The Future Fix and the Future Punch

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About five years ago, Elemental Mixology alumnus and friend, Greg Bryson told me about a new drink he had created – the Future Fix. I called it a fix, since it is a short punch on the rocks. Greg’s nickname at the time was Future Greg – hence the Future Fix.

It is a truly delicious tipple for anyone who appreciates piquant accents in drinks. I have attendees make the Future Fix in virtually every class and course I teach. It is almost unanimously loved each time. I have even had requests for a batched punchbowl version for parties and entertaining. I include that recipe below.

Greg’s genius in creating this drink was to avoid the common impulse to base any drink with chile pepper in it on Oaxacan or Tequila mezcal. The spiciness of rye whiskey is a much better partner than the easily lost agave flavor in either type of mezcal. When Greg first told me about the drink, he used agave nectar as the sweetener in it. He now tends to make the drink with simple syrup, instead. I understand that, since agave flavor is so light. Agave, being fructose, is also probably more unhealthy than sucrose. However, I still do like the slight agave flavor this drink contains if a richer agave nectar is used. As to fructose being a little more unhealthy than sucrose I would remind that trying to make alcoholic drinks healthy is probably a lost cause, anyway.

For years I always made this drink with either Rittenhouse bonded rye whiskey or Bulleit straight rye whiskey. Rittenhouse, being bonded and at least four years old, often tastes a little more woody and tannic than I want. Bulleit is just too expensive here in Oregon – currently $26.95 per 750 ml.. I think that Wild Turkey 101º proof straight rye whiskey out-performs both of them. It is higher proof than either and it’s flavor is more straightforwardly rye-full and less woody. What is really fortunate is that the price for it in Oregon is only $27.95 per liter. Everywhere else it starts at about $40.00 per liter.

Everyone really should try this drink. I include both the original fix version for individual drinking and the punchbowl version for entertaining. If you happen to be able to, go into the Wallace in Culver City, California and have Greg, himself, make you one!

Enjoy!

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Drink of the Day: the Liberal Cocktail

Writing about the drinks that are alleged by modern drinkers and tenders to be the Negroni Cocktail – being the Camparinete Cocktail and the Campari Mixte Cocktail — inspired me to consider how inspired their creation actually was.

I have no doubt that if George Kappeler had been asked by a customer in 1895 to make the Dundorado Cocktail so that it featured the cinchona grand bitters more prominently, he would have worked from basic, traditional assumptions. He would have considered that at more than two dashes out of the full-sized liquor bottle (~1 tsp., each) that calisaya bitters came in, they should probably just be jiggered — that is, made part of the 2 fluid-ounce jigger that was considered the basic portion of liquor per drink, mixed or not. Two proportions that would have sprung to his mind without any inspiration necessary. They would have been either to proportion the three alcoholic ingredients into either 1/3 jigger each, or for leaving half the jigger for the gin (as in the Dundorado Cocktail) and splitting the other half of the jigger between the vermouth wine and the cinchona bitters.

That he was using cinchona bitters featuring Cinchona calisaya instead of the Cinchona officinalis found in Campari Bitter is worth noting. But it does not make as much difference as some might assume. What is different is that Campari Bitter contains more sugar than the calisaya bitter currently available.

At any rate, the two proportions that would have first come to his mind as part of American Mixology 101, so to speak, would have essentially created either of the 1929 drinks, the Campari Mixte and the Camparinete Cocktail.

So, was the idea of making grand bitters part of the jigger the only innovative concept involved in creating the Boulevardier/Campari Mixte/Camparinete-class cocktails that George Kappeler and American bar-tenders of his day lacked?

Even that was no great inspiration in 1927 or 1929. George Kappeler published the oldest-known recipe for the Liberal Cocktail in 1895. And that drink is a true cocktail with grand bitters right there inside the jigger.

Liberal Cocktail

Picon bitters (that’s what amer means) aren’t available everywhere, so Paolucci CioCiaro bitters (that’s what amaro means) can be used as a substitute.

Picon Bitters & substitute

The Liberal Cocktail has actually been one of my ‘go to’ drinks since about 2009. I like it with a little more of the jigger given to the rye whiskey than to the bitters, but it’s good either way. Just don’t put in any sugar or simple syrup that you might expect should go into a Whiskey Cocktail along with the bitters and whiskey. Like most grand bitters, both Picon bitters and CioCiaro bitters are plenty sweet by themselves.

The Liberal Cocktail was, itself, no product of grand inspiration. Once cocktails with petite bitters are popular, grand bitters will be used, too — and someone is going to try making them part of the 2 fluid-ounce jigger.

Once the Liberal Cocktail existed and was at all well-received (it is delicious), it was just a matter of time before someone further fancified the family by addition of vermouth wine as a modifier.

Let’s stop building up cult-of-personality around these drinks and just enjoy them for what they are: the predictable products of mixological culture.

Drink of the Day: Pimm’s Number One Cup [a true cup and a drink that was wrong to include in Boardwalk Empire]

Judged according to the classic concept of the cup, the drink so often served as the Pimm’s Number One Cup (so called for the inclusion of the flavored gin liqueur called Pimm’s Liqueur Number One) is not a cup at all. For it to be a true cup, it would have to be based on wine with only a minority amount of carbonated soft-drink. A traditional British ginger wine (a flat grape-raisin wine fermented with ginger) serves the purpose well, but there must be a wine base.

Historical Cup Definitions
  • “Cool-Cup. A beverage so called, usually composed of wine, water, lemon-peel, sugar and borage; and introduced at tables in warm weather.”
    English Dictionary  (Johnson, Todd and Chalmers; 1835)
  • “Cup. A beverage made with wine, usually iced, and with flavoring herbs.”
    Thesaurus Dictionary of the English Language  (Francis March; 1906)
  • “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  (Oxford University Press; 1928)
  • “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  (Ted Saucier; 1951)

There is much confusion between the mixed drink of the middle nineteenth century called Pimm’s Cup and the bottled liqueur launched around 1930 called Pimm’s Liqueur Number One.

In the middle nineteenth century, James Pimm made and sold a mixed drink he called, “Pimm’s Cup” in his oyster restaurant in London. It was based on wine, stiffened with a little gin, and contained the sorts of aromatic ingredients in cups at the time. The success of that drink led Pimm to offer “Pimm’s Cup Number Two,” and so on. Like the first Pimm’s Cup, these were drinks mixed in the restaurant rather than bottle products.

In 1865, Pimm sold his restaurant. In 1887, under yet new ownership, the restaurant became a franchise as “Pimm’s Oyster Houses.” When did the company that operated Pimm’s Oyster Houses decide to get into the business of selling bottled drinks? The first patent for Pimm’s Liqueur Number One in the U.S.A. was filed in 1933. One might think that the year 1933 has more to do with the repeal of the Volstead act. But, the patent in Canada, with much closer economic and cultural ties to Britain, and a country that never had prohibition, the patent is dated 1937. The patent in Kenya, then a direct British colony, was obtained in 1932. 1932 is probably very close in time to the original British patent and launch date of bottled Pimm’s liqueur. 1930 is probably a very close educated guess for the first launch, anywhere, of Pimm’s liqueur as a bottled product.

But, since awareness of the cup as type of drink with a clear, essential, identity, it is understandable that imperfectly-educated drinks scholars who read of James Pimm serving his Pimm’s Cup in 1851 will confuse that mixed drink for the bottled product.

Even though Pimm’s liqueur was not around until about 1930, it was meant to be the rump ingredient in a Pimm’s Cup. This is much like Falernum liqueur was meant to be the rump of Falernum Punch, which it could be transformed into by adding fresh lime juice. Likewise, Swedish Punch Liqueur can be transformed into Swedish Punch by mixing in fresh lemon juice. To transform Pimm’s liqueur into a Pimm’s cup, one would have to add the ingredients that would have been left out of the liqueur because they are not shelf stable enough to be bottled with it. One ingredient would certainly be the little bit of charged water found in any cup. The other might be the wine base. The most appropriate wine base might be traditional British ginger wine (a flat grape-raisin wine fermented with ginger).

Assuming the Englishmen had not by 1930 forgotten the form of the quintessentially-English cup, it seems likely that the first Pimm’s Cups made with bottled Pimm’s liqueur was still made as a true cup, rather than as the Pimm’s & Ginger-ale Highball or Pimm’s & Lemon-lime Highball that is almost universally served under its name today.

Perhaps some American bar-tender trying to service an Englishman’s request sometime after 1933 (when Pimm’s liqueur was first imported to the U.S.A.), having no ginger wine in the bar (and not even knowing what it was) simply used ginger ale instead and made the more familiar (to him) highball-type drink. We can’t know about that, of course. But the Pimm’s Number One Cup is a much better drink than the fancy Pimm’s Number One Highball that is passed for it almost everywhere. Try it.

P.S.  There is a scene in the television series “Boardwalk Empire” where a character speaks just after the Volstead Act has gone into effect (‘prohibition’) in 1920 of needing Pimm’s Liqueur Number One for the Pimm’s Number One Cup. But, in 1920, bottled Pimm’s liqueur had not yet ever been imported to the U.S.A., and probably didn’t even exist yet.

Fun Thing of the Day: the Hanford Cocktail from 1912

One of the things I am sure to mention at least once in any mixing course I teach is that what people think of today as the ‘classic Martini’ [dry gin, dry vermouth, no bitters, stirred through ice, strained into the goblet and garnished with a pickled green olive] was more-originally called the Gibson. Often someone will say that they thought the Gibson was “a Martini with an onion in it” [instead of the olive]. That’s to be expected — I was taught the same thing years ago. At that point I show the historical record of the Gibson, to indicate that there being no bitters in the drink was much more important to its identity than the olive (yes, olive — not onion) that was the earliest-mentioned garniture for the drink. The slide show starts with the following image.

Gibsons 1898 1908

But what of “a Martini with an onion?” Where did that come from?

Maybe it came from the Hanford Cocktail.

I found this drink mentioned in the Saturday, July 13th, 1912 edition of the Tacoma Times.

Hanford Cocktail 19120713

All those so-called Gibsons might actually be more historically accurate if called Hanfords!

Cushion Subscriptions Still Open and a Brief History of the Good Times Coach

Before Elemental Mixology was relocated to Portland, there were almost always more people intent on becoming cushion subscribers than there was room for. Here in Portland, plenty of cushion is available for subscription. By the autumn, that will probably no longer be the case!

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Between 1898 and 1900, a group of plutocrats that commonly ensconced themselves at the bar in the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan, New York, maintained a coach, driver and horses to take them from the Waldorf bar to other exclusive drinking establishments and back to the Waldorf Hotel at their whim. They named the coach the Good Times Coach. The Waldorf Hotel Bar’s Good Times Cocktail (later generations of debased drinkers might think of it as the ‘classic’ gin Martini with orange bitters) was named after the Good Times Coach. In 1900, the Good Times Coach was awarded first place in the luxury road team category at the national equestrian exposition at the Madison Square Gardens. In what may have been the most sophisticated pub-crawling of all time, the few men who contributed to the cost of the maintenance of the Good Times Coach had use of it to travel between drinking destinations all over New York City. Those men were referred to as cushion subscribers.
An Elemental Mixology Annual Cushion Subscription enables the full attendance and participation of all courses and symposia (except for the shorter Brief and Casual classes) for the duration of the subscription.
After a year of Elemental Mixology, just about any cushion subscriber will be intimately aware (beyond a master’s level) of:

1) Elements, their ingredients, nature and how they present in drinks in all possible proportions.

2) Traditional genres of drinks, which elements they depend upon for their best character, and how to mix them without needing to memorize recipes.

3) All specific drinks that have been important in American bars, saloons and hotels from 1750 to present will be second nature. Many of these drinks are now almost impossible to order in any bar, and real advantage attaches to being able to make them well and with familiarity.

3) The important aspects of various liquors, including much knowledge that is often glossed over or not fully understood by most in the industry today. The main flavor-making stages of production will be understood: duration of fermentation, type of distillation and aging. The two major overall types of liquor production, the wasser and geist methods, will also be fully understood. Liquors selected to elucidate specific qualities differences will have been tasted numerous times.

4) Many other items of knowledge and experience that will not be laid out here for various reasons!

For anyone making full use of an Elemental Mixology Cushion Subscription, the discount is massive.

Get a Cushion Subscription here.

Second Drink of the Day – The Fix

It has been said (in a thoroughly modern gloss) that the traditional American drink known as the fix is essentially a sour made fancy with pineapple syrup. That simply isn’t true according to historical sources. What is true according to virtually all pre-1920 fixes is that they are short punches always served with ice in them, where the sour is a a short punch not served with ice. That is the irreducible difference between fixes and sours – traditionally-speaking.

Below is a survey of some recipes for fixes that were published before 1920.

Fix01

Of the ten recipes above, five are plain – being sweetened only with plain sugar. The other five are fancy – with four being at least partially sweetened with flavored syrup and the other with both flavored syrup and liqueur.

Assuming medium-sized lemons or bartender’s lime (Citrus aurantifolia, a.k.a. the Key lime), the sour juice amount ranges from about ¼ fl-oz. (“¼ lemon” or “1 lime”) all the way to about 1 fl-oz. (“juice of one lemon”). The most common amount for the sour juice is about ½ fl-oz., being either the juice of half a medium lemon or about 3 dashes from a bottle with a standard-sized mouth.

Four of the recipes include a slight amount of water suitable for dissolving sugar with. One includes “enough water” to make the drink fill the glassware. Only one explicitly includes a relatively large amount of water. Four of the recipes have no added water as a measured separate ingredient at all.

All ten of the recipes indicate that the drink will be served with ice in it. Eight of them indicate shaved or finely-crushed ice. One indicates cracked ice, and another indicates just “ice.”

The mixing method for most of the above is to stir the drink in the same ice it will be served in – making many pre-1920 fixes essentially the same as many post-1933 swizzles. The method in the last recipe, from 1914, seems most modern in that the drink is shaken and then strained over fresh ice.

Surveying pre-1920 fixes (including many not shown here) for majority opinion, reduced to a minimal set of features, this author finds that fixes are short punches (being made without added, liquid water as a measured ingredient) that are always served with ice in them. Your last Whiskey Sour might have been more of a Whiskey Fix!

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, punches began being published in recipes with less and less added water as a listed ingredient.

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Notice that the earlier sources use a full fluid-ounce of water (half a wine-glass), but that the later ones use just enough to dissolve the sugar with. This development led to standard punches often being essentially the same as fixes. I like to call this historical phenomenon the ‘fixification’ of punches.

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Notice that in the above source, the fix and the punch have become very similar, being made with at least ½ fl-oz. of sour juice (3 dashes), without any more water than needed to dissolve sugar with, and served in ice with fruity garniture and straw.

It may be tempting to conclude that the main difference in flavor between the two drinks above is that the punch is sweetened with plain sugar where the fix is sweetened with a fancy syrup (pineapple). But, as shown on the previous page, recipes for fixes were also often completely void of any fancy sweetener. In fact, some historical sources regularly made their fixes plain and their punches fancy.

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Before the Volstead Act (prohibition in the U.S.A.), swizzles were thought of as an especially Caribbean, crushed ice version of the American cocktail and did not usually contain any juice. This type of drink was not any more immune to the punchification of drinks, in general, than the true cocktail. After the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, swizzles appear in books as punches generally (with sour juice) – and especially in an additionally-aromatized twist on the form of the old fix, in crushed ice.

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Is a fix any less worthy than a sour? Of course it isn’t! Does a fix need pineapple syrup to be good? Of course it doesn’t. My favorite fixes don’t have it. One of the best fixes ever is the serano-accented rye whiskey fix known as the Future Fix — a drink by my friend, Greg Bryson.

Here are some of the ways I like to make my fixes:

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Drink of the Day — The Daisy

Rosie Schaap recently wrote about the daisy for the New York Times. I like the New York Times and I am sure that Rosie is a lovely person, but her attempt to connect with the historical drink known as the daisy was a failure in two ways. Firstly, daisies were always strained and never served in ice. Secondly, her assertion that a daisy is “essentially a sour enhanced by some agent of effervescence” is simply not supported by the historical sources. Yes, the daisy is a fancy sour, but it is a gloss in the mind of modern readers to assume carbonation is essential. There are many pre-1920 daisy recipes that contain no carbonation at all. Many do contain carbonation. But, one should understand that using squirts or splashes of carbonated water, especially to dissolve sugar with, was simply the state of affairs for mixing drinks in the the late 1800’s. I have seen plenty of recipes from that time that add squirts of soda water to their punches, sours, and even Manhattan Cocktails. Would anyone half-way awake to the traditions of American mixology read a couple of recipes for the Manhattan Cocktail from 1890 that contained squirts of soda water and come to the conclusion that the essence of the Manhattan is that of a Whiskey Cocktail “enhanced by some agent of effervescence”? I should hope not!

Here is what the historical sources actually say about the daisy.

Daisy01

Notice above that the essential difference between Harry Johnson’s sours and his daisies is that his daisies are fancy by way of a modifying liqueur. Notice that both contain just enough carbonated water to dissolve sugar with. Using carbonated water to dissolve sugar with in making any type of drink was fairly common practice at the time — even faddish. The use of a little carbonated water in the daisy above should not be considered in any way definitive to the nature of this drink. Though Johnson’s daisies seem to be earliest published recipes for this type of drink, he was not the only one that made daisies as liqueur-modified sours.

Daisy02

Notice that William Schmidt explicitly states the irreducible nature of the daisy. In his opinion (and that of this book), adding liqueur to whatever your basic sour is creates a daisy. In the late 1800’s, it was very common to dissolve the sugar in any type of drink with carbonated water. The squirts of carbonated water listed in Johnson’s Jamaica Rum Sour on the previous page and Schmidt’s regular Whiskey Sour above are not at all unusual during that period.

Two of the above daisies add carbonated water after straining, but the indicated glassware (3 fl-oz. large cocktail goblet or the small 3 fl-oz. tumbler) of the era would only allow a small amount of fizzy water. By the time of Crockett’s daisy, the fad of using carbonated water in everything had passed, and he uses flat water with which to dissolve the sugar.

As can be seen below, added liquid water (of any type) as a listed recipe ingredient is not central to the identity of the traditional daisy!

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Back his Rum Daisy above, Crockett suggests either lime juice or lemon juice. He also indicates either Curaçao liqueur or Chartreuse liqueur. If one were to follow his recipe using lime juice and Curaçao liqueur (each the first-mentioned of the options), and to base the drink on Tequila mezcal instead of rum, the drink would essentially be a well-known drink called the Margarita – which means ‘daisy’ in Spanish!

Here are some of the ways I like my daisies.

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