Category Archives: Lillet Blanc

Chasing the Green Fairy: Absinthe

Hello, fellow imbibers. This week at Six Drinks Too Many, we are sophisticated. Refined, even.

That’s because this week we’re drinking that infamous green spirit known as absinthe. Absinthe only became legal in the United States in 2007 after a ban that lasted nearly a century. You see, back in the day, it was believed that absinthe caused mental problems — it would ruin your life and make you insane. People believed that the wormwood in absinthe was to blame, and thus it was banned.

However, today we know that the mind-degrading effects of absinthe were most likely thanks to heavy metal poisoning resulting from poor distillation processes of mass-produced absinthe. It turns out that if it’s well-made, absinthe is no more dangerous than any other alcoholic beverage — luckily for aesthetic purposes, its dark reputation survives.

The Notorious Drink

The Notorious Drink

Today it’s possible to buy true absinthe in the United States. Well, sort of, anyway. Legally speaking, an absinthe sold in the United States must be free of thujone, a constituent of wormwood. Thujone was the chemical blamed for the psychoactive effects of absinthe — though it is an extremely unlikely culprit. However, because of this rule, some people will tell you that absinthe without thujone is not true absinthe. On the other hand, though, wormwood itself is a completely legal ingredient, and can be included without breaking the legal limit on thujone. Wormwood has even been added to some absinthe substitutes since the ban was lifted. Chances are that only absinthe connoisseurs will care about whether their drink has thujone or not, and even then, this law isn’t enforced very well.

For the record, I consider a product in the absinthe category to be a true absinthe if it is a distilled spirit (as opposed to a liqueur, as is the case with most absinthe substitutes), has a high alcohol content (preferably above 60%), and contains wormwood. But if you’re one of the ones that needs that thujone, more power to you.

For the record, for all of these cocktails you can use an absinthe substitute such as Pernod or Herbsaint. It really depends on what you can get — but using real absinthe certainly has a unique appeal.

So, without further ado, let’s start drinking already.

 

Absinthe Drip
-1 to 3 oz Absinthe
-4 to 6 oz Ice-Cold Water
-Sugar Cube

Absinthe Drip

Absinthe Drip

This is the classic absinthe drink, clothed in ceremony and surrounded by mystique. Many of history’s greatest creative minds have been known to indulge in this classic cocktail — and perhaps it even lead to the demise of a few of them. Or at least their ears.

If you want to taste absinthe, this is the way to do it, at least to start out. It capitalizes on the unique anise flavor of the spirit, but dilutes it in a way to make it palatable to most people. The mouth feel is also very interesting; it’s almost fuzzy, in a way. And the cloudy white appearance is elegant and beautiful. Drinking an Absinthe Drip is an experience unlike any other.
Speaking as someone who isn’t all that big on anise, this is really a fantastic drink if made with a quality spirit. Even if you’re skeptical, it’s worth giving it a try if you’re interested at all in absinthe. And chances are that if you drink, you’re interested in absinthe.

Start by putting the absinthe in an ornate chalice (any glass will do, actually, but something elegant and refined is more appropriate). Then lay a perforated absinthe spoon across the top of the glass (you could use a regular fork if can’t find the traditional spoon, but it might look like something so tacky even Lady Gaga wouldn’t wear it). Put the sugar cube on the spoon and slowly pour the water over it so that it dissolves and drips into the glass. When you’re done, remove the spoon and enjoy.

The sugar cube, by the way, is a relic of when liquors were poorly made and far too harsh to drink straight. If you prefer, you can skip it when using one of today’s quality absinthes. But the water is still a good idea. The alcohol content of absinthe can get as high as 75%, and diluting it makes it a better drink, at least when starting out.

Next drink!

 

Sazerac
-1/2 tsp Absinthe
-2 oz Rye Whiskey
-1 tsp Simple Syrup
-4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
-Lemon Twist

Sazerac

Sazerac

Here we have the New Orleans classic and cousin of the Old Fashioned. It’s interesting in that it uses absinthe more for its aroma rather than for its flavor. Of course, you also get a good amount of anise flavor from the bitters, along with some nice cherry and fruity notes.

Speaking of flavor, the rye does things that would not be possible with other whiskeys. It’s spicier, and almost scotch-like in this context. It’s not bad, but I think I’d prefer it with bourbon. However, tradition calls for rye, and so I use rye. But, perhaps I should also be doing away with tradition — I mean, slavery was tradition, too, and that wasn’t very cool.

This isn’t a drink for everyone. If you don’t like strong whiskey drinks, you won’t like this. If you do like strong whiskey drinks, though, then this can be a fantastic libation.

When making it, start by rimming an old fashioned glass with the lemon twist, and then set the twist aside. Then rinse the glass with the absinthe. To do this, put the absinthe in the glass and slowly turn the glass around so that the absinthe coats the inside. Discard any excess absinthe and put the glass in the freezer.

Then stir the rye, syrup, and bitters with ice until cold, and then strain into the prepared glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it in.
Moving on!

 

Corpse Reviver
-3/4 oz Gin
-3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
-3/4 oz Cointreau
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1 dash Absinthe

Corpse Reviver

Corpse Reviver

Corpse Revivers are a group of drinks that were invented because of the (incredibly stupid) idea that you can cure a hangover with more alcohol. There are a lot of different drinks that claim the name, many of which have been lost to history. This is one of the ones that has survived. This is also one which happens to use absinthe, so here we are!

In keeping with the name, this drink is surprisingly refreshing if you chill it well enough. And even though it might seem like something that some enterprising and misguided college freshman might mix together with whatever liquors they managed to get their hands on, the ingredients actually work quite well together. The gin an Lillet make a nice, martini-like base, while the absinthe creates an interesting dynamic with the orange and lemon flavors. This drink is surely unique and worth a try. Plus, the name is reminiscent of zombies, and that’s pretty cool. Cooler than whatever that college freshman would call it, anyway.

By the way, it might seem like a small amount of absinthe, but keep in mind that anise is one of those incredibly strong flavors that will overpower all of the other flavors in a drink if you let it. Really, a dash will do you.

So, stir the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Be on the look out for zombies and other ghouls while you drink it.

Now, in honor of every college freshman, let’s drink something with nothing but alcoholic ingredients in it.

 

Earthquake
-1/2 oz Whiskey
-1/2 oz Absinthe
-1/2 oz Gin

Earthquake

Earthquake

According to The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), this cocktail is “so-called because if there should happen to be an earthquake when you are drinking it, it won’t matter.” That is both a wonderful and terrible endorsement for a cocktail.

I’ll be honest — I’ not so sure I would make this drink again. It’s not that bad, but it’s not that special, either. I mean, how special can a few liquors thrown together really be? If you really want to get drunk that fast, you should just do shots.

There’s such a high proportion of absinthe in this that you’ll notice the anise more than anything else. However, if you pay attention, you’ll notice the robust flavor of the whiskey at the beginning of the drink, and then the more subtle notes of the gin as you swallow the liquid. And, of course, you’ll taste that heavy licorice taste throughout.

Making it is simple enough, anyway. Just shake the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. The type of whiskey isn’t specified, by the way. I used bourbon, because that’s the most common whiskey in cocktails, and it worked out well. Another good starting point would be Canadian whisky, as its smoothness and unobtrusiveness lends itself well to cocktails.

Now let’s get a little immature.

 

Monkey Gland
-2 oz Gin
-1 oz Orange Juice
-2 dashes Grenadine
-1 dash Absinthe

Monkey Gland

Monkey Gland

This is another old school cocktail, but its origins are a lot more amusing than most others. You see, there used to be this doctor. Dr. Serge Voronoff, we called him. Old Voronoff had an idea — an idea unlike any other. You see, Voronoff liked to graft monkey testicles onto the testicles of living, breathing, human men. Why? To combat the effects of aging, of course!

However, people were quick to turn this into an aphrodisiac, though Voronoff denied that the procedure had such effects — apparently he really knew his science when it came to monkey balls. Before long, severely misguided men were lining up around the block (think Phantom Menace lines) to put some monkey balls onto their own set to make them better lovers.

So, fellas, if you’ve ever felt insecure about your junk, don’t worry. I’m sure you’ve never felt so bad that you’ve wanted to graft monkey nuts onto your berries. And if you have, well, you clearly haven’t had enough to drink.

In any case, this long-forgotten cocktail commemorated this unfortunate spree of surgeries, and, truth be told, it’s not terrible. The grenadine provides a nice sweet counterpart to the anise flavor, all the while dancing on the flavorful citrus backdrop provided by the orange juice. Unfortunately though, the gin is all but unnoticeable. I might try this drink again in the future with vodka instead of gin to see if it makes much of a difference, but for now I think that the gin is irrelevant. I don’t taste it at all, not even as an aftertaste. That being said, the flavor is quite nice. I just think the more neutral vodka might be more appropriate than gin.

In any case, to make this just shake the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Try not to make any obscene decisions while you drink it.

Last drink! Get excited!

 

Absinthe Kangaroo (Absinthe Martini)
-2 oz Vodka
-1 oz Absinthe
-Lime Twist

Absinthe Kangaroo

Absinthe Kangaroo

Kangaroo is another name for a Vodka Martini. Martini aficionados would no doubt prefer that you use it instead of “Martini,” which they would reserve to refer to their holy grail of gin and vermouth. Out of respect, I chose the term Kangaroo for this cocktail, though it certainly is very much inspired by the Martini blueprint — even though it contains neither gin nor vermouth.

This is a very elegant and simple drink. The absinthe really shines here, and the vodka provides a smooth backdrop to add to the overall feeling of the drink. If you think you can take the sheer amount of booze in this drink, by all means, go for it.

Simply shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Twist the lime peel over the drink and drop it in. Isn’t that pretty?

 

Denouement

What have we learned? Well, I learned that despite my sophomoric intoxicated tendencies, I can be classy too. Sometimes, that knowledge is all you need to make it through the day.


Shaken AND Stirred: The Martini (part two)

And we’re back! I have four more Martini references in honor of everyone’s favorite British special agent. These are special because they aren’t the traditional gin and vermouth mixes — and a lot of critics will say they’re not Martinis at all. However, they’re clearly Martini-related, and clearly variations on the old standard. So don’t be a grouch, and just enjoy a damn drink.

Now, since I talk a lot in this post, we’ll just get started.

 

Vodka Martini
-2 oz Vodka
-1 oz Lillet Blanc
-Lemon Twist (or Green Olive(s) if you must)

The Vodka Martini

This is the drink that a lot of Martini aficionados love to hate — and it’s why they hate James Bond. You see, back in the sixties, Smirnoff had product placement rights in the James Bond films. Therefore, Jame Bond was sure to order Vodka Martinis — with Smirnoff, of course — instead drinking both Martinis with gin and Martinis with Vodka, as the agent drank in Ian Flemming’s novels.

This helped to popularize the Vodka Martini, and vodka eventually became the most popular spirit in the United States. In fact, today the Vodka Martini is more popular than the traditional Martini with gin. This fact enrages Martini lovers everywhere. I, myself, am pretty indifferent.

You see, vodka is a neutral spirit. This means that it has little to no taste. The same things we value in other spirits is exactly what we don’t want in vodka. However, the trend with Martinis has been to make them drier and drier, meaning less and less vermouth, and in extreme cases no vermouth (this is a trend I think is dumb). Since vodka is neutral, this means that a dry Vodka Martini results in a virtually flavorless drink. Therefore, a lot of Martini lovers despise the Vodka Martini.

However, I stand by my belief that if you think vodka is flavorless, you’ve never tasted vodka. That being said, vodka is still extremely neutral, but different vodkas are still different. They have different mouth feels, different textures, and different levels of smoothness. Most importantly, though, most vodkas are not completely neutral. Many have subtle and delicate notes in their flavor, such as citrus, floral, peppery, spicy, anise, fruity, nutty, sweet, herbal, and astringent notes. The aroma also factors in when experiencing a vodka (as with any spirit), and the aroma covers an even greater ground.

If you’re interested in really tasting different vodkas and all of their subtle notes, chill a bottle of premium vodka in the freezer for a few hours, and then pour two ounces into a glass and sip it — no ice. Having it freezer-cold will bring out the right texture, and will allow you to notice the delicate flavor in the right context.

But, back to the drink at hand. Despite what its detractors will tell you, a Vodka Martini can be a very good drink. Try it, and if you like, don’t let the man tear you down. Just raise a glass in honor of 007, and tell critics to go to Hell.

You’ll want a smooth, premium vodka. Nothing too medicinal or harsh. I recommend Lillet Blanc instead of vermouth because I prefer the taste of it for a Vodka Martini, but feel free to use dry vermouth instead — it’s easier to find, in any case. Either way, though, you should make it wet. You’ll notice that I used a 2-to-1 ratio for this drink, which is pretty wet by most standards. Since vodka is neutral, using more of the balancing agent is appropriate so that you get more flavor with you drink. You’re free to try a drier version, but this is probably a more enjoyable version.

So, shake (like I said on Wednesday, I shake my Vodka Martinis) the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the lemon twist. Use green olives for a garnish if you prefer, but with vodka, I think a lemon twist makes for a better drink.

Now let’s get a little bit more unorthodox.

 

Black Devil
-2 oz Light Rum
-1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
-Black Olive(s)

The Black Devil

This is essentially a rum Martini. If you like rum — and I don’t mean if you like rum as an ingredient in huge mixed drinks, but really like the taste of rum — you’ll likely enjoy this. For me, rum isn’t that much of a sipping liquor. But, once again, to each their own. If you’re a rum sipper, you should definitely try this. Jack Sparrow would be proud

It also seems like they have Martini-garnishing down to a science. The green olive is fantastic for gin, and the black olive is fantastic for rum. In fact, the black olive is just awesome for a Martini with rum, which is interesting, considering that rum is a little bit more robust than gin, and black olives are a little bit less sharp than green olives. But, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The Black Devil works with the black olive (hence the name), so I suggest you try it with that.

However, making this drink with light rum still leave it a little bit insipid. Light rum is perfect for most mixed drinks — it’s lighter in flavor, and therefore it lends a little bit of rum flavor to the drink without overpowering it. However, with a Martini-style drink, the flavor of the liquor is what’s important, and it’s what’s emphasized. So, light rum doesn’t work out as well as other rums. But I’ll get to that in a second.

To make a Black Devil, stir the rum and vermouth with ice until cold, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the black olive(s).

Now, let’s use a better rum.

 

Rum Martini
-2 oz Añejo Rum
-1/2/ oz Dry Vermouth
-Black Olive(s)

The Rum Martini

This is the same drink as above, but with a higher quality rum. For the uninitiated, añejo means aged. Aging the rum makes a more robust and flavorful rum, better for sipping than for mixing drinks. But since a Martini is a mixed drink that heavily capitalizes on the flavor of the base liquor, it’s very much appropriate to use añejo rum for this cocktail.

I’m still not that much of a rum connoisseur, but I know you’re all out there. If you love rum, try this drink, and you’ll have something to order at bars to make you feel classy (just be sure to explain to the bartender what you want).

In any case, I use Barcardi 8, which worked wonderfully, but use whatever añejo rum you prefer — but you could do worse.

So, stir the liquid ingredients with ice, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the black olive(s) and enjoy it if you like rum. This is what sophisticated pirates drink, don’t you know?

On to the last drink — and quite possibly the most important drink in context of James Bond mixology.

 

Vesper
-3 oz Gordon’s Gin (94 proof if you can find it)
-1 oz Vodka (preferably 100 proof and made from grain)
-1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
-Lemon Twist

The Vesper

This is it. This is the ultimate James Bond cocktail. This is the drink that was introduced by James Bond in how the novel Casino Royale, and since then it’s become a drink in its own right.

This is how Bond orders it in the novel which is basically how Daniel Craig orders it in the movie Casino Royale:

Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

Bond also goes on to mention to the bartender that he ought to use a vodka made from grain instead of potatoes next time. In any case, the Vesper, named for 007′s betraying love interest, has a lot of alcohol befitting the best secret agent British intelligence has ever known.

Now is where I talk about alcohol proofs. Today, the standard for all spirits is 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume. But, when Ian Flemming was first writing about the Vesper, gin was 94 proof and vodka was 100 proof. Therefore, if you want to be super-authentic, you aught to use appropriate liquors (these is completely optional, by the way).

Gordon’s has a 94 proof version on the American market, but the 80 proof version is much more common. You can also use a different brand, since Gordon’s is pretty low shelf, anyway, but that’s up to you. Bond orders it with Gordon’s, so I used Gordon’s. 100 proof vodka is fairly common, but 007 also prefers grain vodka over potato vodka. I used Absolut 100, but there are other brands that will meet these two criteria.

Also, Kina Lillet has been reformulated since this recipe was introduced. Your best choice now is Lillet Blanc.

Anyway, this drink is the perfect drink to make you feel good. It’s super-strong (which makes it a bad choice for my last drink of the night, but I’m a committed individual), and one will get you buzzed, or drunk depending on your tolerance (we don’t all have the iron livers of a secret agent).

Taste-wise, James Bond seems to have known what he was doing. The neutrality of the vodka helps to smooth out the roughness of the gin, and the Lillet Blanc is a delicious substitution for the vermouth. The Vesper is a fictional drink, but it’s also pretty damn good.

So, shake (we shake because 007 says to) the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist, drink it, and feel like a secret agent.

One note on the glass: Bond orders the drink in a champagne goblet, as at the time cocktail glasses were much smaller, and couldn’t have held his gigantic drink. However, cocktail glasses have gotten progressively bigger over time, and as such champagne goblets (which are infinitely inferior to to champagne flutes), fell out of favor. Use whichever you have access to.

 

Denouement
I’m drunk. James Bond is a pretty rad dude. Martinis are awesome drinks. I’m not writing anymore.

Have a good time at the movies. Stay classy, Internet.


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