Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Some wedding cocktails

A Second Honeymoon

June is traditionally a month for weddings and, as it happens, I recently put on an engagement party for a couple of Candlelight Club customers who wanted a celebration with the speakeasy style of our events. So I needed a short menu of cocktails with an appropriate theme.

As it happened I’d recently been reading Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (2009) and remembered coming across the Honeymoon cocktail. The recipe given is:

60ml calvados
15ml Bénédictine
15ml orange curaçao
15ml lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. The recipe was first published in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1917) and it later became a signature drink at Bob Cobb’s Los Angeles chain of Brown Derby restaurants, the first of which opened in 1926. Ensslin’s recipe specified “apple brandy” and later examples used Applejack, the spirit made by Laird’s in New Jersey that blends apple brandy with neutral spirit. But Haigh, along with Dale DeGroff, recommends the Normandy apple brandy Calvados instead—and if you live in the UK this is a lot easier to come by than Applejack (which is also a good £30 a bottle if you can find it).

It’s a great cocktail, well balanced and with all the ingredients poking through—the sweetness of the curacao in equilibrium with the tart lemon juice, the dry apple flavour of the brandy and the herbal spikiness of the Bénédictine. (Bénédictine claims to have been made by monks in Normandy since 1510 but the last family owner of the business apparently admitted in a TV interview that it was invented by his forebear Alexandre Le Grand in the nineteenth century with the help of a local chemist. The recipe is allegedly known only to three people and evidently many have tried to copy it, as the company have a “Hall of Counterfeits” at their headquarters.)

Mind you, for a party environment this recipe was a bit too strong: Benedictine is 40%, as is Cointreau (arguably a triple sec rather than a curaçao—a pretty moot distinction—but it’s what everyone uses…), so it’s basically it’s a big glass of three and half measures of spirits. So I tried replacing the curaçao with passion fruit purée—inspired, I admit, by the appropriate name for a wedding-themed cocktail. Monin make one, as do Funkin, and they are completely different—the Monin version uses sugar to preserve the fruit but it has a nice strong passion fruit smell and taste. The Funkin one is much drier and tarter and I think their method is to pasteurise the fruit in the foil pouch it comes it, meaning it will keep pretty much indefinitely until you open it. I think I prefer Monin’s, for its more definite taste and fragrance—plus I had an open bottle in my cellar for a year and it seemed impervious to decay. But you have to bear in mind the sweetness.

Second Honeymoon
1½ shots Calvados
½ shot Bénédictine
½ shot Monin passion fruit purée
1 shot lemon juice

This version is not so alcoholic and the increase in lemon juice is to balance the sweetness of the purée. I have to say that this is delicious, one of those pleasing blends where you can taste all the ingredients but they come together to make something greater than the sum of its parts. (I’ve become a real fan of this purée as a cocktail ingredient: I came up with another toothsome cocktail by blending it with Gosling’s Black Seal rum, lime juice and orange juice.)

I remembered seeing a recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) called a Wedding Belle. Again it was a bit strong for a party so I increased the orange juice from the original specification of a sixth part (which would have been just half a shot in this recipe) and served it long over ice.

Wedding Belle
1½ shots gin
1½ shots Dubonnet
½ shot cherry brandy
1½ shots orange juice (though use less if you want to be more authentic)

A long version of the Wedding Belle
Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball. (Original version, with less OJ, is strained into a chilled cocktail glass.) This is a moreish drink with the fruity appeal of cherries followed up by the complexity of the Dubonnet.

The couple really fancied having a Bellini on the menu, so I thought I’d try playing around with the recipe to give it a special touch. A traditional Bellini is just a blend of white peach purée and Prosecco, a drink invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice some time in the first half of the twentieth century, inspired by the culinary tradition of marinating peaches in wine. Many people add a half shot of peach liqueur, but I thought I’d try replacing this with Parfait Amour, for obvious reasons.

Parfait Amour is one of these ingredients that fell out of popularity before being revived in recent years. Examples are made by Bols, Boudier, Giffard, Cartron and Marie Brizzard, and probably others too now, but the recipe seems to vary. It has a strong citrus element, but also floral notes, sometimes violets, sometimes roses, maybe vanilla or almonds. I was able to get hold of examples by Boudier and Cartron. The latter is drier and with a stronger, more distinctly floral flavour. Parfait Amour is always a violet colour and here I encountered a problem: using Funkin white peach purée (which isn’t really white but a sort of beige) you end up with something that is a rather unappetising sludge brown colour. With the Boudier example you could just about get away with it, but I didn’t feel that the liqueur really added much, being too delicately flavoured. With the Cartron it made much more sense, adding a distinct crystallised-violet note, but the colour was an issue, so I tried adding just half a teaspoon of grenadine for the colour, which worked. Because the Cartron is drier, the sweetness of the grenadine didn’t upset anything.

Bridal Bellini
2 shots white peach purée
½ shot Cartron Parfait Amour
½ tsp (2.5ml) grenadine
Sparkling wine

Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a Champagne flute or saucer. Top up with sparkling wine and stir gently.

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