Two nights ago, a small get together of friends and colleagues gathered at the homestead of Culture of Spirits owner Micah Hanks for a cocktail party. Upon arrival, I was, as usual, impressed with Micah’s selection of everything; There was a platter of cheeses and sausages, a couple bowls of nuts, and one of a party mix. Chocolates and fine crackers were also available, in addition to the good music that filtered through the house. The liquor and liqueur selection was impressive to say the least, and I daresay that I’ve been in many bars that are not as well rounded as Micah’s collection. After everyone had arrived and settled in, the opening barrage of beverages was ordered, and the magnificent mixer of drinks got to work. First, a round of White Russians for some of the guests, and then The McCollum Fizz for a couple of us. Micah himself settled on Jim Beam Black over ice. After this opening salvo was finished, Micah set about giving us the itinerary for the evening, which included several classic cocktails such as the Martini, Sidecar, Cuba Libre, and Jack Rose.
I have been a big fan of the Cuba Libre for a very long time; It was one of the very first cocktails I ever tried. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Martini for almost as long, as a good Martini is special, while a bad Martini is a particular brand of awful. Fortunately, Micah has been making me Martinis for long enough, he knows how to customize it to suit whatever taste I am feeling at the given moment. In addition to those mainstays on my menu, I tried a Sidecar for the first time about a month ago, and immediately fell in love with it. The woody sweetness of the brandy combined with the tartness of the lemon juice, gives it almost a strange lemonade taste.
Feeling adventurous, I decided that I would try out new libations, starting with the Jack Rose. This classic cocktail was very popular during the Roaring 20′s, and eventually made it’s way into Ernest Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises. The origins of the name is disputed, with many people believing it was named after a gambler bearing the name Bald Jack Rose, or a Champion Mixologist named Joseph P. Rose. Still, others believe that it was a simple combination of Applejack and the rose color of the finished drink.
When I was first served the drink, I wasn’t paying very much attention. I was engrossed in conversation, so initially thought that I was partaking in a vodka Martini with grenadine. The first taste revealed something far less biting than my expectations, far smoother, sweeter, and more complex.
All in all, I was happy to find another good cocktail, and to scratch one more off my Anvil 100 List.
Next, a request was made for something that was not on the itinerary: The Suffering Bastard. On the way out to Micah’s house, I stopped and picked up some Ginger Beer, which is called for in a couple of Anvil 100 recipes, including the Suffering Bastard. The only problem with the Anvil List, is that it doesn’t list the measurements for ingredients. Now, we can do some calculations using logic or by using David Embury’s sour measurements as a rough template. We guessed that the Suffering Bastard would contain an ounce each Brandy, Gin, Ginger Beer and half an ounce of Lemon juice along with a splash of bitters. We took our guess to the all powerful internet, and made our way to Bar None Drinks to confirm the measurements. Our guess was indeed confirmed to be correct, however, Bar None lists Rum to be one of the primary spirits, instead of Brandy. Obviously, we ignored this detail and went on to make the drink with the ingredients listed by Anvil. At first, We were unsure of mixing Brandy with Gin, however it ended up being a very smooth drink. The brandy neutralized the taste of Juniper berries, and the Gin neutralized the woody sweetness of the Brandy. The primary flavor ended up belonging to the Ginger Beer, and was very easy to drink. There was nothing particularly spectacular or exciting about it, aside from the initial surprise that the ingredients did not combine for a gag-worthy result. All in all, it was a very successful, and fun evening, allowing us to scratch a couple more cocktails off Anvil’s List. I am now up to 20.
We will return for another article soon, on other libations that were experimented with which see the inclusion of Wild Turkey’s American Honey, and the French blackberry liqueuer known as Chateau Monet.