Cocktail vs. cocktail

For years, I’ve been a devotee of the sadly-out-of-print book Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century (Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead). I learned about the book from a friend, and managed to find my own copy at a used book store (and pay far too much money for it). It’s served me well, and while I wouldn’t say I’ve tried all 275 drink classics described therein … well, to admit how many I have tried might reveal more about my drinking habits than I’d care to confess.

Recently, however, The Drinks Bible has been shoved rudely from its pedestal by a new cocktail cookbook, Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks, which I received as a Christmas present from the thoughtful parents of my teetotalling boyfriend. Each book contains cocktail recipes that the other has left out. However, they both provide recipes for the essential classics (the Martini, the Manhattan, the Mojito, and many drinks that do not begin with the letter M). For the most part, I’ve found that I prefer DeGroff’s version of a cocktail to Harrington’s. Harrington’s recipes are sometimes so sour as to be almost undrinkable. I occasionally do find DeGroff’s just a little too sweet, but overall, the flavor profiles of the drinks are more interesting. And it’s a better cocktail cookbook for right now; Harrington’s is a bit out of date in terms of what ingredients you’ll actually be able to find at even the best-stocked liquor store, these days; DeGroff’s is more mindful of this issue, and also includes newer products (like the ginger liqueur Domaine de Canton) that may not have been available when Harrington’s book came out.

Be that as it may, I just got around to trying DeGroff’s recipe for one of my favorite cocktails, the Aviation. And I found that I like the Drinks Bible version much better.

The recipe DeGroff provides calls for 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz maraschino liqueur and 1/2 oz lemon juice. Harrington’s recipe is 1 1/2 oz gin, 1/2 oz maraschino and 3/4 oz lemon juice. I found DeGroff’s recipe too alcoholic, and out of balance with the tartness that I think this drink needs from the lemon juice.

This might just be me, though; I do like my drinks more sour than most people. But if someone wanted a sweeter Aviation, I’d probably recommend keeping Harrington’s proportions, and just increasing the maraschino up to 3/4 oz (though I haven’t tried that yet, to be honest).

It’s also possible that I’d think differently with a different gin. I used Tanqueray, which I usually prefer because it has a stronger juniper flavor than Bombay Sapphire, and I find that Bombay Sapphire with tonic tastes too much like Sprite (though it’s not quite as Sprite-like as Tanqueray Ten and tonic – shudder!). Perhaps Bombay Sapphire or a milder gin would work better in DeGroff’s recipe.

A nice variation, which I got when I ordered an Aviation at Clio Restaurant, is to use Meyer lemon juice in place of ordinary lemon juice.

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