August 11, 2010
Paystyle is out this week– after his series of recaps on Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, he’s burnt out and taking a personal day. It is Sloth Season after all, and we all deserve a break from Umamimart reporting.
He suggested I fill in this week for Happy Hour as a guest writer. Whoa buddy, you sure about that? This is a bit intimidating, since Paystyle is not only an award–winning bar chef, but a superb writer. Dude’s got street cred. How can one compete with that? I ain’t.
Which is to say that I won’t be shaking you up a cocktail that would inevitably have a lot of St. Germain in it (this would be to mask the flavors of all the other shit I put in the drink that never went together in the first place). Instead, let me report on a very special event I attended the other week: Savoy Cocktail Book Night at The Alembic in San Francisco.
Since 2008, Erik E., founder of the Underhill Lounge and a bartender at Heaven’s Dog, guest bartends at The Alembic for Savoy Cocktail Night once a month. They swap out their regular drink menu for the actual book– we’re talking the massive, definitive encyclopedia by American bartender Harry Craddock (who ended up at The Savoy Hotel American Bar in London when Prohibition went down Stateside) that was originally published in 1930, featuring 750 recipes from A to Z.
In other words, you can order any drink from the book.
Get the fuck outta here.
Yes. For real.
I took the night off of work and showed up at 8pm with a few friends in tow. The plan was to have a few cocktails that would put us in a well-themed mood for Episode #2 of Mad Men Season Three, on later that night.
Erik, who I had only known from the I N T E R N E T, manned the bar and I introduced myself. Always an awkward moment to meet a virtual friend in REAL LIFE. Ha. I’m all about it! He was perfectly dapper in a vest and skinny striped tie. shakin’ it up.
I pored over this book for a good fifteen minutes before making a decision for my first drink. As an amateur cocktail-maker, this was really exciting for me! First of all, it is a piece of artwork in itself. The loose, thick-brush drawings are done in an art-deco style, colored in with Crayola hues. Holding this book is such a delight.
Drink #1: Fairy Belle Cocktail.
I wanted to start with a fizz, so I went with this. The apricot sounded like a nice balance to the gin. Danny, an Alembic bartender, shook this for me.
Danny warned me that it was too sweet. I didn’t think so at all! The gin made it refreshing and it was definitely a great way to start. An aperitif, if you will?
South Side Cocktail.
Powdered sugar? Really? This is why this book is so awesome– it’s a glimpse into old techniques and ingredients that have been converted over time. Erik shook this one.
Very refreshing. The gin and mint together is curious– the mint competes with that juniper ginn-y flavor.
An old classic. So clean!
Savoy Hotel Special Cocktail #2.
Many of the recipes in the book have variations of the same cocktails. Throughout the night, you could hear Erik or Danny asking, “Number One? Two? Or Three?” Number Two please!
Ahhh love that orange peel. Nothing beats the flavor enhancement of zest l’orange.
Also, lots of Dubonnet in the book, as well as Lillet. I usually drink both on the rocks, and never knew that there are so many ways to play around with them! So many different flavored brandys and liqueurs in the book too, that I had never even heard of. One side of the bar was lined with Bols– they’re such ugly bottles, but I guess one of the only brands that still makes all the flavors that were so pertinent in these classic cocktails? (Don’t get me started on the banana one). Nowadays, everything just has St. Germain in it. It makes me sad.
Erik and crew bring in their own homemade liqueurs too, for this night, since the book calls for obscure ingredients. As he says in this post, “The bar staff at Alembic and I have done our best to find or make every ingredient called for in the book, from Prune Syrup to Kummel to Hercules.” Hooray for us!
Let me say here that Erik’s blog, Underhill Lounge is well-known in its goal to create EVERY SINGLE cocktail in the Savoy book, obscure ingredients and all. We’re talking about a dude who makes his own Forbidden Fruit Liqueur. Now that’s deep.
Jacobo had a hankering for a Flip (a drink with an entire egg– essentially an eggnog). See Paystyle’s post on Flips here.
Erik made him the Philadelphia Eggnog: Madeira wine, brandy, Smith Cross rum, sugar, milk and yolk.
I wanted to cozy up near a fire while watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas, or Home Alone. KEVIN!
Jacobo then pointed to this drawing and commanded to Danny, “I want what this guy’s having.”
Danny came back with a punch. Apparently, the devil drinks pink fruit juice. He was in a carefree mood. Ha.
One of my favorite cocktails of the evening, a Danny original. He whipped it up with Hibiki 12 year whiskey, and mole bitters. Whoa. I still recall the caramel tones from the whiskey, counteracted by the smoky mole bitters. Orange peel holla.
Danny’s mint julep.
Jacobo and I wanted some Pisco.
Or was it this one??
As you can see, going through the book became a little daunting (we were getting too drunk to read the fine print?) that the bartenders just ended up whipping us up something according to what liquor we felt like. They are psychic geniuses like that.
Alembic bartender who looks EXACTLY like Thom Yorke. Tripped me out! We talked about this– apparently, he gets this a lot.
Savoy Cocktail devotees.
Alembic’s signature pickled quail eggs. A must-order for anyone who comes here.
Bone marrow! Cow lard pairs so well with pre/post-prohibition cocktails.
Erik made Jade this digestif explosion. I believe it was Fernet, St. George Absinthe, and one more liqueur…
… Night… So… Fuzzy…
Much love for Erik, Danny and Alembic bartenders for their uncompromising devotion to the art of the cocktail, and putting on such a terrific evening. Once a month! There’s such a classic cocktail renaissance going on throughout the US right now, but events like these are so very special and one-of-a-kind.
Hint to Paystyle: You gotta host these in Brooklyn!
Needless to say, we did not make it home in time for Mad Men. We ended up at the bar until the hag lights turned on. In the words of Montell Jordan: This Is How We Do It. (That’s one’s for you, Pay, to enjoy on your day off).
*Got a cocktail question? Don’t ask Kayoko, she’ll just tell you to put St. Germain in it, or make you a nasty-ass lemon drop instead (with a sugared rim of course!)! Hit up Paystyle on twitter @paystyle, or email him at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below.
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San Francisco, CA