Friday 16 March 2012

Maraschino March: "The Unforgiven" from Russell Davis of Rickhouse

We are heading back down south for a very different and interesting cocktail from Mr. Russell Davis at Rickhouse in San Francisco. Who is Russell? Ok deep breath...
Russell is a southern gentleman who ran Peche in Austin, Texas, before heading up north to San Francisco to work both Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse, where he collected numerous competition wins and awards from San Francisco Magazine, Germain-Robin Craft Distiller's Cocktail Competition, and others, was just named Nightclub & Bar's 2012 Bartender of the Year, represented Rickhouse when it was awarded "High Volume Cocktail Bar of the Year" at Tales of the Cocktail, has been written up in lots of magazines and newspapers like Details, Imbibe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and works with brands like Anchor Distilling (Junipero, Luxardo, etc), Dulce Vida Organic Tequila, No.3 Gin, St. George Spirits, and Michael Collins Irish Whisky. The list really does go on (here's a decent list from last year).

Russell has several non-bar ventures as well, doing online videos for infusing Tito's Handmade Vodka (for example), and currently is a consultant for San Francisco's Ice Cream Bar, literally a soda fountain bar. Something most people don't realize (including me until very recently) is that bartending and soda actually have a connected history. Once Prohibition began, many bartenders fled to Europe where they could practice their craft in peace, many continued to work with cocktails in secret at speakeasies, and some actually became "soda jerks." Creating soda flavours involves mixing tinctures and extracts to create a balanced flavour, and thereby has a lot in common with cocktail mixology. Russell says "there was a beautiful way of mixing that was refined during this period" that he believes will have have an influence on crafting cocktails. If you're interested in soda bars, jerks, and pumps, and their history, The Ice Cream Bar in San Francisco is definitely the place to go (where their floats are "built to the same specifications as they would have made them in 1894 Chicago"), and I also suggest checking out Darcy O'Neil's site and his book on the subject, "Fix the Pumps."

Back to cocktails.
Something Russell has been experimenting with is using room-temperature water instead of ice to dilute and mix a cocktail to be more true to the accurate history of 19th century bartending. He wrote a great description for me himself, so I'll just let him talk:

"After doing a bit of research on ice, I began to discover that during the 1800's, before refrigeration, the production of ice was a gigantic industry that died as soon as it became obsolete. These factories were as big as some of the giant factories you see now in industrial areas. They would cut giant hunks of ice out of frozen rivers and lakes and transfer them by waterway where they were stacked and stored stories high (which was very dangerous - it wasn't uncommon for workers to lose limbs or die) and then loaded onto train or ships or some other form of transportation and then distributed. This wasn't cheap or easy at all. So, keeping that in mind, I started to reconsider how some of these drinks that were developed in that era may have really been done. Along the Barbary Coast here in California, it was filled with some of the most down and out, dangerous wild west saloons you could think of. I bet it was pretty tough to get ice in your Martinez (or any drink unless you were in a "fancy" hotel or other "fancy" venue) in Martinez California during the 1880's. As a result, I don't add ice to this drink, but instead, add 1/2 oz of water just for dilution purposes and to bring the flavors together. Try it on your next Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Sazerac. Instead of adding ice to stir, just add 1/2 oz - 3/4 oz of water to your taste. On this cocktail I also was inspired by the Martinez, yet wanted to create something that I would make for Clint Eastwood if he was ever sitting at my bar. I also like to joke around that this is going to be the official drink of the Apocalypse. Aged Old Tom Gin and Mezcal (I think Mezcal is the wild man's scotch). Here we go!"

The Unforgiven

1 oz Mezcal Vida
1 oz Ransom Gin
3/4 oz Carpano Antica
1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
1/2 oz Spring Water
2-3 drops Tobacco Tincture (pipe tobacco infused in moonshine; use a good chocolatey tobacco)
Dukes Orange (1"x3" piece of orange zest cut off the orange using a vegetable peeler)

Combine mezcal, gin, vermouth, maraschino, and water into a mixing glass. Zest dukes orange over the mixing glass, pinch over the mixture to release the essential oils, and take the zest and rub around the inner and outer lip of a small rocks glass and then drop into the mixing glass. Now stir the mixture 3 times WITHOUT ICE. This is a room temperature drink. Pour the contents of the mixing glass into your rocks glass. Drop 2-3 drops of tobacco tincture on top.

This one isn't on the menu at Rickhouse, but as Russell puts it, it was somewhat of an underground favourite that people still ask about, but he would only serve to "the most serious of cocktail drinkers." So if that's you, see if you can catch him at Rickhouse and have him make one for you.
Thanks to Russell and Rickhouse for the exciting contribution!

[[ see "Oden's Muse" from Tavern Law here ]]
[[ see "The Hemingway Solution" from Vessel here ]]
[[ see the Maraschino March introduction here ]]
[[ see "The Division Bell" from Mayahuel here ]]
[[ see "The Shibuya Crusta" from L'Abattoir here ]]
[[ see "Cherry Bob-omb" from Veneto here ]]
[[ see "Primer Beso" from The Refinery here ]]
[[ see "The Rubicon" from Jamie Boudreau at Canon here ]] 

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