October 14, 2009

Happy Hour: “Hoots Mon” Cocktail

by Payman Bahmani

Hoots Mon Cocktail

It’s Happy Hour once again, and classic Scotch cocktails are in effect as they have been over the past few weeks. Why have I been focusing so much on Scotch lately you ask? Well, firstly, because I enjoy the spirit a whole lot. Besides that, I realized reason alone could not dissuade the purists who oppose even the mere usage of “Scotch” and “cocktail” in the same sentence.

Instead, I understood that irrationality can only be countered with a brute, blunt, and mercilessly overwhelming force–the mixological version of the Bush Doctrine in a sense. Sometimes a little unilateralism is necessary in dealing with an unyielding obstacle, and therefore the only solution would be to hit the naysayers over the head with one classic Scotch cocktail after another until their faithlessness is drowned in an ocean of liquor. And the fact that the recipes I’ve been sharing are all nearly a century old (some possibly even older) dispels any notion that grown men don’t drink Scotch cocktails, since they were created and imbibed during an era when grown men were the predominant patrons of saloons and watering holes.

With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to this week’s drink, the “Hoots Mon.” What is a “Hoots Mon” and why is it the name of this cocktail you inquire? Well the former question can be answered with greater certainty than the latter. A brief bit of internet research (with assistance from my good friend Edgar Google–pronounced “googelay,” like Michale Buble) revealed “Hoots Mon” as a Scottish expression used to dismiss another’s opinion. It was also the title of a 1919 film starring Stan Laurel of the famed duo Laurel and Hardy, as well as the name of a song composed by the Scottish composer Harry Robertson.

That this Scottish phrase became attached to a cocktail recipe featuring Scotch is an easy one to figure out. Whether there’s any more to the story is anyone’s guess however. What I can say with great certainty though, is that despite its name, only a true fool would dismiss this drink.

“Hoots Mon” Cocktail
2 oz Scotch (I used Dalmore 15 yr single-malt)
1 oz Lillet (if you can somehow find it, use Cocchi Americano)
1 oz Italian vermouth (I used Vya sweet vermouth, but Carpano Antica is also exceptional here)
Lemon twist (optional)

Glass: coupe

Tools: Bar spoon, mixing glass, and strainer

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into your glass. Garnish with the lemon twist if you desire.

Because this is a very unfussy cocktail with just a few ingredients, I decided to use a single-malt like the Dalmore 15 yr, and it tasted great. If it’s not in your budget, a blended Scotch like Famous Grouse is a good standby.

For the vermouth, I recommend upgrading from Martini & Rossi if you can. This is a cocktail where specificity and quality pay dividends. Although Carpano Antica is unbeatable in this drink, this time around I used Vya, a relatively new brand out of California of all places. I had never tried it before, so I finally picked up a bottle and gave it a shot. It worked well, though differently than the Carpano. The Vya made its presence felt immediately, with a slight bitterness upfront and in the aftertaste.

Lastly, an important word regarding Lillet. Many old cocktail recipes call for Lillet, or Kina Lillet to be exact (the Vesper Martini is a well known example). Unfortunately, Kina Lillet is no longer available due to the company’s reformulation of the original recipe in 1986, after which it was rebranded as Lillet Blanc. I’ve never chanced the opportunity to taste the original Kina Lillet, but have been told it has a much more pronounced flavor of quinine, since it was essentially a Quinquina style of fortified wine. Consequently Lille Blanc is treated by many as a necessary evil, since it’s called for in many old recipes yet considered an inferior substitute for the previous version. The discovery of an adequate substitute for Kina Lillet has thus been long-considered a potential game changer.

Well consider the game changed, as Bay Area based bartender Erik Ellestad seems to have stumbled upon what other respected mixologists have verified as the adequate substitute for Kina Lillet, a specimen called Cocchi Americano. It doesn’t help much that Cocchi Americano is near-impossible to come by even here in New York City, but the collective fingers of the cocktail community remain crossed in hope of greater distributorship in the near future–at least we know a product exists somewhere, even if it’s unavailable to most of us.

To make a short story long, it’s worth seeking out the Cocchi Americano if it’s available to you, otherwise stick with Lillet Blanc in the meantime.

So remember, the next time someone spouts off nonsense about Scotch not being a cocktail-appropriate spirit, slap them in the back of the neck and tell’em “Hoots Mon!”

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay’s cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.

6 Comments

  • vanessabahmani
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Love it!

  • Vermouth
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

    The Cocchi Americano should be in New York starting in January 2010.

  • kayoko
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Pay- this is great. I'm just starting to drink Lillet, and this little history on Lillet Blanc vs. the Kina Lillet is fascinating.

    Quinine, really??

    Vanessa- This is one of my fave Happy Hour photos. It looks like the drink is looking out of the window on the subway!

  • Paystyle
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Vermouth – Whoever you are, I hope you're right about Cocchi being available soon.

    Kayoko – Yeah, quinine, the same thing that makes tonic different from club soda and seltzer. So important is this element in the original Lillet, that prior to the discovery of Cocchi (and still to this day for those whom Cocchi remains unattainable), cocktail enthusiasts would come up with all sorts of ways of duplicating the flavor, including pour quinine powder in their Lillet Blanc!

    It's interesting that the picture evoked an image of the subway window. I can see that now that you mention it. I initially thought the picture could be a photo of a dusty mirror in an old Vaudeville dressing room–maybe it's b/c Billy Holliday was on at the time.

  • Mary
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    we have the cocchi americano in berkeley. lovely! come for a visit.

  • Paystyle
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Mary – I may have to do that, since I'm long overdue for a visit to Berkeley. I used to live there and miss it a lot now. First two orders of business when I get back: Everett & Jones and the Brazilian tri-tip sandwich guy (w/the green sauce) on University as well. Ok now I'm way off topic and hungry…

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