Proposed by: David
Reviewed by: Jonathan
Participating in this blog has hardly made me more savvy—there’s so much more learning to do and it’s hard to do while you’re drinking. The experience has, however, honed my preferences. Looking at a cocktail’s ingredients is a more reliable method of guessing whether I’ll like it, and I’m beginning to make finer distinctions about various styles of spirits and the sorts of drinks they “do well.”
Gin has become my particular favorite because it adds a botanical element to every drink, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes singing solo. Unless you’re a character in a William Hogarth print, you probably don’t drink gin straight, but some of the varieties—like Old Tom and Tanqueray Rangpur—make me understand why gin was once the abetting sin of the low countries and England. The range of botanicals available to gin makers, as well as the distillation process and use of different types of barrel aging, give gins diverse and interesting possibilities. No wonder it’s become a popular DIY phenomenon.
This week’s cocktail calls for a “Winter Gin” created by Beefeaters using not only juniper but also cinnamon, orange rind, nutmeg, and pine shoots. I guess they were trying to invent a gin using the seasonings of the season and create a market for gin during a time when sales are low. But I have to guess. I couldn’t find this winter gin stuff, which is saying a lot, as I live in a city where no type of alcohol seems rare. Fortunately I found another recipe that suggested Old Tom, which I did have and do enjoy immensely.
2 oz. Old Tom Gin
.25 oz Simple Sugar
1 oz. Tawny Port
Pour the port first, then shake the gin and simple syrup with ice, and gently pour in the gin mixture into a fluted glass, straining. The clear liquid should sit on top of the port that way. Dust with grated nutmeg. Invite your guests (or yourself) to stir (or not) as you wish.
The august history of sangaree as a style of cocktail isn’t just for winter anyway. As I said last week, the name means “blood,” and, though I thought that meant red port was the central ingredient, I’ve since discovered that Jerry “The Professor” Thomas offered recipes for sangarees featuring sherry, brandy, gin, ale, and porter. The main classifier seems to be water, sugar, and nutmeg. A sangaree doesn’t necessarily need port or gin at all, which distinguishes it from sangria, which must have fruit juice and wine.
Sangarees are also much older than sangria—1736 versus 1961—and seem to have developed during gin’s (and genever’s) heyday. If you picture some Hogarthian wastrel with tankard to lips and some contemporary wastrel ladling another red solo cup of cut fruit crowded wine maybe the difference isn’t so great. Both sangarees and sangrias count as punches. “Sangaree” just happens to be more fun to say… and fewer people have heard of it… and its history stretches back to a time when the demon of hard alcohol made headway in London and other European capitals… and you will sound more savvy if you ask for it. As Paul Clarke said on his blog The Cocktail Chronicles, “If you’re looking for a new way to get tossed out of a bar, you could do worse than making it a habit to stroll in, rap loudly on the bartop with your knuckles and shout, ‘Barman! A Port Wine SAN-GAREE, extra nutmeg, s’il vous plait — and keep ‘em comin’!’
Today is my brother’s birthday, and I spent the day hoping he had a wonderful celebration. Though we don’t see each other as much as I’d like, he’s never far from my thoughts. This drink formed two layers as I poured the gin in, and that made it seem the perfect metaphor—though the two parts are separated, they were still one drink.
Here’s Jonathan’s Review:
David and I are the fourth and fifth children respectively in a family of five children. Growing up, our oldest brother had a room to himself (a loosely used term for the room/closet he occupied in our first house in Texas), our sisters shared a room, and as the youngest two children we shared a room. Bunk beds were the standard for most of those years and played into many of our adventures. Sometimes it was David sticking his head over the edge of the top bunk to inform me that the wind outside was actually an approaching hurricane after which he went to sleep while I stared at the swaying bushes. Other times some draped blankets transformed the lower bunk to a space capsule. We would pull a lamp into the capsule, snack on odd tube shaped space food and Tang, and spend the evening pretending we were on the way to the moon. Mostly we shared our everyday lives that were completely intertwined even if we spent our days in different places with our different friends.
Those of you who have sent or read comments can see David’s picture that appears with his responses. If I had an internet version of myself you would see that our literal profile is almost exactly the same. We both have a chin that gets pointier with every passing year, prominent foreheads that also seem to be growing, and hair that gets more similar as it gets more gray. That is not to say that we don’t have our differences. For instance, he is artistic, stylish and color is his playfield. I am color blind, color stupid and my style can be summarized by asking my wife (it was my sisters who I asked growing up) if I look presentable before I leave the house.
I say all of this to show that we do share the genetics of blood which is the basis of this drink proposal, but we also share so much more. The cocktail blog has increased our communication, but we have never had a need to increase our closeness. It has always been there from bunk bed hurricanes to adulthood.
Oh yeah, there was a drink this week. I did make an attempt to find winter gin because in my world there can’t be enough types of gin. Those attempts were in vain, however, so I used the gin made down the road from me in Kings Mountain – Cardinal. I have made the point a number of times that drinks fit moods and places and this drink needed a big winter meal, enjoyed slowly with the flickering light of candles. The smell of a freshly cut tree that had recently been dragged into the living room for decoration wouldn’t hurt either. Unfortunately we did not have that perfect combination and the drink was good but not great. The port and gin played well together, but would have welcomed more orange and spices beyond the subtle nutmeg. It is one that I may go back to at the right time and place to truly test my theory though.
Jonathan’s take: I wonder if they make a gin for every season?
David’s take: I like everything gin. This cocktail seemed a worthy variation, and I liked it… but my favorite? I’m still looking.
Next week (Proposed by Jonathan):
To celebrate our sons’ graduations last May, David suggested the Blue Sky cocktail. Two of my nieces were on hand to taste that one, and were polite enough to not spit it out. One of those nieces will be graduating from college next week and we will be on hand to celebrate that wonderful occasion so I wanted to find a tastier cocktail as part of that. Her school mascot is the mountaineer, and the colors are black and gold. I searched for a mountaineer cocktail, and not surprisingly many of them came back with moonshine as the main ingredient. Due to the odd fears of blindness and buying liquor sold in mason jars, I am proposing a black and gold cocktail instead. Black vodka is not available right now as they work through some import issues, so each of us will be on our own to dye vodka black or substitute an appropriate alternative.