• Cocktails for Memorial Day: The Pegu Club

    Pegu Club Cocktail and ingredients.

    Another classic cocktail for the weekend. And after posting the Ancient Mariner, a tiki drink with a hard-to-find ingredient in allspice dram, we decided to go for a cocktail you can make almost anywhere. And the Pegu Club has been made and enjoyed just about everywhere.

    The Pegu Club is named after an old-time (and now defunct) British colonial club in Rangoon, Burma Myanmar. As with many colonial clubs they had their own cocktail, in this case a mixture of London dry gin (the British need their gin), Cointreau (or orange curacao), lime juice and a few bitters. A simple drink, but a very good one. And if you just thought “margarita with gin”, you are onto something. The Sidecar begets the Pegu Club and soon enough you get a Margarita. Old recipe + new booze= new cocktail. And so it goes.

    Pegu Club Cocktail.

    Cocktail historians track the Pegu Club back to at least the 1920′s, when the drink became popular worldwide. It is listed as a popular cocktail in Harry Craddock’s Savory Cocktail Book from the 1930′s. Then after World War II, the Pegu faded from view as other cocktails emerged. But good cocktails never die, and sometimes they don’t fade away either. They re-emerge. Luckily the Pegu Club is making a comeback. It certainly helps that Audrey Sanders, widely considered one of the best bartenders in the world, opened her bar “The Pegu Club” in NYC many years ago and helped spur the cocktail revival. If you name your bar after a drink, it had better be good.

    And it is very good. Openly sour, but smooth and with enough sweetness from the Cointreau and spice from the bitters, the Pegu Club goes down almost too easy. But as it was a “club” drink, the Pegu Club is still an elegant creation. If you have to put on a collared shirt (or, god forbid, dress-up) this weekend, the Pegu Club would be an excellent companion. And if you are grilling and listening to baseball on the radio with your family, and we hope you are, the Pegu Club can hold its own.

    Pegu Club Cocktail ingredients.

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  • Cocktails for Memorial Day: The Presbyterian / The Mamie Taylor

    Mamie Taylor Cocktail. A Presbyterian Cocktail with lime.

    More recipes for Memorial Day weekend. The inspiration for these cocktails comes from an odd source, although I guess any cocktail called a Presbyterian has an odd source. The history and traditions of the Presbyterian church are somewhat austere to be the source of many cocktails.

    Anyway, it turns out that our local farmers market is near a very popular church. The church is so big they have three services every Sunday morning, which happens to be our farmers market time. Most of the year this isn’t a big deal, but as we get into summer the crowds at the farmers market grow and parking becomes scarce. Tempers can flare a bit (silly, I know, but such is local life) with the crowds and one friend recently remarked “better get there early or you will be chucking elbows with those damned Presbyterians!” Classic.

    While we don’t have a dog in that fight, the comment did remind us of the Presbyterian cocktail. We were looking for a summer drink that used whiskey, rather than lighter spirits and the Presbyterian does the trick. The Presbyterian not only uses whiskey, it uses blended scotch, something we don’t often equate with summer. The Presbyterian combines 1 part scotch with 1-2 parts of ginger ale (or ginger beer) served over ice. And it is surprisingly good, particularly if you like scotch or blended whiskey. The sip is refreshing, with a touch of the smoke and peat from the scotch and some sweetness and spice from the ginger ale. The scotch keeps the sweetness in check and provides a clean finish. A good cocktail but perhaps a bit off-beat for some.

    Happily, we are just a little lime juice away from the “evolution” of the Presbyterian, the Mamie Taylor. Most cocktail historians agree the Presbyterian was created in the late 1890′s and that by 1900 someone added some lime and called it the Mamie Taylor, and it became a very popular drink. Mamie, it seems, was a famous singer of the time, just not famous enough to leave any other records or herself (heck, maybe she just knew the bartender who created the drink). At least she lives on as a cocktail, and the lime juice certainly makes the Mamie Taylor more approachable and balanced. The lime juice adds the acidity and sour notes that play well with the scotch and ginger ale. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as both the Dark and Stormy and the Moscow Mule are believed to be variants of the Mamie Taylor and both remain popular drinks. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #13: The Seelbach Cocktail

    The Seelbach Cocktail

    One of the cool things about cocktails is how one drink can provoke many different reactions (and some fun conversations). And this week’s feature, the Seelbach Cocktail is a very good example. Created at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville Kentucky in 1917, the Seelbach cocktail combines bourbon, Cointreau, liberal doses of Angostura and Peychauds bitters all topped with dry champagne. The drink is sweet from the bourbon and Cointreau, with pronounced spice from the bitters but has a dry, light finish from the champagne. The Seelbach is a balanced, tasty, classic drink that is often seen on better cocktail menus. This is a cocktail we will continue to make, and enjoy, regularly.

    But beyond simply tasting good, what makes the Seelbach so interesting is the varied reactions to the flavors. Both Carolyn and I lean towards lighter gin, rum and tequila cocktails. When we tasted the Seelbach’s sweet bourbon, orange and spice we immediately thought “great for winter holidays”. But our friends who enjoy Manhattans and Old Fashioneds like the Seelbach as a “lighter”, almost summery, drink. If you are a fan of whiskey-based cocktails, the Seelbach certainly succeeds in keeping the flavor profile of whiskey, but also adding new dimensions and a cleaner finish. Having such broad, but varied, appeal is pretty nice trick for such a simple drink.

    Making the Seelbach is easy, but there are differences between recipes on the proportion of bitters. The original recipe calls for up to 7 dashes each of Angostura and Peychauds bitters, while other recipes (like Ted Haigh’s) call for 2-3 dashes each of the bitters. We went with the full seven dashes and like the pronounced spice flavor, but the bitters will show even with 2-3 dashes. These are fun experiments, so feel free to play around. Besides, you can use this as an excuse to make another round. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #12: The Cherry Fling

    Cherry Fling Cocktail

    A few things came together recently to provide us with this week’s cocktail, the Cherry Fling. Firstly, our friend Roger came over for dinner and happened to see a bottle of genever on the bar and was curious. Secondly, cherries are in season (yes!). One thing leads to another and we get the Cherry Fling Cocktail.

    As for the cherries, ours are green and on the tree, but the farmers market had some beautiful early-season Bing cherries. The cherries were a deep, dark red and very sweet but with some tart notes. The cherries will end up in pies and ice cream soon, but we wanted something now, so we went right for a cocktail. We did some research and found a few good cocktail recipes using fresh cherries, like the Ruby Tuesday (good drink, btw), that include whiskey as the base spirit. In fact, most fresh cherry cocktails have bourbon or rye as the base spirit and add lemon juice. But Carolyn didn’t want a “brown drink” and I was thinking limes rather than lemons with the cherries (I love cherry limeade, yum). Limes, however, don’t usually go with rye or bourbon. Luckily, this led us right to the genever.

    So how did we come up with a cherry and genever cocktail? As we mentioned, our friend Roger came over for dinner the other night. We made Roger a genever Old Fashioned that was very tasty and reminded us that quality genever can easily replace rye or bourbon in many cocktails. For those of you unfamiliar with genever (also known as Hollands gin or jenever), it is an early form of gin made in the pot-style stills most often associated with making whiskey. Like dry gin, genever has juniper and botanical flavors, but also features malty notes and a heavier mouthfeel. Good stuff. We like Genevieve from Anchor Distilling but Bols also makes a well-regarded genever. Genever is often taken straight or on the rocks, but mixologists also use genever as a slightly lighter, more herbal substitute in “brown” drinks, or to add more body and depth to cocktails that use dry gin. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #10: The Corpse Reviver No. 2

    Corpse Reviver No. 2

    We are back from tiki-land! This week’s cocktail, the Corpse Reviver No. 2 is a very tasty drink, but also has some good cocktail history attached to it.

    First, let’s get to the back-story. The Corpse Reviver No. 2 is first mentioned in the famous cocktail guide “The Savoy Cocktail Book“. The Savoy Cocktail Book is/was a 1930′s classic cocktail book from the Savoy London Hotel’s legendary bartender, Harry Craddock. It is worth buying as a cocktail recipe book and/or coffee table book. The book has hundreds of old-time cocktail recipes (some great, some happily lost in time), whimsical illustrations and the occasional witty remark from the author. And it is one of these witty remarks that make the Corpse Reviver No. 2 famous in cocktail circles.

    After giving you the recipe for the Corpse Reviver No. 2 (equal parts gin, lemon juice, Lillet, Cointreau and a dash of absinthe), Craddock dryly notes “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again”. A good line, and one that has been mentioned in just about every cocktail book since, including Gary Regan’s “Joy of Mixology” and one of our faves, Jim Meehan’s “PDT Cocktail Book“.

    The problem is, that many readers may think the drink is only mentioned because of the (just slightly) silly name and witty comment, but in fact, the Corpse Reviver No.2 is a very, very good cocktail- and one worth making on a regular basis. You may also see this drink on the menu at many good cocktail bars, we suggest you give it a try. And if you happen to feel a bit bleary, this drink would certainly live up to its name, it is a bright, balanced and flavorful drink- with more depth than you might expect.

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  • Weekly Cocktail #9: Cameron’s Kick

    Cameron's Kick Cocktail

    It’s late at night, and I am writing this now because our local barn owl is keeping me up. (No, I don’t know “who”, so shaddup already!..;-) It could be worse, the owl used to scratch around on our roof while eating its prey. Very cool, but also kinda creepy.

    In any event, this week’s cocktail, the Cameron’s Kick, comes from what is rapidly becoming my favorite cocktail book, the “PDT Cocktail Book” by Jim Meehan, with illustrations by Chris Gall. David Wondrich’s “Imbibe” is still my foundation for cocktails, but the “PDT Cocktail Book” almost seems to pick up where Wondrich left off. The PDT cocktail book has over 300 classic and new recipes, notes on ingredients and real insight on how to stock and manage a modern bar. It was clearly a labor of love and passion. Chris Gall’s illustrations add a whimsical touch that reminds you, that while Meehan takes his drinks seriously, cocktails should be fun.

    As for the Cameron’s Kick, all I can say is that our “cocktail karma” has been very good recently, this is another drink that exceeded expectations. I was looking for a cocktail that would use up some of our liquor that was almost done, in this case some Johnny Walker Red and some Bushmills. It turns out that the Cameron’s Kick combines blended scotch, Irish whiskey, lemon juice and Orgeat syrup. In case you are scratching your head, Orgeat is the special “almond-ish” flavor in  a Mai Tai- you may have some in the back of your liquor cabinet or bar right now. If not, Orgeat syrup is cheap and easy to find, go get some and then you can make Mai Tai’s as well, and who doesn’t like a Mai Tai? Continue reading