Drink of the Day — The Tramp’s Delight Cocktail

Tramp's Delight Cocktail ingredients a

Today’s drink of the day is an extremely simple one of my own, the Tramp’s Delight Cocktail.

I have been thinking about hobos and tramps lately. I suppose that’s what I might become if more people in Portland don’t realize the opportunity in their midst — even though from someone who has come from big, bad Los Angeles!

At any rate, the hobo motif got me thinking about the Liberal Cocktail and the Coxey Cocktail. This is why:

The first Liberal Era in the U.S.A. is considered to have been from 1890 to 1919. In that time there was an increase in organization among workers, poor farmers and the unemployed. Coxey’s Army of unemployed men and hobos became the largest-ever march (mostly via the rails) on Washington D.C. in 1894. Such events and times engendered names for two drinks that I have repeatedly enjoyed.

Both the Liberal Cocktail and the Coxey Cocktail have Picon Amer as the bitters. The Liberal Cocktail is based on rye whisky and has Picon Amer as a major part of the jigger.

Liberal Cocktail

The Coxey Cocktail is based on gin, modified with vermouth wine, and has a small amount of Picon Amer outside the jigger — functioning more like petite bitters.

Coxey Cocktail

My drink takes the gin base from the Coxey Cocktail, but is in the more simple form of the Liberal Cocktail — being without vermouth wine, and with the bitters as part of the jigger. Gin seems a bit more urban to me than whiskey. So I named this drink after the tramps, once a slightly more urban-sensed word for hobos. At least understand that before you freely re-associate the name of this drink with any more modern sense of the word.

Given that a lot of people in the states have gone silly purchasing superfluous types of bitters (and flavor drops masquerading as bitters), one might expect that a historic bitters like Picon Amer would once again be distributed here. Sadly, it is not yet — perhaps because many people don’t realize that amers and amari are bitters. Luckily, Paulucci Amaro CioCiaro can step in for now.

Tramp's Delight Cocktail ingredients b

No sugar or simple syrup is needed here since both Picon Amer (and the recommended substitute, Paolucci Amaro CioCiaro) are rather sweet bitters — as are most grand bitters (wide-pour bitters).

Here it is:

Tramp's Delight Cocktail recipe

Drink of the Day – The Scoff-Law Cocktail

Scoff-law Cocktail ingredients

Today’s drink of the day is the Scoff-Law Cocktail. I won’t bother with making too much of the namesake — ah, those merry, rebellious folks who scoffed at the Volstead Act and kept drinking liquor, anyway. I know that some of us love to build up the liquored past into something that we think will project advantageously onto ourselves as we sit and sip. I, for one, find that boring. Besides, we as a people in 2015 have been scoffing at morality laws over more substances, and for many more years, than anyone sitting in a speakeasy would ever have imagined. So, on to the drink, itself!

In both historical sources for this drink, Harry McElhone’s 1922, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, and Harry Craddock’s 1930, Savoy Cocktail Book, there are two parts each for the whiskey and the vermouth wine, and one part each for the syrup and the juice. Aside from the dashes of bitters, both sources seem to make the whole of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients into a jigger [2 fl-oz.|60 ml.]. That was common in prohibition era drink-making, when just about every new drink was called a cocktail and was crammed into the poor, little cocktail goblet. That would mean 1/3 jigger [2/3 fl-oz.|20 ml.] for each of the liquors and 1/6 jigger [1/3 fl-oz.|10 ml.] for each the syrup and the juice. Both sources do actually state 1/3 and 1/6 for the ingredients as I have just explained.

That amount for the sour juice (plus the sweetness level) puts this drink on the fence between being most satisfactory as a cocktail or as a sour.

That the drink was called a cocktail was virtually as meaningless in 1922 or 1930 as it is now. That cannot be the deciding factor in favor of a traditional cocktail. Neither should the shaking of this drink in 1922 or 1930 be the deciding factor in favor of a sour. The shaking of true cocktails was everywhere in those bad years.

I have let the presence of the bitters be the deciding factor and the drink is adapted here into a cocktail by reducing the juice to a cocktail-appropriate amount. It is also appropriately jiggered – and is, of course, stirred.

Can we make some drinks better than they were at the hands of a couple of prohibition-era bartenders? I should certainly hope so! Here it is:

Scoff-law Cocktail recipe

Alumni News!

Elemental Mixology alumnus and friend, Greg Bryson, is featured in the current (April 2015) edition of Tasting Panel Magazine.

Greg is currently the beverage director at the Wallace in Culver City and is doing a great job of making great drinks to match their great food. It is really satisfying for me, personally, to see Greg recognized for his talent and skillful combination of traditional American mixological principles with forward innovation.

I was also honored that Greg mentioned using the Elemental Mixology book as his ‘bible.’

I recommend getting a copy of Tasting Panel Magazine and reading the feature for yourself. Also, if you are in the Los Angeles area, stop into the Wallace and have Greg make you something special!

Jerry Thomas — First, but Not Best

This is actually an expanded excerpt from an earlier post. Someone recently asked why I was so cool on Jerry Thomas. I thought that this except might explain it best.

Why Thomas shook his Whiskey Cocktail and bruised the velvet of the liquor with aeration, even though he stirred his Brandy Cocktail, is not something that I can begin to understand. I have often doubted that Jerry Thomas ever really did work as a bar-tender in California during the gold rush. I think it is likely he only said so in New York to get hired as a bar-tender there. I believe he asked a real bar-tender to tutor him before going off to sell himself. What — someone lying about their experience to get their first job tending bar!?!? Unheard of!!!

His book never even mentions Pisco brandy in the slightest sidebar — then unknown in New York, but just about San Francisco’s most commonly poured spirit! That, plus his proven proclivity to boldly lie (I invented the Tom & Jerry/Martinez/etc.) and all the nonsensical mixological idiocies in his book (compared to just about every other 19th century book on the subject) smack of him being tutored quickly and often getting his notes wrong (or perhaps of the bar-tender tutoring him putting in little bits on nonsense intentionally). How else do you explain his sour with the juice a quarter lemon (up to maybe about 7.5 ml. with lemons of his day) but a full tablespoon (15 ml.) of sugar when everyone else in the 19th century uses at least 3 or 4 dashes (15 or 20 ml.) of lemon juice? And that’s not an exception — such is found throughout his book.

I think that there are two reasons so many revere Thomas today. The first is that the earliest book on the subject was published under his name. The second might be that bar-tenders don’t really know traditional American mixology very much any more — and, as recipe memorizers, have no way to evaluate the mixology in Thomas’ book.

To be fair to Jerry, it should be pointed out that using plenty of ice to either stir or shake a drink with was still very new practice in 1862. Deep intimacy with the different results between stirring and shaking had probably not developed yet. The clash of techniques between stirring and shaking true cocktails wasn’t actually settled until… it’s still not settled.

Drink of the Day — The Swan Cocktail

Swan Cocktail ingredients

Today’s drink of the day is the Swan Cocktail. This little under-appreciated gem is another true cocktail (an indication of which part of the Elemental Mixology book I have been over-hauling).

I think that the oldest recipe is found in the pre-prohibition bar book of Waldorf bar-man, Joseph Taylor, as published by Albert Crockett in his 1931 book Old Waldorf Bar Days. (which I refer to instead of the 1935 book Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book because it is apparent to me that Crockett messed with Taylor’s recipes a little more in the later book to fit post-prohibition ideas). A slightly different version of the drink is found in Jacques Straub’s 1914 book, Drinks, that seems not as old. Straub uses dry gin and no sugar syrup where Taylor uses genever and gum syrup — both tending to indicate an older recipe. Neither indicated more than an accent of the juice – Taylor uses “the juice of one lime,” but before 1920 that would be the bartender’s, or Key, lime — with a juice yield anywhere from a few drops to about a quarter fluid-ounce. Taylor is thought to have begun writing his book just after he started working at the Waldorf in 1894, so there is a very real possibility that it was written down there before Straub ever began composing his book.

Taylor’s recipe calls for both sugar syrup and dry vermouth wine. I omit the sugar syrup and use bianco or blanc vermouth wine, since that form is essentially dry vermouth wine plus white sugar.

‘PubDumb’ has a lot of people fooled about amounts and methods when it comes to citrus juice. Don’t use too much and make this drink into a sour – it’s a juice-accented cocktail. Neither should you shake this drink and bruise the velvet of the liquor through aeration just because of that wee bit of lime juice. Do finely strain it for the pulp, though.

You really should make this drink. Here is the recipe with various possible proportions (they made it @ 1:1 in the old Waldorf bar — I like it @ 2:1). Click on the recipe if you want to see it larger.

Swan Cocktail recipe