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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

And now for something completely different...

Recently, i've been installing a home bar at caskstrength HQ, partly to appease Mrs Caskstrength, who was beginning to resent losing her living room to half empty bottles and boxes of varying age, description and aroma. But mainly i'd fancied trying my hand out at a few old cocktails in the correct surroundings, after a chance encounter with a certain Professor Jerry Thomas.

You see, to the uninitiated, Mr Thomas can probably be described as the godfather of the cocktail, the pioneer of many of our most sacred and classic drinks, still enjoyed around the world today.
His book, 'The Bartenders Guide- How To Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion' was recently reissued and is a truly remarkable read. more about this in a minute...

I fancied designing a saloon style affair in the back of the house and busily started spec'ing everything up, until I realised it was financially impossible to replicate the famous Harry's bar in Venice.

So, on the friendly advice of a neighbour, I found a rather splendid early 50's cocktail bar which fitted perfectly into the allotted space. Glassware was duly purchased, alongside some vintage cocktail shakers and the accoutrements needed for turning out some classics. Now all I needed was some recipes... Enter Mr Thomas and his wonderful 'Saratoga Pousse-Cafe', created in roughly 1862... Here's how I got on...

For this 'fancy cocktail', I had originally followed the recipe to the letter, using a 'fine old brandy' as the main spirit, but i think I preferred the Mark II, in which I used a 'fine old whisky' - namely a generous measure of Balvenie Portwood finish.

Saratoga Pousse-Cafe - discovered by Mr Jerry Thomas and duly tinkered with by me.

One-fifth Curaco,(well I plumped for Absinthe)
One-fifth Benedictine,
One-fifth Raspberry syrup
(crushed fresh raspberries with a little plain sugar syrup)
Two-fifth's fine old whisky (something fruity and a little old works extremely well)
One teaspoon of vanilla cordial on top. (i didnt have one, so mixed a small amount of vanilla essence with plain sugar syrup)

The essence of a 'pousse' is apparently to try to keep all the ingredients separate in the glass and requires a 'steady hand and careful manipulation'

After delicately layering the ingredients in a small wineglass, I came up with this... Not bad I thought for my first attempt!

The essence is to apparently achieve a fine rainbow like appearance. Nearly there I think!!

Next time- see me attempting Jerry Thomas' signature cocktail- 'The Blue Blazer'- for those of a nervous disposition, it will involve setting fire to some whisky....