COCKTAILS | Rob Roy rallies

Rob RoyWe had a couple of Rob Roys last night to warm ourselves from the damp chill that’s been hanging over Cheever Country this week. The glasses are old Waterford coupes we scooped up at a junk shop in Hammondsport on Keuka Lake earlier this summer.

Though we’ve made them before, it’s been quite some time since we indulged in the company of the Rob Roy, the classic Scotch cocktail that is a perfect antidote to cool, damp evenings.

Plus, it’s made with Scotch, our house liquor.

We turned to Dale DeGroff, whose recipe is simple — Scotch, Italian vermouth and Peychaud’s bitters. He tops things off with a lemon twist, which was a very nice touch.

Here’s the deal:

2 ounces blended Scotch (We used Cutty, naturally.)
1 ounce Italian vermouth
Peychaud’s bitters
Lemon twist


Gather the Scotch, vermouth and bitters over ice in a shaker and shake vigorously. Serve up and with a twist. Enjoy.

COCKTAILS | A bouquet of Black Roses

BlackRoseThe Black Rose, a variant of the Sazerac and the Jack Rose.

I have been, and will always be, a Scotch man. But I like the Highland amber neat or on the rocks. For cocktails, I find myself increasingly attracted to Bourbon, the most American of spirits.

Since the New Year, Evan Williams and I have gone on a journey. Along the way, we’ve rediscovered the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan and tried new tastes like the Ward 8. Tonight, I selected the Black Rose, a variant of both the Sazerac and the Jack Rose. Like the Sazerac, it calls for Peychaud’s. Like the Jack Rose, there’s grenadine. The end result: a tasty apertif well worth your effort.

• 2 ounces bourbon
• Dashes grenadine
• Dashes Peychaud’s bitters
• Flamed lemon peel

Fill up an Old-Fashioned glass with ice, adding the bourbon, grenadine and bitters. Flame the lemon peel and serve. Enjoy.

COCKTAILS | Drop into the Stork Club

StorkClubCocktailThe Stork Club cocktail, a liquid relic of Old New York.

Stork Club barA couple of evenings ago, deterred from going out to dinner by the arctic cold, we turned to Dale DeGroff. No, we didn’t ring him up; we opened up his “Essential Cocktail.” From the extensive menu, we selected the Stork Club cocktail, a relic of one of New York’s greatest old night clubs.

The Stork, opened in 1929 by Sherman Billingsley, was among the most exclusive night spots in Old New York. A seat in the club’s storied Cub Room signaled your arrival. Among the cocktails sipped at the Stork Club, was its siganture, a gin, Cointreau and citrus and Angostura. It was one of countless cocktails mixed every night at the bar, left.

We were pleased — particularly because DeGroff’s recipe called for a flamed orange peel, which is accomplished by lightly seering a small peel of orange.

Billingsley’s daughter, Shermane, maintains a charming online archive of the place, which includes an adequate history, radio and TV clips and other electronic ephemera that document the famous 53rd Street haunt. Here’s a particularly entertaining video from the dawn of television:

Here’s the recipe for the cocktail:

• 1 1/2 ounces gin
• 3/4 ounce Cointreau
• 1 ounce orange juice
• 1/2 ounce lime juice
• Dashes Angostura
• Flamed orange peel

Combine your gin, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, Angostura in a shaker over ice. Shake over ice and serve up in a cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

COCKTAILS | Putting on the Ritz

The RitzDale DeGroff’s Ritz cocktail.

Among the splendid Christmas loot I received this year was a copy of cocktail impresario Dale DeGroff’s “The Essential Cocktail.” The gift came from Mrs. F. and she’s been helping select and score its offerings.

DeGroff, who revived the cocktail menu during a stint as head bartender at the Rainbow Room in the 1980s, is arguably the father of the contemporary cocktail revival. In his volume, published in 2008, he includes lists of classics, adapted classics and some of his own adventurous creations. We’ve only dabbled in the first two categories so far. Among our favorite recipes is the Ritz, a cognac and champagne concoction DeGroff created in the 1980s. It graces the book’s cover and, while designed as a variation of the Champagne pick-me-up, it is definitely an evening cocktail.

For more of DeGroff’s work, go to his King Cocktail.

• 3/4 ounce cognac
• 1/2 ounce Cointreau
• 1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
• 1/2 ounce lemon juice
• Champagne
• Orange peel (optional: flamed)

Stir together the cognac, Luxardo, lemon juice and Cointreau over ice in a mixing glass. Serve in a cocktail glass, topping off with champagne and garnishing with the orange peel.

COCKTAILS | Alaska chills winter’s start

AlaskaCocktailThe Alaska cocktail, which draws on Hendrick’s gin and yellow Chartreuse.

When we were last in Lake Placid, we spent a damp afternoon plying Main Street for various wares. As it happened, two stalwart Main Street businesses, Barnaby’s Liquors and Mirror Lake Liquors, were in the process of liquidating. As such, spirits were on offer at deep discounts. We made out like bandits.

Among our take was a bottle of Hendricks (scored for about $20) and a bottle of yellow Chartreuse, a rare find made rarer still by a $25 price tag. Both normally retail in Westchester at $40 or higher.

I’d not anticipated finding a cocktail that combines them both, but Robert Hess, host of The Cocktail Spirit, recently delivered with the Alaska. The cocktail relies on Hendrick’s gin as a foundation and adds in the yellow Chartreuse and orange bitters. It was not dissimilar to a gimlet recipe I put together for my mother-in-law last spring. I’ll blog about that separately.

Chartreuse is herbal, perhaps overwhelmingly so, but the bitters did a fine job of muting some of the liqueur’s pungency. A garnish of lemon peel added to the mix as well. This is a sophisticated and complex drink despite being so easy to construct. On these first cold nights of the long suburban winter, the Alaska deliver just the right amount of chill.

• 1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s gin
• 3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
• Dashes of Orange bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a garnish of lemon peel. Enjoy.

LIVES | Elaine Kaufman, Old New York institution, 1929-2010

ElaineRobin Leach and Elaine Kaufman, 1980s. Image courtesy of the LIFE archive.

Last night, the place to be was Elaine’s.

My in-laws were in town and they were good sports — they agreed to wander down to the famous Upper East Side watering hole after a late, light supper. We were among the hundreds who descended on the place to mourn Elaine Kaufman, who died yesterday at 81.

Born in the Bronx in 1929 and raised in Queens and Washington Heights, Kaufman opened her restaurant in 1963. The former Austro-Hungarian restaurant became the salon and clubhouse of the city’s media and literary elites. John Lindsay, Jackie Kennedy, Woody Allen, George Plimpton, Bill Buckley, Gay Talese and scores of other Old New York players were all regulars.

PostToday’s New York Post.

Predictably, the city’s media are in a dither about Elaine’s passing. This morning’s Post is chock full of tribute coverage, though that’s hardly a surprise as editor Col Allan is a regular. New York magazine has a piece online — and the Times is on the case as well.

Another Old New York institution we’ll never forget.

COCKTAILS | Fine and Dandy, indeed

FineAndDandyThe Fine and Dandy, a very adequate gin cocktail.

On my way home from a conference last week in Tyson’s Corner, Va., I had a few hours to kill in Washington’s Union Station. I wandered into a Verizon store and, 20 minutes and a few dollars later, I wandered out with a HTC Droid Incredible.

The phone has many charms, I discovered on a New York-bound Acela. In addition to being connected to GMail, Tumblr, Foursquare and Facebook, I discovered I could also have a range of cocktail recipes at my finger tips. One app yielded the Fine and Dandy, a lovely gin cocktail Mrs. F. and I tried out last night.

In addition to gin — I’ve found recipes that call for Plymouth, but we used Gordon’s on this trial run — the cocktail calls upon Cointreau or triple sec and lemon juice. Angostura rounds out the recipe, though Mrs. F. tried a second with Stirrings’ blood orange bitters.

The result, which we enjoyed on the rocks, is not dissimilar to a Pegu Club. The gin and citrus flavors work together to form a refreshing harmony. We imagine the Fine and Dandy would be just as acceptable up and garnished with a seared lemon rind. Regardless, its utility is the real key — the Pegu’s complexities, drawn on the rustic flavor of curacao, make it a stronger drink — as the Fine and Dandy is easy to construct.

I’ve not found any real leads as to this cocktail’s origins, but I’ll keep looking.

2 ounces gin, London or Plymouth
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
Angostura, orange or blood orange bitters (or a bit of all three!)

Combine all ingredients over ice in a shaker and shake vigorously. Serve on the rocks in a highball or up in a cocktail glass. Serve and enjoy.

TASTES | Nellie and Joe’s invigorates

NellieandJoesNellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice is a must for your pantry.

The A and P in Bronxville, hardly a complete encyclopedia of groceries, is still full of surprises. One is Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice, which I first started buying about a year ago.

I’m so taken with the stuff that I’ve started using it as a standard ingredient in my beloved Pegu Clubs, gin cocktails that demand the complements of lime juice and orange curacao and are topped off with both Angostura and orange bitters. While I don’t necessarily mind fresh lime juice, it’s proved handier to keep this ingredient in the refrigerator. I’ve found it to be a consistent and tasty alternative. Key limes yield a juice that’s more bitter and tart than regular limes.

Since 1968, Nellie and Joe have been delivering the Key West tradition of juice from key limes to the nation. Their line has since expanded to include a range of marinades. The juice obviously has other uses than simply in cocktails. I plan to get after Mrs. F. to make some key lime pies.

Retail price for Nellie and Joe’s is about $3.49 and the juice can be purchased online at the Southern Connoisseur, a purveyor of specialty food items.

GAMES | Stump: A case of beer, a hammer and some nails

StumpOur good friend Doug strives home a nail during a recent game of Stump in the North Elba woods.

We dropped the hammer, literally.

A few Saturdays ago deep in the North Elba woods, a group of Mrs. F’s closest St. Lawrence friends and I were slamming away at nails embedded on a sturdy New Hampshire stump. A bonfire blazed beside us. We were warmed by fellowship and a few cases of Saranac.

We were playing Stump, a game said to originate in the Granite State, home of our generous hostess Cate, who’d arranged for us to spend the weekend at a farm owned by some very good friends.

The rules of engagement are simple: Procure a decent hammer, some high-grade nails and a stump. Gather round — the game can be played by as few as two — and start hammering. But not before tossing the hammer 360 degrees and catching it. Doing so once allows you to deliver an opponent’s nail one swift strike that immediately follows the toss. It is critical, I learned, that this all be done at once. A toss around the back or under the leg warrants a second strike.

Each time your nail is struck, you naturally take a sip of your cocktail. If a spark is created by a strike, everyone drinks. Hilarity generally ensues.

Your writer, whose 1980s childhood was spent sans Nintendo, doesn’t have the best hand-eye coordination all the time, but still fared decently. So too, did Mrs. F. Granite State Cate, a fine horsewoman and an excellent writer, is also a Stump ringer. She went down to the wire with our good friend Doug, who, in addition to being inches from finishing medical school, was an ace rower during his Canton campaign. Gallons of Saranac were consumed; hilarity ensued.

Here’s a gallery from the weekend:

COCKTAILS | Ransom Old Tom gin invigorates a highball

RansomRansom Old Tom gin, our latest spirit obsession.

Once, it had been as common as a lark. Then, for reasons that I can’t fully understand, it went the way of the passenger pigeon.

Old Tom gin, a foundation of a legion of classic cocktails, was wildly popular both in the New World and the Old through the 18th, 19th and into the 20th centuries. Then, at a moment that isn’t entirely clear, it vanished.

But as mixology contributes more and more to the cultural conversation, Old Tom has been revived. Among the craft distillers manufacturing small batches is Sheridan, Ore.-based Ransom Wine Co. Founded in 1997, Ransom offers a full range of spirits and wines.

I came across a selection of the company’s Old Tom gin a week or so ago at Fairway and picked up a bottle. We gave it a whirl with our previously-enjoyed Mid-Ocean Highball, a drink with Bermudian origins we found in Charles F. Baker’s “Jigger, Beaker and Glass.”

Ransom’s offering is sweeter and more rustic than standard London dry gin. In the Mid-Ocean, it’s got some competition, chiefly from vermouth, which I don’t recommend you overdo. I paid about $40 for my bottle, but it’s well worth it.

The Mid-Ocean highball.

• 2 ounces Old Tom gin
• 3/4 ounce French vermouth
• 3/4 ounce cognac
• Dashes orange bitters
• Soda
• Twist of lime

Gather the gin, vermouth, cognac and bitters together over ice in a shaker and shake well. Strain into a highball glass and add soda and the lime peel. An alternate would be to serve sans ice and soda in a cocktail glass.

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