As you read this, I hope you are enjoying a Formal Friday–the viral campaign for America’s resurgence. There is more you can do though. I’m not telling you to take the “Ties, not t-shirts” sticker off your car, but this is a broader cultural movement. Now on to the second rail of American culture: libations.
Just as with dress habits, America’s relative devolution in drinking habits has paralleled the fall of its hegemonic economic power. In the 50’s and 60’s, American drinking was centered on high-proof spirits and the cocktails derived thereof. Then came the mass-market revolution in bad beer, and the current median drinker appears to enjoy a mix of portage (Bud Light, seriously?) and over-priced, unfulfilling artisanal beers that are only marginally better. All the while, our deficits continued to skyrocket, jobs departed for foreign shores and now—sequestration is upon us!
The same countries taking our jobs have adopted the drinking habits of our greatest generation. As it turns out, India does not produce I.P.A.’s, and the rest of Southeast Asia isn’t exactly clamoring for our craft beers. Rather, our successors to economic power are consuming more of the West’s finest spirit: scotch. Based on the most recent data, Singapore and Taiwan are the third and fourth largest exporters of scotch whisky. Combined, those countries have less than 10% of America’s population. That is a lot of good booze per capita. It’s as if we ditched Hemingway for Stephenie Meyer, while our Asian brethren have done just the opposite.
With this geopolitical framework in mind, your after work drink today should match your Formal Friday attire. The gentleman does not need to be dragging around a 16 oz jar of swill while everyone asks him how hoppy his beer is. Seriously, I don’t want anyone to ever talk about hops again. And even if you like that inane nonsense, you’re probably going to spill it on yourself at a crowded Friday happy hour. Solution: order/make a cocktail. Here are two cocktails that will be perfect for your weekend, both involving triple sec, an orange flavored liqueur.
1.5 oz. rye whiskey
.75 oz. lemon juice (about half a lemon)
.75 oz. triple sec
Directions: Stir over a generous amount of ice for 30 seconds then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel, but not before rubbing down the rim of the glass with said peel.
This twist on a classic substitutes the spiciness of rye for the sweetness of brandy. However, nearly any base spirit (gin, vodka, tequila or bourbon) will work here. The Sidecar illustrates the essential components of the sour family of cocktails: base liquor, lemon/lime and sweetener. Mix and match. You won’t be disappointed.
2 oz. gin
.25 oz. dry vermouth
.25 oz. triple sec
Directions: Same as above, except garnish with orange twist.
Bonus Recipe: Ernest Hemingway’s Martini
”I had never tasted anything so cool and clean.” “They made me feel civilized.”
– Ernest Hemingway in Farewell to Arms
1.75 oz. gin
1 tsp. dry vermouth
Cocktail onion, frozen.
Directions: Stir over a generous amount of ice for at least a minute. Garnish with the cocktail onion.
Courtesy: To Have and Have Another, Philip Greene (Perigee, 2012)
Disclaimer: Emulate Hemingway’s passion and craft, not his volume of consumption.
Finally, brand recommendations.
For your rye whiskey, use Rittenhouse, as previously recommended on this blog. Recently, it appears to have increased in price, resulting in wider availability. It still should be less than $25 and is certainly worth the price.
The taste of gin varies considerably by brand. The best value, far and away, is New Amsterdam Gin. It offers good quality at a bottom shelf price-point. Moving up the shelves, Hendrick’s offers an interesting cucumber flavor, while Tanqueray has a slightly citric, more traditional flavor.
Lastly, for Triple Sec, there is Cointreau and then there is everything else. Argument for splurging: you can buy a small bottle in the low-$20’s; it will last as it is only a mixer; and its complex flavor will really brighten your cocktails. Argument against: well brands can be palatable and are an order of magnitude cheaper.