The Bistro Cocktail (it should be)

The so-called Bistro Sidecar brings the mis-naming of drinks humorously full-circle.

The original Sidecar (a type of punch called ‘daisy’ before 1900) was called a ‘cocktail’ when it was first made, because that was the faddish term then (the 1920’s).  [It really should’ve been called the Sidecar Daisy, since daisies were liqueuredly-fancy sours (themselves punches) before 1900.  The Margarita is liqueuredly-fancy sour, and ‘margarita’ means ‘daisy’ in Spanish.]

The calendar flies and term ‘sidecar’ has seemingly become faddish.  In addition, the current second historic fad of the word ‘cocktail’ is apparently becoming boring, finally.

This is evidenced by the fact that the drink in question (a sling – of which the true cocktail is the bittered variant) was called the “Bistro Sidecar” by its maker.  Unlike the original Sidecar, it is not nearly soured enough to be a daisy (or any other type of punch).

The maker used only accents of the juices as in the way of the original Crusta Cocktails, Pegu Club Cocktail, and Bronx Cocktail.  This makes the drink elementally beg for the bitters that will make it a full-fledged, true cocktail.

So, follow the recipe for the “Bistro Sidecar” and add a dash or two of your additive bitters of choice.  Then smile, and tip a sip to the power of ever-changing fad in the hospitality industry.

BISTRO COCKTAIL (in 2:1 proportions between the spirit and liqueurs)

Chill a 4-1/2 fl-oz. traditional glass cocktail goblet.

In a large glass mixing tumbler combine the following ingredients:

— 1-1/3 fl-oz. (40 ml.) Cognac brandy

— 1/3 fl-oz. (10 ml.) hazelnut ratafia liqueur (such as Frangelico)

— 1/3 fl-oz. (10 ml.) Tuaca liqueur (a proprietary ratafia liqueur)

— 2 dsh. additive bitters of choice (I use my own spirituous peach bitters)

— 1 barspoon (2.5 ml.) freshly-pressed Eureka lemon juice

— 1 barspoon (2.5 ml.) freshly-pressed tangerine juice

Fill the large glass mixing tumbler with method ice.

Stir until very cold.

Finely-strain into the chilled traditional glass cocktail goblet.

Garnish by twisting a strip of Eureka lemon zest over the drink.

Two of the Sour Element’s Non-citrus Members: Passion Fruit and Cranberry

The passion fruit, when unsweetened, is an ingredient in the sour element.  The Latin name for passion fruit is Passiflora edulis, and it grows in both purple and yellow varieties.  The yellow variety is the more acidic and sour of the two, while the purple variety has more flavor and aroma.  The pulp of both varieties is yellow.  When available, fresh passion fruit pulp is used in some mixed drinks, strained free of the seeds.  Drinks made with fresh passion fruit pulp will usually require sweetening from some other ingredient in the drink.  Products sold as passion fruit juice or pulp are usually one of two varieties: passion fruit pulp sweetened with sugar and meant to be made into a juice by adding water to it, or passion fruit juice made by blending the pulp a greater amount of succulent juices (such as apple, grape or pear).  Beware that labels bearing the words “100% juice” indicate a blend with succulent juices.  The best product for mixed drinks is cane-sugared passion fruit pulp, so that the main flavor is of the passion fruit without other juices.  When cane-sugared passion fruit pulp is used, it can be thought of as the sour element already mixed with the sweet element.  The pulp need not be pre-diluted for use in mixed drinks that will be diluted by method.

The cranberry, when unsweetened, is also an ingredient in the sour element.  There are actually four species of cranberries, and their Latin species names are Vaccinium erythrocarpum, Vaccinium macrocarpon, Vaccinium microcarpum, and Vaccinium oxycoccos.  Products sold as cranberry juice are usually one of two varieties: diluted cranberry juice sweetened with sugar, or cranberry juice blended with a greater amount of succulent juices (such as apple, grape or pear).  Beware that labels bearing the words “100% juice” indicate a blend with succulent juices.  The best choice for mixed drinks is cane-sugared cranberry juice, so that the main flavor is of the cranberry without other juices.  When cane-sugared cranberry juice is used, it can be thought of as the sour element already mixed with the sweet element.

A Testament to the Unwavering Popularity of Punch

Punch was the most popular type of alcoholic mixed drink before the rise of the American slings in the 1800’s.  There has been a long retreat of the American slings (including American juleps, cobblers and the true cocktails) from the main stage, but punch remains in the spotlight.

Create a balanced mixture of the sour and sweet elements.  Create another balanced mixture of the strong and weak elements.  Now further balance those two mixtures together and you will have punch – about as crowd-pleasing a drink as can be.  It can reach the sublime for its type if it is also accented with an ingredient from the aromatic element.

Sensitive use of those five elements creates the delightful drink that all punches strive to be – and, pancha means ‘five’ in the land were punch comes from: India.  It was apparently first made there by either the Indians or the British.

Think of the Mojito Punch.  When made sensitively, it is the balance of Key lime juice (sour) with cane sugar (sweet), combined with the balance of light Cuban rum (strong) and soda water (weak).  It is also aromatized by mint.

Think of the Sidecar Daisy.  It is the balance of Eureka lemon juice (sour) with the sugar in the triple-sec Curaçao liqueur (sweet), combined with the balance of brandy (and the alcoholic nature of the liqueur – both strong) with a fluid-ounce or more of water (that is added while shaking – weak).  It is also aromatized by lemon zest.

Both drinks are clearly punches in any way one cares to think – except when confused by image, method of mixing, glassware, or the lack of a large bowl.

In fact, many popular drinks, like the Singapore Punch, Daiquiri Sour, Margarita Daisy and Cosmopolitan Daisy are naturally-born punches – even though they may be called ‘slings’ or ‘cocktails.’

This misnaming is a consequence of the supremacy of image over substance.  That has for a long time been, and may always be, a major phenomenon associated with the selling of alcoholic beverages to people involved in status-conscious social behavior – especially when prepared by employees in similar states of mind.

Think of the seemingly irresistible, substance-blurring image associated with words such as “cocktail” (especially in the 1920’s, 1930’s and early 2000’s) and “Martini” (especially in the 1990’s and early 2000’s).  Likewise, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, many non-American bartenders knew that slings were popular American drinks and were apt to call any new creation a ‘sling.’

In addition to all the punches by other names, there has been over the past century considerable punch-ward drift.  Many non-punches that were originally made with only an accent of the sour element have been turned into proper punches, elementally-speaking.

As an example of this, consider the Brandy Crusta and Pegu Club Cocktails.  Both were born as true cocktails, originally made with only “a little,” “a few drops,” or “1 teaspoonful,” of the sour juice.  These small amounts of juice can accent a true cocktail without re-forging its essential nature into something else.

In contrast, drinks by those names are usually presented in modern books and bars with ½ fl-oz., or more, of the sour juice.  This seems to be a one-size-fits-all approach by bartenders who undoubtedly think of all their drinks as ‘cocktails,’ even though many of them create more punches than any other single type.

But, the fact that so many misnamed or re-forged drinks are actually punches can also be seen as a testament to the unwavering popularity of punch – no matter what it may be called.