The Sweet Martini

The Sweet Martini

By the creamy, swirly look of it (as seen in pic above) + by the name of it => This cocktail must contain ice cream or at least cream-cream, no?

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The Clifton Heights

Gonk1 (1)

Hey, bourbon face! Are you as cray-cray in love with bourbon as this blotto besotted bourbonperson is? Do you eat, drink dream drink and sleep drink bourbon? Have you considered naming a pet and/or child Bourbon?

Then have I got a cocktail for you! Like me, you're probably always on the hunt for yet another way to enjoy your bourbon. After all, just because you can't spell "Manhattans" without "man" doesn't mean man should live on Manhattans alone! So here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna add pineapple juice to your Manhattan.

I'll wait a moment for you to finish going pppppppppppffffffffttttttttttttttttt... wuhhhhhh?

Gonk2 (1)

A bourbon Manhattan with pineapple juice is what we at The Royale Food & Spirits (my old muddling ground) used to call The Clifton Heights. The Royale's cocktail menu named a drink for each of the city's 28 wards, and I liked Clifton Heights the drink so much, I even went in my car once and hunted down Clifton Heights, the tucked-away, little-known nabe. Just as it was described in its bit of verbiage on The Royale's original cocktail menu (beautifully penned by Tim O'Connell, truly the Gateway City's greatest nonprofessional cocktailian), Clifton Heights is leafy and reclusive; Clifton Heights the cocktail was  similarly the perfect potable for contemplation.

Now, when I say "we" at The Royale called it the Clifton Heights, who I'm really talking about is me and those puzzled patrons who listened politely as this wackadoo, way-over-enthused barmaid tried to sell them on the rounded, mellow wondrousness of this cocktail. I get it; it sounds weird at best, icky at worst. But please, do give it a try. I have loved this cocktail every time I've had it, and I've had it at home dozens of times (as well as at many bars where I've asked the bartender to mix it up for me).

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I know that you hear pineapple juice and you think of something very tart, perhaps too sugary, maybe even a silly-tiki-tini sort of thing. But the pineapple juice here does not overpower the other three ingredients. In fact, it's one of those cocktails that becomes more than the sum of its parts. If I'd had my first Clifton Heights while blindfolded, I would have done a very bad job of guessing what was in it. (The sign of a good recipe, no?)

If it helps make it sound more palatable, the Clifton Heights is really just an other-side-of-the-Rorschach-test cousin to The Algonquin, with bourbon instead of rye and sweet instead of dry vermouth.

So what are you waiting for? Order now!

The Clifton Heights

(Based on how I remember making it at The Royale Food & Spirits in St. Louis)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace

3/4 ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 ounce pineapple juice, preferably freshly squeezed

Maraschino cherry, to garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish if so desired.

Tasting Notes

I've had a Clifton Heights made with both fresh pineapple juice and canned. Obviously fresh is always best, but the one-ounce measurement I suggest here will work with either.

If you look at the first pic in this post, you'll see lotsa little ice floes. I love ice-floes drinks! (That means ones where you shake 'em so hard, your ice cubes break down a bit and some floes are freed through the strainer and into the drink.) I think ice floes are so much fun and a good indicator that you've shaken your drink strenuously enough.

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The Month-Old Manhattan (Day 35)

Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put 'em together and what've you got? A 35-day month, but one that's worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.

When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe's inspiration from a restaurant's cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I'm paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.

Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn't wait to get down somebody's gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that's despite that fact that I'd subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.

Second to that in oh!-ness is how round and smooth aging has made it. This is obviously not as surprising -- that's what aging is supposed to do, round out the corners, sand down the edges. It makes this Manhattan dangerously drinkable. In fact, if you've ever fancied shooting a Manhattan, this would be how to do it. But of course, good shots only come to those who wait.

The Month-Old Manhattan

(Adapted from the cocktail menu at Eclipse Restaurant in St. Louis)

2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey

3/4 ounce triple sec

3/4 ounce Stock sweet vermouth

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Orange peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon without ice, and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand for one month in a cool, dry place.

To serve, pour jar's contents into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon until drink is well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

Tasting Notes

If the overly orangeness is scaring you off, my suggestion is to reduce the triple sec down to a half-ounce.

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The Month-Old Manhattan (Day One)

Damn you, St. Louis! Damn your exploding cocktail scene, three-and-a-half years after I move away. Damn you and your 150-libations-long cocktail menus and your Tales of the Cocktail award noms, your Ted Kilgores, your envy-inducing, membership-only cocktail boites that just happen to be housed in the most awesomest speakeasy-style restaurant space EVER.

And damn the recent cover story in Alive Magazine (a local lifestyle rag for chicks with meticulously maintained blonde highlights that I make fun of a lot in my head, but still) listing the top 20 cocktails in the city, which just so happened to be the current issue  when I swung through town a few weeks ago, reeling as I customarily do from the timewarp-mindfuck that comes from revisiting my once-hometown, coupled with the fact that I'm still pregnant and can't shouldn't really no damnit can't drink anyway. You are killing me Saint Louis.

So yes, raging jealousy was my default reaction to this fine piece of journalism, followed closely by an intense desire to recreate at least one of these 20-best potations. I settled on the Month-Old Manhattan because, like many cocktails I've made of late, I already had all of the ingredients in the house. I haven't toyed with aging a cocktail in a while. The Month-Old Manhattan recipe came from Eclipse Restaurant, owned by my old bud Joe Edwards.

Joe Edwards is the king of the Loop, one of StL's happening-est nabes. Joe Edwards is a gentle, aging hippie and a shrewd, wickedly successful entrepreneur, whose hospitality and entertainment empire speaks to his endless love for all things Americana kitsch: Blueberry Hill (a resto/bar/college hangout/music venue where Chuck Berry still performs); Pin-Up BowlFlamingo Bowl; and the Moonrise Hotel, which houses Eclipse. I got to know Joe Edwards back when I was the restaurant critic at StL's alt-weekly. Also, Joe Edwards went to Duke. Go to hell, Carolina, go to hell!

So we mixed up the M.O.M. and found it's got a hell of a lot going for it besides its titular aging. This Manhattan is made with rye whiskey (as was the norm back in the day), sweet vermouth, bitters -- and, curiously, curacao. If I had Grand Marnier on hand I'd use that (Grand Marnier being a most upscale curacao) but I went downmarket and just used no-name triple sec.

Even unaged and no-name-triple-sec'd, I am already a big fan of this drink. The rye-curacao combo offers a rare scratchy-smooth-sweet trifecta on the palate.

The Month-Old Manhattan

(Adapted from Eclipse Restaurant, as published by Alive Magazine)

2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey

3/4 ounce triple sec

3/4 ounce Stock Sweet Vermouth

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Clementine segment (rind on), to garnish

To make your aging sample, combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon (no ice necessary), and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand one month in a cool, dark place like a cupboard.

To drink straight away, stir all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass briskly for about 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or clementine segment, if desired.

Tasting Notes

Like I said, I was happily surprised by the smoothness and well-calibrated sweetness of the M.O.M. even using crappy triple sec, so I can only imagine that going with GrandMa as your curacao would knock your socks off. In fact, you might even want to try scaling back to 1/2 ounce GrandMa if you do so -- I'm just guessing on that, though. Cointreau would, of course, be a fine, middle-of-the-road substitute between those two.

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The More Perfect Cocktail

Just as I often cannot keep it in my pants for Eric Felten, the PhoBlograpHusband's got it bad for Old Mr. Boston, the circa-1935 Official Bartenders Guide we received from a friend. It's quite the thorough, reliably voiced tome, considering it doubles as a hardcover, portable advertisement for Old Mr. Boston's erstwhile products, such as Old Mr. Boston Blended Whiskey and Connoisseur Creme de Cacao. (There's even a glossy-paged centerfold replete with handsome liquor ads. Oh 1935, how naughty wast thou!)

Anyway, Sean was thumbing through the thing the other day and happened upon the Perfect Cocktail and asked if he should whip it out up for the blog. I figured, yes, of course, why not, as we can talk about the concept of "perfect" in cocktail-making, that it's not just a boast but that it actually means something, namely the addition of dry and sweet vermouths to a drink in equal measure.

Another mini history lesson is this: While these days nobody ever orders anything "perfect" unless they mean a Manhattan, back in the day, the assumption when you talked about a Perfect Cocktail was that gin would be your base liquor. Much like how the original Alexander was also a gin concoction until the Brandy Alexander came along with its swinging-from-the-chandeliers popularity -- and, hand in hand, its more sugary-sweet flavor profile -- and became the Alexander de rigueur. Or how Martini always meant gin and vermouth until vodka martinis started clouding up the whole affair. Of course, Martinis were derived from Martinezes which were derived from Manhattans... and the circle of life continues.

Anyway! The historical perspective I am trying to lay upon the Perfect Cocktail is, when we tasted the Old Mr. Boston recipe for the drink, we did not really like it at all upon first sip. This is what cocktails used to taste like before everything in our lives, from our morning cereal to our flouride toothpaste, started tasting like candy. It had such a grown-up, no-sweetness flavor profile that I dare say it was un-fun, and while Sean and I agreed that we could sit with it a spell, let it grow on us, learn to appreciate its odd angles, instead we just decided to do a couple dashes of Peychaud's, which rendered it more in line with our modern-day ideas of grown-up pleasure. It is Friday, after all; who wants to be assigned homework right before the weekend?

The More Perfect Cocktail

(which builds upon the Perfect Cocktail recipe as published in Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

Equal parts Bombay Dry Gin, Stock Sweet Vermouth and Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth (we did 25ml, or about an ounce, each)

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

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