Another World Cup group, another chance to talk history. There will be many things fizzy, bitter, sweet, and smoky, but first we have history! Woo-hoo!
This cocktail discussion starts in South America, in the region that would come to be known as Gran Colombia (modern-day Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and parts of neighboring countries). In the early 19th century, the people of Gran Colombia revolted against the Spanish crown. One man who emerged from this war of independence was Simón Bolívar, a military and political leader whose legacy in South America would grow to the level of George Washington’s in the USA.
Within Bolívar’s army was a German born-doctor, who created a medicinal tonic from local Gran Colombia ingredients. As the army pushed into modern-day Venezuela, this doctor created his first batch of tonic in the city of Angostura. Even though the city’s name changed, and the operation moved to Trinidad, this medicinal alcohol retains the name — Angostura bitters.
This potent bottle of bitters finds more use in bartenders’ supply kits than army mess kits these days. Many mixed drinks call for a dash or two of Angostura, but only a few cocktail recipes that call for more, such as the one below. The Angostura Fizz has been around for a while, but I went with this re-envisioning from the wonderful Savoy Stomp cocktail blog:
½ oz – Angostura bitters
1 oz –
white Demerara rum or Ecuadorian aguardiente
¾ oz – fresh lime juice
¾ oz simple syrup (or to taste)
an egg white
Combine everything but the soda in a shaker. Shake vigorously WITHOUT ice. Then add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled fizz or coupe glass (or rocks glass absent those). Top with chilled soda water.
The Savoy Stomp version called for Demerara (Guyanese) rum; I used Ecuadorian aguardiente because: a) I have a bottle for use in a later post, and b) it keeps with the Gran Colombia theme of the drink. Feel free to substitute a bold (not spiced) rum, and adjust the proportions as needed. More important is to remember to dry shake — as I mentioned last time, we’re mixing with egg whites here, and want that liquid to emulsify!
We move from the bitter to the sweet as we hop across the Atlantic ocean to the African country of Côte d’Ivoire. Like the previous cocktail, I’m looking at a single ingredient; in this case, the ingredient is cacao. This bean is the basis of chocolate, and the Ivory Coast is the country that produces more cacao than any other in the world. But I also wanted to have a homage to the Ivorian football team, known as Les Éléphants. Luckily, there was a variation on the classic White Elephant cocktail that I could adapt:
1 oz – cream
¾ oz – rum
¾ oz – dark crème de cacao
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a dash of cocoa powder, or a dark chocolate shavings.
That’s likely the sweetest cocktail I’m going to put forth in this series, so you’ll want to savor it.
For the last two teams in this group, I’m going to give you two uncomplicated drinks, because there is no way I’m mixing these two spirits. The latter drink is a proper (if basic) cocktail, while the former is merely a drink preparation. In the case of Greece, the simple drink reflects a simple but effective tactical style of soccer. That is the nicest thing I will say about Greek soccer.
Pour some ouzo into a tall, narrow shot glass. Next to that, place a container of ice water. Pour a small portion of the ice water into the ouzo, to your taste. Watch as the sweet, anise-forward spirit turns cloudy. As you sip, contemplate classic philosophy. Contemplate crushing national debt. Contemplate why someone has parked a metaphorical bus in front the Greek net. Continue to sip.
The final cocktail of this group is in the tradition of Scotch & soda, but there’s something beautiful and mesmerizing about the preparation & aesthetic of this highball cocktail made with whisky from Japan:
dram of Hakushu whisky
1-2 cubes or spheres of ice
Place ice into a highball glass, “up to the brim.” Pour whisky into the glass. Carefully pour soda water into the glass “without it touching the ice.” Finally, “gently stir the drink by moving the ice cubes up and down to avoid washing out the flavor.”
Hakushu 12-year is a slightly smoky whisky that makes one helluva highball (my nearly-empty bottle attests to this). The measurements are intentionally fuzzy — a dram might be one ounce, might be two, or somewhere in between. The soda will fill the glass to your taste, though a Japanese highball seems to be about 4:1 soda to whisky. The instructions above are in quotations because I’ve taken them directly from the Suntory distillery’s site. I wish I could embed the video of Suntory’s recommended preparation, because it is mesmerizingly precise and fluid. Watch it. Be warned that it might make you thirsty for your own highball.
Check back next time for the Group D (the first “group of death”), where I’ll take gin + vermouth in a different direction, bring back the pisco, and top the whole thing with champagne.