With one of the better and more interesting names for a vintage cocktail, I was intrigued to try this one. Just as with its counterpart over the water, Scotch, the presence of Irish whiskey in cocktails is rarely called for. And perhaps this is because Irish whiskey is a pretty darn good drink all on its own. Bars being what they too often are nowadays (not very good at making drinks), even a gin and tonic can get screwed up nearly as often as not, but a Jameson on the rocks is both a thrifty choice and one unlikely to deliver any unpleasant surprises. Irish tends to lack the complexity of Scotch, but is generally quite a bit smoother than American whiskeys without being tainted by the sweetness of Canadian products. So, good job, Irish.
Whiskey is, in fact, an English corruption of the Gaelic uisge beatha, (well, probably just the first part) or “water of life” – aqua vitae in Latin. Another liquor, aquavit, drunk throughout Scandinavia, derives its name from the same place. So obviously whiskey is pretty vital.
The Recipe (from the Savoy Cocktail Book)
1/2 wineglass Irish whiskey
2 dashes Benedictine
2 dashes French (white) vermouth
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass; twist a slice of orange peel over the glass.
1/2 a wineglass means, in this instance, 1 ounce. Too small for me, so I doubled everything – 2 ounces of whiskey, and 4 dashes each (1/2 a teaspoon) of the other ingredients.
Stiil pretty small. But sometimes, that’s just fine, especially as a pre-prandial libation, which the Brainstorm serves delightfully as. Much like the Mother-in-Law Cocktail, this one tastes sort of like an Old-Fashioned. Obviously, as you could guess from looking at the ingredients, the dominant flavor is whiskey, but the Benedictine and vermouth sweeten it just a touch. Finally, the orange peel is essential with this one. Whenever a drink calls for a twist, whether lemon, lime, or orange, make sure you’re not getting any of the pith (the white stuff). This can be tricky. A really sharp knife works, as does a good carrot or potato peeler. Ideally, you want to actually do the peeling over your drink, as the released oils are what adds the flavor. In this case, I went ahead and dropped the peel into the drink after I’d squeezed it. The faint essence of orange that the twist added to this drink went a very long way toward establishing its overall character; although it seems like a little thing, without it this drink would be much less enjoyable. Four livers.