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Monday, February 19, 2007

Event Recap: A Celebration of the Classics


Last Thursday, more than 175 Bostonians braved freezing weather and slippery sidewalks to pack the 47-foot bar at Eastern Standard for a special classic cocktail event hosted by Martini & Rossi and Imbibe Magazine. Guests sampled five cocktails handpicked by Eastern Standard mixologist Jack Cannon (aka “Jackson”): the Belle de Jour, Bobby Burns, Classic Martini, Frisco and Half Sinner Half Saint. “This is great,” said attendee Peter Gumaskas, after his first sip of a Frisco, made with bourbon and Benedictine liqueur. “It’s not too sweet, and the bourbon is not too strong.”

The comment likely would have made special guest—drink historian David Wondrich—smile. Wondrich, author of Killer Cocktails, earlier described the perfect classic cocktail as well-balanced. “A classic cocktail, for me, is from a certain period when ‘cocktails’ was a language that all the best bartenders understood and could work in,” he said. “It should have a distinctive flavor profile: It should taste like itself, not something else. It’s not too sweet, not too sour, not too strong—you shouldn’t just taste the booze. And it doesn’t have to be made with huge amounts of elaborate ingredients.”

Eastern Standard, said Wondrich, has all the hallmarks of a classic cocktail bar: bitters on the back bar, rye whiskey (that’s American straight rye, not Canadian), freshly squeezed juices and a frequently tapped bottle of vermouth.

Later in the evening, Wondrich demonstrated how to make one of his favorite classics, the Saratoga Cocktail, which was circulated in tasting glasses throughout the bar. Here’s the recipe for those who couldn’t make it to the event:

Saratoga Cocktail
1 oz cognac
1 oz straight rye whiskey
1 oz Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fee's Old-Fashioned aromatic bitters or Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients well with cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and twist a thinly cut swatch of lemon peel over the top.

—Genevieve Rajewski (photos courtesy Martini & Rossi)

5 comments:

Randy said...

Sounds like a great event. If I lived near Boston, I would have loved to go. But I do have aquestion. What rye was being used in the Saratoga? I saw your rye whiskey article and am now experimenting with various brands. But for a cocktail I wonder if it was a "premium" rye or more of a mixing rye. Thanks.

Imbibe said...

Hi Randy,

The Saratoga contained Rittenhouse 100-proof rye. This rye is an excellent value at only about $20 a bottle, and it's great for mixing in cocktails.

David Wondrich said...

Let me just add that Wild Turkey 101 and Sazerac 6-year-old work just about as well as the Rittenhouse; you can also use a 100-proof bourbon (such as Old Grand-Dad) without damage to the drink.

In general, when it comes to mixing with American whiskey, for "authentic" classic cocktails I look at the proof as much as I do at the kind of whiskey: most of our whiskeys used to be sold at around 50% alcohol, and I find that that proof makes for a drink whose flavor is much more concentrated and alive than the standard 40%. Of course, it also makes for a stronger drink, so moderation is in order.

And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Imbibe and Eastern Standard (and of course Jackson) and all the readers I met--with a cocktail crew like that to hang around with, I would gladly drag myself up to Boston on a weekly basis, if not more often.

Randy said...

Thanks for the info and suggestions! I also have my eye on a bottle of Hirsch. For sipping of course!

Karen said...

The Hirsch is definitely amazing. Great suggestions from Dave. I tried the Red Hook (recipe in the rye article) recently with the Sazerac 6-year, and it was delicious.