November 24, 2012

Holiday Cocktail Review: The American Trilogy

Since it's holiday time, we thought we'd veer off the beaten path of neat smoky beasts and share a favorite cocktail.  This one comes from Little Branch, a not-to-be-missed NYC cocktail holy land between SoHo and the West Village.  

Actually Little Branch is pretty easy to miss, because the entrance is an unmarked doorway with a buzzer.  Inside you'll find suspender-clad barmen out of nineteen twenties prohibition-era glory days.  

One of our favorite cocktails created at Little Branch is the American Trilogy.  It's a variation on the Old-Fashioned, a perfect drink for chilly fall days with enough punch to prepare you for as much family drama as the holidays can muster.  

Rye Whiskey
Applejack Brandy
Orange Bitters
Simple Syrup (or a sugar cube)

Notes on ingredients:  We're using Michter's Straight Rye, ($41.99 at AstorWines) which is the best whisky that we won't feel bad mixing.  It's a good bottle of rye to have around, particularly if you don't drink a ton of rye and want something good enough to drink on the rocks, but also not too over-the-top to put in a cocktail.  If you're making rye cocktails for a big group, Old Overholt is absolutely just fine and it's $17.99 for a liter.

To make simple syrup, put two cups of sugar in two cups of water, heat until the sugar dissolves, and pour into an empty liquor bottle.  It lasts about a month.  If you've been watching too much Food Network and want to go crazy, add mint, orange or lemon peels.  

We're using Reagan's #6 Orange Bitters.  For some reason here in New York you can't buy most bitters at the liquor store, you have to order them online.  Fee Brothers West Indian is also very good.

The actual mixing is very simple and should be done to your taste.  Start with one ounce of rye and one ounce of brandy.  We prefer going heavier on the rye and lighter on the brandy.  Add a hefty amount of bitters, we like three double shakes from the bottle.  If you're using sugar cubes, put them in the bottom of each glass, saturate them with bitters, and crush them with a muddler or wooden spoon.  If you're using syrup (much easier if you're making a bunch), start with one teaspoon and add more for sweetness.  

Chill the drink by stirring in a shaker (do not shake) and serve up.  Our favorite way to serve cocktails is "up in a down glass" in other words chilled over ice and then strained and served in a whisky glass.  That way the boys can enjoy a cocktail without the "girly-drink" stigma of a martini glass.  If you really want to go the full nine yards, Little Branch serves it over one huge ice cube which keeps it cold without watering it down (hint - you can make big ice cubes by freezing water in cupcake tins).  Coat the rim with a squeezed orange peel and garnish if you're into that.  

American Trilogy
Our final mix tends to be an ounce and a half of rye, half an ounce of Applejack, three or four hefty splashes of Reagan's, and half a teaspoon of syrup.  The flavors of the rye and bitters should be the focus, with a hint of apple on the aftertaste from the brandy.  It should be a strong drink, but with no bite - full and fruity and so smooth that it's dangerous.  

Enjoy!  &  Happy Holidays!!