Southpaws and Mobsters -- The Left Hand
The Left Hand honors Lefty Ruggiero, a key character in the underrated crime movie Donnie Brasco. Johnny Depp stars as an undercover FBI agent who, known as the movie's titular character, infiltrates a New York City mob family. Al Pacino plays Ruggiero, a mobster who unwittingly acts as a conduit for Brasco. I discovered this drink in Scott Deitche's book Cocktail Noir.
2 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces sweet vermouth (I recommend Carpano Antica)
.75 ounces Campari
2 dashes chocolate or mole bitters
Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the coolness of being among made men without being made as a rat, and strain into a chilled glass.
The Left Hand is a Boulevardier with chocolate or mole bitters. The original uses mole bitters. I know chocolate and mole are not exactly the same thing, but you're not going to go wrong with either one.
Donnie Brasco is very good at the depicting the tension and strain of operating as an undercover agent. This scene is an example. For movies with a similar theme, I highly recommend The Departed and Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong movie upon which The Departed is based.
So what does the word "southpaw" have to do with this cocktail? Southpaw is slang for a left hand. The etymological origin of the word is hazy. A prevailing theory is that the term originated in the 19th century. At the time some baseball diamonds were laid out so home plate was on the west side (this kept the sun out of the batter's eyes), so a left handed pitcher's arm would hang south. This means a left handed pitcher would use his "south paw." For an entertaining cinematic soliloquy, watch Rocky Balboa explain it to Adrian (click here).
Even if you don't care about southpaws or mobsters, the Left Hand is a fine cocktail. Capisce?
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