Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Brick, the Bitters, and the God of Thunder


It’s a month later, and the ripple effects of Tales of the Cocktail are still being felt at here at Casa de Bamboo. Specifically, I’ve been poking through a huge stack of recipe cards that was included in my TotC goodie bag. For those who haven’t seen it, this stack of cards is over 3 inches thick and contains instructions for numerous adult beverages (as well as a handful of food items). It’s my understanding that every single recipe in this collection was prepared and served somewhere, sometime, during TotC. Mind-boggling to be sure, and it’s not a feat I’ll be attempting myself. My available time and budget is far exceeded by the sheer number of recipes.

Hence, I’ve nicknamed this giant wad of cards “The Brick.”

After browsing through The Brick in the days following TotC, I decided the first drink I’d try to reproduce was the “Improved Whiskey Cocktail”. This drink was one of several I’d sampled at the TotC Happy Hour, and I really liked it. It also contains two of my favorite ingredients- Bourbon and Maraschino.

Here is the recipe as printed on the card:

Improved Whiskey Cocktail

2 oz. Bulleit Bourbon
2 dashes Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Bitters
1 teaspoon Fee Bros. Rock Candy Syrup
½ teaspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 Dash Pernod Absinthe

Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.

Created by David Wondrich

The only ingredient I didn’t have handy was the Whiskey Barrel Bitters, but a quick online order remedied that. Of course this meant I had to wait a few days before whipping up the drink, but I wanted to make sure I had all the requisite components in place- I thought this recipe was outstanding, and I didn’t want to goof it up by omitting or substituting anything. So I sat, marinating in my obsessive nature and waiting for the guy in the big brown truck to deliver my tiny bottles (Yeah, I said “bottles.” As long as I was already ordering, I picked up a couple other flavors. Don’t act like you haven’t done it too).

But back to the Happy Hour. Imagine a large hotel ballroom, the perimeter ringed with tables. Now put several more tables in the center of the room like giant island-style bar. Behind each of these tables put someone frantically mixing drinks nonstop. Now fill this entire space shoulder-to-shoulder with booze nerds desperately trying to sample drinks and carry on conversations. Finally, add in a harried hotel staff weaving throughout the whole thing, clearing empty glasses and replenishing supplies at a manic pace.

It’s hot, cramped, and loud. But the general atmosphere is one of good-natured frenzy, on the part of both the mixers and the sippers. As time goes on, more people add to the ranks, ratcheting up the crush until it feels as though you’re submerged in a booze-infused sensory sludge, helplessly slipping into a fugue state.

Fortunately, every so often you’re jolted back to life by the cannon-fire sound of ice being pummeled into submission by David Wondrich. Ensconced at a corner table, he wielded an enormous wooden mallet, the kind cartoon cats and mice use on each other. With every blow, thunder erupted and drinks were forged. I like to think it was his way of periodically reminding everyone that yes, socializing is fun, networking is necessary, but we’re here for the drinks, people.

In this case, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail.

This time around I’ll dodge my usual ham-fisted attempts to dissect the recipe. If you like whiskey, you’ll probably like it- It’s damn good. Gather up the ingredients and try it out at home. Preferably with a big hammer in hand. A Viking helmet wouldn’t hurt either.