Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Old Drink and a New

I recently picked up a copy of "The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book" by A.S. Crockett after a night at the "new" Waldorf. This looks like the best $10 I've spent in a while. Chapter titles include "Fancy Potations and Otherwise," "Cuban Concotions," and "Jamaican Jollifiers." In the "Mostly With French Spirit" chapter there's an entry about the Stinger, made of brandy and white creme de menthe. You're probably thinking that sounds like a mouthwash cocktail with added booze. That's only slightly true.

The drinks book notes W. Somerset Maugham's repeated used of "stengah-up" in his fiction about Malay states. This little misnomer morphed into Stinger (stengah is Malay for half and was the easiest way for the Brits to order small scotch and sodas from their servants). The drink became popular and is now hardly remembered.

Why is that? Part of it is the sweet candiness. But there's more to it than that. With good brandy, it's a very refreshing cocktail very simply made. The creme de menthe can't help tasting of mint, obviously, but when properly proportioned it's not offensive. In the right circumstances (and you'll just have to judge when those circumstances are), this could be the perfect cocktail. But more than two is ill advised.

Continuing with out Asian theme, recently introduced to the NYC market is a ginger liqueur originally imported from Hong Kong called Canton. Its bottle is shaped like a very thick stick of bamboo. On intensity points, this spirit ranks very high - think of it like the Cointreau or Grand Marnier of the ginger world. If you could take dried, candied ginger, liquify it, and add alcohol, you'd have something similar to Canton. And if you're not already a fan of ginger, this probably won't convert you. If you are, try the following recipe, as yet unnamed.

In a shaker, combine the juice of half a lemon, 2 ounces of vodka, and 1 ounce of Canton liqueur. Shake and serve up. Basically, you've made a Sidecar but replaced the base spirit of brandy with the white paint that is vodka, so as not to overpower the ginger. Canton replaces the sweet of the Cointreau, and the tart lemon remains basically the same. Proportions can be tweaked, but the citrus balances the powerfully sweet ginger nicely.

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