Friday, December 06, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: The Journalist


Holds Forth on Subject at Slightest Provocation

SEATTLE, WA – Vince Keenan had never tried the cocktail known as the Journalist before, but he had a perfectly valid reason to make one at his home bar.

“I already had the ingredients,” Mr. Keenan said. “Every one of them. Even the lemon. Kind of a lucky break, really.”

Over recent years, Mr. Keenan has developed a taste for mixed drinks, amassing a considerable collection of books dedicated to alcoholic libations and regularly preparing them for himself and his wife, who asked not to be identified by name.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a cocktail expert. More a cocktail enthusiast,” Mr. Keenan said with what he hoped was a twinkle in his eye but was in fact more likely mild astigmatism. “I’m always happy to experiment, especially with what I already have on hand.”

Pictured: A journalist
In this most recent instance, that would include curaçao. “I’ve been raving about Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao for a while now. Ever since I bought a bottle, really,” Mr. Keenan said, turning to his sparsely-trafficked website for proof. He added that he had become quite a fan of the orange liqueur, based on a nineteenth-century formulation, because of the presence of brandy, which he described as “stout.” “As in strong, not as in the beer,” Mr. Keenan clarified with a wholly unnecessary chuckle. “I was looking for other drinks I could make with it and came across the Journalist.”

The adult beverage in question first appeared in the storied Savoy Cocktail Book, a compendium of mixed drinks first published in 1930 and assembled by Harry Craddock, an American bartender who emigrated to the United Kingdom during Prohibition to pursue his craft. Unlike many of the other cocktails featured in Mr. Craddock’s book, the Journalist was largely forgotten, seldom appearing in subsequent titles on the subject. “Somehow it survived into my copy of Patrick Gavin Duffy’s Official Mixer’s Manual,” Mr. Keenan said, scrambling to retrieve his edition of the book even though no one had asked him to. “It’s where I first found it.”

To some extent Mr. Keenan was not surprised by the Journalist’s neglected status, because of its similarity to a far-better known concoction. “It’s basically a perfect martini with a sharp citrus kick,” Mr. Keenan said, explaining that by “perfect” he meant the cocktail contained equal portions of both sweet and dry vermouth. The citrus kick comes courtesy of lemon juice and Mr. Keenan’s favored new ingredient curaçao, which are used sparingly but to great effect. Mr. Keenan again credits the brandy present in the curaçao. “I think it tethers the hints of lemon and bitter orange, lets them shine through the gin. The drink retains the crispness and clarity of a martini, but with a burst of citrus that makes it sort of sprightly. I can say that, right? Sprightly? I always feel self-conscious using words like that when talking about drinks. Or any subject, really.” He went on to provide several examples, ending in a protracted crying jag.

Pictured: A different Journalist
Mr. Keenan also appreciated the Journalist’s judicious use of bitters, which he viewed as a nod to tradition. “It’s a variation on a martini, after all, and originally that meant bitters. The recipe calls for Angostura, but any aromatic variety will do. I wouldn’t make this drink without them.”

This experiment proving a success, Mr. Keenan was asked what he planned to do next. “I don’t really know,” he said. “Typically I don’t put much forethought into this. More often than not it’s based on whatever I have lying around. Like the Bénédictine I picked up the other day. Where did I put that?” He went in search of the recently acquired bottle. When he did not return after several hours, the interview drew to a close.

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The Journalist

2 oz. gin
½ oz. dry vermouth
½ oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes curaçao
2 dashes lemon juice
1 dash Angostura or aromatic bitters

Shake. Strain. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at