It's Monday and it's too damn cold. In those circumstances, what better than a cocktail to warm you up? Seeing as Dennis at Rock & Rye has set "Forgotten Cocktails" as the theme for this month's Mixology Monday, the answer is a cocktail wrapped in a snug blanket of nostalgia. Some drinks make it, and some don't. It doesn't hurt any less when someone passes over your hand-crafted Genever flip for a Cosmopolitan, but that's the law of the jungle. Like a particularly excruciating reality TV show with any pretence of logic removed from the judging process, no-one can say for sure why, say, a French Martini hits the big time while a Clover Club fades into fuzzy nostalgia. All we can say is that it does happen and so the cycle of star-making and dream-breaking churns endlessly on.
We know what happens to the winners. Sooner or later, they'll get a mention in a movie or TV series and explode in the popular consciousness. They'll appear on drinks menus from dive bars to multi-national chains, garner celebrity fans and specified recipes from the brands who can spare the marketing budget.
But what of the losers? Where do drinks go to die?
These days, they don't go anywhere. The modern bartender or cocktail enthusiast has access to something that previous generations haven't had: a prosthetic memory. The recipes endure, somewhere. In the work of authors like Ted Haigh, David Wondrich, Jeff Berry, and many, many others. In sources like Jerry Thomas' guides, or Embury, or the Savoy, which are increasingly available, and then there are more modern almanacs like Diffordsguide or any number of websites, from an eccentric Speaker's Corner like this to something like CocktailDB.
CocktailDB and its kin represent a kind of informational black market - you can find a Margarita recipe pretty much anywhere, but if you're going to find a touch of inspiration outside of the mainstream paradigm, you need to know which alleys to check.
With that in mind I picked up the least used item in my home liquor collection, a dust-covered bottle of Lejay-Legoute Orange Curaçao. Despite being called upon regularly by those early pioneers of the mixed drink, Curaçao is generally regarded with a mixture of contempt and outright scorn by the modern bartender. Part of its reputation is surely due to the tradition of adding colouring to the otherwise colourless liqueur, giving rise to green, orange, and of course, the infamous blue varieties. Over time, its popularity waned against more stately brands like Cointreau and Grand Marnier, leaving Curaçao as little more than a footnote or a novel way of turning an orange-flavoured drink blue.
It struck me as the perfect ingredient for this month's challenge. Punching the words "Orange Curaçao" into CocktailDB's search by ingredient function threw up a litany of drinks across every conceivable category of drink. There were long drinks and short drinks, punches and sours, aperitifs, fixes, fizzes: everything. All the spirit bases were covered, too - brandy, rum, gin, whiskies from all the corners of the world.
I spent hours flicking past cocktails long since passed into the margins, each name a little sparkle in the gloom. The Apollo 8. The Broken Spur. Champerelle. The Fair and Warmer Cocktail. In the end, I settled on one from the top of the list: the Adelle Special.
It seemed right, with St. Andrews Day on the horizon, to pick a Scotch recipe, and there are few simpler than the Adelle Special. In fact, it's so simple that it isn't even classed as a cocktail under UK law - for that, it would need three liquid ingredients.
45ml Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
15ml orange Curaçao (Lejay-Legoute)
Serve in a rocks glass.
In itself, simplicity can be a virtue - you only need to look at the enduring appeal of the Rusty Nail or the Whisky Mac, but the Adelle Special is missing the undefinable spark those two possess. That's not to say that it's an unpleasant drink - far from it - but I can see why it isn't troubling the zeitgeist. Maybe the Curaçao cedes too much to the Scotch, in that it lacks the pungent spiciness and sweetness of Drambuie, or perhaps it's an odd collision of old time drink and modern sensibilities.
Adding a pinch and a twist of those modern sensibilities seemed the logical thing to do.
30ml Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
15ml orange Curaçao (Lejay-Legoute)
2 dashes Boker's Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon zest.