Category Archives: Literature

Italian Escapade!

We recently came back from a week’s journey in Milan and Florence. Needless to say it was fantastic and yes, by all means be jealous.

Climbing on top of Brunelleschi’s dome. Wandering in a maze of mirrors. Collecting paintings of decapitated heads and pretty ladies (Judith and Salome are the salt of my art museums). Taking a secret photo of the floor of La Cappella dei Principi. Spending the night in and learning to tie a bow-tie. Queuing for cheap seats at La Scala. Having a Negroni or two at Santo Spirito. Walking and looking and tasting and hearing, connecting and remembering.

I take it back. Don’t be jealous. Go see the world.

Just GO.

– Laura

“I was but nineteen years then, and so was the century.”
– Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography

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November Cocktail: Hindenburg cocktail, or Pauline’s cherry lips

Here is our cock-tale for November. Follow the links to the story, or if you’re impatient,  just skip to the recipe and pictures below.

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Not the Hindenburg actually, but Graf Zeppelin, hovering over our home city Helsinki in 1930, unable to land due to weather conditions.

As a bartender, I would never want to be in the situation in which Max Schulze found himself during the maiden voyage of the Zeppelin Hindenburg – you see, his bar ran out of Gin. While Max was most probably cursing the American passengers who seemed never to have heard of “rationing”, Pauline Charteris came up, true to the fashion of American alc… cocktail aficionados, with an alternate solution. She’d tasted some Kirschwasser on her trip to Germany, and found it somewhat more agreeable than the cheap American gins of the Prohibition*. “Why not substitute Kirsch for Gin”, said Pauline to her hubby. To which his husband replied, “Really now, darling? That’s as absurd as The Saint going to appear in moving pictures.”

The original recipe of Pauline’s Kirschwasser cocktail is now lost to history, along with many of the other recipes from the Hindenburg. As a given, the concoction, designed specifically to replace dry martini on board, probably had Kirschwasser and Vermouth in it. The rest is up to imagination. The German opus “Der Mixologist” by Carl A. Seutter gives a recipe for the Imperial Cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, maraschino) with no gin, but with a few dashes of absinthe included. The Imperial Cocktail has no Kirsch in it, though, and there’s no saying if Schultze was actually familiar with Seutters’ book.

At first, we intended to do a serious historical study, but in the end we discarded this idea – for a better one. Airships.net has made a very reasonable version of Charteris’ drink, calling for only kirsch, vermouth and a dash of grenadine for sweetness. On board the aircraft, with a limited supply, the drink might have been quite as simple as that. But maybe, just maybe, after the voyage Max Schultze went home, and decided there’s more to be had from Pauline’s suggestion**. Maybe he mixed the idea of a Kirsch Martini with a recipe he remembered reading a decade back in a German cocktail book? And maybe while sipping this new cocktail he reminisced on a brief brushing together of lips one night at the Hindenburg’s bar…

And that is where we stop with counterfactual history and get back to the present day. Some time ago, not quite happy with any of the commercially produced orange bitters,  Jere made a batch of his own ***, and of course, the difference is like night and day. We wanted to create a recipe to which we could incorporate the self-made bitters, and as we’d been playing around with the idea of the Hindenburg drink, we decided to combine the two. We completely discarded the “dry martini” approach, and tried to find out what would really go well together with the Kirsch. Here’s what we came up with; enjoy.

P.s. For this recipe and many other things, we’d like to thank Dan Grossman, an American aviation specialist – check out his wonderful site about the Hindenburg and Zeppelins in general. Thanks Dan, you’re super and we hope you get to read this!

♦Pauline’s Cherry Lips♦

A jigger (50 ml) of Kirschwasser
A barspoon of dry Vermouth
2 barspoons each of Absinthe and Maraschino liqueur
A dash of orange bitters
Two dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Maraschino cherry or lemon peel for garnish

Stir and strain in to a cocktail glass.

There are a few things to consider with this drink:
1.) There is a great difference between using lemon peel or cherry for garnish. Both are to be placed in the glass, and the maraschino cherry must not be rinsed.
2.) You could substitute the Maraschino liqueur for Maraschino syrup, in which case definitely use lemon peel for garnish and only one spoonful of maraschino syrup.
3.) If using a less aromatic type of orange bitters, consider two to three dashes. The two dashes of Peychaud’s highlight the absinthe, but also give the drink a beautiful cherry hue.

*In fact, by 1936 many brands had already opened distilleries in the US.

**After about a month of making the drink for the first time, and a few days from writing this post I found out about the Tuxedo Cocktail No.2, featured in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Ironically, the Tuxedo No.2 is very much like Pauline, but instead of Kirsch it has Gin (and no Peychaud’s). There is also the Turf Club Cocktail in the Savoy book, and the difference is that Tuxedo uses London dry gin, whereas the Turf Club calls for Plymouth gin and a few dashes more of absinthe and maraschino. It’s possible that Schulze knew either of these recipes, and made use of them with the Kirschwasser cocktail.

***There is no exact recipe for the orange bitters I made. The most notable features are, that counter to common practice I used no gentian root or extract but there’s some dried sage in it, there’s the peel of about one lemon to three of oranges, and the base spirit is not clear grain alcohol but overproof rum. The choice of spices makes it more an amalgam of aromatic and orange bitters, with a pronounced “bottom”, due to use of rum, a bit of cinnamon and the sage. During the holidays I’ll make another batch and fine tune the recipe. -Jere

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September Cocktail: Cynara!

As the days grow short and the nights grow cold, thoughts turn inwards and backwards. This is the time for silent contemplation rather than rowdy merrymaking – and an excellent time for reading poetry. Our cocktail of the month is a warm, spicy blend of Mediterranean delicacies, perfect for those quiet evenings and secret tête-à-têtes. It is inspired by our song Cynara! which is inspired by Ernest Dowson’s poem “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae”, which in turn borrows its title from Horace’s Odes.

In other words, here’s a healthy dose of intertextual merriment in a glass! If you’re looking for something to impress the ladies with, look no further. If you’re a real Casanova, you memorise the final stanza of Dowson’s poem and deliver it with suitable panache. We guarantee that the night is thine.

cynara

Cynara! ♦

4  parts Samos Nectar*
1  part Brandy
5 parts Hot water
4 Cloves
Orange peel, freshly grated/cut
Grated nutmeg  

Heat the wine and the brandy with the water, but do not bring to a boil. Add the cloves and the orange peel to a wine glass. Pour on the heated wine mixture and the and grate a little nutmeg on top. Summon all the memories of your lost loves. Read the letter you never sent. Cry for madder music, for you have stronger wine.

*(You can use any white dessert wine, such as Sauternes or Tokaji. We tend to stick to Samos Nectar for the sheer joy of quoting Lord Byron as we toast: “Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!” is a line that simply cannot be yelled too often.)

I stumbled upon an excellent introduction to Dowson’s original poem in the Guardian, explaining the connection between Horace’s line and Dowson’s ode to lovesickness. Do read it, and the poem below it, as you’re waiting for your ingredients to heat. Then listen to our song here:

There are many similarities and direct Dowson quotes in Cynara!, but the woman answering the “faithful” lover is not the pale, lost lily the poet remembers. Dowson seems to suggest that Cynara has died an early death, but I pictured a Cynara more advanced in years, contemplating the wound that has bound the poet and the muse together in spite of time and distance.

Cynara!

Do not resort to stronger wine, my love
Under my reign superbly you shall bloom
You may well refuse,
But should you refuse
Then what is it you’re proving, and to whom?

The orbits do their dance, and here we are
The music stops, the dawn is gray again
Insufferably close
Insufferably far
I never was so hungry for the pain.

How could you say that you loved me
When you were my fate
And how could I say that you’ve hurt me
When I was your fatal flaw?

Are you and I as worthless as before,
All charm, and talk, and pride, and sleight of hand?
Our new loves are faint
All sweet, mild restraint
But ours has fetters neither can withstand.

So marry and make merry as you please
Be faithful in your fashion, your design
But when lamps expire,
Oh, when lamps expire,
This prickly thistle sings, the night is mine!

How could you say that you loved me
When you were my fate
And how could I say that you’ve hurt me
When I was your fatal flaw?

– Laura

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July Cocktail Recipe: Les passions de l’Âme

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Here is our cock-tale for July. Follow the links to the story, or if you’re impatient,  just skip to the recipe and pictures below.


Passions of the Soul

Most of our readers probably know the late bloomer of a renaissance man, René Descartes. The 17th century philosopher, mathematician and natural scientist is credited for opening the door for both modern mathematics and modern philosophy, and is known to have dabbled enough in optics to come up with the law of reflection. Our cocktail for July is curiously enough named after one of his treatises, and carries some Cartesian qualities.
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Descartes was a rationalist, thinking that nothing could be known from senses alone, without the use of reason. He carried this thought over to his moral philosophy, arguing that virtue consists of the correct reasoning over our actions.
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A teaspoon of juniper berries
Half a measure of gin

The correct reasoning depends on knowledge, and judgement of knowledge on mental condition. The mind controls the body, but the body could affect the mind – thus the correct reasoning depends not only on the condition of the mind, but of the body as well. Mind you, this was a novel idea in Descartes’ time.

One fourth of a measure of green Chartreuse

Descartes was not without doubt, however. He is known to have professed so-called methodological skepticism, that is doubting everything until arriving at something undeniably certain. This is how he arrives to the conclusion “cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am”. Arriving at this conclusion was not a painless process, and led Descartes to self-doubt and outright fits of solipsism.

Half a measure of vermouth

Neither was Descartes without passions, a man that he was. Hearing that Galileo‘s work had been burnt and Galileo sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life, he decided to abandon his own work on De Homine, in which he presented an idea of a body functioning independently of the soul; His rational mind would not let him publish the work in a mutilated form, nor would his body let him come to quarrel with the church.

Fresh passion fruit

We are, all of us, rational at times, and less so most of the time. Curiously Descartes, although vehemently pursuing means to arrive at true knowledge through rationalising, also, through his ideas concerning the mind and the body made way to anthropocentric and individualistic philosophy, which in it’s turn turned in to romanticism and utter abandon of all reason whatsoever.

Our Summer Cocktail is a homage to Descartes, and man’s ability to rationalise at will, and abandon reason at whim.

Passions de l´Âme, s’il vous plaît.

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♦Passions de l’Âme♦

A teaspoonful of dried juniper berries
The pulp from one whole passion fruit
2 parts Bombay Sapphire
2 parts Noilly Prat
1 part green Chartreuse

Crush the juniper berries in a cocktail shaker. Add the pulp from the passion fruit. Pour in the gin, vermouth and Chartreuse. Shake well, and double strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh passion fruit slice.

The juniper berries will enhance the gin flavor, and the passion fruit adds sweetness, which the vermouth intensifies. The Chartreuse adds body to the cocktail. A cool drink for summer days, pas de pastis.

EDIT: It only occured to me about three years after this post, that the passion fruit and green chartreuse blend in to a color very close to Chartreuse yellow. Go figure.

– Jere

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