Category Archives: by the book

Astoria and Bacardi Vermouth

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The Waldorf Astoria is one of those very storied hotels whose name evokes a sense of old-world glamour and sophistication, and this lovely new collection of cocktail recipes certainly adds to that reputation.

The book contains hundreds of recipes for drinks served at the hotel’s bars – some are retro, some are classics, others are modern inventions, but all have been meticulously researched by the hotel’s bar manager, Frank Caiafa, and almost all of them are accompanied by his carefully compiled notes on the drinks’ histories, preparation methods or flavour profiles.

I started my exploration of the book by making two very simple cocktails, both of which use just vermouth and one spirit. While I preferred the delicate, herbaceous notes of the Astoria (pictured above), which Caiafa describes as a ‘reverse martini’, the Bacardi Vermouth (pictured below) was an interesting way to get to know the flavour of a sweet vermouth – I’d love to try it with various brands of sweet vermouth to see which one I like best. These both work well as aperitifs, best sipped while reading Caiafa’s book. Happy drinking – and happy reading!

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ASTORIA

INGREDIENTS

2 oz (60ml) Noilly Prat extra dry vermouth (I confess I used Dolin dry instead)

1 oz (30ml) Hayman’s Old Tom gin (have you tried this yet? It is a sweeter, old fashioned style of gin that I love.)

orange peel, to garnish

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Half-fill the glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.

BACARDI VERMOUTH

INGREDIENTS

1.5oz (45ml) Bacardi Superior white rum

1.5 oz (45ml) Dolin dry OR Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth (I used the latter)

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Half-fill the glass with ice, stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel.

RECIPES BY

Both recipes are from The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book by Frank Caiafa (Penguin Books, 2016).

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Dragonfly

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Watermelon and bourbon is not the kind of combo that sounds as if it will work – and yet it does, beautifully, in this celebratory drink that showcases notes of vanilla, chocolate and toffee offset by a good balance of ripe sweetness and refreshing tart notes. These go down a treat on a hot day – and they’ll disappear as fast as their namesake, so consider making a whole jugful if you’re serving them to a crowd.

INGREDIENTS

125ml watermelon puree (to make it, just blend chunks of seedless watermelon together until they’re liquified)

5 fresh Thai basil leaves

30ml sugar syrup

7ml lime juice

45ml bourbon

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

Muddle the basil, sugar syrup and lime juice in a mixing tin. Add about 6 good chunks of ice plus remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Pour the whole lot, including the ice, into the glass. Garnish with a basil leaf if desired, and serve.

RECIPE BY

This delightfully refreshing, addictive drink is from Asian Cocktails by Holly Jennings and Christine LeBlond (Tuttle, 2009), which, curiously, seems to feature lots of cocktails inspired by Asia but none from any Asian bars. Perhaps that’s because back when it was published, the cocktail craze hadn’t hit Asia? There are definitely truckloads of great bars there now – if you’re ever in Singapore, say, then check out Library, while over in Myanmar there’s the lovely Gekko.

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New Fashioned & Old Fashioned

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I love a good Old Fashioned and I love gin, so it’s only natural that the first drink I tried from the new Dan Jones book, Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir was a gin-based old fashioned – aptly called a New Fashioned.

It’s made almost entirely of gin – think of it as a martini of sorts for people who really, REALLY don’t like vermouth – so it’s logical that Jones instructs readers to use ‘really excellent gin’. To me, that means Four Pillars or West Winds (actually, it means a bunch of others, too, but hey, who’s counting?) and today I opted for West Winds The Sabre, partly because its blue-tinged bottle matched the book and partly because I’d been looking for an excuse to crack open a new bottle and this seemed like the perfect reason. (I must rethink this policy of waiting for a special occasion to open new bottles. New bottles of liquor could be languishing for days behind my bar if I keep this up.)

You’ve got to really love gin to enjoy this cocktail – so naturally, I loved it. It’s a great way to enjoy your very fave gin with just a hint of sweetness and not a lot else going on; if you’re not a gin-head, don’t bother.

NEW FASHIONED

INGREDIENTS

60ml really excellent gin (seriously, use your very very best gin)

splash of sugar syrup (I used 5ml)

dash of Angostura Bitters

dash of orange bitters (I used Angostura Orange Bitters)

strip of lime peel, to garnish

GLASS

Tumbler or old-fashioned glass

METHOD

Add a massive chunk of ice to your tumbler (one of those spherical moulds of ice will work, or just use a heap of decent-sized ice cubes). Add gin and sugar syrup and stir briefly to combine. Splash the bitters over the top and garnish with the lime peel.

RECIPE BY

This is from Gin: Shake, Muddle, Stir by Dan Jones (Hardie Grant Books, 2016)

 

HOUSE OLD FASHIONED

If you’re not into gin, make an Old Fashioned instead. Recipes vary a bit – here’s an ultra-cool one courtesy of Esquire – but the recipe below, a variation on the traditional recipe, is the one served at 52 Cocktails’ HQ.

INGREDIENTS

60ml Johnnie Walker red label whisky

15ml sugar syrup

several dashed Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

Place several ice cubes in a mixing glass. Add half the whisky and half the sugar syrup and stir well. Add a few more ice cubes and the remaining ingredients and stir again. Half-fill the serving glass with ice. Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve.

RECIPE BY

This is a variation on the theme of a traditional Old Fashioned, and we’ve been serving it up for years. The Black Walnut Bitters adds a delicious caramel note, changing the drink from a gutsy pre-dinner tipple to something you could almost serve with (or instead of) dessert. It’s a divine winter warmer, too.

Adding a fruit garnish is optional – there’s a bit of debate about whether a regular Old Fashioned should be garnished or not – but, for the record, our House Old Fashioned has never sported a garnish, and no one has ever complained.

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Suzy Wong

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It’s the end of a languid, sticky day in sultry Shanghai; the barest of breezes lures you to the balcony of an art deco bar. There, leaning on the railing to watch the sunset, is a gorgeous woman in a skin-tight, hot pink cheong sam, her hair set in gentle waves that frame her face as she brings a cocktail to her lips…

At least, that’s how I imagine the real Suzy Wong, if there ever was one*. And that’s certainly how the drink makes you feel: as if you’ve been transported back in time to the heady heydays of the 1920s, when you’d luxuriate in the sensual elegance of a sophisticated cocktail and the equally sophisticated company of an incredibly tempting woman.

This is a drink that’s as beautiful to look at as it is to taste; full-flavoured yet delicate, with just the right balance of sweet and tart, it’s a refreshing, fruit-forward classic that you just can’t get enough of.

Prepare to be seduced by Suzy Wong.

INGREDIENTS

45ml citrus vodka (I used Absolut Mandarin)

5ml lime juice

5ml sugar syrup

45ml watermelon juice, strained

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Half-fill a mixing glass with ice. Pour all ingredients in and stir until both the drink and you are feeling nicely chilled. Strain into the glass and let the night begin.

RECIPE BY

This one’s in Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004).

*In The World of Suzie Wong, the 1957 novel by Richard Mason that I assume inspired this drink, our heroine is actually a hooker. Ah well. Close enough.

 

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Planter’s Punch

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Rum and pineapple are made to go together, so could you blame me for getting all excited when a bottle of Beenleigh golden rum AND a pineapple-shaped glass AND a real pineapple appeared in 52 Cocktails’ HQ today? Course not. It seemed like fate. And so you probably also couldn’t blame me for getting halfway through making a classic rum-based Planter’s Punch before I realised there’s, er, actually no pineapple in it at all… and that it requires dark rum, not golden.

Yeah, it was one of those days.

Luckily I had some spiced rum on hand, so I finished making the Planter’s Punch using Sailor Jerry spiced rum, and adorned it rather exotically with some pineapple leaves (because why not) and some swizzle sticks that some rather generous pubs had, er, donated to the cause. Yes, that is an Angostura swizzle stick, and no, I didn’t nick it – someone else did, just so they could give it to me. There’s nothing like receiving stolen items to lift the spirits, right?

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Well, I tell you, the spirits certainly did need lifting after I tried this rather one-dimensional, overly sour drink. I’d used 50ml of spiced rum and 40ml citrus juice so it was no wonder it was too sour. And the spiced rum didn’t add enough sweetness, either because I should have used more or because it was –

Wait.

Because it was spiced rum.

Not dark.

Right-o then, let’s try this again, shall we?

 

INGREDIENTS

50ml dark rum (dark rum. DARK!)

20ml lime juice

20ml lemon juice

10ml sugar syrup

Hefty shake of Angostura bitters

soda water, to top up

slices of fruit/other garnishes and/or swizzle sticks of your choice (stolen or not)

GLASS

In theory, this is a punch, so you should be able to add a ‘zero’ to the measurements above (so 500ml rum, 200ml lime juice, etc) and make the drink in a punch bowl or large jug. But I was making a single serve so I built mine in a tall, pineapple-shaped glass. A collins glass would be fine.

METHOD

Half-fill the glass with ice. Add all ingredients except the soda and garnishes, and stir well. Top with soda and stir again. Taste – if it’s not sweet enough, add another 20ml or so of rum, and/or just a bit more sugar syrup. (I added more rum because it added flavour and sweetness, and because by this stage I really needed a drink.) Garnish and hope like hell you’ve got it right this time.

RECIPE BY

This is adapted from Shaken: 250 very sexy cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004), where it’s presented as the kind of punch you make in a big bowl full of fruit slices. Made properly, it’s a drink with a good depth of flavour and a sharp, tangy sourness that offsets the rum’s treacly notes. It is VERY easy to drink.

Oh, and you know what? I just checked out a few other recipes for Planter’s Punch, and it turns out you SHOULD add pineapple juice…

GAAAAAAH!!

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Vesper Martini

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If you’re looking for an elegant way to kickstart your night, try a Vesper Martini. It’s the drink ordered by James Bond in Casino Royale, and it’s a gamble with a great payoff: it tastes like a lighthearted martini but it’s got enough vrrroom to fuel a whole night out.

INGREDIENTS

50ml gin (I used Tanqueray)

15ml vodka

10ml Lillet Blanc

lemon twist, to garnish

GLASS

Coupe, chilled

METHOD

Half-fill a mixing glass with ice, then add the liquids and stir* well until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lemon twist.

*Yes, yes, Bond asks for his to be shaken, not stirred, but martini purists insist he is wrong and I am inclined to agree – a martini should be stirred. For more about this, check out Martini by Frank Moorhouse – part essay, part love letter to what is probably the world’s most famous – and famously debated over – cocktail.

RECIPE BY

This version appears in one of my very favourite cocktail books, Ten Cocktails: the art of convivial drinking by Alice Lascelles (Saltyard Books, 2015). It’s a delicious read about – you guessed it – ten cocktails; the stories behind them, the author’s personal experiences with them, the history of the spirits they contain, and all manner of interesting trivia. Recipes are also included (spoiler alert: despite the title, there are more than ten recipes). If you like thinking about what you’re drinking, this is the book for you.

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Gin Sling

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Light and summery and somehow reminiscent of ginger beer without being cloyingly sweet, this cocktail is a classic for a reason. Its herbaceous undertones (courtesy of the vermouth) and zesty, fruity notes play well together; the only problem is, it’s far too easy to drink a bucketful in one go. Yum.

INGREDIENTS

45ml gin

30ml sweet vermouth (I used Martini Rosso)

22ml lemon juice

30ml sugar syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Soda water, to top up

Lemon or orange peel spiral, to garnish

GLASS

Collins

METHOD

Add all ingredients except soda and garnish to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake hard, then strain into a Collins glass that’s half-full of fresh ice. Top up with the soda water and garnish with the peel.

RECIPE BY

In his book The Craft of the Cocktail (Clarkson Potter, 2002), where this cocktail appears, Dale DeGroff says this is a late 19th-century sling recipe.

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Sergeant Sunsplash

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I invoke thee, weather gods, with this sacrificial cocktail upon this hastily erected floral altar. May you bring an end to the miserable grey weather you are trying to pass off as spring (hello, summer is supposed to start in a few weeks and we’re all still wearing winter gear in Melbourne). May you bless us with sunshine and rein in your gale-force winds (honestly, it’s like you and the other gods have been eating nothing but baked beans for months). May you let fruit trees flower (otherwise we’ll have no limes for our cocktails) and little birds sing (but not before 7am, thanks). And may you enjoy this light and refreshing beverage in all its sunny, vanilla-y, zesty, floral glory, amen.

SERGEANT SUNSPLASH

INGREDIENTS

45ml Hendrick’s gin

15ml Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur that tastes of vanilla, citrus and sweet dreams)

30ml fresh orange juice

15ml fresh lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

GLASS

Something fanciful, or, failing that, a Collins glass will do. Failing that, just use any glass that doesn’t leak, OK?!

METHOD

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake while walking in slow circles around your kitchen in an attempt to invoke the weather gods. Strain with reverence into the glass, garnish with a cucumber slice (optional) and offer it to the gods before drinking it on their behalf.

RECIPE BY

This recipe appears in The Field Guide to Hendrick’s Gin II (2005, William Grant and Sons).

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Deshler Cocktail

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You can imagine the Deshler got its name when someone slurred their third order of this booze bonanza at the bar. Or you can read about its true history here. Either way, you should make yourself a Deshler right now.

INGREDIENTS

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) Red Dubbonet

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) rye whiskey

7ml (1/4 oz) Cointreau

Dash of Angostura bitters

Orange peel, for garnish

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add all ingredients (except the orange peel) to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

TASTES LIKE

It’s the cocktail equivalent of feeling completely welcome in a room full of strangers. The Deshler is immediately inviting, a convivial mix of savoury, earthy flavours lifted by notes of baking spice and citrus with just enough sweetness to balance it all out. This one’s a winner.

RECIPE BY

The fabulous Dale De Groff published this version of the Deshler in his book The Craft of the Cocktail (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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Spiced Agave Old Fashioned

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This is such a modern version of an Old Fashioned that it should probably have another name, but apart from that I can’t fault it. And, like a traditional Old Fashioned, it lends itself to lots of variations. Use reposado (aged for at least two months) or añejo (aged for at least 12 months) tequila and you’ll get a light, flavoursome cocktail that conjures up images of autumn bonfires at sunset; there’s a bit of baking spice in there, some smokiness, and a sweetness that verges on burnt caramel but is balanced out by earthy overtones. Use whisky instead of tequila for a more straightforward, wintery drink, or go with rye whisky for a gingerbready flavour hit that’ll become your new go-to drink before you’ve got halfway through it.

COCKTAIL INGREDIENTS 

60ml tequila, whisky or rye whisky

10ml spiced agave syrup (recipe follows)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

orange peel twist, to garnish (optional)

cinnamon stick, to garnish (optional)

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

First, make the spiced agave syrup (recipe below).

Next, measure 10ml spiced agave syrup into a heatproof cup. Add about 10-20ml boiling water and stir to dissolve the syrup. You’re doing this because agave syrup tends to form a clump and not mix well when you add it to ice and spirits; but if you dilute it just a bit, it works fine. Wait for it to cool a bit before using it in the cocktail – otherwise it’ll just melt the ice.

Add the cooled and dissolved syrup, spirit of choice and bitters to a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. Stir well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass that’s half-full of ice. Garnish with the orange peel twist and cinnamon stick, if desired.

SPICED AGAVE SYRUP INGREDIENTS

200ml agave syrup (there are two kinds available, light and dark. I used light. According to the label on the bottle, the dark kind has a ‘wilder, earthier’ flavour.)

2 cinnamon quills

2 star anise

pinch of freshly ground white pepper

METHOD

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Infuse for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. Allow to cool, then remove star anise and cinnamon and pour into a sterilised glass jar or bottle. According to the recipe book, it should keep in the fridge for about two weeks, but I’ve kept mine in the pantry for about that long with no problems. I also left the cinnamon sticks in the jar, in the hope they’d balance out the slightly-too-strong star anise flavour – which they did.

RECIPE BY

Both these recipes are in a little booklet called Simply Perfect Cocktails by Gee David. I’m not sure if it’s available for sale, sorry – my copy was included as a freebie as part of an order of spirits and syrups from Barware.

 

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