Inventing cocktails is hard, y’all! Especially when you think you’ve come up with the wittiest cocktail moniker this side of an H.L. Mencken bon mot and don’t want to waste it on a subpar recipe. Even more especially when you’re putting together said recipe and discover that more than one authority has published more than one set of rules for what, exactly, constitutes a swizzle.
According to Tasting Table, where I first read about Death & Co.’s Robert Johnson Swizzle, any and all swizzles are composed of a liquor, a liqueur, a fruit juice and crushed ice. Meanwhile, one of my at-home bartending books lists the swizzle’s fundamental ingredients as a liquor, crushed ice, lime juice (specifically, not just any juice) and club soda… so, like, a rickey? I had to side with the Church of Pre-Prohibition-Style Speakeasy-ish Cocktail Lounges.
Next step: A drink known as the Paris When It Swizzles needs ingredients from France. Seems obvs, but I resisted doing so through my first three attempts because, well, rums and tequilas go better with fruit juices, right? They go so well, in fact, they just sort of faded into the aftermath of the juice and no matter what I drizzled in there to coax them out — Campari, oregat (that’s the almond-y syrup key in classic mai tais), chocolate bitters — the alcohols’ flavors just refused to come out of hiding. I basically had a screwdriver on my hands. Meh.
Feeling momentarily defeated, I retreated to my Robert Johnson Swizzle recipe and leaned on it like a set of training wheels. I also figured I’d try going whole-hog with the Fronche booze idea, and thank goodness I’ve kept that bottle of Lillet in my fridge since forever, despite convincing myself that I’d never figure out a drink to put it in, because now we were getting somewhere!
The Robert Johnson Swizzle features great, tart complexity, which I was more than happy to ape, which I did via the vanilla syrup, lemon juice, and barrel-aged bitters. The Very Cherre juice — which is not at all like a certain other cherry juice — had been, like the Lillet, sealed in our fridge for months now, something I picked up at a gourmet market hoping I’d one day find it a home in some nice barware.
The Paris When It Swizzles
1 1/4 ounces Remy Martin
3/4 ounces Lillet
3/4 ounces Very Cherre
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla simple syrup
Lemon twist, for garnish
Fill a Pilsner glass (or something similar; think summer cooler glassware) with crushed ice. Place it in the freezer momentarily while you make your cocktail by combining all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shaking vigorously for a good 20 seconds. Strain into glass over crushed ice. Garnish with lemon twist.
As with the Robert Johnson Swizzle, I’m recommending shaking the cocktail rather than “swizzling” it in the glass because most of us don’t own swizzlers. I’m not talking any whozit-whatzit doodad-festooned stick to put in your drink, but specfically a long, slender, wooden stick with little prongs at the tail end that do the bulk of your mixing. Honestly, I’ve never seen them anywhere but live and in person at Death & Co.
You can swap in a citrus-y white wine (something in the sauv blanc family?) for the Lillet and/or Pom Wonderful for the Very Cherre (they’re equally hefty, so the balance should maintian).
To make a quick and easy vanilla simple syrup, heat a cup of water and a cup of granulated sugar on the stove, stirring frequently, until it’s brought to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in a tablespoon of vanilla extract, stir a bit more, bottle and refrigerate. Of course, you can also make a syrup with honest to goodness vanilla beans. There’s a recipe with great photos here.
Sean got me a vintage, hand-cranked ice crusher for Christmas, which means no more wrapping ice cubes in a hand towel and banging them with a mallet, yay! Srsly, eBay’s always got vintage crushers up for bid at under $20; I highly recommend considering one.