Artist’s Special

Artist’s (Special) Cocktail

1/3 Whisky. (3/4 oz Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey)
1/3 Sherry. (3/4 oz Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Sherry “Don Nuño”)
1/6 Lemon Juice. (1/3-1/2 oz lime juice)
1/6 Groseille Syrup. (bar spoon D’Arbo Red Currant Preserves)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

This is the genuine ‘Ink of Inspiration’ imbibed at the Bal Bullier Paris. The recipe is from the Artists Club, Rue Pigalle, Paris.

Well, I’ve take quite a lot of liberties for this one. However, with such unspecific ingredients its hard to know where to start. First, the whisky is not specified. Second the type of Sherry is not specified. Third, I realized, when I was looking through the refrigerator, we were out of lemons. Fourth, I could find no Red Currant syrup.

But, the description is so inspiring, I had to give it a try.

The Saz Jr is my go-to rye for mixing, so I started there. Sometimes it is a little too assertive to play well with other ingredients. But there was enough going on here, I thought it might be interesting.

I didn’t particularly care for the fino sherry I’d recently tried in my cobbler experiment, so I thought I’d get something a little richer. Didn’t want a cream, though. Given the fairly meager local selection of sherry, the Lustau Dry Oloroso seemed like a good choice.

My wife has a cold and she used up all the lemons in her tea. Thank goodness, we still had regular limes. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I had been forced to substitute key limes or calamansi.

Apparently, Groseille syrup is red currant syrup. I can find no trace of it in the modern world. Black currant, yes, Red currant, no. Fortunately, you can still buy red currant preserves. What are preserves, but, thickened fruit syrup?

What’s the verdict?

It’s quite a tasty cocktail and well worth all that pondering. Everything is there; but, none of the ingredients are fighting. Rye, currants, citrus, and sherry complement each other. Who knew?

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

NYC, February 14, 2008

As you can well imagine, Thursday morning started a bit slow.

Between being out of sync with the time change and being out late drinking, I was a bit slow getting out of bed.

We were staying in Tribeca, and Mrs. Underhill, having gotten there a bit earlier had already researched the breakfast situation. She had found a place called Kitchenette with good coffee, competently made eggs, and a fine selection of baked goods. We actually ended up eating breakfast there 3 out of 4 days of our stay.

Then we wandered around Tribeca for a couple hours, investigating the scene. We definitely preferred staying in this neighborhood to our previous uptown stay. One of those neighborhoods, you could wander around and find restaurants, delis, and shops all day. After the walk and some shopping, we headed back to the hotel for a short nap and to get changed.

For dinner, we had planned an early evening at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Both of us had been hearing good things about this place for years, so we didn’t want to miss it on this trip. Steamed Pork Buns, fresh oysters, Momofuku Ramen, and Oxtails with pine nuts and rice dumplings. Yum, Yum, Yum. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through the meal, the jet-like air handling began to bug Mrs. Underhill, who was recovering from a cold. It was kind of weird that they would have the vents just jetting down on the food, pretty much chilling it instantly. So not entirely a success.

We then headed to Death + Co, so I could show her the very cool place I had been the night before. Unfortunately, they were full, and we couldn’t get in. Instead we headed to d.b.a. for a couple beers and to warm up. Sad Californians, just no longer cold acclimated.

After a couple warm up beers, we headed to a Valentine’s Day concert that was being held at The Stone. This venue is run by John Zorn, so perhaps you will appreciate the irony. We arrived just as the first set was ending, and were informed that they needed to clear the venue and we could come back in 30 minutes. Oh, yes, fun, standing outside in the outer West Village in the cold. Fortunately, there was a grocery across the street, where we were able to waste some time buying mentos. The show opened with a trio of Ikue Mori (samples and computer), John Zorn (alto sax), and Sylvie Courvoisier (prepared piano). Plinks, plonks, and squawks, as you might imagine. Quite enjoyable. The next set was Zeena Parkins and Andrea Parkins duo of harp and accordion. Another enjoyable set, simultaneously a bit noisier and trancier. For the last set, all 5 played together creating a glorious cacophony of sound.

Not wanting to risk another run in with the winter cold, we grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel to eat valentine’s day cupcakes and exchange gifts.

NYC, February 13, 2008

I have met a couple folks via the food and cocktail forums on eGullet over the years.

A couple guys I knew from their foodblogs and cocktail posts were John Deragon and Don Lee. Serious foodies and tech workers who moonlight as bartenders at PDT, I dropped them a note to see if they would be interested in getting together for a few drinks.

I got off my flight, took a cab to the hotel, and gave John a call. He said he and Don would be at Death + Company, and that they would be glad to take me around to a few bars in the East Village.

One interesting thing that Death + Company has been doing lately is a bartender exchange program. A bartender from Death + Company travels to a bar in another city for a week or so and a bartender from the remote bar/city travels to NYC and bartends at Death + Company for a week. The night I was there, Kirk from the Violet Hour in Chicago was behind the bar along with Brian. With Brian busy, I asked Kirk for something aromatic, and he suggested a Chartreuse Swizzle. Composed of, well, a lot of Chartreuse, a house made falernum, and pineapple juice in a tall glass with crushed ice, it also had a spectacular flamed chartreuse float. While Kirk was getting the other ingredients together, he set a shot of chartreuse on fire in a large jigger. Then, after rest of the drink was ready, he poured the still burning chartreuse over the mint sprig garnish, setting it on fire, briefly, like a mini christmas tree. The aroma of the flamed chartreuse and mint was really wonderful, and the drink a nice kick start to a spectacular evening.

Other cocktails were drunk, there was the usual bartender shop talk. Some demonstration of stirring technique. I learned that Philip Ward from Death + Company will be bartending at Alembic in San Francisco, while Thomas Waugh and Daniel Hyatt pull stints at Death + Company. Then we decided we should get out of the way at Death + Company and headed to PDT.

At PDT, the boys were off to deal with separate crises, and left me at the bar to fend for myself. I started with a nice Brooklyn Pilsner, to get myself more on an even keel after the potent drinks at Death + Company. I chatted with Jane at the bar and asked her advice on a rye drink. She suggested something that may have been called a Rattlesnake or Snakebite. It was basically a rye sour with egg white, and pastis instead of bitters. She even topped it off with a bit of champagne. Quite delicious. Don was nice enough to get me a couple of Crif Dog’s famous hot dogs, the eponomous John Deragon dog, with cream cheese and avocado over a deep fried bacon wrapped hot dog, and a Chang Dog, which involved kimchi and a bacon wrapped deep fried hot dog. I have to admit my lack of fondness for dairy, left me in favor of the Chang dog.

Eventually, we moved to a table where Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewing, was sitting with a friend. More conversation, cocktails involving bacon infused bourbon, and things began to get a bit blurry.

Eventually, Don and John packed me into a car with a few of their friends and sent me back to my hotel.

Quite an evening!

Thanks to everyone who I met that evening for a whirlwind of amazing drinks, conversation, and fun!

New York Minute

Mrs. Underhill was called away to work in New York last week.

After going over our options, we decided it would be more fun for me to travel there and meet her, than for her to quick fly back for Valentine’s day.

Before I get to the details of the trip, I just have to say how happy I am that Jet Blue now flies out of San Francisco, direct to New York.

I am just so fed up with the major airlines’ decision to squish as many people as possible into coach class, so they can pamper the wealthy in business and first class, that it makes me furious. Just about every aspect of our last several flights on major carriers have sucked. Cranky and uninspired flight attendants on understaffed planes, uncleaned airplanes, malfunctioning equipment, canceled flights due to “heavy rain”. My “favorite” aspect are the meals you can now buy on some of the carriers. Every ingredient seems to be an advertising or sponsorship deal with some major food corporation, yet the airline still charges you $10 for a couple crackers and some not-cheese.

Anyway, rant over, I had a great flight on Jet Blue. Whew, legroom!

I’m still working on writeups of the New York trip, so you’ll be seeing those over the next couple days.

Oh, and speaking of Jet Blue, and the trip, I will just note that there may be some name dropping in the next few posts. Sorry about that. I try to avoid that sort of thing, generally, but I had such a great time, and folks were so generous, that I’m going to have to mention a few names.

Name drop No. 1: On my Jet Blue flight to New York, I sat in the same row with an Amy Sedaris trying very hard to be inconspicuous.