Sunday, February 22, 2015

Impromptu: Martine à la Louisiane

Oh, the woes of the impromptu MxMo cocktailer, when hit by an idea from the gods late Monday afternoon only to realize that not only did one not have a key ingredient, but that it wasn't in local stores, there were only 2 bottles total in stores in-state (PA, go fig)...

[*hears a tiny scratching whine sound coming from nearby* 
Boomer, playing the violin: Keep going!]

...on the other side of the state, and it was Presidents Day and the stores were all closed anyway! Argh!

[Boomer: Excellent flourish!]

Eh well, but at least in PA there are such things as online orders from the in-state system (and they actually had the bottle I was looking for - plus a $7 delivery fee and tax).

[Boomer, beret and black Lennon-shades aplace at his red-check-draped bistro table, waves his goblet: More wine please!
MoD: Is that your best 3 Blind Mice impersonation?
Boomer: Zut alors! Ze help at zis bar.. No tip for you!
MoD: You're in France. It comes included, prix-fixe.
Boomer: grumble grumble..]

So anyway, bottle was had Thursday night, and, having tasted it for the first time after seeing years of fine reviews on the Twitters, it made me grin and go "yeah, that'll do just fine." (not always the case with blind buys, even if a bottle seems on-paper perfect for a recipe) Now, back to MxMo (or rather, an entry too late for MxMo).

Our host Dagreb's theme for this past month was That's not a Martini! (recapitulation here) and, with Mardi Gras looming the day after, a cocktailian's mind naturally falls to New Orleans with its triumvirate of Peychaud's-inflected tipples: the Sazerac, Vieux Carré and Cocktail à la Louisiane. At which point the recipe kinda writes itself, though one should always be wary when doing straight-out-the-bottle recipes - there's a very good chance it already exists as a classic pre-Prohibition recipe. Case-in-point, search "gin, vermouth, benedictine" for ingredients on Yeah. Very close to a Vancouver and a Merry Widow(er). In my defense, I plead special gins.

[Boomer, lounging in a cloth folding chair, sun-mirror in place, fur slightly singing: SIMPSONS. DID. IT!
MoD: Malacca! Tiki-spirit-blend Malacca! Begone!
Boomer: *cackles*]

(also a reason this recipe is a mere Impromptu)

Despite the "à" in the name, this drink is more about NOLA flavors in general - that and both the "à" and "de" versions of the Louisiane have a whopping 3/4 oz of Bénédictine, which completely throws off the Martini structure. The Vieux Carré, however...that has the makings of a hatty 2-1 Martini.

Martine à la Louisiane
1 oz St. George dry rye gin
1 oz Tanqueray Malacca gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 tsp Bénédictine
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
absinthe rinse
lemon twist for garnish

Rinse and chill. Stir. Strain. Garnish.

Orange, lemon, malt and a hint of anise rise to the nostrils. The caraway and juniper malt have a tendency to dominate, but once you slip under those, it's like a gently-heated pool. A faint pineapple note from the Malacca merges with the dry rye's malt into something richly tropical trending through Peychaud's soft cherry to a slow bitter finish. You forget you're drinking gin. Between all the other herb notes, the absinthe is actually subtle here, a mere frisson.

This could be an exquisite candidate for a barrel-aged cocktail, or, as an extension, aged gins.

The dry rye gin explains itself, whereas, to substitute for cognac, a more melodious gin was needed. My bottle of Hayman's Old Tom itself wasn't quite right for this, the creaminess was nice but the juniper was too sharp. Instead I turned to a quasi-Old Tom/sweeter style, Malacca, whose rolling tropical mellowness sets a lovely rhythm. The absinthe? Granted, the Vieux Carré doesn't have it, but its brethren bevandes Sazerac and Louisiane do -- and it is à la Louisiane.