I’ve been in a rut. Aside from Mixology Mondays, I haven’t written straight-out about a cocktail since the holidays.
There’s a reason for that, mostly — I’m usually motivated to write about new drinks I’m playing around with and enjoying, but over the past few months those drinks have primarily been things I’ve been working on for an article, and so I keep them to myself until the story comes out; drinks I’ve been playing around with for Tales of the Cocktail-related events, so ditto on keeping them close to the chest; and new drinks I’ve tried out that, well, weren’t really worth going on about. (Plus, your standard, run-of-the-mill too-lazy-to-post factors in there somewhere.) In between, I fall back on the standard comfort-food cocktails, with little variations — I’ve grown really fond of knocking just a few drops of Jade’s Eduouard absinthe into a Rittenhouse Manhattan or an Old Fashioned made with W.L. Weller or Buffalo Trace bourbon, and the drink I continue to be astonished that nobody has added to their bar menu, the Police Gazette Cocktail, remains a soothing standard for those times when I’ve been disappointed by lackluster recipes I’ve taken for a spin.
But it’s time to snap out of it. In getting serious about jump-starting my jaded tastebuds — and with them my enthusiasm for digging up old recipes — I’ve reached for the a volume on my bookshelf that’s unlikely to let me down: The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. David Embury not only knew his spirits and cocktails backward and forward, but he was also highly opinionated, and not afraid to share his thoughts on a drink with his readers. While relating a recipe, Embury occasionally indulges himself with a backhanded remark that makes it clear, “Your guest may want one of these — but you certainly shouldn’t.”
After flipping around a bit, I settled on this to help get my pistons firing again (I translated Embury’s recipe from parts to ounces):
Honeymoon (a.k.a. Farmer’s Daughter)
- 2 ounces applejack (I used Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy)
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- 1/8 (3/4 teaspoon) ounce curacao (Marie Brizard)
- 1/8 ounce Benedictine
Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Why this one? It’s been my experience that little touches of Benedictine work wonders for surprising the palate, and right now, mine could use some surprising. Plus, there’s the apple brandy factor — I don’t break out the Laird’s that often, and if nothing else, it’s something different.
And “different” certainly describes this drink. Embury’s taste skews to the dry & tart, so I wound up doubling the liqueurs to about 1 1/2 teaspoons of each to keep the lime juice subdued. Also, Laird’s bonded apple brandy just has a more “apple-ey” taste than does their applejack (though back in Embury’s time, Laird’s applejack was made purely from apples, whereas today the apple distillate is mixed with grain alcohol, so the bonded version may be more in line with what Embury had on his shelf).
The Honeymoon takes a few sips to grow on you, and it’s still a bit wooly around the edges, but it’s an agreeable enough concoction. And when you’ve been in a rut, “agreeable enough” is still pretty good.
UPDATE: Except when it’s not. After clicking on the little “publish” button and sitting back with my Honeymoon, I found its flavor less and less satisfying. By the time I was 3/4 of the way through the drink, I was ready to toss it and give Embury another stab at redemption.
Since I already had the apple brandy out, and still had 1/2 a lime, I decided to play it safe and go with this one:
- 2 ounces apple brandy
- 1/2 ounce lime or lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce orgeat
- dash grenadine
Shake with ice & strain into chilled cocktail glass.
“Play it safe,” because I’m a total sucker for orgeat — I’ll forgive most second-class recipes as long as they give me a little hit of that ethereal almond experience. True, I found it necessary to bump up the orgeat to somewhere around 1/3 ounce, but this one is much more of a winner — the almond and the apple play very nicely together, and the little touch of grenadine adds an additional fruity note, while everybody is kept on their toes by the tartness of the lime.
Honeymoon is over; go for the Supreme.