Thursday, February 22, 2007

The 1794

There's a thread at eGullet discussing various cocktail joints in San Francisco. Recently one post mentioned a cocktail that can be found at two of San Fran's more chi-chi, de rigeur, yadda yadda cocktail lounges, Bourbon & Branch and Range. The cocktail is called 1794. It's a rye whiskey cocktail with Campari and sweet vermouth and it's garnished with a flamed orange twist*. If I understand correctly the cocktail's creator, Dominic Venegas, works at both establishments.

1½ oz Rittenhouse Rye
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz Vya Red vermouth

Stir with ice, strain, garnish with flamed orange peel. [If the word on the street** is to be believed Range subs Old Overholt for the Rittenhouse and Cinzano Rosso for the Vya.]
Once again, if you'll indulge me, I'll point out that this is pretty solidly in the Manhattan family as I've outlined it here and here. There's whiskey, sweet vermouth and a bitter component of some sort. I guess one could argue that I'm stretching things a bit as, in this case, the vermouth and bitters together equal the amount of whiskey in the recipe rather than half of the whiskey. So be it. I'm a cocktail lover not a fighter.

Frankly, I think the next time I mix one up I'm going to use a more traditional Manhattan-style ratio--maybe 2 oz rye to a half-ounce each vermouth and Campari. While I enjoyed the 1794 there's just something about what Campari brings to the table that stops me short of really loving this drink. I will say, though, that the 1794 is a more appropriate summer drink than the Manhattan Special. I prefer Torani Amer to Campari so I'm more likely to stir up a Liberal but either would be a nice turn off the path beaten down to the dirt with Gin & Tonics and suchlike.

Hey. Hey, you. C'mon, eyes right. I'm talkin' here. Okay, that's better. As I was about to say, Campari is a bitter liqueur from Italy. So, it's not a concentrated bitters like, say, Angostura or Regan's Orange. It's a "potable" bitters that is beloved by Europeans as an aperitif. As you can see in the photo I've "borrowed" from the 2007 Campari catalog it's also molto sexy (or, in Ms. Hayek's case, muy sexy). Of course, just about anything is sexier by definition when done in an Italian cafe or restaurant. Whether that be drinking sparkling water or enjoying a bitter, herbal libation that gets its bright red color from bug shells that's just a fact and we Americans have no choice but to accept it.

[I wonder if power tool and auto parts companies have tried claiming their catalogs featuring scantily clad women are simply a "European" style of advertising? The 2005 Campari catalog is even more "artistic".]

I've had some success in getting used to the unusual flavor of Campari but I'm far from being a full-fledged convert. I've made a couple Negronis that I didn't particularly enjoy (though I later learned that the Negroni is kinda like jumping into the deep end of the Campari swimming pool). I think my first was the standard 1:1:1 version. I don't remember the details of my second attempt other than that it wasn't exactly my cup of herbs and bug shells either. The only drink, so far, in which I truly and completely like Campari is in a highball with fizz-water and lime. Somehow Campari and lime together taste like grapefruit. That discovery was kinda weird but this, friends, is a beverage that is cool, refreshing and very lovely in the glass.

The 1794 is, as I said, pretty darn close to completely succesful. I certainly enjoyed it enough that I will make it again and, if it is true that Campari is an aquired taste, it may well become a regular in the summer rotation if I manage to fully acquire it.

* Ah, the flamed orange twist. I had been meaning to try this little trick for a long time but somehow hadn't gotten around to it. I'm proud to say that the occasion of mixing up this 1794 was my first attempt at flaming a twist and that I was wholly successful. I surfed a bit hoping to find some video of this technique for you but came up empty. I did, however, find a nice set of instructions in an article on King Cocktail, Dale DeGroff. Here's what Dale has to say:
The aroma and flavor in citrus fruits is concentrated in the oil cells of its peel. Chefs and bartenders often extract this oil along with the juice to add the essence of the fruit to various dishes and drinks. In cocktails, the oil in the citrus peel provides an additional advantage because it can be flamed.
  • Always use firm, fresh fruit; the skin will have a higher oil content.
  • Use large, thick-skinned navel oranges.
  • The twists should be 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches long. The peel should be thin enough that the yellow shows all around the circumference with just a small amount of white pith visible in the center. Cutting uniformly sized, thin oval peels that flame up well takes control, concentration, and practice.
  • Hold a lit match in one hand, and pick up the twist in the other very carefully, as if holding an eggshell; if you squeeze the twist prematurely the oil will be expelled.
  • Hold the twist by the side, not the ends, between thumb and forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
  • Don't squeeze or you'll lose all the oil before you flame.
  • Hold the match between the drink and the twist, closer to the twist. Snap the twist sharply, propelling the oil through the lit match and onto the surface of the drink.
** Considering that my cyberpal and fellow Wisconsin ex-pat Erik is playing the role of Huggy Bear in this case I'd bet the house that the skinny he's providing here is on the money. Erik, by the way, is currently working his way through an early edition of Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book in a blog-as-forum thread called Stomping Through The Savoy. It's chock full o'great info. If you've ever leafed through an old cocktail book and wondered how some of the old drinks might taste, well, Erik's actually doing this drink by drink(!). He's knowledgeable in the realms of cocktail history and spirits but even if the only thing you take from his efforts is which old drinks are best left to history you'll consider your time reading his thread as time well spent. [I edited this post to add a link to the cocktail menu at the Range website. It includes the ingredients for the 1794 just as Erik listed them at eGullet. I told you he could be trusted.]

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At March 02, 2007 1:07 AM, Blogger erik_flannestad said...

Ahem, finally made it far enough past that distracting Salma Hayek photo and "artistic" 2005 Cinzano catalog to notice you name check me at the end of this post.

What the heck!

But, hey, looks like we may be in the Midwest this summer, so perhaps some non-cyber whisk(e)y drinkin' fun could be had by all.

At March 02, 2007 11:33 AM, Blogger Kurt said...

You know you're a cocktail geek if you followed that link to the molto sexy Campari calender and yet managed to return to finish my blog entry. I certainly appreciate the effort. First round is on me when I see you. Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet is your drink, ain'a?

At March 02, 2007 5:23 PM, Blogger erik_flannestad said...

Well, dats a Korbel Old-Fashioned Sour dere, ja know!

(And I mean that in the most affectionate way possible.)

At April 08, 2008 1:02 AM, Blogger Joe said...

I work at a great bar in Boston and have recently fell in love with the 1794 after overhearing one of our barkeeps describing it to a guest. Rye and negroni are two of my favorite things in the world, so I figure I might as well give it a try. I have put my own twist on it recently when ordering it at bars with less experienced bartenders (1:1:1ratio) by just garnishing it with a dash of orange bitters over the surface of the finished cocktail in lieu of the flamed twist, and I like it even better! DO try this at home. Its delicious!


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