Thursday, August 21, 2008


1 oz Bourbon (Maker's Mark was used)
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud's bitters
5 oz Champagne (Cava was used)

Stir first 4 ingredients in a champagne flute, and then add the sparkling wine and stir again. Garnish with an orange twist. From Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails.

Fred's litmus cocktail is the Pegu Club. Mine is the Seelbach, and oh what a convoluted relationship I have with it. I first tasted one in my very own kitchen last fall, made with tender loving care by Fred. I disliked it. Intensely. This baffled me, since I like bitters, bourbon, Cointreau, and champagne, very much. I thought that maybe my tastebuds were being too girlie about the hefty addition of the bitters. So, of course, I felt compelled to try it again at some point in the future, after my tastebuds had been re-calibrated.

Several months later I found myself at Green Street, with Andy behind the bar. It was warm out and I wanted something refreshing and somewhat lighter in alcohol, so I requested a Seelbach. It was absolutely delightful, and exactly what I wanted it to taste like. When I asked Any what the secret was, he told me Misty's recipe backed off to 4 dashes each of the Angostura and Peychaud's. I was a little bit disappointed about this, since I really wanted to like the unmodified recipe.

My third Seelbach was made by Tom at Eastern Standard - a more gifted bartender I couldn't ask for. I disliked it. Intensely. WTF was going on? He used the classic recipe, and it just tasted far too dry and vaguely chemical-y for me. How could 3 (ok 6) leetle dashes make such a big difference?

To confuse things even further, when I went back to Green Street and ordered another one from Andy, he insisted that in fact they use the full 7 dashes of each. Perhaps it's the choice of champagne that skews the taste for me (Green Street uses Segura Viudas Cava, I think). Perhaps his dashes are calibrated differently from Tom's or Fred's. Either way, Andy's Seelbach became the gold standard for me.

So, I thought I kept the note of trepidation out of my voice when I ordered one the other night at Rendezvous. But then Fred spoiled it with an evil little laugh, and the comment that I'm very picky when it comes to this cocktail. I might have looked slightly worried when Scott free-poured the bourbon and the Cointreau, and dammitall if I didn't count the dashes dispensed. He topped it off with cava, gave it a quick stir, and asked me if I wanted the garnish (I politely declined).

My reaction: not bad (did I say that out loud? I can't remember.) Not bad at all. There was the tiniest hint of the chemical flavor I'd noted many times before, but otherwise it was perfectly balanced, and after several more sips I could barely taste that anymore. I think the bartender mistook my hesitation for disappointment, so I was quick to reassure him that I liked it.

I'm so delightfully happy that I can order one now at someplace besides Green Street (sorry Andy, but a girl's got needs).

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