Drink of the Day — The Chocolate Miss Lalla Posset

Chocolate MIss Lalla Posset ingredients

Today’s drink of the day is another one of my own creations — the Chocolate Miss Lalla Posset. If you can’t find some proportion below that you like this tipple in, I will be dumbfounded. Just don’t call this drink a cocktail, or my minions will tell me and I will put a curse on your Kold-Draft ice machine!

I consider the Lalla Rookh of the 1890’s to be the oldest-published fully-modern posset.

[For more on what sort of drinks possets are, see this page.]

The Lalla Rookh is in exactly the same sub-genre of possets as the Alexander Posset of about 1910, the Brandy Alexander Posset of about 1930, and the White Russian Posset of the 1970’s. And, I certainly like it better than most of those.

Lalla Rookh Posset recipe

I felt like trying a version of the Lalla Rookh Posset that would also have some chocolate flavor. It seemed so obvious to me that I expect someone to let me know that my drink was actually made long ago.

In making the Chocolate Miss Lalla, you should select the liqueur carefully. Remember that a crème is a lot sweeter than a liqueur — in the French understanding of those terms. That is why I use Joseph Cartron liqueur de cacao instead of a crème de cacao — to better control the sweetness.

Even with a liqueur instead of a crème, this drink may be best suited as an after-dinner cordial. You wouldn’t want to drink a lot of them all afternoon like you might with the Bourbon Cocktail.

Here it is:

Chocolate MIss Lalla Posset recipe

It Bears Repeating

David Wondrich has moved on from the correct story (I believe — though he seems not to have understood the mixological reason) of why the American bittered sling was first called “cocktail.” He now prefers shoving ginger up horses’ asses (a trick to make them seem more lively for selling them.

The phenomenon of gingering is not connected to horses being called “cock-tail,” which appears in literature long before gingering does. The Oxford English Dictionary correctly, and simply, indicates that a cock-tail was a horse with its tail both docked (cut-short) and cocked up. This was done to mark a horse as being of mixed breed, even though it might have the qualities of a thoroughbred horse. All the way back in London’s Public Advertiser in 1758, one finds notice of a reward being offered for a missing “cock-tail” horse. Is Wondrich to have us believe that the owner just happened to shove ginger up the ass of a horse that he had no intent to sell the night it went missing? I find that laughable. In that same time frame, horses are described, sometimes for sale, as being “cock-tail” or “cut cock-tail.” If Wondrich were right that horses were called “cock-tail” in connection with gingering, it would mean that advertising a horse for sale in the 1760’s as being a cock-tail would be like telling someone you wanted to sell a car to that it had “sawdust in the transmission” (a trick in older cars to make a bad transmission run more smoothly for a while).

Another story surrounds a bit of confusing text from 1798 London in which a drink seems to be called cocktail. This has been suggested as a link to the better known American bittered sling tradtionally called cocktail. But, the same name for a drink has been applied many times to different drinks that had nothing to do with each other — often neither in essence or inspiration. When admiral Dewey was topical at the end of the Spanish-American way, at least two, totally different drinks where published bearing his name. The creators of each of these drinks were probably completely unaware of the other’s drink. There were actually several drinks called “Cosmopolitan” because of their array of ingredients from around the globe long before the more famous one came along that was named after the women’s magazine. Finding a common (non-genre-associated) word in the name of a drink is no proof that they are related to each other in any way.

In this post, I am dealing with the American cocktail drink, also known as the bittered sling, and why it would have made sense, mixologically-speaking, to an American around 1800 to call it a cocktail. Please read on.]


The Gorham Cocktail Book

Gorham Cocktail Book

I usually tell my students that before about 1910, American drink writers never called a drink a cocktail just because it was served ‘up’ in a goblet, or contained a minimum of three ingredients. I also point out that no pre-prohibition American author of drinks ever titled their book a ‘cocktail book.’ That would have seemed like a work on Italian cuisine, in general, being called a Lasagna Book.

It therefore came as a shock to me when I first became aware of a book from 1905 called the Gorham Cocktail Book!

I could not believe that the grasping gloss had set in so early! I remember assuming that the title must be the work of some contemporary re-publisher — such as is the case when the old books are reprinted with silly blurbs like “A Pre-Prohibition Cocktail Book.”

But, no, the original 1905 title was the Gorham Cocktail Book. Le shock! I felt something almost like despair.

But that feeling melted away and became joy as soon as I started reading the book.

There are fifty recipes in this little book. And, actually, not all of them are true cocktails. Two are food items already called cocktails at the time — the so-called Clam Cocktail and the so-called Oyster Cocktail. Three of them are drinks that are decidedly not cocktails, but that had already been called so at the time. They are the so-called Chocolate Cocktail (a flip, really), the so-called Coffee Cocktail (another flip), and the so-called Soda Cocktail (actually a soft-drink).

The other forty-five recipes are for true cocktails. That’s ninety per-cent!

So, yes, there was a book before the Volstead Act that was titled a ‘cocktail book.’ But, it actually is a cocktail book! You won’t find any cobblers, Collinses, coolers, fixes, fizzes, highballs, juleps, punches or sours in it. The majority of today’s so-called ‘craft cocktails’ (most of them actually sours or other short punches) would not have passed muster to get into the Gorham Cocktail Book.

I don’t mean to imply that other types of tipples are unworthy. I simply believe that to really have an understanding of drinks worthy of being called ‘mixology,’ one cannot lump all drinks together as cocktails. Doing so has shifted the emphasis from mixology to memorization — and it fails to fully respect the other great, historically-established, drink genres.

I wonder if the Gorham Company (a silver works) ever meant to publish a punch book.

You can read the Gorham Cocktail Book here:

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!