I have written about the Camparinete/Negroni Cocktail before. Since that time, the bar lore of an Italian count in 1919, or later in cowboy boots, has deepened. But, I have noticed something that was always right in front of me that predates the earliest possible dates associated with the Camparinete/Negroni Cocktail.
In 1895, in Chicago, George Kappeler published a recipe for the Dundorado Cocktail. Here it is:
Now, we know that the traditional, brown vermouth wine with the caramelized sugar in it (called ‘rosso’ or ‘rouge’ today) was previously called “Italian vermouth.” The old tom gin in the above recipe is the predecessor to London dry gin and is closely related to it, albeit sweeter. That leaves the question of the bitters. Campari, the most widely-known cinchona bitters of all time, is found in the later Camparinete Cocktail (a.k.a. Negroni Cocktail). Calisaya bitters were (and are again) also cinchona bitters – featuring Cinchona calisaya. Campari features Cinchona officinalis. Calisaya bitters are a bit less-sweet than Campari bitters. With this in mind, we find that the Dundorado Cocktail is very close to the Camparinete Cocktail, differing only in which type of London-style gin it is based upon, which variant of cinchona bitters it is bittered with, and in the proportion of those bitters to the other liquors.
It appears that whoever created the first Camparinete Cocktail, and whoever adapted the Negroni Cup into a cocktail (making it identical to the Camparinete Cocktail) was only, in effect, customizing a drink that was at least twenty-four years older (and that’s only if you believe that there was a Negroni in 1919 that was a cocktail instead of the more-likely cup).
The Dundorado Cocktail, itself, is clearly just an adaptation of the Martini Cocktail of the 1890′s, made by using cinchona bitters instead of orange bitters. Furthermore, the Martini Cocktail (or Martinez Cocktail) was adapted from the Manhattan Cocktail by using gin instead of whiskey. Finally, the Manhattan Cocktail was adapted from the Whiskey Cocktail (or the Fancy Whiskey Cocktail) by using vermouth wine to sweeten it instead of sugar or sugar syrup. To describe any of those classic drinks along the continuum from Manhattan Cocktail to Negroni Cocktail as an ‘invention’ is nothing more than a mixologically-unenlightened stretch in promotion of the cult of personality.
Now, make a drink and just enjoy it.
As I have bemoaned many times, it is difficult to find grapefruits with the traditional balance of bitter and sweet. Whether in supermarkets or farmers’ markets, one finds either red grapefruit so devoid of bitter flavor that they end up seeming ‘empty’ in mixed drinks, or the so-called oroblanco grapefruit (which is actually a cross between a true grapefruit and a pomelo) – sweet, but without any more complex flavor than the pomelo.
The more traditional grapefruits from previous eras when great drinks were made with them are the Duncan grapefruit and the Marsh grapefruit. The Duncan grapefruit is reputed to be the best in flavor of all grapefruits, but has ceased being produced in large numbers because they contain a lot of seeds. Being less-seedy, the Marsh grapefruit took over early in the last century, but itself is now only produced in large numbers for juice and you will hardly ever find the fresh fruit.
Just today I received a box of organic Marsh grapefruit from the Californiaoranges.com people in Pleasant Valley, California. I had high expectations. They were completely met by these grapefruits. I have eaten one, and expect to make a superior Brown Derby Blossom, and Beach Blossom and Zombie Punch (circa 1937) with them for my class on Sunday.
I am told that these grapefruits will be available for about another three weeks or a month. They aren’t cheap, or beautiful, or large, but they are very good. Here is the link:
I also plan to try grafting some cutting from one of their trees, and hope to have my own Marsh grapefruit tree!
P.S. I am also hoping to get some Duncan grapefruit cuttings.
It has been a while since I have put up a substantial posting. I plan to get back to that as soon as possible.
The new bar has been built and Elemental Mixology has completely been moved into it and air conditioning installed. There are now two drink-making stations to allow for more student-made drinks during each course session. In addition to plenty of mint and other things, a couple of lemon trees and a Key lime tree have been planted. I am trying to get some seeds of the legendary Duncan grapefruit. Failing that, I will try to plant some Marsh grapefruit – or some other variety that has not been bred as bitter-less and blank in flavor as what is found in supermarkets these days.
There will also be more availability for courses. Given the volume of past requests, the first addition will be the Elemental Mixology Symposium. That’s the ancient Greek word for a drinking party. The Elemental Mixology Symposium will be a lightly educational single evening where drinks of all types are tasted, talked about, and some made by any volunteering attendees. The first Elemental Mixology Symposium will take place in the evening of Tuesday, June 18th. Check it out at http://www.elementalmixology.com
Today, I will hold the last Elemental Mixology course session at the old location in the house from 1906. It is, without doubt, the end of an era. The contractor has virtually completed work on the new Elemental Mixology bar at a new address in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. In terms of function and space, it will be a clear improvement over the previous location. In terms of historic charm…. perhaps not. The bar, back bar, appliances, ingredients and such are due to be moved starting tomorrow.
All of this costs a lot of money, of course. In the need to raise some money, Elemental Mixology is offering a very few Cushion Subscriptions. A Cushion Subscription entitles the subscriber to attend any or all sessions of any or all runs of the Complete Drinks Course, the Fabrication Course, and the Liquor Course for the duration of the subscription. A one-year subscription will cost $1,200 and a two-year subscription shall cost $2,000. Compared to the full normal price of all those courses, this is a huge discount of well over 50%. Subscriptions will be considered to have started the day that the subscriber first attends a session. Only a very few subscription spots will be available.
Sometimes one doesn’t feeling like crossing the house to get to the bar. Sometimes there is no room at home for a proper bar, anyway.
I call this my Good Times Cart. The name was inspired by the Good Times Coach of the 1890′s (itself the inspiration of the Good Times Cocktail, which our benighted modern ‘mixology’ calls the orange-bittered, olive-garnished Dry Martini).
For going farther afield, I have my Good Times Bag. It is just an old-fashioned leather doctor’s bag with a water-proof liner that is filled with what I need with which to make my own prescriptions.
Is the best food in the world being served in restaurants? I imagine that the answer would vary, depending upon whom you ask. But to those with fond memories of the food that their grandmothers and other family members made, restaurant food might not be the clear winner – regardless of hype and price point. Though it can play a role in food culture development in many capitalist economies, the restaurant industry has rarely established any major part of any food culture. It tends to take existing food culture, modify it, hype it, and sell it. This is not always to advantage. Consider the Hamburger sandwich as evolved for fast service at drive-through restaurants – or the fine cuisine so pretentious that it is served with intricate instructions as to how it should be eaten.
Is there any reason it should be any different with drinks?
Average Americans forgot their own mixed-drinks culture as a result of both prohibition and its repeal. That includes bartenders. It is true that many bar owners are cashing in on the image of doing things the traditional, pre-prohibtion way – but they and their bartenders often have only a slightly better idea of what that should mean than do their customers.
Many industry professionals come to my courses, and I am always happy and humbled to play my own little part in pushing for tradition and excellence in professionally-made drinks. But, one of the greatest joys I get from what I do is when (as happens in virtually every class session) someone asks if there is somewhere they can reliably get the drink they have just made using traditional American mixology (the understanding thereof – not just the following of an old recipe) and have it be as good as they find the one in their hand to be. I smile and say, “Yes, at your house.”
It was standard in American mixological tradition to make mixed drinks of one 2 fl-oz. jigger of total liquor (whether from one bottle or more). This was true until prohibition, and remained mostly true even for some time afterwards.
The traditional cocktail goblet was designed to hold a cocktail – being a 2 fl-oz. jigger of total liquor with a slight amount of bitters and sugar, and the amount of water that would be added while stirring or shaking with ice. Though the later standard capacity for the cocktail goblet would become 4½ fl-oz., pre-prohibition cocktail goblets often held only 3 fl-oz.
Sour goblets held more than cocktail goblets because sours were made with the same 2 fl-oz. jigger of total liquor, but with a greater volume of other ingredients added to it than in the case of cocktails.
Though it is elementally a sour, the Sidecar was called a cocktail. Giving it the superficiality of a cocktail meant serving it in a cocktail goblet. By the 1920′s it seems the image of the cocktail had become more important than its classical definition – or the standard of making mixed drinks from a jigger (2 fl-oz.) of total liquor. Note that in the above recipe, the amount for each of the ingredients is ⅙ of a gill. A gill is 4 fl-oz., or ½ cup. That makes ⅙ of a gill equivalent to ⅔ fl-oz., or ⅓ jigger.
I find it probable that the author of the above recipe used substandard amounts for the liquid ingredients so that the total volume of the pre-shaken drink would be 2 fl-oz. Even though the recipe only contains 1⅓ fl-oz. of liquor, the 2 fl-oz. total liquid volume of the recipe would fit the cocktail goblet, even after shaking with ice.
It is interesting to consider that if, before the above book were written, the original creator of the Sidecar used a full jigger of total liquor in it (as per standard practice at the time of the drink’s birth), he might well have made the drink with the same amounts as are common today: 1 fl-oz. of the brandy, 1 fl-oz. of the triple-sec Curaçao liqueur (that’s what Cointreau is), and 1 fl-oz. of the lemon juice. That would mean that after shaking the drink with ice, it would have filled the then-standard-sized cocktail goblet and left some over to be served on the side of the main drink in a small tumbler – hence, perhaps, the ‘sidecar.’