Saturday, January 17, 2009


The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XXXV) is "Broaden Your Horizons" as chosen by A Mixed Dram blog. The options were to either "Try a new base spirit. Never mixed with Tequila? Give it a try. If you’ve never made a beer cocktail or a wine cocktail, why not give it a shot? What about something really exotic?" or "Use a technique you’ve never used before. Ever been itching to give molecular mixology a shot? Now’s your chance. Ever been eager to infuse vodka or spice rum, or toss fruit and spices in something else? Here’s your excuse."

For this theme, I started thinking of things I either have not done yet or have shied away from. When I mentioned to Andrea that two concepts that I was thinking about were Pousse-cafes (layered cocktails, something I have never tried) and egg drinks (something that I am only recently learning to appreciate while out at bars), she got that look in her eye and dared me to do both. I instantly knew what she was talking about –- the Knickebein. We once saw it being made by John Gertsen at No. 9 Park for 3 guests sitting at the corner of the bar and one, of course, for himself.

The drink is attributed to Leo Engel in his 1878 book American and Other Drinks. His concoction was equal parts Curaçoa, Noyeau, and Maraschino (mixed) filling a port-wine glass two thirds of the way up. On top of that, he layered an unbroken egg yolk, and topped it with whipped egg whites sprinkled with drops of Angostura bitters. The one Gertsen made was similar –- he used only Maraschino on the bottom layer and I remembered that he had a layer of liquor between the meringue and the egg yolk. This extra layer is described in the recipe on the Bols website where they use Cognac or Kirsch.

The recipe I went with was a modified one from William Boothby's The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them. Boothby wrote about the Knickebein in the 1907 edition (the 1934 edition is much more abbreviated), "This famous Teutonic beverage is little known in America, and few bartenders have ever acquired the art of compounding one. It is an after-dinner drink, and in order to be fully appreciated, it must be partaken of according to the following directions, as four different sensations are experienced by the drinker. Therefore, the duty of the presiding mixologist is to thoroughly explain to the uninitiated the modus operandi, etc.:"

While Boothby gives similar directions as Engel, these are the exact ones from Leo including his italics for emphasis:
1. Pass the glass under the Nostrils and Inhale the Flavour –- Pause.
2. Hold the glass perpendicularly, close under your mouth, open it wide, and suck the froth by drawing a Deep Breath. -- Pause again.
3. Point the lips and take one-third of the liquid contents remaining in the glass without touching the yolk. -- Pause once more.
4. Straighten the body, throw the head backward, swallow the contents remaining in the glass all at once, at the same time breaking the yolk in your mouth.
The Engel recipe was too sweet sounding for me, so I modified the Boothby recipe slightly. I used a base layer of equal parts (1/2 oz) of Yellow Chartreuse, Kümmel (Helbing), and Benedictine, poured into a 4 oz Vodka glass. Next, an egg yolk was slid on top of that layer using a spoon. Floated on top using the back of the same spoon was 3/4 oz of Courvoisier VSOP Cognac (this step was my modification). And lastly, the whipped egg whites were added and flavored with a few drops of Angostura bitters.
One for me and one for Andrea. There should have been one more but our friend Michael (who is always up for these challenges and wrote, "That sounds so cool! It sounds like it would make me stronger!") had tickets to the Symphony that night.

Reflecting on the stages: (1) The smell was surprisingly fresh and spiced; not eggy in any way. (2) The meringue was clean tasting with the Angostura giving it an intriguing flavor. (3) The egg whites seemed to coat the mouth to reduce the burn of the Cognac. (4) Time for the show: the liqueurs were pleasant save for the Kümmel that added too strong of a sharp caraway or cumin taste and unbalanced the mixture (note: leave it out next time or sub in Maraschino, Cointreau, or perhaps Fernet-Branca for that third). As the egg yolk slid into my mouth, a wave of fear entered my body. The yolk easily burst on my tongue with a little pressure and the contents mixed with the last bits of the liqueur layer. At that point, my realization was that it was not all that gross; in fact, it had a richness that soothed the harsh taste of the Kümmel[1].

I would like to thank The Scribe from A Mixed Dram for pushing me to broaden my horizons and see that raw eggs are not that scary and layered drinks can be worth the extra effort! I may even be tempted to try the Knickebein again. Cheers!
Here I am with my body straightened and my head thrown backwards. I think this photo was taken just after the yolk hit my tongue (which was not at the end of the shot...)

[1] Kümmel can be rather delightful when used in well-balanced cocktails such as Weeper’s Joy from Imbibe!.
Weeper's Joy
• 1 oz Kümmel
• 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
• 1 oz Absinthe
• 2 dash Curacao
• 1/2 tsp Gomme Syrup
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

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