Film Feed

So Good It's A Crime -- The Racketeer

A lot of colorful people, both real and fictional, have been and are racketeers.  The word (it means someone who's engaged in an illegal business) isn't used much anymore (it dates to the 1920s) and usually refers to someone in organized crime.  Even Bugs Bunny posed as one in the 1946 cartoon Racketeer Rabbit.  The Racketeer cocktail isn't nearly as old as the word, as it seems Stephen Cole created it no later than 2009.  Thanks to the Floppy Disk Repair Company (part of the Stranger Things in Austin) for introducing me to the Racketeer.

Racketeer1 ounce rye
1 ounce mezcal
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.25 ounces yellow Chartreuse
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Rinse the inside of a chilled glass with a smoky Scotch (I used Laphroaig).  Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, stir with the intense purpose of an aspiring you know what, and strain into the chilled glass.

The Racketeer is a very strong drink.  It contains rye (like the Scofflaw, another criminal themed cocktail), mezcal (tequila's smokier cousin) and two herbal liqueurs -- none of which are even remotely weak.  Fortunately the Benedictine DOM and sweet vermouth keep the Racketeer from fitting you with cement shoes ..... alcoholically speaking. The many ingredients may seem exotic, but you can find them at most liquor stores.  Like most tricky scores, the payoff is worth it.

So what can you do as you have a Racketeer? If you film tastes run towards something more serious than Bugs Bunny (I love classic Warner Brothers cartoons), I suggest a classic like The Godfather (my favorite movie and the inspiration for the Lupara) or The Sting.  Depending on what music you like, you can listen to songs such as Bad To The Bone by George Thorogood or Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.

Don't have too many Racketeers at once.  We don't want you to have to take the Fifth (not a fifth) and need a lawyer. 


The Magnificent Seven Of Cocktails

The Magnificent Seven (the original starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen; I haven't seen the remake with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt) is my favorite Western movie.  Everyone who loves movies should know about this film.   Carrie Allan, a cocktail columnist for the Washington Post, just wrote a great article about the 7 essential cocktails every drinker should know how to make.  Carrie is smart and hilarious, and my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in 2016.  She surveyed a number of acquaintances (full disclosure -- I participated in the survey) about classic cocktails before distilling (pun intended) the responses.

So what are these Magnificent Seven cocktails?  The Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Margarita, and Gin and Tonic.   In addition, the article has links to related cocktails, e.g. the Sazerac and Hemingway Daiquiri.

All of these drinks are classics for good reason.  That doesn't mean you have to like all of them.  But if you're not familiar with some of them, try them.  You might be in for a pleasant surprise.       

To paraphrase Steve McQueen's character in The Magnificent Seven -- we deal in cocktails friend.


We'll Always Have Paris -- Harry's and Hemingway

Drink iconically in Paris!  Both of these legendary bars predate the great movie Casablanca, which is the source of many classic lines, e.g. the subject title of this post.   One night in Paris my wife and I visited these historic bars to soak in some history and cocktails (not necessarily in that order).     

HarrysBarParisHarry's Bar opened in 1911.  American expats and visitors initially formed the bulk of its clientele.   Notable people who have imbibed there over the years include Humphrey Bogart (one of the stars in Casablanca) and Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond novels; in Casino Royale 007 refers to Harry's as the best place in Paris for a "solid drink").  Despite its American origin, Harry's is named for Harry McElhone, a Scotsman who tended bar there in the 1920s.  My wife and I were pleasantly surprised that most of Harry's current patrons were native French speakers, or at least they were the night we were there. 

Our experience at Harry's was worthwhile but not worth repeating.  The cocktails certainly were above average and the bartenders were proficient.  However, the service and atmosphere were perfunctory.  We didn't feel like we were being pushed out the door, but nothing about Harry's invited us to stay, linger, and have another drink or two.

RitzParisThe Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris hotel is named for that Hemingway (the inspiration for the Hemingway Daiquiri).  The bar was in business before Papa started drinking there, but he supposedly liberated it from the Nazis towards the end of World War II.  The place oozes class, elegance, and discretion.  For example, you can't take photos and there is an informal dress code.

The Bar Hemingway is fairly deep inside the hotel.  The journey is worth the very expensive cocktail or two.  Once my initial sticker shock wore off, I was able to appreciate our finely crafted drinks. Unlike the vibe in Harry's, the atmosphere in the Bar Hemingway felt more welcoming, e.g. the bartender was delighted to have us sample the house ginger essence.

Bottom line -- Harry's and Bar Hemingway both blend cocktails and history, but if you have to pick one (and can afford it), follow Papa's lead.


We'll Always Have Paris -- Little Red Door

It's a classic line from Casablanca, one of the greatest movies in history.  I'm no Humphrey Bogart (I'm not as cool as he was) and my wife is no Ingrid Bergman (she's better looking than Bergman), but we did have a great time in Paris.  As Paris is one of the great cities of the world, it's no surprise you can find some great cocktail experiences there.

The Little Red Door is a fun and cozy cocktail bar in the 3rd arrondissement.  It's fairly close to a lot of the main tourist sites.  Conveniently, the Little Red Door was walking (staggering?) distance from where we stayed.  It's not a big place, so depending on when you go you may have to wait a short period of time to get inside.

LittleRedDoorParisThe cocktail list is very creative, as it pairs 11 drinks with pictures from various artists.  The drinks, which have numbers instead of names, are approachable liquid works of art.  We should know, as we tried a few of them during our two visits to the Little Red Door.  You're not bound to those drinks.  The first time we went there Calvin made me an exquisite variation of a Sidecar.  As most people in the cocktail community consider Paris to be the birthplace of the Sidecar, I wanted to have one while I was in town.

Fortunately the Little Red Door hasn't become full of pretentious mixologists (arguably a redundant phrase).  That's a concern when a bar becomes increasingly popular.  No worries here.  The bar staff was engaging, pleasant, and more than happy to talk about liquors and cocktails.  Interestingly, the bar stuff was truly international, e.g. Calvin was from Scotland, and I don't think I heard any native French speakers behind the bar.  Between the quality of the cocktails, the top notch technical skills of the bartenders, and most importantly, the people, the Little Red Door definitely is worth a visit if you're in the City of Light.

Me and the Little Red Door -- it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship (if you don't get the joke, watch Casablanca).


Six Shot Fluidity -- The Revolver

RevolverLet's get one thing out of the way -- this excellent cocktail does not consist of six shots.  A drink that large would drop you like the business end of a real revolver.  The Revolver contains almost two shots of booze. Jon Santer created it in San Francisco, which is where the fictional Detective "Dirty Harry" Callahan used a .44 Magnum revolver to take down criminals.

2 ounces bourbon (preferably Bulleit -- get it?)
.5 ounces Kahlua or coffee liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the steady bang bang rhythm of firing a you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Revolver is a little sweet, even if you use a slightly spicier bourbon like Bulleit.  Of course, don't make the mistake of conflating sweetness with weakness (that's a general rule in life in my opinion).  Some people think a drink that is sweet or a "girly" color has to be weak.  Those people are wrong.  

My musical preferences run the gamut, but rock n' roll generally is my favorite.  Keeping that in mind, I suggest the following as musical accompaniment to the Revolver --   specific tunes from Aerosmith (Janie's Got a Gun) or Lynyrd Skynyrd (Saturday Night Special), anything by .38 Special, or what is arguably Pat Benatar's most popular song (Hit Me With Your Best Shot).

Now that you're interested in a Revolver, I will channel Dirty Harry Callahan and ask one question -- do you feel lucky, punk?


D-Day Triumph Without Death -- The Flower Of Normandy

Flower of Normandy 2June 6, 1944.  On that day Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in France, fought the Nazis, and won a pivotal battle of World War II.  The Flower of Normandy does not celebrate this victory over the evil Nazis (I know, that's redundant).  Instead, it celebrates Calvados, the apple brandy that only comes from Normandy.  Many thanks to Embitterment for introducing me to one of its signature cocktails.

2 ounces Calvados or other apple brandy
.5 ounces elderflower liqueur (I used St. Germain)
2-3 dashes orange bitters (ideally from Embitterment)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a calmness that most certainly did not exist on D-Day, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

Flower of Normandy 1The Flower of Normandy is a truly French cocktail if you use Calvados and St. Germain.  Calvados is to apple brandy like Cognac is to brandy.  If you recall the post about torched Dutch grapes, it's all about geography. Calvados, or apple brandy generally, is a key part of cocktails such as the Corpse Reviver #1 and the Antoine's Smile.

If you want to mix cocktails and history, make yourself a Flower of Normandy and sit down with a book about D-Day (I highly recommend D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen Ambrose) or watch a movie such as Saving Private Ryan (the opening sequence is viscerally stunning and unforgettable). Or just savor the drink on its own and remember -- some things are worth fighting for.


Day Drinking For Witty People -- The Algonquin

The Algonquin Round Table was not a table. It was a rotating group of clever people in the literary and acting worlds who met for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.  I didn't recognize the names of most of the people in the group. The only person I immediately knew was Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers (their movies are dated but hilarious).  The vast majority of the Algonquin Round Table's activities occurred during Prohibition, so there wasn't any (official) drinking.  That didn't stop someone at the hotel from creating this cocktail.

Algonquin1.5 ounces rye (hello Willett or Bulleit)
.75 ounces dry vermouth (bonjour Noilly Prat)
.75 ounces fresh pineapple juice

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're sparring (verbally) with a famous writer or actor, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

These seemingly disparate ingredients result in an oddly tasty and bracing cocktail. Some people like to add a dash or two of orange bitters.  On its own the Algonquin is pleasantly bitter.  Rye and dry vermouth certainly aren't sweet, and fresh pineapple juice isn't really sweet.  I mention all of this because adding too many dashes of orange bitters, or adding an inherently tart orange bitter, could make the Algonquin a harsh drinking experience.

The best comment about the Algonquin came from Harpo Marx, who declared this: "                               "   (if you don't get the joke, Google his character in the movies).


The Whiskey Queen

Who is the Whiskey Queen?  My lovely wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, aka the Den's taste tester and social media consultant.  The tradition of kicking the new year off with a new original creation continues.  My wife is a Whiskey Woman, Bourbon Babe, and Scotch Siren (I definitely would see superhero films with those characters).  She is particularly fond of bourbon and Scotch, so the Whiskey Queen incorporates both of them.

Whiskey Queen1.5 ounces bourbon (Bulleit or Willett is fit for a queen)
.75 ounces blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder is regal)
.75 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Bittered Sling peach bitters or other peach bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a true queen's combination of badass power and majestic grace, and strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass.

Use your favorite bourbon, but stay away from ones that are more than 100 proof.  The Whiskey Queen should be strong, not lethal.  Similarly, using a blended Scotch instead of a single malt Scotch (especially one that is smoky) will reduce the odds of the cocktail going the way of Anne Boleyn. I used Benedictine because, like the peach bitters, it is a component of the Royalist, a great similarly themed cocktail.  Don't let the herbal sweetness fool you -- Benedictine's alcohol content makes it almost as strong as bourbon or Scotch.  You can (and should) get peach bitters online, and Bittered Slling makes the best product.

Whether your taste runs towards queens of the Elizabeth II variety or the Freddie Mercury variety (get it?), the Whiskey Queen is a tribute to the queen or king in your life.

Celebrate their Majesty!


Some Good Bullscotch -- The Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand 1Grab this bull by the horns. The Blood and Sand takes its name from the 1922 movie in which Rudolph Valentino (a big star at the time) played a tragically doomed bullfighter.  In 1930 Harry Craddock, a bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London (see London Calling), mentioned the drink in his book. Many recipes he saved, e.g. the Corpse Reviver #1, have enjoyed renewed popularity in the modern era. The Blood and Sand (this is my version) is one of them.

1.25 ounces blended Scotch
1 ounce Cherry Heering liqueur
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Juice from 1/4 orange

Blood and Sand 2Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the dynamism of a matador in the ring, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel or Luxardo cherry garnish optional.

I know this combination of ingredients looks odd, but depending on how you mix it the Blood and Sand can be a fine drink. The original version calls for equal parts of the four ingredients.  My view is less is more when it comes to the orange juice.  Its acidity easily could overwhelm the drink. As for the Scotch I suggest you use one that is not smoky (I used Monkey Shoulder here), unless you want to gore your taste buds.  

In case you were wondering, the red of Cherry Heering (a Danish liqueur that's readily available in liquor stores and online) is supposed to represent blood, and orange juice is supposed to represent sand.  Symbolism aside, the Blood and Sand is for serious drinkers.  No bull.

 


America's Sweetheart -- The Mary Pickford

Mary who?  Mary Pickford was Hollywood's first popular female star.  Nicknamed "America's Sweetheart," after acting in numerous films in the first decades of the 20th century she became a co-founder of United Artists film studio.  She also was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- you know, the people who give out the Oscars.  A bartender in Havana created the Mary Pickford in the 1920s when she shot a movie there.

Mary Pickford2 ounces light rum
1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
.25 Luxardo maraschino liqueur
.25 ounces glorious grenadine

Combine into a shaker with ice, shake with the tenacity of a lady who succeeded in early Hollywood, and strain into a martini or coupe glass (for some movie star glamour).  Luxardo maraschino cherry garnish optional.

My version of the Mary Pickford gives you a great balance of booze, citrus, and sweetness.  I can't emphasize enough the importance of using fresh pineapple juice.  Juice from a few chunks or a couple of rings should be enough. 

According to Imbibe magazine, the Mary Pickford is a creation from Eddie Woelke, who is credited with creating the El Presidente.  Woelke was an American who plied his craft in Cuba during Prohibition.  Along with the Daiquiri and the El Presidente, the Mary Pickford shows there's a fascinating history of Americans creating cocktails in Cuba.  

Like the actress for whom it is named, if you want a cocktail that's sweet, glamorous, and strong, have a Mary Pickford.