When I picture my perfect Memorial Day -- meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot -- what I'd really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack -- I'm not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful.Read More
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.
If the overly orangeness is scaring you off, my suggestion is to reduce the triple sec down to a half-ounce.
So the Triple Crown wound up being a big bust this year. And even though the news is kinda bittersweet/poignant/ironic for us alkies who thought we'd finally found our spirit animal in a horse named I'll Have Another, it's no bigs. Let's keep sippin' juleps all the same. Let's just make 'em stiffer to take the edge off.
Came across this recipe from so-awesome-I-must-slay-him-in-order-to-become-him David Wondrich on Liquor.com and knew we had to try it. Have I ever done a white julep before? Wait... have I never done a white julep before?!? Where's my brain? (Blotto'd on moonshine, obvs.)
Not much to this recipe, but that's as it oughta be, I reckon. Moonshine ain't for fancy-ass pansies. In fact, I suspended a few of my usual julep rules (say that 10 times fast, then read up on what those time-tested rules are for making the World's Greatest Mint Julep here) to follow Wondrich's instructions quite close to the letter. For instance, I did without simple syrup or, better yet (to my mind), mint-infused simple syrup, and sweetened the drink only with granulated sugar and water, which is hard-core, colonial, old-school style. Wondrich says to stir the two together until the sugar's dissolved but I like to have a little granular action in there as it helps grind up the mint when you then muddle it in the sugar water. Take that, man I shall one day destroy.
The 1792 Kentucky White Dog Julep
(As seen on Liquor.com)
2 to 3 ounces Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey
1/2 ounce water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
6 to 8 mint leaves, plus a sprig to garnish
Stir sugar and water together in highball glass until dissolved. Add leaves, muddle slightly. Pack highball glass with crushed ice, then add whiskey. Stir, add more ice to fill, garnish with mint sprig.
As published, Wondrich's recipe calls for any white whiskey that can be called "unaged corn or rye." My much-cherished Georgia Moon is the former. Use a corn whiskey and it'll be a significantly sweeter drink; in fact, it tasted like summery corn on the cob in a way.
Sean was apparently feeling Wondrich-frisky as well when he helped assemble this drink. As you can see by the pics he took, he chose to eschew Wondrich's suggestion of a highball glass and instead poured it into a redneck-apropos Mason jar. (A teeny one at that.)
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 Bowl; Flamingo 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.
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.
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
1/2 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.
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.