All posts tagged: bitters

Cocktail of the week no.19: the Tuxedo

In 1885, in a rural patch of New York state called Tuxedo, just north of the border with New Jersey, a man named Pierre Lorillard decided to found a country club. He named it after the region, which had retained its Indian name; Etymonline and the Tuxedo Club’s own excellent history page agree that ‘Tuxedo’ probably derives from the Algonquian ‘p’tuck-sepo,’ or ‘crooked river.’ The club was a success, attracting the New York glitterati for its country pursuits and society dances, and in the year of its opening, 1886, the name went down in history for its association with a new, informal style of evening wear – the tail-less dinner jacket. Supposedly this rather avant-garde garment was brought back to New York by one James Brown Potter, who saw the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) wearing one on a visit to Sandringham; the ‘notoriously unchaste’ prince recommended his tailor to Potter while simultaneously trying to seduce his wife. The Wall Street Journal has the full story here, as well as one or two other versions. This …

Getting To Know Amari: Amaro Averna & the Black Manhattan

If you’ve looked at the menu in a cocktail bar in the last decade or so, or indeed looked at any cocktail posts on Instagram – something I spend far too much time doing – you will have noticed a profusion of impenetrable names on the ingredients list like ‘Cynar’, ‘Averna’, ‘Fernet Branca’, ‘Ramazzotti’, which have certainly caused me, in the past, to reach unobtrusively for my phone and Google what the hell they are. All these, along with many others, belong to the group of liqueurs known as ‘amari.’ Amaro in Italian just means ‘bitter’, and many, if not most of these liqueurs are indeed Italian, commonly drunk after dinner as a digestif. They are made by macerating herbs, spices, and roots in a neutral spirit or wine, and adding caramel or sugar syrup to sweeten it. Common flavourings include gentian, cinchona (the same tree used to make quinine), anise, cinnamon, along with many others. The most famous (and currently the most widely used), are the luridly coloured Campari, and its sweeter cousin Aperol. On an amari …

Cocktail of the week no. 9: the Sazerac

It’s back to the classics this week, with an old standard from New Orleans. The Sazerac has been around since the mid-19th century, and originated as a cognac drink. Not too long after, the spirit changed to whisky when cognac became difficult to obtain after the outbreak of phylloxera, a vine-eating parasite, swept through France’s vineyards. As with many of these classic cocktails, there’s quite a bit of debate about how exactly to make it: should you add Angostura bitters along with the Peychaud’s? Should you use absinthe, or Herbsaint, or Pernod? Should you leave the absinthe in the glass, or tip it out? Is it ever acceptable to drop the lemon peel in the drink? As usual, since I’m just learning, I’ve stuck to the most traditional version I can find: no Angostura, yes absinthe, lemon peel firmly outside the drink. Something about the combination of rye, medicinal Peychaud’s and strong absinthe sounds pretty odd on paper, but the finished product is delightful. Absinthe so easily overpowers other spirits, but here the rinse on the …

Cocktail of the week no.7: the Manhattan

For this week’s cocktail, I’m going for a real classic – the Manhattan. It’s a super simple cocktail along the lines of a Martini – mainly just spirit and vermouth. Here it’s whisky (preferably rye) and sweet vermouth, with some Angostura bitters thrown in. There’s no great certainty about where or when the Manhattan originated, but it seems safe to say that it was in New York in the latter half of the 19th century. I’m amazed at the amount of variation possible with a Manhattan – make it with all sweet vermouth, or half sweet and half dry vermouth (a Perfect Manhattan), make a brandy Manhattan, a Cuban Manhattan (with dark rum), a Tijuana Manhattan (with tequila), a Rob Roy (with Scotch instead of rye). I made mine with a ratio of 2:1 whiskey to vermouth, but the recipe in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks suggests a 5:1 ratio (yikes). For some variations right here on WordPress, Cocktail Monologue has begun a series of really interesting-looking ‘Manhattan Mondays.’ I’ve stuck to my beloved Serious Eats for the recipe, …

Seasonal cocktail: blood orange and bourbon

It’s blood orange season, finally! You can tell because they’re all over Instagram. Naturally I wanted to make something with these photogenic fruits, and came across this beautiful drink in an old post at Love and Lemons. I definitely can’t photograph it as well as the original, partly due to lack of skillz and partly due to SAD-inducing lack of decent daylight, but hopefully you get the idea of how pretty it is. (Should I rearrange my life to make cocktails in the early morning and catch the light? Probably wouldn’t go down well at work.) I love that citrus is in season in winter. It’s always just what I need in miserable January. This is not just a good-looking drink, it’s a fresh yet wintery concoction, easy on the liquor, with a bit of sparkling water to lighten it up.  Super tasty, super refreshing, could drink about 10. But won’t. I changed the proportions a bit, and made it with equal parts bourbon and blood orange juice, and added just a splash of water. You could alter …

Cocktail of the week no.5: the Martinez

So I popped down to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits recently to get some new ingredients and expand my repertoire. It seems less common for people to make complex cocktails at home in the UK than it is in the US, perhaps because alcohol is generally more expensive here, so there aren’t a ton of stores that are really well-stocked. Gerry’s is the best in London as far as I can tell. The staff are really helpful, and I incidentally learned the correct way to pronounce ‘Tokaji’ when another customer was gently corrected (it’s Tok-eye). Among other things, I picked up some Old Tom gin, a style of gin popular in the 19th century, made obscure by the rise of London dry gin, and resurrected in the last decade or so. I bought it specifically to make a Martinez, an old relative, and supposedly the predecessor, of the Martini. I tried a Martinez for the first time recently at Bar Américain. It’s very different from a Martini, and not the easiest thing to drink, but it really stuck with me. It’s complex and bittersweet, featuring …

Bonus cocktail: the Princeton

I saw this drink browsing the ‘cocktails’ tag on my WordPress reader – thank you Rapid Cyclist! I spent 5 happy years in Princeton doing my PhD, and met my husband there, so this seemed like one I had to make. I’m not including it in my Cocktails of the Week, because it’s quite random, and I prefer to make my way through the big ones in that series, but it’s a great bonus! I looked up the cocktail, and found some more info at Serious Eats, of course. Apparently a barman named George Kappeler mixed a series of Ivy League themed drinks at the Holland House bar in New York in the late 19th century, as a way of currying favour with his student customers. Naturally, some of these cocktails are better than others. It’s doubly convenient because I just bought some Old Tom gin, and was wondering what else I could use it in, and we happen to have some nice port in the house too. I love the two tone effect of this cocktail, which is achieved …