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A Marxist (not that one) Cocktail -- The Horsefeathers

Think Groucho and comedy, not Karl and communism. Along with his brothers Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo, Groucho Marx starred in the 1932 comedy film "Horse Feathers" (horsefeathers is old American slang, sort of a polite version of the word that rhymes with "wool mitt"), one of their many comedic cinematic ventures. Benny Roff included the Horsefeathers in his book Prohibition Cocktails, and I learned about it from My Dad Made a Cocktail on Instagram.

Horsefeathers1 ounce cognac or brandy
1 ounce aged rum
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces maraschino liqueur

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some Marx Brothers madcap hilarity, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

The Horsefeathers is sort of sweet, which isn't surprising considering it includes rum (a sugar cane based spirit) and two liqueurs. You see the Benedictine DOM in drinks such as the Monte Carlo, and maraschino liqueur in drinks such as the Last Word, which predates the Marx Brothers movies by more than a decade. The cognac kicks in at just the right moment. Don't let the sweetness of the Horsefeathers fool you, because every spirit in it is strong. If you want a drier Horsefeathers, try adding .5 ounces of cognac and subtracting .5 ounces of rum. Go with aged rum here because it has more liquid gravitas.

The Horsefeathers is a solid and delicious drink. No horsefeathers.


B Is For Bravo -- The Boulevardier

The Boulevardier was an English language literary magazine in Paris in the 1920s. Erskine Gwynne, the editor, was a loyal customer of Harry McElhone, who founded the eponymous Harry's New York Bar. Even though it's not clear if Gwynne or McElhone created the Boulevardier, McElhone mentioned it in a footnote in his 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails.

Boulevardier1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with some American je ne sais quoi, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon or orange peel garnish optional.

Fundamentally a Boulevardier is a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin. Another way of viewing it is that it's a modified Manhattan with Campari instead of Angostura bitters. Like other cocktails such as the Old Pal (which McElhone created for another one of his loyal customers), the Bijou, and the Last Word, the Boulevardier is a bartender’s dream because of its simple ratio and short ingredient list. If you want to emphasize the bourbon, a variation I like uses one and half ounces of bourbon and .75 ounces each of the sweet vermouth and Campari. The Boulevardier lends itself to tinkering. For example, add some molé bitters, and you have a Left Hand.

Looking for a simple and laudable cocktail? Have a Boulevardier and look no further.


Rise From The Dead Again -- The Corpse Reviver #2

Does the name make you think of Dr. Frankenstein (or if you're a fan of Mel Brooks, "Frankensteen")? Corpse Revivers were a group of cocktails dating back to the late 19th century. Their purpose was to reinvigorate you (revive your corpse) the morning after a night of drinking. In 1930 Harry Craddock included the Corpse Reviver #2 in The Savoy Cocktail Book.

Corpse Reviver No. 2.75 ounces gin
.75 ounces Lillet Blanc
.75 ounces triple sec (I suggest Cointreau)
.75 ounces lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Absinthe

Coat the inside of a chilled glass with absinthe, combine the other ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake with the jolt of a renewed lease on life, and strain into the chilled glass. Lemon twist garnish optional.

Bearing no resemblance to the Corpse Reviver #1, the Corpse Reviver #2 is the best known survivor of the group. Its four equal parts format makes it like the Last Word, which also includes gin. Just as it does in the Vesper, the Lillet Blanc, a French aperitif wine, melds nicely with the gin. Using a clear triple sec such as Cointreau will give the Corpse Reviver #2 a light, refreshing look to match how it tastes. Some versions of the Corpse Reviver #2 call for putting a small amount of absinthe directly into the cocktail (as you would with an When Ernest Met Mary) instead of using it to rinse the glass (as you would with a Sazerac). Do what you prefer.

As Craddock remarked, "Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again." Now you know about the Corpse Reviver #2's deceptive power, have fun reviving!


A Thinking Drink -- The Brainstorm

Coming up with a brilliant idea is the purpose of a brainstorm. First appearing in 1930 in Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book (the source of other drinks such as the Champs Élysées), the Brainstorm is the liquid realization of a brilliant cocktail idea. I discovered it in Difford's Guide.

Brainstorm2 ounces Irish whiskey
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.5 ounces dry vermouth

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir as you contemplate something mind blowing, and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Orange peel garnish optional.

Interestingly, Craddock specifically called for Irish whiskey in the Brainstorm, but other whiskey based cocktails in his book are silent about the whiskey's provenance. I'm certainly not complaining. I love Irish whiskey on its own, or in a drink such as a Tipperary or a Good Cork. The Benedictine DOM, a key part of cocktails such as the Honeymoon, adds a bit of sweetness to the equation, and the dry vermouth keeps the Brainstorm from being too sweet. Whiskey and dry vermouth make a nice combination in the Algonquin and my adaptation of the Brown Bomber, and it's the same here.

To quote a line from Madonna's song Vogue, strike a pose (imagine Rodin's The Thinker) as you sip the Brainstorm. So what's your brilliant idea?


A Loaded European -- The Monte Carlo

When I use the word "loaded" here it's a non-sexual double entendre. Monte Carlo, part of the city-state of Monaco, is loaded in that it has a ridiculous amount of money. The Monte Carlo cocktail is loaded in that it can make you very drunk if you're not careful. Making its grand entrance in 1948 in David Embury's book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, the Monte Carlo is simple and sophisticated.

Monte Carlo2 ounces rye
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir as if you're suave and rich enough to gamble in Monte Carlo's legendary casino (think James Bond in Goldeneye), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably over a large ice cube.

The Benedictine DOM, a rich French herbal liqueur used in drinks such as my Whiskey Queen, is the key ingredient in the Monte Carlo or its variations. Depending on your perspective, the Benedictine substitutes in for the super simple syrup in an Old Fashioned, or the sweet vermouth in a Manhattan. How dry or sweet you prefer the Monte Carlo depends on the ratio between the rye and the Benedictine. Not into rye? Use bourbon (a Kentucky Colonel), reposado or anejo tequila (a Monte Carlos), or some other aged spirit.

Want to gamble like a Millionaire? A Monte Carlo will make you feel loaded.


The Bitch Is Dead -- The Vesper

"The bitch is dead" -- this is what James Bond icily utters when he learns of the death of Vesper Lynd, the woman who broke his heart. In Casino Royale (both the novel and the movie starring Daniel Craig), Bond falls in love with Vesper before he learns she is a double agent. All of this happens after he creates a cocktail in her honor.

Vesper3 ounces gin
1 ounce vodka
.5 ounces Lillet Blanc

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the fury of Bond exacting vengeance, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel garnish.

Bond’s original creation is not far removed from a Martini, either the original or his version. Bond's Vesper calls for “three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet.” Gordon’s was and is a popular gin. Use whatever gin you prefer or have on hand.  Kina Lillet was a French aperitif wine.  It no longer exists under that name, but with a new formula it’s now known as Lillet Blanc. As you would with vermouth, make sure the Lillet Blanc is fresh and keep it in the fridge. If you can't find Lillet Blanc, dry vermouth is a good substitute. Bond never specifies the vodka brand, which amuses me because in popular culture he forever will be associated with vodka. If you or your guest is not a fan of gin (like I once was), adjust the ratios of gin and vodka.

The Vesper is a big cocktail because it contains four ounces of high proof alcohol.  Go Bond or go home.


A Dantean Cocktail -- The Purgatory

In some theologies, purgatory is the state after death before some souls ascend to Heaven. It's also the title of the second book in Dante's Divine Comedy (one of my favorite college classes was about The Inferno). Dante Aligheri in Florence created one of the most famous pieces of Western literature, and Ted Kilgore in Missouri who created the Purgatory cocktail in the mid-2000s.

Purgatory2.5 ounces rye
.75 ounces Benedictine DOM
.75 ounces green Chartreuse

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir while contemplating where your soul might go (mine will travel in the bar car), and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon peel or wedge garnish optional.

Make no mistake, the Purgatory is a powerful drink. Those who are new to cocktails might have one and think they have descended into one of Dante's circles of Hell. The spice in the rye may make you think of Hell, and the silky sweetness of the Benedictine DOM may make you think of Heaven. The rye stands up to the Benedictine DOM, used in drinks such as the Honeymoon or my Whiskey Queen, and the 110 proof green Chartreuse, used in drinks such as the Bijou and the Last Word. Combining two herbal liqueurs from French monastic orders looks strange, at least it did to me. Have some cocktailian faith. You'll find they work well together in the Purgatory.

Regardless of whether you're religious, agnostic, or atheist, warm your soul with a Purgatory.


And Cocktail -- The Ampersand

Signifying "and," the ampersand is a common symbol in the English language (& it makes me think of the late great musical genius Prince). The ampersand symbol dates back a couple of centuries, when children were taught it was the 27th letter of the alphabet. The Ampersand cocktail dates to 1934, when it appeared in Albert Stevens Crockett's The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. The story is the Ampersand was named for the "&" in Martini & Rossi vermouth.

Ampersand1 ounce brandy
1 ounce Old Tom gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
.25 ounces curaçao (optional)

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir & stir & stir, then strain into a chilled glass.

The Ampersand is a boozy cocktail. The base of three spirits in equal proportions is reminiscent of other underrated classic drinks such as the Bijou. Brandy and Old Tom style gin together? Yes, it looks weird, but it works. Combining Old Tom style gin and sweet vermouth is part of the classic Martinez, so if you like that drink you'll like this one (& vice versa). You could use the more prevalent London Dry style gin in an Ampersand, but then the drink won't be quite as complex (this is one of those times when complexity is a good thing). Curaçao is a type of triple sec (orange liqueur), and if you don't have curacao, Grand Marnier is a good substitute.

Now have some fun & go make yourself an Ampersand!


A Cocktail Of Light -- The Parisian

Known as the "City of Light," Paris is one of the great cities of the world. Ms. Cocktail Den and I have been fortunate enough to explore iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées, as well as cocktail landmarks to know We'll Always Have Paris. In 1930 the Parisian cocktail appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. I slightly adapted the recipe.

Parisian1.25 ounces gin
1.25 ounces dry vermouth
.75 ounces crème de cassis

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with Parisian joie de vivre, and strain into a chilled glass.

Crème de cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur used in cocktails such as the classic Kir. It's pretty sweet, so you need something to counterbalance it. That's where the gin and dry vermouth, foundations of the classic Martini, come in.  Aside from a Burnt Fuselage or Scofflaw, normally I wouldn't use more than an ounce of dry vermouth in any cocktail, but it works well in a Parisian (the original has equal proportions of all ingredients, so if you prefer sweeter drinks make it that way). Its rich purple color reminds me of the liveliness of Paris and its people. 

Want your cocktail life to shine even brighter? Have a Parisian.


Fiercely Crimson -- The Wildest Redhead

Redheads make up a very small percentage of the population, but they generate a lot of stereotypes. The Wildest Redhead is a creation from Meaghan Dorman, a New York City bartender. She took the Wild Redhead, which first appeared in the 1977 book Jones' Complete Barguide, and enhanced it.

Wildest Redhead1.5 ounces blended Scotch
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)
.75 ounces honey syrup
.25 ounces allspice dram
.25 ounces cherry Heering

Combine everything except the cherry Heering in a shaker with ice, shake with wild abandonment, and strain into a chilled a glass, preferably rocks and over a large ice cube. Top with the cherry Heering.

Scotch gives the Wildest Redhead a solid base, and it naturally pairs well with the lemon juice and honey syrup.  Dorman (who is a redhead) added allspice dram, part of cocktails such as the Donna Maria or my Les Bon Temps Roulé, to the original drink. Just as Dorman made changes to the predecessor of the Wildest Redhead, I tweaked her recipe ever so slightly. Her recipe calls for a half ounce of rich honey syrup (3:1) ratio, but I use regular honey syrup (1:1 ratio). Cherry Heering brings a nice finishing touch to the Wildest Redhead. If pairing Scotch and cherry Heering intrigues you, definitely have a Royal Blood.

Ready to get a little wild? You know what to drink.