“I can see the Eiffel Tower from my hotel window,” Mardee, my wife, told me over the phone. I wish that I could have been there with her. Paris is so romantic, and it had been so long since we’d been in the City of Lights together. Many years ago, though, we’d had foie gras and roasted chicken at L’Ami Louis, when Louis was still alive, shared a duck at Tour D’Argent, on the banks of the Seine, and wolfed down a couple of Croque Monsieur sandwiches and fries when the rich food at the fancy joints became more than we could bear.
As Mardee went on to tell me more about her travels my mind wandered to the great cocktails of Paris. The Sidecar, an all-time classic that David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, claimed was invented by a friend of his, “and named after the motorcycle sidecar in which the good captain was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born and christened.” He never did tell us the name of the bar, though. And we didn’t find out who the good captain was, either.
The Bloody Mary, too, was originally conceived at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, circa 1924, by bartender Fernand “Pete” Petiot. In 1934, Petiot was hired by Vincent Astor, then owner of New York’s St. Regis Hotel where Petiot then presided over the King Cole Bar, introducing New Yorkers to his creation. The drink was described as “strictly vile” by Embury in the 1952 edition of his book, and I’m inclined to agree, but that’s only because I can’t deal with the texture of tomato juice. Amazing how texture often matters more than flavor in matters of the mouth.
“So where will you dine tonight?” I asked Mardee.
“I had a big lunch, so I think I’ll just grab something light at the Fontana Bar in the Bellagio,” she told me.
Yes, Mardee was visiting Las Vegas, and her room overlooked the scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower, not the Parisian tower built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition in celebration of the French Revolution. But that evening she was planning to go to the very bar where the Clermont Kiss was created by bartender Sean Bigley.
The Clermont Kiss calls for Knob Creek bourbon, a 9-year-old beauty of a whiskey with a huge body, and a round, fruity palate. When I saw the recipe, as is my wont, I looked for some other bourbons that might work nicely in this drink. These bottlings vary stylistically, but there’s a great balance of fruit and spice in each whiskey – something that they all have in common with Knob Creek. Experiment with the following bottlings in the recipe below and you should be pleased with the results:
Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18-year-old
Jefferson’s Reserve 15-year-old
Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve 13-year-old
Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon, 10 summers old
Sean’s choice of Marie Brizard Apry liqueur creates a foil for the mint – the apricot notes are pretty forthright, and although the sweetness makes me think of sherbet (something I’m not too keen on), the fruity Cognac base shines through and meshes nicely with the bourbon. For the creator, the combination of peaches and mint is a marriage he loves, and notes, quite rightly, that “the nutty apricot flavor of the Marie Brizard Apry really compliments the nutty flavor of the Knob Creek.” Congratulations, Sean – you really thought this one through, and the results were terrific.
The Clermont Kiss
Adapted from a recipe by Sean Bigley, The Fontana Bar, Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
1/2 ounce Fee Brothers Peach Syrup
8-10 fresh mint leaves
1 1/4 ounces Knob Creek Bourbon
3/4 ounce Marie Brizard Apry Liqueur
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 sprig mint for garnish
Muddle mint leaves with peach syrup in a mixing glass. Fill the glass two-thirds full of ice and add the remaining ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Add the garnish.
Southern Tales and Cocktail Museums
Is there any city in the world more associated with cocktails and drinking than New Orleans? Probably not; after all, where else are Milk Punches and other strong libations essential for the perfect breakfast? Now, there’s a move afoot to commemorate generations of American drinking there.
Led by Dale DeGroff and aided by some bartenders, collectors, promoters, historians, and writers on the subject of drink, the Museum of the American Cocktail promises to take visitors through a two hundred-year history, including rare books, Prohibition era literature and music, vintage cocktail shakers, glassware, drink archives, tools, and other memorabilia from the collections of the museum’s founders.
The museum will be housed temporarily in the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, starting next January. A traveling version visits the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas next month.
“The museum’s goal is to establish a self-sustaining, non-profit museum and tourist attraction that celebrates and preserves a truly rich aspect of our culture: the American Cocktail,” said DeGroff. “Eventually, we plan to find a permanent home for our exhibit and school. Where else but in the birthplace of the American cocktail New Orleans!”
The plans for the museum were announced at the second annual Southern Comfort Tales of the Cocktail, which celebrates the bars and restaurants in the city where the cocktail was created. The multi-day event, during which authors and writers of books on cocktails and entertaining gather to host dinners and prepare drinks, marks the growth of what is now one of the more popular tours of the New Orleans area.
The museum will also be home to a library of classic cocktail books, accessible to professionals, members, journalists, and scholars. A publishing division, headed by Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown authors of “Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini” will publish annotated classic cocktail books as well as original volumes.
More information about the Museum, including a schedule of events, can be found at www.MuseumOfTheAmerican Cocktail.org .
Lou Giglio, Brand Ambassador for Southern Comfort, and Ann Rogers, president of Taste of Adventure and the founder of the Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour and “Tales of the Cocktail.”
Audrey Saunders, beverage director, Bemelmans Bar, Hotel Carlyle, New York.