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Guest post by Joshua Brown, a St. Louis-based, full-time technology geek and part-time bourbon connoisseur
I’m a sucker for “old timey” cocktails, particularly those that have gone out of mainstream favor. I think this comes from a love of the art of cocktail crafting, frequently lost now where the most quaffed drinks tend to have a list of all their components in their names (“Jack and Coke,” or “Gin and Tonic”). This affection of mine—born, I suspect, from watching my father opt recurringly for the venerable Manhattan—hasn’t always cast me in a favorable light in the eyes of bartenders. In one case, I had admittedly pushed my luck too far at an open-bar gala. I started with a Manhattan (familiar enough), moved to a Sidecar, and then crossed the line in ordering a Sazerac. This was met with a dumbfounded stare, and then a, “Godammit, nobody drinks that old shit anymore!”
Today’s drink was born in a time where the word “silent” in front of “movie” was itself unspoken as the default.
Hey, ‘member a few weeks back when I blogged about that batch of Negroni I’d whipped together and funneled into my favorite flask in the name of cocktail-aging experimentation — and then couldn’t hold my wad for more than five days before popping it open? Well, someone sprouted some willpower this winter, as I’ve since gone a whole month without having a touch or sneaking a taste. Yay, Rosie! I’m a grownup!
Happy Mardi Gras? This drink is Happy Mar-Winning!
If you drank this drink for five seconds, you’d be like, “Dude! Can’t handle it! Unplug this bastard!” It fucks you up in a way that’s maybe not from, uh… this terrestrial realm.
I hadn’t had a Walnut Park in something like two-and-a-half years. During my last year in St. Louis — which was also my last year at The Royale, which was also the shittiest year of my life — I’d drink many Walnuts Parks after clocking out from my shitty day shift, sitting by myself at the bar because I didn’t have anywhere else to go.
We close Death & Company week with a cocktail that, on paper, scares the hypothetical caca out of me. A drink made up of three hard liquors, and when I read the names of three hard liquors and one of them is bourbon (facilitator of happy Rose) and one of the others of them is scotch (moody-bordering-on-surly Rose) and then there’s simple syrup — well, it makes me not trust the simple syrup, makes me paranoid that the simple syrup’s lurking in there as some sort of sleight-of-hand trick with the scotch dodging behind it and getting away with murder, and I think this is not going to be a very productive Friday night.
If gins and whiskies are the big, fat, celestial love gods of the mixology universe, bitters are a bartender’s obsessed-over, oft-hoarded little fetish objects: twee phials packed with alchemistic potions made from unpublished recipes that cocktail nerds like me can wax on about until we belatedly realize everyone else has left the room. Heck, I even arrange my bitters bottles all Sleeping with the Enemy neatnik-like atop my bar like I used to do my Smurf figurines (in their Smurf village, amongst their mushroom houses — not atop a bar, or because I was trying to kill Julia Roberts).
Unfortunately, the current proliferation of small-batch bitters products can diminish the line between cocktail nerd and cocktail snob. It kind of reminds me of the Great Brooklyn Music Scene Paroxysm of ’09, with the name-checking of bitters brands like Bittermen’s, Fee Brothers (the company I keep) and Regans‘ akin to referencing your close, personal relationship with the latest Panda Bear or Japanther album — with the added stress test of feeling like a total uncool dweebheel if (*gasp*) you don’t make your own bitters???
If you want to drink at Death & Company, you talk to the guy standing outside with the pad and pen. In winter, he’ll be the one donning a puffy coat as big as a monster-truck tire. You give him your name, your cell’s digits and the number of people in your party — a number which should always be exactly two. (Seven’s the max, but take a moment to picture seven liquored friends trying to divvy up a tab of several $13 cocktails.)
He’ll then instruct you to go somewhere else (try Tile Bar or the McDonald’s on the corner) until you get a call from him that your table’s ready. This is when you kindly inform him that you’d actually prefer seats at the bar. This is how you will insure having the time of your life at Death & Co. — and getting your money’s worth.