St. Cecelia Society Punch

Happy new year, everyone! I began 2011 by hosting a New Year’s Eve party for 15 guests, and what better occasion to try out one of Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s punch recipes?

This was my first attempt at one of Baker’s punches. I decided to start things off with the St. Cecelia Society Punch (it should be “Cecilia,” but loyal Bakerite that I am, I’ll stick with his misspelling). According to the Internet—which has a million recipes for this drink—this punch was the traditional beverage of the exclusive St. Cecilia Society, founded in Charleston in the 18th century. Its meetings were so exclusive, according to Baker, “that when the welkin rang in ancient Hibernian Hall, not one single newspaper ever mentioned a bit of what took place.” Possibly this is because nobody knew what a “welkin” was.

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Angel’s Cherry

Oh, boy, another pousse-café! Baker coyly states that the “title meaning is debatable.” Not really.

This is the first drink I’ve made that calls for Damiana, an herbal liqueur that takes its flavor in part from the damiana shrub. It is purportedly an aphrodisiac; as Baker puts it,

Damiana is alleged to possess certain properties which wise men have sought for many centuries, with greater or less result—mostly less…

Perhaps that’s why its bottle is shaped like a Rubenesque woman, adding a much-needed touch of 1970s bachelor-pad class to your liquor cabinet. Read More »

Posted in 3 Stars, Baker Drinks, Benedictine, Cognac, Cream, Damiana on December 29, 2010 – 9:46 am | Comments (3)

Sahara Glowing Heart Cocktail

This one came to Baker, and therefore to us, “from the Hands of one Abdullah an Arab Muslim Wizard back of Mahogany at the Mena House Bar, near the Pyramids of Ghizeh, which Are Just South of Cairo, Egypt.” See, this is why I love Charles H. Baker, Jr. What other cocktail book makes you imagine that you’re sipping your preferred tipple next to a pyramid?

According to Baker, “after a brace of Glowing Hearts,” he and “another American ne’er-do-well” stole a whole bunch of camels and tied them up between the Sphinx’s feet. I wouldn’t believe it from anyone but him. Read More »

Posted in 3 Stars, Absinthe, Apricot Brandy, Apricot Eau-De-Vie, Baker Drinks, Gin, Grenadine on December 27, 2010 – 7:55 am | Comments (0)

Lalla Rookh Cocktail

Charles H. Baker, Jr., was given his recipe for the Lalla Rookh Cocktail “on a Trip Home from Yokohama in 1931, by Clymer Brooke.” As Baker tells us, “Brooke liked it so well in Tahiti he jumped ship and got himself a vanilla plantation on the loveliest island possible.” Must…stifle…class…resentment…

Like the Riding Club Cocktail, the Lalla Rookh Cocktail first saw print in George J. Kappeler’s 1895 Modern American Drinks. I decided to start with Kappeler’s version of the drink, which differs considerably from Baker’s: Read More »

Posted in 4 Stars, Baker Drinks, Cognac, Cream, Non-Baker Drinks, Rum, Sugar, Vanilla Cordial on December 19, 2010 – 11:26 pm | Comments (1)

Riding Club Cocktail

This drink is the progenitor of the slightly better-known Montauk Riding Club Cocktail. It first saw print in 1895, when it appeared in George J. Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks. As opposed to the later Montauk Riding Club Cocktail, this drink’s only base spirit is quinquina, an aperitif wine bittered with cinchona bark, which is to say quinine.

This drink provided an excellent opportunity to use some of my Bonal Gentiane-Quina, a delicious quinquina that just became available in the United States this year. Its name reflects the fact that it’s bittered with both gentian root and cinchona bark. Baker actually calls for “calisaya,” but even though there’s a liqueur out there called “Calisaya,” it’s perfectly kosher to use Bonal here. According to Camper English, “calisaya” used to be a generic, all-encompassing term for quinquinas.

Okay, enough Talmudic cocktail divination. Here’s the drink: Read More »

Posted in 5 Stars, Angostura Bitters, Baker Drinks, Boker's Bitters, Calisaya on December 3, 2010 – 6:42 am | Comments (3)

Champagne Velvet à la Marmion (Champagne Velvet No. II)

The second Champagne Velvet is a whole lot like the first, but it uses Bass Ale in place of Guinness:

  • Dry Champagne (Chandon Blanc de Noirs)
  • Bass Ale

Fill a large goblet half with Champagne and half with Bass. Stir gently.

The Black and Tan, of course, would be at the center of the Venn diagram for the two Champagne Velvets. Read More »

Posted in 3 Stars, Baker Drinks, Bass Ale, Champagne on December 1, 2010 – 11:00 pm | Comments (0)

Mariveles Velvet (Champagne Velvet No. I)

Baker identifies this as a drink from the Manila Polo Club, which he fulsomely describes as a place that “not only produces crisp polo between service and civilian teams, but has always taken especial pride in the precision, the quality and service of its drinks.” Although Baker’s description is charming, this is really just a Black Velvet that’s been stirred so the Guinness and Champagne combine, rather than layering on top of one another. Read More »

Posted in 4 Stars, Baker Drinks, Champagne, Guinness on November 30, 2010 – 8:33 pm | Comments (0)

French Tri-Colour

The march of the pousse-cafés continues with this drink, about which Baker has nothing whatsoever to say. I’ll reproduce his entry for this drink in full, verbatim:

One third each of: Grenadine, maraschino, Crème Yvette.

This is almost certainly the shortest entry in Baker’s book. So how does the resulting drink taste? Read More »

Posted in 1 Star, Baker Drinks, Crème Yvette, Grenadine, Maraschino on November 30, 2010 – 6:41 am | Comments (0)

Kelly’s Shamrock Special

Apparently a bartender in Panama whipped up this little number to celebrate two of Baker’s friends being released from the local jail, where they were locked up after committing “slight offenses not necessary to mention.” My money’s on drunk and disorderly.

This is the first cocktail I’ve made from Baker’s book that can be either shaken or blended. In these cases, Baker recommends what he refers to as “The Blender,” so that’s what I used. Not that it mattered, really; with a name like “Kelly’s Shamrock Special,” you know this drink is going to suck. It didn’t disappoint. Read More »

Posted in 2 Stars, Baker Drinks, Crème de Menthe (Green), Egg White, Gin, Lime, Sugar on November 28, 2010 – 3:24 pm | Comments (5)

Jersey Lily

Oh, God, the first of the pousse-cafés. I’ve been dreading this day.

A pousse-café, of course, is a drink that layers two or more liqueurs on top of each other, forming a pretty stack of color in the glass. (The all-American example shown here is from “RNAlexander” on Flickr.) To add a layer, you turn a spoon upside-down and press its tip against the side of the glass, just above the previous layer; then you slowly pour the liqueur for the new layer over the back of the spoon. (Does that make sense? No? Then go read this tutorial.) The drink stays in layers because each liqueur has its own specific gravity, or density. That means the heaviest liqueurs have to go at the bottom of the glass.

Aesthetically, pousse-cafés can be quite lovely. But I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to drinking them. It may be true that most liqueurs were originally intended for sipping after dinner, and that even now, people order them for that very purpose. I’ve never been one of those people, though, and I haven’t been relishing the idea of drinking straight Benedictine and grenadine, or whatever monstrosities Baker has in store for me.

Which brings us to the Jersey Lily, a French pousse-café that I chose more or less at random to start things off: Read More »

Posted in 4 Stars, Angostura Bitters, Baker Drinks, Chartreuse (Green), Cognac on November 23, 2010 – 7:56 am | Comments (1)