The Vieux Carre

I can feel another Eric Felten rager coming on -- my curious condition wherein I just want to make cocktails from his book, How's Your Drink? -- and as this one coincides with the advent of the new season of Mad Men, I give you the Vieux Carre.

First, please allow me to quote liberally from Felten's prose regarding the Vieux Carre's New Orleans origins (New Orligins?):

"Then there's the Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar, where the circular bar revolves slowly under a whimsical carnival canopy of carved wood, mirrors, and bare bulbs. The barstools don't go up and down, thankfully, but the experience can still be a little disorienting; get caught up in a conversation, and the next thing you know, you're on the other side of the room. Ask bartender Marvin Allen to mix you up a Vieux Carre, a terrific drink invented by the Carousel's barman in the 1930s, and unknown to most mixologists outside of the Hotel Monteleone."

He goes on to talk about the Crescent City's rightful place in history as the birthplace and current-day cultural keeper of the cocktail, and that's kind of where Mad Men comes in. One could make the argument that, as of the zeigeist-y right-now, Mad Men is carrying the mostwater for cocktail culture. The mustachioed, suspendered, arm-gartered, vested, tattooed mixologist, we're all tired of him and his haberdashery tropes, no? But we still can't get enough Mad Men, and when we watch Don Draper mix himself an Old Fashioned, zomg it looks so good. (Don would also chafe at the obligatory fawning that often seems expected from the modern-day barkeep.)

The only problem with Don is, he drinks Old Fashioneds! The man needs to evolve his whiskey-based cocktail repertoire, and I believe the Vieux Carre would be the perfect potable for the job. The Benedictine gives that needed sweetness (srsly, Don, you pussy) while the bitters likewise add a familiar component to a cocktail that otherwise offers something different.

Also, "vieux carre" translates to "old square," which is probably what Megan thinks of Don these days...

The Vieux Carre

(Adapted very little from How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well)

1 1/2 ounces St.-Remy Brandy

1/2 ounce Bulleit Rye Whiskey

1/2 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth

1/2 teaspoon Benedictine

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Mix all liquid ingredients over ice in a short glass. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Tasting Notes

Aside from noting the specific brands I used, the only change I made to Felten's recipe was using brandy instead of cognac. This is a swap we always make around here for spending-cap reasons.

Also, the Felten/Carousel Bar recipe calls for all ingredients to be mixed "over ice in a short glass." Meaning, build it in the glass rather than pre-stirring it in a shaker or mixing glass. This goes against today's conventional wisdom, which would probably dictate a vigorous mixing on its own in a separate vessel before pouring it over fresh ice in your drinking glass. But really, what would Don Draper do?

The Kraken Old Fashioned (a.k.a Caribbean Christmas)

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

While stocking up on booze in New Jersey over the holidays, this interesting little gem caught my eye...

I can't say particularly what drew me to The Kraken, if it was my childhood love of the original The Clash of the Titans (1981), my college-age infatuation with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (we all make mistakes), or the $15.99 price tag; perhaps all of the above. Whatever the attraction, we needed a dark rum and the Kraken seemed like a fun little toy to experiment with. It promised the type of dark, molasses-y qualities of Myers or Goslings Black Seal at half the price and with a hint of spice that can be quite lovely when not overdone. I'm looking at you, Cap'n...

After reading the label, checking out the website and tasting it, I have to admit, I'm still a little confused by this product. Although it's not what you would consider a craft liquor -- it contains caramel color and "natural flavors" -- I found The Kraken rather enjoyable.  It has an interesting nose, similar to Captain Morgan but more subtle and complex. It has little of the depth I associate with black rum but is robust enough to hold up to most anything you want to throw at it -- or more accurately, into it. It calls itself imported (via Jersey City, I might add...) but is bottled and, I guess, blended in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which I imagine is across the border from Johnsburg, Illinois. But I digress...

As Rose and I set out to concoct a few cocktails on New Year's Eve, I tasked myself with putting the Kraken to good use. As this was not the first project I took on for the night, and as my cocktail creativity usually declines as evenings wear on and inebriation mounts, and as I am finally aware of the fact that my late-night creations are usually not particularly inspired or even palatable, I opted to go with a variation on a theme. We had talked about Old Fashioneds earlier in the evening so I figured I would mine that particular vein for inspiration. Since I wasn't working with authentic ingredients, I went for the least old-school Old Fashioned recipe I knew. I have to say, for the booze in question, even though it would make Don Draper roll over in his grave, it worked really well.

The Kraken Old Fashioned

2 1/2 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 ounce club soda

4 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters

2 half wheel orange slices

2 maraschino cherries

Muddle an orange slice, cherry and bitters at the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Fill glass with ice and add Kraken rum. Toss between the glass and a shaker tin to mix. Top with club soda and garnish with the other orange slice and cherry.

Tasting Notes

Although the recipe is based on the classic, the end result is closer to the Caribbean islands than a Manhattan speakeasy. I got a real tropical sense from the drink, while my cousin Chris said it "tasted like Christmas."  This could be a fun recipe to try with an assortment of aged and black rums and a variety of bitters as well. If you get to experimenting with the recipe, or with the Kraken, let us know!

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The Campari Old-Fashioned

I have done such a complete 180 on Campari over the last few years... actually, sometimes I fear that it's not so much that I've done a 180 on Campari as I've suffered from a life-long brain-fart conflation between Campari and Pimm's. Because they're both russet-toned and from the other side of the ocean, just like Communists, and my memory really started going to pot when I hit 34. The point is, I will still look at you sideways if you tell me you really love Pimm's Cups and probably ask to see your papers because you're clearly a pond-jumping toffer, but I will toast with you the whole night through if you tell me you love Negronis and Americanos. (Which are from Italy, I realize... logic's not my strong suit today.)

It's clear I've also been on a bit of an old-fashioned kick lately, probably because whiskey drinks on the rocks are inherently winter-appropriate, to my mind, and not terribly elaborate to make. This Campari Old-Fashioned is super-easy to make and gives you a reason to pull the Campari bottle down from the shelf between the months of November and April.

Not much to it? I guess, maybe. I can't hit them all out of the park, people, nor do I necessarily want to. Maybe I've just got a case of the Mondays today, or maybe I'm mixocologically burned out from making my neighbor World's Greatest Cosmoplitans over the weekend. Whatever. C is for Campari, that's good enough for me.

The Campari Old-Fashioned

2 ounces Campari

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/4 ounce honey syrup

2 dashes Peychuad's Bitters

Orange peel, to garnish

Build drink over ice in highball, stir briskly, garnish with orange peel.

Tasting Notes

Honey syrup is just equal parts honey and water cooked down, the way you'd cook down any simple syrup. Its purpose is mainly to make honey easier to work with since it's sludgy thickness makes it unwieldy.

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The Albino Old Fashioned

Have you bought your bottle of white whiskey yet? Why not? The Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey I've got isn't even top-of-the-liniest (that would be this) and it's still supremely drinkable. Have I not yet convinced you of this?

If not, get a load of this: The hands-down easiest cocktail you could ever fashion -- as in old-fashioned (BWAHAHA). This was yet another cocktail I caught wind of while Googling around for corn whiskey concoctions to make. And like the other corn whiskey cocktails I've already made, yet again I was surprised by this one. I just keep on expecting/assuming that my jar of rotgut's gonna taste like, well, rotgut. But really it's so sweet it's almost cute, and its afterbite is pleasingly bracing.

The Albino Old-Fashioned

(Adapted from Bar Celona, a new-ish cocktail/tapas lounge in Williamsblarghburg)

2 ounces Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey

About 4 or so brandied cherries

Grapefruit peel

Muddle brandied cherries in the bottom of a highball glass. Add your preferential amount of ice, pour in whiskey. Run the inside of the peel (the pith side) along the rim of your glass, then fashion peel into a twist over the mouth of the glass before dropping it in. (I've never been fully convinced that essential oils make their way from the peel to the drink when you do this, but I like how much I look like I know what I'm doing when I do this.)

Tasting Notes:

I tried this with a single dash of bitters; specifically, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters. It took a lot of the bite off the front of the drink, almost to the point where I felt it was too rounded. However, that might be just what some drinkers need as an introduction.

To make homemade brandied cherries, combine in a saucepan 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and half a cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer about a pound of cherries (preferably previously pitted) in this mixture for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick, stir in 3 1/2 tablespoons of brandy. Refrigerate in a Mason jar. These will last a few months, although their colors will start to brown after a couple weeks.

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