October 19, 2012

The PDT Project: Betsy Ross

by Payman Bahmani

If you grew up in America, then chances are you’re familiar with the story of Elizabeth Griscom Ross, better known as Betsy Ross. If you didn’t, or if you had ADD during elementary school, the story basically goes like this: during the period when America was fighting for independence from the Brits, George Washington came over to Betsy’s home and asked her to help design and sew the first-ever American flag. He knew she had mad skills with the needle and thread because she had worked on his clothes in the past. It also made perfect sense because he’d be able to put a “Made in the U.S.A.” tag on the flag instead of outsourcing the job to a Chinese factory, which would make a great talking point during the first ever presidential election.

Unfortunately the consensus among most credible historians today is that the story is not credible at all. In fact when the story was first told it had been nearly a century after it supposedly occurred, and the person passing it along happened to be Betsy Ross’ grandson. By the time the legend was debunked it had become part and parcel of the story of America, as books were written and paintings were made depicting this legendary scene in Betsy Ross’ home. Someone even named a cocktail after her.

Betsy Ross
2 oz. Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
0.75 oz. Dow’s Ruby Port
0.5 oz. Grand Marnier
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Grated nutmeg, as garnish

Tools: barspoon, mixing glass, grater
Glass: chilled coupe

Method: Stir ingredients in a mixing glass until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and grate fresh nutmeg on top as garnish.

The PDT book credits the recipe to Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion, published in 1941. It’s a delicious cocktail for sure, though I find it curious that there are no American ingredients in such an American-inspired cocktail. Laird’s Apple Brandy seems a far more logical choice in this drink, considering the brand’s connection to George Washington (Robert Laird served under Washington, and Washington was known to have expressed his fondness for Laird’s “cyder spirits” recipe).

Nonetheless the drink is a delicious one, and a strong one as well, perfect for autumn. The floral and vanilla notes of the cognac are the first to appear, followed by bright cherry notes from the Port and a hint of orange on the finish from the Grand Marnier. The grated nutmeg ties everything together wonderfully. Considering the amount of Port and Grand Marnier, I expected this cocktail to be much sweeter than it actually was. And the Grand Marnier was not as pronounced as I thought it would be, providing just a complementary touch on the finish.

As delicate as a seamstress’ needle.

*This post is part of a series in which Payman takes on the task of making and writing about every cocktail featured in the PDT Cocktail Book, as well as providing an awesome photo of each drink taken by Vanessa Bahmani Photography.

**Got a question? He can be found on twitter @paystyle, you can email him at payman@pdtproject.com, or simply drop him a comment below.

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