Man, I have been waiting for this. Because you know what? Cocktails ain’t shit but liquor and twists. Yes.
Ahem. Now that’s out of the way, let me say that this month’s theme, “A Superior Twist”, from Tristan, at the Wild Drink Blog, could not have come at a better time. Over the last couple weeks I’ve come up with not one but two incredible variations on already wonderful classic cocktails, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to brag about them on the internets. The only hard part of this post will be deciding which one to talk about now, and which one to save for a rainy day. Thank you, Mixology Monday, for indulging my need to flaunt my incredibly minor accomplishments.
It’s almost spring in Illinois (I’m disregarding the snow on the ground as I write this), so I’ve been moving away from cocktails, served up, and toddies to tall drinks. At my apartment we enjoy a gigantic porch, so we’ve been dreaming of the day we can sit outside with Rickies and Collins, just because it’s too hot to stay inside. This shared fantasy explains why our neighbors often enjoy the sight of us huddled optimistically outside in the low-forties sunshine.
The inspiration, therefore, for this drink comes from the climate’s unwillingness to play along with my spring fantasy. It’s a drink that’s equally at home in a warm bar, looking out at a grey, early-spring evening or in glorious, warm, afternoon sunlight. Although I can’t claim to be a New York Jew, I can claim the second best thing: lifetime devotion to the Parkway Deli (try going there for break-fast on Yom Kippur… I dare you). Consequently, for me nothing strikes the same curious balance between comfort and refreshment as Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. So why not make a cocktail that evokes the same strange mixture of effervescence and, well, deli?
- 1 oz aquavit (Linie aquavit)
- 1 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 80 or 100 proof)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 stalk celery
- 2 cubes sugar
- Soda water
Build in the glass. In the bottom of a Collins glass, muddle the sugar cubes, celery, and lemon juice until the sugar cubes dissolve. Add the liquors, stir well, fill with ice, and then top with soda. Garnish with the other half of the celery stalk, if you like.
My favorite part of this drink is the interplay of the curried notes from the celery with the sharp caraway flavors of the aquavit (helped along, of course, by the lemon). The rye provides a backbone of smoky, spicy vanilla flavors (all those phenolics). I’m sure the drink could function without the rye, making it an aquavit-celery accord, but I think the rye is a nice touch.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I’m not sure if I’ve actually fulfilled this month’s MxMo Mission (alliteration triple-word square!). Tristan asked, nay, commanded us to come up with a drink that is not only equal but superior to the original, and I have to admit that I’m not sure it’s possible to surpass the Tom Collins. A properly made Collins with any liquor is one of those drinks which just get you right there. Not too lemony, not too sweet, not too spirituous, not too bland; a top 5 desert island sort of drink. So let me not hubristically call my Dr. Collins better than the original. But the use of muddled celery is really cool, bringing to the front flavors that are usually more familiar in chicken soup or ants-on-a-log and, honestly, deserve more attention. So I guess there’s that. Give it a try, see what you think.