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 impossible 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.

 

 

 

 

Zazarac: Not a misprint. Just a mixstake

The obscure Zazarac is not a misspelled Sazerac. It’s a drink unto itself. Its obscurity likely derives from the fact that nobody who makes it once is likely to do so again

One of the most obscure drinks I’ve blundered across is the Zazarac.

That may seem like a misspelling of the Sazerac, that otherworldly classic that comes to us via mid-19th century New Orleans. And some will argue that the Zazarac was the same drink, spelled differently as a litigation dodge.

But there are better reasons to believe that the Zazarac, as captured in certain editions of Harry Craddock’s definitive-for-its-time The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), is its own thing.

And what a peculiar thing it is.

Zazaracs: Not just a spelling difference

Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, the definitive scholarly exhumation of defunct cocktails, mentions two versions of the Zazarac, which he found typed in a 1930s bartender’s pocket notebook.

I’ve lined them up below, adding what I’m calling #3, which appears in Harry Craddock’s book.

Z2 chart

 

As you can see, the household comprises one perfect child and three black sheep.

The Sazerac and Zazaracs #s 2 and 3 all abide by the classic definition of a “cocktail”: Base spirit, sugar, and bitters. All share absinthe. But from there things get hairy.

  • Z1 omits bitters, flouting the “cocktail” definition. It adds sweet vermouth and Amer Picon [a dark, bittersweet, fragrant French apertif, a bit like Italy’s Averna]. It tosses in curacao, an orange liqueur similar to Cointreau or triple sec. So it goes in pretty deep with orange.
  • Z2 uses Peychaud’s, sure enough, but then tosses in orange bitters and Amer Picon — again, an unusual commitment to orange.
  • Z3, explored below, adds white rum as a second base spirit [!], and anisette, a sweet licorice-flavored liqueur whose anis-y power essentially doubles down on the absinthe. It retains a hint of orange only via the bitters.

It seems unlikely to me that any of the Zazaracs were attempts to produce the Sazerac and avoid legal trouble with the New Orleans Sazerac House importer, the French maker of Sazerac cognac, or any number of taverns nationwide with the same name.

At best they are heavy-handed riffs, at worst original desecrations.

And since all versions add to rather than replace ingredients of the Sazerac [excepting the swap of bitters in #3], it seems unlikely that early American supply chain issues drove these variations.

Nope. These Zazaracs are not legal dances to stay out of court. For better or worse, but mainly worse, they are purposeful creations unto themselves.

The Sazerac and the Zazarac have as much in common as a lucid dream and your kitchen junk drawer.

 

 

Zazarac cocktail Craig Stoltz A Measured Spirit Cocktail Blog
The Zazarac cocktail: It’ll put a [mis-]spell[ing] on you.
The Zazarac recipe presented here is a modified version of what appears in Wikipedia.

I know that’s lame, but bear with me. There’s a lot of confusion here, and the Wikipedia one appears to hunker pretty closely to one in the Savoy book, which became the reference recipe going forward.

Anyhow: Let’s grab a pair of tins and shake things up.

Actually we should stir them up, but that’s another twist in this odd little tale.

Zazarac Cocktail recipe [via Craddock, I think]

  • 1 oz rye
    • Or Canadian whiskey — Canadian Club if you want to get specific. Canadian whiskeys skew more rye-heavy, so this alternative makes sense. 
  • .5 oz rum
    • I used Bacardi white, which aligns with several recipes I dug up.
  • .5 oz anisette
    • I used pastis, a French version of that family of licorice-flavored beverages. To be more historically and culinarily accurate — and I know how deeply important that is to you — you should use Sambuca or Ouzo. It’s a maceration vs. distillation thing, and an anis vs. licorice thing, for what it’s worth.  
  • .5 rich simple syrup
    • “Rich” simple syrup mixes sugar to water 2:1. The original called for gum arabic, aka gomme syrup, an even sweeter elixir. 
  • 3 dashes absinthe
    • Yeah, I know. Absinthe + anisette. Anisette — pastis in particular — is often used in place of absinthe. Why use both in the same drink? Who knows? Worse: Many Craddock follow-ons call for .5 oz absinthe. 
  • 1 dash each Angostura and orange bitters

Shake, strain into an Old Fashioned glass, garnish with lemon peel.

The recipes all say to shake, though there’s no citrus in sight. Maybe that’s a relic of the days when gummy gomme was used, which may have needed more agitation. Beats me.

Continue reading “Zazarac: Not a misprint. Just a mixstake”

140-character booze review: Lord Wimsey Gin

A Measured Spirit public service: Time-saving booze reviews with no room for preening, blather, and B.S!

1st gin from Md.-based maker. Think 1/2-hearted flavored vodka. Juniper-free; odd orange nose. Desecrates Wimsey name. Weak debut. Buy? Ha!

The Gin Daisy Chronicles, Part 2 (bad but inexplicably popular version)

The most-referenced Gin Daisy recipe on Google is horrific. Here’s how that happened

As regular readers of A Measured Spirit know, I have launched a campaign to explore that great if slightly obscure American classic, the Gin Daisy. It’s not one drink, but several drinks, some with little in common beyond the name.

Its origins are gauzy, its first recipe apparently lost. This has provided mixmasters almost 150 years of opportunity to improvise, riff, and commit various acts of mischief.

So, for our second installment in this series, I decided to check out the most popular recipe I could find.

Google, make me a Gin Daisy

For this I turned to Brother Google — the world’s always-on vast repository of knowledge, first refuge of rookie drinkmakers, and our most ubiquitous source of misinformation.

When Google presents search results, the order is based on a complex secret algorithm. But its most important component is the number of other sites that link to a particular page. The thinking: If a lot of other people think something is valuable, it’s valuable.

And so I Google “gin daisy recipe.”

Gin Daisy A Measured Spirit

Chowhound? WTF?  Continue reading “The Gin Daisy Chronicles, Part 2 (bad but inexplicably popular version)”

Annals of rookie bartenders, v 12.5(a)

“I’m not really a bartender,” said she. “The bartender got sick.” Oooooh….is it too late to leave gracefully?

Yet the drinks menu included the Last Word, one of my favorite Pre-Prohibition drinks. Equal parts gin, lime, green Chartreuse, and Maraschino liqueur.

Equal parts, no garnish: What could go wrong?

The stand-in barkeep flipped through the recipe book. I could see her lips moving.

She jiggered her way through the ingredients and paused at the Maraschino, stumped. She scanned the shelf, the well, everywhere. Red mottled her pale complexion, rising from the neck.

Moving her work down below bar level, she snuck open a bottle of Rose’s Grenadine, measured it into the tin. She was furtive, hoping to escape detection.

Guessing at her thought bubble:

Damn, can’t find this “maraschino” stuff. That sounds like cherry. Huh. No cherry anything. Hey, here’s this little bottle of red stuff, and it looks sweet. Cherries are red…I’ll try this.

Horrified but curious about what was about to show up in the chilled coupe, I silently allowed the story to unspool.

It was like not yelling at the guy who walks under the piano suspended above the sidewalk when he stops to use his cellphone. You know horrible things may happen, but the darkest part of you wants to see how it’s going to end.

She shook. She strained. She poured. She set it on a cocktail napkin.

It was the color of a blood rinse.

I touched it to my lips, gingerly.

The drink had gone spinning into the carnival.

It toppled the drink into Shirley Temple’s lap.

It tasted distinctly of Robitussin.

Compassionately, I think, I gently slid the drink back in her direction. I explained.

Standing for a better view behind the bar, I spotted the Luxardo in its handsome basket wrap, tucked away deep in the rail. I pointed it out, asked her to remake the drink. She did, the pink spreading up her cheeks, apologizing all the way.

Whether the lesson she learned was that ingredients matter, that Rose’s grenadine must be used only to decorate a set at a community theater production, or that she should pursue a different line of work, I can’t say.

But properly measured and shaken, the drink was solid as always. Equal parts, no garnish. What could go wrong?

Annals of rookie bartenders, v 247.7

A week or so ago, I asked a young swaggery dude behind the bar to make me a favorite drink of his.

He winked and rather showily atomized absinthe in an Old Fashioned glass…and then added rye, Peychaud’s bitters, and simple syrup to a shaking tin. He agitated it vigorously with that affected faraway look, strained the pink-ed frothy decoction into the glass, plunked in a day-glo maraschino cherry, and slid it across the bar.

“That,” said he, “is a Sazerac.”

The Algonquin: No Sirree!

A classic that’s leave-it-on-the-kitchen-counter-when-the-host-isn’t-looking bad.

Algonquin cocktail review Craig Stoltz
Three people walk into an elevator at the Algonquin hotel. One of them farts.

I’m generally no bellyacher. But in my blunderings through cocktail literature I just surfaced a real stinker, and feel compelled to sound  an amicus alarm.

The decoction I refer to is the Algonquin cocktail, which shows up on diligent lists of American Classics — A sip of history! A brush with greatness! Etc. Etc. Etc.

The drink is named after the venerable New York hotel where a group of early 20th century literati famously assembled at the restaurant’s “Round Table.”

Most members of the “Vicious Circle” were hotshot columnists, critics, editors, and writers [Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross], with a few playwrights and, on a good day, Harpo Marx.  Continue reading “The Algonquin: No Sirree!”