Wednesday, February 11, 2015

baton rouge

The theme for this month's Mixology Monday (MxMo XCIV) was picked by Dagreb of the NihilUtopia blog. The theme he chose was "That's Not a Martini!", and he elaborated on the theme with his description of, "A Telecaster's not an Esquire. A Melody Maker's not a Les Paul Jr. A Marauder ain't a Crown Vic. A Blue Moon is no Martini... well, almost. Take away the dash to a quarter ounce of Crème Yvette and we're left with gin (a must!), dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That's a Martini! It's at least one canonical Martini anyway. This month's Mixology Monday theme is that which is almost, but not quite, a Martini. Perhaps there are dashes (or more) of a liqueur (or two) added to the basic structure. Perhaps a Fino Sherry (or other fortified/aromatized wine) is standing in for vermouth. Maybe there's Oxygene instead of bitters? Gin, certainly! Use your imagination! Use your library! Make a Martini, that's wearing a hat!"
The literature around the turn of the 20th century is ripe with gin, vermouth, and a little something extra recipes. Even the Income Tax with its orange juice mixed in with gin, vermouths, and bitters fell in that ball park. Given its wealth of lesser known gems, I reached for Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933 from that general time period. There, I spotted a hybrid of a quintessential Gin Martini and the Hanky Panky that post-dated the Martini and potentially pre-dated the Fernet-tinged Savoy Cocktail Book classic. Here, the recipe was the Baton Rouge with gin, dry vermouth, Fernet Branca, bitters, and an olive that seemed perfect for the almost-a-Martini theme!
Baton Rouge
• 2/3 Plymouth Gin (2 oz Beefeater)
• 2 dash French Vermouth (1 oz Noilly Prat Dry)
• 2 dash Fernet Branca (1 barspoon)
• 1 dash Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive (Olive-It brand Hot Turkish Pepper-stuffed Olive).
To the base recipe, I increased the dry vermouth aspect to make it the 2:1 Martini base that I prefer. Meanwhile, I kept the 2 dashes of Fernet Branca close to the amount most people add to a Hanky Panky. While not a big garnisher with olives at home (I prefer my Martinis with lemon twists), I did have some vintage samples from Tales of the Cocktail 2010 when we had access to the media sample room. Here, I opted for the Olive-It brand hot pepper-stuffed over the blue cheese-stuffed ones that reside in our fridge. Once mixed, the Baton Rouge shared Fernet Branca's menthol notes that were accented by the gin's juniper on the nose. A light wine sip had wisps of caramel and led into a gin swallow with Fernet's herbal notes in the mix. Later, the hot pepper garnish contributed a small degree of spiced heat to the finish. I have to believe that the brine from the olive garnish helped to soften the Fernet Branca's bitterness a touch especially since there was very little sweetness in the vermouth (unlike in the Hanky Panky's Italian vermouth).

So thank you to Dagreb for picking the theme to challenge us to look at the classic Martini and figure out ways to call it our own, and thanks to the rest of the Mixology Monday participants for keeping the barspoons stirring and the spirit of the event alive!

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