Friday, March 15, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Borden Chase

The circumstances under which a cocktail was christened in honor of writer Borden Chase are unknown. What is beyond doubt is that the man deserved to have a drink named after him. Even though his name wasn’t actually Borden Chase.

He was born Frank Fowler in New York. An ex-sailor and boxer, he landed a job as driver for Frankie Yale (nee Ioele), the Brooklyn bootlegging kingpin eventually rubbed out by his one-time protégé Al Capone. (Capone acquired the facial scars that spawned his sobriquet while working at Yale’s club, after he complimented the posterior of another hoodlum’s sister.) Fowler conceivably could have caught lead on that fateful day himself. Yale, alarmed following a mysterious phone call telling him something had happened to his wife, insisted on taking the wheel of his own car. He was then ambushed and shot to death.

Chastened by the experience, Fowler caught on as a sandhog then a taxi driver, piloting a hack through the Holland Tunnel that he’d helped to dig. He’d become a different kind of hack himself, churning out fiction for rags like Argosy. His novel about his sandhog days would become the 1935 Raoul Walsh film Under Pressure. Hollywood purchased other of his stories; one served as the basis for the Mike Shayne film Blue, White and Perfect. Fowler would then head west himself, but first a new handle was in order. He dubbed himself Borden Chase after the milk company and the bank, cashing in on their name recognition. Chase made his reputation with westerns, earning an Academy Award nomination for his work on Red River and writing several Anthony Mann/James Stewart films including the magnificent Winchester ‘73, before finishing his career in TV.

As for the drink, it’s part of the small but exceedingly close-knit family of Scotch cocktails. The Borden Chase is a savory variation on the best known of the clan, the Rob Roy, which itself is a Scotch Manhattan. The primary difference is the addition of pastis, in place of the original absinthe. Pernod pairs quite nicely with blended Scotch whisky. Feel free to use a more robust vermouth like Carpano Antica. This drink, like the work of its namesake, roughhouses, so don’t shy away from the strongest ingredients.

The Borden Chase

2 oz. Scotch
½ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. Pernod
dash of orange bitters

Stir. Strain. No garnish.