Tuesday, February 8, 2011

robert e. lee cooler

1 dash Absinthe (1 barspoon Pernod Fils)
Juice 1/2 Lime (3/4 oz)
1 jigger Scotch (1 1/2 oz Famous Grouse + 1/4 oz Caol Ila 10 Year)
1 pint Ginger Ale (4 oz Hansen's)

Shake all but the ginger ale with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger ale (note my volume correction). I added a straw and a wide lime peel garnish.

On Tuesday night, I was in the mood for a highball so I looked in Jacques Straub's 1914 book Drinks. There, I spotted the Robert E. Lee Cooler that would make good use of the cane sugar ginger ale that Andrea had just bought. While other Robert E. Lee Coolers I have seen are gin based, this one called for Scotch, and whiskey seemed more appropriate for the South than gin. With spirit, lime, and soda, could this have been the Confederates' version of the Cuba Libre? Probably not, for Scotch did not become abundant in America until 30 years after Lee's death. Moreover, I am unsure if Lee would approve of Straub's version anyways depending on how you parse one of his famous quotes on alcohol. Lee claimed, "I like whiskey. I always did, and that is why I never drink it." However, around 1914 when this version of the recipe was published, Scotch had become quite popular and the Mamie Taylor was in fashion.
Straub's recipe called for a full pint of ginger ale which seemed like it would be refreshing on a hot day in the South, but it would not make for a decent highball today. Therefore, I decreased the call for soda to four ounces although the drink would probably work with even a little less. Initially, I used just Famous Grouse blended Scotch; however, the smoke profile was rather weak so I added in a dash of Caol Ila single malt to boost up the signature. With that addition, the nose was not only lime oil from the twist but a decent amount of peaty smoke notes as well. Flavorwise, the ginger ale dominated the sip, and lime and the absinthe's fennel were on the swallow that was punctuated by the smoke. Overall, this version of the Robert E. Lee Cooler pleasantly reminded me of an egg white-less Morning Glory Fizz. Furthermore, the way absinthe raised this drink above a Mamie Taylor was similar to how it gussied up a Cuba Libre into the Mandeville. Given to how some of Straub's recipes can be a little off, I may have to revisit this drink sometime and experience it as the much more common gin-based version.

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