Friday, October 2, 2009

The Jerry Thomas Project The Fancy Vermouth Cocktail

Boker’s bitters might lead to a huge delay in the Thomas Experiment, as it appears that almost every drink has at least a drop of this mystical tincture. I have the sneaking suspicion that Jerry Thomas would be fascinated by how easily I retrieve ice, typically I only have to yell, “¡Tao, tráeme hielo!” (Although I’ve got to hand it Tao, who is más duro que burro, that I rarely ask for ice as he is a mad man when it comes to washing glasses and getting ice.) Anyhow, I can only imagine Thomas’s fascination with a machine that just spits out little ice cubes day and night - no chipping, no shaving, no hammering from a block that was brought from across town. And in return, I would be fascinated by how easily he could get Boker’s bitters.

Today’s creation was the Fancy Vermouth Cocktail (fancy indeed!) which had a slightly metallic sweetness and an undisputed disruption of any pleasantries as its ingredients didn’t blend or flatter one another.
Fortunately, I had the time to make another of Thomas’s cocktails, the Absinthe Cocktail (Once again, may I applaud Thomas in his creativity in naming his creations). Which is comprised almost entirely of absinthe (which I love) and as the 2 dashes of anisette and the 1 dash of angostura bitters did very little to sway the taste of the absinthe, I found this drink absolutely alluring. The bitters did give the absinthe a bit of a black peppery note.

I’ve decided to peak ahead and see what I might need to order to make this dream of making all of Thomas’s drinks a reality. Quite honestly, I work at a very well stocked bar and I didn’t think that making all of these drinks would be that difficult at all. In fact, I thought it might not be challenging enough to even bother, but I thought it would be educational nonetheless. Well, it’s proven to be much more difficult that I originally assumed, as many ingredients are difficult to come by and there is no way I could do this without the advent of the internet. It’s made me think a lot about a many who never saw a car, but I can’t make his drinks without a high-speed Internet connection and a FEDEX man.

Just a couple of items that popped out at me:
Capillaire, which is a syrup made from maidenhair fern (whoops forgot to plant that last spring!). Like most syrup ingredients in the 19th century, it was used for medicinal purposes in this case being heart problems and hair loss. Supposedly it tastes wretched. I have no clue where I am going to get this, as I see no one selling it on-line.
Catawba Wine which is wine made by Native Americans. Unfortunately, once most of the tribes opened casinos - Native American viticulture went down the tubes. Supposedly, you might be able to buy Catawba wine in Ohio - so maybe I’ll stumble across some while I’m in Western Pennsylvania next week!?!?
Isinglass which is sourced from fish’s air bladders. Isinglass has been replaced with gelatin for most recipes, but it is still used in clarifying beer in brewing - so it appears isinglass will not be so hard to find.

1 comment:

  1. Catawba grapes are also grown in New York State. I believe Bully Hill in the Finger Lakes region makes a wine with it. Native grapes have a funky Welch's grape juice flavor to it so they're not used in high falutin' wines, but their hardy rootstock often is. Many smaller wineries in the east still grow it though.