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Thursday, December 07, 2006

BOOZE NOTES 

December 7 is an anniversary too, and while it has no particular connection with cocktails, I had one anyway. A Manhattan, to be precise, made to my usual specifications: Maker's Mark, perfect, rocks, heavy on the bourbon. (I'm eager to try the W.L. Weller special reserve that our co-blogger John recommended but I dropped two and a half bills at the liquor store just last weekend. So it'll be another, er, week or two till I make it back there.)

I also mixed the long-awaited Sidecar for Eloise, and it wasn't complicated at all: one ounce brandy (Korbel), 3/4 ounce Cointreau, and 3/4 ounce lemon juice. The only hitch was that fresh lemon juice was called for but we didn't have any lemons so I cheated and used that ReaLemon concentrate stuff that you always have a five-year-old bottle of in your refrigerator door next to the Tabasco and the Worcestershire Sauce. Still, based on the one sip I took, it was quite tasty, if a little summery, and Eloise drank the whole thing in about eight minutes, which is always worthy of applause.

And I agree with John about the Negroni. Although she has apparently forgotten, I made one for Eloise a few weeks ago after reading that same WSJ article, and my sample sip revealed that, damn, Campari is bitter.

Finally, some trivia for you. Did you know that British sailors used to get a standard ration of 8 ounces of rum a day?
Humans discovered long ago that they could not drink sea water, and required significant quantities of fresh water on extended voyages. Since they were unable to desalinate sea water, fresh water was taken on board in casks but quickly developed algae and became slimy. Stagnant water was sweetened with beer or wine to make it palatable which involved more casks and subject to spoilage. As longer voyages became more common, the task of stowage became more and more difficult and the sailors' then-daily ration of a gallon of beer began to add up.

Following Britain's conquest of Jamaica in 1655, a half pint or "2 gills" of rum gradually replaced beer and brandy as the drink of choice. Given to the sailor straight, this caused additional problems, as some sailors would save up the rum rations for several days, then drink them all at once. Due to the subsequent illness and disciplinary problems, the rum was mixed with water. This both diluted its effects, and would make it spoil slower. A half pint of rum mixed with one quart of water and issued in two servings before noon and after the end of the working day became part of the official regulations of the Royal Navy in 1756 and lasted for more than two centuries.
Time for a nightcap.

2 Comments:

I still haven't tried a sidecar (maybe Jan. 5?), but I think you were wise to go heavy on the brandy. I would be worried that the lemon juice would be to dominant.

Some recipes say to serve in a glass with a sugared rim -- did you do it?

Have you noticed that some people add bitters to Manhattans? I can't abide by that, but maybe it's just a prejudice against bitter tastes. I didn't like the Campari after all.

By Blogger John, at 12:13 PM  

Yes, I think it's wise to augment the brandy. In addition to the lemon juice, there's the Cointreau, so you have to be careful that things don't get too citrus-y. By the way, I've now made a few with fresh lemon juice, and I think it really is superior. Though you need about half a large-ish lemon to get 3/4 ounce of juice.

I haven't been doing the sugared rim because (a) the drink seems to be sweet enough without it, (b) it's too much trouble, and (c) it seems kind of gay.

I add bitters to my Manhattans! Just a drop, though. A little definitely goes a long way with bitters.

By Blogger THE WARRIOR MONK, at 10:03 AM  

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