Behind The Bar is a new column from bartender Adam Patrick who has graced the bars of venues such as Walrus & Carpenter, Luxe, Match and Can Tiin. He will explore trends, recipes and the cocktail culture from both the front as well as behind the bar.
One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is, “I won’t tell the story the way it happened, I’ll tell it the way I remember it.” It’s from the late-nineties film adaptation of Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Ethan Hawke delivers the line in the opening monologue.
There’s something about nostalgia that adds a touch of humanity to our lives. The real world, the world we exist in day to day, can be overwhelming and unforgiving. Take your job, your family obligations, traffic jams, mortgage, credit card bills, your dog destroying your new carpet, and view it all in aggregate, and things can steam roll out of control quickly. And yet, when we look at the past, we find it difficult to remember the mundane, the run-of-the-mill, even though those experiences dominate our lives. Sure, we can generally recall tragedy, or loss, but more than not it’s memories of our childhood, or a long lost love, or a favorite pet, that we gaze back at longingly. This type of nostalgia permeates our culture, and burrows into our soul. I find New England nostalgia to be the most memorable of all.
The richness of history, in New England, is as poignant as its traditions. Memories of driving through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in mid-autumn, call to mind a rainbow of painted leaves, set to the backdrop of cerulean blue skies, and fleecy clouds. Summers at Block Island recall dreams of flip flops and lemonade, cold beer, and scantily-clad men and women throwing caution to the wind. Winter is especially significant, as the crisp chill of the Thanksgiving breeze is quelled by the warmth of a family gathering around the table for a hearty meal. The bustle of holiday shopping is eased by the opening of presents under the tree. The year’s first snowfall may intrude angrily on your morning commute, but children lay in bed, the night before, begging the morning to bring adventures of sled rides and snowmen. The hanging of ornaments, and lights on the tree, is eclipsed only by the richness of the eggnog shared afterward, in celebration. Perhaps, it is this time of year that is the most distinctly New England (and the most human) of all.
As sure as I am that this part of the country is as rooted in nostalgia as any place on the planet, I’m equally as confident that there is no other physical location more inherently “New England” than the town pub. What could be more romantic than fighting to open the heavy wooden door, grasping at its wrought-iron handle, through slippery mittens encrusted with snow, only to worm inside through the pitiless wind, and land shattered onto the handsome respite of the four-legged stool? The objective is as clear as the day is long: give me something to warm me up. While the answer to that plea is sometimes as simple as a welcoming smile, a drink shared amongst friends becomes the memory that will lay the seed for future comfort, the standard by which all other experiences will be measured.
The “cocktail culture” has its roots in colonial America. This country literally coined the term “Cocktail”…there was a proclivity for alcoholic beverages. Colonists brought the recipes for such modern-day esoteric concoctions as syllabubs, rattle-skulls, possets, and sangarees from the Old World. But, in the winter, there were only a few potions that did the trick. The most famous of these is the Hot Toddy, and an equally popular recipe is Eggnog. Modern day bartenders have extended rifts on classic drinks that, while tuned to contemporary palates, pay homage to those that have come before.
The following recipes show reverence to these drinks, while slightly twisting them in a direction that does justice to the original intent, and are both inherently New England, and equally progressive. The eggnog recipe is Morgenthaler’s original, and is the standard that all others will be judged. The other two are standard-bearers of the first order. The hot toddy originated in Scotland, it’s essentially a hot old-fashioned, and is considered a folksy cure for flu-type symptoms. My interpretation adds tea, in place of water, for a flavorful kick. The final drink is a twist on hot-buttered rum, with absinthe in place of the rum, and fresh New England apple cider in place of the hot water. I absolve myself of responsibility for the elicit pleasure you receive from the imbibing of these beverages. But, above all, rejoice, reimagine, and remember.
Egg Nog (Jeffrey Morgenthaler version)
In a home blender (commercial versions will cook the egg) combine the following, allowing 30 seconds of blending between the addition of each subsequent ingredient.
- 2 large eggs
- 3 oz (by volume) superfine or baker’s sugar (NOT powdered!)
- ½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
- 2 oz brandy
- 2 oz spiced rum (I use Sailor Jerry’s)
- 6 oz whole milk
- 4 oz heavy cream
Pour into a glass, grate additional nutmeg on top.
In a pre-heated mug combine
- 2 oz. Jameson Black Label Irish Whiskey,
- ¾ oz. Honey Syrup (1:1 Water & Honey)
- ¾ oz. Lemon Juice
- 4 dashes of Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters
- Add 4 oz. of Earl Grey Tea
Stir and enjoy!
Hot Buttered, Apple Cider Spiced Absinthe
- Make a batter of equal parts by volume Butter, Brown Sugar, and White Sugar
- Add a spoonful of the batter to a pre-heated mug.
- Add 1.5 oz. Absinthe
- Top with Spiced Cider
(Spiced Cider: Heated in a crock pot with cinnamon sticks, allspice, nutmeg, and star anise)