Do the Bunny Hug (or maybe don’t)

Do you like a bunnyhug mit me, vot?

It is not unusual to see The Savoy Cocktail Book on a shelf behind the bar in a craft cocktail establishment. Many of these cocktails aren’t made in bars anymore (and one wonders how often they were made at the Savoy.) Some of them, like Bunny Hug Cocktail, have humorous notes following them:

Bunny Hug recipe

The exact same recipe is listed later in the book with a different name and note:

Earthquake recipe

How could I resist?

Right away I could tell this wouldn’t be well balanced. The combination of gin and whiskey in a cocktail raises an eyebrow and absinthe is as dominant an ingredient as Fernet Branca.  But still, I had to try it.

Bunny Hug (or Earthquake) Cocktail
3/4 oz gin (Beefeater)
3/4 oz whiskey (Evan Williams Single Barrel)
3/4 oz absinthe (Kübler)
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Bunny Hug

It’s not terrible, though it is very dry.

The gin and whiskey pretty much disappear in the absinthe. I figured the whiskey would get lost at a mere 86.6-proof to the absinthe’s 106-proof. If I was to make this again, I’d use a cask strength whiskey.  I might also try it with Scotch since the Savoy is in England and the recipe doesn’t specify.

As for the gin, I would try something either Navy strength or perhaps an Old Tom to counter the dryness of the absinthe. Or maybe try genever, though probably not with Scotch.

While I probably won’t try it again, it was an interesting experiment. For science!

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I wrote a cocktail menu and it turned out pretty well.

In December 2011, I was asked by my brother-in-law and his fiancée to write a cocktail menu for their wedding. Their wedding was this past weekend and I’m pleased to say it turned out pretty well.

The lovely couple wanted classic cocktails that were whiskey or vodka based. The idea was that not everyone wanted whiskey and many people enjoy vodka. I convinced them to add gin as there aren’t so many classic vodka cocktails and if someone wanted a vodka “martini,” the ingredients would be there for that. Further discussion led to the inclusion of sparkling drinks as well.

The drinks also had to be easy to make as the catering staff wouldn’t be craft bartenders. An informal survey of friends found that people generally don’t trust wedding bartenders to make a good cocktail. Guests tend drink straight spirits, highballs (gin and tonics, whiskey and ginger ale, etc.) or opt for beer or wine. One friend’s response was, “Never a Manhattan, as it will not be good enough.” Feel free to leave a comment of what you drink at weddings or in other open bar situations.

I set out to curate of a list of simple (or at least hard to screw up) whiskey, gin or sparkling wine based cocktails with no more than three or four ingredients. After scouring a dozen cocktail books and at least as many websites and extensive recipe testing, I narrowed it down to a dozen or so drinks of which the bride and groom selected eight. My final list:

The French 75 was requested by the bride. The Maple Leaf was also a request by the bride and groom as it was the drink they had enjoyed throughout the previous year. The Bridal was a late addition found in Robert Hess’ The Essential Bartender’s Guide, which I had received for my birthday a few weeks before the wedding. The Collins and Gimlet were the ways to get vodka into the menu. (The Moscow Mule was not chosen as I was trying to limit the number of juices needed.)

Of course you can’t just write a menu, you have to write out instructions for the caterers. This is easier said than done. Do you have any idea how many recipes exist for the French 75? I found that no two were the same. Ultimately, I modified the best one I found from Jim Meehan’s wonderful The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender’s Guide from the Celebrated Speakeasy. (While that recipe is my favorite, I thought it might look a bit small in a Champagne flute so I added another ounce of bubbly which still tasted decent.) Also, not knowing exactly which brands of spirits or mixers would be on hand, I couldn’t tailor the recipes to particular flavor profiles.

If you’re interested, here are the drink recipes as a pdf.

Once I had sent the menu and recipes to my brother-in-law, it was out of my hands.
Here’s what went wrong:

  • The bartenders did not measure. Everything was eyeballed.
  • Shaking and stirring appeared to be pretty much the same thing to the bartenders: gently swirling the drink in a shaker with ice.
  • None of the drinks were served on the rocks.
  • The Maraschino liqueur was for a time misplaced, which led the bartenders to use the red goo from the jar of Maraschino cherries, WHICH IS NOT THE SAME. After hearing a couple people (including my wife) note that the Bridal was too sweet and tasted a little funny, I sought out the bottle and remedied this.

While this may sound like a list of crimes, everything turned out fine and I was probably the only one to notice. I heard the next day that a few people attempted to try them all, which is sweet, but ill-advised. Everyone was happy with their drinks, particularly the bride and groom. And that’s the point.

Fernet Fascination 2: Fernet and White Dog

There are a dearth of cocktails containing Fernet-Branca. How do I know this? My previous Fernet post is far and away the most popular post I’ve written; at the time of this writing it has 3,829 views while the homepage has 2,226. As such, I feel it behooves me to create some more.

A search on CocktailDB yields 28 results. The easiest entry point for the uninitiated is the Fanciulli (sometimes Franciulli) cocktail. Essentially a Manhattan with Fernet in place of the Angostura bitters, I find myself making this more often than the traditional Manhattan. (My Fanciulli recipe is 2oz rye, 1oz sweet vermouth, 1/4oz Fernet.)

Looking through the rest of CocktailDB’s Fernet cocktail listings, I notice that many of them consist of spirit, sweet vermouth and Fernet. As Fernet is a bit of a bully, I sought to find an spirit that could stand up to it. The answer is unaged white whiskey, aka white dog. With it’s bold flavor, the white dog isn’t overwhelmed and definitely holds its own.

Dog Will Hunt
1.5 oz white dog (House Spirits)
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.5 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
1 bar spoon 2:1 rich Demerara syrup
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel. 

I should note that the white dog I used is 100 proof. If you use a lower proof whiskey, like Woodinville Headlong or Death’s Door, increase to 2oz. Also white dogs vary widely in flavor, perhaps more so than aged whiskeys which are mellowed by the wood. The House Spirits white dog is 100% barley, thus its flavor is unique among unaged whiskeys.

Rattan Cocktail & Last Gasp

I can’t overemphasize my love for Cocchi Americano. Regardless of appropriateness, it’s one the first ingredients I reach for when I’m creating new cocktails and variations. Here, I’ve tinkered with two of the most iconic cocktails, the Manhattan and Martini/Martinez. I’ve got them all Cocchi-ed up and also fancied or improved (I can never remember which is which) with some pastis.

The whiskey variation is almost a cross between a Manhattan and a Sazerac. Actually, the most similar thing I could find at CocktailDB was the Satan Cocktail. Garble those three names together enough and you kind of get the…

Rattan Cocktail
2oz rye (Bulleit)
1oz Cocchi Americano
dash Angostura bitters
dash Peychaud’s bitters
absinthe or pastis (Legendre Herbsaint)
Stir rye, Cocchi and bitters with ice, strain into a chilled, absinthe/pastis rinsed cocktail glass and garnish with lemon peel.

Switching the rye for gin, the Angostura for orange bitters and the lemon peel for orange peel gets you the…

Last Gasp
2oz London dry gin (Beefeater)
1oz Cocchi Americano
dash Regan’s #6 orange bitters
dash Peychaud’s bitters
absinthe or pastis (Legendre Herbsaint)
Stir gin, Cocchi and bitters with ice, strain into a chilled, absinthe/pastis rinsed cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel.

To find out why this one is so named, inhale sharply through your mouth after swallowing a sip.

Don’t cry. Dry your eye.

Bulleit makes a rye whiskey now. That’s good news. We like rye. Bulleit bourbon has one of the highest rye contents of any bourbon (28%) and in a pinch, it’s a decent rye substitute. But now there’s Bulleit rye. With rye making up 95% of the mash bill, you won’t confuse it with bourbon.

I’d been toying with a cocktail that was somewhere between the El Presidente and a Sazerac. It wasn’t coming out right. The Missus and I concluded that the problem was that we were using a relatively weak 80-proof rye. Say hello to Bulleit rye and quit yer cryin’.

No More Tears
1.5 oz rye (Bulleit)
.75 oz dry vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
.25 oz triple sec (Royal Combier)
.5 tsp absinthe or pastis (Legendre Herbsaint)
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel. 

The combination of the pastis and dry vermouth make this is a very dry cocktail.