With New Year's Eve looming, we're forgoing our usual cookbook of the week in favor of the libation version. Not just any cocktail book, but The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan and illustrator Chris Gall, the only beverage book that made it into our Best of 2011 “cookbook” list.
Yeah, we're already content with Mr. Boston's and his old school cocktail book buddies, which are being re-issued with vigor lately. Add in the slew of trendy new cocktail books making the rounds (presuming you're into that thyme-sage-whatever else simple syrup infusion sort of thing), and who needs another cocktail book? Or another classic Champagne cocktail recipe (get it after the jump). We do.
Why? Because this is Jim Meehan. Which is to say, you can expect a lot more here than yet another Sazerac variation. You can also expect the “mixologist as chef” mantra will not be dramatically overplayed here as it is in so many modern cocktail books. Yes, Meehan is the sort of bartender who specifies at times obscure brands of gin and vermouth in each recipe. But the cocktails here are straightforward flavor plays focused on spirits rather than “fancy” (and time-consuming) flavored simple syrup and homemade liqueur flourishes — a modern take on the historic cocktail perspective, in essence. Those fantastic drawings by Gall certainly give the book that Mad Men 5 o'clock appeal.
The book mimics Mr. Boston's in more than just its alphabetical organization, as many of the recipes hark back to early American bar days. That Pimm's Cup recipe is based on one from The Stork Club Bar Book circa 1946; The Jack Rose (apple brandy, lemon juice, house made grenadine) is from the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them (Meehan has tweaked the historic recipes to appeal to modern palettes). To include the date a cocktail was “invented” is a brilliantly simple organizational style, but one that really resonates today as historic cocktails are often still served in their original or slightly updated form. Recipes from a handful of our current cocktail greats, including David Wondrich, who penned the Foreward, are also scattered throughout (Wondrich's “Junior” cocktail: 2 ounces Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whiskey, ¾ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce Benedictine, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters).
Even still, most of the cocktails are from PDT's recipe files. “I've written descriptions for each and every cocktail we've included on our menu since the winter of 2007,” explains Meehan. Those straightforward descriptions and the year/season the cocktail was created (Fall 2009, for instance) accompany each recipe, along with credit to the bartender at PDT who developed it.
And so we feel like we are peeking into a hot summer night past when we read that the “Framboise Fizz” (tequila, White Crème de Cacao, lemon juice) was the brainchild of Michael Klein in the summer of 2010 and the “Wrong Aisle” (apple brandy, Lillet Rouge, quince shrub) was a Meehan creation during the same season. Others, like the Silver Root Beer Fizz, were created with a specific imbiber in mind. “I created this recipe for chef Wylie Dufresne, who is a self-professed root beer fanatic,” says Meehan (the cocktail is made with two different kinds of rum, lemon juice, pineapple juice, egg white, a root beer topper and grated nutmeg to garnish).
And yet even Dufresne's cocktail is relatively simple to make. A reminder that on New Year's, when everyone else is pulling out their trendiest cocktails of the year, a Champagne cocktail is all we, and presumably Meehan, really want.
From: The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan and Chris Gall.
Note: Originally from the Bar-Tender's Guide by Jerry Thomas, 1862. Per Meehan: “I recommend pouring the Champagne, then adding the bitters-soaked sugar cube so the wine doesn't bubble over.”
6.5 ounces Moet Imperial Champagne
1 Angostura Bitters-soaked sugar cube
1. Pour Champagne into a chilled flute. Add sugar cube. Garnish with a spiral lemon twist.
More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.