Brandy Vermouth Cocktail (p. 17)

It’s the first official day of teacher summer. We tried to luxuriate, but we’re both overachievers, so we went for a 3-mile run, did laundry, and cleaned our house. We did manage to eat some awesome salmon pastrami (at the lovely Blessings Cafe), drink beer at lunch, nap, and make this brandy cocktail. Brandy evokes mid-century luxury: it’s got a rich, caramel color, and a deep flavor that rewards long, slow sips. Here’s to a little luxury this summer. The recipe as written:

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  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Five Star Brandy
  • Dash bitters

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. 

Notes on prep: We’ve completely abandoned all efforts to crack ice and just served this over cubes. Chris shook the drink to mix. We ignored Mr. B’s stingy measurements and tripled the recipe. Our go-to brandy for cocktails is Paul Masson. 20170629_180950

Liz’s Take: This is a take on a Manhattan, I think, and using brandy in place of the whiskey is interesting.  But in a Manhattan, the ratio is roughly 2:1, whiskey: vermouth; in this it’s more like 4:1, brandy: vermouth. Brandy is a wine-based spirit. It’s got some of whiskey’s smooth sweetness, but there’s a fruity undernote that really dominates in this drink. The vermouth gets lost. I might try this again, but I’d mess with the ratios for sure.

Chris’s Take: Gentlemen, take note. Cognac is nonsense. It’s overpriced and over-marketed. Brandy is simpler than the folks at Hennessy would have you think. Paul Masson is coming out of the same region as good Kentucky Bourbon, and that shit won’t cost you more than twenty bucks in even the Corcoran-iest neighborhoods. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have a bottle in your liquor cabinet, because this is a date night cocktail. Simple to make, cheap, brandy forward, and sophisticated. It’ll taste more expensive and more complicated than it is.

Our Ratings:

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Easy
  • Price: Cheapish, if you use cheap brandy, but it could be super spendy, if you’re into that sort of thing, but Chris says you shouldn’t be.
  • Taste: Brandy-forward, spicy sweet with a hint of smokiness from the vermouth

Final Verdict: I think this one evoked a pretty solid “meh” from both of us. I liked the looks of it, but I’d rather drink a real Manhattan or a Brandy Sidecar. Don’t think we’d order this at a bar, unless the bartender had a great story about the brandy.

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Fine and Dandy Cocktail (p. 37)

20170628_182307Today was the last day of the school year. I rode the Staten Island Ferry with a bunch of my colleagues, and drank too much cheap beer. But, in theory, I’m feeling fine and dandy about the summertime, so we  made this cocktail. Recipe as written:

  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • 1 1/4 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 1 dash bitters

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Serve with a cherry.

Notes on prep: What is a 3 oz. cocktail glass? I really don’t know. We tripled this, and served it in our usual tumblers. We used RealLemon because we never manage to keep fresh lemons around, and our usual brands of Triple Sec (Llords) and gin (Seagram’s). We used our homemade cherries.

20170628_182955Liz’s Take: This drink is so pretty! It looks like a creamsicle and tastes like if a martini and a margarita had a baby– briney on the front, orangey on the back. I’d make this again, but I’d mix it with some seltzer water. I also might use lime instead of lemon to enhance the sweetness.

Chris’s Take: The stuff comes out pink. Pretty, like something you’d make in a pitcher and bring to the park. And then you drink it, and you know immediately that it’s going to knock you on your ass. It’s a reasonably accurate recreation of being married to Liz.

Our Ratings:

 

 

  • Prep: Easy (it even called for being shaken, which we enjoy)
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Easy
  • Price: Cheapish
  • Taste: Boozy, citrus-sweet

Final Verdict: Liz probably wouldn’t order this at a bar because she doesn’t like coming home so drunk she can’t type properly. And this is a heavy drink. Chris would order it if it were nice gin and Cointreau, but it’d be the last of the evening.

Bermuda Highball (p. 8)

I wanted to try something that called for a different sort of glass today– I felt like the pictures were getting a little repetitive– and it’s also been awhile since we busted out the brandy.  This recipe seemed strange, but we had everything it called for and, ultimately, I think we’ve committed ourselves to making all of these… so… here’s the recipe as written:

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  • 1 cube of ice
  • 3/4 oz. of Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 3/4 oz. of Old Mr. Boston Five Star Brandy
  • 3/4 oz. of Dry Vermouth

Fill 8 oz. highball glass with ginger ale or carbonated water. Add twist of lemon peel, if desired, and stir.

Notes on prep: We use Paul Masson brandy for all our brandy needs. It’s super cheap and, we think, smoother than Hennessy (which costs waaaay more). It makes terrific sidecars, and Chris sometimes likes it on its own. We decant it, ’cause we’re fancy. We also used our trusty Seagram’s gin and Martini & Rossi vermouth. Our lemons were spoiled (oops) and we used carbonated water from our SodaStream. I’ve also just decided to ignore the measurements entirely. I used equal parts of everything, but probably about double what the recipe calls for. (Also, note these cool vinyl decals we got for our home bar from PMVinyls on Etsy!!!)20170626_170408

Liz’s Take: Most light summery drinks are sweet, and I appreciate how dry and sort of bracing this is, but it’s a bit light on the flavor. I smell the vermouth in the drink, but I taste mostly brandy and water. This calls for way too much water. C’mon, Mr. B! I think this might have been more delicious with a dry ginger ale, and less of it.

Chris’s Take: At first it tasted very bland. I was trying to picture when anyone would drink this, and I thought maybe at a stuffy party in 1965, where all the walls are wood paneled and the men wore sweaters and plaid sports jackets. Everyone had an early tee-time in the morning and didn’t want to tie one too tight. I have to admit, though, it sort of grew on me. I agree that it would’ve been better with a nice, dry ginger ale, like GUS. If you have an early tee-time, give it a shot.

Our Ratings:

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Easy
  • Price: Cheap (at least with our booze selection)
  • Taste: Light and dry; the brandy gives it a slight caramel-y note, but it’s balanced by the briney dry vermouth

Final Verdict: After drinking about half of it, Liz thinks she might order this at the sort of bar where they make their own ginger ale. Chris thinks this one is better left in the wood-paneled rumpus rooms of history.

Jeyplak Cocktail (p. 52)

We’re both teachers, and this is our last weekend before the last few days of school. We’re getting the party started with a heavy cocktail. Back in the days of Old Mr. Boston, absinthe was banned from the USA, so he called for “absinthe substitute.” We used the real thing, and are hoping to see some sparkly green fairies to start our season off right. Recipe:

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  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/4 teaspoon Absinthe substitute

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Serve with a cherry.

Notes on prep: I made tonight’s drink, and I was definitely not interested in figuring out cracking ice. I’ll leave that for those of you lucky enough to have fancy refrigerators that churn out ice. I also shook the drink because it’s more fun, and tripled the recipe for the two of us because Old Mr. B was a cheapo.

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Liz’s Take: This tastes fancy and special. For one thing, I am surprised by how absinthe-forward this drink was, even though I used such a small amount. It smells intensely of anise, and that’s the first thing I tasted when I took a sip. The vermouth slowly builds on the back end, and the gin (particularly our neutrally flavored Seagram’s) is a fairly tasteless base. I wonder how this would be with a more intense vermouth. We bought an amazing one at Channing Daughters vineyard in Southampton last summer that I suspect could really class up this cocktail, but I like this drink even with our stock Martini & Rossi stuff. I also feel like this needs a different sort of glass than our standard tumblers, but I’m not sure what. Maybe a stemless martini glass would’ve been nice? Oh! And we used another of our homemade cherries; I’m happy to say that, after a few more days of marinating, they’re getting more flavorful.

Chris’s Take: The first thing I thought when I tasted this drink was that it was something out of Casablanca fan fiction. If that’s not a thing, I’m about to make it a thing, because sipping this drink, you’ll definitely feel like you’re wearing a tuxedo, sitting at the bar at Rick’s Café Américain. There’s a man in a fez giving you the stink-eye from across the bar, and you suspect he’s not really Turkish, but a German military policeman who has followed you from your secret resistance meeting. You order a Jeyplak from Boris, and he serves it to you in a long, tall glass, with a bow and a smile. The man in the fez approaches you from behind, and you’re grateful that you get to sip it before… it’s a good drink, but avoid if you don’t like black licorice, or won’t stand up for La Marseillaise like a good Frenchman.

Our Ratings:

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Medium (absinthe is a bit hard to find; we had to go to a real classy joint in Boerum Hill, where they looked at us funny when we pulled this bottle off the shelf)
  • Price: Medium (Absinthe is spendy, but this cocktail calls for a teensy bit)
  • Taste: Herbacious, slightly sweet, but astringent on the back end

Final Verdict: Liz and Chris would both definitely order this at a bar, and would expect it to look very fancy, perhaps with some sort of elaborate garnish.

Negronis (p. 67)

It was the first day of summer, so it was time to try making Negronis. Here’s the recipe as written:

  • 3/4 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 3/4 oz. Campari bitters
  • 3/4 oz. Sweet or Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. soda water

Pour over ice cubes in Old Fashioned cocktail glass and stir lightly.

20170621_190049.jpgNotes on prep: Like James Bond, Chris likes his drinks shaken not stirred, so he deviated from the recipe and shook this up. My mom always said that Bond’s drink preference was a signal that he wasn’t “old money,” because real classy folks always stirred their drinks. I like this idea, and I like watching my husband shake up a tumbler full of booze for me. We used Seagram’s gin and sweet vermouth. Maybe we’ll try it with dry vermouth in another post sometime; sounds like it’d be way more martini-like, which I dig, in theory.

Liz’s Take: I always really want to like Negronis– they’re pretty and rosy pink and summery and light– but I find Campari a bit too bitter without something sweet to cut it. I like it better at home than I’ve ever liked it at a bar (do they always add soda water?), but I still find it a touch acerbic. Chris tossed one of the cherries into mine, and I really like it with the Campari. Maybe next time I make one, I’ll throw some of the cherry juice in and see what it does.

Chris’s Take: I was raised Mormon, and as a result, I was deprived of two of life’s most important pleasures…coffee and booze. The first time I ever had coffee (at 15), a similarly wandering soul dared me to drink a shot of espresso. It was so bitter that I almost retched right there, outside the Barnes & Nobles that was connected the Old Navy. The next time I tried it, it was brimming with so much chocolate that I was able to choke it down with nary a whimper. Today, I drink it black. It’s been a long journey. This awesome drink is the reward. Go make it immediately, and drink it while watching Saturday’s Warrior for me.

Our Ratings:20170621_192532

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Easy
  • Price: Medium (Campari is a little spendy, but a little goes a long way)
  • Taste: Bitter, light, refreshing

Final Verdict: Chris would definitely order this at a bar. Liz is working on her bitter palate, so maybe she would, too.

Black Hawk Cocktail (p. 9)

We tried to make our own maraschino cherries this weekend. We live in a bit of a liquor store desert, so we found this recipe that didn’t call for hard-to-find maraschino liqueur, and have been waiting ’til today to try it in a new cocktail. They really just taste like bing cherries, at this point, and we’re not that psyched. We’ll try them after a few more days of marinating and hope for the best.

Chris said we should just make a Manhattan, but I insisted we find something more adventurous, so here’s the Black Hawk recipe as written:20170621_185914

  • 1 1/4 oz. Old Mr. Boston Whiskey (bourbon, blended, rye, or Canadian)
  • 1 1/4 oz. Old Mr. Boston Sloe Gin

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Serve with a cherry.

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Notes on prep: We used Bulleit Bourbon and Llord’s sloe gin.  Sloe gin isn’t gin, as such– it’s a syrupy red liqueur made with sloe, which is a plummy berry. We usually use Old Overholt in cocktails, but Chris said we should only use one shitty ingredient and the Llord’s mixers definitely qualify as shitty. Chris refused to measure each portion of this cocktail into 3 oz. glasses after our last experiment with teeny, tiny portions, so he used a big shot glass for prep.

Liz’s Take: It’s not as bad as I thought it would be! This particular brand of sloe gin, on its own, is kind of cough syrupy: it’s got a sticky sweetness that regular gin balances out, and I feared that whiskey’s headiness would just enhance that quality. Instead, it sort of tastes like a grown-up Shirley Temple. It’s a little astringent on the back end (though that may be it mixing with these bougie truffle quinoa puffs I’ve been snacking on), but the slight smokiness of the Bulleit helps make this a fairly balanced cocktail. Ice also helps.

Chris’s Take: Making this, I was haunted by the memory of a rough night at Public Assembly, when we, suffering under the delusion that we were gaming the system, decided to bring some mini-bottles hidden on our person. We bought a couple whiskeys, and the liquor store clerk threw in a couple mini bottles of Jim Beam Red Stag, a then experimental blend of delicious whiskey and whatever bullshit the Jersey flavor manufacturers were calling “Wild Cherry.” Enjoying the occasional Sloe Gin Fizz, I was aware of  the tendency of our Llords Sloe Gin to be on the lollipop-end of the sweetness spectrum. I was worried that this drink was going to evoke a grim “wild cherry” tinged memory of a bad night out. But it wasn’t that bad. I guess that’s the best I can say.  If you’re making this, use a decent whiskey.

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Our Ratings:

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Medium (I don’t know how easy it is to find sloe gin everywhere, especially if you want something good– I hear Plymouth makes a snice one)
  • Price: Mid-range (our small bottle of Bulleit ran us about $12; probably you could make a serviceable version with Old Overholt, which is weirdly affordable)
  • Taste:  Fruit-and-Whiskey-forward

Final Verdict: Would we order this at the bar? Nah. Not unless the bartender really had some great story about their fancy schmancy sloe gin, made with the freshest of sloeberries, picked in their hipster garden right out back. (Chris says that it would help if they were pickled. Pickled shit is cool.)

 

The Perfect Cocktail (p. 73)

After spending a few giggly minutes looking at all the cocktails with port wine and eggs that we’re eventually going to have to drink, we decided on something a little less frightening for this hot, humid day.  Here’s the recipe as written: 20170618_163035

  • 1/4 oz. Dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 oz. Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin
  • 1 Dash Bitters

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glasses. 

Notes on prep: We used Martini & Rossi vermouths, and a Seagram’s gin, which is our favorite for mixing. Our cocktail glasses are definitely larger than 3 oz, so the cocktails looked small, but we put them on the rocks because we’re wimps, and these drinks are strong. We used Angostura bitters, and Chris kindly crushed the ice with the heel of our knife sharpener, like a champ.

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Liz’s Take: I love a good, dirty gin martini, and I think the sweet vermouth in this drink played a similar role to the olive brine I liberally splash into my martinis. I might use Hendricks if I make this again, because I think its herbal character would help balance out the slightly aggressive vermouth flavor, and I wouldn’t bother with crushed ice– I’d just shake it up over cubes. I’d also make more than the recipe called for- these are stingy drinks!

Chris’s Take: I’m not a fan of martinis. They’re too boozy, the glasses are silly, and it feels like you should be wearing a tuxedo when you drink them. But I liked this. I’d like it even more if we’d used a decent gin, because the herbi-ness was a highlight. On another note, if Old Mr. Boston was my bartender, I wouldn’t tip him shit. The portion reminded me of those weird states that require that the bars have flow regulators to make sure that you don’t have too much fun before you get in your car and drive home.

Our ratings:

  • Prep: Easy
  • Ingredient Accessibility: Easy
  • Price: Mid-range (you could easily class this up with Hendricks gin and Dolin vermouth, though)
  • Taste:  Boozy and slightly herbal

Final Verdict: Would we order this at the bar? We both said yes, on a hot day, if we want to get plastered, and we’d both hope for a more generous pour than Old Mr. Boston recommends.

An Introduction to the Art of Good Mixing and the Art of Good Living

20170618_093950Knowing our fondness for mid-century kitsch and booze, my mom’s cousins gave Chris and I a 1963 edition of the Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide as a wedding gift. Home bartending is kind of a family tradition. Everyone in my mom’s family knew how to make a Perfect Rob Roy for my great-grandmother (scotch, equal parts sweet AND dry vermouth, a dash of bitters, a maraschino cherry) and to have ice cold Pinot Grigio on hand when my grandmother came to visit. My mom used an Old Mr. Boston guide when she found herself filling in behind the bar at Fiesta Hut in North Jersey in the 1980s, and I consulted one to make my very first Old-Fashioned at the now defunct Becky’s Pub on the upper East Side in the early 2000s.

There are 115 pages in our copy of the bartender’s guide. For every delicious Manhattan and Sidecar there are many more anachronistic entries for things like Milk Punch (sugar, whiskey, and milk) and the Chocolate Flip (egg, sugar, gin, brandy, and sweet cream). In the age of the $14 cocktail, when we celebrate Master Mixologists, it seems time to check-in with good ol’ Mr. Boston, and see what drinks might be worth resurrecting.

Introduction

We’re going to drink our way through all 115 pages, record pictures of our experiments, and reviews of each cocktail we try. We’re going in order of what we have, and will do our best to accumulate all the strange and unusual ingredients the recipes call for (orange flower water? Kummel?). Chris is a history teacher, and I’m a food/booze nerd, so we’ll probably also do some research on the drinks and share interesting things we learn about their provenance.