Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Algonquin

This is one of the 30+ cocktails on the Anvil 100 Cocktails to Drink Before You Die list that I had made before starting this project, and, being that it's a rye based cocktail, it's one I liked quite a bit. Typically when I make a cocktail, I'll make either just one for myself, or one for myself and for my wife, Suz, based on the base spirit. Suz doesn't really like gin (especially if it is a strong flavor in a drink), is so-so on whiskey, is neutral on vodka (appropriately), and really likes rum - so sometimes I'll make two of something if I think she might like it. This was one I thought she might like, since the rye is cut with vermouth and pineapple juice, which I thought might take enough of the edge off of the rye for her tastes.

After preparing the cocktail, we taste tested, and she asked me some really interesting questions. She didn't dislike the Algonquin, although she admitted it was a little too boozy for her tastes. But she wondered why the other ingredients (pineapple juice and vermouth) were in there at all? There was no hint of the vermouth at all in the flavor, and the pineapple was barely detectable. So what persuaded someone at the Algonquin Hotel in New York to use exactly these ingredients, and for it to become popular enough to warrant it becoming a signature cocktail?

Why cocktails are made the way they are is sometimes a well known story (like the Moscow Mule), very much in dispute (like the Martini), or there just isn't a lot known about them except maybe their place of origin (like the Algonquin). So why the bartender who made this drink did what they did is open to interpretation. But I like rye enough to not dwell too much on that - regardless of their reasons, they created a perfumey rye cocktail with a hint of fruit and a nice kick to it - that's about all I ask of my cocktails, really. And Suz ended up drinking the whole thing, so, philosophical differences aside, we evidently weren't too far apart on what the intended motivation of the Algonquin's originator must have been - a drained glass on the bar.

The Algonquin

1 1/2oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100)
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 pineapple juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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