Vintage Glassware Haul

glassware20151217

Here is one positive consequence of the fact that most so-called ‘craft cocktail’ bar-tenders and enthusiasts are followers in the herd of BarSmarts-educated coupe users: I can usually walk into any Goodwill in Portland and find pre-prohibition specification glassware.

In Portland — where mixological mono-culture seems especially severe — neglected, absolutely-traditional glassware is gathering dust in thrift stores.

Who the f*ck cares that coupes are rare in Portlandia’s Goodwill stores when you can find authentic [from left to right, above] cocktail goblets, daisy goblets, sour goblets, cordial goblets and eggnog goblets?

Let us hope that the non-diverse, coupe-kudzu, bar-borg don’t catch on until those of us in the know have sniped all the low-price gems like these!

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

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

Blandy’s 5-year Verdelho Madeira in Stock

There is only one store in the greater Los Angeles that has this essential ingredient in both the Baltimore Eggnog and the Sangaree Punch. Wally’s Wine & Spirits had a case of it in the back and none on the shelves. It is, of course, a bit pricier there at $25.99 per bottle, but I took four of them.

That means there are still eight up for grabs. You may have to ask for it, since there seemed to be no place for it on the shelves.

Good luck!

Rock and Rye, and Genuine Rock Candy Syrup

[This expansion is in response to a bar-tender’s request for additional information]

Do you want to make a historically-authentic Rock and Rye?

Let’s take a look at historic sources for the majority consensus on what that drink was:

HRAR 01

Notice Thomas Stuart’s plagiarism.

I serve Rock and Rye giving the whiskey and the syrup separately so that the drinker can mix it however sweet they like.

The drink seems pretty straightforward.  Rye whiskey served with rock candy syrup is Rock and Rye.  It was good treatment for a sore throat because the alcohol in the whiskey is both antiseptic and temporarily deadens nerve endings, temporarily killing the pain.  The rock candy syrup, being the heaviest-possible suspension of sucrose in water, makes the drink viscous enough to coat the throat long enough to do its alcoholic work there better.

It is common today to find flavored rye whiskey liqueur, or flavored rye whiskey served with a stick of rock candy, called “Rock and Rye.”  While they can be tasty and worthwhile, they are not the historic drink Rock and Rye.  It is misleading to tell guests that such things are something traditional or time-honored.  Those who truly do care about drink tradition should give such new concoctions names other than “Rock and Rye.”

AJoP 67 1895

The above is from the American Journal of Pharmacy, volume 67, in 1895.  It indicates that rock candy syrup is the left-over syrup from the production of rock candy.  As such, no sugar should be left to crystallize out of the syrup.  In New York State, in 1873, a case was brought to court over an alleged deficiency found in barrels of rock candy syrup.  The plaintiffs made clear that they had desired high quality rock candy syrup “that would not crystallize, or the sugar fall down.”

Around the same time, admonitions can be found advising to obtain “rock candy syrup from a rock candy manufacturer.”

Below is from the Western Druggist, Volume 17 in 1895:

WD17 1895 97

Volume eleven of the Bulletin of Pharmacy in 1897, specifies that when cooking the syrup from which rock candy will be produced, no temperature higher than 112º Fahrenheit should be allowed.

BoP 11 1897

The 112º Fahrenheit limit is kept to prevent the conversion of sucrose into invert glucose.  Some amount of conversion from sucrose into glucose may be considered acceptable by some people making simple syrup, but it isn’t okay for the production of rock candy.  If you want to produce rock candy, you’d best stick to low temperatures and pure sucrose and pure water — in super-saturation so that rock candy will form.  Once all of the excess sugar has crystallized out, you will have rock candy syrup.

So, rock candy syrup and buttermilk have this in common: they were both traditionally the stuff left-over after the making of the named thing (rock candy or butter), but are now routinely divorced from those processes and are simply compounded independently.

Notice that, according to some of the above sources, it seems to have became common for other types of syrup to be sold as rock candy syrup.  Perhaps the growing difficulty in getting authentic rock candy syrup led to some bars serving an altogether different drink when asked for Rock and Rye.  Such recipes as those below make up a tiny minority of published recipes for anything called Rock and Rye, but they do exist.

HRAR 02

Note that the above drinks would not relieve a sore throat very well, being without the thick viscosity of actual rock candy syrup.  One of the sources, William Boothby, was apparently spoken to so much about the Rock and Rye recipe in his 1891 book that he dramatically added to it for his 1908 book.

HRAR 03

To this day, when shown that their methods are out of step, many bar-tenders will still assert that “either way is correct.”

But what about the syrup?  Has authentic rock candy syrup become available again?  

Amoretti RCS

The above ingredients for Amoretti brand so-called ‘rock candy syrup’ show that, though it may be a heavy syrup, it is definitely not traditional rock candy syrup.  Traditional rock candy syrup would not contain dextrose or fructose.  Genuine rock candy syrup carefully contains only sucrose and water.  Why it would need dextrose, fructose and “natural flavor” is a mystery to me!

So, what if you want to have traditional rock candy syrup?  Some old sources state that one of the reasons for the production of so much imitation rock candy syrup is that making the real thing via rock candy production takes time.  Unfortunately, that is true.  But, if you don’t care how much rock candy you make, the time needed can be drastically shortened.

Bring one part (by volume) distilled water to a temperature as close as possible to, but not higher than, 112º Fahrenheit.  An induction cook-top (like this one) that can be set at exactly 110º Fahrenheit is really useful.  Add three parts (by volume) pure, refined sugar (sucrose).  Stir over the same heat (never exceeding it!) until the sugar is dissolved.  It may take some time.  Pour the syrup into mason jars.  If you want to harvest the rock candy instead of discarding it (stuck to the inside of the jar), suspend a string in the mason jar to which the rock candy will form.  Once no more rock candy forms inside the syrup, pour it from the mason jar into a syrup bottle.  This syrup will contain the highest possible amount of sugar in a stable solution.  It will be the closest thing to genuine and traditional rock candy syrup that you will have ever had.