Welcome to “Recorded Conversations,” an occasional feature where all the Addison Recorder editors contribute their thoughts about a question, idea, or prompt. Everyone will chime in, and then we see where the conversation wanders. For today’s conversation, J. Michael Bestul looks forward to a few drinks over the Labor Day weekend, and wonders aloud what might be drinking.
Prompt: You’re at a bar, restaurant, or pub that you’ve never been to before. The place has a pretty good drinks list, and on it, you notice ____________. And because this is one thing you always have to try when you’re at a new place, you order it.
Question: What is ____________, and why is it the libation you order?
This question sprang up last month, when I went to a relatively new bar with a good whisky list. On this list was a particular single malt, Caol Ila 18-year. And I ordered it, as I always do, with the full expectation that I would not get it. Someone would (and did) come along to tell me that, sorry, but they were planning to get the 18-year, but were unable to do so.
I expect this answer because you can’t find a bottle of the 18-year for sale in the U.S., but its distributor seems to give the impression to restaurants that they can. I’ve yet to order a Caol Ila 18-year and actually receive it. But I keep asking for it, since it was the first single malt I’d ever tasted.
I thought it would be fun to put the question to my fellow Addison Recorder colleagues, as it is broad enough to include responses ranging from “anything with grapefruit” to “locally-brewed porter” to a specific single malt Scotch.
Forgetting the Caol Ila, there is one drink I will always try if it’s on a bar’s menu: the Blood & Sand cocktail, or any variation on it.
The Blood & Sand is a classic cocktail, named after a 1922 film starring Rudolph Valentino. Its original form was equal parts Scotch whisky, freshly-squeezed orange juice, cherry liqueur, and sweet vermouth. I would gladly imbibe any one of those ingredients by itself, so it’s as though the drink was tailored for me. I did have one concern, before I made my first Blood & Sand (many moons ago): would this combination be too sweet, since I tend to like my cocktails boozy or bitter?
Nope. This drink is Goldilocks, especially if you use the proportions from Ted Haigh’s book, and add a dash of bitters. (If you want to tone down the sweetness even further, you can do 2 parts whisky to 1 part each of the other ingredients.) And while it doesn’t lend itself to variation as easily as classics like the Manhattan or Negroni, it still presents a great opportunity to riff. The gents up at Bittercube have a bittered version called the Valentino, and if you’re on the north side of Chicago, you can try the Gods & Fighting Men cocktail at Lady Gregory’s. Both are damned tasty, and great variations on the original.
My preferred ingredients are Johnnie Walker Black for the whisky, Carpano Antica for the vermouth, fresh blood orange juice, Schladerer edel-kirsch for the liqueur (though Cherry Heering is a fine stand-in), and barrel-aged bitters (such as Bittercube’s cherry bark vanilla). A flamed bit of orange zest for garnish, and I’m a happy imbiber.
Well, fellow Addisonians… what libations are you looking to drink when out at a bar or restaurant?
Read the responses from the other editors (Andrew, Bean, and Travis) as they are published throughout today.