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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El Presidente #4

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In some circles, the El Presidente is otherwise known as a Cuban Martini. It's also one of those cocktails with slippery origins; in my Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails, this is the fourth of four known El Presidente recipes printed. Variations include:

- El Presidente #1: Light rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine; a slim change-up on a classic daiquiri, replacing its simple syrup with pineapple juice. (Which, now that I think about it, is a great idea.)

- El Presidente #2: Light rum, dry vermouth, bitters. Difford's describes it as "bone dry" and "rather like a rum-based, old-school Martini."

- El Presidente #3: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau, grenadine. A Trader Vic's recipe, of which Vic himself allegedly said, "This is the real recipe." (But I think he claims that about all of his concoctions? At least about the Mai Tai, which he said he flat-out invented.)

- El Presidente #4: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau. "Dry but not bone dry, with balanced fruit from the triple sec and vermouth." Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!

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Now that I've tasted this, I might actually propose a fifth version with a splash of club soda or even tonic. The former because of  the mojito-Cuban link, the latter because this El Presidente also manages to remind me of a nice, sweaty gin and tonic, which is actually one of my most favorite things to drink on the first hot day of summer.

But as-is is still a-plenty good. Crisp, light... dare I say, in its own weird way, Moscato d'Asti-like? (There I go with the fizzy thing again.)

Just try it.

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El Presidente #4

(Taken pretty much straight-up from Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails)

1 ½ ounces Bacardi Superior light rum

¾ ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth

½ ounce Cointreau

Lemon, lime and/or orange twists, to garnish

Pour all liquid ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add your garnish.

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The Clifton Heights

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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?

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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 Really Good Pickle Martini

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If you are a minutia-obsessed Seinfeld fan like I am (Is it possible to be any other kind of Seinfeld fan? Minutia is that dude's umwelt) then you remember the episode wherein Jerry tries to decipher the note he scribbled in the middle of the night while half-asleep. He finally figures out it's a line from a sci-fi B-movie he'd been up late watching. A line, it turns out, that's actually not that funny.

Such it's been for me the past few weeks with a drink name and recipe I came across and jotted down and now I'm all like, wuh? The drink's called The Filthy Narwhal, and Googling it comes up goose eggs as far as a source or point of origin.* I think I may have seen it on the online cocktail menu of some resto in Boston. I have no idea why I think that, seeing as I can't remember the last time I was in Boston, nor do I have any plans to be in Boston, but so fire the synapses of my sleep-deprived memory these days.

What I need no help recalling is what about the Filthy Narwhal made me want to copy it down -- it's got a pickle garnish! I [heart] pickles. When I shove pastrami down my piehole dine respectably at a Katz's or a Schwartz's or any other Jewish deli, I'm mainly in it for the pickles. (Maybe I just have a thing for foods that are green?)

On a different** episode of Seinfeld, Seinfeld said, "I've never had a really good pickle." While this statement should bring much shame on Jerome and his Hebrew roots, I am here to state that you can have a really good pickle martini. Like, The Really Good Pickle Martini.

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Now, the trick to a really good pickle martini is that the cocktail should contain pickle juice but should not taste absolutely and entirely like pickle. You don't want it to be so over the top that it becomes more gimmick than potable. That's a tricky trick because pickle juice is powerful. (Say that 10 times fast.) And in fact, the Filthy Narwhal sidesteps this quandary entirely; it doesn't contain any pickle juice, only vodka and dry vermouth with a garnish of organic dill pickle and blue-cheese stuffed olive. (Yes, I wrote all that down, but didn't write down where it came from.)

This martini is really rilly good, y'all. The flavor profile has a bit of brine to it but it's still very much a proper martini even though it tastes noticeably different from a standard martini, and honestly, if you think it's just another dirty martini, believe me when I tell you it's not dirty at all. (It even looks all but clear.) The pickle garnish exudes a snappy olfactory element as you dive in so that your nose as well as tongue gets in on the fun. (Now that's a bit dirty.)

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I'm just gonna say it: I am master of my domain. (Yes, we're still talking about cocktails.)

The Really Good Pickle Martini

2 ounces Gordon's Dry Gin

1/4 ounce Martini & Rossi dry vermouth

1/4 ounce pickle juice

Dill pickle, to garnish (I used a pickle slice, the kind they sell in jars for putting on sandwiches)

Pour gin, vermouth and pickle juice into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Add your pickle garish, preferably skewered.

*UPDATE: Source found! I was close; it's not from a cocktail menu at a Boston resto but a Burlington, VT resto. Still a wuh? but at least I'll sleep better tonight.

**CORRECTION: It's the SAME episode!! What are the odds?!? I hang my head in Seinfeld-fan shame.

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The Fifty-Fifty Martini

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Hi there. I don't know why the otherwise lovely pic above insists on orienting itself sideways. But let's just accept it as some sort of metaphor for the randomness, the precariousness with which life can come at a person, the balancing act we all agree to execute every time our feet hit the bedroom floorboards. It's still a proper cocktail, goddamn, and after all this time I've been away, that's all my thirst cares about.

So, there is a little bit of news to share on my end, a couple new developments in my life since last we spoke so very long ago. (Months! Practically a year! Are months the new year? Is that a trend I missed since going underground? On a related topic, wtf is a Harlem shake?)

I have a baby now.

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People, life was filled with perfectly great reasons to libate before I had the kid. Now there is but one reason to seek out solace in a cocktail glass, and it is this awesome, animated mound of delight, terror, havoc, charm and chaos. She is a writhing, smiling, life-sucking raison d'inebriate.

Unfortunately, that life-sucking part ain't no joke. I want need crave a cocktail at day's end, and the choice of a cocktail, singular, as opposed to many cocktails (that would necessitate an entire cocktail rack (that's a Wayne's World reference)) also ain't no joke, because one cocktail at a time is all I can handle now. My newly established drinking habits remind me of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. To paraphrase: If I go for two, I'm probably gonna have to barf up my lunch, so I'd better make this one count.

Make it special! Make it count! Is my new cocktailing mantra.

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It's not entirely a coincidence, therefore, that the other thing I did on my maternity leave was write a cocktail book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms -- which just so happens to come out To-Day! Check it out on Amazon, why don't 'cha? (Buy "check it out," I mean buy it; proceed to checkout!)

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The book contains about 175 cocktail recipes worthy of both a mother's scant, precious time and a cocktail lover's top-shelf tastes. There are no sippy-cup sangrias or Hi-C highballs, if that's what you're thinking. This book's chockablock with straight-up booze, people.

So, of course, I wanted to share with you one of the book's recipes on this otherwise-un-noteworthy Monday afternoon. The Fifty Fifty Martini is a rather wet martini. In fact, given how martinis are preferred bone-dry nowadays, it's downright drenched. In The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, I recommend it as a commemorative tipple for learning to share the load with your co-parent:

Look up "for better or for worse" in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of a screaming baby in a crib and two new parents staring at one another, dumbstruck. Your little one may have been your singular burden to bear for nine body-battering months, but now she's a shared responsibility, equal parts "yours, mine and ours." And the truth is, your partner is your only true ally in this whole parenting thing. Especially once the fanfare from family and friends dies down, and it's just the three of you left to your own devices, wondering what the heck is supposed to happen next. Here's a hint: Talk it out. Listen and learn. Ask what your partner thinks. Sometimes father really does know best. (Really!)

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Life is harder now, but to quote A League Of Their Own (why am I quoting all the movies I saw on TBS last weekend?!), the hard is what makes it great. The Fifty Fifty Martini is what makes it palatable.

The Fifty Fifty Martini

(As published in The Big Book of Martinis for Moms -- have you bought it yet?)

2 ounces dry gin

2 ounces dry vermouth

Cocktail olives, to garnish

Combine gin and vermouth in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly for about a minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Skewer your olives for best presentation and add them to garnish.

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