The Stinger, mellowed with age

Hate Stingers? Me too. But if you’re in D.C., try the barrel-aged version at McClellan’s before you swear off the drink for life

I’ve always loathed the Stinger. Maybe it’s because the drink’s upper-crust associations never resonated with me — a low-born, Cleveland-bred scion of public assistance. [As it happens, I have similar contempt for martinis. Huh.]

But it may also be because the three [3] Stingers I’d had until Friday night were made by, um, me, using the kind of white creme de menthe that sits in a plastic bottle on the bottom shelf of the county liquor store — gummy-sweet as mint candy, sure to tip your blood glucose levels into the trouble zone.

Which is why, when I saw a Stinger on the menu at McClellan’s Retreat, a handsomely dark and woody saloon near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., I told the cheerful barkeep by name of Brian that, well, I hated Stingers.

“So let’s get you something else,” said he, sagely.

“But you guys have some serious drinks on the menu. And it says it’s barrel aged. Maybe this is the one I should try to rule them out for the rest of my life.”

He approved.

“If you hate this one, you hate hate Stingers. If you hate it, it’s on me.”

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A 45-day barrel-aged Stinger served at McClellan’s Retreat in Washington, D.C. Cool bottle!

Just like a Stinger, but smooth

Brian produced a handsome little bottle that recalls both a 19th century apothecary vessel and a pocket flask, and poured the contents over rocks in a Double Old Fashioned glass, garnishing with a generous tuft of mint.

The McClellan’s barreled Stinger was a revelation, far smoother and richer than anything I expected. Refreshing, but without that childlike high-menthol screech. Surprisingly…elegant.

The brandy was a Sacred Bond bottled-in-bond number, weighing in at 100 proof. The creme de menthe was Giffard’s Menthe Pastille, a French brand dating to 1885 and, it is said, comprising both a mellow and a wild mint.

The ingredients are barreled in oak at McClellan’s for a month and a half, lathing away the high-proof ethyl edges and sort of quieting the whole thing down.

No sting.

Truth told, I plucked out the mint not long into the engagement. The garnish overstated the mint, unbalancing the proportions of the beverage itself.

I nursed the Stinger — not just to prevent the potent brandy from unbalancing me from my bar stool, but to savor it.

Yes, to savor a drink I thought I’d hated.

So: Do I like Stingers? I have no idea. I love the Stinger at McClellan’s.

 

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?

The Great Stupid Cocktail Toy Giveaway

Tell me what this thing is, and win it for your collection of pointless cocktail curios.

So I posted on the Twitter machine a photo of one of the more pointless pieces of cocktail paraphernalia in my growing collection.

My offer: Identify this device, explain what it’s used for, and it’s yours. I will timely send it to you by US mail, and within a cheerful civil servant will deliver it to your door with a smile. You can start using it for  _______________  immediately.

I like to think of it as paying it forward. Or debiting it forward, if you like.

Not one taker so far.

And so I turn to both loyal readers of A Measured Spirit.

Anybody?