Patriots' Day Recap: Boston Cocktails

I did promise to put up these recipes, didn't I? Well, I'm a man of my word. Enjoy the two most Bostonian of all Boston cocktails!

Ward Eight
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
3/4 oz. Orange Juice
Grenadine to Taste
Shake, strain, and serve up. Garnish with a tiny Massachusetts flag stuck through a maraschino cherry, if you can find such a thing.

1 1/2 oz. Dark Rum
1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz. Apricot Liqueur
1/2 oz. Lime Juice
Shake, strain, and serve up. Garnish with a lime wheel, a lime wedge, or nothing at all (there's quite a bit of lime in there already).

These drinks are "Bostonian" in very different ways - though both, in my view, have a better claim to that title than the I-guess-technically-it-counts Boston Sour, Boston Sidecar, and so on. I've not been able to find any information on the pedigree of those old drinks to bear out the choice of namesake. These two, on the other hand...

The Ward Eight has been around for more than a hundred years, and was probably invented at Locke-Ober. There is some disagreement on whether or not to include the orange juice, and on whether or not to add seltzer on top. There is some speculation that its alleged date of invention was too early for grenadine to have been readily available; there is counter-speculation that the scarcity of the signature ingredient was precisely what made the drink so special when it was first concocted. There is the awkward fact that the man in whose honor the cocktail was invented, and after whose ward it was named, tried and failed to get people to call it something else for years afterwards. 

In short, there is a lot of mystery surrounding this drink. But that's as it should be. Old drinks, if they're good, tend to acquire myths. If you're interested in a deeper dive into the history, I highly recommend Stephanie Schorrow's (extensive) treatment in Drinking Boston.

For our purposes, what matters most is that the Ward Eight has stood unchallenged as Boston's emissary to the cocktail-drinkers of the world for something on the order of a century. It's definitely ours, and it's what we're best known for. My preferred recipe matches this one from David Wondrich, but particularly in light of the drink's muddled history, you should feel quite free to play around with the proportions.

As for the Periodista, its history is in many ways quite the opposite. It's a young recipe, celebrating its twenty-first birthday this year (presumably by ordering a few rounds of itself). We know that it was invented at Chez Henri in Cambridge. It's a local drink, ubiquitous in greater Boston but unknown to the rest of the world. Our delicious little secret.

There's a lot more to the story, but I won't spoil the fun here. Devin Hahn, the man who first figured out where this drink came from, has written a gorgeous narrative of his journey to the truth in twenty-three parts. You can binge your way through it in an hour or two; if you're even slightly considering that, I promise you it's worth it. The story begins here.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who came to the Patriots' Day party for an in-person lesson on these drinks! Stay tuned for more announcements of public events! (And one other major announcement coming soon - mysterious, eh?)

Prohibition Cocktails

Finally getting around to putting up the recipes from our Repeal Day party - which, in case you're wondering, went very well:

We'll definitely be using the model again, so keep a look out for announcements on other holidays. In the mean time, here are the recipes we covered:

1 1/2 oz. Dry Gin
1 1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Fernet Branca
Twist of orange or dash of orange bitters
Stir with ice and serve neat.

The first patron to consume this drink is said to have downed it in one gulp, and then exclaimed, "That is the real hanky-panky!" At that time, and in Britain especially, which is where it was invented, the phrase would have meant something like "black magic," and the whole sentence roughly, "That's so good I can't believe it." Its *ahem* other connotations, particularly in the United States, didn't exactly hurt the drink's popularity during Prohibition, when speakeasy bartenders were serving titillating drinks like the Between-the-Sheets and the Monkey Gland. (In our age of Screaming Orgasms and Slow, Comfortable Screws Against the Wall, it all seems a little quaint and innocent, doesn't it?)

Those who know me know that Fernet Branca is, in my view, the most foul drinking concoction yet conceived of by man. Yes, it's worse than Malort - and by a long shot. Yes, it's worse than Dr. McGillicuddy's peppermint schnapps. Yes, it's worse than plastic-bottle Popov vodka. It's like someone took a perfectly good bottle of Amaro Meletti and threw all three of those in there, with a little Aunt Jemima's for color. By what hanky-panky it has brainwashed so many otherwise-reasonable people into claiming that they like it, I have no idea.

Having said all of that (and much more besides; don't get me started), I have to compliment the Hanky-Panky Cocktail, for being the only drink I have ever had that uses Fernet Branca well. It adds a suite of interesting flavors, including its signature menthol, saffron, and bitter bite, all of which are able to contribute without overpowering one's senses because there are only two drops of the stuff. Perhaps the secret to using Fernet Branca well is to treat it as a non-potable bitters, and never use more than a dash. In any case, it and the little, remarkably essential bit of orange oil are enough to pull this cocktail's flavor profile far away from the sweet Martini it would otherwise be.

1 1/2 oz. Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 oz. Pomegranate Grenadine
Shake with ice and serve neat.

Another Prohibition drink-naming style is the "laugh about how illegal all of this is" school. The Three-Mile Limit falls into this category, named after the distance one had to travel off the coast before reaching international waters and legal hooch. So does the Twelve-Mile Limit, invented shortly after that distance was quadrupled.

The Scofflaw is another such funny case. I assumed for a very long time that "scofflaw" was a general old-fashioned word for a ne'er-do-well, but it actually referred to scoffing at one law in particular. The Boston Herald held a contest, to see who could coin the best term to describe all the people flagrantly and frequently violating the Volstead Act; "scofflaw," submitted by two different people, was the winner. So, in a purely technical sense, one could argue that the teetotaling '20s kingpin Arnold Rothstein was less of a scofflaw than the average speakeasy patron.

As for the drink, which is somewhat similar to its cousins the N-Mile Limits, this is a nice case where what you see is what you get. It's sweet and it's tart, and it's a bit smoother and more complex than it would be without the vermouth. The end result is what you would get if a Brooklyn and a Jack Rose met up for a little law-scoffing and ended up with a little hanky-panky.

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.