To recap: this month we’re mixing with apricot brandy, digging out some old (and new) recipes that call for this liqueur, and highlighting what this ingredient brings to mixology.
This event has also served to demonstrate one additional fact: my fellow cocktail bloggers are trying to kill me. Evidence: my claim in the original post that, in the weekend following the February 15 deadline, I would try each of the submitted drinks and then choose the champion. As of right now, there are somewhere around 30 cocktails that have been submitted — thanks a hell of a lot to those who started packing two or three drinks into their posts. Now, I’ve gotta break out my four different types of apricot brandy — I know, it’s a sickness — along with my emergency backup liver, and start mixing my way through Periodistas, Claridges, Millionaires and the like. Thank god it’s a three-day weekend.
Anyway, no reason I shouldn’t start myself off with something fun. As I’ve mentioned before, some of the most interesting drinks to be found in David Wondrich’s book, IMBIBE!, have to be dug out of the explanatory text that follows many of the drink recipes. Wondrich will start with one drink, then toss in a half-dozen variations and descendants in this text, with brief instructions on how to approach them; if you’ve been skipping over that part, go back and start rooting around — there are some real gems to be found.
Here’s one that’s good not just because of the way it comes out, but because it really tastes like a different era: the Blackthorn Sour. This follows in the instructions to the “Brandy, Gin, Santa Cruz or Whiskey Sour,” a broad category if ever there was one. As the sour soared in popularity, Wondrich writes:
…where before there had been only the basic versions, named after the spirits that animated them, suddenly the bars are festooned with signs for Blackthorn Sours (with sloe gin, pineapple syrup and a splash of apricot liqueur), Sours a la Creole (brandy and Jamaica rum with lime juice and “a little ice cream on top”), Dizzy Sours (rye with a dash of Benedictine and a Jamaica rum float), Jack Frost Whiskey Sours (apple “whiskey” — i.e., applejack — with an egg and cream) and the like.
But first, I have to own up to something: I can’t mix the drink properly, not right now, anyway. The instructions call for sloe gin, and — with Plymouth not entering the states for another couple of months — I’m reluctant to buy a bottle of crap just to try this drink. So instead, I’m using some homemade damson gin that I put up last fall. It came out very nice, rich and flavorful, and while sweeter and not as vibrant as a good sloe gin, it’s still pretty damn good, and can fill in until the good stuff comes in.
I’ve also made one more adjustment: I’ve tried this with a homemade pineapple syrup, and combined with the sweetness of the damson gin (which I made using half the sugar called for in the recipe), it’s a bit too cloying, even with the lemon juice amped up. Instead I’m relying on the damson gin and a couple of teaspoons of apricot brandy to sweeten the drink, and I’m putting a few cubes of fresh (okay, frozen and defrosted) pineapple into the shaker.
Wondrich doesn’t codify the recipe, so here’s how I’m going about it:
Blackthorn Sour (close to it, anyway)
- 2 ounces damson gin
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons apricot brandy
- 3-4 chunks pineapple
Shake really hard with ice and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Apricot and pineapple have a mighty kind of alchemy between them, and the fruitiness of the damson gin is a big, soft cushion for the flavors to roll around in. This is a very plush drink, still on the sweet side but not terribly so. I have a ton of plums in my freezer that I was saving with the idea of playing around with different damson gin recipes at some point; next time around, I’ll go with a sugar-free version that may be more suitable for mixing. But still, this is nothing to scoff at.
And that’s it for Raiders of the Lost Cocktail, round 3. Now to work my way through the recipes. Let’s see, maybe a Normandy next…