Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Cocktails—Not So New an Idea

I used to think that the notion of a pre-feast Thanksgiving cocktail was a relatively recent notion, the product of our cocktail-crazy times. Not so. Doing some research for this article turned up a number of old articles that proved that the question "What to drink before Thanksgiving?" was a question mulled by Americans as far back as the late 1800s. One pre-Prohibition article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer stated "Of course you're going to have a cocktail at Thanksgiving!" Such confidence. Here's my article in the New York Times.
Fall's Flavors Come in a New Glass
THANKSGIVING and cocktails are not as odd a match as you might think. Both are distinctly American, and have been long thought so.
Back in 1929, a reporter for The Chicago Tribune, waxing indignant at the notion that the French had invented the cocktail, wrote, “Every one knows that it is as authentically American as griddle cakes and sweet ‘salads’ and pumpkin pie.”
Still, downing a bluntly spiritous drink just before you sit down to that pumpkin pie or other heavy holiday fare is not a smart move. Bright and balanced is the order of the day.
And it is one easily filled by today’s generation of mixologists, who regularly compound ingredients to harmonize with a specific occasion and season.
Seasonal is an important idea. A pre-turkey tipple ideally performs a secondary function as an aesthetic, sensory signpost, instilling all the flavors associated with fall and harvest into a single cup.
That symbolic function was partly on the mind of Julie Reiner, the owner of Clover Club on Smith Street in Brooklyn, when she recently created the Crystal Fall for the bar’s autumn menu.
“I wanted it to be the quintessential fall cocktail, the kind of thing with all the flavors that you just expect this time of year,” Ms. Reiner said. “Apple, spice, ginger.”
To portions of toasty Cognac, rich Demerara rum and nutty sherry, she added fresh apple cider, lemon juice, ginger syrup, sugar and bitters. Served over a tumbler of crushed ice, the drink is simultaneously warming and cooling, and, despite the fairly heavy liquor payload, surprisingly light.
At Clover Club’s neighbor, the JakeWalk, the bar manager Timothy Miner achieved his particular liquid orchard by using as a base Laird’s bonded apple brandy (perhaps one of the most American of spirits, if using domestic produce on the fourth Thursday of November is important to you). He added cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, Galliano liqueur and a couple of dashes of allspice liqueur. The drink is topped with freshly ground nutmeg.
“I grew up in New England,” Mr. Miner said. “I have a strong affinity to apple-picking and all that. I thought, ‘I wonder if I can make apple pie in a glass.’ ”
The drink, called Mr. October, tastes not only like apple pie, but apple pie à la mode, thanks to Galliano’s vanilla notes.
If these drinks seem a bit too complex, or modern, you can go Colonial and surpassingly simple in one stroke by pouring a Stone Fence. This centuries-old concoction is nothing more than two ounces of whatever dark liquor you choose (rye, bourbon, Scotch, applejack, rum) filled out with hard cider and served over ice. Easier than gravy.

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