I love cocktails. You’ve heard me talk before about how hard it was to live with my parents because my mom insists on a dry house. So now that I’m back on my own, I’ve been taking advantage of it and drinking a cocktail once in a while.
And by cocktail, I mean alcohol + mixer. I’m the queen of vodka tonics, gin & tonics, and whiskey gingers. I love other cocktails but have never ventured into making them at home.
Until now. I decided recently that I wanted to master making some classic cocktails. I’ve wanted to for years, but just never had the guts to try it. Ridiculous I know, but there – now you have a glimpse of who I was 5 years ago and before. I searched the Googles for information on the top cocktail recipes, and for once Google let me down. Nowhere, did it seem, was there a list of the top 10 or 15 cocktails. Boo. Shame on you, Google.
Then I remembered. When we cleaned out my grandfather’s house in the late 80s, my dad let me take a book called “Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes”. I didn’t know why I wanted it except that it was a super old book that had our name in the title. I thought that was way cool. (Still do, by the way.) I’ve had it ever since but have never really used it.
So I started looking through it today. Turns out, it was published in 1936 and was written by Harman Burney “Barney” Burke. The intro describes Barney as (wait for it) a master in the bartending profession, having worked “from Piccadilly to Paris; to Berlin in Germany’s heyday; to Copenhagen and back to Paris; to Park Avenue and the New America”. Seems funny that the Irish family with alcoholics in its tree also has a well-known bartender. Well, maybe that’s not so strange.
There are some interesting tidbits in this book.
“Americans will eventually become connoisseurs of wines – and it is my prediction that American wines will one day be known as the best in the world.”
“The cocktail era will probably pass, in its turn, and make way for a great people to ‘find’ themselves with respect to their drinking, by learning to drink and enjoy wines and malt liquors. Meantime, however, there is no denying that the cocktails’ heyday is here; for the next few years every hour will be the Cocktail Hour, so to speak.”
“The wise drinker who would consider health in connection with drinking can adopt no better antidote for the hard side of hard liquor than tasty bits of food, before, during, and after the drink.”
He also includes (yay!) the 15 “most popular conventional drinks in the Western world”. Number one, then and now, is the martini.
So…I’ve decided to try and learn these recipes. Start with the 15 and then maybe branch out to the other 100 that are in here. You can watch for these cocktails as I will be writing about them.
I realize that the recipes from 1936 might be slightly different than what’s done today. But it’s a starting point; I can always tweak it from there. Plus, using this book gives it more of a “retro” feel.
Number one: the martini. (Man, that so makes me think of Monty Python. “Number one…the larch”. Anyone? Just me? OK fine. Back to cocktails.)
The recipes are for dry, medium, and sweet martinis. I didn’t really know which one I would prefer. No idea which one I was given when I ordered them in bars. But I know that I prefer a dry white wine to a sweet white wine, plus the recipes for the medium and sweet required two kinds of vermouth. Which to be honest seems like a waste of money. So I thought I’d start with the dry and if I didn’t like it, I could always try one of the others.
2 parts gin
1 part vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Ice. Stir. (OK, I used my cocktail shaker. It’s just more fun. And James Bond prefers that way too. So there.) Strain into a cocktail glass. Add one olive (or two if you’re me) and serve.
And the result:
Perfection! Well, perfection to me. But I’m not a connoisseur of martinis. I think I need to have AM try this…she’s really the expert. But to me, it was tasty, very balanced in flavor, and a great addition to a Sunday afternoon.