May cocktail club: The Aviation & its lore Sunday, May 23 2010 

Last night was another packed CPCC meeting, at which we paid tribute to one of the most elusive cocktails most folks will ever know: The Aviation.

The evening began with a tasting of the key ingredient in the classic (pre-Prohibition) Aviation: violette liqueur, in particular my favorite, which is manufactured by G. Miclo, the French distillery located in a valley an hour or so southwest of Strasbourg. It was procured by my editor for the violette liqueurs story we ran a month or so back and sampled alongside both Rothman & Winter’s crème de violette and the newly available (in Chicago, at least) Crème Yvette, and we agreed the Miclo serves the aperitif role nicest of the three.

The lore of the Aviation was fleshed out by some projected archival footage (found by the beau) of early aviation trips, followed by a brief history of the aviation craze of the 1910s-30s, which no doubt fueled many different drinks of the same name.

For historical accuracy’s sake, in mixing for CPCC, I went with the earliest printed recipe, published in 1916 in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, compiled by NYC bartender Hugo Ensslin:

The Aviation (from Recipes for Mixed Drinks, 1916)
1/3 lemon juice
2/3 El Bart gin (as El Bart is long defunct, I used Tanqueray but have heard Plymouth works wonders)
2 dashes maraschino (I used Luxardo)
2 dashes crème de violette (I used Rothman & Winter)

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice; shake, strain and serve in a cocktail glass.

The fruits of all this research can be previewed by downloading the May presentation, but the fine-tuned article will run in the Tribune next week in my Nightcap column. Perhaps by then, I will have solved the mystery of how that crucial, final ingredient was so carelessly left off out of the Aviation recipe that appeared in 1930’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book”…


April cocktail club: Bourbon Bonanza Sunday, May 2 2010 

I’m a few weeks late posting, but nevertheless! April’s CPCC, inspired by Derby Day (won yesterday by an unfortunately named horse, but I digress), saw hostess Brandy Layne lead us through a brief history of bourbon of the Kentucky variety.

Our education began with a quick retelling of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, which led to the dividing of corn-cropped land and, ultimately, their alcoholic yield product. All of this was taken in while enjoying the first cocktail of the evening, the Kentucky Colonel, and at the presentation’s conclusion, Brandy made traditional Derby-style Mint Juleps, which call for Early Times Kentucky whiskey (which, for the record, is NOT bourbon by the book). For the juleps, Brandy saved time serving all 12 club members by preparing in advance a mint leaf-infused simple syrup, which turned out quite nicely.

Recipes follow. As for April’s Bourbon Bonanza presentation, curious drinkers can download it here.

Details on May’s CPCC coming soon…

The Kentucky Colonel

1/2 oz. Benedictine liqueur
1.5 oz bourbon
lemon peel

In a mixing glass, stir Benedictine and bourbon with ice. Strain and pour into tumbler. Garnish with lemon peel.

Mint Julep

2 oz. bourbon (note that traditional Derby juleps call for Early Times whiskey)
1 oz. mint-infused simple syrup
mint leaves; mint sprig

In the bottom of a tumbler, crush and muddle a few mint leaves until fragrant. Fill with crushed ice, followed by bourbon and simple syrup. Add straw and stir until glass is chilled. Garnish with mint sprig placed next to straw so that it might tickle the nose.

To make mint-infused simple syrup: Bring to a boil one part each of granulated sugar and water. Add handful of mint leaves and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely before bottling to serve.