Brooklyn

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
Dash or two Maraschino liqueur
Dash aromatic bitters

Four out of the five boroughs of New York have cocktails named after them, of which the Manhattan is by far the most famous. Staten Island, somehow, is the teetotaler.

When the other three borough-cocktails are mentioned, it's usually to pan them. Embury tells us that far more Manhattans than Brooklyns are made even in Brooklyn, which, while definitely true, is perhaps rubbing it in a little too much. It's a very pleasant drink from time to time.

Among those who bother to make it, there are two schools of the Brooklyn. One simply makes it a dry Manhattan (implicitly making the sweet Manhattan coextensive with the Manhattan category). This, too, is an enjoyable cocktail, but there isn't much reason to give it its own name.

I prefer the second school, which adds Maraschino liqueur to the mix, creating a decidedly different drink. Maraschino fills out the body and adds a sweet, earthy dimension to the flavor profile.

I went with Dutch's Boomtown Bitters, previously written-up, on top. Amer Picon is often specifically indicated, in this and other cocktail recipes, but there's no need to wring your hands if you haven't got it. It's a bitters. Experiment with your own citrus or aromatic bitters until you find one that you like.

I should also note that my above recipe is approximate. The Brooklyn is a great tinkerer's drink. If you find you like it with a tablespoon of Maraschino, more power to you. These proportions should at least have you playing in in the right ballpark.

Vieux Carré

Vieux Carré (dry)

1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. dry vermouth
2 barspoons Bénédictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Stir before adding bitters. Serve neat or with ice, as you prefer.

I’ve been wanting to put this one up for a while. I made these left, right, and center while Mardi Gras was upon us, but they were going down so fast I never got a photo of one. Until now!

"Vieux Carré" is the French name for what Anglophones would call the French Quarter, New Orleans’s oldest, most famous neighborhood. The Vieux Carré is not New Orleans’s most famous cocktail, that honor probably falling to the Sazerac, but it was invented there, at the Carousel Bar of the Hotel Monteleone.

This is a nice cocktail in that all of the recipes are very similar. It’s not quite as formulaic as the Negroni, but it’s reasonably easy to get in your head. Start with equal parts of whiskey, brandy and vermouth. Add a spoonful or so of Bénédictine, then top with equal parts of Angostura and Peychaud’s (ordinarily one or two dashes). All the recipes I’ve seen for the Vieux Carré can be described like this, although they quibble over the precise numbers. Mine is more Bénédictine-heavy than most, but, hey, I like Bénédictine.

The Vieux Carré is most commonly found with sweet vermouth. I have to credit Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails with the knowledge that it can be made with the dry stuff as well. It’s a perfect one-for-one substitution. That’s not always the case - Jon and I had to do a lot more doctoring when we tried to make a dry Americano. But in this case, don’t stress about your vermouth. I just use whichever I feel like that day, or in this case, happen to have on hand.

According to Haigh, this drink had been forgotten at the Carousel Bar itself, until very recently. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case. The Carousel Bar is, in fact, where I first met the Vieux Carré, during Tales of the Cocktail in 2012.

Sidecar

Sidecar

4 parts (2 oz.) Courvoisier cognac
1 part (1/2 oz.) Cointreau
1 part (1/2 oz.) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Sugar rim

This is where that lemon juice I mentioned went. The Sidecar may well be my favorite of the classic recipes. It’s also one of a very small number of drinks I consider to be “solved” - that is, I’ve found a way to make them that I like so much, I see no reason to deviate.

Courvoisier is far and away the best cocktail cognac. Hennessy, its closest cousin in terms of quality, has a harsh bite to it that relegates it to use in brandy/rye and brandy/bourbon cocktails, which are already covering a parallel trait in the whiskey. Courvoisier retails in the low thirties.

Cointreau is an orange liqueur with a neutral base. Most bars use it for their Sidecars. If you have your own orange liqueur, feel free to substitute it. Luxardo’s triple sec, Solerno blood orange liqueur, and the inimitable Grand Marnier all make pleasant Sidecar variations, although you should note that the substitution is not as easy in most drinks, particularly in the case of Grand Marnier. (Thus, “inimitable.”)

With a drink like this, so simple and with so few ingredients, always use fresh lemon juice. I tell people a drink is never better than its worst ingredient. Sometimes you can get away with a weak link, if it’s a bit player in the act. Here you can’t.

I recommend shaking for the Sidecar. It’s advisable for all drinks with fruit juices in them, to be sure everything distributes evenly. The bit of water from the melting ice also opens up the flavor of certain spirits, including brandy. All that said, you can stir this one without too much worry.

The eternal Sidecar question is, “Sugared rim?” The answer may be yes or no. Certainly you shouldn’t be afraid of it. The sugar is there to answer the sour of the fresh lemon. The drink works without it, but sometimes you’re in the right mood. If you’re worried you’ll look girly drinking out of a sugar-rimmed glass, stick to Old Fashioneds until you’re secure in your masculinity. The rest of you, keep reading.

To sugar a glass, pour some powdered or granulated sugar into a small dish or saucer. Please be sure your dish is larger than the glass you intend to coat, and your sugar isn’t in clumps. Chill the glass in the freezer for a few minutes. When you take it out, there will be condensation on it. Overturn the glass into the dish of sugar, and give it a few turns. The sugar will stick to the wet rim of the glass. Something similar may be accomplished by filling the glass temporarily with ice cubes to chill it, or by running a bit of lemon around the rim. So long as it’s wet, the sugar will stick.

This works any time you need to sugar a glass, or salt one, if you’re making Margaritas. Assuming all your dishes and glassware are clean, you can even return the leftover sugar to its container when you’re finished. Or revel in the decadence of pitching it. Up to you.

Martini

Martini

5 parts (1 1/4 oz.) Booths London dry gin
2 parts (1/2 oz.) Noilly Prat dry vermouth
Twist of lemon

Drink No. 2 in the rundown of Embury’s basic/classic cocktails is the Martini. If the Manhattan is the most accessible, the Martini is probably the least. Most people who drink “Martinis” or [word]-tinis would balk at the big glass of gin that is an actual Martini. The Herzog Cocktail School offers counter-instruction.

There are many kinds of gin, with different production processes and resulting flavor palates. For the purposes of cocktail mixing, I find it useful to describe three types: dry, herbal, and neutral. Dryness is a flavor you become accustomed to when you drink a lot of gin. If you haven’t experienced it, “un-sweet” is probably the best footing to put you on. It tends to feel boozy, and heavy, relative to other gins.

Herbal gins are your Botanists and Hendrick’ses. They have a really powerful flavor of herbs and spices. “Botanical” is the more prevalent term among aficionadoes, but calling Botanist gin “botanical” doesn’t seem particularly helpful. Neutral gins don’t jump out either way. They may be slightly citric, a little sweet, or a little more juniper-y. They’re your most versatile base for gin cocktails.

Booths is not a neutral gin. It is a very dry gin, as will be anything labelled “London dry.” In a dry-gin Martini, you want to be very careful there’s enough vermouth to offer a counterpoint. In general, between 3:1 and 7:1 gin:vermouth is a reasonable proportion for the Martini, making our 5:2 a little off the vermouthy side. Trust me when I say the gin needed it. Cocktails are a game of balances.

The classic Martini question is not, in fact, “Vodka or gin?” but, “Olive or twist?” Another way to put this is, “Savory or sour?” Which direction to bring the drink in? The Martini has many cousins which wrestle with the same issue. I opted for the twist of lemon, chiefly because I had lemons but no cocktail olives. Both are valid. The lemon version is a crisper drink, the olive one heavier. Dirty Martinis, which incorporate the olive juice, are heaviest of all.

Incidental note: I haven’t got a citrus zester, unlike our friends at Don’t Blame the Gin. I improvised the twist you see there, by cutting a lemon in half, and shaving off the rind around the edge with the knife, cutting away any fruity bits when I was done. Not too shabby a job, if I say so myself.

What happened to the rest of the lemon, you ask? Check the next update to find out…

Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

2 oz. Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey
1/2 or so tsp Demerara simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

The Old Fashioned is the original cocktail. When the word “cocktail” was coined, it referred to a combination of a spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. In the way that Sour, Flip, Fizz, Daisy, Fix, Crusta, and so on are drink categories characterized by particular formulas, so, originally, was Cocktail.

Ordinarily, I encourage the shaking of drinks that feature syrups, but the Old Fashioned has been around longer than cocktail shakers, I say stir. It’s a rough drink, rough in the sense that Teddy Roosevelt was rough. It’s nearly all whiskey. Careful measurements and advanced mixological techniques don’t belong here.

Old Fashioneds historically were made with rye, then with bourbon for many years, and now with rye again. Rye is more complex nine times out of ten, which matters a lot when the flavor palate you’re working with comes 85% or so from the whiskey. I used Bully Boy’s American Straight Whiskey (distilled in Boston!), which is made from a mash halfway between a bourbon and a rye mash. The result is very interesting and very smooth - smoother even than a lot of bourbons, which are allegedly the sweeter American whiskey. Whatever you use to mix these, be sure it’s of decent quality, and you enjoy it. Your particular whiskey selection should be one you would sip on its own.

There is a newer school of Old Fashioneds that involves muddled fruit. These can be enjoyable, but yield a distinctly different drinking experience. I’ll cover them some other time. For now, our foray into Embury’s basic/classic cocktails is concluded. The Daiquiri and the Jack Rose will follow eventually.

Finally, a shout-out to Jon, whose Demerara simple syrup was the sugar I had on hand for this. Demerara has a rich flavor, and makes a syrup that’s almost black. It blends very well with aged liquors.

Manhattan

Manhattan

3 parts (1.5 oz.) Old Overholt rye whiskey
2 parts (1 oz.) Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
3-4 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters

Yesterday was a snow day for me, so I decided to whip up examples of David Embury’s major classic cocktails. There are six he says everybody ought to be able to make, as a basis for cocktail knowledge, and for further experimentation. I realize I’ve put up plenty of innovations and outlandish drinks, but the really essential standby cocktails haven’t gotten much airtime. That changes now.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make all of them. A trot out to the corner store (good on them, being open) got me the citrus I needed, but I was still short the Daiquiri’s light rum and applejack for the Jack Rose. The others will show up as I load them in, all tagged appropriately.

I started with the Manhattan, one of the most famous and most accessible classic cocktails. The Manhattan is that rare drink that is not merely more, but something else entirely than the sum of its parts. A well-mixed Manhattan does not taste like whiskey or vermouth. It tastes like a Manhattan.

The recipe you see here is a bit of a poor-man’s Manhattan. Old Overholt is perfectly serviceable, but it is bottom-shelf, by rye standards. Now, fortunately, rye whiskey is like applejack, brandy, gin, and dark rum, in that the cheapest stuff you can possibly find will be miles ahead of the glorified ethanol that comes packaged as bottom-shelf vodka, light rum, or nonspecific “whiskey.” I’ll indicate in later posts on the Manhattan what price point we’re talking about. The Manhattan, like many of the classics, falls into the “easy to learn, hard to master” category. It can be varied greatly.

For now, though, let’s talk about the poor-man’s Manhattan. Old Overholt and Jim Beam are the two cheapest ryes on the market. Expect to pay $15 for a fifth. I’ve seen them anywhere from $11 to $22, but $15 is a good estimate. I happened to have Old Overholt, although I tend to prefer the Jim Beam, which is slightly more complex. A tenth-size bottle of Martini & Rossi will hit around $7 or $8 at the most. It is the cheapest vermouth on the market, but as with rye, cheap vermouth is still plenty drinkable.

Never be stingy with the non-whiskey ingredients in a Manhattan, but especially when you’re using bargain ingredients. I say 3-4 dashes here. The bourgeois Manhattan would call for 2-3. The royal Manhattan uses such good stuff the bitters falls to one dash. The vermouth percentage also falls as the whiskey gets better - but I reiterate, don’t be stingy. If your Manhattan is drier than about a 3:1 whiskey:vermouth ratio, you’d be better off with an Old Fashioned.

The end result is extremely drinkable, and a good example of how to do cocktails on a budget. If you (and your guests) are used to drinking nothing but highballs, the Manhattan is a great transition drink. Just be careful with your vermouth, which will eventually spoil if left out. Keep it in the fridge, and you should be fine.