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Guest post by St. Louis-based attorney and old friend of mine Tim O’Connell, who worked at daily newspapers, and a few taverns, before being admitted to the bar.
Blogtender’s Note: Those readers who’ve been to The Royale (psst, it’s Royale Week here at the blog) know that if there’s one thing people like about The Royale (and there isn’t; there are always several things people like about it) it’s the Subcontinental, sometimes ordered as “that cucumber cocktail you guys make?” But it’s got lots more depth — in flavor complexities and, as you’ll read here in a guest post by its inventor, in mixological history — than that.
It began with tzatziki. I’d peeled, seeded, and grated the cucumbers and had dutifully squeezed the shreds with cheesecloth in preparation for adding them to some drained yogurt. It was a hot day. The cucumbers were cold, as was the green essence that collected in the bowl under the cheesecloth. The juice’s clean scent filled the room, and it was incredibly refreshing. It tasted of greenness and health.
There are two ways I feel like starting today’s post:
Way #1: Hey, gang! Guess what? It’s Royale Week at the blog! That means lots of tall tales, behind-the-bar secrets, and in-depth analysis of the cherished St. Louis public house that made me everything I am, bartender-wise, today. Oh, the places we’ll go! The potions we’ll get to know!
Way #2: Hey, guys. I am frigging beat right now. Yesterday I had a 12-hour drive from my college reunion in North Carolina to my parents’ house in Fake Retirement Town, Florida (aka Cocoon-meets-The Truman Show-meets-Edward Scissorhands-Ville). I’m going on like three-and-a-half hours’ sleep, and as much as I’d like to gin up my own enthusiasm for your reading pleasure (see: Way #1), it’s like I’m too mentally stunted to even type good. I mean, well.
Luckily, what these two ways have in common is, the first installment of Royale Week is an easy-peasy, get-in-get-out, dos-ingredientos mixer that’s curious and cute.
Why did it take thirty-nevermind years of life for me to discover the Presbyterian?
A few months ago, a gaggle of us went to Little Branch, one of the elder statesmen of the New York/pre-Prohibition style/pay-$14-for-a-cocktail-and-beg-for-more temples of cocktailing. Little Branch’s menu does things a little differently that other bars of its ilk — in fact, let’s diverge for a paragraph or two and talk a bit about that, the organization of cocktail menus. (God, what a cocktail dork I am; this stuff actually excites me.)
There are a lot of brown liquids on this blog, I often worry. Presentation means a lot in mixology, I know, and giving y’all pretty, enticing things to look at means a lot to me. So when I made a Vesper for the first time this weekend and beheld its gloriously golden hue, its angelic, luminescent tintedness, well, let’s just say I felt very good indeed that I could show it to you, and lots and lots of photographs were taken.
If you are a James Bond aficionado (which I am not), then the Vesper’s moniker might ring familiar to you; it’s named after Vesper Lynd, anti-heroine of Casino Royale, both the book and the movie (and the other movie). Bond actually comes up with the drink himself, alluding to it as a ‘special martini.’
I’d be happy to tell you more, but the pictures are worth more than the words in this case.
PhoBlograpHusband Sean teaches music by day and plies drinks by night. The moonlighting gig takes place at a private dining club, which I liken to a country club without the golf course or the attitude. The latter I attribute to the fact that it is the only nonprofit venture of its kind in the country, literally started by some conscientious folks with money who wanted to have a nice place to eat and fund worthy charities by doing so. (Having said that, Governor Krispy Kreme has made appearances there for special functions, and I mean, how do you serve that man without throwing a drink in his face?)
There are a few members Sean’s gotten to know through their mutual love of cocktails, and occasionally he comes home next to beaming because he spent his night crafting painstaking, wonderful potations for them. He’s even borrowed from this blog when choosing what the cocktail du nuit will be on a particular shift.
Some time back, the club held a cocktail creation competition amongst its members; the six finalists’ recipes were printed up in a little pamphlet, which Sean brought home to me. I was pretty way-impressed with what these nonprofessionals had come up with, and also jealous, because as much as I wanted to replicate their inventions at home, I don’t know what Saigon cinnamon is (one of many foreign ingredients required to make an India spiced vodka, which was then mixed with Domaine de Canton, coconut water and lime to make a Mumbai Magic); I can’t find unsweetened pineapple juice anywhere (though recently Stephanie clued me in to a juice joint in the East Village); and something tells me Castries Peanut Rum Creme, one half of a Peanut Butter Cup Martini recipe, isn’t stocked at my local bodega.
I feel like this was some kind of early April Fool’s joke.
On Wednesday, I received an e-mail from a name I didn’t recognize with this blog’s title as its subject line. Oooh, actual fan correspondence??! Long-awaited invitation to make cocktails with Rachel Maddow on her show?? Sychophantic booze publicist?