Welcome once again to Mixology Monday, the Online Monthly Cocktail party! This is the 100th installment of Mixology Monday, and our illustrious leader Fred Yarm from Cocktail Virgin Slut has dedicated this month to Paul Clarke, who started this she-bang on his blog The Cocktail Chronicles. As Fred describes it:
But what does Mixology Monday “Cocktail Chronicles” mean? I figured that we should look to Paul’s magnum opus and digest the theme of it all — what is timeless (or potentially timeless) and elegant in its simplicity. Paul commented in his interview, “[it]’s wonderful to see that level of creativity but simplicity is going to be the glue that continues to hold interest in the cocktail together. The moment that we make cocktails too difficult or too inaccessible to the average guest, the average consumer, then we start losing people.” Paul does support a minor tweak of a major classic as well as dusting off a lesser known vintage recipe like the Creole Contentment; in addition, proto-classics like the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Penicillin intrigue him for their potential to be remembered twenty years from now. Moreover, he is a big fan of the story when there is one whether about a somewhat novel ingredient like a quinquina, the bartender making it, or the history behind a cocktail or the bar from which it originated. Indeed, I quoted Paul as saying, “If I write about these and manage to make them boring, then I have done an incredible disservice. So I feel an incredible obligation not only to the drinks themselves, but to the bartenders who created them, and also to the heritage of cocktail writing to try to elevate it.”
So for this theme, channel your inner Paul Clarke. Think about simplicity, elegance, and timelessness to the point that you would not feel strange about drinking and writing about this at MxMo M. Feel free to feature a drink that Paul wrote about in his book or on his dusty blog, and feel free to search through your own library collection for something interesting to fit the bill. Try to develop a story around it to bring even the most simplest cocktail recipe to a higher level of intrigue for the reader. The Negroni is just a 3 parts recipe, but Gaz Regan certainly elevated it in his book The Negroni.
I have to admit to a great deal of nostalgia here. In 2005, I started to delve deeper into cocktails and learn about the classics, the components, and the techniques from a vibrant and burgeoning cocktail blogosphere. I read Paul at The Cocktail Chronicles, Jeffrey Morganthaler on his eponymous blog, Darcy from Art of Drink, and would reread Cheryl Chaming’s Drink Recipes bleary eyed over coffee on Saturday or Sunday mornings when I had been out far too late (or early). For this month’s Mixology Monday, I want to look at the Gin Rickey.
Why a gin rickey? It is just gin, lime juice, and soda water after all. I’ve mentioned before that my first “aha!” cocktail moment happened when a friend got me to have a Bombay Sapphire and Tonic instead of my usual (well) gin & tonic. I had a world of flavors start opening up that I truly enjoyed. As I was reading and learning about cocktails, I still went to that well often. One night, the bartender, Jason, looked at me and asked if I enjoyed the lime. The obvious answer is – “yes! Yes! A hundred times yes!” though I was more restrained that night. I was told to trust him and that I would really like a gin gimlet. Lo and behold – the sharp, tangy, refreshing beverage that appeared was all I was promised. Aside from reminding me to trust my bartenders, I pinpoint this specific drink as steering me towards the stronger, more liquor forward beverages I enjoy. The gin wasn’t hiding behind the tonic. The lime, while certainly assertive, didn’t mask the juniper, herbal, and floral notes of my gin. With less sweetness came a revelation. The story may be a little self-referential, but I think it is a good one. So, after lurking the MxMO posts for years, being a mildly obnoxious twitter presence, and finally taking part in MxMO over the past decade, I want to revisit the gin rickey.
Classic Gin Rickey
- 2oz London Dry Gin
- Juice of 1/2 Lime
- Soda Water
- Pour the gin and squeeze the lime juice into a shaker tin halfway filled with ice.
- Pour into an iced highball glass
- Top with soda water & garnish with a lime wedge.
This is a beverage, whose history and story is told well by Mr. Clarke at the Cocktail Chronicles, meant to take the edge off the heat of summer. In the South, we’ve had long series of days where the overnight lows stay at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It never quite cools down. A gin gimlet, with it’s effervescence, citrus flavors, and gin backbone will cool you down on a hot summer night. Even better, this simple recipe is ready for nearly infinite variations. A rickey can be made with other liquors, to your taste. The often added lime cordial (unnecessary in my opinion and a bleed over from the close cousin – Gin Gimlet) can be replaced with a sweetened liqueur to add the flavor of peach, berry, or whatever is rolling through your brain. Heck, with the carbonated soda water, you can probably just stir it together and call it a refreshing adult beverage. For me, though, I wanted to make small tweaks to up the complexity of the drink. We know that dry curacao can work well with gin & citrus from drinks like the Pegu Club, so what better way to tame some edges and add some mystery.
Postmodern Gin Rickey
- 2oz London Dry Gin
- Juice of 1/2 Lime
- 2-3 Dashes of Dry Curacao (I used Pierre Ferrand)
- 2-3 Dashes Grapefruit bitters
- Soda Water
- Rinse your highball glass with the lillet blanc, twirling the glass to coat it, not unlike a sazerac’s absinthe, and discarding the excess.
- Pour the gin, add the bitters, and squeeze the lime into a shaker tin halfway filled with ice.
- Strain into the now iced highball glass
- Top with soda water and garnish with a lime wedge
Just a little bit of that curacao left in the glass does so much. It tames the edges of the rickey, leaving some roundness and richness where before it had the sharp twang of citrus. The slightly mellowed drink calls for a longer sipping time letting a little more of the herbal notes of the gin out as the ice melts. This recipe, timeless and well loved is still simple even with the tweak of rinsing the glass. I think it adds to the original cocktail and showcases how a change so small in the making can reap large dividends in the drinking.
There you have it. My ode to the cocktail community that inspired me to keep learning, drinking, and sharing and my thanks to friends and bartenders who shared with me. If I find you in your home or you make it this way, gentle reader, let’s have a drink. It has been 100 MxMos thus far and I hope we see 100 more. Cheers.