At home, Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #18: Lotus Club Special

My copy of David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks arrived last night. Once the gauche dustcover that was obviously designed by a blind man in the late seventies was removed I was quite taken by the powder blue embossed hardcover and sat down to read the words I have heard so much about.

Embury would have done extremely well in a world of social media, and there is little wonder in my mind why his book has remained popular. He exudes a point of view, not content with listing ingredients or defining methods, he defines opinion. He is right, and you, dear reader, are most likely wrong and have been for some time, for that matter.

After thumbing through the pages, wondering what I would make, I stumbled on the section containing the Sazerac. It seems very clear that Embury was not a fan, claiming the drink satisfied neither whiskey fans nor those with a taste for herbsaint or absinthe. He goes so far as to call the drink an old fashioned flavoured with absinthe and to declare that he had never met a Sazerac fanatic, even in Nawlins.

I felt the grate a little on this, being as I am, a Sazerac fanatic. While the taste does perhaps not permit the best of either the base nor modifier to shine through, it is the interplay between them that makes me love this drink. That ordering one requires a bartender to make a little effort and is usually the start of a discussion and a number of drinks. For me, at least, the Sazerac is very much an “enlivening tonic”.

Embury focuses on cutting the corners from the somewhat finnickity practices of the absinthe wash that make a Sazerac so time consuming and offers up this method in its place.

The Lotus Club Special

In a rocks glass, place a sugar cube soaked with three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters, a few drops of absinthe and a small amount of whiskey. Muddle the sugar and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Add a curative measure of Whiskey and stir in ice until the drink is cold and the glass covered in condensate. Garnish with the peel of lemon.

I used the La Perruse 100% cane sugar cubes, about 5mls of Green Fairy absinthe at 75%abv and a slug of about 60mls of Jim Beam Rye Whiskey to make the drink in the picture. It was delicious, a little muddier than the carefully prepared Sazerac, but the time saving means I’ll be doing it again…

I think Mr. Embury ande I are going to have a lot of fun together.


Cheap, not nasty.

I’ve got a little secret.

I adore a great cocktail; the effort, the taste, the balance, the finish, I find it all intoxicating.

I love the craft of a great spirit, super premium, made with care. A new distillation method, a twist on the original.

I repeat a great story. Spirits steeped in history, made by a precious few who still care about the way things ought to be done.

Often, I find my simple manifesto of intoxicology leads me to the expensive end of town. Here; aging, effort, ingredients, packaging and marketing scale up to an often hefty price tag. It is with a welcome heaviness of wallet that I want to talk about Jim Beam Straight Rye Whiskey. This yellowfaced  little gem is the brother of the eponymous white labeled bottle that defines the class Bourbon, pretty much all over the world.

This cheery bottle has fast become the stalwart of my cabinet. A good measure, over ice with a twisted orange skin, perhaps with a piddling dash of bitters. I’ve found orange, peach and mint all have their place. It’s a fantastic $32 at duty free in Sydney, making it one of the best value for money spirits on the Australian market. Aged 4 years, again like its brother and bottled at 40% abv. It’s a mite sharper than the Bourbon, more pronounced spicy notes, with peppers and nutmegs.

For those of you who are unaware of the ways Rye Whiskey differs from a Bourbon, I’ll give it to you in the simplest terms I can.  Both Whiskies start with a mash, which is a whole mess of grains soaked in water and left to ferment. It is then distilled and aged in casks to add colour and flavour.

Bourbon by US Law (The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5.22) must contain at least 51% corn in the mash, the rest is made up of barley, wheat, rye and what ever is cheap. Bourbon straight from the still tastes a bit like fresh popcorn high proof liquor and is like all distillates, completely clear on leaving the still. (correct me if i’m wrong, i’d love to hear it.)

Rye Whiskey is also protected by Congress, and it must have been great to be alive in 1964, when politicians were looking after your booze, as opposed to sneaking in a cheeky pay-rise on the back on the urban wilderness act. Rye must have at least 51% rye in its mash, which kind of makes me wonder why Bourbon isn’t called Corn Whiskey, but that’s a whole another post, involving clowns and Colonel Sanders. Rye whiskey is a spicy romp, bright as the sun when it’s first poured, smoothing out as the ice melts and your palate submits to the sweet, sweet liquor. Beware of Canadian Rye (apart from the stuff from Alberta). Those sneaky Canucks don’t have a congress and their rye doesn’t have to have any rye in it. Just so long as it tastes like it it, eh?

mmmm, guess what I’m having when I get home?