The rain started Sunday, less than 24 hours after I noticed that the old-fashioned globe lightpost in front of our house was becoming surrounded by a corona of red-and-yellow maple leaves. As I waited outside with my son for the school bus this morning, the first leaf, a scout, dropped from the tree and settled onto our thick green patch of yard.
Even though we’re still a few days from autumn’s official opening bell, the season is already here in Seattle, and here at the Cocktail Chronicles that means one (okay, many) things: it’s time to put away the tall, minty drinks of summer and start snuggling closer to the whiskey and absinthe of fall.
Given that probably 90 percent of the fizzy drinks I consume are enjoyed in the narrow window of Seattle’s summer (and that probably nine of the remaining 10 percent is accounted for by beer), having a Mixology Monday that focuses on Fizz (as host Gabriel has chosen) take place just as autumn is coming onto the scene left me a bit befuddled. As the days shorten, I lose my taste for sparkly coolers, and even champagne cocktails don’t seem quite as enticing. As recently as this morning, I was still undecided, and for a moment I thought I might have to do a counterintuitive run on a Cuba Libre, simply because I think there’s an interesting story attached to it.
Then I remembered the Morning Glory.
If the typical collins or highball seems too summery to my season-shifting palate, then the answer could be to run with the spirits that, for me, are as much a part of autumn as are sun breaks and leaf-clogged gutters, and the Morning Glory Fizz seems to be an excellent candidate.
Please excuse me while I geek out for a minute (and feel free to skip down to the recipes): I’m not sure how or when this drink originated, but the earliest reference I’ve found is in George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks, from 1895. It seems fairly straightforward: Scotch, lemon juice, sugar and a touch of absinthe, fortified with an egg white and brought to life with a little effervescence. Served short and without ice, the Morning Glory isn’t meant to be savored — instead, as the name implies, this drink is designed to quickly and efficiently deglaze the brain after a long night of revelry. Ordered in a mumble while still wincing from the daylight and meant to be consumed before the bartender has returned with your change, the Morning Glory Fizz isn’t recreational — it’s medicinal, as evinced by the description in Cocktails: How to Mix Them by “Robert” [Vermiere] (1922): “That will give one an appetite and quieten the nerves.”
The Morning Glory must have had quite a run. It appears (with subtle variations in recipe, mainly involving the quantity of lemon and/or lime juice, the quantity of absinthe and, occasionally, the type of whiskey, though Scotch is the big favorite) in books ranging from Albert Stevens Crockett’s Old Waldorf Bar Days (1931), “Cocktail Bill” Boothby’s World Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em (1934 — my edition, anyway), Lucius Beebe’s The Stork Club Bar Book (1946) and David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948).
Seems pretty easy, right? Hold on — as with any drink that enjoys a certain popularity, some offshoot — whether related by ingredients or by simple coincidence — is bound to crop up, and this is no exception. Keep the key characters of whisk(e)y and absinthe, decrease the fizzy water to a splash or a squirt, replace the egg white and the citrus with some curacao and a dash or three of bitters, drop the “Fizz” from the name, and you find a Morning Glory, with similar recipes in Gordon’s Cocktail & Food Recipes from 1934, Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion from 1939 and Burke’s Complete Cocktail and TastyBite Recipes from 1941.
To make it even more confusing, those great category straddlers Patrick Gavin Duffy and Harry Craddock include recipes for both drinks in The Standard Bartender’s Guide (1934) and Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), respectively. By 1947 things are really off the rails when Bartender’s Guide … by Trader Vic features three Morning Glory cocktails (two have no resemblance to any of the other Morning Glory drinks I’ve mentioned — one is a truly blech-worthy mix of gin, lime juice, a whole egg and green creme de menthe, a version that also appears in Baker’s book), along with a Morning Glory Daisy and our old friend, the Morning Glory Fizz. Seeing that all bets have been off for quite some time, Gary Regan enters the fray in 1991 with The Bartender’s Bible, which features a Morning Glory composed of vodka, cream, dark creme de cacao and nutmeg.
Which brings me back to whiskey and absinthe, thank god. Given that the two primary recipes — those for the Morning Glory Fizz and the Morning Glory — both contain these two ingredients, and that each of them also calls for varying degrees of fizz, the only sensible thing this Mixology Monday is to tuck into both drinks. Considering the day I’ve had, I welcome the task.
Morning Glory Fizz (adapted from Modern American Drinks, by George Kappeler)
- 1 1/2 ounces Scotch whisky [I used Famous Grouse]
- juice of 1/2 a lemon [3/4 ounce or so]
- half a tablespoonful sugar [reduce to 1 tsp, to taste]
- 2 dashes absinthe [Lucid]
- white of one egg
Shake thoroughly with ice, strain into a fizz glass and fill with seltzer.
Wow … for a breakfast drink, the old Mimosa’s got nothing on this. Much lighter in taste than I’d expected, and with a heady foam (I shook the hell out of the mix without ice, then again with cracked ice) that makes it both gentle and robust. I can see our forefathers — the lushes, that is — knocking these back on a bristly a.m., to sweep the cobwebs out of the mind and the malice out of the soul. Seriously, I can see serving this to adventurous guests at brunch just to get the conversational ball rolling.
Morning Glory (adapted from Charles H. Baker’s The Gentleman’s Companion)
- 1 jigger rye or bourbon [decrease to 1 oz. Rittenhouse bonded]
- 1 teaspoon gomme syrup
- 1 teaspoon curacao
- 1 jigger cognac [decrease to 1 oz.]
- 3 dashes orange bitters or Angostura [The Bitter Truth orange bitters]
- 1 teaspoon absinthe
Says Baker: Mixing technique seems torn between stirring in a bar glass with ice, straining into a whisky glass, and adding a little seltzer topped off with a twisted lemon peel — or stirring in the same bar glass, and turning into an old fashioned glass with a lump of ice, a squirt of club soda, and a twist of peel … Some sane folk merely shake with ice and a jigger of soda or seltzer. The latter works more suddenly than the more diluted drink … Absinthe is difficult to recommend to suit others — increase or decrease to taste. Pernod Veritas will do. [My answer: stir with ice, strain into whisky glass, add a little seltzer and a twist of lemon.]
Gadzooks, that’s tasty, too. I probably added an ounce or so of seltzer (just a short burst from the siphon), which lightens up and saves what might have been a too heavy and aggressively flavored cocktail. The curacao and the absinthe also complement each other surprisingly well, and the drink has a robust fruitiness that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Another one to keep in mind.
So, there you have it — whisk(e)y, absinthe, fizzy water and assorted characters. Head on over to Cocktail Nerd to see what everyone else came up with this Mixology Monday.