Lately I’ve been biking to Brian’s place when he hosts the Rituals. This seems like a safe and effective way to bookend cocktail tasting with a workout, and it is. The laws on drinking and riding your bike vary from state to state, but in California it is definitely illegal so I always make sure to drink responsibly.
Today is a Saturday and we have a 12 noon start and it is blazing. It takes 30 minutes to get to Brian’s and when I finally arrive I am dripping with sweat and have a powerful thirst. And I keep sweating for another 20 or 30 minutes. I note to our special guest taster, Beefcake, that it reminds me of when you work out so hard that you are still sweating after getting out of the shower—except there’s no shower in this case. And so begins the Sweaty Rituals.
Brian is curiously optimistic about today’s session in spite of our poor track record. I love this. It’s as if we are incapable from learning from our own experiences. Despite months of evidence to the contrary, we both think today will be the day we unearth some delicious, forgotten gems. I’m sure our short-term memories will be tazed—Men in Black style—during the run-up to the next session as well. For now, though, our hopes are sailing high. Today we will make the long and bubbly ALBEMARLE FIZZ, the boozy, herbal ALBERTINE, and the—wait, the last drink is where it will all goes wrong, actually. In fact, I’ll tell you now that the final concoction is so disastrous, so fiendishly awful, that we can’t use human language to communicate how vile it is.
It is the Cthulhu of cocktails—so indescribably horrible that we are still reeling from its impact. We’ll deal with it a separate post. What follows is a summary of our first two drinks of the day.
According to Wikipedia (always love saying that), the word ALBEMARLE is the Latinised form of the French county of Aumale in Normandy (Latin: Alba Marla meaning “White Marl”, marl being a type of fertile soil). White marl, eh? The Savoy Stomp blog digs around and finds some more interesting history about Albemarle: It was also an early Virginia colony gone bad, where the settlers arrived too late for planting, starved, pissed off the local Native American tribes, and then eventually scurried back to England.
What does this have to do with the ALBEMARLE FIZZ? I am not so sure. The Albemarle has gin, raspberry syrup, and club soda. It is pink and refreshing and seems about as far away from that early part of American history as anything.
2 oz. dry gin (Bombay)
.5 oz. lemon
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp raspberry syrup
Over three cubes of ice, add gin, squeeze in the juice of the lemon. Add sugar and the raspberry syrup and stir well. Fill glass with club soda.
Eric: It actually looks kind of nice; it’s got a good color to it. It’s a long drink. Put a straw in that; it’ll knock you out.
Beefcake: I could see sitting by the pool and drinking that in the afternoon.
Brian: It’s lovely. It’s a gin fizz. It looks like the sugar hasn’t totally dissolved.
Eric: It tastes totally innocuous. How much gin is in there?
Beefcake: Actually, those are ice cubes made from gin. I put them in liquid nitrogen to freeze them.
Eric: Just add water. Pink water.
Brian: If I ever did have a pool, though, I’d say, “We should make some gin fizzes.”
Beefcake: Margaritas and gin fizzes.
Eric: But you’d never say, “Hold on, let me go make some raspberry syrup. I’m going to go cook this thing up right now.”
Brian: “And then give me 20 minutes cause I gotta let it chill.”
Eric: “But don’t worry, it’ll be totally worth it.”
Beefcake: On the other hand I give it points because it’s cold. It’s a cold drink, you know what I mean?
Brian: You’re giving points for its temperature.
SCORES: Brian 6, Eric 6, Beefcake 6
Next up is the very promising ALBERTINE, which requests equal parts Cointreau, Yellow Chartreuse, and kirsch (cherry brandy), with a dash of maraschino bitters. This is unusual combination of strong-willed liquors—each is capable of dominating its own drink—and we are curious to see if each ingredient will try to play well with others. Then again it could be a street fight.
After thorough digging we only came across one company—Park Avenue Provisions—that makes maraschino bitters these days. Cherry bitters are more available, but we don’t have any of that either, so we agree to just add Luxardo maraschino liqueur instead, even though it makes us nervous to be adding even more sweet to a sweet-looking recipe.
For some reason this drink asks to be shaken first, and then stirred. I’m not so sure what this is about since this is drink that would normally just be stirred. Brian gives it the old college try, however, first with a hearty shake, then a half-assed rotation of the shaker tin as a stir before pouring the pink sparkly out into a lovely coupe glass. The lime garnish is very green and looks like a small pickle.
.75 oz. Cointreau
.75 oz. yellow chartreuse
.75 oz. kirsch (Clear Creek)
1 dash maraschino bitters (we just used Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur)
Shake, stir, pour, and dress with lime peel.
Eric: Hmm. Color of urine.
Brian: It’s uriny with a slug in it.
Eric: Uriny with a gherkin. It’s a little too sweet for my taste. But still good.
Brian hands Beefcake a small taster of yellow chartreuse, which he proceeds to pour down the front of his shirt.
Eric: Beefcake just poured some yellow chartreuse down his shirt.
Brian: Not often you hear that.
Eric: If you got this drink at a bar would it seem legit to you? I’m wondering if your impression of the drink is being skewed by the fact that it’s being made by us…
Beefcake: Sure, I like this.
Brian: But if you had the ingredients at home would you be like, “You know what? Tonight’s an Albertine night!”
Beefcake: No, I wouldn’t.
Everybody heads into the living room.
Brian: We need a female’s representation.
Amanda: I like it; it’s just very faint. It could be a little bolder.
Brian: Faint! A whole glass of faint.
Eric: Impressive, because everything in there is booze.
Amanda: It’s kind of syrupy too.
I guess that’s what happens when you have four sweet liquors colliding in the same drink. Brian wonders if substituting Green Chartreuse would make the cocktail stand up and say hello. The green version is 110 proof, as opposed to the milder yellow version, which is only 80. I like the logic: When in doubt double down on the booze. When asked about a name for this variation of the ALBERTINE, he responds without pausing. “The Uncle Albert,” he says, of course.
Eric: (laughs) The Uncle Albert!
Beefcake: He’s moving in…
Brian: Dammit! He’s at the door!
Eric: Everybody pretend you’re asleep!
Brian: He’s got that steamer trunk. Why does he still have that steamer trunk?
SCORES: Brian 6 ½, Eric 7, Beefcake 6.8, Amanda abstains
Personally, I think the ALBERTINE could benefit from some actual bitters to help tamp down its syrupy sweetness. Perhaps I’ll buy a bottle and revisit this cocktail in the future—even though I liked this more than Brian and Beefcake, I agree that the idea of this drink outperformed the drink itself. Maybe it needs a little more cherry fire to rise up out of the herbally sweet goo—how about a full ounce of kirsch? While we are discussing this, Brian whips up a stronger, greener Uncle Albert and the results are inconclusive: Brian thinks it’s better, Beefcake thinks it’s about the same, and I think it’s worse.
Nothing compares, however, to what we endured after—the Cthulhu of cocktails. So until next time, I leave you with some words from HP Lovecraft: “This hellish drink was invented by beings whose palates were not like man’s, hence it has no relation to the human tasting equipment. The flavors were determined by a physiological equipment wholly unlike ours, hence could never be understood, appreciated, or described by humans…”
Session 2 Winner:
-A close race, but it’s the Albertine
-A close race, but it’s the Albemarle Fizz
Homemade/Homegrown Items Used:
-DIY Raspberry Syrup
-DIY Raspberry Syrup
-Brian’s Earl Gray Infused Gin
-Sandwiches from Yummy.com
-Del Griffith, Shower Curtain Ring Division
-Those Who Don’t Eat Fish
-$50 Rum & Cokes
-How to cook a cake
-How sauces are like screenplays (they can’t be consumed by themselves)
-The Nutmeg Lobby of 1924
-Vaporizing Scotch, Snorting Vodka, and Pouring Vodka into Ones Eyes
-Rolling boil vs. roiling boil
-Boy cats have very small urethras
–Enos, the short-lived Dukes of Hazzard spinoff
-People Who Charge into your Personal Space
-Barrel-aging a Bijou