Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Warm Drink...

...sort of. Perhaps in response to the recent country-wide (by all reports) absence of summery weather, I recently found myself craving the warm flavor of a delightful (and very old) drink which I often compound in the wintertime; a concoction called a Bishop...

The first written reference to the Bishop - which is really just a variation on the concept of a flavored or spiced (i.e. mulled) wine - of which I am aware is from 1827 in the first edition of Richard 'Cicero' Cook's Oxford Night Caps. However, in its' description of the beverage, this text claims the drink was known to appear in the records of the oldest established Colleges (which would eventually become Oxford); referenced as early as 1447!

Now, the recipe as put to paper in 1827 is a truly fantastic drink for the depths of winter - involving the roasting of a Clove-studded Lemon, the mulling of Cinnamon, Mace, Nutmeg and Allspice in water and a fiery reduction of heated Port or Claret wine. Said reciept also includes an addendum, stating that, "Oranges, though not used in Bishop at Oxford, are [...] sometimes introduced into that beverage." Let it be known gentle reader, that though I am decidedly not an Oxford man, I still use their recipe (with Oranges mind you) for preparing this wintertime cup (and frankly, so should you).

But we are not, despite the unseasonably-chill & moist weather, in the grips of winter, so what use is bringing up a hot cocktail now? The answer (or part of it) lies, as it often does, in the works of Jerry Thomas, who lists two Bishops in his venerable books. The first is a simplified "English Bishop", prepared and served hot as the 'wags at Oxford would have scoffed at (using Oranges), whereas the second is compounded differently, using that glorious invention - ice. As you will note at left, in his recipe for the cold "Protestant" Bishop, Thomas also calls for a small quantity of flavorful Santa Cruz or Jamaican rum to impart some of the spice character which would otherwise be absent from the drink.

Now, while the "Protestant" Bishop makes for a great drink as written, it lacks much of the toasty, caramelized spice flavors which lend the English variety its considerable appeal; so what's a cocktailian to do? Blend the most favorable qualities & techniques of all the recipes, with a few borrowed modern twists, like so:

Bishop Brûlée
3 oz. Ruby Port
Bitters Mist (see below)
1½ wheels: fresh Orange
1 wheel: fresh Lemon
1 Tsp. superfine white Sugar
3x whole Cloves
1 slice: candied Ginger
Combine the fruit & dry ingredients in a mixing glass. Using a Misto sprayer (or another pump-atomizer), spray a little of the Bitters mist [a 1:1 mixture of Angostura bitters & Lemon Hart 151° Demerara Rum] over the ingredients. Carefully brûlée the ingredients by spraying short bursts of the mist into the glass, rotating it slowly to ensure an even distribution of the flame. Once the sugar has caramelized, add the Port with ice & shake well. Fine-strain into a chilled Sour glass & garnish with a grate of fresh Nutmeg.

The resulting libation gifts the Port with a pleasant, not-too sweet melange of the roasted citrus, toasty spice & carmelized sugar flavors of the original varieties; all in-conjunction with the chilled, easily (sort of) compounded nature of the "Protestant" version. It also has the advantage of an impressive spot of presentation. In fine-tuning the recipe over the past (all-too wet & chilly) weekend at 'Clover, many of our guests were well-pleased at the warming characteristics of this otherwise cold libation (as well as the show), and I hope you will be too...just be careful with the fire please...

Cheers & Enjoy!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Foggy Origins...

The world of classic cocktails and venerable mixed drinks is often a decidedly-murky one. As past articles here and elsewhere have shown, the specifics or provenance of a given recipe may not always be clear - a characteristic of most any historical researches; much less one so liberally soaked in 'the sauce...

For example, a drink published at one point in history might hail from a recipe that is, in fact, far older. Many old bar guides (and lots of new ones too) - including those written by individuals who are widely-considered masters - often dredge up vast collections of recipes pillaged verbatim from still-older sources. To further complicate matters, in many cases a formula presented in one source will profit (or suffer) from modifications foisted upon it by a clever fellow (who then further compounds the record by printing their personalized version elsewhere). This is often even further complicated by changes to (or the sheer unavailibility of) a beverage's component ingredients: take, for instance, Erik Ellestead's longstanding search for Hercules.

Finally, the art of mixing drinks has often been an intensely-secretive one; particularly those recipes hailing from the Tiki era of mixology, wherein rival establishments (Trader Vic & Don Beach, for example) jealously guarded their formulations. Sometimes the very bartenders mixing the drinks didn't even know precisely what the components were!

Under such circumstances, envision a further complication: a patron at one establishment might have enjoyed one such drink so much that, upon visiting a different bar, they would ask for the concoction by name. The bartender at this second spot, wanting to accomodate their customer, but lacking almost any idea as to the composition of the drink being asked after, would come up with something. This drink, perhaps a great one, but likely having nothing to do with its called-for predecessor, would then be disseminated as an X, Y, or Z cocktail, and the original would become even murkier. Hence, for example, the dozens of "Mai-Tai" recipes served accross the globe (and the "necessity" for a recent online Mai-Tai showdown)!

Frankly, in the end I suppose it all comes down to mixing up something balanced that tastes good, and historical conventions be damned (or at least given a cordial nod from behind the mixing glass). Key words there - "balanced" and "good". Such is certainly the case with the following drink:

The Fog Cutter
is widely-attributed (on record) to Trader Vic; he certainly published it as such several times from 1946 on. However, according to Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails the beverage was known to an original Don the Beachcomber's bartender by the name of Tony Ramos, who claims the drink was originated prior to 'Vic & Don's rivalry at an establishment called Edna Earle's Fogcutters in Hollywood, CA. Take a look at this (somewhat) foggy progression:

Fog Cutter (Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946)
"This is delicious, but a triple-threat. You can get pretty stinking on these, no fooling."
2 oz. [light] Puerto Rican Rum (Ron Merito, Boca Chica, or Brugal)
1 oz. Brandy
½ oz. Gin
1 oz. [fresh] Orange juice
2 oz. [fresh] Lemon juice
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
Sherry wine float
Shake with cracked ice [everything but the Sherry], pour into a tall glass [14 oz. Chimney] with ice, and add Sherry wine float [½ oz. of sweet Sherry]. Serve with straws.

Fog Cutter (Don the Beachcomber, date unknown)
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
2 oz. Gold Puerto Rican Rum (Bacardi is specified)
1 oz. Pisco brandy
½ oz. Plymouth Gin
½ oz. Gozalez Sucis Sherry
1 oz. [fresh] Orange juice
2 oz. [fresh] Lemon juice
Shake with ice [everything but the Sherry], pour into a Chimney glass and add more ice to fill. Float Sherry.

Fog Cutter (Tony Ramos via Ted Haigh)
1 oz. white Rum
½ oz. Gin
½ oz. Brandy
½ oz. Sweet & Sour mix
2 dashes Simple syrup
[Cherry Brandy float]
Combine [all but the Cherry Brandy] with ice and blend. Pour into a goblet. Add a float [~¾ oz.] of cherry-flavored Brandy [Cherry Heering] on-top, and serve.

In the first two cases, the recipes are fairly similar - slightly different in their porportion of light to dark spirits (or young & aged if you prefer), but each is a well-balanced take on the same flavor profile. And yet, the third, somehow - almost impossibly considering it's barebones list of ingredients (containing sour mix of all things!) - tastes strikingly similar to the first two. Not that the three are identical - each has its own subtle differences, but in a fit of pure conjecture, I'm willing to venture that the three could certainly be linked by a succession of bartenders working to prepare a drink (or their own variation on it) either on the fly or in imitation. In the end, all are well-made, tasty and balanced libations and that is really the point. So I won't go any further speculating about which drink came first or what variation constitutes the "real" recipe...

I'll just contribute a fourth variation, quite literally inspired as I sat at a recent symposium on Gin (sponsored by Beefeater), and makes delicious use of two ingredients with which I have only recently become acquainted. The smooth, mellow botanicals flavors of Beefeater 24 Gin and the sinfully-sweet & fruity Lustau Capataz Andres Cream Sherry both bring interesting elements to the final flavor profile. Together in-proportion to the other ingredients, I think this one achieves a lovely melange of the flavors of all three of its predecessors (even Mr. Ramos'); alongside some new & interesting floral and botanical notes, but don't take my word for it (©):

London Fog
2 oz. Beefeater 24 Gin
¾ oz. El Dorado 5yr Demerara Rum
¾ oz. Salignac Cognac
¾ oz. Lustau Capataz Andres Sherry float (sub a quality Cream Sherry)
2 oz. fresh Lemon juice
1 oz. fresh Orange juice
½ oz. Orgeat syrup
Combine ingredients, except Sherry, in a mixing glass with cracked ice. Shake well & strain into a 14 oz. Chimney glass mostly-filled with cracked ice. Float Sherry & serve with a straw.

Cheers, Enjoy & never take this cocktail stuff too seriously...

*In the interest of full disclosure, samples of Beefeater 24 were provided for my use.