Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Bengal Cocktail

Its that time again..... Mixology Monday! And this time Metagrrrl is hosting, and the theme is 19th Century Cocktails.

Now, I don't have much of a library for cocktail books. The Internet is almost useless for searching for cocktail recipes, unless you know exactly what you are looking for so you can exclude everything else. And, when I do find older recipes I have a hard time breaking out of the Tiki-Drink frame of mind, which makes thinking about specific ratios of '20 drops' of an ingredient hard to figure. But! All of that is kind of the reason for Mixology Monday in the first place, trying something new. So.....

My one good book that has recipes that qualify for this months theme.....
Cakes & Ale
by Edward Spencer.

A fun book that Andy got for me at the Antique Show in Palm Beach (you have to go in the winter!) that focuses mostly on food, dinner and its preparation mostly. In the back, second to the last chapter, is a collection of recipes from sources known and unknown. I got really excited because there is a recipe for Orgeat that I still want to make, but that will be a future entry here. Anyway.....

I am flipping through the recipes and spot a recipe for the Bengal Cocktail. Now, I just read earlier today that Darcy over at the Art of Drink posted the same cocktail. But wait, its the same in name only! OK, closer review, its almost the same. But not quite. OK, its only sort of like it......

The Bengal Cocktail:

Fill tumbler half full of crushed ice. Add thirty drops of maraschino, one table-spoonful of pine-apple syrup, thirty drops of curacoa, six drops of angostura bitters, one wine-glassful of old brandy. Stir, and put a shred of lemon peel atop.

Or, in the modern format for presentation:

  • 30 drops Maraschino
  • 30 Drops Curacao
  • 1 tablespoon Pine-Apple Syrup
  • 6 drops Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Wine-glassfull Old Brandy.

    Stir in a wine goblet with half-glass of crushed ice. Garnish with lemon.

    First, the recipe:

    I don't have 'good' Old Brandy. I have some good brandy, but it is Extra-Fine, not Extra-Old, so it is much sweeter that what I believe this recipe called for. And then, Drops? I think Darcy had the same issue trying to figure out how to pour that on the modern bar. I cheated and pulled out the eye-dropper and started counting.

    If this recipe is as old as the book lead me to believe, Pineapple had to have been a pretty exotic flavor for a cocktail and I am guessing not something every bar has sitting around waiting to be used. I could be wrong, its just a guess.

    And, poking around on the internet, I find a variety of variations on this recipe, the strangest includes apple and orange juice. That is the greatest challenge with researching 'older' drinks like this, unclear authorship, conflicting and/or competing stories of genesis. Which one is 'THE' cocktail? Well, as soon as I find the right size batteries for the Time-Machine I'll ask around myself.

    Then, the cocktail:

    What is it like? Well.... pretty good actually. A bit sweet for my tastes, but that may be my brandy selection more than the actual drink. It is a beautiful reddish color in the glass, the dark of the bitters really bring out the color of the brandy, and the contrast of the bright of the lemon, visually exciting and really makes you want to pick this one up.

    The end result:

    I can recommend this one as it stands. I will be playing with it to see if I can tame the sweetness for my palate. I am going to have to spend a bit more time looking at Brandy's at the local package store.

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