The Manhattan

I’m back again to bring you this wonderful version of a classic drink. The Manhattan is second only to the Martini in popularity. Well, second in terms of classic cocktails. If we’re going by volume served these days, first place is probably vodka and tonic. Second is the copious amounts of strychnine I plan on consuming.

Usually Manhattan recipes are straightforward adaptations of the Martini, except they swap the gin for Rye. Nothing else changes. That’s all well and good in a pinch, but it tends to suck. It gets better if you change the ratio of spirits to vermouth from 1:1 to 2:1, but that still doesn’t quite fix the drink. The Manhattan deserves a few extra ingredients to play with the complex flavor of Rye Whiskey. Aside from the oak and grain notes, Rye will commonly have notes of vanilla, chocolate, orange, pepper, ginger, and so forth. These are not added flavors or spices, these are chemical compounds that are pulled from the oak barrels. They enjoy the company of others, and I’m not talking about your anime love pillow.

The Manhattan is the straight-up winter cocktail de jure. Few cocktails are as heartwarming as this drink. One sip and you’re instantly transported into a dimension of coziness. I have some very specific demands with this one, formula courtesy of David Wondrich:

The Manhattan

  • 2 oz Bulleit Rye
  • 1 oz Perucchi Blanco
  • 1/4 oz Maraschino
  • 2 dashes of simple syrup
  • 2 dashes of absinthe
  • 2 dashes of Angostura
Chill a cocktail glass. In an iced mixing glass, add your Angostura, absinthe, simple syrup, Maraschino, vermouth, and Rye. Stir well. Empty cocktail glass, strain mixture into the chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a lemon twist.

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Notes on execution:

The reason why I listed specific ingredients is because this drink marries my favorite vermouth and my favorite Rye so perfectly. Both of these ingredients, if purchased, will travel well in any other cocktail. Bulleit Rye is affordable, easily worth twice its sticker price. At around $35-40 a liter, it’s definitely more expensive than Jim Beam Rye, but well worth it. You may choose an alternative brand if you wish, but I wouldn’t go any lower than Jim Beam. Perucchi Blanco, however, is a different story.

Perucchi has been producing Spanish vermouth since the late 1800s. Only in the past few years have they started shipping to the United States. As a result, it’s a little difficult to find. Most liquor stores won’t carry it, so call around. If you live in a state in which it is legal to purchase alcohol online, try to find it there. You’ll have better luck. Perucchi Blanco is one of the few vermouths that you can drink straight up, or on the rocks. It’s delicious, and works well in every single vermouth cocktail I’ve put it in. I can’t praise them enough, no matter how big of a shrine I build. They also make a red version which is just as good, but the Blanco works better in this recipe. If you can’t find Perucchi no matter how hard you try, use Noilly Prat dry.

Absinthe has also come down in price. If you know nothing about absinthe (like me), you may think that it’s illegal in the states. It’s not anymore, except for absinthe that has a lot of thujone. Despite what goths say, absinthe will not make you hallucinate. You would succumb to alcohol poisoning before that happened. Now you can buy absinthe for about $20 a bottle. As long as it’s made from wormwood, and you’re not planning on drinking it straight up, go for the cheap stuff. Avoid artificial coloring. If you’re making old cocktails with absinthe, most of them only use dashes of absinthe, so one bottle will last a lifetime. Keep in mind, as with most spirits, the more you spend, the better it is. It wouldn’t hurt to buy a $50+ bottle because, again, it will last forever. I suggest storing it in the bottle and putting a convenient amount into a dasher bottle or an eyedropper bottle for easy distribution.

The simple syrup can be omitted if you want a dryer drink, but the Maraschino cannot. Buy a bottle of Maraschino, it’s $30 for a fifth and lasts just as long as the absinthe. Or, you can use it to make your own Maraschino cherries. I’ve started doing this, and haven’t looked back. In the winter time, you can use frozen cherries in that recipe since it’s difficult to find fresh cherries.

I hope you enjoy this delicious adaptation as much as I have. It’s my favorite version of the Manhattan, and unlikely to be dethroned any time soon. Cheers!

Photo by the perpetually lovely M.

The Apple Pie

Usually when I mention vodka in this blog, I have nothing nice to say. A witty quip about how awful the substance is, or a warning against using it. This time, however, I decided to go on the offensive. Tonight I offer you an assault on the Appletini, and a little update to my Old Fashioned recipe.

Why the Appletini? Because the name itself is an assault on the Martini and the Manhattan. A cocktail, to be a cocktail, must cocktail the following: spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. The Martini fits that bill except for the sugar, but the Appletini cocktails two ingredients: booze and booze. How did it get the name Appletini? Probably because some sentient pile of garbage decided to serve it in a martini glass, and thought he was witty because he changed the first syllable to “apple”. I hope that trash pile is in prison.

The featured liquor tonight is Moonshine, specifically Ole Smokey. Moonshine is starting to show up in liquor stores as a novelty; the Ole Smokey variety being the most noticeable, and the Hudson Whiskey corn whiskey being the more expensive kind. Some other brands can be found, but for the most part you’ll find these two. Ole Smokey’s mission seems to be an attempt to make a Whiskey version of vodka: something to get you fucked up. The twist is they’re making legit Moonshine, which has been a tradition in the deep South for a long time, even before Prohibition. Prohibition made it infamous, and these guys are trying to revive it minus the legal problems. You don’t have to speed away from the liquor store with a trunk full of this stuff like you’re on the run from the cops, but if it helps add to the experience then go for it.

Some of what they sell (White Lightning) is explicitly described as a substitute for vodka. Their base product, however, is just really young corn whiskey. It’s got a flavor: corn. Whether this interests you or not is your decision, but it is interesting and definitely worth a try. They do sell flavored Moonshine, which is what we’re using in tonight’s drink: The Apple Pie.

The Apple Pie

  • 2 oz Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • Dash of bitters
  • Maraschino cherry

In an iced cocktail shaker, put in your bitters, vermouth, and Moonshine. Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Notes on execution:

First thing you’ll notice about this recipe is it follows the Manhattan/Martini formula. Well, one of them. Two parts spirits, one part vermouth, bitters and a garnish. Chilled cocktail glass. Not rocket science, but here’s my rationale:

This tastes like apple and cinnamon, with vermouth and Whiskey singing backup. It’s delicious, but a bit out of season. Have it on a cool night.

The end result also depends on what bitters you use. If you use Angostura, do one dash. Citrus, do three. I recommend an aromatic bitters but one not nearly as harsh as Angostura, so something like Fee Brothers Orange is fine. As for the cherry, you should try making your own! Not only is it hella fun and tasty, but you also get the satisfaction of using REAL cherries in your drinks. The store-bought maraschino cherries are probably plastic. The recipe says it keeps 2 weeks but mine have been around for nearly 2 months and have not spoiled. They’re floating in a heavenly brine of sugar and booze, the only way they could be more protected is if I draped Kevlar over the jar. When you fish your cherry out, use a spoon that will bring some of the syrup with it. It’s a welcome addition to this drink.

Last but not least, my update to the Old Fashioned: add a half ounce of the Ole Smokey to the mix. Adds a nice spice and fruitiness to the mix. I was quite satisfied using chocolate bitters, blended Scotch, and Ole Smokey in my last Old Fashioned. If anything, it will give you another justification for picking up a jar of moonshine. Cheers!

Photo by the wonderful M.

Blood & Sand

The popularity of the 50 Cent’s video game “Blood and Sand” spurred a revolution in cocktahahahaha ok I’m sorry. No, really, the “Blood & Sand” cocktail is named after the 1941 movie by the same name. This is our first Blended Scotch cocktail in the blog and will definitely not be the last, considering I had to buy a new bottle just for the shoot tonight. You people are making me broke and drunk! Luckily both are temporary.

This cocktail is an excellent example of quality versus price. There’s a number of ingredients in here than can go premium or they can go cheap. The fickle thing about cocktails is that they’ll still taste good even if you cheap out, but at a certain point they’ll immediately turn to shit. Tonight is an exercise in choosing the right ingredients at the right price while still delivering a quality drink. What matters most, though, is you take the time and care to prepare something nice for yourself and your guests, and that it doesn’t contain any vodka.

Blood & Sand

  • 1.5 oz Blended Scotch
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • 3/4 oz Orange Juice
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
Dash your bitters over ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour in Scotch, Heering, Vermouth, orange juice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on execution:

Buy Cherry Heering, buy Cherry Heering, buy Cherry Heering, buy Cherry Heering, buy Cherry Heering! This is the one time I beg you not to cheap out. This is for three reasons. Number one: it’s the best tasting cherry liqueur on the market, and has plenty of other uses. Number two: it’s tradition, damn it. Some drinks I’ll give you the go-ahead to be flexible, but in others like the Blood & Sand it’s important to preserve the spirit of the… spirits. Number three: Heering is a small but sturdy distillery and if you keep purchasing their stuff they won’t go away. I’ve warned you about what vodka did to our cocktail culture. If you buy a bottle of Cherry Heering (and Whiskey, of course) a vodka distiller will curse your name at the top of his or her lungs.

Blended Scotch of your choice. Johnnie Walker Black or Red is a very common Scotch and you or your neighbor might have a bottle already. If you’re fresh out, there are many options. If you happen to have John Barr at your local liquor store you have a very wallet-friendly way to a quality drink. John Barr was formed when the Brits tried to break up Johnnie Walker’s monopoly. As such, it’s very similar, just as good, and nearly half the price. Aside from John Barr, usually price matches quality as you go up the latter. I’m not a fan of Chivas, though.

Orange juice is a tricky ingredient in this one. It’s July right now, and citrus fruits are, well, awful. The Blood & Sand doesn’t require you to ream an orange, but if you have access to good ones, fresh squeezed is best. After that, bottled fresh squeezed. After that, the more pricey supermarket brands. If you can find blood oranges or blood orange juice, use that! It’s more tart and gives this drink the perfect pucker it needs. Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth is perfectly fine.

As far as amounts go, I’ve seen a lot of variations including equal amounts of everything, 1:1 amounts of Scotch and OJ, and ones with more OJ than anything. I like this version, because I like Whiskey. You’ll like it too. One thing that most recipes are missing, though, is the bitters. It’s not a true cocktail without bitters.

Do not garnish this one. I’ve seen recipes that ask you to top with foamed crud or peels. The Blood & Sand is perfect as it is. Cheers!

Photography by the ever-lovely M.

Imperial Fizz

Sorry about the temporary hiatus. Unfortunately I work in an environment that seems to be a lightning rod for illnesses, and I caught a bad one. Sadly, cough syrup and Whiskey are a bad mix so I abstained a bit.

And I’ve got more bad news: I’m going to Chicago this week, so you’ll have to wait until next week for another installment. Nevertheless, I intend to punctuate your dry life with the delight of Whiskey for the foreseeable future. I’m not going anywhere, I just may take a sick day once in a while. On with the show?

This week’s recipe was going to be the Manhattan. Then the 100 degree heat index kicked in. When you collect enough sweat in your shirt to brim a cocktail glass, a heavy drink like a Manhattan is slightly out of mode. Fortunately, Whiskey can do whatever you want it to, and it can make a great Fizz just like gin. Remember that Rum from the Suburban? It’s coming back!

Imperial Fizz

  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz of rum
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Seltzer water

Pour Bourbon, rum, and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain into a tall glass with ice. Cover with seltzer, garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes on execution:

Simple, straightforward, it’s a fizz. Can’t get it wrong. Well, you can like I did: I used too big of a glass. It was a bit weak. Either use a lot of ice in a tall glass, or find a tall one that’s about eight ounces. Regardless, it was still good, but I just like to taste my Whiskey a little more.

Don’t splurge, it’s not necessary. This is meant to be refreshing and cooling, and it really is, but with all that seltzer it will cover any subtle flavors from an expensive Whiskey. Jim Beam is perfect, as is Evan Williams. Jack Daniels would probably be fine too. Use your leftover dark rum from the Suburban. If you need to buy a bottle, follow the same rules as the Good Stuff.

Since there’s not much complexity in the ingredients, this is a good drink to practice your garnishing skills. Even with a wide vegetable peeler you can get a very skinny twist from a lemon. Just angle the peeler so less of the blade makes contact. Don’t be afraid to get your fingers close, just don’t put them in front of the business end.

Hope you enjoy this quick and easy slice of heaven. Cheers.

As always, the lovely photos were taken by the very lovely M.

It’s National Bourbon Day. Today in 1789, the first batch of Bourbon was distilled by Elijah Craig in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Go forth and drink.
Suburban

This isn’t an ad for Chevy, this is a bad thing to combine with driving. It’s a great thing to combine with a perfect evening, though. The Suburban is the very definition of a cocktail: every ingredient is booze, it’s served straight, and it makes you come back for seconds. We’re treading into the proper cocktail territory with this one. In fact, this is the direction that Oak & Grain is heading. Not that we’re abandoning Sours or Honey Ryes. Far from it. We’re just ramping up the style a bit, but I promise we won’t break the bank.

Like the Tombstone, this recipe is based on overproof or “bonded” Rye. Rittenhouse 100 comes back as the main act. I got this recipe from a menu of a really good bar in the East Village. If you went there and asked for a Suburban, they’d shake you up a really good one. You’d be impressed at the finesse of the bartender, and the care they took to craft you a stiff drink. Then you’d fork over $18. Don’t get me wrong, it would be worth it, but we can make it at home for a fraction, and it’s just as delicious. It’s all in the technique:

Suburban

  • 1.5 oz of Rittenhouse 100
  • 1/2 oz of dark rum
  • 1/2 oz of ruby port
  • 1 dash of orange bitters
  • 1 dash of Angostura

Dash the bitters over ice in a shaker. Pour your liquors on top. Shake well, strain and serve into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on execution:

Since this recipe is relatively straightforward, the most crucial part is getting your cocktail routine down. When I say “cocktail” I’m referring to the bartender’s pedantic definition of what qualifies as a cocktail. A “vodka and Red Bull” is not a cocktail, it’s a disaster, and also a ‘mixed drink’. A Suburban is a cocktail because it consists of “spirits, sugar, water, and bitters”. Well, there’s no sugar, but it doesn’t contain anything more than that list. When you are preparing a cocktail that is shaken and strained, there’s a few steps in the process, and an order in which you do things, in order to produce the most satisfying drink. It’s simple, and here’s how to do it:

Step one: chill the cocktail glasses. This is done by placing ice and water into the glasses before you prep the rest of the drink. This will lower the temperature of the glass, therefore keeping the drink colder, longer.

Step two: Place ice in the shaker.

Step three: Bitters go in first. The reasons for this seem more religious than rational, but I think the physics at work has something to do with how little bitters there are in a drink.

Step four: Your secondary spirits and ingredients go in second. This is your syrups, liqueurs, and smaller liquors. Here’s where you put in the port and rum.

Step five: Your main spirit goes in last, in this case the Rittenhouse.

Step six: Seal the shaker, and shake vigorously for at least ten seconds to ensure the drink has combined well, the liquors have chilled, and a bit of ice has melted to smooth the taste.

Step seven: Dump out the ice water from the cocktail glasses. Strain the cocktail into the vessels that wait. Serve.

This template will apply to pretty much any real cocktail you prepare straight. If you’ve been playing along at home, you already have the Rittenhouse 100, the Angostura, and the orange bitters. Any ruby port will do, I picked up a bottle for $12 only because the $10 bottles were out. Dark rum can vary in price, but is typically around the same as the wine. In a pinch, you can use spiced rum, but you’ll probably like the recipe better as it is written. Prost!

Photo credits go to M.

Here’s something to accompany the previous recipe.

(Source: Spotify)

Tombstone

Afternoon cocktails are wonderful. Not that today’s cocktail can’t be enjoyed at any (reasonable) hour of the day, but as I sit here and sip this beautiful creation I am reminded of how delightful day drinking can be. Last night, storms rolled through the city, and I enjoyed a placid slumber to the sound of steady rain. This afternoon, the breeze which follows is blowing through the windows. I’ve got something strong in my cup punctuating this halcyon day.

The Tombstone is a new one for me. I’ve never had it, never made it, but I’ve made its cousins. One time I experimented with a strained Old Fashioned, and that’s an adequate description. It’s not as bitter, though. This drink comes from David Wondrich, an expert mixologist and historian of the drink, who wrote a book to wrap around this recipe (I highly recommend it).

The physics at play in this drink is that of overproof Rye. Overproof Whiskey is what you get when you take the Good Stuff right from the cask. Between aging and bottling, Whiskey is usually diluted a bit to bring it into the 80-92 proof (40%-46% ABV) range. Overproof liquor is taken directly from the barrels, filtered, then bottled without dilution. Why would one want to have overproof vs regular liquor? Some people are purists, others find the concentration of the oils is stronger and therefore more flavorful. Some just like to get blasted faster. In cocktails, overproof liquor is usually used just because it tastes better for that particular recipe. This case is no exception. Here is the Tombstone, courtesy of David Wondrich: 

Tombstone

  • 2 oz of 100 or 101-proof Rye
  • 1 tsp rich simple syrup
  • 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Lemon peel

Pour your Rye, simple syrup, and bitters into a shaker with ice. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Notes on execution:

Simple enough, no? Two Whiskeys instantly pop into my mind when I saw “100 or 101-proof”: Rittenhouse, and Wild Turkey 101. I went with Rittenhouse Rye 100. Low twenties. Can you splurge? Absolutely. But not everyone has $65 to fork over for a bottle of Whistle Pig. Not that it would be a bad purchase, but the last thing I want to do is make you feel like you can’t make something delicious on a budget. This cocktail was glorious. Because the Rye was overproof, the ingredients were playing with that extra punch you get from the alcohol. Rittenhouse is strong, Angostura is strong, you’d think this drink would be bitter but that touch of rich simple syrup does the trick. Not too sweet, not too bitter, but very strong. Don’t shy away if that makes you feel uneasy, you will like this drink if you’ve come this far.

Now for a cool trick. Invite some friends over, shake a few of these up, strain, and garnish with lemon oil flambé. Make sure your lemons are washed and dry first. Here’s how to do it: get a lemon peel using a peeler or pairing knife, avoiding the pith as much as possible. Take a lighter in one hand, and gently “stroke” the outside of the peel with the flame, repeatedly, until it starts to get shiny. Then, hold the peel next to the glass, and the lighter between the peel and the glass. Squeeze the peel to spray the oils into the glass, passing it through the flame. If done correctly, you’ll have a thin but very flavorful layer of oils floating at the top of your drink. This can be done with oranges, too. Twist the peel and drop it into the glass.

If you don’t want to burn your knuckles, just twist and drop it in. Your call, your insurance. If you’re a visual person: here’s how you do it.

Enjoy the Tombstone. Į sveikatą!

My wonderful photographer, M, was off today. Credits go to me.

Whiskey Sour

In the first post of this blog I said the Sour is dead. The Sour, like 2pac, is not really dead. You will occasionally catch glimpses of the real deal at a bar, or a party, and you have to do a double-take, or question what you’ve just experienced. If you actively look for it, you’ll find remnants, fragments, memories, and “the good old days”. Tonight is Oak & Grain’s Coachella, but this ain’t no hologram.

If you go into a most bars today, when you ask for a drink, sour, you will get a shot of liquor floating in a deluge of corn syrup and citric acid. “Sours mix” is the de-evolution of the Sour. Modernized, atomized, dehydrated, and given no expiration, the powdered garbage you can buy at the store or consume at a dive is as much real Sours as Twizzlers is licorice. It’s a crying shame in every way, considering real Sours is just concentrated lemonade. It’s so darn simple to make.

It’s simple syrup and lemon juice. That’s it. No secret formula, no preservatives or corn or powder or settling or shaking. Just a bit of stirring. If you’ve been playing this game along with us at home, you’ve already made Sours. You’ve just added a few extra ingredients. Still got that simple syrup I’ve told you how to make? Good! Get it ready.

The Whiskey Sour is no secret, and if you Google the recipe you’ll find plenty out there. Nobody takes the time to make it proper, though, so odds are you may have never had a real Whiskey Sour. If this was some two-bit blog I’d just copy-paste someone else’s recipe. I’ve taken the liberty to adjust the recipe, though, and if reactions from those who I have served are any indication, I’ve struck the perfect formula. Ladies and gentlemen I give to you, the most perfect Whiskey Sour you’ll ever drink:

Whiskey Sour

  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 3/4 oz of rich simple syrup
  • 2 oz of Jim Beam
  • Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Juice your half lemon over the shaker, pour in your simple syrup and Jim Beam. Seal and shake, vigorously, for at least 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, wipe the rim with an orange peel and garnish.

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Notes on execution: 

Glass is important here. Make it a small one, no more than 4-5 ounces. Technically this recipe is about 3.5 ounces in total. Traditionally Sours is served on the rocks, in a Sours glass, which is just a narrow glass that holds about 6 ounces. We’re breaking tradition here.

Technique is nothing new for veterans of this blog, but remember: rich simple syrup is made by boiling one cup of water, adding two cups of sugar, stirring till clear, then letting it cool.

Why Jim Beam? As I’ve said, Jim Beam should be your first choice for cheap Whiskey. When volume matters, and it will once you finish your first, go for JB White. For some cosmic reason, Jim Beam just tastes really, really good in a Sour. This is not a fancy drink, this is a quick one you enjoy to invigorate the soul. You can make this drink with any other Whiskey that you feel like using, or for that matter, any other liquor. If you use gin, add some seltzer and ice, you’ve made a Tom Collins. If you use rum, you’ve made a Daisy. If you use vodka, you’ve made a mistake. I wouldn’t recommend Scotch, blended or otherwise. Evan Williams also works well when going for volume. 

Shake this one a lot. Part of the Sour’s appeal is the fizziness, and there’s no seltzer in here to do that. Bubbles are inserted manually. You’ll feel the shaker get bone-chillingly cold. This is desired. Strain everything out, do not serve it on the rocks. Every sip should be as sweet as the first, and you won’t have to worry about the drink warming up based on how fast these go down. If you shook well and long, you’ll have a drink so cold ice will begin to form along the surface after pouring. This is beautiful.

The orange peel is what really sets this one out from a typical Sour. From my understanding, this is technically a Whiskey Peel, but no one outside of a casket will split that hair anymore. Take a vegetable peeler, and peel the top layer of an orange, avoiding the pith as much as possible. Twist the peel over the poured drink, expressing the oils, and rub the outside of the peel along the rim. Drop it in the drink, smile and serve.

This was a recipe I’ve previously only shared with close friends. It’s not exactly secret, and it’s easy to do, but what counts is that you take the time to do it. I suggest the following: at the earliest convenient hot, sunny Saturday, invite a few friends over for lunch, whip out a fifth of JB, and start serving these as a digestif. Afternoon becomes night. Cheers.

Photo by M.

The Maggie Brown

Maggie Brown I’ve got your number. Maggie Brown is a brunch/dinner place in Brooklyn that has a nice assortment of house cocktails. Maggie Brown serves a delectable cocktail called the “Maggie Brown” of which the chemical components are “Bourbon, watermelon, lemonade” with no indication as to quantity of each. Maggie Brown, I’ve figured it out, and y’all cant stop me.

If you saw a drink that contains Bourbon, watermelon, and lemonade, how could you say no? If you added barbecued ribs or fried chicken to that list you’d be just a basket and blanket short of a Southern picnic. Nowadays, the hard liquor associated with watermelon is the dreaded V-word. Either you buy it pre-infused, or you make it yourself, but supporting such a tragedy is potentially a war crime in my book. No, vodka can take a hike when it comes to fruit. Vodka brings nothing to the table but inebriation. It doesn’t enhance the flavor, nor do you have to consider the ingredients in a vodka “cocktail” before mixing. No thanks. Drinking is about the journey, not the hazy destination and bad decisions at the end. Let Whiskey be your conductor.

The trick to this one is understanding what lemonade is: sugar, water, and lemon juice. Simple syrup is the first two, and lemon juice is a no-brainer. All that’s left is to cut it with some seltzer. I present to you, the proper method:

The Maggie Brown

  • Watermelon
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 3/4 oz rich simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • Seltzer

In a cocktail shaker, place a handful of ice and an equal amount of watermelon chunks. Squeeze your lemon juice over the shaker, then pour in 3/4 of an ounce of rich simple syrup (see notes) and 1.5 ounces of Bourbon. Shake vigorously so the watermelon is pulverized, at least 10 seconds. Pour without straining into a large glass of your choice. Top with seltzer water and garnish with a lemon slice (or three).

Notes on execution:

Watermelon is in season, and the heat is setting in. Grab the seedless variety, but seeded shouldn’t stop you. Cut a quarter slice out and dice the flesh into half-inch chunks. Place that in the shaker with ice. The amount of solids you put in has to be considered, because you’re not straining. If you put too much ice in you won’t be able to cut this with seltzer, which I do recommend. Only put enough ice in to chill the drink while shaking and keep it cool, but be liberal with the watermelon. You’ll get chunks of it in the finished product and that is a very, very good thing.

As usual, fresh is better. Use a fresh lemon, and squeeze with a citrus squeezer over the shaker. Not only do you get the juice, but you also get the oils from the zest. Slice up the other half for garnish. This is a lemonade drink, but I don’t recommend making this out of pre-mixed lemonade. I’ve tried a few brands in the past attempting to re-create this drink and was never satisfied. It was only yesterday I shook the cobwebs out and decided to look up a lemonade recipe and try the juice/water/sugar proportions from there. Lo, and behold!

I’ve explained how to make simple syrup in the Mint Julep recipe, but I will gladly explain again: Rich simple syrup is different from the standard simple syrup recipe as it contains twice the sugar. If you only have regular simple syrup, double up on the amount. To make rich simple syrup, boil one cup of water, and dump in two cups of granulated white cane sugar. Stir until the solution is clear, then cut the heat and let it cool. Regular simple syrup is a one-to-one ratio of sugar and water, same as the bottled stuff you may see on the store shelves. You will never buy that stuff knowing you can make it, right? Good. You can use turbinado sugar instead of white cane for a richer flavor. Don’t use brown sugar.

The Bourbon I used is Buffalo Trace, an excellent match for this recipe. You may choose what you like. Bottom shelf or top, it’s up to you. As usual, I warn against using Jack, but you may prefer it. This drink is fruity and the Bourbon blends in, but if you use something strong, it will naturally be more noticeable.

Pour the shaker into your glass of choice. Your glass should be at least 6 ounces in volume, 8 ounces is better. Pint is out of the question. Keep it under 10. An old fashioned glass works beautifully. A small mason jar (or a regular one with double proportions) would be groovy. Remember, you’re not straining this one. Some may find the watermelon seeds (which are still present in seedless) a turn-off, but I feel it’s perfectly in-tune with this song. Do you eat a watermelon without having to spit out seeds? Yes? Are you not human?

Top with seltzer, but no more than a couple ounces or you’ll thin this out too much.

Cherish this recipe. Really cherish it, as I felt like I cracked a code when I replicated the cocktail at home. Maggie Brown should be frequented, I can’t replicate their corned beef hash. But I did teach you how to bring a little Maggie Brown into your home. Cheers.

Photos by M.

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