Two Anniversaries, and a Mystery

Today, you may be aware, is the two hundredth anniversary of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo. (This is a big year, apparently - the Magna Carta turned eight hundred on Monday.)

My first thought on hearing this, naturally, was, "Is there a Waterloo Cocktail?" And, just as naturally, there is:

Waterloo Sunset
1/2 oz. Beefeater Gin
2 tsp Elderflower Cordial
1 tsp Raspberry Liqueur
Champagne to fill
Stir the gin and cordial with ice and strain into a Champagne flute. Float the Champagne on top, then carefully pour the raspberry liqueur through the Champagne, so it also floats on the gin and cordial.

(Recipe modified from metric units to the units that landed men on the moon.)

"Elderflower Cordial" in this case does not mean a "cordial" in the contemporary American sense, synonymous with "liqueur"; but in the older or British  sense, essentially an infusion of elderflowers in sugar and water. St. Elder or St. Germain would approximate this flavor reasonably well, while admittedly adding a few things of their own.

Now, ordinarily, this would be the part where the author signs off, with maybe a musing about Waterloo for the road. But today, as I was doing my research, I found this article as well. For those who don't feel like going through the Scheherazadean exercise of articles within articles, here's the money quote:

"In France, 18 June is remembered not for Waterloo but as the day General de Gaulle launched his appeal from London in 1940, calling his fellow countrymen to resist the German occupation."

In other words, today is also the 75th anniversary, at least symbolically, of the start of the French Resistance. Which naturally made me wonder, "Is there a Charles de Gaulle Cocktail?"

And, just as naturally, there is. The folks at Cocktail Virgin and/or Slut have a post about it, too, and although these are the only sources I can find, they don't precisely agree.

Everybody's on the same page that this is a Green Chartreuse, hot chocolate, and dairy drink. In the first of those two links, you'll see heated milk and a garnish of heavy cream called for (although the cocoa is still a powder in that recipe, so the milk could be read as simply indicating a rich hot chocolate). In the latter, no particular type of cream is specified, but its location is: on top.

So we've got a slug of Chartreuse in a mug of hot chocolate with some species of decorative cream surtopping it. Remind you of anything?

By which - say it with me now - naturally, I mean the Verte Chaud.

This is a reasonably well-known drink, evidently thanks to Jamie Boudreau, since most of the online references I see cite him as their source.

As a non-Francophone, I have to give credit to blind luck, careful Googling, and this young lady's travel blog, for introducing me collectively to the idea of "chocolat chaud," which is, literally, French for "hot chocolate."

The name of the Verte Chaud is thereby made clear, "Chartreuse Verte" being French for "Green Chartreuse." The convention here is rather like a Black and Tan, or a Whiskey Sour - the name is not so much a name as a description. "Green Hot."

This is so far identical to the Charles de Gaulle. But what of the cream? "Wet cream," the topping in several of the Verte Chaud recipes, is evidently like the kind of whipped cream you make yourself, if you stopped whipping it before it really got stiff.

But one of those links, courtesy of PDT's Jim Meehan, calls for "heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks.And here, the gap is bridged.

As a non-baker, I have to thank really simple Googling and this cooking blog for clarifying that heavy cream and whipping cream are very nearly the same, with as little as 6% fat making the difference. For our purposes, they are basically interchangeable.

Which means that the conclusion of this whole exercise is that the Verte Chaud and the Charles de Gaulle are exactly the same drink:

Verte Chaud de Gaulle
2 oz. Green Chartreuse
6 oz. or 1 mug rich hot chocolate
Top with a dollop of cream, whipped just shy of stiff

Calling this the Verte Chaud makes sense. Calling it the Charles de Gaulle also makes sense, because it's showing off several of France's iconic national products. I'm guessing the purely descriptive name is prior, but really, I've got nothing but guesses about the historical nomenclature. For now.

Next stop: Eastern Standard, which I infer from the preceding posts on CVa/oS is where they had the Charles de Gaulle back in 2007.

In the mean time, chaud damn, there's a lot of French history to reflect on today. Happy drinking - the past is best considered with a glass in hand.

Levantine Martini

Levantine Martini

2 oz. Boodles gin
1/2 oz. Noilly Prat dry vermouth
1/4 oz. Kassatly Ajyal Lebanese tamarind syrup
Twist of orange

It amazes me, in hindsight, that this wasn’t the first thing I thought of when that bottle of tamarind syrup walked through my door. Truth be told, it came to me because I was trying to devise a drink as visually interesting as the Yale in a different color palette. It isn’t quite, but it’s tasty enough that I don’t mind.

This result should be surprising to no one. Both this and the Yale are essentially variations on the classic Martini, and this one hews much closer to a Martini flavor. The tamarind hits sour and savory notes, both of which complement the gin and vermouth that are the cocktail’s bread and butter. In the Martini, you ordinarily get one or the other: a twist of lemon, or a cocktail olive.

Someday I’d like to visit a bar where the “Martini Menu” contains nothing but honest-to-God members of the Martini family. The Yale, the Vesper, the Martinez, the Gibson - it’s a surprisingly robust group, and there’s still more that can be done with it. Unfortunately the market for such a place is on the small side. Do let me know if you find one.

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…