December's Mixology Monday is graciously being hosted by Jeffrey Morgenthaler (Thanks Jeff!) and the theme is Prohibition (cue the scary music now . . . ) and Repeal Day.
If your history is a little fuzzy or you want to know the horrors that were inflicted upon the United States when the Feds and those wayward state leaders decided on January 16, 1920 that we needed a Constitutional Amendment outlawing "strong water" and bestowed upon us the 18th Amendment, check out this wikipedia entry. But thank the good man above for Franklin Roosevelt and cooler heads that led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment on December 5, 1933 with the signing of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.
Stories have long been told by older members of my family about Prohibition. Specifically certain great uncles who ran whiskey and moonshine through the hills of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York to help supply the speakeasies in cities such as New York, Washington and Boston. Tales of cars with double gas tanks, empty wheel wells and compartments hidden within and under seats were exciting to hear as a young kid. Could some of it be hyperbole? Maybe. But I like to think that my family had a direct hand in keeping our country well lubricated during these dark times. It also could explain why some of my great aunts and uncles would curse anytime they heard the word "Kennedy." But I digress . . .
I wanted a drink for this month that highlighted a brown liquor to honor the whiskey of my forefathers. While leafing through David Wondrich's new book Imbibe I came across a cocktail called the "Star Cocktail." I read through the ingredients . . . apple brandy (David suggests Applejack) and sweet vermouth make the main ingredients. Now I love me some applejack, but the vermouth gave me a pause. I am still overcoming my vermouth aversion and completely agree with my compatriot runoknows that once I get better vermouth (I currently only have Martini & Rossi) all will be right with the world. But, in the spirit of Repeal day, I decided this would be my drink for MxMo.
(Courtesy of Imbibe by David Wondrich)
0.5 tsp simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1.5 oz Applejack
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
(optional dash of orange curacao)
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass half filled with cracked ice, stir until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a small piece of lemon peel on top.
I'll tell you something, if any drink makes me yearn for vermouth, this is it! The drink may look very similar to a Manhattan and truth be told it is very similar. The mixture is absolutely fantastic. The vermouth and bitters provide an herbal note that doesn't overpower the sweetness of the simple syrup and applejack. The curacao plays a note that is almost imperceptible, but brings a brightness that would sorely be missed.
Mr. Wondrich tells us that this cocktail was in vogue just before Prohibition was enacted. He also tells us that one of the establishments serving the drink preferred orange bitters. I've made this cocktail with Angostura and orange bitters and both versions taste very good. But in my opinion, if you want to gild the lilly just a bit, use a 2 to 1 ration of Angostura and Orange bitters.
One note on the glass in the picture. My cohort Sean gave me two rocks and two chimney glasses as a christmas present with "Scofflaws Den - Cocktails and Cigars" laser etched on them. A very classy gift from a classy guy. Surely vessels worthy of the deluxe potables of the current era.
Well folks, that is it for another Mixology Monday from this half of The Scofflaw's Den. Be sure to read Sean's MxMo post here in the Den and don't forget to check out the round-up on Jeffrey's page.