Squid Ink contributor Lesley Jacobs Solmonson and her husband David Solmonson wrote The 12 Bottle Bar “with the hope of offering an inexpensive and accessible approach to classic cocktails,” Lesley Jacobs Solmonson says. The book is not meant to be a complete guide to spirits or cocktails. “Instead, we like to call it a 'road map' to lead the home enthusiast through the hows and whys behind making mixed drinks,” she says.
Below are two excerpts from the Solmonsons' book. The first is about ice, which the authors believe is a key component of a well-balanced drink. The second is a recipe for the Clipper Cocktail, a little-known stirred drink in which the proper use of ice is key to the cocktail’s success.
Treatises could be written — and most likely have been — about ice. Author Paul Theroux thought ice was so magical that he built an entire book, The Mosquito Coast, around it. In it, a man named Allie Fox packs up his family and leads them into the jungles of South America to bring ice to the natives, crying, “Ice is civilization!”
The cocktail community would certainly agree, albeit for different reasons, of course. Indeed, when easily accessible ice made its first appearance in the early 1800s, thanks to the visionary Frederic “Ice King” Tudor, the world — and eventually cocktails along with it — was irrevocably changed. Back then, Tudor “harvested” his ice in 300-pound blocks from local Boston ponds. Nowadays, the average soul can reach into his freezer and grab an ice cube whenever he wants it. The problem is that standard-issue freezer ice — chunky, often made from unfiltered water, and “flavored” with whatever scents float in the freezer — or, heaven have mercy, standard supermarket bagged ice with its often stale smell and inconsistent shapes — is, well, pretty horrible. Capitalizing on this fact, companies dedicated solely to ice have sprung up in the wake of the mixology renaissance.
For our purposes, we’re going to stick to the more practical aspects of cocktail ice, meaning how and why it’s used and how to get the best out of it. Because, along with the dilution and chilling it provides, the proper application of ice to a mixed drink is as important as the proper application of heat to a sauté. That said, here are some basic rules to keep in mind.
Rule #1: Think of ice as an ingredient… Why compromise on your ice, which forms the foundation on which the drink is built?
Rule #2: When and if you make ice at home, use good neutral water.
Rule #3: Consider how long you shake or stir your drinks. Shaking and stirring times vary markedly depending on the size, shape, and amount of ice you use.
Rule #4: Consider the size and function of your ice… The bigger the ice, the slower it will melt. Crushed ice, used in drinks like juleps or brambles, melts quickly, so you get a quick chill as well as controlled and constant dilution of liquor. In contrast, a chunk of ice – say a large cube in an Old Fashioned or a large block in a bowl of punch – melts and dilutes more slowly.
Rule #5: Consider the temperature of your ice. Is it truly frozen?… Melty ice is watery ice, and that means the water on the surface of the ice will further dilute your drink.
Rule #6: Add ice last, just before you are ready to mix, whether by shaking or stirring. This allows you to measure the liquid, should you suspect you may have forgotten something, and in the event you’re distracted or called away mid-assembly, your drink will happily wait for you, undiluted.
Rule #7: Give your ice a helping hand. If you can, store your glassware in the freezer with the proper ice cube(s) alongside. .. A cold glass means an even colder drink.
Next: The recipe for the Clipper Cocktail, a classic from America's golden age of aviation.
The Clipper Cocktail
From: The 12 Bottle Bar, via Pan Am Airways
Makes: 1 Drink
We're too young to remember the halcyon days of air travel — the days you dressed up like ladies and gentlemen and were treated like ladies and gentlemen — but we do know that if there was a classy way to fly, it was aboard the Pan Am Clipper. The flight attendants were straight out of a fashion magazine, and the passengers were pampered with table dining and amenity kits containing cologne or perfume, compacts, sewing kits, and more. And of course, there were signature cocktails.
The Clipper Cocktail comes from Pan Am's North Pacific run, connecting North America to Asia, in the 1930s, and it's a delightful distraction during any voyage, whether by plane or boat, or merely contemplating life in your favorite armchair. If you find martinis too strong — and not pink enough — this may be your perfect drink. It's serious but not unkind.
1 ½ ounces white rum
1 ½ ounces dry vermouth
½ teaspoon Grenadine, homemade (see 12bottlebar.com or the book) or store bought, such as Small Hands
Lemon twist, for garnish
1. Combine the rum, vermouth, and grenadine in a mixing glass, fill the glass three-quarters full with ice cubes, and stir rapidly until thoroughly chilled, 30 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the lemon twist.
For more from The 12 Bottle Bar, you can join the Solmonsons at these events:
On September 7, The 12 Bottle Bar Hop Part 1
Three bars, one evening. Bar hop from Bar Lubitsch to the Roger Room to Eveleigh's Back Bar. Cocktails, appetizers, 12 Bottle Bar book and gift bag included. Advance tickets required: click here to purchase.
September 13, Presentation for the Culinary Historians of Southern California
Downtown Central LA Library.
October 5, The 12 Bottle Bar Hop Part 2
Three bars, one evening. Bar hop from the Pikey to Harlowe to Melrose Umbrella Company. Cocktails, appetizers, 12 Bottle Bar book and gift bag included. Advance tickets required: click here to purchase.