The Righteous Cocktail, the Bitter Handshake and bridging the gap of craft bartending to shots of Jager
The most ordered drink on the cocktail menu at Mistral Kitchen is a drink called the Bitter Handshake, In case you prefer less rambling, the recipe is such (but if you don’t read on you won’t know how to serve it).
The Bitter Handshake
1oz Fernet Branca
1oz Blood Orange Reduction*
1oz Rye Whiskey Simple Syrup** (I have also subbed .5oz rye and .5oz simple, pretty much the same)
Heavy Orange Zest
I serve it on the rock for aesthetics, and to make the strong flavors last for fernet beginners, but a cocktail glass would work too
But the real way this cocktail came to be is 3 fold, I was working on a cocktail that had a Fernet Branca base, similar to Kaiser Penguin’s Fernet Old Fashion, Keiko, one of the Sous Chefs gave me blood orange reduction to work with from her station and lastly, I had to make a drink for this douche that only drank jagermeister, I mean only, ever, no beer, it was all he drank.
1 A Fernet Based Cocktail
These don’t really exist yet. I think there are three final fronts in the mixology world that have yet to be achieved, specific product knowledge, ability to anything as the true, “base,” spirit, meaning 1 oz is in that drink and balancing of strong flavors. The last is the most important because as bartenders we could quite dangerously find ourselves making cocktails for only each other, you shouldn’t have to be skilled to find the balance in a drink, the balance should be apparent and the sublety is to be sought after.
2 Thanks for the leftovers
When Keiko gave me the leftover blood orange reduction, a saw the possibility for magic. This is when having a kitchen behind you really pays off. Fact: I will never experiment with juicing and reducing expensive and time consuming products. But, I will take all leftover expensive jiblets from the kitchen and re-use their scraps. Another great example was the foie gras fat washed cognac, again, I’m not going to cook off a lobe of foie just to get the leftover fat. And before you even get upset about that, Fact: geese are jerks.
3 Bridging the Gap
Telling a guy that only drinks japer, “you are a close minded fuckwit that never left college though your triple chin and bald spot tell a different tale,” doesn’t really win the dude over to the, “trust tree.” Show, don’t tell*. I could tell you I am a sorcerer able to pull infinite rabbits from hats, but least you see me do it, you’d be a fool to believe me. This insipid fool will never believe that I can make him any good cocktail unless I show him I can work on his terms.
The jager drink, the, “Righteous Cocktail,” as chef William calls it, is good. A friend of mine came by with his lady and I served her a jager and blood orange, and she liked it so much that he had to take it away from her, fearing that she could lapse into jager drinking. After making the Righteous Cocktail, a simple 1.5 Jager to 1.5 blood orange, I just mashed that into what I was already working on for the un-named Fernet Cocktail, a variation on a true old fashioned with whiskey syrup instead of simple. The blood orange then made it a variation on what many would call a, “crappy 1950’s style,” old fashioned with muddled juice and what not.
The rock is for the presentation and the preservation of the cocktail. It is designed to be an after dinner digestive cocktail. When the drink is just lightly and briefly stirred, it remains cold and generally undiluted for up to an hour. Meaning, you get to take your time this way, and enjoy the meal and the conversation. Also, this drink only has 1 oz of 80 proof liquor in it, making it an easy going cocktail for a last drink at the end of the night, and an amazing adition to keeping a balanced pour cost.
The name, “Bitter Handshake,” refers to Fernet Branca being the, “ bartender’s shot,” or as I call it, “the bartender’s handshake,” a blessing an/or a curse that another bartender may send you at any point, a greeting, a good bye, a handshake. All that being said, the Bitter Handshake is not quite as bitter as it sounds, people that have never had Fernet Branca find it enjoyable and upon tasting a sample alone, have no idea how they like the drink. Those who love Fernet, find the drink, “Dangerous.”
And lastly, before you ask, yes, I do make these all night. I can carve an ice ball in 42 seconds and jigger the rest in normal time. Which is about as fast as a crappy bartender can make a crappy cosmo while trying to get a phone number. I can get the number too, or in my day anyway. I have been spoken for for 2 years and will be old (30) in 4 days time.
*reduce fresh juice by 1/3, add a touch of glucose for mouthfeel and a splash of fresh juice for flavor and brightness
**cup ‘o rye, cup ‘o sugar, boil
***Telling does work to a point, but only when your reputation preceeds you and when you use slight of hand. When I ask people what the like to drink and they say, “vodka,” I reply, “I have a great drink for you.” Then I make them a cachaca drink off my menu and walk away, if they ask later, I’ll tell them, but most of the time they don’t a few drinks into the evening, when you reach for a bottle of rum o make their next drink, they won’t question you. I had another patron who always liked his, “martini,” as just gin on the rocks, he was so confident in ordering his martini in his W.C. Fields manner, he never knew I always put good amounts of fresh vermouth in it.