Monday, September 1, 2008
My favorite cocktails, part 1
When I originally "planned" this post, it was going to be "cocktail", singular. In the last few weeks, however, my fascination with one particular drink hasn't ebbed, but the list has grown on me. So the next plan was to write a post about three cocktails. Or maybe four. With a beautiful photograph of each one, naturally, which was where the "part 1" came from.
In order for me to photograph a cocktail, I've obviously got to mix it. And after the photo session, what then? Throw it out? Are you insane?!!
So it's best I break this up and not end up face down on the Afghan rug.
The modern revival of the cocktail has several pieces. In addition to the crucial return to quality ingredients (no mixes, no faux "maraschino cherries", no crappy well liquors) and attention to detail, it has been about rediscovering "lost" cocktails or forgotten details about classic cocktails, and it's about creating delicious ways to combine ingredients in brand-new cocktails--like the mixologists at the recent competition here in Portland. Much of this innovation is chronicled online; in fact, I'd have to guess that the proliferation of New Mixology has been fueled to a great extent by the Internet and the ability to share ideas, recipes and enthusiasm with other professional and amateur mixologists around the planet.
The Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle's Pike Place Market was founded in 1998, at what must have been the beginnings of this movement. (At some point, and soon, I need to make a pilgrimage to visit, preferably with a soft bed and dark curtains somewhere close by.) Drinkboy.com credits the bartenders at the Zig Zag with rediscovering The Last Word from a 1950s' era book, The Jones Barguide. It's an unusual cocktail, combining as it does equal parts of four beverages, two of them extremely full-flavored liqueurs. A common first reaction on seeing the recipe is that it needs a significant adjustment, increasing the percentage of base alcohol and reducing the liqueurs--but it doesn't, and the first taste confirms it. As Drinkboy says: "You could consider it as being a gin drink for people who might not like gin. It's addition of Lime Juice, Maraschino, and Chartreuse to the Gin provide an excellent balance of sweet, sour, and herbals to this very approachable cocktail."
I have yet to see The Last Word on a Portland cocktail list, although Lance Mayhew produced a beauty for my son, Alex, and I at Fifty Plates (and it looks past time to update that website!). Alan Akwai came back from a trip to San Francisco reporting that the drink "was everywhere".
It's an impossible drink to describe. Either make your own or find a bartender who can. A final benefit of The Last Word is that it will be the only cocktail to make a dent in that ridiculously big bottle of Maraschino. Without it, the bottle would hang around the home bar for 20 years.
The Last Word
1 oz. Tanqueray No. 10 gin
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 oz. Luxardo Maraschino
Stir with plenty of ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Following Lance Mayhew's lead, I garnished it with a homemade brandied cherry.