The Plattsburgh Blossom

The Plattsburgh Blossom

by Andrew “the Alchemist”

(click the image to enlarge it)

One simple drink that I like is the Adirondack Blossom.  It is made with a jigger (2 fl-oz. by pre-prohibition standards) of old tom gin shaken with a pony (1 fl-oz. by pre-prohibition standards) of freshly pressed navel or Valencia orange juice and plenty of method ice.  It should be finely-strained into a chilled 5 ½ fl-oz. glass goblet.  An orange quarter-wheel does nicely as the garniture.  The drink was served in the Waldorf Bar and recorded in its notebook sometime between 1893 and 1919.

The Adirondack Blossom may be the oldest blossom.  The Orange Blossom came a little bit later and is based on dry gin instead of old tom gin.  It also often contains some sugar or sugar syrup to make up for the dryness of dry gin.  Other blossoms have been popular or noteworthy since the days of the Waldorf Bar, including the Blood And Sand, the Harlem, the Monkey Gland, and the Jazz Blossom.  The Jazz (Blossom) is the original name for the common de-evolution of the Bronx Cocktail that omits the bitters and uses an ounce (or more) of the juice rather than the original barspoonfull.  (Making and comparing the original Bronx Cocktail with the Jazz Blossom is an excellent case study in the difference between cocktails and blossoms.  For more on this from an original source, read William Boothby’s description of the cocktails as a type of drink in his 1908 book – which happens to contain the earliest-published recipe for the Bronx Cocktail)

One variation of the Adirondack Blossom that I like in warm weather is a drink I call the Plattsburgh Blossom.  I make it on the same foundation as the Adirondack Blossom with tom gin, but with fresh blood orange juice.  I like to garnish the drink with a skewered marasca cherry.

The drink I have described represents enough of a variation to require its own unique name, in my opinion.  So, thinking of the Adirondack Blossom and ‘blood’ led me to the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814.  Plattsburgh is in the northern part of the state of New York.  It is located on the Adirondack coast of Lake Champlain.  In the late summer of 1814, the British sought to seize Plattsburgh by land and water from across the Canadian border.  The Americans were victorious in the bloody battle, capturing the British flagship and watching the British army retreat back into Canada.  The war of 1812 ended shortly thereafter with the Treaty of Ghent.

So, try a Plattsburgh Blossom sometime in the coming summer campaigning season – and recall the simpler times when fighting for your country meant defending it at home.

P.S.  Obvious adaptations of the Plattsburgh Blossom into other types of drinks that suggest themselves include:

The Plattsburgh Punch – make as above, but with only ½ fl-oz. of the blood orange juice, and add ½ fl-oz. freshly-pressed lemon juice and a dessertspoon (two teaspoons) of superfine sugar.  Straining this adaptation into a 5 ½ fl-oz. glass sour goblet after shaking would be most correct.

The Plattsburgh Cocktail – make as above, but with only a barspoon of the blood orange juice, and add 2 dashes of orange additive bitters and an optional teaspoon of superfine sugar (if the tom gin does not sufficiently sweeten the drink for you by itself).  This should be stirred with method ice (instead of shaken) and strained into a 4 ½ fl-oz. glass cocktail goblet.

Old-fashioned Sherbet and Traditional, Five-element Punch

OLD-FASHIONED SHERBET AND TRADITIONAL, FIVE-ELEMENT PUNCH

by Andrew “the Alchemist”

Sherbet is now mainly thought of in its frozen version, but unfrozen old-fashioned sherbet was once commonly used to make superior punches.  Contrary to what has been recently suggested, making sherbet the old-fashioned way by rubbing lump sugar against lemons is perfectly possible.  It is also culinarily preferable to muddling strips of lemon peel into granulated sugar – which fails to obtain deeply yellow sherbet sugar, and invariably adds bitterness from the white pith.  La Perruche™ and Comptoir du Sud™ are recommended brands of old-fashioned lump sugar that is solid enough for old-fashioned lemon-rubbing.

The first stage of making old-fashioned sherbet yields sherbet sugar, or oleo-saccharum.  Sherbet sugar contains the aromatic and sweet elements.

The second stage of making old-fashioned sherbet yields rump sherbet.  Rump sherbet contains the aromatic, sour and sweet elements.

The third stage yields fully-fledged, old-fashioned sherbet.  Old-fashioned sherbet contains the aromatic, sour, sweet and weak elements.

To make a traditional, five-element punch from old-fashioned sherbet, the strong element is added to it.

Following the instructions below will produce old-fashioned sherbet, the amount of which will be appropriate for making a traditional, five-element punch that will yield 12 servings of 6 fluid-ounces {180 milliliters} each, in the proportions of 2:1:4:3.  That is two parts of sour, one part of sweet, four parts of strong, and three parts of weak.  These proportions allow nicely for the additional amount of the weak element that will be incidentally added in the form of ice-meltage that will occur as the punch sits.  When the punch is served, each 6 fluid-ounce {180 milliliter} serving will contain almost exactly the traditional jigger {2 fluid-ounces | 60 milliliters} of liquor.

To make sherbet sugar in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch:

–          begin with room-temperature lemons

–          find the average juice yield per type and size of the lemons on hand

–          the average yield is usually between 1 fluid-ounce {30 milliliters} and 1-1/2 fluid-ounces {45 milliliters}

–          select enough of the lemons to yield 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} of juice, with a little extra for good measure

–          soak the lemons in pure water that is not too cold for 15 minutes

–          use paper towels to dab the lemons dry, without rubbing or using much force

–          thoroughly wash, rinse and dry hands

–          rub old-fashioned lump sugar forcefully against the exterior {zest} of the lemons

–          do this over a large, glass measuring cup with a capacity of 2 cups or more

–          when the rubbed side of the sugar lump appears deeply yellow, turn it and continue to rub

–          rotate each lemon as needed to obtain the essential oil from the entire zest

–          as each lump of sugar becomes fully saturated, drop it into the measuring cup

–          as each lemon is rubbed of all of its available essential zest oil, reserve it and take up another intact lemon

–          stop when the amount of saturated sugar lumps reaches a generous 3/4 cup {6 fluid-ounces | 180 milliliters}

–          when taking the above measurement, don’t mind the dead space between lumps

–          the stopping point for rubbing sugar should roughly coincide with all the selected lemons having been rubbed

–          use a muddler to crush the saturated sugar lumps

–          add granulated sugar to bring the total sugar amount to 3/4 cup {6 fluid-ounces | 180 milliliters} and reserve

–          press the juice from the rubbed lemons until 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} juice is obtained and reserve it

–          while pressing the juice, collect and reserve the pips {seeds} from the pressing tool, and the pressed lemon hulls

–          reserve the pressed juice

–          place the collected pips and reserved sugar preparation together in a mixing bowl

–          use the muddler to abrase the pips with the sugar, breaking the mucilage and allowing its flavor into the sugar

–          it is not desirable to break or crush the pips any more than occurs incidentally

At this point, the preparation becomes sherbet sugar, or oleo-saccharum.  If not going on, the pips should be carefully picked out.  If going on to make rump sherbet, it is not necessary to pick out the pips, as they will be strained out.

To continue and make rump sherbet in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch:

–          begin with the above preparation of sherbet sugar {the pips need not have been picked out}

–          add the 1-1/2 cups {12 fluid-ounces | 360 milliliters} of lemon juice that was reserved from above

–          used the muddler to continue crushing any lump sugar that may be left, and to free any impacted sherbet sugar from it

–          stir very well, until all of the sherbet sugar is dissolved into the lemon juice

–          pour through a fine strainer into another mixing bowl

–          If any appreciable amount of un-dissolved sugar is seen while pouring, stop pouring and stir more, before resuming straining

At this point, the preparation becomes rump sherbet.  The yield at this point should be almost exactly 2 cups.

If used within 24 hours, rump sherbet is excellent from which to make such variants of punch as swizzles, fixes, sours, fizzes and Collinses with – as long as not too much of the jigger is taken up by liqueur.  That would probably make the drink too sweet.  For making any of these individual punches, combine 1-1/3 fluid-ounces {40 milliliters} of the above preparation of rump sherbet to the traditional jigger {2 fluid-ounces | 60 milliliters} of total liquor.  This amount of rump sherbet contains almost exactly 1 fluid-ounce {30 milliliters} of lemon juice and 1 level-tablespoon {15 milliliters} of sugar.  This results in an individual drink with the proportions of 2 parts of sour, 1 part of sweet, and 4 parts of strong {and incidental method-related dilution} – which is traditional, and a good starting point – though it may be slightly too-sour for some tastes.

It can be noted here that proportions should always be considered with dry sugar amounts for familiarity with the amount of sweetness involved.  This is why I advocate the use of 1:1 sugar syrup when sugar syrup is to be used.  Made with equal parts (by volume) of sugar and water, converting from any amount of dry sugar can be easily accomplished by multiplying the dry sugar amount 1-1/2 times.  For example, 3/4 fluid-ounce {22.5 milliliters} of 1:1 sugar syrup contains almost exactly 1 level tablespoon {15 milliliters} of sugar {because 15 x 1.5 = 22.5}.

To continue and make old-fashioned sherbet in an appropriate quantity from which to eventually make a 12-serving batch of punch in the 2:1:4:3 proportions:

–          begin with the above preparation of rump sherbet

–          add 2-1/4 cups {18 fluid-ounces | 540 milliliters} of pure water

–          stir until evenly mixed

At this point, the preparation becomes old-fashioned sherbet.

To continue and make a 12-serving batch of punch in the 2:1:4:3 proportions:

–          begin with the above preparation of old-fashioned sherbet

–          pour the old-fashioned sherbet into an 8 quart punch bowl

–          add 3 cups {24 fluid-ounces | 720 milliliters} of liquor(s) {example: one 750 milliliter bottle minus 1 fluid-ounce – or just pour in the whole bottle}

–          stir until evenly mixed

–          taste the punch

–          if desired, add sweetness by stirring in more granulated sugar {if part of the 3 cups of liquor contains liqueur, this should not be necessary}

–          if desired, add more aromatic elements {examples: additive bitters, or spices tied into a cheesecloth bundle or placed into a commercially-available spice bag}

–          stir, cover and reserve for at least 2 hours to let the flavors marry

–          if a spice bundle or bag was added, remove it now

–          add as much of the largest-sized ice as will fit

–          garnish with garniture of choice {examples: citrus wheels or seasonal berries}

–          place the punch in an inviting location, with a ladle

–          in a nearby place, arrange clean punch cups of a size that will easily hold a 6 fluid-ounce portion of the punch

Enjoy!

P.S.  Making sherbet sugar, rump sherbet and fully-fledged old-fashioned sherbet is an important part of the Elemental Mixology Fabrication Course {EMFC} that I teach in the Los Angeles area.  Check it out at http://www.elementalmixology.com for course dates when you can be taught in a hands-on manner to make your own old-fashioned sherbet by a mixologist with a formal culinary background {me!}.

– Andrew

Books on Drink: A History (with ratings)

I am often asked about the books on drink that I read and recommend.  So I finally put this together.  It is by no means an encyclopedic listing of all books on drink, and the ratings reflect no one’s opinions but my own.

– Andrew (the “Alchemist”)

 

1820 – 1879: THE FOUNDATIONAL ERA

Books from this period usually group drinks by types with common discernable characteristics.  In this period, the cocktail is but one clearly definable type of drink.  Also, books from this period are faithful to the jigger (or wine-glass) as a unit of measure equaling two-fluid-ounces that is the basic portion of total liquor to be made into any type of mixed drink.  Where books from this era give recipes for single-serving drinks containing multiple liquors, they will jigger them together into a total of two-fluid-ounces.

During the Foundational Era, the majority of drinks are based on primary spirits, such as brandy, whiskey and rum.  But, gin is present and respected.

The Foundational Era begins with drinks already as-commonly sweetened by flavored syrups and liqueurs as they are by plain sugar or sugar syrup.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1827 Cook, Richard Oxford Night Caps 3/5 5/5
1862 Thomas, Jerry How to Mix Drinks 4/5 5/5
1869 Terrington. William Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks 4/5 3/5
1871 Ricket, E. 

& Thomas, C.

The Gentleman’s Table Guide 4/5 3/5
1878 Engel, Leo American & other Drinks 4/5 2/5

 

1880 – 1908: THE GOLDEN AGE – the rise of gin and vermouth

Books from this period continue the practice of presenting drinks by types, and with the clear sense that cocktails are but one type of drink.  They also remain faithful to the jigger as a unit of measure equaling two-fluid-ounces that is the total portion of liquor in mixed drinks.

It is during the Golden Age that gin begins to be more popular than other spirits.  Also during this era, cocktails (real ones) that are sweetened by vermouth (in addition to – or instead of – sugar, syrups or liqueurs) become common.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1884 Byron,  O.H. The Modern Bartender’s Guide 4/5 5/5
1887 Dick 

& Fitzgerald

Jerry Thomas’ Bar-tenders Guide 4/5 5/5
1888 Johnson, Harry New and Improved Bartender’s Manual 4/5 5/5
1891 Boothby, William American Bar-tender 4/5 5/5
1892 Schmidt, William The Flowing Bowl 3/5 4/5
1895 Kappeler, George Modern American Drinks 5/5 5/5
The above is one of the books that vie for consideration as the best all-around pre-prohibition drinks book.
1903 Daly, Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia 4/5 4/5
1904 Stuart, Thomas Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them 4/5 4/5
The above is the same as the 1896 edition, but with a 1904 addendum of “New and up-to-date Drinks”
1908 Boothby, William The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them 5/5 5/5
The above is one of the books that vie for consideration as the best all-around pre-prohibition drinks book.

 

1909 – 1919: THE LATE PRE-PROHIBITION ERA – the breaking of the cocktail

Books from this period often group drinks alphabetically, usually mis-calling many other types of drinks “cocktails” – as long as they are served ‘up.’  This formless, alphabetical approach will eventually contribute to the idea that knowing drink names is as important as knowing their natures.

During the Late Pre-Prohibition Era, gin has completed its rise and gin-based drinks become the norm.  Also, it was during this period that the first corruption of the Martini Cocktail gathered steam – with drinks such as the Good Times Cocktail and Hoffman House Cocktail being called “Martinis” or “Dry Martinis”

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1910 Grohusko, Jack Jack’s Manual on the Vintage and Production, Care and Handling of Wines, Liquors, etc. 3/5 4/5
1914 Straub, Jacques Drinks 3/5 4/5
1917 Bullock, Tom The Ideal Bartender 2/5 3/5
1917 Ensslin, Hugo Recipes for Mixed Drinks 3/5 4/5
1935 Crockett, Albert The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book 4/5 5/5
The above is listed here for its transmission of the recipes compiled in the Waldorf Hotel Bar from 1897 through 1919.

 

1920 – 1934: THE PROHIBIITON ERA – the complete debasement of the cocktail

The Prohibition Era exhibits the supremacy of the image of the so-called “cocktail” over the elemental reality of the traditional type of drink by the same name.  For the first time, many books from this period actually call themselves “cocktail” books.  These books tend to force all new drinks into cocktail goblets.  This practice will eventually contribute to the breaking of the jigger.

The Prohibition Era continues the supremacy of gin, and actually expands upon it.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1922 MacElhone, Harry Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails 3/5 4/5
1922 Vermeire, Robert Cocktails: How to Mix Them 3/5 4/5
1926 John Hamilton Publishers, Limited The Cocktail Book 3/5 3/5
1930 Craddock, Harry The Savoy Cocktail Book 3/5 5/5
1932 Sloppy Joe’s Bar (Cuba) Sloppy Joe’s Cocktails Manual 3/5 4/5
1934 Boothby’s World Drinks Company Boothby’s World Drinks and How to Mix Them 2/5 5/5

 

1935 – 1949: THE REPEAL ERA – the breaking of the jigger

Books from this period expand upon the shortcomings of the earlier post-Golden Age eras by divorcing their recipes from the jigger as the basic two-fluid-ounce portion of total liquor in mixed drinks.  This is probably a consequence of the image-driven desire to fit drinks of various types into the iconic cocktail goblet.

It is noteworthy that during the Repeal Era, mixology begins to notice vodka.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1935 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1935 Crockett, Albert The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book 4/5 5/5
The above is listed here for the drinks added by Crockett at the time of publication.  See the earlier listing of this book.
1939 Baker, Charles The Gentleman’s Companion 3/5 4/5
The above has been re-issued as “Jigger, Beaker, & Glass: Drinking Around the World.”
1946 Beebe, Lucius The Stork Club Bar Book 3/5 3/5
1946 Bergeron, Victor (“Trader Vic”) Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink 3/5 3/5
1947 Bergeron, Victor (“Trader Vic”) Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1948 Embury, David The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks 3/5 5/5

 

1950 – 1969: THE BLANK ERA – the rise of vodka

Not many drinks books seem to have been published during this era – hence its name.  Also appropriate to the name is the fact that during the Blank Era, vodka-based drinks become common, and nearly every bar begins to stock vodka.

It is noteworthy that during the Blank Era, tiki drinks enjoyed their greatest popularity.  Tiki drinks do not form a genre, elementally-speaking – most of them are punches of one sub-genre or another.  The unifying characteristic of tiki drinks is that they are all meant to be evocative of tropical exoticism.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1955 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1960 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1968 Cotton, Leo Old Mister Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5

 

1970 – 1999: THE DRINKS NADIR ERA – the supremacy of vodka

Books from this period expand upon the shortcomings of the earlier post-Golden Age eras by becoming completely devoid of any sense of basic portions of total liquor.

Many books from the Drinks Nadir Era contain the words “complete” or “bible” in their titles – the suggestion being that the purchase of one book (and the reference to – or memorization of – the formless recipes found therein) can substitute for mixological knowledge.

It is during the Drinks Nadir Era that the word “cocktail” (in its de-based, image-driven meaning) is partially abandoned in favor of the word “Martini” – which likewise becomes largely de-based.

During the Drinks Nadir Era, pre-mixes and artificial mixers become common.  Also, it is during this era that vodka-based drinks become the norm.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

1977 Jones, Stan Jones’ Complete Barguide 3/5 5/5
1984 Cotton, Leo Mister Boston Official Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
1990 Feller, Robyn The Complete Bartender 1/5 3/5
1993 Sennett, Bob Complete World Bartender 2/5 3/5
1995 Schumann, Charles American Bar 3/5 4/5
1999 Regan, Gary The Bartender’s Bible 3/5 4/5

 

2000 – ????: THE DRINKS RENAISSANCE ERA – bar-lore and echoes of the Prohibition Era

Books (and bars) in this period tend to restore freshness to the sour element.  This restoration should not have been required to begin with, and it is perhaps a mistake to make much fuss over the return to fresh juices.  It’s a bit like bragging about having recently stopped cheating on a significant other.

The Drinks Renaissance Era sees the expansion of the use of the aromatic element, especially in the form of additive bitters, spices and aromatic produce.

A common theme in this era and its drink books is that of a return to “correct” mixology and “proper cocktails.”  Unfortunately, this does not include the return to the two-fluid-ounce jigger as the total portion of liquor in drinks – and many drinks are still served with too-much or too-little alcohol.  The ridiculously-oversized cocktail goblet is still the home of many non-cocktails.  There is a clear echo of the Prohibition Era in the fervent re-invigoration of the practice of mis-calling drinks “cocktails” to suggest their quality.  The word “cocktail” returns to the titles of books from this period more than in any other since the Prohibition Era.  Earlier books are widely reprinted during this era, but usually with a subtitle or blurb about them being “cocktail” books.

The word “mixology” is so loosely applied during the Drinks Renaissance Era that many actual mixologists abandon the word itself.

During this era, many bar professionals attempt to roll-back the use of the word “Matini” in its baseless, image-driven sense – even though they largely fail to do the same for the word “cocktail.”

It is probably a result of a generalized retrograde view that the Drinks Renaissance Era exhibits the ascendancy of bar-lore – the tales associated with the creation of individual historic drinks.  Bar-lore usually focuses on personalities and happenstance rather than mixological principles and evolution.  Unfortunately, bar-lore is often mistaken for mixology.

Likewise retrograde in view is the re-embrace of gin – a clear and deliberate echo of the supremacy of gin during the Prohibition Era.

Another echo of the Prohibition Era found in the Drinks Renaissance Era is the commercial success of the so-called ‘speakeasy’ type bar.

year author title mixology 

rating

extant 

drinks

study

rating

2002 DeGroff, Dale The Craft of the Cocktail 3/5 3/5
2002 Poister, John New American Bartender’s Guide 3/5 4/5
2003 Regan, Gary The Joy of Mixology 3/5 4/5
2005 Paragon Publishing 1001 Cocktails 3/5 4/5
2006 Difford, Simon Cocktails #6 3/5 5/5
2006 Barton Incorporated Mister Boston Platinum Edition 3/5 4/5
2008 Albert, Bridget 

& Barranco, Mary

Market Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season 4/5 3/5
2008 DeGroff, Dale The Essential Cocktail 3/5 3/5
2008 Difford, Simon Cocktails #7 3/5 5/5
2009 Difford, Simon Cocktails #8 3/5 5/5
2009 Difford, Simon Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails {Cocktails #8} 3/5 5/5
2010 Abou-Ganim, Tony 

& Batali, Mario

& Faulkner, Elizabeth

The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails 4/5 3/5
2010 Difford, Simon Cocktails #9 3/5 5/5
2010 Kosmas, Jason 

& Zaric, Dushan

Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined 4/5 3/5