Monthly Archives: March 2008

MxMo: Limit One

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I decided to highlight a cocktail called the Diamondback, which I first saw in the September/October 2007 issue of Imbibe magazine.

Our taskmaster, Rick, demands we tax our livers with drinks that “contain at least 3oz of 80-proof spirit or have less than 1/2oz of non-spiritness.” No Rick! Don’t throw me in the briar patch! Anything but the briar patch!

The recipe in Imbibe credited the Diamondback as Murray Stenson’s variant of a recipe that first appeared in the book Bottom’s Up, by Ted Saucier. Saucier’s volume calls the drink the Diamondback Lounge and credits it to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, in Baltimore, Md. The hotel itself is still around, but I see nothing about the Diamondback Lounge.

Saucier’s original calls for rye, applejack, and yellow Chartreuse. Stenson’s says rye, applejack, and green Chartreuse. (Don’t worry; I’ll list both recipes at the end.) You might see where I’m going with this. I chose bonded rye (100 proof), bonded applejack (100 proof), and green Chartreuse (110 proof).

That’s a lotta proof.

When I first mixed this drink, I realized immediately that it had a strong bite and so I understandably assumed that both the drink and the lounge were named after this charming critter:

Turns out, I was probably wrong.

As I was researching this post, I learned that an animal called the diamondback terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland. Sports fans should recognize the terrapin as the mascot of the University of Maryland, and college-journo geeks (I know you’re out there) will remember that the U of M student publication is the Diamondback. So, the real culprit for my achin’ head? This beast:

Man, I thought it was a snake fucking me up. Turns out it was a freakin’ turtle. I’m so embarrassed.

Diamondback Lounge, Bottom’s Up

  • 1 jigger rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger applejack (Laird’s bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger yellow chartreuse
  • Ice

Technique: Shake well. Serve over ice in old-fashioned glass. Decorate with sprig of fresh mint.

This is okay, although it’s a little mild, and I don’t think the mint adds anything.

Diamondback, from Imbibe

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. applejack
  • 3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: Cherry

Technique: Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish.

Diamondback

photo by Jennifer Hess

You’ll note from the photo above that I forgot the garnish. A cherry makes more sense to me here than mint does, anyway. This is a better drink than the version with yellow Chartreuse, since the green has more backbone and brings more botanical notes to the drink. Still, I think equal parts applejack and Chartreuse result in a drink that’s a tad too sweet for my tastes.

Hence, if you’ll forgive me…

Diamondback Terrapin

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. applejack
  • 1/2 oz. green Chartreuse

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with your own best wishes or deepest fears.

Everybody comes to Rick’s

From the why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before department, Reuters ran a story last week about an American ex-pat entrepreneur in Casablanca who’s opened a new cafe…named Rick’s, after the gin joint in one of my favorite films, Casablanca.

I don’t know whether I’ll be in Morocco any time soon, but somewhat closer to home, anyway, is the Cocktail Film Fest in New Orleans, the weekend of March 21-22. Hosted by Cheryl Charming, the festival features three films, Casablanca, The Seven Year Itch, and Guys and Dolls, along with themed cocktails and meals. But alas, even that’s too far for me.

I had no such excuse on Monday, when Tales held a media reception at Manhattan’s Flatiron Lounge, just blocks from my office. Julie Reiner’s always graceful staff brought around several New York-themed drinks, including the Slope, the Southside Fizz, and the New York Sour. The Slope was a particular favorite of mine. Named for Park Slope (my first landing strip when I arrived in NYC in 2002), it’s a derivative of the Brooklyn cocktail. Jen and I couldn’t stay long, unfortunately, but we both thank Ann Tuennerman for the invitation.

I’ve made my hotel reservations for Tales of the Cocktail. Have you?

The Slope

  • 2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye (preferably bonded)
  • 3/4 ounce Punt Y Mes
  • 1/4 ounce Bols Apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: cherries

Technique: Stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Simple misadventures

Recently, I set out to make another batch of dark simple syrup. My go-to sugar for this is normally Demerara raw cane sugar, but my local Whole Foods was out. I did, though, find both dark and light Muscovado. Both varieties are similar to brown sugar, but instead of adding molasses to refined white sugar, as in the case of brown sugar, processors of Muscovado boil down cane-sugar juice to make the sugar.

I considered both but chose the dark. I knew from just looking at it in the package that it might be moister than most sugars, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out in the saucepan. So I took a chance on it.

When I got it home, I set to it with scissors and was surprised to find that it was even moister than I expected. I sampled a bit out of the bag. The mouth feel was supple and the molasses flavor, rich, sweet, and rounded. Imagine a simple Domino dark-brown sugar. The Muscovado was similar, but richer, deeper, and more complex.

It melted easily into simmering water, so I waited for it to cool and then I bottled it. The texture of the syrup was thick and smooth, and the flavor, very rich. I think it’s accurate to say this is a molasses syrup–more pourable than molasses, but thicker even than Demerara syrup.

I’ve worked with it for a couple of weeks now, and I’m not sure I’m satisfied with it. Because of its thickness, it doesn’t mix well and I have to finesse it. If I simply put it in a glass or shaker with spirits, other ingredients, and ice, and then stir or shake, the ice chills the syrup and makes it too think to mix. The solution (ahem) is to put the syrup in first, slowly pour in an amount of spirit (an ounce or two), and then stir–without ice!!–until the syrup dissolves into the spirit. Then I can add my remaining ingredients and then shake or stir.

To my palate, the Muscovado syrup seems a little strong for most ingredients. It works best with a punchy whiskey, like a bonded rye, so I’ve been saving it primarily for Old Fashioneds and other whiskey cocktails. It occurs to me, though, that I haven’t played with it in a daiquiri. With the right rum, that might be worth trying.