Friday, April 8, 2011


2 oz VSOP Cognac or Armagnac (Larressingle Armagnac VSOP)
1 oz Yellow Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Van der Hum Liqueur
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Last Saturday night, I was flipping through David Wondrich's Killer Cocktails book and spotted the Comet. I was drawn to the Sidecar variation for it called for Van der Hum, and our bottle that we found at Julio's Liquors in Westborough, MA, had sat on our shelf for a few months tasted but unused in any drink. CocktailDB describes the spirit as, "a proprietary South African liqueur flavored with naartjes, the variety of tangerine native to South Africa"; moreover, the brandy-based liqueur has a bit of herbal complexity and has been compared to a cross between Grand Marnier and Drambuie. Wondrich provided the history that the drink was created in 1952 by Eddie Clarke who tended at the Albany Club in London. The drink was crafted in honor of a new direct London to Johannesburg flight that was added via a plane called the De Havilland Comet, the world's first jetliner.
The Comet's nose was all about the Armagnac I used. Taste-wise, the sip was citrussy and a combination of the grapefruit juice and the tangerine notes in the Van der Hum. The Van der Hum flavors continued on into the swallow where it worked well with the Armagnac and Angostura's spices. Overall, the combination was more complex than a Sidecar. As I described in the post about the Emily Shaw's Special, the Sidecar is an orange liqueur-driven drink to me, and the less prominent these notes are, the less it reminds me of a Sidecar. Add in grapefruit and bitters instead of lemon juice, and the Comet became a new beast, although granted, one with the same basic structure.


Craig said...

I've no Van der Hum nor any grapefruits; however I do have some oranges and homemade grapefruit liquor... I will have to swap those two and try this recipe.

frederic said...

Yeah, I had held off using and writing about Van der Hum (like I often do other hard to find ingredients) but (a) reading a recipe that Wondrich promoted and (b) informing people that it exists here in Massachusetts pushed me over the edge.

I was that way with Kümmel but it can be found in NYC and is used in some great classic cocktails. Hopefully creating a buzz about certain spirits can help bring them back to the market (like Swedish Punsch which might be coming in the next 4 months or so).

Craig said...

I read that VDH has some spice notes. is it distinct enough from other orange-flavored liqueurs? I typically use Luxardo or Mathilde Orange XO, but I'm always up for new and interesting things.

I did end up using my homemade grapefruit liqueur (a recipe I found on line to try to recreate Forbidden Fruit), which is pretty sweet. I liked it in this drink, but it didn't have a lot of depth. Maybe something spicier would help.

Kummel is an interesting product. I bought some a few years ago at a store in NJ - I think I was taken in by the penguin wearing a Pickelhelm on the label - and I've been slowly working my way through. It seems incongruous at first, but mixes pretty well.

I'm excited for real Swedish Punsch! I've held off on trying to make it because I'd heard it's commercial release was imminent.

frederic said...

The VdH is pretty distinctive just like tangerine juice and peel is different from orange. It also imparts a brown color which is interesting that there's the Brown Lady to add to the (White) Lady series.