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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.


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 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.


M Is For Mystery -- The Martini

The Martini has been so famous and popular for so long, it should have a history as clear as it looks, right? If someone served you a Martini as murky as its history, you'd send it back. Its history is a mystery. Combining gin and vermouth in drinks such as the Martinez wasn't unusual in the 19th century. As time went by, the drinking public began to favor drier gins, and by 1896 what we now know as the Martini mixed dry gin and dry vermouth with an emphasis on the gin.

Martini2.5 ounces gin (sorry James Bond)
.5 ounces dry vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir (sorry again Mr. Bond), and strain into a martini glass. Lemon peel garnish optional.

The world’s most famous fictitious Martini consuming Englishman drinks his with vodka (and shaken). The world’s most famous real Martini consuming Englishman, Winston Churchill, drank his with gin. Originally I only drank vodka Martinis, but since I found I like certain gins, I'm not as picky. Whatever you do, use fresh vermouth. I can't emphasize that enough. Feel free to experiment with how dry you like your Martini (more dry means less vermouth). Bitters aren't necessary, but they add a little zest to a clear, gin based cocktail. 

There's nothing mysterious about a Martini. All you have to do is savor one.


CCRockin' Cocktail -- The Fogerty

Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) was a rock band with a unique sound that still resonates. John Fogerty was the lead singer of CCR during its brief history and prolific output (try to find a movie or TV show set during the Vietnam war era where "Fortunate Son" isn't played).  In 2010, 40 years after CCR's heyday, Ryan Fitzgerald in San Francisco created the Fogerty, and I discovered this adapted recipe in Difford's Guide.

Fogerty2 ounces rye
.5 ounces Campari
.25 ounces crème de cassis
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with forceful rhythm, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange twist garnish optional.

The Fogerty is a remarkably well balanced drink despite its unusual combination of ingredients. There's no doubt rye, a part of other American themed drinks such as the Roosevelt, and Campari, a part of drinks such as my Scandinavian Suntan,  are strong tasting spirits with a lasting impact (much like CCR's music), and they temper the rich and sweet crème de cassis, which you use in the classic Kir or my original Bourbon Renaissance. Fitzgerald's original used crème de cacao instead of crème de cassis. If you or your guest prefers a slightly sweeter Fogerty, use bourbon as the base instead of rye.

It doesn't matter if you're down on the corner waiting for Susie Q, or if you're looking at a green river with a bad moon rising, the Fogerty is a cocktail that will resonate.


A Muppet Cocktail -- The Kermit The Frog Is Strong

When we were kids Ms. Cocktail Den and I were big Muppets fans. Kermit the Frog is one of the most famous Muppets. Even though he is physically weaker than some of his friends, e.g. Miss Piggy, he more than makes up for it with his honor, friendliness, and positive attitude. Continuing the tradition of a new original creation in a new year, the Kermit The Frog Is Strong pays tribute to his character.

Kermit the Frog is Strong1.5 ounces gin
.5 ounces Barrow's Intense (see below)
.5 ounces green Chartreuse
.5 ounces Midori
Juice from 1/4 lime

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the frenzy of Kermit waving his arms as he exclaims "Yay!!!!!", and strain into a chilled glass.  Lime peel garnish optional.

Use whatever gin you like. I highly recommend Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur for the Kermit The Frog Is Strong. Even though I'm biased because Ms. Cocktail Den and I are very small investors, Barrow's Intense gives you a far cleaner ginger flavor than its competitors. Clearly you have to use green Chartreuse (instead of yellow as you would in an Alaska). Combining green Chartreuse with gin and lime juice works very well in the Last Word, and it does the same here. Midori, a melon liqueur, keeps the Kermit The Frog Is Strong from being too tart, and it adds more green color. 

As Kermit might tell you, sometimes it's not easy being green. It's easy with a Kermit The Frog Is Strong.


A High Flying Drink -- The Paper Plane

You may have made and thrown one as a kid. As an adult, you can drink one. The Paper Plane flew onto the scene in 2008 when Sam Ross, the New York City bartender who created the Penicillin, created it for the opening of The Violet Hour bar in Chicago. Named for the M.I.A. song Paper Planes, it took off in Chicago and New York and made its way onto cocktail menus around the world.

Paper Plane.75 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces Amaro Nonino
.75 ounces Aperol
Juice from 1/2 lemon (.75 ounces)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake to the theme from Rocky (the tune's title is "Gonna Fly Now"), and strain into a chilled glass, preferably a coupe. Lemon peel garnish optional.

Following the equal proportions of four ingredients format of the Last Word, the Paper Plane is easy to make (the same goes for the Naked and Famous). Bourbon and Aperol, used in cocktails such as the Venetian Kiss, are easy to acquire. Amaro Nonino, a bittersweet grappa based amaro from northern Italy, can be tougher to find, but thankfully we have the Internet. Originally the Paper Plane used Campari, but within days of unveiling it Ross changed his mind and used Aperol instead. The result is a really well balanced cocktail. In terms of balance and format, the Paper Plane more resembles the thematically similar Burnt Fuselage than the Aviation.

Looking to rack up some cocktail frequent flier miles? Then it's time to board the Paper Plane.


A Winning Cocktail -- The Blackjack

Celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary with Ms. Cocktail Den is a great reason to look for a themed drink. I discovered the Blackjack, which naturally made me think of the card game, in which 21 is a winning hand. This version of the Blackjack comes from Steve the Bartender in Australia.

Blackjack1.5 ounces brandy or cognac
.5 ounces Cherry Heering
.5 ounces Mr. Black Coffee Amaro
1 ounce cold brew coffee

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the confidence that comes when you see you have a jack and the ace of spades, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel and/or amarena cherry garnish optional.

The Blackjack is dark and delicious. Brandy, your first cocktail "card," brings a solid foundation. Even though it's all torched Dutch grapes, all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac (a key part of my 24601). As in a Royal Blood, a hint of Cherry Heering goes a long way. Mr. Black is from Australia, and it's very good. We had to acquire it via the Internet. Kahlua could be a substitute, but it doesn't have the same depth, so the resulting Blackjack will be a little different. Do you want to stack the deck, libationally (I made up this word) speaking? Add some coffee or molé bitters, just as you would in a 43 Up or Left Hand.

A word of caution -- have too many Blackjacks, and you might end up with the Charlie Sheen version of "winning!" (Google it). So do you have a winning cocktail hand?


A Sharp Olympic Drink -- The Lucien Gaudin

Hailing from France, Lucien Gaudin was an Olympic champion fencer in the 1920s.  Fencing as in trying to stab someone with one of three blade types.  Gaudin won medals in three Olympics, including the ones in 1924 (I'm a huge fan of the movie Chariots of Fire, part of which takes place at the 1924 Olympics). In 1929 the Lucien Gaudin appeared in the book Cocktails de Paris Présentes, which identified a bartender named Charlie at Le Cheval Pie restaurant as the drink’s creator.

Lucien Gaudin1 ounce gin
.5 ounces Cointreau
.5 ounces Campari
.5 ounces dry vermouth

Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir with the strategic precision of a fencer, and strain into a chilled glass. Orange peel garnish optional.

Some people describe the Lucien Gaudin as a variation on the classic Negroni. To me it's more Negroni adjacent. A true variation would have equal proportions of three spirits and some crossover. The Bijou and the Luck of the Irish are good examples. I know this is a fine point (pun intended). Cocktail technicalities aside, the Lucien Gaudin is lighter than a Negroni and is very pink. Do you like French themed cocktails? Try a Champs Elysees or a Burnt Fuselage.  Want something more on point (sorry, I can't help myself)?  Try an Ides of March or a Stiletto.

Have a Lucien Gaudin, cue the Chariots of Fire theme, and be victorious!