Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Royalist Cocktail

All right, enough already with my "blogosophy". Here's a drink that Nishla posted at eGullet and a slightly revised version of my reply:
Royalist Cocktail (W.J. Tarling)
1.5 oz gin
.75 oz bourbon
.75 oz Benedictine
1 dash of peach bitters

Stirred and served in a cocktail glass.
Nishla used Plymouth gin and Maker's Mark bourbon and extrapolated the measures from the CocktailDB recipe which indicated "parts"*. I used the same amounts but used Gilbey's gin and Old Fitzgerald's 1849 bourbon.

This is a very nice drink. I liked it quite a bit but I'd have liked it even more with only a 1/4 or 1/2 ounce of the Benedictine. It worked for me because I like Benedictine and bourbon together (see The Manhattan Special for an excellent example) but this recipe didn't strike me as particularly well balanced. The Gilbey's is a nice junipery gin (particularly good for the price) and the Old Fitz is eight years old, 90 proof and full-flavored so I don't think the Benedictine's dominance was a matter of using wishy-washy spirits but YMMV.

Another change I made was to shake it instead of stir it. I noticed that the recipe at CocktailDB called for shaking so that's what I did. I'm not sure why shaking was called for but as the only real difference should be the texture I took the easy route.

Thanks to Nishla for pointing this one out. I'll be adapting W.J. Tarling's recipe to my tastes but it's definitely a keeper.


*I don't understand "parts" recipes that also include a specific amount for one ingredient. It's one thing to say that The Royalist should have two parts gin to one part bourbon and one part Benedictine. This allows the drinkmaker to make as large or small a drink as he wants. He can use 1.5 oz gin like Nishla and I did or he can use 3 oz (or 5 or 10 oz for that matter). It's only important to add half that amount of both bourbon and Benedictine to complete the recipe. But Tarling specifies a single dash of peach bitters.

A single dash was sufficient for the size drink I made but if I had doubled the booze the single dash wouldn't have been enough. So, why not specify how much of each ingredient matches up with that single dash of bitters? Or maybe just indicate "peach bitters to taste"? I dunno but the only course of action is to use what you know about cocktails and go from there.

I assume Nishla decided on 1.5 oz gin because 3 oz of booze plus an ounce or so of melted ice fit her cocktail glass or maybe Nishla figured this cocktail came from a time period when drinks were much smaller than they are now. I can't be sure but it's a fact that in the days before the giant, overpriced, under-chilled Vodka Martini the ingredients added up to around three or
four ounces in most recipes (pre-stir/shake). It's also a fact that peach bitters are very mild compared to Angostura or Peychaud's bitters. I knew that single dash would disappear if I chose to make the Royalist any larger.

Speaking of peach bitters, if you're lucky you can find them at the liquor store or maybe a gourmet grocery store. If not, follow the link above to the Fee Brothers website. I've never ordered from Fee Bros. but I understand their customer service is excellent. Their Old Fashion bitters and orange bitters are well worth having on hand too.


So, what's the point?

A blog, by definition, is the work of any faceless doofus running his random scrawlings up a flagpole hoping someone will salute (...putting 'em out on the front porch hoping the cat licks 'em up, throwing 'em against the wall and hoping something sticks, etc. You get the picture.). So, telling you that I'm just gonna wing it from here on should really go without saying.

I plan to take a relatively serious approach on occasion but, really, how serious can one get when the subject is drinking, booze and the stuff you can make with booze? I hope to write the occasional essay on--um, hell, I dunno, lemme get back to you on that--but mostly I'll be posting drink recipes, insipid booze reviews, links to far better blogs and forum threads, maybe the occasional bar review and other crapola like that. I don't expect that anything here will change your life but, then again, if you've never had a Sazerac or a Corpse Reviver #2 or Fancy Gin Cocktail or if you wouldn't have found The Esquire Drinks Database or CocktailDB without my link, well, you may well find your life to be slightly improved after a visit.

I can honestly say that my quality of life has improved after exposure to the work of Dave Wondrich and Ted Haigh (respectively, author/Esquire 's dean of drink and author/co-founder of CocktailDB) and, Jack Lord, man, if you've never had a cocktail that pre-dates the Cosmopolitan you should do so leave work immediately--you are reading this at work, right?--and get your bad self to a decent liquor store to pick up a couple things you probably don't have at home.

Sure, you can clear your head with exercise or free your mind with yoga. Knock yourself out. Sometimes, though, only a crisp, clean 5-to-1 Martini made with Plymouth gin and garnished with a slice of lemon peel the size of a silver dollar will do. Hopefully, The Handy Snake can help you with just those times.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Here's how.

Another blogger going on and on about cocktails, drinking and booze is exactly what the world needs. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. If you found your way here via a link or a web search maybe you agree.

If you're like me you have dozens of cocktail-centric blogs bookmarked even though only a handful of the blogs update frequently enough or offer enough knowledge or insight to be worth your time. You also have several booze-centric online forums bookmarked but the activity at the forums ebbs and flows too so, if you’re like me, you get a little frustrated when you check in and there's nothing new (or if a post is something you already know or know is wrong or simply disagree with....). Not to mention that the discussions at a couple of those forums are almost always unsatisfying (though I'll admit some of the ignorance and lunacy can be entertaining).

If that sounds familiar I welcome you to The Handy Snake. I hope that at the very least you’ll find this nape of the woods/neck of the wape to be an agreeable stop-gap when Paul at Cocktail Chronicles or Rick at Kaiser Penguin or Darcy at The Art of Drink are between updates and things are slow at eGullet’s cocktail forum and MSN’s DrinkBoy forums. If I can provide more than a stop-gap, well, I’ll drink to that.

As for the rest of you, I can only assume that you’re an indulgent friend or family-member checking in out of kindness or a sense of obligation or maybe you’re a web-surfer who has lost his way while searching for the easiest way to fix a clogged drain. Regardless, I hope you’ll take a look around and that maybe you’ll find something of interest. If not, thanks for stopping by. You have my word that I will not put you on the spot by asking your opinion on my latest blog entry.

Nope, I understand completely that my interest in booze and cocktails is not for everyone. I even understand that the extent of my interest might strike even those similarly inclined to be somewhat obssessive. So, don't sweat it. You go on back to your daily life and feel free to shake your head at the thought of my ridiculously over-stuffed liquor cabinet and my ever-increasing collection of books on drink, drinking and the stuff what gets drunk. That's more than okay by me. On the off-chance, though, that you find yourself in the mood to see what's up in one man's world of drink, well, this is where you'll find me.

And, so, with no further ado, if you’ll be so kind as to join me in a cyber-toast to the launching of this silly enterprise, “Here’s how!”