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H.L. Mencken called the martini the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet, but I think the Sidecar goes one better: It’s as engrossing and enrapturing as the Great American novel.
In some circles, the El Presidente is otherwise known as a Cuban Martini. It’s also one of those cocktails with slippery origins; in my Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails, this is the fourth of four known El Presidente recipes printed. Variations include:
- El Presidente #1: Light rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine; a slim change-up on a classic daiquiri, replacing its simple syrup with pineapple juice. (Which, now that I think about it, is a great idea.)
- El Presidente #2: Light rum, dry vermouth, bitters. Difford’s describes it as “bone dry” and “rather like a rum-based, old-school Martini.”
- El Presidente #3: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau, grenadine. A Trader Vic’s recipe, of which Vic himself allegedly said, “This is the real recipe.” (But I think he claims that about all of his concoctions? At least about the Mai Tai, which he said he flat-out invented.)
- El Presidente #4: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau. “Dry but not bone dry, with balanced fruit from the triple sec and vermouth.” Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!
I have seen recipes for champagne martinis that call for just vodka and sparkler. I have come across others (more than I would have guessed) that all swear by a spoonful of raspberry puree in the bottom of the glass, with some fizz and whatever else on top. And I have read that just bubbly and Cointreau is what constitutes a proper Champagne Martini — if “proper” is even a descriptor we can properly use when discussing a cocktail that bears, at best, a second-cousin resemblance to a proper-proper martini-martini.
My new favorite acronym is MINO — Martini in Name Only. It was, I will admit to you devout drinkers, a fact of life I had to swallow (straight, no chaser) when I agreed to author a cocktail book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms. Clearly, not all 175+ recipes in the book are vodka- and or gin-based, for one thing. Believe you me, I did strive to make as many of the book’s recipes fall in line with a classic martini’s most hallowed guidelines. As it turns out, Mom does not live on vermouth alone.
The real reason we all drink, I think, when you get right down to it (and I’m paraphrasing myself here), is to whisk(ey) ourselves away in our mind’s eyes to another place and time, preferably involving fedoras, garters, cigarette holders, evening gloves, watch fobs and other accoutrements of a halcyon generation past.
This is certainly true when you now do all your drinking at 9 p.m. in your messy kitchen, with your kid finalllllly asleep a couple rooms away, a geriatric dog who perpetually smells like pee hanging out at your feet and a mound of dirty dishes staring you down from across the room.
But I don’t want any of you to think, now that I’ve got a daughter and a book that happens to be called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, that this blog is taking a permanent turn towards all things parental. Far from it (just a little for my first week back, perhaps), and my proof to you of this is the Stork Club cocktail.
Let’s just call Valentine’s Day what it is — a test — and I’ll openly admit to what I am, a flunky. Which means that this year, not only did I completely neglect to get a gift for my sweet, patient, kind and deeply attractive PhoBlograpHusband, but whenever it did occur to me that I oughta do a V-Day cocktail for the blog, I’d be all, “Err, d’ya really think those guys [Ed. Note: that's you] want a special drink for Valentine’s? I don’t know if they’d be into that…”
So this weekend, while away on a five-day, half-work/half-play trip to my old St. Louis stomping ground, I briefly mentioned to the PhoBlograpHusband via gchat that, if possible, it’d be great if he could whip up something holiday-appropriate while I was gone that we could then post. He’s in the middle of a large project right now for a class on Hollywood film musicals, which helps keep things spicy in our relationship by causing me to wonder on occasion just how gay he is, because he’s really into it, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I brought it up once and that was that. And a couple of days later, he emails me the recipe and photos for the Is You Is My Baby. Now there is a man who can ace a test with flying colors even when it wasn’t a test I was actually bothering to proctor.
Do more classic cocktails, is my #1 resolution for the blog this year. As much as I love, and have no plans to cease, inventing original recipes, perhaps I should ease up on bedeviling you all with my illimitable tipple perspicacity (resolution #2: consult thesaurus more) for the sake of some insightful, happy hour convo-worthy history lessons on drinks that have stood the test of time, or haven’t but deserve as much. Plus, discuss how to make said vintage drinks at their finest, a la The World’s Greatest Cosmopolitan. (Resolution Trois: I am the greatest!)
Guest post by the PhoBlograpHusband
I started my bartending career in the year Y2K. It was a simpler time. Terms like hanging chads and homeland security were yet un-thought of. We were all just thankful that the computers didn’t rise up and take over the world the night of Dec. 31st 1999. And thanks to a fictional woman named Carrie Bradshaw, every real woman with HBO — or a subscription to TV guide magazine for that matter — was drinking Cosmopolitans. Hell, the bar I worked at even had a Two Dollar Cosmo Tuesday nights! If ever there was a recipe for disaster it was Two Dollar Cosmo Tuesdays, both for the work it took me to churn those pink, syrupy-citrus concoctions out and the bad ideas that they caused. Plus, I can’t imagine the hangover from a night of cheap Cosmos… they never showed that part on Sex in the City (not that I would know… really!).
But I digress. This post is about the Cosmo’s slightly more mature Swedish cousin, the Metropolitan. The Metro, made with Absolut Kurant instead of Citron, never quite rose to cocktail mainstream mania, but for a time in the late -90s and early -00s it served as a refreshing alternative. I have a theory that the evil geniuses at Absolut invented the Metro specifically to ride on the coattails of the Cosmo Craze and sell more of its (at the time) flagship product. I can’t prove this. I can find no documentary evidence (at least none that a thirty second scan of Google search results yields), but I believe it to be true. What I do know for sure is that shortly after I started bartending, my cooler, proto-hipster, counter-culture-type customers started asking for the Metro. Coincidence?
The other thing I know for sure is that the Metropolitan, when made right, is a damn good drink. The almost-earthy quality of black currant balances out the citrus of orange liqueur and lime, giving the Metro a depth that is sorely lacking in the Cosmo’s one note flavor profile.
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.