In the pantheon of classic cocktails, there exist very few as venerable as the Sidecar. Its origins are a bit unclear, but it definitely dates back to the 1920’s at which point two recipes seem to have surfaced. The first is the French style, which calls for a 1:1:1 ratio of brandy (or Cognac), Curacao and lemon juice. The English version calls for the same ingredients prepared in a 2:1:1 manner. If you’re not into citrus, this cocktail probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you like Margaritas – and I’m not talking about that slurpee shit you get at Chili’s A Neighborhood Bar & Grill – but a real margarita, then this will probably be right up your alley… Although the sidecar seems a bit more upscale. Maybe because the margarita has been bastardized so badly it no longer possesses a sense of mystery. Anyways, if you’re drinking Sidecars of the English build, no one is going to call you a pussy.
2 oz. Cognac (preferably VSOP)
1 oz. Curacao (Cointreau, but Grand Marnier works well here too)
1 oz. Lemon Juice
All ingredients into a shaker, along with a good amount of cracked ice, and shake merciless. Pour into a cocktail glass.
If you’re feeling extra faggy, you can rim the glass with sugar as shown. To do this, prep your glass before you make the cocktail: take a bit of lemon juice on your finger and rub the rim of the glass until it’s moistened. Dip into very fine white sugar that has been poured in an even layer on a plate. Put the glass in the freezer to set the sugar for a minute or so, lest the sugar become a shitty mess all over your hands.
If you’ve been to any bar that makes “classic cocktails,” you’ve undoubtedly seen a Sazerac on the menu. It’s a staple – nay – a legend of the cocktail world, and is to me the perfect cocktail. It contains a few ounces of rye, a bit of sugar, a dash of Peychaud’s bitters, and a rinse of absinthe. It’s concept is elementary and it’s ingredients are basic but carefully constructed the drink has a subtle, nuanced flavor. But that’s the beauty of the Sazerac…properly done it’s a miracle of bold forces colliding in delicate harmony. Okay, miracle may be a strong word. But it’s a pretty fucking good cocktail.
Needless to say, I’ve had me a mess of Sazeracs… some good, some not so good, and some that changed the way I think about cocktails in general. You see, I have always been from the “More is better / Too much is never enough” school of thought. And that’s how I liked my Sazeracs… made with 100* rye, with lots of Peychaud’s, a solid teaspoon of sugar syrup, and a heavy rinse of absinthe in a frosted glass, lemon peel bruised and bossy in the bottom of the glass. Not that there is anything wrong with a Sazerac made this way – it’s hot and spicy, sweet and fragrant. And this was how I thought a Sazerac should taste.
Until… I was introduced to a more subtle cocktail. One that I watched being made with a lifted eyebrow, prejudiced, ready to denounce the establishment, but had a taste unlike any before. Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Deadwood lately. So here’s my new recipe for the ‘rac:
The Sazerac Cocktail
3 oz. 80* Old Overholt or 80* Rittenhouse Rye
½ tsp. demerara syrup
2 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1 rinse absinthe
Take an old fashioned glass and dash a bit of absinthe into it. Swirl the absinthe around, until it’s completely coated the sides of the glass, and pour out any remainder. Then, rye, bitters, syrup into a mixing glass or shaker. Add three or four large ice cubes – the biggest you can get. This is so they melt as little as possible and thereby don’t dilute the booze. Stir for at least 30 seconds. Pour the drink into the glass, straining out the ice cubes, and squeeze a wide strip of orange peel over the drink, spraying the surface with the oil. Take the peel, rub around the edge of the glass, and discard. And enjoy that bastard…. You’ve earned it.
***PS, if you’ve got a nice bottle of brandy or Cognac sitting around, you could also use this instead of the rye without chaffing to many asses. It’s a bit sweeter of a cocktail, but works particularly well in the aforementioned stripped down recipe.
Listen, I like to party. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are you do to. So do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of rye the next time you’re at the booze mart. There are several to chose from, and most of them are cheaper (and better tasting) than the bourbon you were going to buy anyways.
The distribution of rye varies… it’s not readily available in Detroit, but in Chicago even the corner store carries at least one type. The most widely available seem to be Wild Turkey Rye 101* and Jim Beam Rye 80* – the Wild Turkey is the better of the two. The good stores carry Rittenhouse Bonded 100* which is my favorite for the money – around $13 if you can believe it. There’s also the Old Overholt 80*, which I’ve recently reviewed, and Rittenhouse 80* – both of which usually retail for a little over ten or eleven bucks a fifth. Then there are a host of more expensive choices like Sazerac (named after the drink, but is just a brand of rye) and Ri… these are fine spirits, but I can’t help feeling like more money is being spent on the bottle than the contents. I know there are other more expensive small batch options out there, but these are the only ones I’ve purchased.
I’m not going to get into some big thing about the technical differences of rye versus bourbon or the origins of the spirit because, let’s be honest, if you wanted insight and fact you wouldn’t be reading my blog. No, you’re looking for baseless allegations and needlessly complex concepts. Suffice to say rye is spicier and sweeter than bourbon… and can generally be used instead of bourbon in just about any cocktail recipe you’ve got.
The cocktail I’m making usually dictates which rye I’ll use. When making an Absolutely Perfect Manhattan (see below), the spirit is diluted down with vermouth, maraschino, etc., so I prefer to use a 100* rye like the Rittenhouse Bonded. I stir my Manhattans and serve them up, so there isn’t too much dilution from the ice. However, I’ll also use a 100* rye (or bourbon) for an Old Fashioned, as that’s pretty much just booze, bitters and a bit of sugar, but is served on the rock(s). So while the spirit isn’t diluted by mixers, the ice will inevitably take a bit of heat off the sauce. On the other hand, if I’m making Sazeracs, which is basically an old fashioned with Peychaud’s and an absinthe rinse, I will use an 80* rye as this cocktail is stirred and served up. Old Olverholt 80* or Rittenhouse 80*are both fine choices for Sazeracs, and make for a very delicate and complex drink.
Absolutely Perfect Manhattan
2 oz. 100* Rye (Rittenhouse Bonded or Wild Turkey 101* both fit the bill)
.75 oz. Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz. Cynar
.25 oz. Maraschino
A few dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a bar glass, add a few large cubes of ice, and stir for a bit. Pour into a martini glass, squeeze a lemon peel above the drink to spray the surface with the lemon oil, then rub the peel on the rim of the glass and discard it. Garnish with a Luxardo (or Griette) cherry if you’ve got them handy. Which you probably don’t. Pussy.
So the Blastmaster shows up with a bag of Taiwanese salted plums and some kefir lime leaves, talking some shit about making Collinses. Now as a rule, I don’t back down from trying out a new cocktail (that’s not how I roll), and this sassy little bitch was certainly no exception.
Salted Plum Collins
2 or 3 salted plums
3 kafir lime leaves
3 oz. London Dry Gin
1 tbsp. sugar
Start out by muddling the salted plums with the sugar in the bottom of a Collins glass. Depending on how dry your plums are (ha), you may want to add a splash of hot water to help the sugar and plums break down easier. Add the gin and fill the glass with crushed ice. Top off with soda, rim the glass with one of the kefir leaves, and use the other two for garnish. Insert straw and get your “drunkzies on.”
This is actually a really interesting cocktail. The plums are sweet and salty… they’ve got a very distinct flavor that goes well with the lime leaves. The soda makes the whole thing light and refreshing, but I think these could also be employed in a drink that was served up. We talked about adding some lime juice to the next batch but never got around to it.
Old Overholt is to Rye what Kleenex is to tissues and what Rollerblades are to inline skating. (The second rollerblading reference in one week!?! you ask yourself… deal with it… Peter and the boys are waiting in the park.) But I digest. “OO 80*” is a great buy for the money. It tastes like caramel and nuts. It’s got a bit of spiciness, but it’s also unbelievably smooth (not much alcohol burn on the tongue)- but that’s because it’s only 80*, which is a bummer. For me that means it’s got to be served up and pretty much straight. That leaves a Sazerac, or some variation thereof. Maybe a rye crusta, if that’s your thing. I dunno. The bottom line is it costs about $13 a bottle here in Chicago, and it’s worth every penny. I give it seven and a quarter thumbs up.
The Ward Eight is a thrice kick-assed [ass-edd] cocktail. For starters, legend has it the drink was named for a politician who was handing these out to voters to encourage them to “vote right” in Boston’s eight ward sometime around 1910. Being especially susceptible to bribery and questionable morals, I find this origin most satisfactory. Secondly, it contains three ounces of Rye, which in my book pretty much seals “el dealo” (as the French say.) And C, it’s a really good drink. Nothing clever to say here… Not that the rest of this has been clever, and then suddenly it’s not. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying…mmmm… Ward Eight bitches!
Ward Eight Cocktail
1.5 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. orange juice
1 tsp. fine sugar
3 oz. Rye
1 tsp. grenadine
2 sprigs of mint
A bit of soda water
Start out with the lemon and orange juice in a shaker, and add the sugar. Mix it up until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rye, and one sprig of mint, along with some cracked ice. The man says “shake gently as to not brutalize the mint.” Pour all that into a highball glass with some large ice cubes, pour the grenadine over the ice (allowing it to rest in the bottom of the glass – don’t stir), and top off with the soda water. Garnish with the remaining mint sprig, some berries, or whatevs.
The crap they sell at the corner store? Don’t buy that swill. Sure, it’s the same company, but that shit will likely make you blind. If you’re looking for a good quality Apple Brandy (“Apple Jack”), do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of the Laird’s Bonded. It’s 100*, which means its pretty much just fermented apple juice. Okay, I’m sure more goes into it than that, but frankly I’m too drunk to give a shit.
Party All the Time Cocktail
2 oz. W. L. Weller 107* Bourbon
.75 oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
.75 oz. Sweet Vermouth
A few dashes Coffee bitters
Put it all in a bar glass and mix it up a bit. Pour it over a big ass piece of ice in a rocks glas, brandy snifter, slurpee cup or cowboy boot. Garnish with a lemon peel.
You’ll notice I’ve reccomended the 107 proof. That’s because this is a most formidable drink, and it’s likely you’ll let it sit there for a while before you “man the fuck up.” Thus, the 107* is going to keep it’s nuts about it. Is that an expression? It is now, my freaks. It is now.
If you’re looking for a great drink on a hot summer day, perhaps after a bit of rollerblading with the boys, then the Gin Fitz is for you. It’s about as easy as it gets…
2 oz. London Dry Gin
1 oz. Lemon Juice
1 tbsp. Sugar Syrup
A splash of soda water
A few dashes Angostura
I like to skip the shaker on this one and build it right in the glass, the way you would a mint julep. So in goes the gin, juice and syrup first, followed by a good stir. Then fill glass with crushed ice (not cracked), top off with soda water, and dash a bit of Angostura on top. If you’re feeling fancy you could garnish it with a slice of lemon, or maybe a sprig of mint or even some nice fresh berries if that’s “how you roll.”
FYI, this is basically a Tom Collins with bitters. But a Gin Fitzgerald sounds much cooler. It was invented by Dale DeGroff
The Artesian Spring Cocktail was developed for my wife, Stefanie. It combines mint, cucumber, gin and Cynar, an Italian artichoke flavored aperitif (her favorite). This drink is a bit of a pain in the ass to make… it involves several shakers and quite a few ingredients. In other words, it’s perfect for her.
Artesian Spring Cocktail
1.5 oz. Gin
.75 oz. Cynar
.75 oz. Lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
.25 tsp. salt*
2 oz. peeled, seeded cucumber
3 drops Angostura
1 drop Rose Water
2 oz. Cucumber Foam
A Few mint leaves
Combine the cucumber and salt in a shaker and muddle thoroughly to extract as much juice from the cucumber as possible. Add the lime juice, sugar and mint (all but one small leaf) and muddle a bit more, just trying to extract the oils from the mint. Add the gin and Cynar, along with some cracked ice, and shake well. Serve up in a fancy glass, add a dollop of cucumber foam, drop the Angostura and rose water on the foam, and garnish with a mint leaf.
2 oz. peeled, seeded cucumber
.75 oz. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
.75 oz. egg white
Combine lime juice and cucumber in a bar glass and muddle to extract as much flavor from the cucumber as possible. Strain out the lime juice, and combine in a shaker with egg white and sugar. Shake this thoroughly for a few minutes. I’ve seen a bartender add a spring from a strainer to the shaker, which helps emulsify the foam. Or, if you’re fancy, you could just use an ISI canister.
*The salt in this cocktail seems like a weird twist, but it really merges the flavors of the mint, citrus and cucumber. It’s not overpowering – just enough to enhance the flavors.
Another excellent gin cocktail is the Martinez Cocktail… widely regarded as the precursor to the Martini Cocktail.
The Martinez Cocktail
2 oz. Old Tom Gin
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 dash Angostura Bitters
2 dash Maraschino Liquor (Luxardo if possible)
Combine all ingredients in a large bar glass, add a few large cubes of ice and stir – don’t shake*. Serve up in a martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel.
A few notes… Old Tom gin is considerably sweeter than a Plymouth or London Dry gin, but not quite as sweet as a Genever (Dutch gin). It was pretty much unavailable in the U.S. since prohibition, but is now being made by the Hayman’s company under the name “Hayman’s Old Tom Gin.” Some people also add simple syrup to their London Dry which apparently is pretty close, though I haven’t tried it. Old Tom gin is called for quite a bit in Jerry Thomas’ book How to Mix Drinks. While it doesn’t work in every gin application it can be used in quite a few cocktails that call for dry gin and sugar. Think Tom Collins. Mmmmm.
The original recipe calls for a bit of “gomme” (simple) syrup, but by today’s standards that makes for a pretty f-ing sweet drink, as the luxardo and italian vermouth are both very sweet. Jerry Thomas also calls for a few dashes of Absinthe, which I think works in just about everything, but seems to get lost in this drink.
*While I may do a post on shaking vs. stirring cocktails, as a rule of thumb I shake any cocktails with milk, egg or citrus and stir just about everything else. Shaking tends to cloud the liquor (bruise the booze) and that’s not very kick ass. Stirring keeps more of the ice out of the drink, and in general is just easier.