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An ideal moment …

… is in many ways, a hard thing to come by these days.  That special time with a loved one; that perfect sunrise or the perfect sonnet.  Can you have such a thing when it comes to cocktails or spirits?  Sure.  Why not?

Some of the most profound moments in my cocktail education (and journey) have been discovering that sophistication and complexity often arise out of the most simple of creations.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge believer in all that complex mixology stands for. After all, as a humble novice toiling away at the home base, I’ve set up my own mini-lab of experiments creating tinctures, infusions and barrel aged madness.  Even now as I write this I’m craving the amazing feeling I had when I tried the Winchester; the first time I understood what a Mai Tai (Zombie, Jet Pilot, etc) truly was; and I can taste the silky texture that was the Cortado. Smoked cola, bubblegum infused gin and orange juice in cube form have left their impact on my senses.  But just as chefs often find inspiration in returning to humble, classic and basic recipes for culinary leaps forward, so too I find a sense of re-charging that comes from sampling drinks based on simple formulations.

What amazing experiences the endless riffs on my beloved Manhattan have led me to.  Old Fashioned’s made with scotch and rum … That American Trilogy sipped last night was down right captivating.  A Negroni?  Sure thing … made with various rums or different amari or raised to perfection through subtle tweaks of proportions? Inspirational.

Well, such was the case several weeks back when, upon visiting one of my favorite places for relaxation (and imbibing) I was presented with just such a drinking experience.  Eleven Madison Park is a phenomenal restaurant and arguably (I’ll take the pro side of this argument any day of the week) one of the best “bars” in the city.  I have admired Leo Robitschek for some time but have also come to appreciate his full staff of bartenders. The Union Jack cocktail, created by bartender Shiraz Noor, seems on paper like a potentially odd creation; some sort of weird late night love affair between two people you know shouldn’t hook up but some how do and end up making fine love together.  In the case of this drink, the two weary lovers are the venerable gin Martini and a Rusty Nail.  Gin, Drambuie and dry vermouth all in the same glass?  Islay … Islay in a gin Martini? Really?  It struck me as both odd and all together fascinating experiment when I ordered it.

Does it work? Oh hell yeah it does.  The drink hits the nose with waves of aromas – floral, citrus and yes, smoky all perfectly balanced and leading you gently to that first sip.  Upon tasting, the strong botanical presence of the gin coats your mouth in a deep blanket; its force softly muted by a twinge of honey sweetness and light, dry floral notes.  Perfect harmony here.  The Islay is less of a flavor force in this mixture taking the role normally occupied by bitters – as an after note.  Less smoky and more of a savory, briny component the mist of scotch provides a great counter to the stronger botanical and floral qualities of the main spirit and modifier.

Union Jack Cocktail
Recipe created by Shiraz Noor at Eleven Madison Park in NYC and adapted by theSpeakista

•    2 oz London dry gin (Beefeater was used)
•    3/4 oz Dolin dry vermouth
•    3/4 oz Drambuie
•    Islay scotch (Laphroaig Quarter Cask)
Garnish: lemon twist
Glass: cocktail glass or coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients save the scotch in the mixing glass with plenty of cracked ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled. Strain the mixture into the serving glass that has been “misted” with the scotch, express the oils from the twist over the glass, rub the rim of the glass and insert the twist into the glass.  Sip, enjoy and repeat.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 4 1/2  stars (out of 5)

So there you have it … my most recent ideal drinking moment, a humble riff on a classic Martini. If only I could get my hands on the recipe for the Transcontinental … thus, all would be right in this world.

Any recent inspiration hit you?  If so, let us know.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Frederic February 25, 2011, 11:18 am

    A humble riff on the more aperitif-like Flora’s Own from the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book.

  • KeithP February 27, 2011, 5:23 pm

    Spot on Fred – agreed the Flora’s Own is a better-linked riff. Sounds like we had some similar thoughts/comments about taste (in the two variations sampled).

    Guess i was dying to use “… some sort of weird late night love affair between two people you know shouldn’t hook up but some how do and end up making fine love together” in a post.

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