Saturday, November 20, 2010

MxMo LII: Twentieth Century Cocktail (and bonus 20th Symphony Cocktail)

Time for another MxMo!  Dennis at Rock&Rye has called "Forgotten Cocktails" as the theme for November's Mixology Monday.  As you might imagine, he's looking for drinks from the past that have grown obscure but deserve to see the light of day:
The challenge this month is to bring to light a drink that you think deserves to be resurrected from the past, and placed back into the spotlight. It could be pre-prohibition, post-war, that horrible decade known as the 80′s, it doesn’t really matter. As long as it is somewhat obscure, post it up. If possible try to keep to ingredients that are somewhat readily available.
At first I considered the Corpse Reviver #2, but I think yeoman's work has already been done in the last few years to bring it back, and the world is a better place for it.  I also considered the Vieux Carré, which outside New Orleans I still see not oft enough, or the Monkey Gland, another solid candidate, but both of those I've touched on before and wanted to look for something fresh.  The Pegu Club crossed my mind but I figure Pegu Doug has implicitly called that one.  Looking for ideas, I reached for what else but Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, where inspiration abounded.  Flipping through it, I settled on the Twentieth Century Cocktail, which I had tried and enjoyed previously, finding it to be an interesting and surprising tipple.  This post-Prohibition cocktail was named for the 20th Century Limited, the stylish and speedy express train that whisked passengers from Grand Central in NY to Chicago in 16 hours.  Although it's been covered before by the founder of MxMo himself Paul Clarke (twice), and Chuck Taggart, and also by Jimmy here, all of them were some time ago, so I decided it could use a revisit.  More importantly, those three bloggers have three different recipes using the same 4 ingredients. Taggarts's recipe at Cocktalians matches the one in Haigh's tome, however Haigh himself commented on Jimmy's 2006 post endorsing his formulation which uses a lighter hand with the flavorings.  (He also shares his memories of his first Twentieth Century Cocktail in '91 in another comment.)  To complicate matters, both Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixologyand DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktailhave yet 2 more new recipes, for a grand total of 5 all endorsed by different cocktail luminaries.  What's a guy to do?  Try 'em all of course.  Fret not, I've done the hard work for you to present my findings and steer you to the best formulation.  Well, that was the plan anyway, but I ran into a bit of trouble when I discovered that they all work.  One dry and boozy, one lighter with more even flavor, one a bit more rich, another with extra subtle cacao.  The recipe is surprisingly resilient to tinkering, which I guess explains why there are so many different versions floating about; it is my determination that the ideal choice comes down to preference, mood, and perhaps the angle of the sun in the sky.  That being said, Reagan's is my slight favorite, and it is my recommended place to start your tinkering.  These proportions also are a nice middle ground to which I can compare the other versions.
Twentieth Century Cocktail (The Joy of Mixology)
  • 1½ oz Gin
  • ½ oz Lillet Blanc
  • ½ oz white Crème de cacao
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish
To quote Clarke (and paraphrase Haigh), this "tastes like Art Deco in a glass."  The Cacao in most formulations is more subtle than one might expect, contributing more of an aroma and just a hint of flavor in the aftertaste.

UPDATE: Dennis's roundup post is up, head over and check out all the erstwhile forgotten drinks.

Speaking of Clarke, the version in his posts ups the last three ingredients to ¾ oz each. This still results in a nice drink, just a bit richer. Clever observers will realize that 1½ oz Gin plus ¾ oz each of the others is a longer pour but otherwise equivalent to 1 oz gin and ½ oz each of the rest, ie same as Regan's version but with ½ oz less Gin. I'm all for the longer pour and all, but I prefer the drink with the higher proportion of booze. But like I said, it's an opinion.  If I want a long pour and ¾ oz of the latter 3 guys, I'll up my gin to 2¼ oz.
Twentieth Century Cocktail (Cocktail Chronicles)
  • 1½ oz Gin (1 oz)
  • ¾ oz Lillet Blanc (½ oz)
  • ¾ oz white Crème de cacao (½ oz)
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice (½ oz)
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish
In between these last two versions lies the one from Haigh's book, also blogged at Cocktailians. It is similar to Clarke's but simply scales back the Cacao to ½ oz. In fact, Vintage Spirits stipulates that one should scale it down further to taste if you find the cacao too strong.
Twentieth Century Cocktail (Cocktailians and Vintage Spirits)
  • 1½ oz Gin
  • ¾ oz Lillet Blanc
  • ½ oz white Crème de cacao
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish
As an aside, Taggert asks "Is it too early to create a Twenty-First Century Cocktail?"  Jim Meehan of PDT thinks it is not and has created one with Tequila and Absinthe.  I've yet to try one, but it looks good.
The version at Jimmy's Cocktail Hour is similar to Regan's, but it follows guidance in Haigh's book and scales back the Cacao to a mere ¼ oz.  In his comment Dr. Cocktail agrees and states that despite what he recorded in the book, this is closer to how he makes them himself.  This still works well, drying out the cocktail and making the cacao really subtle, but the ½ oz works for me.  That said, another judgment call, this is probably my second favorite version.
Twentieth Century Cocktail (Jimmy's Cocktail Hour)
  • 1½ oz Gin
  • ½ oz Lillet Blanc
  • ¼ oz white Crème de cacao
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish
And that brings us to DeGroff's entry, last but not least.  It is however, the most distinct, and the most boozy.  It dials up the gin to 2 oz and dials back everything else.  This is much drier than the others, closer to a martini with just a little extra touch of flavor, but the flavor notes are still there.  So, if your mood calls for such a thing, as I imagine mine might from time to time, this is your ticket:
Twentieth Century Cocktail (The Craft of the Cocktail)
  • 2 oz Gin
  • ½ oz Lillet Blanc
  • ¼ oz white Crème de cacao
  • ¼ oz fresh lemon juice
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish
Ok, that should clear up any confusion from here on out. I encourage you to pick one that looks good to you and give it a try. It really is quite a nice drink, whichever one you choose.

I bet you think I'd be done at this point after that treatise, but you'd be wrong. I like to make an original drink for MxMo every month, and I could hardly justify using a new drink for a "Forgotton Cocktail", but that doesn't stop me from including a bonus cocktail. I've chosen to include a riff on the Twentieth Century Cocktail, so I present to you the 20th Symphony Cocktail. And just because I enjoy breaking rules, I'm flaunting our host's instructions to "keep to ingredients that are somewhat readily available" and using a combination of ingredients that I suspect few people have in their bar. Sorry, but just let me have my fun. This guy hits the same notes as the Twentieth Century Cocktail, but has a somewhat different character and gets there from a different direction. Using the Genever, it almost tastes to me like a recipe from a time even before the Twentieth Century.  The Solerno is the sweetener in this one; the Mozart, as you might gather from the name, is not at all sweet.  It is 80 proof and has a pure chocolate flavor; quite an interesting product. It also led me to the drink's name.  This drink also drew inspiration from the Corpse Reviver #2, using Solerno instead of Cointreau and the Elixir Végétal in lieu of Absinthe.  I chose Elixir Végétal because I've found Chartreuse to pair well with chocolate, plus I got to extend my obnoxious choices of difficult ingredients just a bit further.
20th Symphony Cocktail
  • 1½ oz Bols Genever
  • ½ oz Cocchi Americano
  • ½ oz Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
  • ½ oz Mozart Dry Chocolate Spirit
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
  • 4 dashes Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse
shake and strain, lemon twist garnish

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