Group G. The most important group. The Group of Death, Part II (Electric Boogaloo).
Within this group is Team USA, and thus the most important cocktail selections will be within this group. The United States (and those other teams’ countries) offers up a plethora of liquor options and a storied drink-mixing history. But for me, there choice is clear. This group’s cocktails will be built with a booze our Founding Fathers distilled and drank: brandy. Glorious brandy.
Now, as a child of Wisconsin, my heritage dictates that I am an expert on things like supper clubs and brandy. Even if I did move out of state prior to being able to legally drink brandy at a supper club, it matters not — distillate derived from fruit is in my blood. Literally, as I’ve just tested the recipes listed below.
Brandy isn’t a new ingredient in this series; slivovitz, pisco, and some aguardiente would fall under the classification of brandy or eau de vie.
Or “schnapps.” It’s a word derived from German, and tends to be a generic term for a strong distilled liquor. One of the more common spirits in Germany associated with this term is kirschwasser (or just kirsch) — an unaged cherry eau de vie. It’s not uncommon to see it referred to as “dry cherry brandy” here in the States, to distinguish it from flavored liqueurs that are sometimes called fruit “brandy.”
Kirsch is an underutilized spirit in cocktail-mixing, in my biased opinion. But one can always count on the Savoy cocktail book (and therefore the Savoy Stomp cocktail blog) to come through with a classic recipe that fits the bill:
1 oz – kirschwasser
1 oz – Cointreau
1 oz – yellow Chartreuse
dash of maraschino liqueur
Combine the ingredients in a glass. Add ice, and stir until good & cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a swath of orange peel.
This is the perfect cocktail to sip after a big meal. It’s all booze, the ingredients blend beautifully, and it’s slightly sweet. Having one of these on an empty stomach would be a bad idea, though. You’d be done before you could even make it to the supper club.
Ghana, unlike the USA and Germany, doesn’t have a tradition of brandy. But it does have a distinctive symbol on its flag, which is reflected in their national soccer team’s nickname: the Black Stars. And wouldn’t you know it — there just so happens to be a classic brandy-based drink known as the Star Cocktail.
Normally, I would rename the cocktail to reference the team’s nickname, but there are already multiple “Black Star” cocktails I found online. One of them is just a mashup of dark liquors (black vodka, samuca, and blackcurrant juice?), but another gave me pause. This Black Star cocktail recipe from Mayahuel in New York looks delicious. Since I’m trying to avoid too-complex recipes, and the Black Star requires not one but two flavored not-exactly-simple syrups, I stuck with the classic Star cocktail and name. Plus, the classic recipe lets me keep the theme of brandy cocktails:
1½ oz – apple brandy
1½ oz – sweet vermouth
barspoon of simple syrup
a few drops of Memphis Barbecue bitters (or couple dashes of Peychaud’s)
Combine all ingredients in a glass. Add ice, stir until quite cold, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The original recipe calls for either Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters, but bitters choices were rather limited up until the last few years. With a broad selection available nowadays, though, a change in bitters can add some interesting depth to classic cocktails. In this case, the barbecue bitters go well with both the apple brandy and the cola-like flavor of the vermouth.
Which brings us to the final cocktail of this group, the drink for the good ol’ US of A. Well, and Portugal. The national liquor of Portugal isn’t a brandy, it’s a fortified wine known as port. Come to think of it, port IS fortified with brandy (aguardiente), but I don’t think it’s enough. If only there where a cocktail that might combine both brandy and port…
Right. If only. I’ll come clean: The cocktail below is one of the first drinks I locked into place for this series. As someone who cut his cocktailing teeth on the spirits writing of Jason Wilson, the USA/Portugal selection was a no-brainer. If there are two things Mr. Wilson seems to be an undying advocate of, they are apple brandy and port wine. Thus, if anyone were to have the perfect drink to blend these two libations, it would be he, right?
¾ oz – apple brandy
¾ oz – port
¾ oz – fresh orange juice
ginger beer (about 1 oz)
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the apple brandy, port, and orange juice. Stir, then top with chilled ginger beer.
This isn’t the only such cocktail that Wilson has featured, but it’s a damned fine recipe he’s spotlighted on multiple occasions. Sweet, full-bodied, but balanced by the spicy bubbliness of the ginger beer. This is a drink worthy of a U.S. team that escapes the Group of Death.