March 23, 2011

Happy Hour: March Cocktails: The American Trilogy

by Fredo Ceraso

Trilogy1

There is nothing like an expertly crafted Old Fashioned-style cocktail to help you navigate the rapidly changing weather of late March. Since, it is not quite Gin Rickey weather and too warm for a Hot Toddy, a solid whiskey cocktail is just what the Doctor ordered. Now let’s take it to the next level in flavor, taste, and execution. Let me introduce you to the American Trilogy.

The American Trilogy is a cocktail created by barmen extraordinaire Richard Boccato and Michael McIlroy in 2007 at New York’s Little Branch. Trilogy channels the recipe for the old fashioned (spirit, sugar, bitters) and uses two base spirits instead of one. The clever combination unites two classic American liquors and a possible mystery ingredient that create a unique flavor that sets the cocktail apart from other old fashioned derivatives. E pluribus unum!

Let’s start at the beginning: why is this libation called American Trilogy? I recently corresponded with Richard Boccato regarding the nomenclature of the drink. My instincts were spot on about two of Trilogy’s pillars: The spirits, applejack brandy and rye whiskey are American oldest distilled spirits and true originals.

Laird’s Applejack (aka “Jersey Lightning”) is literally America’s oldest distilled spirit and proudly boasts License #1 which William Laird obtained in 1780. Applejack is a brandy distilled from apples and produced by Laird & Company in Scobeyville, New Jersey. The Bonded version of Applejack is 100 proof (50 alcohol) and bottled in “bond”. In other words, this stronger proof version of applejack, typically 80 proof, comes from one distilling season and is held in a US Government bonded warehouse for a set amount of years, then bottled at 100 proof. This designation is a mark of quality.

A solid Rye whiskey like Rittenhouse 100 stands up to the fortitude of the bonded Applejack. According to Heaven Hill distillery of Bardstown, Kentucky, Rittenhouse 100 is distilled in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania rye whiskey. This style of rye was once as common as vodka in the American landscape. Rittenhouse is also bottle in bond (100 proof), which secures a smooth, buttery, robust and spicy flavor with a strong finish.

The third pillar of Trilogy is up for conjecture. Richard was kind enough to share his insights on the possible meaning.

“The third piece of the puzzle is somewhat of an elusive mystery at this point–even to me. One explanation could be that the third major ingredient in the cocktail (orange bitters) is of “American” origins? However, given the fact that our house orange bitters is a 1:1 blend of Fee Bros. and Regan’s–since the Fees were originally from Ireland (like [co-drink creator Michael “Micky” McIlroy]) and like Micky they made their bones in America, and Gaz Regan’s bitters were made in America (but he wasn’t)…then are the orange bitters really (are) a third “American” ingredient? … The drink appears to taste good enough with just two legitimate “American” ingredients, so maybe we should just leave it at that.”

So, it could be the orange bitters or a nod to America’s immigrant innovators or it could be that the Old Fashioned is the granddaddy of the American cocktails! No matter what theory, the point is that this cocktail is genuinely exquisite in taste and honors good ole’ American ingenuity! Besides who doesn’t love a little bit of mystery?!

American Trilogy
By R. Boccato & M. McIlroy

1 oz Rittenhouse 100 Bonded Rye
1 oz Laird’s Bonded Applejack Brandy
1-2 dashes of Fee Brothers orange bitters
1-2 dashes of Regan’s orange bitters
Brown sugar cube
Orange peel

Tools: bar spoon, jigger, pairing knife, whiskey glass

Build drink in a whiskey glass. Saturate the sugar cube with the bitters, and gently muddle in order to create a slightly granulated paste. Then add rye and applejack bandy and a large chunk of cracked ice. Then taking a bar spoon, carefully stir the mixer until well chilled. Cut a fresh orange peel and extract the oils over the drink, then garnish.

Insider’s note: In addition to being a favorite on the menu at Sasha Petraske’s bars, such as Dutch Kills Bar and Little Branch, the American Trilogy is also served at notable establishments such as NYC’s favorite Momokufu Ssam Bar.

*Got a cocktail question? Reach Fredo on twitter @loungerati, email me at fredo(at)loungerati(dot)com, or simply comment below!

**Fredo Ceraso is the editor-at-large of the lounge lifestyle blog Loungerati.com. He is head cocktailian and a co-producer of The Salon parties. Fredo is a member of the USBG New York chapter and rolls drinks at many Lounge, Swing, Jazz Age, & Burlesque events in New York City.

***Payman Bahmani will return in April for his weekly Happy Hour column and is honored to have Fredo tend the bar while away.

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