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Monster in a Glass
Not Only History of Cocktails, but History Through Cocktails
Category: History
Location: http://blackliverproject.com/
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January 20, 2015 09:20 AM PST

The Curacao Punch is generally attributed to Harry Johnson, and if you spell it the correct way of “Curacao” it is the earliest it shows up in a recipe book. However, if you spell it “Curacoa” then Jerry Thomas printed it first in his recipe book. I thought he might have just spelled it wrong, but mentions of “Curacoa Punch” show up in newspapers and books as early as the 1830s, and a recipe shows up in a periodical from the 1840s. In our experience, it probably was around even before this.

With nearly 100 years of existence and continuous appearances in cocktail recipe books through the 1910s, this seems like a drink that would withstand prohibition. It just sort of disappears though, and not for a lack of curacao or an interest in using it in cocktails. We try to take some guesses as to why Curacao Punch became a forgotten cocktail, but it might just remain a mystery.

During the period of history when the Spanish led the world in ranging the high seas, and staking claims all over the Caribbean, they discovered a tiny island they named Curacao. In 1499 they brought Valencia oranges with them to plant on this idyllic spot. Unfortunately the climate and volcanic soil on the island grew fruit that was utterly horrible and inedible. The Spanish left it to the Dutch to discover that the peels of these oranges, called laraha by the locals, were loaded with aromatic oils and they did what anybody does with fruits that are inedible…they made booze. Clever Dutch.

Curacao Punch contains:

  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 or 3 dashes fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • 1 ounce brandy
  • 2 ounce orange curacao
  • 1 ounce Jamaican rum

This drink was strange. To me it kind of tasted like plastic, though not terribly so. I’m sure it seems odd to say that something that tasted like plastic was delicious, but it was, and the flavors were complex enough that it created an entirely new sensation as a mixture.  All of us tasters thought it was fine, not amazing.

January 14, 2015 10:55 AM PST

As we proceed with the forgotten cocktails, I’ve noticed that it’s more difficult to squeeze the interesting background out of them. Often it’s just a couple of words smashed together and attributed to a new recipe. In this episode’s cocktail it’s an attribution made in honor of a personality that I consider less than the cocktail inventor.

The cocktail is named after the Italian-Sardinian general of the Crimean War. He was a dashing European fellow, Alfonso Ferrero Marmora, climbing the ladder of prestige through his political career in Europe by saving dignitaries from angry mobs, serving various political posts in other countries and leading an army in a strange little war. A French chef from England hoisted a glass of this beverage in the man’s honor.

Alexis Soyer left France before his career really took off, but when he arrived in London, there was no stopping him.  He quickly gained employment as a chef in a prestigious restaurant where he immediately began implementing innovations that set the establishment apart from all others, including temperature controlled ovens, gas ovens and water cooled refrigerators. He’s responsible for setting up the first soup kitchens ever in response to the Irish Famine and the proceeds of his book when toward hunger relief. He was a leader in innovation and charitable contributions.

As a personality he demonstrated the reason why every group of friends should have a chef in their midst. After an evening of drinking, he would invite his friends to a cellar restaurant called the Cave of Harmony where he would make them a greasy feast of comfort food at 2 am. He was also remarkable in his outrageous outfits and his tendency to sing and dance when the mood took him.  He was popular, compassionate, motivated and full of life.

Then the Crimean War began. The Crimean War, as I have learned, was a bit of a strange scene. Since Napoleon’s bid for empire in the early 19th century, warfare just wasn’t the same as it had been for millennia. The established methodologies had been shaken up and new technologies were also changing how humans were fighting throughout the 19th century. The Crimean War was the first war since all of the new developments and countries throughout Europe were eager to try out their new toys and strategies. It was an experimental war.

Alexis Soyer had been developing technologies and strategies to aid in maintaining supply lines and allowing soldiers to prepare and eat food while in the field. The Crimean War was an event where he could try out some of his ideas too.  It was during this conflict that Mssr. Soyer became familiar with Marmora and so named a punch he created after the man.

This is what Michael made us at the Brixton.  The ingredients were as follows:

  • 2 slices lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 oz dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 oz white Jamaican rum
  • 2 oz orgeat syrup
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 4 oz soda water
  • 3 oz chilled champagne

This is one of the best drinks we have had since we started the project.  It was sweet, but still approachable, being light with many flavors of cherry and citrus interplaying with the effervescence. Michael needed some extra hands to craft this one for us because of its complexity, but we all agreed it was simply fucking amazing. Rachel was scheming for ways to make this one at home.

All in all, this was the epitome of why I enjoy this project. The drink was fun to learn about and created a window into the past I had not known before. It was fun to make with ten ingredients and numerous steps, it challenged the bar staff but only enough to keep it fun. And, even though whether I like the cocktail is the least of interest to me, it was a delight to drink. This drink will be hard to top as we continue.

January 06, 2015 12:34 PM PST

We are going to go out on a limb and say that the Communist Cocktail is probably named after Communists. Nothing states it definitively, but…Communist. This drink calls for Cherry Bounce in the original recipe, an old cordial made from sour cherries, the pits, sugar and spices. Cherry Bounce: the 19th century’s answer to Kool-Aid! It is a relative of Cherry Brandy, and Cherry Heering, used in most recipes now. The red color of Cherry Bounce or Cherry Heering is probably the reason it ended up with the name that it did, since when mixed it becomes a brownish-orange. Would this be a…Red Herring?

There isn’t a whole lot to go on with this drink other than it seems like another one-off from a book/pamphlet of cocktails called Cocktail Parade (1933). The pictures from this publication are enough to draw conclusions about the creation of the drink and who was drinking it though. The drawing paired with the drink takes us into a discussion of images of communists throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ridiculous stereotypes of dark, mustachioed, immigrants scheming to overthrow capitalism with their cartoon bombs. We explore communism throughout time and space from communal experiments to labor movements to Bolsheviks to attempts to end prohibition by associating it with the communist behavior.

This one is chock-full of revolution, class, immigration, and even a little bit of Genghis Khan for good measure.

The ingredients are:

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz cherry brandy (Cherry Heering)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Despite the reliance on citrus I really liked this drink. Tasting the Cherry Heering alone I knew I would. The sour from the citrus is really offset by the thick, cherry sweet coming through. It was good; it wasn’t amazing but I did enjoy it and would be happy to have it again.

December 30, 2014 01:56 PM PST

In this episode we take a look at the Brooklyn cocktail, which looks to be the product of Jack Grohusko from the early part of the 20th century. Most cocktails take some wondering and digging and guessing in order to figure out why a bartender gave it a particular name. With the Brooklyn, we go out on a limb here and say that it is probably named after the borough in New York. Sometimes it is not worth overthinking. There is no indication as to why it is called the Brooklyn though. Was this a sister drink of the Manhattan and the Bronx and part of a trend? Was it created in Brooklyn? Or was this another one-off cocktail requested by some random patron that got thrown into a recipe book?

With a whole big lack of information on this one, we discuss the gentleman’s trade that was being a bartender in the cocktail era. With many recipe books working as trade manuals of sorts, they often laid out the appropriate behavior for a barman when slinging drinks. Spoiler: There was a lot less chatting and a whole lot more crisp white shirts back in the day.

Join us as a dive into another cocktail with an obvious reference, but a mysterious origin.

2 ounces rye or other whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce Amer Picon

December 23, 2014 11:25 AM PST

The Blue Paradise, like many cocktails with blue in the name, is not blue. The ingredients must be blue then, right? Nope, purple, red and brown and we can pretty much guarantee that the mixing of these colors do not make blue either. This non-blue drink is credited to a Belgian bartender by the name of Emil Bauwens, of Bar Saint-James in Brussels, showing up first in the cocktail book Livre de Cocktails (1949) and really nowhere else.

A name like Blue Paradise conjures images of beaches, palm trees, and tiki drinks with little umbrellas. The ingredients, however, don't lend itself to something you would drink out of a pineapple. These ingredients do break away from the many, many, many gin plus another ingredient cocktails that dominate recipe books. Outside of the cognac, there are two pretty uncommon ingredients for cocktails in Dubonnet Rouge and Parfait d'Amour. Dubonnet Rouge is an apertif with a deep red color and a wine base. Parfait d'Amour, a purple liqueur of Dutch origins with a Curacao base and flowery ingredients, stands out as the most unusual of the ingredients. It may look like melted grape popsicles, but the taste is probably closer to eating rose petals. Unfortunately, the color and ingredients don't give any hints to the origin of the name, and there is really no other indication. Only Bauwens could really explain how it came to be.

Join us as we discuss this enigmatically-named cocktail that digs up a libretto with the same name and the possibility that Henry the IV used Parfait d'Amour to seduce women. We also pose the question: Were dyes being put in liqueurs to make sure people weren't accidentally drinking the wrong clear liquid?


Here are the drink ingredients:

  • 2 oz – cognac (we used Remy Martin)
  • 1 oz – Dubbonet Rouge
  • 4 dashes – Parfait Amour

We tried the parfait amour initially by itself...because that's how we do.  Kevin remarked that it tasted like Goo Gone smells, a popular adhesive solvent. I thought it was mostly and non-commitally interesting; not terrible but not amazing. I loved trying it though, I haven't tried anything like it so far.

The cocktail itself was likewise interesting. We weren't bowled over and I found the Dubonnet dominated the flavor of the drink. My overall impression was kind of a synthetic vinyly taste, and I know that sounds bad, but knowing that it isn't actually some kind of liquid polymer makes the beverage interesting as I tried to pull out all of the flavors gathered together in one glass. We all agreed it was not a go to cocktail but fun nevertheless to try and discuss.

December 15, 2014 01:58 PM PST

The Coffee Cocktail is unusual in that it does not contain any coffee in it, and if you go by the strict rules of what makes a cocktail, it isn’t that either. Jerry Thomas, who seems to be the first person to write the recipe down, calls it a “misnomer” because of the lack of coffee and bitters. He attributes the name to an appearance that sure looks a hell of a lot like coffee, and this seems to be backed up by others sources. Could the name also be a reference a cocktail you drink in the morning to get you going? Some people thought so, but with brandy and port, it doesn’t sound like something would do anything but make you take a nap.

As time goes on the Coffee Cocktail starts ending up with added ingredients, including coffee once you get into the 1950s and 1960s. I guess people started feeling that if you are going to call it a Coffee Cocktail, it should have some in it. We also take a look at drink that actually had some coffee in it, and how it was used to keep soldiers on guard alert.

Join us as we explore this liar of a cocktail that isn’t really a cocktail and has no coffee in it.

Here are the ingredients:
1 oz Brandy
1 egg
2-3 oz Ruby Port
1 tsp Sugar

There is a level in which I’m glad this drink contained no coffee. Coffee is a big, unsubtle flavor that can bully most other flavors into submission and I never find coffee (even iced coffee) refreshing. It’s a beverage with a lot of weight, so an actual coffee cocktail isn’t a “go to” beverage for me.

Notice, however, that this drink also contains a FULL egg; not just the white. That fact would alarm most people setting them on their heels. In American culture, eggs are always cooked unless you are a boxer in training (the scene in Rocky where he drinks raw eggs is a solid part of our cultural identity at this point).

Upon sampling this we agreed this was not a favorite, but it did not alarm Kevin and I so much. Rachel admitted to it making her want to vomit; the raw egginess was a bit much for her palate.

The flavor itself was heavy relying upon the sweet character of the port. And as Jay and I discussed at the beginning of the episode, it had kind of an older world quality.

All in all, I’m glad to have tried it. It’s another piece of history whose flavors and ingredients have passed away through time, left behind with the scrapple and headcheese from our ancestors dinner tables. It’s easy to understand its forgotten nature.

November 25, 2014 09:50 AM PST

The Chatham Hotel Special is pretty mysterious because it is not altogether clear where the recipe for this cocktail even came from. We had a hard time even finding any mentions of this drink anywhere, so it made it a little difficult to discuss something that doesn't seem like it really exists. But that didn't stop us from talking about this cocktail that resembles a heavy dessert. There isn't a tremendous amount of information on the history of the hotel either. We had a name of a place at least, so we took a look at this New York hotel that might have been overshadowed by other fancier hotels of the time. In our research we found that the hotel got in a little trouble serving during dry periods of prohibition, was somehow in a legal suit with Bacardi, and most interestingly might have been the home to the first Moscow Mule. Join us as we try to figure out more about the Chatham Hotel Special, which doesn't seem to be all that special.

The drink itself was definitely more on the fluffy side, using cream and chocolate liqueur.

  • 1 1/2 oz brandy
  • 1/2 oz ruby port
  • 1/2 oz cream
  • 1 dash dark creme de cacao

I would also like to add that this episode features a little more of Michael Donnelly, our Brixton bartender, working his magic and talking about how the ingredients are working together in this cocktail.  Thank you Michael!

November 19, 2014 08:06 AM PST

We made it to 50 classic cocktails!! Listen in as Cameron, Rachel and Kevin enjoy a basic mixed drink from the American Colonial era, including an exciting tale about Ethan Allen...and no it has nothing to do with furniture.

November 04, 2014 10:49 AM PST

Clearly the Blue Moon is named after the song, right? Nope, and if you run through the other references to blue moons it probably isn’t any of those either. Don’t try to figure it out, just drink it.

The first place it is printed in a cocktail book is in Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1917) by Hugo R. Ensslin. However, it may have actually been the work of Joel Rinaldo, a proprietor of a Bohemian café during the early 1900s. Rumor has it that the Blue Moon was sort of a signature drink in this haven for artists, writers, entertainers, and revolutionaries. According to David Wondrich, he never recorded what was in it, so we have to rely on the Ensslin recipe for this one.

There is nothing totally remarkable about this drink outside of the Crème Yvette, a purple liqueur made with violet petals, spices, a variety of berries, honey, vanilla, and other botanicals. Holy sweetness, Batman! That folks, is what the gin, lemon juice and bitters are for.

Join us as we toss around the many possibilities behind the name, and eventually give up trying to figure out why a sometimes purple drink is called a Blue Moon. We also dive into Bohemians in Europe, the “Bohemian culture” in the U.S. and how Bohemian Cafés brought together a variety of people that Americans just didn’t trust all that much.

The ingredients for the Blue Moon today are real simple:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Crème Yvette (or Crème de Violette)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

The drink was good, very tart with a strong floral taste. It wasn’t amazing for me because of the lemon juice, but I enjoyed it for the otherworldly feeling of drinking the juice of a flower.

October 06, 2014 11:20 AM PDT

When I first heard the name of this drink, I was puzzled how one could get a cocktail name from a car's turn signal. Of course, this is another case wherein the "old timey" speak means something totally different from what it means today. Back at the turn of the 20th century, when this drink became popular, blinkers were the blinders horses wore to keep them looking forward and it also was a slang term for black eye...both of which might be good ways to describe what the drink might do to you.

Below is the research Mr. Jason Kruse provided for the episode:

The recipe does show up in The Official Mixer's Manual (1934). He is actually right about blinkers being another term for blinders. It could also mean: "A kind of spectacles for directing the sight in one direction only, so as to cure squinting, or for protecting the eyes from cold, dust." Source: Oxford English Dictionary

During the late 1800s through the 1950s, blinker was slang for a black eye.
I can't say for sure that this is what the name refers to. It could be in the vein of blinders or blinding you. Maybe it was because it would make you want to fight, ending up in a black eye.

Straub's manual of mixed drinks (1913) has a recipe called a Grenadine Sour which has lemon juice, grenadine syrup, and Bourbon, a Whiskey Grenadine Fizz which is lemon juice, grenadine syrup, Rye or Bourbon,

Drinks with Rum, grapefruit juice, and grenadine show up in the recipe book: Along the wine trail: an anthology of wines and spirits (1935). One called the Boston Perfect made with New England rum and one called Robbie's Birthday made with Cuban rum. I can't find anything else that has these ingredients together.

I searched for grapefruit juice as an ingredient in a whole lot of cocktail books and doesn't really show up before the 1910s as "grape fruit" and in very few places at that. It becomes more common in the 1930s. The Duffy book has several recipes that call for grapefruit juice. Along the wine trail (1935) has several, and another book called Wine manual; containing interesting information on selecting, storing and serving quality wines and spirits (1934). I found one mention in a book from 1906 of scooping out the pulp and using the peel for a bowl.

In 1920 the California Fruit Growers Exchange (later Sunkist) began an advertising campaign pushing the vitamins in juices. Florida growers also did this soon after, and "The sales of fruit juice increased threefold within two decades." Source: Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink.

"Fruit juices had never been particularly appreciated, at breakfast or any other time, but with the rising popularity of canning, the interest in healthful foods and in the newly discovered vitamins, and, strangely enough, the advent of Prohibition in 1920, canned fruit juice came to be considered an elegant addition to the breakfast table. One of the most common of the juices was grape, which was sold “as is” by desperate vineyards that could no longer sell wine. Sunsweet prune juice and tomato-based V8 both debuted in 1933, just as Prohibition was ending—but by then Americans had become used to drinking fruit juices at all times during the day as a substitute for alcoholic drinks. The crowning achievement, of course, in fruit juice history and perhaps a defining moment in the American breakfast came with the development of frozen orange juice after World War II." Source: (2012). Breakfast Foods. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. : Oxford University Press.
There were also exemptions under the Volstead Act for allowing home fermentation of fruit juices and private home consumption. This in combination with almost undrinkable prohibition liquor being masked by fruit juices, ginger beers, sodas, and tonics probably made fruit juices more common in cocktails.

Prior to prohibition it was more common to use freshly squeezed juice and fresh fruit. Perhaps canned fruit juice

Raspberry syrup does show up in cocktail and non-alcoholic drink recipes back to the 19th century, and it does seem pretty common. I seems unlikely that it was a substitute for grenadine, at least in 19th century American cocktails. I looked through 19th century recipe books and I don't find anything that has grenadine in it until the late 1800s. This blogger, who has done an extensive amount of research on the history of grenadine (I am impressed with how much research he did), shows that grenadine doesn't really show up in the books until 1895 in Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler but that it doesn't really seem to take off until the 1910s and 1920s. I find both being used in the same recipe books.

European prohibition as far as I can tell is not really a thing. Some European countries enacted measures like rationing, or prohibiting distilled liquors, or high alcohol content, and a few did all out prohibition roughly the same time as the U.S. However, the same blogger found that Europe seemed to be leading the way in terms of grenadine drinks prior to the U.S. so it is again, raspberry syrup was probably not a substitute for grenadine.

A simple drink with few ingredients:

2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice (not pink)
1 barspoon raspberry syrup
This drink was really quite pleasing; a fully blended cocktail wherein none of the flavors ran over the others and we found it to be fairly refreshing as well. This one was definitely a thumbs up.

I was a little surprised at how late grapefruit made it to the citrus party. I myself am not a huge fan of the fruit, but for sheer, plump, juicy mass, it's hard to beat. Grapefruit made it to the U.S. in 1823 so there was plenty of time for Americans to get used to it and learn to appreciate it, but that didn't actually happen until the 1940s. Even if Americans didn't particularly enjoy it for a complete century that it graced our soil, I'm surprised it wasn't just given to the poor and hungry like so many cans of beef-a-roni come food drive season.

All in all, despite being labeled a classic, the blinker is one of those cocktails our culture has nearly lost, which is sad because it is definitely one that shouldn't be forgotten.

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