A congress of alcohols

21 Jul

The power of the cocktail is not that of the pure of heart; it is a complex, a modern; it is a congress of alcohols; nothing is alien to it; nothing can hallow it; nothing can resist its repeated assaults. With all drinks it has affinity. It carries the bar sinister of all liqueurs. Bitters and curaçao, whisky and maraschino, brandy, vermouth and cassis, Fernet Branca, gentle raspberry, all of these; and crème de menthe, and gin, and absinthe, and apple-jack, these, too, are of its fiery soul, and apricot brandy that is like a blush, sherry like a burnt topaz, paprika to make you leap, and sly Benedictine, dancing anisette, and port like a minor canon, gins from Plymouth, and Schiedam, virginal grenadine, all can join with all the fruits the world has ever known, cherry, lemon, tangerine, olive, spray of tarragon too. And thus one begins a cocktail. Let your basis be gin; enlist vermouth; let bitter and maraschino creep in: behold Martini! But expel the vermouth to substitute apricot brandy: then you have Hungarian. But if for you gin has no fire, then let your mainstay be rye whisky: its allies, bitter and vermouth, and Manhattan for you appears. And others for you shall rise, soda cocktail and love tree, or silver fizz, or blagden punch . . . or hot apple toddy. Treat not the cocktail rudely. Let all coalitions be gradual, and temper their fire with ground ice; then cast the whole in the silver mixer and shake, shake, shake. While you shake, meditate.

WL George, A London Mosaic (New York: Stokes, 1921), chapter 3 “The Friendly Bowl”, pp. 40-1.


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