Saturday, September 1, 2012

revelations of unexpected balance

leo engel's knickebein

it isn't every friday night that i have more drinks than i can count. but if certain people—"the priests" roger scruton believes "that Bacchus has spread around our world, and who pursue their calling in places which can be discovered by accident but seldom by design"—are drinking with me, all bets are off.

heath hutto blows through town on occasion, each time stopping at drink on the way from logan (a 7-minute cab ride). though he now lives in a truly american state, he is known to the house and is probably there more often than i am. i left my beverage selections to him and will thompson behind the bar. they jointly settled on a series of what will called "revelations of unexpected balance."

the dead man's mule (ginger beer, muddled lime, orgeat, allspice dram, and absinthe) is a superb balance of spice, heat, anise, and the bittersweet fragrance of almonds; it changed my mind about anise in drinks. chewy, bitter, creamy, aromatic, the trinidad sour is made with equal parts angostura and orgeat, shaken with the softening influences of lemon and rye. leo engel's knickebein—an involved drink (see will's diagram above) featuring a whole raw egg yolk, whipped egg whites, a bit too much maraschino, and some theater in production and consumption—would have been improved by removing the chalazae on the end of the yolk (for this task, a pair of little scissors is handy). the little valiant (salers, cocchi americano, lemon, angostura, Big Ice, salt) is a variant on the little giuseppe (punt e mes, cynar, etc); both play salt against bitter and the two pale gentians in the little valiant were a winning combination that also looks much nicer in the glass. at the end, heath asked for three glasses of schuylkill fish house punch ("why three?" "one for you, two for me." "ah.") which the bar prepared in over-generous quantity and served up in a gallon punchbowl. the formula calls for cognac, lemon, sugar, rum (2 quarts), and peach brandy. apricot brandy substituted for the peach, this last being unavailable. after some of the ice had melted, it was a bracing and correct way to end a night filled with highly alcoholic and unconventional drinks.

among the many benefits of strictly limiting yourself to quality beverages made with careful attention to detail is the sensation of waking the morning after consuming at least twelve (but more probably fourteen) drinks with a feeling of profound freshness and clarity.

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