Category Archives: Apéritifs

Bandwagoneering: White Manhattan

Talking to bartenders, reading blogs, I’ve noticed a trend rising over the last several months: you take a classic whiskey cocktail, such as the Manhattan or the Sazerac, and you swap in an unaged (“white”) whiskey for the brown stuff. If you’re not familiar with white whiskies, they’re nothing more than unaged whiskies that have never seen a barrel. Spirits straight from the still, and cut with water (in most cases). You can say they’re like moonshine, but the key point here is that moonshine by definition is illegal. As my friend Matthew Rowley wrote, “If you can you buy it in liquor stores, it’s not moonshine.” (For more information: Simonson, Clarke, Cecchini, Rowley)

Legal white-dog whiskies, as the unaged stuff is called, aren’t exactly new to the market. I tasted some at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. But they’ve been slowly gaining ground among bars and consumers since then and started making their way onto cocktail menus. As I mentioned above, one popular way is to replace the brown spirit in a classic whiskey drink with a white. I wanted to riff on this, but instead of using a white dog, I chose Bols Genever. It’s a favorite in our household, a malty botanical spirit that’s the precursor to modern gin. Bols tastes uncannily like whiskey, so I thought it would play well in this type of preparation. I tried a couple of different ideas–one using Carpano Antica vermouth–to re-create the Manhattan cocktail, but this is the one we liked best.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Stir, squeeze on lemon peel, discard peel.

Nieuw Amsterdam

photograph © Jennifer Hess

Ads of the week: Hesperidina

Here’s something a little different–a group of ads for Hesperidina, an orange-flavored aperitif popular in Argentina. (As far as I know, it’s not imported into the United States.) These were sent my way by Federico Cuco, a Buenos Aires barman. With his permission, I’m publishing them here, two per week. I don’t know anything about their original source, but you’ll see that some of them are pretty old. The brand dates back to 1864, when it was invented by an expatriate American, Melville Sewell Bagley. These ads are excellent, and the scans are crisp, so I wanted to run them. Many thanks to Federico for sending them along.

028. publicidades hesperidina

027. publicidades hesperidina

MxMo: Apéritif

MxMo AperitifStimulate your palate with some fun apéritifs, courtesy of the fourth Mixology Monday (hosted this go-around by Jimmy Patrick of jimmy’s cocktail hour).

Jen and I wanted to try something a little different this time. Since we so often get apéritifs along with appetizers when we’re out a good restaurant, we talked about doing some food pairings. We talked for a couple of weeks about what we’d have and what we’d pair. I knew, for example, that I wanted to try Cynar (having previously only had it in Audrey Saunders’ Little Italy cocktail at Pegu Club), so we took our cues either from what I wanted to mix with or from what she was eager to cook.

I would then write up the boozy stuff for this site and MxMo, and she’d blog the foodie bits over at the food blog Gastronome. So there you go.

Now on to the pairings. (All photography by Jennifer Hess. You can view full-sized versions of these pictures, and others, in Jen’s photostream at Flickr, or you can read her writeup of the foodie stuff at Gastronome.)

First up, the Adonis cocktail with figs, stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in serrano ham, and roasted in the toaster oven. Jen requested sherry, since it’s a classic pairing with figs and blue cheese, so I consulted my oracles to find a good sherry-based quaff. Difford’s Guide to Cocktails provided several options, and from them I chose the Adonis, a simple mix of sherry, vermouth, and orange bitters.

MxMo AperitifAdonis

  • 2 oz. dry sherry (Difford calls for Fino; we used Manzanilla)
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes orange bitters (I used Fee)
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

cynar and chokesThat’s a good drink. I was surprised by its smokiness, though. Sherry never strikes me as being smoky on its own, but somehow with the vermouth and orange bitters, the drink was smoky, like a scotch cocktail. Strange, but a nice example of the alchemy that occurs in a cocktail glass.

Our second pairing was artichoke-a-riffic: artichoke hearts topped with crabmeat and roasted in the toaster oven. The pairing for that was simple: Cynar on the rocks with a slice of lemon. We both found the Cynar a little sweet on its own, so perhaps we’ll shake it into a drink next time.

Our final pairing was another cocktail, but it requires explanation. …

The night after our cocktail party, we went to Dressler, a new restaurant in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’d been to Dressler once before–on its opening night, we sat at the bar, and ate while talking drinks and barmanship with the friendly bartender. On our second visit, we had a different bartender, but he was every bit as personable as the first guy had been.

So we sat at Jim’s bar and ordered drinks and food. After pouring us each a couple of fine drinks, he started prepping something interesting. I saw bourbon and bitters and something else I didn’t quite make out. Then he did something strange. He strained that in a flute and topped it with champagne! And as Jen and I looked at each other and remarked on how intriguing that was, he set it down in front of Jen! “Try this, on the house. It’s a Seelbach, I think you’ll enjoy it.”

Jim’s a mensch, and a damn good bartender. We did indeed enjoy it, and when Jen requested it to pair with duck rillettes, I knew yet again how smart my wife really is. The smoky bourbon and the champagne cut right through the fattiness of the duck. (The rillettes, by the way, were my concoction, from duck confit that I made in early spring.)

Seelbach cocktailSeelbach Cocktail

  • 7 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • ½ oz. triple sec
  • 5 oz. chilled champagne

Technique: Rinse champagne flute with both kinds of bitters. Pour out most of the bitters, leaving a small amount in the bottom of the glass. Shake bourbon and triple sec over ice, and strain into flute. Top with champagne.

(The recipes I’ve seen for this call for shaking the bitters with the bourbon and triple sec. But Jim at Dressler rinsed the glass with them, and after mixing this once at home, I see why: the bitters overwhelm the cocktail if they remain fully in the drink. Either rinse the glass or shake the bitters, but cut back on the quantity.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, these were indeed apéritifs. Even with all that food, we still managed to eat grass-fed tenderloins and a salad for dinner, with a nice Chianti Classico.