Summertime Cocktail Experiments, sans Summertime Ingredients

From “Buzzings” from Cocktail Buzz on Aug 29, 2013

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Variations on the Manhattan are all the rage. This Cynar Manhattan will delight you with its bittersweet bliss.

This summer our terrace garden lies fallow. For the third summer in a row, our inattentive landlord has neglected the reconstruction of our outdoor space, not to mention the repairs needed inside, most likely to get us out of here so he could then fix the place up and jack up the rent, in preparation for multi-six-digit-figure tenants. Sound familiar? Normally, we would be making infusions and party food nibbles using organic fresh herbs. Hyssop Julep this year? Sorry, no dice. Borage-garnished Pimm’s Cup? Not a chance. We don’t even have any basil, mint, or rosemary, three summertime staples we’d be muddling, chiffonading, and infusing in order to reinvigorate our library of cocktail and appetizer recipes. A summer barbecue without Gin Stevies and brunches without Adams have reduced us many a night to bourbon and ginger–swilling layabouts.

But enough of that. Let’s look on the bright side. Because of our lack of herbaceous freshness, the two of us have been forced (and we use “forced” the way a lush is forced to accept the offer of a second drink) to use primarily the spirits on our shelves. The results have been elucidative: A good drink is a good drink no matter how many ingredients, common or obscure, fresh or preserved, it takes to make it. Take for instance our new “up” tequila cocktail. In our notebook, it’s simply called “Tequila Martini/Manhattan,” but that will not do for this pale-to-almost-clear, lovely concoction. Let’s call it a

Blanco Nuevo
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces silver tequila
1 3/4 ounces white (bianco) vermouth
1/4 ounce rhubarb syrup (from Ikea)
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
brandied cherry, as garnish (these were homemade, but any kind you like will do)

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Add cherry.

Looking at it, you would indeed think this was some strange hybrid of a Martini and a Manhattan, but the first sip gives away the main ingredient, tequila. You must use silver tequila for this baby or you won’t get that whisper-of-amber hue. The rhubarb syrup adds some bittersweet bliss, and the white vermouth, which is the perfect foil for silver tequila, balances the tequila and the syrup. A dash of orange bitters rounds it out. The cherry is mere folly, but, when you make your own, you end your drink with a boozy reward.

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Another one of our experiments, a variation on the classic Manhattan (if you’ve followed us you know how much we love to riff on the Manhattan), uses Cynar [pronounced chee-NAHR], a dark and bittersweet Italian liqueur, or amaro, in conjunction with the requisite sweet vermouth. Again, we bandy about the phrase ”bittersweet bliss,” because that is what you’ll be experiencing once you’ve drawn this luscious libation to your lips. We’ll just keep the name straightforward and call it a

Cynar Manhattan
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces rye (we used Rittenhouse bonded)
1/4 ounce Cynar (artichoke amaro)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (we used Martini & Rossi)
brandied cherry, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Add cherry.

If you love other amaro, such as Campari, you’ll really take a shine to this one. Cynar is made from artichokes. It sounds odd, but it works so well with rye and sweet vermouth. You don’t need your usual dash of bitters because the Cynar takes care of that. This is the drink we sip on our derelict terrace, while viewing the crepuscular Manhattan skyline. Both drink and view are splendid.

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While messing around with the new-and-improved Galliano (remember Harvey Wallbangers?), we decided that both rye and bonded applejack (American apple brandy) made it taste mm mm good, along with some Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. Some bitters added more piquancy and united all these spirits into a drink we call Willam Tell All (which is what you’ll be doing after just one of these).

William Tell All
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce bonded apple brandy (Laird)
1 ounce rye (Templeton)
1/2 ounce Galliano l’Autentico
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
dash Angostura bitters
dash Peychaud’s bitters
expressed lemon peel

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Express lemon peel and discard.

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And just in case you thought we didn’t like Manhattans, here’s another variation we have been playing around with that uses aged rum. Right now it’s called a

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces aged rum (we used Santa Teresa from Venezuela)
1 ounce Punt e Mes vermouth
1 dash angostura bitters
expressed, flamed orange peel, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Express orange peel through a match flame by holding the match over the drink and, with your other hand, in one quick, sharp squeeze, pinch the peel (outside of peel facing the match) so the oils spurt through the flame, causing a gentle flare-up. Then gently rub the outside of the peel around the rim and drop into the glass.

This aged rum Manhattan is rich and deep, with the slightest bitter edge. We even celebrated National Rum Day with it, and it pleased us immensely.

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If we try to find a common them among these three drinks, the phrase “bittersweet bliss” again looms over the whole affair. We suppose that phrase can be applied to the way we feel about our digs: We love our pad, but we don’t like the politics that go along with being tenants of neglect. So now you know why these four drinks have been stirred quite a bit during cocktail hour this summer. Despite our whining, we love them all. And don’t forget those bourbon and gingers.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

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