1 oz Cognac
1 oz Rye Whiskey <Old Overholt>
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth <Dolin>
1/2 oz Zucca
1 barspoon Benedictine
Stir with ice, strain over ice into a rocks glass (preferably one large cube)
Sometimes new drinks are just an ingredient swap away. Often this will come out of necessity – I’ll read about a drink that sounds tasty, but will be missing one component. Instead of abandoning it and looking for something else, a quick scan of the bar usually results in finding a suitable replacement. Other times I’ll be in the mood for a particular bottle, come across a recipe with a bunch of other good stuff in it, and figure that bottle would fit in nicely.
There are two basic approaches one could take with this method. First, try to find something closely related to the ingredient to be replaced. The drink calls for Grand Marnier and you’re all out? Well guess what, Cointreau is also an orange based liqueur, so give that a shot. Alternatively, think about what family the unrepresented bottle belongs to. Instead of strictly staying in the orange family with Cointreau as the Grand Marnier substitution, expand your horizons and think about other fruit based liqueurs. Maybe some Maraschino liqueur could fill the role, adding a new layer to the drink altogether.
The nice thing about the one ingredient swap is most of the legwork has been done for you. Someone else has already put together a few delicious sounding ingredients which serve as a launching pad for your availability based creativity.
This was exactly the situation I found myself in when I first read about the Windsor Knot. A bottle of Cognac had found its way into my bar for the first time, and after making the requisite Vieux Carre I knew I needed to try some more combinations. The Windsor Knot and the Vieux Carre shared the split base of Cognac and rye whiskey, but the former’s use of Cynar (a vegetal Italian amaro with a strong artichoke flavor) is what really intrigued me. Of course I didn’t have any in my bar, but I did have a bottle of Zucca. This is another Italian amaro, also on the veggie side of the flavor spectrum as the main ingredient is rhubarb. Seemed like a good enough fit for me.
Since I swapped out one veggie accented amaro for another, I stayed with the knot theme and dubbed it the Half-Windsor (my preferred tie knot, by the way). The nose of this drink is an interesting mix between the sharp Zucca and oaky, vanilla goodness of Cognac. As you drink it, the smoothness of the Cognac is very apparent and it warms you up nicely. The finish is clean and crisp with another rhubarby shot at the end.
1 oz Cognac
1 oz Old Tom Gin <Hayman’s>
1 oz Punt e Mes
Few dashes Orange Bitters <Regan’s>
Stir with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass
The Asterisk is another Cognac based drink, this time a variation on the Ampersand. The replacement here was Punt e Mes instead of sweet vermouth. Likewise, the name is basically swapping out one text symbol for another. Punt e Mes is basically a sweet vermouth on steroids, with the bitterness kicked up a few notches. Try it in a Red Hook, you will not be disappointed. I thought it worked especially well here since there were a lot of sweet elements already in the drink. It added just the right bite at the end, and even helped bring out more of the herbaceous notes from the fairly malty Old Tom Gin. Luckily, it didn’t alter the body of the drink much, which is basically liquid silk.
Any time you find an intriguing recipe but are short one ingredient, don’t despair. Take a deep breath, step back and survey your bar. The answer is in there somewhere. And if all else fails, you can also just close your eyes, reach for a random bottle and hope for the best. You never know.