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Monday, May 27, 2013

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – May 2013

The Campden Cocktail is a treat of Gin and Lillet.

The number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) at the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores this month held steady this month.  There are, as always, some quality cocktail ingredients available this month, so you can get what you need to shake up some great cocktails.  Here are some ideas on how to use this month’s sale items to improve your cocktail repertoire.

The selection of Tequilas this month is not bad!  This month Milagro Silver and Reposado are both marked down in the 13% range to $25 and $28 respectively. Combine them with Gran Gala Orange Liqueur (an excellent, low cost Triple Sec marked down 14% to $19) to make a dynamite Margarita.  You will also find Sauza Hornitos Reposado (11% to $24) and Plata (12% to $22) on sale, as well as similar markdowns on 1800 Reposado and Silver.

Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of Bourbons on sale for the derby this month; Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is available for $23 ($3 off) and makes a great Mint Julep, or you might want to try a BLT, and that’s about it for quality Bourbons.  There a couple of blended Scotch Whiskies marked down this month: liters of Chivas Regal are marked down around $3 to $37 and the large bottles of Dewars White Label are marked down to $46.  If you’re searching for a Scotch cocktail to try this month, consider going outlaw with a Rob Roy.

The picks of the Gins this month are Tanqueray Ten and Beefeater. The Tanqueray Ten (marked down 9% to $29) goes well in a Campden Cocktail; this little known cocktail is one you should try. The Beefeater is in the giant economy-sized bottle (1750ml) and is probably best enjoyed by hard-core Beefeater fans, although if you love Gin and Tonics in the summertime, this might be a good time to stock up.

As to any other sale or clearance items, if you see a great deal on anything at your local state store that other cocktailians might enjoy, post a response to this article.  See the following list “Suggested by the author” for information on how to use the Utah DABC website.  You can check out what else is on sale (e.g. the wines, etc.) by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open an online price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Party like Gatsby with these Jazz Age cocktails

Mint Juleps were a hot weather favorite
in the days before central air.

The May 10 opening of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby guarantees that some of us will either be hosting or attending Jazz Age themed cocktail parties.  The Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties coexist (along with Prohibition) during the 1920’s, a riotous, hard-partying, post-war era that began to fizzle with the onset of the Great Depression.  Scott Fitzgerald is credited with coining the term “Jazz Age” in 1922.  Three characteristics of the Jazz Age are hot cocktails, hot music, and hot women (not necessarily in that order).  Think of your great-grandmother (or don’t).  According to the New York Times of the period, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession."  Pre-release reviews of the film lead one to believe that Luhrmann has not underplayed the famous parties that Gatsby threw nightly at his mansion in West Egg as he tried to attract the attention of Daisy Buchanan.

While you may not be as rich as Jay Gatsby, you should be able to drink as well as he did.  Some of that Prohibition hooch that Gatsby was bootlegging was probably pretty bad, after all, even though it made him rich enough to buy the good stuff that he probably served his guests.  Although Fitzgerald does not go into much detail on the drinks (strange for such a confirmed drinker), we may assume that many of the classic cocktails known to have been popular in the Twenties were the ones being served at his parties.  A word to the wise: any cocktail either named after Scott’s friend Ernest Hemingway (or invented by him) would not have been served at one of Gatsby’s parties.

Highballs, while not cocktails, have been enjoyed since the late nineteenth century.  I can remember my grandfather making them for my aunts and uncles at Thanksgiving Dinner in the mid-twentieth century, so their popularity stood the test of time.  Some of Gatsby’s guests are sure to have ordered them.  Highballs are mixed drinks composed of a shot of liquor and a larger portion of a non-alcoholic mixer served on rocks in a tall glass.  "Scotch and Soda," for example, is a highball made with Scotch Whisky and carbonated water.  Champagne, of course, is de rigueur in a list of popular drinks from any period, but it’s not a cocktail and requires no details.  We will, however, start with a Champagne cocktail…

Many of Gatsby’s guests were doubtless in the mood for something a little stronger than a run-of-the-mill Champagne cocktail.  The French 75, developed during the Great War, would fill that bill deliciously.  Named after the famous French cannon of World War I, it has a nice kick and never misfires.  Assuming Gatsby could get some decent Gin, this beauty would have been a hit. 

The Manhattan is a true American original, originating in the 1870s.  Today it is commonly mixed with either Bourbon or Rye.  Named after the fabled island near West Egg, it would have been popular during the Roaring Twenties, but chances are that, in the depths of Prohibition, most Whiskey cocktails would have been made with Canadian Whiskey.  Lately, my favorite Manhattan is made with High West Double Rye and Lillet Blanc.  Be careful though, Manhattans are so good they can be addicting. 

The classic Mint Julep has been Churchill Down's signature cocktail since 1938, but it was well over 100 years old by then.  It first appeared in print very early in the nineteen century, so it may even have originated in the eighteenth.  Daisy has Tom order up some ice for Mint Julep to beat the heat at The Plaza Hotel, and Whiskey lovers would have been clamoring for one at any Jazz Age party when mint was in season and the weather was hot.

The Old Fashioned is an especially versatile cocktail to have in your repertoire because you can make an Old Fashioned with just about any good liquor you have.  A perennial favorite, and probably a favorite of Gatsby’s guests, the venerable Old Fashioned gets its name because it is perhaps the first cocktail.  It would not, of course, have been called “old fashioned” at the time: back then it was the latest thing and even today, it never goes out of style.

The Martini is the classic cocktail.  It’s so iconic that its name is often used to mean “cocktail,” and a cocktail glass is often called a “martini glass”.  Given that Gin was often the booze of choice during the Roaring Twenties, and assuming that Gatsby was pouring decent Gin (let’s hope, most of the time, the quality of the Gin used back then was dubious), Martinis were surely a popular request at his nightly parties at the mansion.  Since the primary ingredient of a Martini is Gin, you will be much happier if you use your best for this cocktail.

Like many other classic cocktails, the origins of the Gin Rickey seem to be lost in time. It is supposed to have been invented by Colonel “Joe” Rickey who was a lobbyist in Washington, DC, again around the turn of the century.  A long drink, it is useful if you want to moderate your consumption of alcohol.  One of the few cocktail specifically mentioned in the book, Gin Rickeys were mixed by Tom Buchanan for a lunch with Gatsby and Nick Carraway.  Tom probably used Rose’s Lime Juice, but fresh lime is better.

The Vodka Gimlet is a very simple drink: Vodka + sweetened lime juice = Vodka Gimlet.  (A Gimlet familiaris is made with Gin: originally this was probably bathtub gin due to the cocktail’s birth during the Roaring Twenties, but we needed something for the Vodka drinkers).  Astute readers will have noted that it’s a lot like a Rickey served “up” and without the soda.  Back in the day, they probably used Rose’s Lime Juice, but I recommend Fresh lime juice and just enough sugar to keep you happy.

The Sazerac is reputed to be the original cocktail, first concocted in New Orleans.  The story goes that the Sazerac was invented in the early nineteenth century by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, who also first developed Peychaud’s Bitters.  This brown beauty is almost straight Whiskey (it was originally made with Cognac) and would most likely only have been requested when good Whiskey was available. 

Our final cocktail, Corpse Reviver #2, is not one that you would have drunk at one of Gatsby’s bacchanals, as a putative hangover cure, it is intended to be drunk the morning  after.  This classic was born at the dawn of the twentieth century and the original recipe may be found in the Savoy Cocktail Book, where one is informed that “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”