flavors.

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The Sortilege

There is a bar a few blocks down from our apartment in The Plateau, which is Montreal's Park Slope or maybe Cobble Hill, that embodies everything this city doesn't get about the art of drinking. For starters, its name is Bar Scoop. I like to call it Bar Le Scoop because it's funnier, but my point is: Who wants to drink at a place called Scoop? This isn't an ice cream parlor or a T-shirt neckline or, like, some little whippersnapper-squirt-neighbor-kid. ("Heya, Scoop!" It is a problem if your bar's name makes me want to toot out a "Heya!")

Scoop looks like a big, black hole of social awkwardness, literally. The walls are painted black, the tables and chairs are black and, well, that's kinda all there is inside Le Scoop. Every time I walk by the patronage entails a thin gaggle of poorly dressed guys standing in an amoebic coagulation. Bar Scoop depresses me and makes me want to stay home and drink, which usually just depresses me even more.

When I am talking about places like Scoop I don't mean Montreal's restaurants, which are alluringly chic even after the kitchen closes, or its small but superior representation of microbreweries, brewpubs, wine bars, etc. I'm talking about bars that are just bars, that serve the beer/wine/liquor trifecta but not food and usually open at 5 p.m. (known here as 17h; why give yourself extra math to do over the course of your day?). For some reason(s?), this city's cultural pulse syncopates with the rhythms and rituals of dining out but clashes with those that set the beat for a night out drinking.

Except, I'm so glad to say, at Le LAB, which has fast become our home away from home. When we went there last week (the second time, I mean), we did so expressly in the name of revving up our cocktail-blogging mojo and promised ourselves we'd only stay for one. But of course we stayed for three, which included a cocktail we'd ordered there on a previous visit, the Sortilege.

Sortilege is a liqueur made in Quebec from Canadian whisky (no e!) and Canadian maple syrup. As you might surmise, this is a sweet cocktail, though I wouldn't call it a dessert one at all. It is a cocktail not meant to be drank at dessert or as an aperitif of any of that stuff, because at Le LAB we drink for the pleasure of drinking in and of itself. And that's the scoop.

The Sortilege

(Adapted from Le LAB)

1 1/2 ounces Canadian Club Whisky

1 1/2 ounces Sortilege

3/4 ounce fresh orange juice

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Splash or so of pure Canadian maple syrup

Orange peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients, including the syrup, in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a flambe orange peel.

Tasting Notes:

Maple syrup is sold in cans here, rendering the task of quantifying a "splash" of the viscous stuff even more difficult than if you were just able to use an Aunt Jemima squeeze-top bottle. I simply dipped a teaspoon into the can of syrup (quickly) and then let is drizzle into the shaker.

If you can't find any sort of maple liqueur (I don't know of any others besides Sortilege, off the top of my head), I'd just use Canadian Club whisky and a particularly healthy splash of maple syrup. Or maybe even not -- pure maple syrup is crazy pungent and this is a cocktail that may err on the side of too-sweet for your palate anyways.

How to flambe an orange peel: Erm, don't ask me? Sean and I both find it tricky. You basically pinch your peel while hovering it over your flame. The goal is to ignite a waft of the peel's essential oils. Gabrielle at Le LAB does it perfectly every time.

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