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.

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.


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.