Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: Pink Lady

The Pink Lady, a classic cocktail coming to us from decades gone by, is indisputably one for the ladies. Maybe think of Mamie Eisenhower and a soiree at the British embassy circa 1950s. To order a Pink Lady would be the ne plus ultra of sophistication in such a setting. The drink pre-dates this era where it probably had its zenith, however. Here's a recipe for the Pink Lady from Oscar Haimo's 1946 edition of Cocktail and Wine Digest:

Our choice to feature the Pink Lady this Friday not only pays tribute to this worthy drink, but also affords us an opportunity to discuss its most controversial ingredient, the egg white. Egg whites have been coming back to popular awareness as vintage cocktails have been revived. The Pink Lady is one of the classics that uses egg whites. Simply put, you add the egg white to the mix just like any other ingredient. Yes, let's admit it, it's kind of gross going in. You might not think anything of handling eggs to make breakfast or in baking, but adding it to a drink is jarring if you're not used to it. Also, people would justifiably be concerned about health risks. Nowadays, there are pasteurized egg whites available if the health risk is a deal-breaker. Frankly, we have never had a problem with the health risk, which is statistically non-existent. Once the egg white is in the shaker, along with the other ingredients, and the ice is added, the key thing is to shake like hell. Really, shake. When you pour, you notice something magical has happened! It pours out frothy and silky. The egg white has whipped into kind of an instant meringue-like substance that adds body and lift to the drink. Try it, and you'll see why egg whites are an ingredient in so many classic drinks. Now let's talk about some of the other ingredients -- here's a recipe from our circa-1930s edition of Mohawk's "Recipes for Mixed Drinks":

In comparing these two recipes, first we should clarify the measurements. Going back to the previous recipe, by a "dash" they mean 1/6 of a teaspoon. So, essentially, they call for just over half a teaspoon of grenadine and applejack (a kind of apple brandy), plus the egg white, gin, and lemon juice. Here, in this second recipe, their "jigger" is 1 ounce, and a "dash" is 5 drops (whatever that means). And, interestingly, they don't call for an egg white at all. Otherwise, except for the lemon juice as opposed to lime juice, the ingredients remain the same, albeit in significantly different proportions. By way of further comparison, here is a recipe from the 1934 edition of "The Drink Master":

Unfortunately, they don't specify what they mean when they use the term "jigger", but it is fair to presume that they mean 1.5 ounces. They omit the applejack and citrus (lemon or lime juice) altogether, and add a bit of heavy cream. Also, they call for significantly more grenadine than the others, which is completely understandable if you're working with real grenadine syrup. Unlike Rose's grenadine, which is artificially dyed red, real grenadine, made with pomegranate juice, is red, but only faintly lends the necessary pink hue. So, the full jigger of grenadine makes sense. What's funny is that this recipe is supposed to serve four people. Oh, those old time people! It was the Depression, we suppose . . . . This recipe, however, is the perfect segue into what is probably the standard and classic 1950s era version of the drink, which comes from the 1948 edition of "Fleishmann's Mixer's Manual":

Something that is special about cocktails is that they often spark memories of particular people and moments, often long past. For us, the Pink Lady holds a sentimental pedigree for J from a time when he worked at a retirement community while in college, and the Pink Lady was the "usual" for a few of the ladies at the Friday afternoon cocktail hour. They truly would have been of that era of the late 40s and the 50s, and they carried this drink with them into the dawn of the 21st century. The drink has languished a bit since this golden era of cocktails, but here's our effort to bring it into people's minds again! Cheers!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21 in Rogers Park history

The Granada Theatre opens on September 21, 1926.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: hosting the hit soiree!

Now that we're in the early social season, why not think about hosting a swanky soiree? Let's turn to our friends at Wolfschmidt Vodka for some advice from their "Instant Hospitality Party Book":

It's all about making it easy so that you can enjoy the comfort and company of friends! Keep it flexible and casual -- while keeping it strictly coat and tie! The menu sounds delicious, and the preparation is a snap. Here are the drink recipes you can have at hand so that your guests (or your bartender-of-the-moment) can enjoy:

See what a hit you are! This is shaping up to be the social event of the season! Just don't forget to pick up your best tie or cocktail dress from the cleaners. Cheers!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16 in Rogers Park history

St. Ignatius church dedicated on September 17, 1917.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 in Chicago history

"Bozo's Circus" debuts on WGN on September 11, 1961.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: a Stinger

To introduce us to this week's featured cocktail, let's turn to "Vintage Cocktails: Authentic Recipes and Illustrations from 1920 to 1960":

For our Friday Happy Hours at Rogers Park Retro, we are all about casting a spotlight on vintage cocktails and giving them a chance to shine! We have an ulterior motive, too: these are some of our favorite drinks. Well, with this week's post, that ulterior motive doesn't apply. We regret to tell you that, despite its alluring name, we are solidly in the camp of "hate it" in this "love-it-or-hate-it cocktail." Well, that's a first! But, this isn't about us. This is about giving the Stinger its due (which it deserves) and keeping to our mission of giving these drinks their moment in the spotlight. The Stinger is easy to make, and requires only two ingredients, but they have to be precise: brandy and white (the clear kind) creme de menthe. Not green creme de menthe. This drink is so classic (or maybe so unpopular) that its recipe hasn't been changed (meaning, no one bothers with it) at all over the years. The classic Stinger calls for a 1:1 ratio of the brandy and the creme de menthe. Here's a recipe from our 1930's era booklet from Mohawk Liquors:

We should duly note that they call for the garnish of a lemon peel. Hmmm .... Here's another take from our 1950s era "Old Forrester Favorite Recipes":

Now, here they do experiment with the proportions, calling for 2 parts brandy to 1 part creme de menthe. They keep the lemon twist. But, enough editorializing. It's an undisputed classic drink. Try it for yourself. Tastes vary from person to person, and from era to era. One person's cough syrup may taste good to someone else, just like a Stinger might be just the tonic for someone coughing up one of their lungs. Or, maybe it's going to be your new favorite drink!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 7 in Illinois history

Sen. Everett Dirksen dies at age 73 on September 7, 1969.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September 4 in Rogers Park history

Stephen Francis Gale School, 1631 W. Jonquil, opens on September 4, 1922.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: shaken or stirred?

Well, it's back-to-school season ... alas. Somewhat in that spirit -- but in a much happier spirit! -- we're going to take a moment to become better educated on a question that is often asked: shaken ....

or stirred ...

For many, one of the first things that comes to mind with this question is James Bond's line, "shaken, not stirred" when ordering his signature martini. If James Bond says shake, why would anyone stir, right? Here's some instruction on the point from Southern Comfort's booklet "How to Make The 32 Most Popular Drinks":

Here is a little more information offered by the Woodford Reserve booklet, "Manhattans and More":

Okay ... and a little more from "Cocktails for Dummies":

So, to review: (1) shake drinks that mix spirits with juices, dairy, sugar, or eggs; (2) stir drinks with only spirits; (3) shaking will make minute shards of ice that will both make the drink cloudier and dilute the spirits more (a/k/a "bruising"); (4) stirring will keep a drink made with spirits clearer, but will not adequately mix drinks with juices, dairy, sugar, or eggs; (5) never ever shake a drink with soda or carbonated water in it, unless you're trying to make a mess.
So, let's focus just on shaking for a moment. You have your choice of shakers:
The Boston shaker is what you've probably seen the professionals use at bars, and the Standard shaker (sometimes called Cobbler shaker) is what a lot of homes have, as well as plenty of bars, too -- it's a little easier to use because all of the pieces fit together. As far as shaking technique goes, as we heard earlier "give it all you've got." Seriously, shake hard and shake long. Like so:

What about stirring? First of all, we need to concede that shaking a drink that should "technically" (for the purists) be stirred isn't a crime. The cloudy effect will dissipate within a minute or two, actually. Our own personal philosophy is that it really depends on the individual and how they like the taste. A stirred drink is going to be a little stronger, because less ice will have dissolved into the drink, and it will pour out into the glass beautifully pristine and clear. A shaken drink will be well mixed, a little more diluted, and be cloudy -- but it's interesting to see the cloudiness dissipate into as clear a drink as one which has been stirred. So, orthodoxy aside, shake or stir. But as far as stirring technique goes, here's the advice from "Playboy's Host and Bar Book":

Technique and know-how are certainly key skills for every bartender to have, whether professional or hobbyist. But far more important yet is the gift of personality and humor:

Lesson over and class dismissed! Cheers!