Simple Things

Sometimes it’s all too much — the ornate recipes, the elaborate productions, the ingredients that require a week or more of preparation before enjoying the results.

Usually this mood hits me when I’m extremely busy, as I have been the past few weeks, and in the short space I have in the evening to sip something and unwind before bed, the last thing I feel like doing is digging through the liquor cabinet in pursuit of some weird liqueur I socked away last year, or trying out a neat little bitters I’ve been meaning to get around to, or sorting through a cocktail manual in search of a recipe I’ve been intending to try. Honestly, I want to do all these things, and those samples of rum and gin that have been sitting unopened on the shelf waiting for me to taste and blog about them make me feel guilty every time I reach past them for something tried and true. But on a weeknight, when I’ve been going since 6:30am and will do so again in just a few short hours, I need something simple — potent, friendly, easy to mix, and dependable.

For now, that something is gin, sweet vermouth, and Ingredient X.

As with the last drink I mentioned, sometimes that ingredient is something bitter, like Fernet Branca; other times, I go the Martinez route with the maraschino and orange bitters; and still other times, when I’m feeling too lazy to mix something elaborate but need something lively in the glass, I go for the Fourth Degree.

This recipe is from Wondrich’s Imbibe! ; yes, I know there are probably other versions out there, but pay attention — right now I have neither the time nor inclination to rummage around on the bookshelf. And it’s somewhat similar to the San Martin, if you swap one rambunctious herbal spirit for another.

So, for you regular readers, sorry I haven’t been posting more frequently, but I’ve got deadlines stacked up like 747s landing at O’Hare. But at times like these it’s comfort-drink time, and tonight, I’m finding a lot of comfort in the Fourth Degree.

Fourth Degree

  • 2 ounces Plymouth gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica time)
  • dash of absinthe

Stir with cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass; hit it with the lemon zest.

9 Responses to Simple Things

  1. Ooooh…that sounds really good. I’m generally not a big fan of sweet vermouth in my gin cocktails, but I’m willing to give it a try.

  2. Huh, I’m going to have to look through Imbibe! for that one.

    Most of the early 20th Century recipes for the Fourth Degree I’ve seen are: 1/3 gin, 1/3 dry vermouth, 1/3 sweet vermouth, 4 dashes absinthe, lemon twist.

    Here in the 21st Century, I typically make it thus: 2 oz Gin (Junipero is very nice), 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth, 1/2 oz Dry Vermouth, teaspoon Absinthe, lemon twist.

  3. I use Erik’s traditional recipe – equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and dry vermouth – and enjoy it very much. The absinthe is the real key, pushing the whole drink forward a bit.

  4. Those 747’s are still landing at a steady (some might even say rapid) pace though…..
    Dammit, I don’t have a job! Give me something to read!!!!!


  5. That’s funny – right along with you and Blair – I’ve been in a “comfort cocktail” zone lately. Wonder if it’s a time of year thing?

    My go to ‘tails?

    The Manhattan, The Martini (Hendrick’s recently – nice and summery), The Hanky-Panky or even an Alaska (cheers Blair!)

    I think comfort for me includes determining how “heavy” of a cocktail I want then an easy, low maintenance, preparation method 🙂

  6. Adam: Hey, I was thinking the same thing. The summer heat has me lazy, I don’t want to make anything I have to drive to the store to get ingredients for. I guess I’ve been in a comfort cocktail mood as well, although I can’t quite dig vermouth either, B.E. (is “sweet vermouth” different? hm).

    I’ve been drinking “the LipLock”, equal parts Bulldog gin (mixes well) and POM (makes me feel healthy), and then a splash of soda water. Done. Super simple. I sometimes throw in a twist of lemon, maybe an orange twist, but only if I’m feeling really motivated or can reach the appropriate citrus from my spot on the couch.

    PS — You should totally do an entry on summer drinks… we need to learn how to fit the heat with style.

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