Do you ever feel forgotten … like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind?
I’ve been digging through my cocktail books lately, looking for a little “inspirado” before I make my triumphant post-injury return to bartending—and the research has made me realize how many drinks are forgotten, out-shadowed and even mocked. Well, this column is a bully-free zone, so it’s time to bring some of these beauties out into the light, whaddya say?
I first want to make a distinction here: Some bartenders scoff at some cocktails that are very popular—the cosmo, the French martini, the espresso martini, etc. Those drinks have thick skin, however; they can take the mockery of apron-bedecked hipsters. I’m speaking more of the drinks of yesteryear—the baroque, the obscure, the “rarely make even a seasonal drink list.”
A good one to start with is the “Champs Elysees.” This cocktail dates back to 1925, according to Difford’s Guide, appearing in Drinks Long and Short by Nina Toye and Arthur H. Adair. Their version is a single-serving cocktail, a bit of a take on a sidecar, but with green Chartreuse and Angostura bitters. By the time it shows up in The Savoy Cocktail Book a few years later, it has become a group cocktail for six people:
- 3 glasses of cognac
- 1 glass of Chartreuse
- 1 1/2 glasses of sweetened lemon juice
- 1 dash of Angostura bitters
Shake well; strain into six cocktail glasses.
The Savoy was a cocktail book of high regard throughout most of the mid-century (and still is today, although the cocktails are rarely made verbatim), and having the Champs Elysees as a multi-person cocktail with an unspecified hue of Chartreuse may have frightened off many bartenders; perhaps this is the reason the cocktail never took off. Also … one dash of Ango in a mix of that quantity? Talk about pissing in the ocean. The name being French probably intimidated the timid as well.
To this day, I have had two people order this cocktail—both bartenders, both leading to a spirited debate over specs. That’s a damned shame.
For the record, green Chartreuse seems to be the consensus at this point, but it’s still a fine cocktail with yellow if you desire a less-intense tipple. Here’s a modern spec on the drink:
- 1 1/2 ounces of cognac (find a full-bodied one)
- 3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce of green Chartreuse
- 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
- Two dashes of Angostura bitters
The result will be rich with a full mouthfeel; you could cut back the simple to a quarter-ounce if you want a more bracing drink. There are many tweaks on this cocktail—including substituting yellow Chartreuse, or Laird’s apple brandy, or Calvados—so play around with it.
Staying with cognac and brandy … up next is the “Metropole,” or a variation called the “Metropolitan.” These are in the Manhattan/Martinez family, and are more ancestors of the martini on that illustrious family tree. David Wondrich, in Imbibe, posits the Metropolitan Hotel or the Metropole Hotel in New York as the likely source, in the late 1800s; both were hangouts of actors, writers and politicians. He translates the Metropole recipe from George J. Kappeler in Modern American Drinks thusly:
- 1 1/2 ounces of VSOP cognac
- 1 1/2 ounces French (dry) vermouth
- 2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 dash of orange bitters
- 2 dashes of gum syrup
Stir; strain into a cocktail glass; add a maraschino cherry.
If you don’t have gum syrup (and who does?), just use simple syrup.
The Metropolitan is the same; just use three dashes of Angostura instead of the other bitters; increase the simple syrup to a barspoon; and cut the cognac in half. That would put the drink into aperitif territory, although brandy is always nice after a meal, if you need something a little less boozy for a postprandial. Wondrich suggests a lemon twist for this one, as do I.
Last but not least, we must discuss the “Corpse Reviver No. 1.” Similar to the story of Jacob and Esau, this big brother lost its place to the “Corpse Reviver No. 2.” What can I say? The No. 2 is a flawless drink. But does that mean No. 1 doesn’t deserve any love? On the contrary—this is a really delicious cocktail!
There are two main reasons this drink doesn’t get a lot of love these days … maybe 2 1/2. One: It’s the more popular brother-from-another-mother: Two: It was classified as an “eye-opener,” or morning hangover cure (gosh, people drank for real in those days), whereas no one in the modern era would consider it appropriate before dinner. Two and a half: modern American bartenders’ general ignorance of brandy and cognac cocktails.
From Harry Craddock in the Savoy:
- One quarter Italian (sweet) vermouth
- One quarter apple brandy or Calvados
- One half brandy
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass; to be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam or energy are needed.
OK, Harry, but we’d have a hard time keeping a job, or a family, or a license if we followed your advice these days. Notice there’s no garnish; I’m surprised he didn’t say to shake and strain it directly into one’s mouth. By the way, don’t shake this one; as I have said many times, these old recipes are not to be trusted sometimes. Here’s a more modern take, based on the Manhattan.
- 1 ounce of Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy or Calvados
- 1 ounce of cognac
- 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
Stir; strain into cocktail glass; garnish with a cherry.
Since fall is coming (everywhere but here), you could garnish with an apple slice, I guess. The subtle apple flavor makes it perfect for the fall, but it doesn’t give hayride or cider-apple vibes, so it’s good any time of year. But it’s still not good for breakfast.
Brandy … she’s a fine girl, a firework even. Give these drinks a spot in your rotation, and they’ll definitely expand your horizons!