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.

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.

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”

Hello, I must be going…for now

Both loyal readers of A Measured Spirit may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything since … um, spring? Yes, that’s about right.

I’m sad and annoyed — dis-spirited! — to report that in the interim I’ve been diagnosed with an ugly spine condition, had a major surgery [a multi-level fusion, for the lumbar cognoscenti], and two very unpleasant complications far worse than the surgery. All of this was followed by several months of the sort of narcotic medications that make so many deadly headlines these days.

These morphine derivatives have many contraindications, the most pertinent being Old Fashioneds, Margaritas, Drunk Monks, Hillbilly Martinis, and so on … basically anything with, um, alcohol. I’ve been on the Wagon of Glum for several months, and am likely to ride on it for who knows how long.

Since I can’t taste or enjoy drinks, it’s no longer possible to sustain the, how you say, persistent enthusiasm that maintaining this blog requires.

I briefly thought of converting to mocktails. Luckily I quickly thought better of it.

So it’s time to pull the plug on AMS, at least for now. So: Happy mixing. Happy drinking. Happy hours, evenings, nights, and brunches to all. No happy breakfasts, please.

Oh, okay, WTF. Here’s one mocktail — hate that word — I’m making:

Phony Gin & Tonic

  • Cook up some simple syrup, and toss in the thick skin of two lemons and a handful of juniper berries. You can find these at the nearest health food store.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool for 2 hours.
  • Strain, toss out the solids.
  • Measure 1.5 oz of the stuff in a Collins glass filled with ice.
  • Add 1 oz lemon juice.
  • Top with tonic.
  • Garnish with lemon wheel.

Sure, you’re disappointed and dissatisfied. But from where I sit, drinking these is way better than becoming another opioid casualty in the local paper. I’ll take it.

(Re)-introducing: The Old Fashioned Good Fella

The Old Fashioned Good Fella is actually for sale at a bar, despite the fact that I created it. I am no less surprised than you

I have peaked as an amateur drinksman. If this were a profession for me I’d immediately retire so I could exit at a high point.

One my own original creations now appears on the menu of an Italian bistro in my neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland.

Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe Old Fashioned Good Fella
The Old Fashioned Good Fella, created by yours truly, available at Sal’s Italian Kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland. $12 at Sal’s, free at my house just up the road. Stop by either place!

I have personally witnessed real humans pay $12 for the privilege of drinking an Old Fashioned Good Fella. I once saw a guy try it and shoot his eyebrows up and nod his head, I think in approval.

The Old Fashioned Good Fella

  • 2.25 oz High West Double Rye
    • The nice rye bite stands up to the other powerful flavors
  • Scant half-oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
    • If you’re not aquainted, this is a real charmer, smooth and spicy. Order it neat at the bar, after dinner. You’ll thank me later. 
  • 4 [!] dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • I know, that’s a lot. Somehow it’s less of a drink with fewer dashes. 
  • Flamed orange peel garnish

It’s all in the name, fella

Both careful readers of A Measured Spirit may recognize this as a drink about which I have previously blogged, complete with origin story and its rickety relationship to the classic Old Fashioned. I then called it the Ginger Orange Flame.

I’ve got to say, “The Old Fashioned Good Fella” — inviting a sort of suburban mobster affectation by its purchaser — is a way better marketing name for an Italian restaurant menu item than “Ginger Orange Flame.”

That name I imagined dark and romantic, what with the promise of the tang of ginger and a reference to “flame.” This may say more about the activity of my imagination than anything else, but hey, it worked for me. At least before I thought about anybody actually buying it.

More importantly, The Old Fashioned Good Fella is also way better than “Craig’s Old Fashioned,” which the barkeep at Sal’s, much to my horror, proposed to name the drink at first. Happily, his manager refused.

I try to imagine myself ordering something called “Craig’s Old Fashioned” anywhere and fail utterly.

Starting a tab, pal?

I think the margin is pretty good for the OFGF, despite the abundance of High West Double Rye and Domaine de Canton, each retailing at about $40 a bottle.

If wholesale price is half of retail, let’s see…25 ounces per bottle, 2.25 of rye, .5 of liqueur…that’s only about $1.75 for the ingredients. Triple that for personnel, space, advertising, and all that other stuff, and…I may be making Sal’s a lot of money.

Someday, in fact, they may comp me for an Old Fashioned Good Fella.

I’m still waiting.

Those suburban mobsters are a tough group, I’ll tell ya.