Gin Van, Joan Collins and Rare Earth

Friday is upon us, so a few notes about cocktails.

Blue Hawaiian, anyone?

Cocktail snobbery is suffering a (deserved) backlash, as Robert O. Simonson of the New York Times points out in When Bad Drinks Go Good:

Just as the cocktail renaissance has brought renewed fame to classics like the martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni, it has heaped fresh infamy on a rogues’ gallery of less classy concoctions, most of which emerged during the final decades of the last century.

Now a backlash of sorts has begun, as some high-end bartenders apply their skills to a new challenge: doing bad drinks well.

Bars like Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York; Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon; and the Automatic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the martini shares space on the menu with a blue margarita, have risen to this curious challenge.

Whenever I see the Blue Hawaiian cocktail, which is not often, I compusively think of Elvis in Blue Hawaii (1961):

Superb sash.

Two by two.

The martini is not a complex drink.

Mercifully, this article keeps the options simple:

The cocktail world is divided into two camps: those who order martinis and those who don’t. And for those who don’t, it may be because they just haven’t found their best martini yet.

There are many different ways to mix this cocktail, and there’s a recipe out there for everyone ― you just have to know what to ask for when you stroll up to the bar. 

Classically, a martini is one part dry vermouth to four parts gin. But that recipe is not set in stone ― here are eight different ways you can order the cocktail. Figure out what’s right for you and have a better happy hour.

Read the entire article: How To Order A Martini Like A Total Pro.

Gin van (New World Trading Company)

A great concept from the United Kingdom: a mobile gin van:

Forget hosting a BYOB gathering, you can now pay for a mobile gin van to deliver delicious drinks straight to your party. The catch is that you can’t have the van, called The Wanderer, on speed dial for a quick drink or two.

Instead, the van, created by New World Trading Company (NWTC), has to be hired as a fully-kitted mobile bar, so it’s more suitable for weddings and big celebrations than your average house party.

Still, dedicated gin fans may be tempted to club together for an extravagant Saturday night after hearing what the van offers.

Read the article by Rachel Moss: This Mobile Gin Van Will Deliver Cocktails Straight To Your Party (But There’s A Catch).

From the UK’s Daily Mail, an article on retro drinks and the current popularity of bitter drinks (the Negroni) and ingredients (such as Campari, Cinzano and Aperol):

Speaking about the new trend, John Vine, drinks buyer at Waitrose, said: ‘Bitter notes can be refreshing and act as a foil to sweetness , the right balance makes for the perfect cocktail.’

His comments correspond with data from the store, which shows a thirty five per cent sales increase in sales of Cinzano, which is perhaps best known for its placement in the iconic TV advert featuring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.

I am a fan of bitter cocktails and have written previously about the Negroni.  Such drinks reflect, in some ways, this vale of tears through which we pass.

Failing to recall the “iconic TV ad,” I looked it up:

Outstanding.  According to the Campari corporate website:

Rated 11th best TV commercial of all time, the most famous Cinzano TV ads were those of Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins during the 1970s. The infamous couple engaged in 10 unforgettable slapstick sketches that always ended in Rossiter pouring a glass of Cinzano on a progressively more resigned Joan Collins.

Here is another one, this time about rose.

The Gin Corner

Rose be damned.  I am partial to gin.  Spaniards apparently take their gin and tonic seriously:

“In Spain, gin-tonic is not just a cocktail, 
it is an obsession,” says José Andrés. Here’s everything you need to know to nail this iconic drink at home—and six places in the States with excellent G&T options.

  • In Spain, fresh herbs (lemon verbena, rosemary or lavender), 
lemon peel, juniper berries, edible flowers and even whole spices are used to enhance the gin’s botanicals.
  • Spanish bars stock as many as 50 different gins. Our choice: a London dry style. José’s two favorites: Rives Special Premium Tridestilada from Andalusia and Xoriguer Gin de Mahón from Menorca.
  • Amplify the aroma of the 
gin and the garnishes with a large wine glass or goblet.
  • Big ice cubes keep your gin-tonic chilled without watering 
it down.
  • Look for tonic made with cane sugar or agave (not high-fructose syrup), such as Q, Fever-Tree or Fentimans, for 
a balanced mix 
of sweetness 
cut with quinine bitterness.

In particular, I endorse lemon (rather than lime); lots of ice (most G&Ts are insufficiently cold); and high-quality, non-syrupy tonic.

Read the full article here: How to Make the Perfect Gin and Tonic, According to José Andrés.

Also, from the Boston Globe, a recipe-filled article for new gin cocktails from New England distillers.

The Joy Division (via Liquor.com)

Finally, here is a recipe for the Joy Division cocktail.  This may be worthy of a try: at times, I will rinse the inside of a martini glass with absinthe, which manages to simultaneously slow down and speed up the gin.

I know little of the post-punk English band from which the cocktail takes its name, although one of my favorite crime writers, Ian Rankin, used the title of one of their songs for a book title.

More to my taste, and to start you into your weekend, is Rare Earth’s 1970 version of “Get Ready”:

Preview (opens in a new window)


Needful of a Negroni Cocktail?

Balance

Balance

I have been drinking Negroni cocktails recently.  The Negroni presents three virtues: it contains gin, it is bitter and it is simple to make (equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth).  Its simplicity makes it superior for quiet mixing at home or when one is faced with modestly-adept bartenders, as noted by Kevin Sintumuang in the Wall Street Journal:

“That’s it?” Yep. Boozy, bitter, bold and built right in the glass, the Negroni has become a steadfast sidekick for me when I need a proper cocktail at a not-so-proper bar, from dive to airport. And when I’m mixing at home, there’s no other drink that produces so much satisfaction with so little effort.

Read the article here: The Only Negroni Recipe You Need


One place to start for a little history is Conde Nast Traveler:

Iconic bartender Gary Regan, a Brit who now makes his home in the Hudson Valley, is the go-to man for Negroni history. He recently published The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita,which traces the drink back to Florence in 1919. According to reliable lore, the cocktail was born when an Italian bartender responded to a customer’s demand for a stiffer riff on an Americano cocktail (a much-tamer mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda). The patron, Count Camillo Negroni, had picked up a taste for strong liquor while working—true story—as a rodeo clown in the American Wild West, and gave his name to the resulting concoction. Today, Regan estimates that the drink appears on “about 300 percent more cocktail lists than 10 years ago.” One caution for the uninitiated, via Negroni fan Anthony Bourdain: The drink will “hit you like a freight train after four or five.”

After four or five?  True.  Read the entire article: How The Negroni Became Today’s It Cocktail 

Watch that twist.

Watch that twist.

Here is a post by Vince Keenan, and an even more detailed article from Difford’s Guide

It’s even possible to dive into literary theory:

So I have to conclude that like the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, or the paintings of Henri Matisse, the Negroni has become a symbol of an older iteration of the modernist idea. Its pedigree comes with the passage of time. Just as how Matisse and his cohorts were once denounced as fauves, the insult became a badge of honor, before becoming a simple historical descriptor. The cocktail is no longer a “barbaric horror,” a bucking of antique tradition, but a part of that antique tradition itself.

It’s easier just to drink the thing and then fix another, but here’s the full post from the Subject/Object blog: On the Negroni.

Another instructional video, this time from Liquor.com:

With regard to the Negroni and films, here’s an excerpt from a post by Trevor Kensey:

“There is a thirty year age difference between us thought Mrs. Stone. Then she was ashamed of herself and by the time Paolo had emerged from the bathroom she had mixed two negronis and placed them on the glass-topped table on the still sunny terrace with a bowl of olives between. Paolo came outside with an air of abstraction. He paid no attention to the drinks, but left her sipping hers while he wandered over to the balustrade and looked moodily down into the little piazza at the top of the Spanish stairs. Mrs. Stone thought to herself, This is a time to lie low. And so she made no comment. She sipped her drink with her eyes on his grey flannel back and she thought of the night when the flannel would not stand between them.”

– Page 31, “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone”, Tennessee Williams.

Even its most ardent fans, myself included, must admit that the Negroni is not always enjoyable at first contact. It is a near-universal first time sipper experience that can often block one from falling in love with this stubbornly seductive cocktail. Stick with that drink and what begins by leaving a bad taste in your mouth becomes a complete joy by the time you finish your inaugural glass. By your third you will be well on your way to a lifetime of full Negroni enjoyment.

Read the full article here: The Negroni Cocktail .

If you want to see more of Mrs. Stone [Vivien Leigh] and Paolo [Warren Beatty], here is the 1961 trailer:

Let’s close with a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man who knew a good bit about cocktails:

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The great American novel. And, cocktails.

The great American novel. And, cocktails.