Friday, March 08, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Cloister

One sip of the Cloister, its sophisticated taste combining the long, mellow finish of yellow chartreuse with competing notes of citrus as a generous but not overwhelming pour of gin gazes down benevolently from above, and you will think: such elegance has a storied history. This cocktail has been with us for some time, was consumed illicitly in speakeasies. Surely, Myrna Loy herself enjoyed many of these.

The 1970s. That’s how long the Cloister has been around. It’s a product of the leisure suit era, a fairly modern drink that somehow seems like a classic.

The first known reference appears to be in Thomas Mario’s 1971 Playboy Bartender’s Guide, an essential book in that it features tiny risqué illustrations by LeRoy Neiman. The Cloister starts out like a standard sour, a combination of base spirit, sweetener and citrus. You might expect it to be truly sour given that you’re doubling down with not only lemon juice but grapefruit, the latter an underused element in the cocktail palette as the Blinker demonstrates. But a small amount of simple syrup keeps the citrus elements in harmony – Mario’s recipe omits this ingredient, which strikes me as a critical error – while the ingenious addition of chartreuse elevates the Cloister beyond the everyday. The Playboy book describes it as “a contemplative kind of drink, perfect for an autumn sundown.” But there’s no sense in tying a flavor as refreshing as this to any particular season or time of day. Whenever fresh grapefruit juice is available, the Cloister merits consideration.

The Cloister

1 ½ oz. gin
½ oz. yellow chartreuse
½ oz. grapefruit juice
¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. simple syrup

Shake. Strain. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.