The Not-So-Loudspeaker

In which I blunder through the side door of a bastard classic

For the inaugural meeting of the Meaured Spirit Book Club(c), I turn to Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book [1930 version, via cheapo 2015 reprint].

It’s an exhaustive alphabetical compendium of that period’s drinks, including those that have stood the test of time and others that have disappeared into the icebin of history.

I once came across a blog by a guy who undertook the task of making every Savoy drink, from the Abbey to the Zombie. It took years. I assume he is now in custodial care. I hope his family visits him regularly.

Random acts of drink selection

For this meeting of the book club, I grabbed my Savoy and did the pick-a-random-page-and-point-with-your-eyes-closed thing. I failed 3 times to find a drink I could make, the inventory of the Measured Spirit Lounge having thinned during These Trying Times.

I finally scored with the Loudspeaker Cocktail. Happily, it includes one of Craddock’s drink notes, dripping with his characteristic British drollery and convoluted syntax:

“This it is that gives to Radio Announcers their peculiar enunciation. Three of them will produce oscillation, and after about five it is possible to reach the osculation stage.”

“Osculation” means “the act of kissing.”

Harry, you dog!

Dry and hard to drink

Anyhow, the Loudspeaker calls for 3 parts brandy, 3 parts gin, and one part each Cointreau and lemon juice.

It’s really dry and hard to drink. Mixing two base spirits is always challenging, and the proportions here didn’t help. It’s like the gin and brandy were having a loud argument, and the Cointreau and lemon were hiding under the covers waiting for the yelling to stop. [Maybe that’s why it was called the “loud speaker.” Har!]

I don’t know if that was a style of the day or just another drink that disappeared because it wasn’t very good.

From classic sour to equal parts

Today’s palate, by which I mean mine, is accustomed to what’s now called a “classic sour”: 1.5 oz base spirit to .75 each of a juice and sweetener. It’s more or less the formula for a daiquiri, a margarita, a whiskey sour, etc. You can use just about any base, sweetener, and juice and you’ll usually wind up with something drinkable.

So to update the Loudspeaker, I split the 1.5 base between the gin and brandy, then did .75 each of Cointreau and lemon juice. A basic sour.

But having split the base between gin and brandy, it had become an equal-parts cocktail.

It resembled a Corpse Reviver Number 2 — equal parts gin, lemon juice, Cointreau and Kina Lillet. Here brandy, a distilled wine, stands in for the Kina, an aperitif wine. Huh.

Without knowing it, I’d wandered through the side door of the home of a bastard classic.

I don’t know if it was the lower expectations from the first cocktail, or the fact that the drink was in my tank. But it’s really pretty good, well-balanced and bright. The gin and brandy are now sitting on the couch, exchanging mutually respectful thoughts.

Will I make it again? Not with so many pages of the Savoy yet to explore!

Don’t worry, I’m only drinking through the letter A.

The Not-so-Loudspeaker

.75 gin

.75 brandy [I used VS cognac. Like I said, I’m running out of stuff]

.75 Cointreau

.75 lemon juice

Shake, strain, no garnish. Because Harry Craddock said so.

Bad idea #4,768: Bourbon & Tonic

On May 4, 2020, I learn why bourbon and tonic is not a thing

Sure, I could elaborate — like about how the bitter and sweet tonic flavors disrespect and overwhelm the bourbon, making it wholly unlike the genteel and harmless whiskey-soda — but there is no need. Just don’t do this.

Punchline: I decided to try this after I saw it in the recipe section of, god help us all, the Bulleit website. Like, they actually recommend customers drink it, and in fact call it “delicious.” They refer to it as the BLT, which I assume refers to bourbon, lemon, and tonic.

Ignore them. They are fools.

The Multi-Continental Mountain Martini Mash-up

I was stumped by what to bring to a neighborhood cookbook club event, which is to say a dinner party for sorta-foodie types trying really hard to impress their neighbors.

The drink would have to be culinary in some way, I figured. And, because I am an unquiet spirit, it had to be an original.

Talk about trying hard to impress the neighbors.

Seeking culinary inspiration, I headed to the liquor store.

Foraging for ideas

I spotted something called “Forager” gin. This was promising already. Better, it’s a local product, out of Frederick, Maryland, and thus certain to impress my loca-vore clubmates.

The label, I read, claims the gin is “inspired by the botanicals of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Huh.

Say, didn’t I read on the label of my bottle of Genepy le Chamois that the wonderful, under-appreciated French liqueur comprises herbs foraged in the Alps….?

This was going well. I had herbs, I had foragers. I had local, I had global. I even had me some ancient French je ne sais quois as part of the deal.

Martini, meet multi-continental mountains

After some tasting and tweaking, I basically made a 4:1 Martini, subbing Genepy for vermouth. [This makes it a subtler cousin of the Spring Martini, in which Green Chartreuse stands in for the vermouth.] I tucked a staff of thyme from the garden into the glass to add some earthy gravitas.

It was richly herbal at the nose, as I’d hoped.

But boy, did it drink hot. A real throat-flamer. Both ingredients are 90 proof, and frankly my friends at Forager can afford to buff the edges off the gin. I diluted it with 40 stirs, then 60. But still the heat came rushing at the face.

So I tried a tactic of which I’m not entirely proud: I added a touch of simple syrup, which for some reason dispatches the ethyl more efficiently than water. Maybe it distracts the palate or something. Beats me. Happily it was from a batch of rosemary syrup I had around.

A bit more herbal. Much more approachable. As my creations go, unexpectedly well-balanced and delicious. The touch of extra sweetness would not be unwelcome by the homies.

The MMMM verdict

My neighbors loved the Multi-continental Mountain Martini Mash-up, genuinely I think. The compliments were enthused, but more to the point, despite my warnings of its potency, the 8 or so drinkers drained a 30-oz bottle of the elixir.

This turned out to be quite useful, since the sauteed vegetables with white beans and pistou I brought to the event sort of sucked, mushy and bland.

Thanks to the drinks, many didn’t notice. Those who did notice I like to think forgave me my failure in light of a modest success.

Like adding sugar to a drink, introducing a high-test drink to a dinner party where everybody is trying really hard makes up for any number of failures.

Maybe it distracts the palate or something.

The Multi-Continental Mountain Martini Mash-up recipe

.5 Genepy le Chamois

2 oz Forager Gin, or any sufficiently herbal “big” American gin.

Dash simple syrup, herbed if you like.

Stir at least 50 times, strain, poke a tuft of thyme into a martini glass, neat, or small Old Fashioned glass with a fat ice cube.

Alaska Sour, per Morris American Bar

Because sometimes you’ve just got to go home and make the wonderful drink the bartender was kind enough to write on a postcard as you left the bar the night before.

With thanks to Noel at Morris American Bar, a brilliant newish craft bar in DC:

The Alaska Sour

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 oz gin
  • .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • .5 lemon juice
  • .5 simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Dry shake all ingredients like your ulna is on fire. [Dry shaking means shake without ice. You do it to emulsify the egg.]

Fill shaker 2/3 with ice; shake like your radius is on fire.

As the photo shows, I’ve never developed good dry shaking skills, and my foam is weak.

But even in my hands this is a lovely drink, a simple gin sour enlivened by the herby, honeyed Chartreuse and mellowed with eggy cream.

Alaska? Kind of looks like a far north landscape, I guess.

The Carderock Golden Jewel

In which I inflict my “talent” on my neighbors in an update of the classic Bijou cocktail.

I “created” this one for a homegrown talent show in my community, in which I was invited to demonstrate my, um, “talent” in mixology at halftime of the festivities.

You’ve reached a sad point in life when your most recognizable skill involves alcoholic beverages.

And yet, here I am. Best to make the most of any  opportunity life hands you, I say.

The Bijou: A jewel. A really big jewel

Since “Carderock’s Got Talent” was a song-dance-performance event, I searched for “theatrical” allusions in the cocktail canon. This led me quickly to a pre-Prohibition classic called the Bijou. Early in this century “Bijou,” a French word meaning “jewel,” was a common name for a town’s theater.

The Bijou cocktail, debuted in the 1880s, was given the name because its high dose of Green Chartreuse gave the drink a hue of a dusky emerald.

Problem is: The original Bijou is a snoutful, intensely herbal from the Chartreuse, busy with the cutting notes of gin, fragrant with vermouth. Some say it disappeared with Prohibition not because it was forgotten but because it was too intense, as tastes drifted to simpler settings for gin, like a Martini.

The original Bijou has a dusky emerald hue.

A more accessible jewel?

But this was for a community event, where palates probably were more used to TGIFridays’ beverage menu than, say, that of a grand hotel bar filled with robber barons and their retainers.

Could I turn this big, uncompromising classic into something suburban showgoers might enjoy sippin? Let’s see, shall we?

Continue reading “The Carderock Golden Jewel”

Basil & Basil: A garden whiskey smash-up

This one’s the result of recent Measured Spirit labwork with spring produce. A savory, slightly exotic, springy whiskey sour/smash-like thing.

How to make the Basil & Basil cocktail

  • Muddle 5 Vietnamese basil leaves with .5 oz Demerara syrup [1:1] and two slices each of lemon and lime.
  • Add 2 oz Basil [get it?] Hayden’s bourbon
  • Fill muddling glass 2/3 full with ice
  • STIR. Citrus, I know, I know, but wait for it…
  • Dump the whole thing, Caipirinha-style, into a double Old Fashioned glass
  • Smack a big ol’ basil leaf and drop it across the top of the glass

Basil & Basil cocktail tasting notes

  • A rustic, seasonal whiskey smash
  • The Thai basil brings a peppery licorice vibe
  • The citrus and herb debris looks quite lovely in the glass
  • The Basil H bourbon works really well here — its soft layers bring some complexity. Must be fate.
  • The Demerara adds a sort of whole-grain bottom to the sweetness. I tried straight simple and the whole thing sort of collapsed.

The See-Thru Old Fashioned

Clearly, creating an Old Fashioned that looks like a Martini has its challenges

I was trying yet another spin-off of the Old Fashioned, this time using the lovely and potent Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Angostura orange bitters to complement the rye. Not bad, as these riffs go, with some nice lathework by the maraschino and bitters smoothing the rye’s rough edges.

Sipping, I was moved to contemplation.

Say, [I mused], hadn’t I bought a bottle of unaged rye not long ago? And wouldn’t it be odd and [maybe] wonderful to use that clear liquor with the translucent Luxardo and the colorless orange bitters to make … a perfectly transparent Old Fashioned?

I had turned yet another suspect idea into a fool’s errand.

20180402_1827121420874853156889872.jpg
The See-Through Old Fashioned, made with unaged rye, drinks hot.

Continue reading “The See-Thru Old Fashioned”