Thursday, October 31, 2013

Manhattan Cooler with Pama Liqueur

A riff on the 19th century recipe that lead to the contemporary Manhattan. I utilize Pama Liqueur in place of the original Orange Curacao, and a touch of Fernet Branca in place of the bitters. I find it works beautifully served over ice in a Collins glass garnished with some Marasca cherries on a cocktail pick.

Manhattan Cooler

Shake all ingredients hard with ice and strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Skewer 3 Marasca cherries on a cocktail pick for garnish.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Classic Movie Cocktail Scenes: All About Eve

One of the finest examples of cocktails enhancing a film is writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 masterpiece All About Eve.  The story of a Broadway legend, the people in her orbit, and the ruthless newcomer she takes under her wing, it stands out as one of the finest films ever made about the Broadway theater.  A crackling script lets the larger than life Bette Davis rip and tear into everyone and everything around her, aided almost always by a steady stream of Martinis and Champagne.  Whether it's at a birthday party at her penthouse, or dinner at the exclusive Cub Room inside the Stork Club, cocktails are an essential prop for Miss Davis' character Margo Channing - much like a cigar was an essential prop for George Burns.

Here is a small segment from one of the best sequences (in a film full of best sequences!): the party for Margo's boyfriend Bill that Eve has planned behind Margo's back.  It takes place in Margo's palatial penthouse, and throughout the lengthy sequence Margo is rarely seen without a glass in her hand.  She downs a Martini as punctuation to just about every line!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Classic Movie Cocktail Scenes: The Thin Man

Perhaps no other single film has done more for popularizing a single cocktail than the delightfully effervescent "Thin Man" film series ('franchise' we call them today).  Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett, the first film in the franchise is an adaptation of his bestselling novel "The Thin Man," first published in 1934 in the magazine Redbook.  The film was released the same year, and became an instant hit.  Although it was the last novel Hammett would write, it spawned 5 film sequels.

The cocktail "The Thin Man" and its sequels popularized was, of course, the Martini.  NOT the iced-vodka-served-in-a-stem-glass that masquerades as a Martini these days, but an ACTUAL Martini.  For the uninitiated, a Martini is a combination of gin, vermouth and bitters shaken or stirred with ice (there is a very heated, decades long debate about the stirring vs. the shaking), and served in a stem glass.  NOT on the rocks, NOT in a double old fashioned glass or highball glass, and definitely NOT with colored sugar syrup in it.  The ratio of gin to vermouth has constantly changed throughout the decades, and in later years the bitters were omitted all together (the bitters mentioned here are Orange bitters, not the more common Angostura bitters).  The Nick and Nora Martini, named for the characters, uses a ratio of 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth.

The main characters mixing and drinking the Martinis are Nick and Nora Charles, deftly played in the film series by William Powell and Myrna Loy.  The husband and wife sleuthing team is often seen in cocktail lounges, restaurants and at home serving and consuming their signature cocktail throughout each of the films, except the fifth in the series "The Thin Man Goes Home" in which Nick is humorously 'on the wagon'.

When viewing films from earlier decades like "The Thin Man," note the size of the stemware the cocktails are served in.  It may be shocking to modern viewers (and drinkers), but the standard size of a cocktail glass was 3 ounces, and stayed that way for many, many decades.  It's far cry from our current McDonald's 'Super Size' mentality, which has found it's way in to our meal portions as well as our cocktail portions.  A 3 ounce cocktail will stay chilled to the last drop you drink of it, and you won't be 'under the table' with one drink, allowing you to sample more than one or two cocktails on the menu.

Here then are but a few cocktail scenes from two of the "Thin Man" films.  Notice that the character Nick Charles is first introduced teaching a group of bartenders how to shake various cocktails.  Make note of the list of cocktails he mentions - all were standards in the early 1930s!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Classic Movie Cocktail Scenes: Jim Backus

Cocktails have played a part in motion pictures since the very beginning, over 100 years ago now.  Cocktails can serve many purposes: they can establish a characters background and up bringing, add sophistication or lack of it, say something about the characters social status, become a characters weakness or crutch, add humor to a scene or heartbreak.  Cocktails on film can also offer a fascinating social commentary, reflecting the cultures regard or disregard for drinking and drinkers, and offer us a peak into the popular fashions of each era just as much as clothing can.  Start making note of what year a film was made, and what the characters order when at a party, bar or cocktail lounge.  Notice the size of the stemware.  You'll be shocked at just how small a martini was originally!

Here is one of the all time classic cocktail scenes, and one of the funniest.  It features Jim Backus, an airplane and multiple Old Fashioneds.  I'm a big Jim Backus fan, I'll have to admit.  Beyond his Thurston Howell III character on the television series "Gilligan's Island," he created many other memorable characters in a film career that spanned several decades.  This is one of his best.

Is that not the coolest bar you've ever seen?  I want one in my living room!  If you haven't watched the 1963 all star comedy classic "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," then rent it immediately.  In addition to Jim Backus, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett, it features just about every major comedian alive at the time it was filmed, either in major roles or cameos.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eggs & Cocktails DO Mix

Eggs have been an integral ingredient in cocktails for at least the last two hundred years.  They add a silky frothiness, and body that a cocktail wouldn’t have otherwise.  The reason the egg was removed from many cocktails in the last few decades was from some bad publicity.  At some point in time it was stated that “eating raw eggs could lead to serious illness from salmonella.”

The FDA states that only 1 in 20,000 eggs has the salmonella bacteria, and nowhere does the National Safety Council's data state that raw eggs are a common risk.  It should be noted, however, that death from choking on food is rated at 1 in 5000 odds!  The odds of getting salmonella from an egg are extremely remote and you have a better chance of dying from accidental drowning (1 in 1,000), a storm related accident (1 in 3,000) or slipping (1 in 6,500).

Still scared?  Then take a deep breath and check the expiration date on the carton of eggs you got from the market.  If you'd use them to make an omelet, then you can use them to make a cocktail.  Start with this tasty libation from 1934's "The Official Mixer's Manual" by the master mixologist Patrick Gavin Duffy:

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 1/2 oz orange curacao
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3/4 to 1 oz)
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 egg (medium size is best, if using jumbo size then 1 egg for every two servings is best)

Shake all ingredients hard with ice to fully emulsify the egg.  Strain into a chilled Delmonico glass or highball.

It should be noted that eggs in the 19th and early 20th century tended to be much smaller than the size we're used to today.  What we would call small or medium size eggs are the only size that was available before growth hormone injected poultry started producing monster chickens laying jumbo eggs.  Consequently, I use one jumbo egg for every two servings of this and many cocktails requiring eggs.

This recipe is also found in "Professor" Jerry Thomas' groundbreaking 1862 tome "How To Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant's Companion".  The recipe he lists calls for 3 dashes of lemon juice, as opposed to the 1/2 lemon listed above.  19th century cocktail affectionados preferred libations on the sweeter side, but by the 1930s their tastes had changed.  Increasing the ratio of lemon juice creates a much more balanced drink.  Try it at home!  This is one of Brad 'Martini' Chambershost of internet radios, favorite drinks. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Cocktail for the New Renaissance

I say new, but actually the twenty first century cocktail renaissance started a few years ago.  Nevertheless, a renaissance it is and at the forefront of the Los Angeles scene is Aidan Demarest, beverage director of the not-to-be-missed First & Hope in downtown LA.  Much has been written about Aidan and First & Hope (check out the article from Food GPS) and I highly recommend a visit when you're making a trip to the Music Center or Disney Hall.

Back when Mr. Demarest was beverage director at The Edison (also located in downtown Los Angeles) he created a beautiful cocktail reminiscent of the champagne libations of the Gilded Age.  Interestingly, champagne is not required to make it.  In it's place is any light, or light-flavored, chilled beer.  This is a wonderful drink to serve when a festive cocktail is called for.

The Enlightenment Cocktail

2 oz bourbon
Chilled light beer (any pale ale works well)
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz pomegranate syrup

Shake all ingredients (except the beer) with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Top off with the beer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Car with a Passenger Seat Bar

Glendale, California 1951 - Earl "Madman" Muntz begins production of what he calls the Muntz Jet, a re-branding of Frank Kurtis's two seater sports car, the Kurtis Kraft Sport.  Muntz, a fixture in Southern California widely known for his 'Madman' persona and  flamboyant, groundbreaking television commercials, had started out selling used cars in 1934.  He had Kurtis extend the body of his sports car thereby making room for a rather cramped back seat.  As a stunt, Muntz had him add a small bar in the armrest of the rear seat.  It was fully equipped with all the bar tools needed to make a martini, manhattan or old fashioned - all the consumer had to add was the liquor.

The Muntz Jet was featured on the cover of the September 1951 issue of Popular Science magazine.  After producing 28 cars in California, he moved operations to Evanston, Illinois.  All in all only about 400 Jets were ever sold, and in 1954 he closed the company.  Today they are prized by collectors.