The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto is one of the most satisfyingly curmudgeonly pieces of writing I’ve stumbled across in some time. Published by Bernard DeVoto in 1948 and reissued with a fabulous introduction by Dan Handler (known to most of us as Lemony Snicket), it contrives to sing the praises of alcohol while completely disparaging most of the people who drink it.
The basis of DeVoto’s argument is that there are only two acceptable cocktails: a slug of whiskey and a martini. The martini must be composed of gin and dry vermouth, must be ice cold, and may contain a sliver of lemon rind but absolutely nothing else. Like Manhattans? Be informed that “whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and the Manhattan is an offense against piety.” Like a Gibson now and then, or an olive in your martini? “…nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine. Something can be done with people who put pickled onions in: strangulation seems best.” You don’t even want to know what he says about people who drink rum, let alone those who put fruit juice in it. The book is full of shamelessly vindictive commentary that you will feel the need to read out loud to the nearest person, whether they want you to or not.
Necessary reading for anyone who enjoys a quiet drink at the end of the day.
Gin Martini (DeVoto’s approved method)
Approximately 3.7 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. Pour the spirits over a great deal of ice in a cold pitcher, stir well to chill thoroughly and strain the drinks into chilled cocktail glasses. A few drops of lemon oil may be squeezed out onto the surface of the cocktail. Serve immediately. Do not attempt to mix a pitcher of martinis in advance and keep it in the fridge – ” you can no more keep a martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there.”
When the weather gets warm, my cocktail cravings turn to summery flavors like mint, cucumber, gin, rum and tequila. One of my favorite ways to use cucumber in a drink is a simple Hendrick’s martini with a thin wheel for garnish – it really brings out the cucumber flavor of the gin. When you want to get a little fancier, though, I highly recommend the Chin Up. Stupid name, but great drink, and using Cynar gives it a lovely color. I also love the hint of salt.
This is an excellent drink for a warm afternoon spent in the kitchen while cooking curry. The layers of bitterness and cool cucumber keep it both interesting and refreshing. It would also be good on the rocks, I’ll bet. I’ll have to try that.
- 1/2 inch cucumber wheel
- 2 oz gin
- 1/2 oz cynar
- 1/2 oz dry vermouth
- small pinch salt
- one paper thin wheel of cucumber for garnish
Muddle the cucumber in a mixing glass. Add the gin, cynar, vermouth and salt, fill with ice, and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Jon has taken to reading cocktail recipe books like novels lately, and making lists of everything he wants to try. Inevitably, there’s some ingredient we just don’t have and can’t get locally. Our area liquor stores have some interesting stuff, but when I asked for Creme de Violette at the Burlington store I got an extremely blank look. We had to make a special trip to the Capitol Hill liquor store (where the clerk accused us of buying stuff off of the “fancy-pants” shelf) to get a bottle.
The drink I really wanted to try with the Violette was an Aviation Cocktail, but it wasn’t until we made it by the Crown Hill liquor store that we managed to score some Maraschino liqueur and I was able to try one. I thought it was disgusting – apparently I don’t have a taste for Maraschino as yet. Fortunately, in the meantime Jon had found a recipe for another drink that I ended up loving, called the Deep Blue Sea.
Another favorite cocktail which has been making an appearance around here is the Pegu. Even though it seems to be well known in cocktail-lover’s circles, we have yet to find a bartender who knows how to make one…so we make them ourselves, of course. We’ve gone through several variations, and they’re all extremely nice.
This is a truly old drink recipe, going back to the original Pegu Club officer’s bar in Rangoon in the 1920’s. The recipe was first written down by Harry McElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in 1927. So this is seriously classic stuff. It’s an ideal warm-weather drink, with a misleadingly light, refreshing citrus flavor. But remember, it’s mostly booze, and it packs a bit of a wallop. Sip carefully. Continue reading