Good cocktails should be enjoyed from home just as easily at they are at the hands of a capable bartender. Never before have we had better access to quality ingredients, good recipes and expert how-tos than we do now. There’s simply no excuse to drink crap.
Starting with the As, and zigzagging from there, join us on our adventures in home-crafted cocktails.
Ever fancied yourself part of the Round Table? Not that round table, of Lancelot and Arthur. No, the real one, at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street. The place where in the 1920s famous people like Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Herbert Ross once sat for hours every day where they quaffed illicit highballs, critiqued each other’s work and even launched The New Yorker.
They did not drink Algonquins, however. Those came later. In fact, Kevin Gray of the Cocktail Enthusiast comments that the Algonquin was very likely “one of those drinks where the creator must have rummaged through his booze stash and fridge, found it to be lacking and said, ‘what the hell, let’s give this a shot.’ ”
The Algonquin is a simple blend of rye whiskey, not-too-dry vermouth and pineapple juice. The basic recipe goes like this:
1.5 oz rye whisky
.75 oz dry vermouth
.75 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir vigorously but don’t shake (shaking will make the pineapple juice foam). Strain into a martini glass.
What works really with this cocktail is the balance. Unlike many drinks that are sweetened with fruit juice, the Algonquin does not turn into dessert. Rye whiskey lends a spicy kick—it is considerably drier than its bourbon cousin. And of course, vermouth that is herb-y enough to be dry, sweet enough to play nice with the rye—lends its own counter to the juice, which even unsweetened is nevertheless a serious contender for attention.
Playing Around with Your Algonquin
Since no recipe can remain sacred, you now have your canvas. You should pretty much stick to rye whiskey, but the choices are many. Fortunately, rye whiskey distilleries are coming back to life, many offering small-batch versions that play up rye’s unmistakable (think rye bread) flavor. Rittenhouse Rye is the one many bartenders use and recommend—it offers a high-quality taste at an affordable price. For a less sweet, intensely rye flavor, consider Russell’s Reserve Rye or Bulleit Rye. For the vermouth, choose a smooth one like Noilly Prat. There really is a significant difference between vermouths, so experiment and ask your favorite bartenders for recommendations.
One fancy extra we really liked was orange bitters, which David Wondrich at Esquire suggests. He recommends Fee Bros.; but Regans Orange Bitters and Angostura Orange Bitters hold their own in the cocktail without overpowering it. Add a couple of dashes; if the cupboard is bare of bitters, squeeze an orange peel into the drink (swish it around a little if no one’s watching).
You may not end up channeling Ernest Hemingway or launching a magazine after a round or two, but the Algonquin is a delicious, bracing cocktail that will make you feel very happy.
(originally published in Food52)