As our resident bartender, Swoboda is always trying something new. Be it that one brand of beer he hasn’t seen at the store before, a last minute cocktail concoction from the ingredients in his fridge or a new blend of grapes from the wine rep, he’s up for anything. Here are his tasting thoughts for the week:
Maybe you, dear reader, are familiar with the cocktail called the “French 75.” Involving both gin and champagne, it’s a great way to kick off an evening without the saccharine sweetness of other champagne cocktails. I put a variation of the 75 on my bar’s menu at the beginning of spring, adding a small measure of cognac to fill it out and kill the pine-sap dryness that often comes with the original. Suffice it to say that, in the fully gentrified Fort Greene area, it didn’t go over well. As we develop a new menu for summer, I am trying my best to develop new and interesting cocktails — particularly one to replace the 75 variant.
In between me and mixological nirvana are the hundred variations of “sparkling sangria” I’ve had to shoot down. There are only so many kinds of liquor-fruit juice-bubbly I can slug down until it just starts to taste like a Capri Sun flavor. I have to please one set of taste buds to get something on a menu, and then please a completely different (almost diametrically opposed) set of taste buds to make it popular with the crowd that comes in to eat. As much as I would love to have a bergamot-infused tequila to tantalize customers, my manager thinks it’s “too complicated.” As much as I would like to experiment with exotic fruit like finger limes, the owner says it’s “too expensive.” Dear reader, you deserve better. Here, in full, is the recipe for the authentic French 75 (according to the Savoy Cocktail Book, which claims to have the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Paris):
2/3 oz gin
1/3 oz lemon juice
1 barspoon of powdered sugar
Pour this (already delicious) mixture into a champagne flute or other tall glass and fill with the bubbly stuff. Since barkeeps from the ’30s seem to not understand simple syrup, I will forgive this powdered sugar excess.
If you’re curious as to my variation, note that it makes the original artillery seem like pop guns:
2/3 oz gin
2/3 oz cognac
1 barspoon of simple syrup
Add to champagne like normal, then squeeze a big piece of lemon peel over the top. And rub it all over the sides. Hell, if you like pyrotechnics, light the citrus oils on fire to caramelize them too. Lemon is a good thing.
In fact, as a reward for sticking with me so far, here comes a recipe for another drink that’s been culled from the popularity contest of menu development. It was named after a Yankees player by the aforementioned owner, so Mets and Red Sox fans need not apply:
2 oz blended scotch (I like Johnny Red for its smokiness and bite)
1/2 of a lime, cut into chunks
1 barspoon raw sugar
Cream soda (Virgil’s works best)
Muddle the scotch, lime and sugar together in a highball glass, and top off with cream soda. Ignore the fact that you don’t like scotch, because you’ve never had it like this.