This is the first time I've managed to get my lazy, absentminded, procrastinatory ass in gear and participate in what is now the third installment of Raiders of the Lost Cocktail, run by the folks over at The Spirit World. (Deadline for entries was last Friday, the 15th.) The general idea behind it is this: "While we are certain there are great new cocktails yet to be discovered, we are equally certain there are great old cocktails that have been lost to the vagaries of time and chance. Some have been recovered by the new masters, but many have not. They are out there, in books and magazines, but they are at risk..."
I started digging through my old books (almost at the last minute of course, I being me) and started by escewing ones that lots of people probably already have, such as The Savoy Cocktail Book. Given that I'd pulled out Charles Baker earlier this week he was still fresh in my mind, but lots of people already have his Gentleman's Companion, but I'll bet not quite as many people have his subsequent tomes, The South American Gentleman's Companion, Being an Exotic Drinking Book Or, Up & Down the Andes with Jigger, Beaker & Flask.
Our usual standard for apricot brandy (that is, sweet apricot liqueur with a brandy base, not a clear eau-de-vie or distillate of apricots, such as Hungarian barackpalinka or the outstanding Blume Marillen) is Marie Brizard's most excellent Apry, but lately we've been enjoying the relatively new product by Rothman & Winter from Austria (and imported by our pal Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz), called Orchard Apricot. It's slightly lower in alcohol than Apry (24% as opposed to 30%) and slightly less sweet (Eric kindly reports in that the brix, i.e. sugar ratio, is 32 as comparted to 42 in the sweeter Apry), so you might have to adjust the balance in your cocktails to your own preferences when using it. While it doesn't have quite as much alcohol or sugar, what it does have is a deep, rich, wonderful flavor of apricots!
In the book I found three contenders, and last night Wes and I had a tasting of two. We passed the glasses back and forth, tasted, swished them around, wrinkled and furrowed our brows, and declared that we had two good cocktails but only one clear winner. Here's the one that came out on top, plus the runner-up and a special bonus cocktail (one you've perhaps seen before but richly deserves another view), all featuring lovely lovely apricot brandy.
The PISCO-APRICOT TROPICÁLS, an Exotic Pair of Cocktails which May be Served Frozen, or Shaken as a Standard Cocktail, from Lima Country Club, Lima Peru.
If you have been able to rat-out a crock of this charming and fragrant Peruvian Grape Brandy, see Shopping Index, try these 2 to vary the Pisco Sour listed on Page 143.
2 oz Pisco Brandy
1/4 to 1/2 pony Garnier's Apricot liqueur.
Juice 1/2 small lime.
Small dash Angostura.
Eitiher put in pre-chilled electric mixer with fine ice and serve in big champagne cocktail glass in frozen form, or shake with big ice and strain into chilled stemmed cocktail glass.
Or use same ingredients and routine, only adding 1 pony of ripe pineapple juice to the mix -- whether frozen or shaken and strained. Garnish this last with thin stick of ripe pineapple.
These also may be further varied by using some other cordial than Apricot liqueur, such as: White Curaçao, Cointreau, Maraschino, peach liqueur or either type of Chartreuse. Miguel was the head bar-boy's name. These were 2 of his specialties. Hope he's still there if you should stay, as we did, at this lovely Club.
Well, chances are that by now Miguel is mixing at that Great Bar in the Sky, where all the liquor is premium, there's cold running fresh fruit juices on tap and no such thing as sour mix or Pucker schnapps. Here's how we did Miguel's first concoction, and it's my official entry in Raiders of the Lost Cocktail:
2 ounces pisco.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.
The runner-up was still a fine drink, though, again in Charles' words:
HERE'S another Brandy Business from the AMERICAN CLUB Bar in Buenos Aires, & Called a BRANDY MIST.
We lunched here 1 spring day with a group of expatriated men from the States, and upon hearing our mild wail upon the lack of mixed drinks of Latin creation to be found along the Rive Plate, this was suggested -- was tested-out upon the spot. And accepted.
Pack an Old Fashioned Cocktail glass -- with lip already rubbed with a sprig of crushed mint -- with fine ice; hit it with 1 dash of Angostura and/or orange bitters. Now add 2 oz. really good Cognac brandy, not just any cheap California brand, 1/2 pony of veritable P. Garnier imported Peach Liqueur. Stir gently until chilled and garnish with 1 nice sprig of green mint which has been dipped into powdered sugar to give it a sparkling pleasantly frosted look. Garnier's Apricotine will also work, our donor advised us -- Apricotine, of course, being a superfine apricot-flavored liqueur distilled and made in Enghien-les-Bains, France.
Or, if you're too lazy to read the Bard's prose:
2 ounces Cognac.
1/2 ounce apricot brandy.
1 dash Angostura bitters.
1 dash orange bitters.
2 mint sprigs.
Rub the lip of an Old Fashioned glass with a sprig of crushed mint, then fill with crushed ice. Add the Cognac, apricot brandy and bitters, and stir for 20-30 seconds. Take the second mint sprig, moisten it and dip in the superfine sugar, and garnish with the frosted mint sprig.
While we did like this drink, the apricot didn't shine quite as much, and Wes felt that the mint might have been a bit of a problem; although we like mint, it seemed as if it was fighting with the apricot a bit. I might actually increase the apricot to 3/4 ounce next time I make this, especially if using the lower-alcohol and -sugar R&W brand, and see how it goes. Mint-fighting or not, I think this one does deserve more tries.
Now, for a third special bonus drink, which is one of my very favorite drinks featuring apricot brandy. It didn't quite fit in with the rules, as it's not a vintage cocktail but a new one, and although it was published (in this case in the San Francisco Chronicle, it's not really lost, only not well-known enough yet. Plus, the Chronicle version left out a key ingredent, due to its lack of commercial availability at the time. This ingredient won't be a problem for dedicated cocktail geeks, though, and said ingredient will be commercially available from Haus Alpenz, in the form of St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, very soon. It was created by my friend Daniel Reichert, and although I've posted it a couple of times of the past few years it's most certainly worth posting again, as it's absolutely lovely. Make sure you sing its namesake song as you enjoy it, and Dan reminds us that summer is not the only time for drinking rum; it's a lovely soul-warmer in the wintertime too.
Jamaica Farewell (Created by Daniel Reichert)
2 ounces Appleton Estate VX rum.
3/4 ounce apricot brandy (Dan specifies Marie Brizard Apry).
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1 teaspoon pimento dram.
2 dashes Angostura bitters.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a lime wedge.
In his article Gary Regan suggests kicking up this drink with Appleton Estate 21-year-old rum, and that'll certainly make it more special. However, to make it truly special ... that teaspoon of pimento liqueur transforms the drink, lifts it be an exponent or two and carries you off to the beaches of Montego Bay. Don't leave it out.
Any other good cocktail ideas using apricot brandy? Leave 'em in the comments!