Okay, I have to stop now.
Call me a failure if you must, but I wasn’t able to power through every single one of the approximately 30 apricot-brandy cocktails that were submitted for the latest round of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail. I’m sorry — but the smell of apricots is coming out of my pores and my skin is turning orange; I may never be able to eat another piece of rugelach as long as I live. But before you come down too hard on me, keep in mind this twist on that ol’ biblical instruction: Let he who has methodically sampled more than 20 apricot-brandy cocktails without growing very sick of apricots cast the first stone.
Fortunately, I made it through most of the recipes (submitted here and here); since many people submitted more than one drink, I made sure to try at least one cocktail from each participant, so nobody’d be left out.
From this mix, there were a lot of winners. Before I give my top pick, here are a few observations:
- Apricot brandy and pineapple — who knew the combination could be so tasty? If you see these two flavors together in a recipe, go for it.
- Apricot brandy and pastis or absinthe — proceed with caution. I won’t say they’re mutually incompatible, but you need a very patient palate to handle this mixture.
- If a recipe contains apricot brandy, grenadine, and at least one and possibly two or more additional liqueurs, you’re likely to collapse in a diabetic coma before you finish the drink.
- If a drink calls for apricot brandy as a base, or in quantities of one ounce or greater, see point #3.
- Rum and apricot brandy kicks ass — check out the Periodista, the Jamaica Farewell and the Honi Honi for proof.
- There is a need in this world for more cocktails that use Pimm’s No. 1 as an ingredient, such as the Stardust. When matched against apricot brandy and with some gin and sweet vermouth along for the ride, the Pimm’s makes a mighty fine drink.
- I really wanted to like the Pisco-Apricot Tropical, from Charles Baker’s The South American Gentleman’s Companion. Fortunately, I’m accustomed to disappointment, so the fact that the drink didn’t work out wasn’t too much of a shock.
- Apricot brandy takes on strange and intriguing new characteristics when you use it in small doses against something herbal.
On this last note, I announce my choice for top drink of this round of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail: the Claridge.
Hailing from the Savoy Cocktail Book and suggested by two participants — Charlie Oat from the Connecticut School of Bartending, and Jay from Oh, Gosh! — the Claridge was a real eye-opener. It seemed promising enough, sure, but for some reason the apricot brandy, smoothed out and complemented by the Cointreau, really comes into its own in what otherwise would be a Fitty-Fitty martini. The liqueurs weigh in as more than mere flavor accents, but a big dose of botanicals from the gin and vermouth takes the flavor to another, very delicate plane. A lovely drink that I’m happy to have discovered through this little exercise; my hat is off to the two participants.
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau
- 1/2 ounce apricot brandy
Stir well with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
* If you dig through the comments section in which the drinks were posted, you’ll see that Charlie used the Savoy measurements — 1 1/2 ounces each gin and vermouth, 3/4 ounce of each of the liqueurs — while Jay brought the liqueurs down a notch to 1/2 ounce each. I’m not sure why the change was made, but having tried the drink both ways, I liked the drier version printed above. Don’t take my word for it — try for yourself.
By long tradition — since last fall, anyway — the winner of this round hosts the next, and chooses the ingredient. Now that there are two winners, however, I’m not sure how to proceed. Jay has a blog while Charlie doesn’t (to my knowledge), so that seems to lend in favor of Jay hosting; perhaps the two gentlemen could agree on the next ingredient?
Anyway, that wraps up this long round of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail. I’m off to not think about apricots for a while.