This is the story of how a post-theater drink transmogrified in four days’ time into a cocktail made for first thing in the morning — although not really, just in a jokey way — and how your blogtender Sloshy got her groove back along the way.
So Thursday night, I went to see The Normal Heart (OMG GO) on Broadway with my friend Jackie, and afterwards the PhoBlograpHusband met us in midtown for a tipple or two. (It wound up being three, natch.) Beforehand, I’d scoped out this new-ish Theater District bar online called The Rum House, which is on the ground floor of the deliciously retro (if a shade shady) Hotel Edison, and as it’s from the guys behind Ward III in Tribeca, I figured we should check it out.
The lighting was perfectly dimmed and someone was playing away on the upright piano, so I liked The Rum House instantly. On its cocktail menu was a simple creation whose name now escapes me, comprised of bourbon, egg white and one of the countless Amaro liqueurs, served on the rocks. How had I not thought of something like this before? Then again, how was it possible that my home bar still lacked an Amaro, given the number of times I’d lustily ogled bottles of it behind the bars at such reputable establishments as Otto, Mario Batali’s awesome enoteca, and Brooklyn’s Watty & Meg?
I was sure it’d be easy to replicate four days later in my kitchen: Bourbon, egg white and… Punt e Mes? Bourbon, egg white and… Fernet Branca (aka shoe-polish liqueur, but I am forever willing to be proven wrong)? Bourbon, egg white and Campari? Vermouth? Fucking Pimm’s, and yes I know that’s not Italian, what??!? Every permutation I mustered struck an imbalance between the flavor (often heavy and bitter) and the texture (light, frothy). Out of options but refusing to surrender (cue self-realization moment of finding my groove!), I figured I’d try using my homemade espresso vodka. “Ha ha, eggs and coffee,” I chucked to myself. “It’s like breakfast. Especially for a drunk who hides bourbon in her coffee.” (I”m speaking hypothetically about a third-person “her.” I don’t do that
The concoction now tasting better but still incomplete, and my one-track mind now committed to the punchline, out came the cinnamon and then the maple syrup. I took a couple long sips, then took the dogs out for a walk. When I returned, I declared to Sean that I’d be thinking about this drink the whole time I was dogwalking and could not wait to get home and finish it off.
The Breakfast of Champions, in case it needs saying, does not taste like breakfast. In fact, you won’t detect the maple syrup at all; it just serves to cohere the other ingredients. It’s got a very mellowed bourbon profile at the start with a languorous, coffee-redolent finish. It is neither more sweet than bitter, nor more bitter than sweet, and if you like 90s alt-rock then you get the Bittersweet Surrender reference.
The Breakfast of Champions (aka The Bittersweet Surrender)
2 ounces Henry McKenna
2 ounces espresso-infused vodka
1 small, raw egg (or half the contents of a large egg)
1 teaspoon Grade A maple syrup
Espresso beans, for garnish (optional)
Combine all ingredients, including one or two dashes of cinnamon and both the raw yolk and white from the egg, into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake with utmost vigor until the shaker’s so cold you can’t hold onto it anymore. Strain into cocktail glass. If desired, float a few espresso beans on top for garnish.