Monday, November 21, 2011

MxMo LXIII: Retro Redemption - Sloe Comfortable Shag Up Against the Wall

This month's Mixology Monday "reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin when the world trembled at the sound of our rockets." Ok, well maybe not that far back, as that was well before my time, but at least it does hark back to the days of The Hunt for Red October, ie the 90s, also known as my college years. The theme for this month comes from Jacob Grier, scribe of the Liquidity Preference blog. He this month calls upon us to offer "Retro Redemption!" As Jacob puts it:
Contemporary cocktail enthusiasts take pride in resurrecting forgotten cocktails of the past — unless “the past” refers to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s. We sometimes refer to these decades as the Dark Ages of Mixology, eras not yet recovered from the violence Prohibition and a World War inflicted on American cocktail culture. The classic Martini, a flavorful blend of gin and vermouth, had morphed into a glass of cold, diluted vodka. Other drinks were just too sweet, too fruity, too big, too silly...the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday is Retro Redemption! Your task is to revive a drink from mixology’s lost decades. Perhaps you feel one of these drinks has a bad rap; tell us why it deserves another shot. Or maybe the original concoction just needs a little help from contemporary ingredients and techniques to make it in the big leagues. If so, tell us how to update it.
At the risk of being a bit liberal with the parameters of the theme I've decided to tackle a drink that for me epitomizes in some way the cocktails drinks I was introduced to in college. At that time I was utterly unaware of what a proper cocktail was. I had heard of the martini of course, but that was about it. And even the venerable odd martini I came across in those days was at best, as Jacob observes, diluted vodka. At worst it was stale vermouth and worse gin. But still I look back with much fondness at the weekly Happy Hours every Friday that our dorm at MIT set up. They were tons of fun, a full bar tended by 2 or 3 volunteer bartenders slinging drinks in a fast and furious fashion, open to one and all, in the dorm lobby in full view through pane glass windows to all passersby. (Granted there was an unfortunate incident at another living group that shut down all the fun towards the end of my tenure, but at our dorm we watched out for each other and made sure everything remained well under control. I remain a staunch believer in the relative safety in college of partying out in the open, as opposed to the dangers of being hidden behind closed doors. Especially when more experienced upperclassmen are around to keep a vigilant eye on things. But that is a rant for another day.) Proper cocktails they were not; it was more Rum&Coke, Whisky|Amaretto|Midori Sours (by way of 2 gallon jugs of sour concentrate), Mudslides, Grasshoppers (or his cousin the Girl Scout Cookie with White Crème de menthe and dark Crème de Cacao, vs Green and White) get the picture. We could even get fancy with an Alabama Slammer or Tequila Sunrise...which brings me to the Sloe Comfortable Screw Up Against the Wall.

Bear in mind I have so far composed this post without actually trying the drink for the first time in well over a decade. So let's see what happens. I figure that at very least the Plymouth Sloe Gin that became available a couple years back has got to be way better than whatever fake stuff we were slinging back then. Before I begin, I will make one small twist and substitute Gin for the requisite vodka, because what drink is not made better with gin instead of vodka? Of course that tweak necessitates a tweak of the name as well, thus "Shag" instead of "Screw".
Sloe Comfortable Shag Up Against the Wall
  • 1½ oz Bulldog London Dry Gin
  • 1½ oz Plymouth Sloe Gin
  • ½ oz Southern Comfort
  • 2 oz Orange Juice (fresh squeezed of course)
  • generous float Galliano
Shake and dump; garnish with orange slice and cherry
Yeah, so I couldn't find a cherry, sorry. The key here is to minimize the SoCo, because, well, because as it turns out SoCo's taste is's call it distinctive. That's not to say it's entirely bad. It tastes of college. In that sense, causing memories of my college years to rush headlong back to the forefront of my mind, it is not so unpleasant. But suffice it to say that I would not choose it as an ingredient in my house signature cocktail. I tried several different formulations of these ingredients, but the recipe is surprisingly robust. They mostly taste the same. I even tried an up version light on the OJ. Frankly, as long as you maintain a light hand with the SoCo, it's not bad, if a bit boring, though the Galliano helps in the interesting department. Had I more time, I might give it a go with a peach infused bourbon, or whisky and a proper peach liqueur, but I think that losing the Southern Comfort would deprive the drink of its soul, such as it is.
In summary, I hardly succeeded in proving the worth of this drink as a proper cocktail, yet value it does retain. It's redemption, for me, lies in its ability to uniquely recall fond memories of yore, which I deem valuable in its own right. So I'll leave you with those thoughts. And I'm going to go make myself a sazerac. 

UPDATE: Jacob's roundup post is up, head over there to check out all the entries for this month.