The Big Suit

2 oz Apple Brandy <Calvados Morin Selection*>
3/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur <Luxardo>
Chocolate Bitters

Stir with ice, strain into an empty rocks glass.


In my opinion, the topic of best live concert film ever is basically a two horse race.  For shear star power, The Band’s The Last Waltz is mindblowing. Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Bob Dylan…and that’s barely half of all the cameos.  The show depicts The Band’s last concert, and they use their musician pals not just to re-imagine their own hits, but also play backup on a number of covers with the original artists as well. And from a purely musical and performance standpoint, we have The Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense.  Stitched together from performances across three nights, this is peak Talking Heads.  The show slowly builds from their early art-pop-punk songs to the  groove-oriented prog-funk arrangements (thanks to some help from Bernie Worrell) of the Remain in the Light era.  At this point you’re probably wondering what this has to do with cocktails.  Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

A little while back, I was talking live concert films with a music friend of mine (who also happens to be into cocktails).  To my astonishment, he never saw Stop Making Sense.  I knew I had to change that immediately, so I suggested he come over for a viewing and we could make some cocktails while we watched.  Needless to say, the invitation was  a pretty easy sell.

Around that time I acquired my first ever bottle of Apple Brandy, so we played around with it as David, Tina, et al did their thing.  Still trying to figure out ways to use it, I leaned on the classic Manhattan formula as a starting point.  But why go with a straight Manhattan recipe when there are so many delicious variations out there from which to grab inspiration.  The Red Hook served as my template.  Figuring Apple Brandy is a little sweeter than Bourbon or Rye, I decided to bump up the Punt e Mes in the drink for a little extra bite.

Apples hit the nose before you even raise the glass.  They continue on through the sip, at which point the grape in the brandy and Punt E Mes start to intermingle.  Things get a little richer on the tongue, with the funky cherry from the Luxardo beginning to assert itself.  The finish swings back to apple again, but with some lingering cherry notes and a hint of roasty chocolate from the bitters.

david-byrne-big-suit
The Big Suit in action

The name comes from the iconic oversize suit donned by David Byrne towards the end of the movie.  Being a RISD graduate, this was one of the many artistic touches he added to this show.  He proportioned the suit just so so it’s familiar and disconcerting all at the same time.  Speaking of artistic touches, if you have the Blu-Ray or DVD, be sure to check out the extras.  There is an amazingly quirky bit where David Byrne dresses up as various characters to interview himself.  Amidst all the costume changes, there are some very interesting insights into some of the decisions made for the show.  Well worth the extra 6 minutes.

* Originally I made this drink using Laird’s Apple Brandy, but it is notoriously difficult to find around Boston.  As luck would have it, while sitting across from Frederic Yarm at Loyal Nine this summer, I ordered a bartender’s choice and he made a drink with Apple Brandy (I should have taken notes, cuz all I remember about the drink is that it was delicious).  I mentioned the lack of Laird’s in the area, and he suggested Morin Selection Calvados as a solid, modestly priced alternative.  He did not steer me wrong, as this stuff is wonderfully apple-y without being overly sweet.

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