A terrible fire erupted in the mountains of Western North Carolina in the early hours of March 19, with the blaze that ensued managing to consume a historic landmark, the Richmond Hill Inn, near Asheville. Area news source the Asheville Citizen Times reported that “The months leading up to a devastating fire today at the Richmond Hill Inn were fraught with conflict as current and former owners battled over a $6.8 million debt. The historic inn building and surrounding complex were set to be sold April 16 on the courthouse steps because of an unpaid mortgage.”
Area officials suspect arson as the cause of the fire that consumed the landmark, and speculation abounds as to who, how or why it may have occurred.
Weather in the mountains was particularly dreary today, with the first spring thunderstorm arriving only hours too late to aid in quenching the smoke that still pours off Richmond Hill outside of town. As I drove North toward the township of Woodfin today on business, I could still see firefighters perched above the ruins, working to insure that no embers continued to burn within (I understand that thirtteen different firefighting crews were needed to assist in extinguishing the fire at its worst). After such melancholy news, I retired early this evening to continue working on excessive records and reciepts for the ever-nearing tax deadlines next month, and by around 8 PM this evening it became evident that a cocktail was in order.
I initially had thought it might be something simple and semi-sweet, perhaps Canadian Club 12-year blended with ginger ale. However, looking through the items in my home bar, I was suddenly overtaken by the desire for something dry, but maybe with subtle fruity or tangy hints. I gathered together a few ingredients, and tried the resulting cocktail two ways; one “straight up” in a martini glass, the other on the rocks with a bit of soda to top it off. Both were unique from each other but of equal interest in terms of flavor, as the straight beverage strained into a martini glass was full of flavor and character, whereas the effervescent bubbly quality of the latter diluted the bitters more, but nonetheless seemed to hit the spot after the long dreary hours spent muddling through today.
By now, you may be wondering about what those ingredients may have been in what I’ve decided to dub “the Richmond Cocktail” in honor of the historic building that burned away so many years and memories early this morning. Below, you’ll find the recipes for both variations… if you’re feeling classy, I recommend this shaken and strained into a cocktail glass; if you’re in a mood to relax, try the rocks version with a bit of bubbly soda for that extra “spike”.
The Richmond Cocktail
1 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 dashes of Angurosta bitters
Variation A: mix in a cocktail shaker until very cold, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a maraschino cherry.
Variation B: pour the bitters into the bottom of an old fashioned glass, then add the Cointreau. Stir. Now add two to four cracked ice cubes, and pour the gin over the top. Add more ice if desired, then fill the remainder with soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry.