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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.


"The Best (And Sort Of Anti-Nazi)" Drink -- The Bee's Knees

The phrase "bee's knees" was Prohibition era slang for "the best."  So how is this simple cocktail anti-Nazi?  Frank Meier, the creator of the modern Bee's Knees, was the head bartender at what is now Bar Hemingway in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  He included the drink in his 1936 book "The Artistry of Mixing Drinks."  During World War II Meier was a French Resistance operative, undermining the efforts of the high ranking Nazis who patronized his bar.  In this respect Meier was much like Felix Kir, who created the eponymous Kir.  Gives new meaning to the phrase "liquid courage," doesn't it?

Bee's Knees (edited)2 ounces gin (I used the Botanist)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.75 ounces honey syrup (see below)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the confidence of being the best at something, and strain into a chilled glass (preferably coupe).  Lemon peel garnish optional.

Making honey syrup is so easy even I can do it (see A Thief In The Night). You may want to adjust the amount of syrup depending on the type of honey.  When I made the Bee's Knees I happened to use buckwheat honey syrup, which has a richer taste than regular honey (it's also why the drink in the photo is darker than a typical Bee's Knees).

It's not clear who originally created the Bee's Knees, which in a way is similar to a gin based version of a Whiskey Sour.  San Francisco bartender Bill Boothby referred to it in his 1934 book "World Drinks and How to Make Them."  However, his version also contained orange juice.  I prefer Meier's take on the Bee's Knees. It doesn't overpower the cocktail with citric acidity.  More importantly -- it's tasty and refreshing.

You want to be the best?  You want to be anti-Nazi?  Then have a Bee's Knees.


Getting It In -- The Last Word

You want to have the Last Word?  Of course you do.  Now you can have it in a conversation and in a cocktail. Although many sources refer to the Last Word as a Prohibition era cocktail, it actually predates Prohibition (it appeared on a drink menu in Detroit no later than 1916, and Prohibition began in 1919).  Interestingly, its creator was not a bartender.  Frank Fogarty was a popular vaudeville stand up comedian, so maybe the name of the cocktail was linked to his occupation.

Last Word.75 ounces gin (I used The Botanist)
.75 ounces green Chartreuse
.75 ounces Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Juice from 1/2 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the energy of a stand up comedian working the crowd, and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime garnish optional.

The Last Word is refreshing yet potent.  A lot of its potency is due to the green Chartreuse, an herbal liqueur from France.  There are two types -- green and yellow.  The green version is higher proof and has a tart flavor, and the yellow version is lower proof (but still quite strong) and a little sweet.  You'd think combining green Chartreuse with fresh lime juice and gin would make the Last Word overpowering.  That's why you bring in the maraschino liqueur.

Good thing the Last Word came back into the limelight (pun intended) about 10 years ago.  Now you have a great way to start, continue, and end your cocktail "conversation."   

 


Liquid And Precious -- The Reston Pearl

Pearls adorn the necks and wrists of classy ladies around the world.  One evening two classy ladies (Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and our friend Sonia), one fine gentleman (our friend Joel, who is Sonia's husband), and I (definitely not a lady and occasionally a gentleman) went into the Den to create a new gin based cocktail.  After experimenting with various gins, fruits, vegetables, and bitters, the Reston Pearl is the result of our very fun efforts.

Reston Pearl2 ounces gin (we used the Botanist)
.5 ounces honey syrup
4-5 small cucumber chunks
2 dashes Lem-Marrakech bitters from Bittered Sling

Muddle the cucumber and gin at the bottom of a shaker, add ice and the other ingredients, stir with the subtle strength of a pearl diver, and strain into a chilled glass.

You're probably wondering about the name.  Seems pretty random, doesn't it?  You'd be correct, except Sonia and Joel live in Reston, Virginia, and "Pearl" was Sonia's nickname when she was a girl.  

The gin and cucumber give the Reston Pearl a crisp taste, the honey syrup adds a little sweetness, and the bitters bring in a hint of tartness. Although the muddling process is the same as with a Mint Julep, you can use a little more force with cucumber than you would with mint.   The honey syrup isn't hard to make, and if you have any left over you can use it in a Cool Summer Breeze or A Thief In The Night.  If you can't get the specific bitters from Bittered Sling, another citrus flavor, e.g. orange, will work well.

So when will the Reston Pearl adorn your taste buds?


A Tropical Tonic -- The Cocogin

Ready for an oddly refreshing clear and crisp cocktail?  Ready to expand your cocktail horizons? Of course you are.   The Cocogin is more or less exactly what it sounds like -- two of the three ingredients are in the name.  Pairing coconut water with something other than rum seems unusual, but this combination really works.

HawaiiSunset22 ounces gin (I used The Botanist)
1.5 ounces coconut water
.5 ounces super simple syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the deceptively precise motion of an ocean tide, and strain into a chilled glass.

I'm not a fan of gin, but in recent years friendly bartenders have introduced me to some that I like in cocktails.  For the Cocogin I suggest using a gin that doesn't, to put it not so delicately, taste like you're sucking on a pine cone.

The Cocogin essentially is a riff off of the In The Dominican. I wanted to make something with coconut water, and the gin happened to be in closer proximity than the dark rum.  So enjoy the fruits of my laziness and experimentation, and make yourself a Cocogin.


Misbehaving And Messing Around -- The Hanky Panky

Tasting some forbidden fruit?  Thinking about doing something you probably shouldn't?  Regardless of the answers, the Hanky Panky might be for you.  The term dates back to the mid 19th century, and the cocktail is from the 1920s. Ada Coleman, a bartender at the American Bar at  the Savoy Hotel in London (it is brilliant in the British sense of the word -- see London Calling), created it for one of her loyal patrons.

Hanky Panky1.5 ounces dry gin (I used The Botanist)
1.5 ounces sweet vermouth (I love Carpano Antica)
2 dashes Fernet Branca

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the desire ignited when engaging in some you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange peel garnish optional.

The Hanky Panky has the distinction of being the first gin cocktail in the Den.  I've discovered a couple of gins I like in that they don't taste like a pine cone.  The sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca act as counterpoints to the gin, so the result is a nicely balanced drink.

Modern definitions vary slightly, but the term frequently arises (pun intended) in a sexual context, e.g. the 1966 song "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells.  You may notice a recurring theme with certain cocktails in the Den, e.g.  the Hanky Panky, the Between the Sheets, the Passion, and the Intense Ginger Sutra.  Infer as you like.