Monthly Archives: July 2012

Cocktail of the Week #3: The Medicinal Compound

Listen up kids, because this is one recipe you won’t find in your fancy books or favorite blogs. Presented by Astor Center’s Jenn Smith as part of her “Drinking During Prohibition” class, the Medicinal Compound shows off the sort of potent, simple fare that one might’ve found in a clandestine speakeasy. If they were lucky.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • 2 parts Rye
  • 1 part Amaro (Ramazzotti works well)
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 Orange Twist as a garnish

Stir with cracked ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

You could take a part to either be an ounce or 3/4 an ounce, depending on your glassware (at 3/4 an ounce, the drink is only 2.75oz total volume or so, post-stirring). One thing to note is for the Orange Bitters, you want 1 dash per ounce of Rye. And, speaking of Rye, your choice is wide open here, but if you want something to fit the Prohibition spirit, go for either Old Overholt or Rittenhouse Bonded.

As mentioned above, Ramazzotti is a good amaro choice here and a relatively inexpensive amaro to begin with. And for those of you wondering what this amaro even is, it’s one of a class of Italian liqueurs (called amari, the plural for amaro) that have a bittersweet flavor and are often enjoyed as digestifs. There’s a surprisingly wide range of amari, from the very light and citrusy Amaro Nonino to the witchking of bitterness itself, Fernet Branca. Ramazzotti is right in the middle.

If you make or taste this one, you’ll see why it’s called the “Medicinal Compound”. The amaro lends a root-ish flavor to the drink which, when coupled with the spice of Rye and citrus from the bitters and the garnish, make this drink a bit, well, medicinal — in a good way. Fans of stirred and boozy drinks are probably going to like this one.

One of the best things about this cocktail is that it demonstrates how easy it is to take a small number of ingredients, apply a common ratio and produce an excellent drink. If you recall our stirred & boozy ratios from the Stock Your Bar: For $100 guide, you’ll notice this is a 2:1 ratio with accompanying bitters. A few things to try on your own:

  1. Swap out the Rye for other whisk(e)y, such as Scotch, Bourbon and Irish. What works and what does not?
  2. Try “lengthening” this drink out by using smaller volumes (perhaps 1/2oz = 1 part) and adding ice/club soda to the end result.
  3. Use an amaro as a substitute for a fortified wine in another cocktail (e.g. sweet vermouth) and take note of the differences. Try both your amaro and fortified wine side-by-side.

Questions? Comments? Discoveries you need to share before you go to bed half-drunk? Let us know.


Case Study: Prime Meats Cocktail Menu

Last week, I derided Cash Bar for having an ambiguous menu that didn’t appear to offer much value. This week, I’d like to do the reverse: showcase a successful-looking menu for a place I’ve yet to go to, Prime Meats in Brooklyn.

If you’ve seen my Yelp review of PDT, you might recall that I mentioned having an off-the-menu Friend of the Devil, which was perhaps my favorite drink of the night. After our bartender, Karen, told us the recipe was from Prime Meats, I had to go check out the rest of the menu.

What I love about the Prime Meats menu is that the concept in each cocktail is accessible, yet no execution seems overly complex. Some drinks are clearly variations on old favorites, such as the Prime Manhattan, Applejack Sazerac and Old Fashioned, but even the new creations give you a good idea of what to expect while introducing less traditional ingredients such as Fernet, Chamomile, Mezcal and, uh, Branca Menta (the “uh” because Branca Menta is Fernet’s hyper-minty cousin).

What’s more, this menu isn’t playing the “This is our gin drink and this is our bourbon drink” game that some menus play. If I want rum, I don’t want to have to settle for the one rum drink on your menu that just so happens to have, oh my, lime and sugar, how original. I’d much rather scope out the menu ahead of time and say: “Terrific, lots of bourbon, brandy, rum and other dark spirits.” Or whatever. The point is, you can try to be a jack of all trades but more often than not you’ll wind up as a master of none.

It must be the yield manager in me speaking, but I also love the varied prices. When a bar sets all of their drinks at $X, I know they’re simply hedging their bets against the loss leaders. When the prices are varied, it at least allows me to consider why a bar has put a premium on a given cocktail and then decide if it’s worth it, rather than have all the magic happen behind the scenes. But, like I said, that one might just be me.

However, if there’s one thing I could improve it would be this: flavor text. I love to read a bit of copy writing about each cocktail, particularly writing that includes flavor descriptors and other hints on which drink to choose. My guess is the Prime Meats menu isn’t all that large which makes it hard to spare the real estate but, well, hell. Copy is cheap to produce and it goes a long way towards drawing in customers. And Prime Meats, if you’re in need of a copywriter don’t be bashful: just ask.