Sunday, October 25, 2009

VODKA as a cocktail base spirit by 1914

The misconception that "Classic Vodka Cocktails" are a product of the 1960's or later continues to circulate. For this reason, I am including in this post an article in the Town Talk column of a 1914 issue of the Oakland Tribune, wherein "Cocktail Bill" Boothby, who some might call the Jerry Thomas of the West, includes Vodka in an anecdotal recipe of his.

There is no mention of Vodka in Boothby's 1891 cocktail guide, Cocktail Boothby's American Bartender. Nor is there mention of Vodka in his 1908 guide, The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, and as far as I know, his 1930 and 1934 editions of the latter guide, renamed Cocktail Bill Boothby's World Drinks and How to Mix Them, are little more than reprints produced in response to the demand for the then scarce manuscript, as well as marking the occasion of Boothby's death.
I suggest that somewhere between 1908 and 1914, Boothby, upon hearing about Vodka, and being an owner/operator of his own saloon, took it upon himself to import some small quantity to introduce to his customers. Another possible scenario is that Boothby received a bottle from some Bon Vivant who collected it while traveling through the Crimea or some such place. Whatever the case, by 1914, not only did Boothby have Vodka, but was familiar enough with it to include it in a published anecdote/ cocktail, which also suggests that he expected his readers to be familiar with it, at least in name.

Less than 7 years later, in 1921, Vodka cocktails are published for the first time in a cocktail guide, The American Drink Dictionary, printed in France, though comprised of new and favorite American drinks. Among them were the Haughtinesse, Voslau, Zarnohoff, and Yokohama. Of these, only the Yokohama seems to have garnered any lasting international success, largely due to it allegedly having been invented on an international cruise ship based out of Yokohama. Incidentally, Yokohama continues to have a very competitive cocktail culture.

The Yokohama's reputation continues to resound, at least in some pocket of the world, and inside a can no less: yes, Asahi, famed producer of Japanese beer, also produces a canned "Yokohama Cocktail Yokohama Fruit Dance."

YOKOHAMA COCKTAIL (1 of several variations)
1 dash Absinthe
1/6 Grenadine
1/6 Vodka
1/3 Orange Juice
1/3 Dry Gin
Shake & Strain

The Voslau's origin must have something to do with Bad Voslau, a locale in southern Austria, and coincidentally the birthplace of Austrian Wine.

VOSLAU COCKTAIL (derived from multiple recipes)
1 1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz White Creme de Menthe
1 Dash Maraschino
2 pinches Cayenne Pepper
Shake & Strain

The origin of the Haughtiness(e) cocktail is even more elusive. In fact, I haven't a clue about where it comes from.

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Italian Vermouth
1/2 Tsp Absinthe
1/2 Tsp Curacao
2 Dash Bitters (I recommend Orange)
Stir & Strain

I can't even find an instance of the word "Zarnohoff," much less a cocktail of that name. It could be the Voronoff, which is simply equal parts Rye & Vodka. Or perhaps the Zaranes, a concoction of Vodka, Apry, and a healthy dose of Angostura. I may have to enlist Greg Boehm for source material on this one. Stay tuned for an update.

And now for The Peace Cocktail, (which could actually refer to The Conference Cocktail, devised in Russia in 1905. More on that later.

Oakland Tribune, November 22, 1914

Latest Cocktail Is Neutral

“Cocktail Bill” Boothby, the literary mixologist of the Palace, was listening to a heated argument between a German and a Frenchman in the wineroom the other afternoon. In the interests of neutrality he asked the debaters to try the latest cocktail of the hotel. They were willing. While they were exchanging angry words and threats Boothby mixed a cocktail with the following ingredients: English gin, Russian vodka, German kummel, Hungarian apricot brandy, Italian Vermouth, brandy manufactured in Ghent, Belgium, and a dash of French Amer Picon. The German and the Frenchman stopped their argument long enough to try the cocktail. They liked it and ordered another, and then a third, and then a fourth. Their argument became less and less heated.

“What do you call that new drink?” asked the German.

“Peace cocktail,” replied Boothby.

The German and the Frenchman departed arm in arm. —Town Talk

Monday, October 5, 2009

Morehouse Mollifier at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic

The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Fall Preview has come and gone, and I could hardly imagine a better time. There was camaraderie behind each bar, spirits in every glass, and smiles at every turn... not what one might expect from a summit situated in the seat of general cocktail snobbery. This past weekend I was quite proud to be working in the Spirits industry in New York City.

At the closing Gala, held at the New York Public Library, Masha & I danced across the expansive lobby's marble floors and all through the evening. In between sets, there were 14 bars to sip and sample from, not to mention several spreads of beautiful cuisine.
In particular, I was happy to see that the Morehouse Mollifier had been put to use. Greg Boehm (proprietor of Cocktail Kingdom, who has been my historical eyes on more than one occasion, requested from me some historical New York Vodka recipes, nearly all of which I dug up from Ted Saucier's Bottoms Up, 1951. Among my recommendations was the Morehouse Mollifier, created by Ward Morehouse, Columnist, New York World-Telegram and Sun.

Ward Morehouse is most remembered for his Column, Broadway After Dark, where he scribbled out a carrier as a drama critic. Known to appreciate a good meal and a good drink, his favorite interview location was the 21 Club in New York. It's likely that this refresher was first shaken at the 21 Club.

Mollify, for those who care to know, means to appease the anger or anxiety of someone. Perhaps Mr. Morehouse had this cocktail assembled and served to those whom he interviewed to calm their nerves, help them relax into a loose-lipped mood.

The Recipe:

Juice 1/2 lime (1/2 oz)
1 jigger vodka (1 1/2 oz)
1/2 jigger Grand Marnier (3/4 oz)
Dash orange flower water (Go Easy!)
Shake well. Serve in cocktail glass.

Morehouse was an exceptionally travelled man, having driven across the U.S. over 23 times and visited 80 foreign countries. Perhaps he developed a thirst for Vodka somewhere along the way.

Whatever the case may be, Vodka works well in this cocktail because of how thoroughly orange the drink wants to be. Don't linger over this one, take it quick-like, with only enough breathing in between to capture the fumes and orange flower fragrance. Vodka lends its usual velvety texture while otherwise being properly subdued. You wouldn't want gin in a case such as this; when I want to sink my teeth into a chilled ripe orange, I don't want a mouth full of juniper berries waiting in the wings.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

STARAYA MODNAYA or Old Fashioned

For my second video as part of the Zagat Bartenders series, I turn to yet another twist on a classic. This one is damn near blasphemous: An Old Fashioned Made With Vodka!

See the video here: STARAYA MODNAYA

Because Vodka's best qualities are viscosity, mouthfeel, and burn, it is a spirit that does well when given the Sazerac Treatment, which, for our purposes, is simply the technique of first rinsing a chilled glass with a given a second spirit, generally a liqueur, in order to lace it through the over all flavor of the drink.

In this case, Kummel, a liqueur made from Caraway seeds with origins in Russia and Germany, is our rinsing spirit. Combined with the Muddled Dill, the dill garnish, and the Kummel rinse, Vodka becomes the perfect vehicle for facilitating these otherwise difficult to manage herbal flavors.

Here is the complete recipe:
In a mixing glass:
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 small sprig of fresh dill
1 sugar cube
1 dash seltzer
Muddle the above ingredients into a paste

2 1/2 oz. Russian Standard Platinum Vodka
Fill with cracked ice
Stir until "Siberian chill" is reached (20 seconds should do)
Strain into a chilled Kummel-rinsed rocks glass
Add 1 large block of ice
Garnish with a spray of oil from the zest of a lemon and a small sprig of fresh dill on top

Na Zdorovie!