Drink of the Day – The Bijou Cocktail (á la Waldorf)

Today’s drink of the day is the Bijou Cocktail as served at the Waldorf Hotel bar before prohibition.  It is found in the books Old Waldorf Bar Days (1931) and The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1935).  The recipes in both of those books by A.S. Crockett were from the hand-written, leather-bound, bar book compiled by Waldorf bar-tender Joseph Taylor during his employ there from 1894 through 1920.

Other, decidedly-different drinks would later be called Bijou Cocktail in other sources, such as Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail [sic] Book.  But, none of those drinks are nearly as good as the Waldorf original, in my opinion.  The Bijou Cocktail (á la Waldorf) is always a big hit during the slings session of the Elemental Mixology Standard Drinks Course.  I remember being surprised by how good it was the first time I had it.  I didn’t expect much from a true cocktail based on a liqueur instead of a spirit.  I now rank it as one of my favorite dozen true cocktails.

The selection of high-quality liquors is, of course, very important for any true cocktail, since the liquor makes up the bulk of the character of that type of drink.  For the orange-flavored brandy liqueur, I favor Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge (their ‘regular,’ red-corded product).  Other high-quality orange-flavored brandy liqueurs such as Ferrand’s terribly-misnamed “Dry Curaçao” [sic] or La Belle Orange are also good in this drink.  If one must save a little money on the orange-flavored brandy liqueur, Gran Gala would also be acceptable.  I use Dolin Dry Vermouth as the vermouth wine, and Angostura Orange Bitters.  I would advise against using any alternatives to those products.  I also wouldn’t recommend any other proportions than the original — 1 pony (1 fluid-ounce) for each of the two liquors.  Try to get tree-ripened, un-waxed lemons for better twisted zest as the garniture.

If you don’t make any other Drink of the Day selections, make this one.  You will like it.

Here is the recipe from my book:

Bijou Cocktail

Bonded (or just 100-proof) Brandywine, Anyone?

I am about to send an e-mail message to Paul Masson (the best mass-produced domestic brandy, in my opinion) suggesting that they produce a 100-proof expression.  I would prefer it be bonded, but that is probably too much to ask for.

I think that a fair number of bar-tenders and others would be interested in a tasty-enough (their v.s.o.p. rates 93 from Wine Enthusiast) 100-proof brandy that could still be a lot less expensive than 90-proof Ferrand 1840 — especially for mixing with.  Who agrees with me?  If you do, go to their site (www.paulmassonbrandy.com) and let them know.

Time Machines and Last Words

Some drinks only attain ‘classic’ status long after they were first published and then forgotten.  Such a drink is the Last Word Daisy.  I know that you may be more accustomed to hearing it called the Last Word Cocktail, or simply the Last Word.  But, according to nineteenth century, American mixology, the drink is a daisy – and a rather good one, too.  The originally-published Last Word can be found in the 1951 book Bottoms Up by Ted Saucier.  He indicates that he got it from the Detroit Athletic Club and gives each of the liquid ingredients in the amount of 1/4 of the total.  If we adhere to the pre-prohibition tradition that the total for liquor in a single drink should come to a jigger, or 2 fluid-ounces, it means that each of the liquors will be in the amount of 1/3 jigger, or 2/3 fluid-ounce.  That means that the lime juice should be in that amount, too.  Here is the recipe from my book:

Last Word Daisy

This original Last Word Daisy is quite a good and flavorful drink, and that could be the end of our investigation into it.

But, what if we had a time machine?  If we took the ingredients, the Detroit Athletic Club, and the bar-tender fifty years earlier, there is a very good chance that a true cocktail would have been made instead of a daisy.  1901 was during the zenith of the true cocktail as the most-favored type of drink in American bars.

So much for speculation.  A time machine is not needed.  Any drink with such rich flavor outside of the juice deserves to be tried as a true cocktail.

The handling of the juice when adapting a sour, daisy, lion or blossom into a cocktail is simple: reduce it to a barspoonful or a teaspoonful.  I favor the barspoonful.

Adding a couple of dashes of bitters is also straightforward.  Stirring, instead of shaking, is prescribed so as not to bruise the velvet of the liquor, d’accord.

The handling of the sugar or liqueur is a bit more troublesome, however.  In a sour, daisy or lion, the sweetening ingredients in the drink will be voluminous-enough to balance a considerable amount of juice.  With the amount of the juice reduced, the amount of desired sweetening should be less, too.

My problem with adapting the original Last Word Daisy into a Last Word Cocktail was that generous amounts for the maraschino liqueur and the green Chartreuse liqueur made for a delightful, richly-flavored drink.  Of course, I first tried the cocktail variant in the same liquor proportions (1:2 — one part plain spirit and two parts total liqueur) as the original daisy.  This meant 2/3 fluid-ounce of the gin and 2/3 fluid-ounce for each of the two liqueurs.  The flavor was good, but the drink was just far too sweet for me.  Then I tried giving half the jigger (1 pony, or 1 fluid-ounce) to the spirit and giving the other half of the jigger to the combined liqueurs (meaning a half-pony, or 1/2 fluid-ounce, for each).  While less sweet, this 1:1 version of drink was still a bit too sweet for me.  But, the flavor of the liqueurs was still delightfully rich.  I next tried making the drink in the 2:1 proportions by giving two-thirds of the jigger (1-1/3 fluid-ounces) to the gin and making up the remaining third of the jigger (2/3 fluid-ounce) with the combined liqueurs (1/3 fluid-ounce each).  The resultant drink was not overly-sweet, to me, but there was a slight dropping-off in the richness of the flavors of the liqueurs.  But it was still quite good.  I next tried the cocktail adaptation in the 3:1 proportion.  The drink was very balanced in terms of bitter, sour and sweet, but, for me, the richness of the liqueurs’ flavors had fallen into an abyss.  As I carefully considered my works, it was tough for me to decide whether I wanted to most-highly recommend the 1:1 or 2:1 proportions for the jigger.  I settled on the latter, but decided to include the other possibilities in my recipe, of course.  Here it is from my book:

Last Word Cocktail

I was pleased enough with it that I began to have students make both the Last Word Daisy and the Last Word Cocktail, side by side, in some of my courses.  Perhaps my students disproportionately represent that part of society that generally likes the flavor of liquor enough to prefer it to be the star of their drinks.  Perhaps that is why the majority tend to prefer the Last Word Cocktail adaptation over the original Last Word Daisy.

Try them both!

Drink of the Day – The Bourbon Cocktails

Today’s drink of the day is the plain and simple Bourbon Cocktail — in all of its forms.

Actually, the drink may not be so simple, at least when you try to order it in any but the old-fashioned form.

The better part of a decade ago, my wife was able to get the Bourbon Cocktail (‘soft’ and ‘up’) at a well-known, whiskey-focused bar in downtown Los Angeles.  She likes whiskey and has always loved that classic drink.  A couple of years and staff incarnations later, she was there again.  It was a little past seven o’clock and she thought it would be grand to have a Bourbon Cocktail.  The bartenders at that supposedly old-tradition bar had no idea what she was talking about.  She was passed between bartenders and finally to the manager.  When she explained it to them slowly, and with greater politeness than I would have been able to muster, they thought that she was telling them to stir and strain ‘the Old-fashion’ (as if that were a specific drink, rather than the old way to make a cocktail out of any liquor).  They let her know that they (mis)took her to be asking them to violate something classic and hallowed, and they refused.  Such ignorance from those who wrap themselves in the pretense of American mixological tradition can be breath-taking.

Here are some recipes from 1895 that illustrate the point.  They are for the various forms of the Brandy Cocktail, but the source gives all three, likewise, for the Whiskey Cocktails.

SDC02 03 - Historic Cocktail Recipes

So, you’ve just got to do it for yourself, it seems.  If I want to sip it a while, I have it the old-fashioned way.  If I am going to drink it in the traditional three-or-four gulps, I have it ‘soft’ and ‘up.’  Drinks of this type used to be called ‘soft’ because they were already fully-diluted when served — in a goblet (‘up’) without ice.  If it is cold outside, I have it hot.  All are very pleasing in their way at various moments.  That said, I almost never have it ‘soft’ and ‘on-the-rocks.’  Here are the recipes.

Bourbon Cocktails

Marsh Grapefruit @ Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market

Marsh Grapefruits

Here are the vendors at the Wednesday morning Santa Monica Farmers’ Market the currently have the heirloom Marsh grapefruit so desperately needed for superior drinks:

J.J.’s Lonely Daughter Ranch – they sold out today but expect more for next week

Bernard Ranches – they expect more next week

Mud Creek Ranch often has them, but hasn’t for some time now.  They do have plenty of other interesting citrus fruit, though.  Look out for their deliciously-complex Tahitian shaddocks (pomelos) any week!

Go get ’em!

Morning Peeve

So, I am accustomed to menus and books and poseurs throwing the word ‘cocktail’ around willy-nilly.  It’s been going on a long time — since long before I was born.

But, when modern bar creatures throw around the surnames of other traditional drinks without any regard, or seeming awareness, for what those drinks were, it really bugs me.

Such is the case with Greg Henry’s recent book, Savory Cocktails.  Besides continuing the British mistake of what constituted the American sling (hence the mis-named punch called Singapore ‘Sling’), Henry presents a drink called the Rhubarb Rosemary Flip.  Of course, the drink is not a flip at all.  It is just another sour-juice-laden punch with optional egg white in it.  That would not have been called a flip in pre-prohibition, American mixology.  O’ Henry, if you want to play tennis without a net and redefine flips as any type of drink to which any part of egg has been added, then the Whiskey Sour shall be a flip, too.

I am sure that the Rhubarb Rosemary drink in the book is good.  It’s just not a flip.  It should more-properly be called a Rhubarb Rosemary Punch or a Rhubarb Rosemary Fix.

Calf-foot jelly, egg whites and other relatively-flavorless thickeners have been added to properly-soured punches for at least 300 years.  Only one flip that I can think of has any sour juice in it at all, the Bass Wyatt Flip, and that only has a barspoon (2.5 ml.) of lemon juice.  Otherwise, flips have never had sour juice in them, and they always contain the whole egg.

I know, someone will ask what the big deal is.  To me, anyone using the terms of traditional American mixology is asking to have any flaws in their understanding of it called out.

Master Drinks Course Raffle

Raffle

The first Elemental Mixology Master Drinks Course will be held this year.  It is a ten-session course starting Sunday afternoon on the first day of June.

One spot in this course will be raffled off.  Any person who has already taken an Elemental Mixology Drinks course, or is taking one that will end before the Master Drinks Course begins, may enter the raffle by sending an e-mail message to me (andrew@elementalmixology.com) and requesting as much.  Kindly remind me of which course you took, and when (in general terms — I know some of you may have taken courses as long ago as 2007).  Each person who contacts me as requested will be issued a unique raffle entry number.

The deadline for contacting me, with your previous attendance information, and requesting a raffle number shall be by midnight on Friday, February 21st.

Since the raffle is limited to those who have already attended other drinks courses and their legal drinking age has been previously established, there are few other rules, except that the winning spot may not be transferred to any other course.  Subscribers and apprentices will be part of the Master Drinks Course, already, and need not enter unless their regular subscription or apprenticeship will already be finished by the time the Master Drinks Course begins.

The drawing will be done using a random number generator at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 1st in the NipJoint Bar (the Elemental Mixology bar).  All entrants may attend the drawing in person to witness it.  If the winner is not present, he or she will be notified immediately by the fastest mode of communication available (text message or e-mail message, depending upon available contact information).

Enter now, and good luck!

Drinks of the Day — The Jefferson Park Cup & the Summer Love Cup

Today’s drinks of the day are perfect for the “Summer-in-Winter” that we are experiencing here in Southern California.  The rest of you might most enjoy these in about six months.  Both of these drinks are true Cups — unlike what passes for the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup.  Here are a couple of definitions of the cup as a type of drink:

“cup, n. – 11. A name for various beverages consisting of wine sweetened and flavoured with various ingredients and usually iced; as claret-cup, etc.” — Oxford English Dictionary

“CUP – A beverage made of wine, usually iced, and with flavoring herbs and fruits, served in garnished pitchers, to be poured at table.” — Bottoms Up by Ted Saucier (1951)

Note that both insist that cups must be based on wine.  Read any old drink book from the 1800’s and you will see that all cups are traditionally wine-based.  What is missing from the Pimm’s No. 1 drink errantly called a cup is the wine.  In the case of that drink, the missing wine base is ginger wine, such as Stone’s or Crabbie’s, that is modified by a healthy-but-smaller dose of Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur.  Instead of a cup, the commonly-encountered drink by the same name is more properly a Pimm’s & Ginger Ale Highball.  The only true cups still commonly made along traditional lines for cups would have to be the Sangria (a distant, heavily-altered descendant of the Sangaree Punch of 1736 London), Aperol Spritz, Americano and Negroni Cups — and most of those in Italy.

But, I digress.  Today’s drinks were made in recent Elemental Mixology drink courses and were instant successes — not least with me!  Both of them make use of the organic, only-moderately-sweet, cucumber-melon-flavored seltzer water available at Ralph’s markets.  Instead of drowning the other ingredients, like in a highball or cooler, this ingredient here is used just to dilute and accent the other ingredients.  You won’t need more than a four-pack of this seltzer to make these cups for a small group of friends all night long.

I love the flavor of the Jefferson Park Cup and it is my preference of the two.  For a more-fizzy, less-sweet variant, try the Summer Love Cup.  Here are the recipes (click on them to enlarge):

Jefferson Park Cup

Summer Love Cup

Enjoy!

The Pegu Club ain’t the Pegu Club at the Pegu Club (or, The Lost Art of Accenting)

Back before the word ‘cocktail’ lost most of its original meaning, some true cocktails were made with accents of juice.  The three that always come to my mind first are the Brandy Crusta, Bronx and Pegu Club Cocktails.  Since then, the art of only accenting a true cocktail with juice has been mostly lost, and those drinks are usually over-juiced today. Some suggest that it doesn’t make sense to them to use such a small amount of juice.  They say, “Why bother?”  I would answer that some cocktails are good accented by juice, and they need not be turned into sours or blossoms.  The main point of the cocktail is to slightly sweeten and dilute the liquor, while removing with bitters the sensation of the fumatic harshness of the ethanol.  In a true cocktail (unlike sours and other punches), balance is not the goal.  The liquor must be left enough alone to form the main body and character of the drink.  This is why a barspoon (2.5 ml.), or maybe as much as a teaspoon (5 ml.), of fresh juice is sufficient as a delicate accent to a jigger (2 fl-oz.|60 ml.) of liquor. Here is the famous Brandy Crusta from Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book:

Brandy CocktailFancy Brandy Cocktail  Brandy Crusta

It should be pointed out that other 19th century American drink books consider Thomas’ Brandy Cocktail to be the Fancy Brandy Cocktail (because of the presence of the liqueur).  That aside, we can see that Thomas indicates only “a little lemon juice” in his Crusta.  That leaves us to look elsewhere in the period to figure out what amount that may have been.  Here is Harry Johnson’s Brandy Crusta from 1882:

Brandy Crusta

Johnson indicates only “4 or 5 drops” of lemon juice.  That is very clear, but, since his recipe varies from Thomas’ in choice of liqueur, and by the use of orchard syrup, it might be worth looking at some other period recipes to help form a more educated assessment of what the mainstream Crusta was.  Here is the recipe from William Boothby’s 1891 book:

Brandy Crusta

Note that Boothby indicates “a few drops” of the sour juice — lime juice, in his version.  He also agrees with Johnson on the use of maraschino liqueur. While we are looking into Boothby, his 1908 book included the earliest-known recipe for the Bronx Cocktail — also a juice-accented, true cocktail.  Here it is:

1908 - Boothby - Bronx Cocktail

Note that the oldest-known Bronx Cocktail, unlike the later Jazz Blossom that nearly all call the Bronx today, is very sensibly only accented with “a barspoonful of orange juice.”  Below is the Jazz from the pre-prohibition book kept by Waldorf Hotel bar-tender Joseph Taylor, as later published in Old Waldorf Bar Days by A.S. Crockett.

1931 - Crockett - Jazz

If you go into just about any so-called ‘speakeasy’ or ‘mixology bar’ today and ask for the Bronx Cocktail, you get the Jazz Blossom — just one drink that suggests that the art of only accenting with juice is mostly dead. This isn’t new.  For a prohibition-era example of punch-ward drift causing earlier true cocktails with juice accents to be turned into sours and daisies, here is the Brandy Crusta in the 1930 book called the Savoy Cocktail [sic] Book:

Brandy Crusta Cocktail

Here the lemon juice is given in dashes instead of drops.  That meant that the bar-tender following this recipe was expected to give the drink four dashes of lemon juice from a bottle the juice was kept in during service.  The bottles used for this were not bitters bottles.  I have experimented with juice-dashing in the old-fashioned manner, and have found that the average dash comes out to about a teaspoon (5 ml.).  That would mean that the Savoy had taken their so-called ‘Crusta’ from a few drops in the American original to a punchy 2/3 fl-oz. (20 ml.).  I suppose that is to be expected of 1930, when the true cocktail was already becoming a thing of the past — being replaced by countless sours and blossoms parading under the ‘cocktail’ misnomer.  The English have also tended to make many American drinks into punches — their favorite type of drink, nationally. In 1922, Harry McElhone published the earliest-known recipe for the Pegu Club Cocktail.  Here it is:

Pegu Club Cocktail

This needs a little explanation, perhaps, to those not familiar with a few basic principles of the old mixology.  Firstly, it was assumed far-and-wide that the basic amount of liquor served to a customer per request, whether in a mixed drink or not, was the jigger or wine-glass (either way, 2 fl-oz. — the main exception being that liqueur served as a cordial would usually come in the amount of a pony, or 1 fl-oz.).  This means that if there were more than one liquor in a mixed drink, their total volume would usually be 2 fl-oz.  Early jigger-splits were often given in ponies (1 fl-oz.) for each of two liquors — such as among the oldest-known Manhattan, Martinez and Martini Cocktail recipes.  Later, the 2-to-1 jigger-split became more popular.  That would be 2/3 of a jigger (1-1/3 fl-oz.) of the base spirit combined with 1/3 jigger (2/3 fl-oz.) of the modifying liqueur or aromatized wine.  McElhone’s Pegu Club Cocktail calls for the 2/3 jigger of gin, and then seems to mostly make up the remaining 1/3 jigger with all of the other ingredients — even the non-alcoholic ones.  Let me do the math.  A jigger, being 2 fl-oz., is functionally equivalent to 60 ml.  The 2/3 jigger of gin would therefore be 40 ml.  1/6 jigger of the liqueur would be 1/3 fl-oz., or 10 ml.  That brings us to 50 ml.  The teaspoonful of lime juice (commercially processed and sweetened, in this case — not that I advise its use) would be 5 ml.  That brings us to 55 ml.  The two dashes of bitters (one of each type) should come to right about a scruplespoonful, or 1.25 ml.  That gets us to 56.25 ml., and about as close to the full jigger as Harry McElhone apparently thought necessary. In the previously-mentioned 1930 Savoy book, we also find a recipe for the Pegu Club Cocktail, but with a more standard use of the jigger:

Pegu Club Cocktail

The Savoy’s approach to the jigger here is more straightforward than McElhone’s was — and he seems to more sensibly be using fresh lime juice.  This recipe calls for 2/3 jigger (1-1/3 fl-oz.|40 ml.) of gin and 1/3 jigger (2/3 fl-oz.|20 ml.) of the liqueur, making a total of 1 jigger (2 fl-oz.|60 ml.) of liquor.  As my students will recall me repeating in class, a jigger of liquor will have its fumatic, ethanolic harshness fully mitigated by a scruple (2 dashes|1.25 ml.) of bitters.  The Savoy Pegu Club agrees with its two dashes, total, of bitters.  The drink is also accented with a teaspoon (5 ml.) of lime juice.  I often drop that amount by half, using the more traditional barspoon (1/2 teaspoon|2.5 ml.) of juice found in earlier, American, juice-accented true cocktails.

Here are a couple of other Pegu Club Cocktail recipes from the same period that agree on the accent-only amount for the lime juice:

1932 & 1934 Pegu Club Cocktails

Given that imitation sour-mixes became so common for so long in American bars, I suppose it was to be expected that bar-tenders and customers would go so completely giddy over the return of fresh juices that they would end up using too much juice in the Crusta, Bronx and Pegu Club.  But, fresh juice should never have been a mark of distinction.  If American bars had never abandoned fresh juices, in the first place, their return would never have seemed novel or exciting. Enough time has gone by now that it should no longer seem novel or exciting.  To make a big deal about fresh juice today is so very left-over from 2006. It seems that the Pegu Club in New York (the original in Burma no longer exists) won’t make the Pegu Club Cocktail as a true cocktail — even thought that’s exactly what it is in the oldest-known recipe.  Perhaps they are just trying to fill their larger, modern glassware — but that is doubtful.  More likely is that they are still caught up in attitudes formed by the return to fresh juices that they don’t consider just accenting with it.  It’s also possible that the traditional meaning of the word ‘cocktail,’ and the desired character of that one type of drink, is something that they are not familiar with.  They aren’t alone.  Many noted people in the so-called ‘cocktail culture’ routinely violate the jigger and the juice-accent-only of the Pegu Club.  Just look up the recipe online and witness the 2-1/2 fl-oz., or more, of total liquor straining the job of those two poor dashes of bitters, and the 1/2 fl-oz., or more, of lime juice occluding the liquor and turning the drink into a sour.  You will find many such recipes by people with well-known names who have made money claiming to be bringing back traditional mixology. As I stated, this all happened for very understandable reasons, and those who violate the tradition usually cannot help themselves.  They usually don’t even know that they are in variance from the tradition, to begin with.  Furthermore, the Pegu Club Daisy that the Pegu Club in New York serves when the Pegu Club Cocktail is asked for is not in any way a bad drink.   But that juicy thing is not a true cocktail, which it would be if they followed the oldest known recipe.  I often have my classes make the modern Pegu Club Daisy alongside the older Pegu Club Cocktail (with fresh juice in each, of course).  Each time, the majority of students prefer the older cocktail version with the juice just accenting the liquor. Given that the very name of their establishment recalls things gone-by, it should not be unreasonable to expect the Pegu Club in New York to also offer the original cocktail, in addition to the modern daisy adaptation.  How hard can it be for a bar-tender to ask, “Cocktail or daisy?”  Perhaps the customers might then also learn a thing or two that customers in American bars used to be familiar with. Below are the Pegu Club Cocktail and the Pegu Club Daisy from my own book.  It should be noted that the “liqueur of bitter orange peel” may be traditional Curaçao liqueur (as in the original recipes), or triple-sec Curaçao liqueur for a slightly less-sweet variation.  When opting for the more-bitter-and-more-sweet traditional Curaçao liqueur, I prefer Briottet Curaçao Orange Liqueur.  Since that is hard to find in the U.S.A., I will also use Senior Curaçao of Curaçao (the colorless variety).  When opting for the triple-sec (‘triple-dry’) variety of Curaçao liqueur made with both sweet and bitter orange peel (allowing for the lower sugar content), I like to use any of the following; Cointreau (eponymous bottling — yes, it was orignally labeled as “Curaçao blanc, triple-sec”), Gabriel Boudier Curaçao Triple-sec, or Luxardo Triplum.  All of those are made using the peel of the Curaçao orange — a special variety of Citrus aurantium (common bitter orange) from the island of Curaçao — as the bitter orange peel.  I will also use Combier l’Original — a triple-sec liqueur of bitter orange peel where the bitter orange peel comes from Haiti instead of Curaçao.  For that reason, it is not correct to call it “Curaçao.” Have fun in New York!

Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Daisy

Libbey #8054 in 1973

Last year, I noted that Libbey had re-introduced their #8054, which they called a Georgian Irish Coffee goblet, and that it was actually more valuable as a general-purpose goblet to avoid the drink-warmer that is the coupe.  For historic amusement, here it is from their 1973 catalog, with the same model number — but offered as a beer or fizz goblet:

Libbey 8054 1973