29 April 2009

Benito vs. the Cocktail: Metropole

REMINDER: My online tasting will be held at The Commercial Appeal's Whining & Dining blog Thursday night at 7:00 CDT. The wine for this event is my dear sparkler of choice, the Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs from Washington state. The name sounds like a mouthful but it's as American as apple pie... and in that spirit, the suggested dinner pairing is fried chicken. Enjoy it hot or cold, bone-in or boneless, spicy or plain. If you've never had a sparkling wine with fried food, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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One of the joys of studying classic cocktails is that once you establish a solid bar there are thousands of options available. Most of those options will be terrible, but the trial and error of creative bartenders over the past two centuries has saved us the chore of figuring out what works and doesn't. That doesn't mean innovation can't still happen, but it's always worthwhile to examine what works before trying something new. For this week's featured cocktail, I chose the Metropole, and used David Wondrich's simple recipe:

The Metropole
1½ oz. Cognac or Brandy
1½ oz. Dry White Vermouth
1 dash Orange Bitters
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice, stir, and strain into a martini glass. Despite the optical illusion in this photo, I only used one cherry as garnish. Seeing two has to do with the natural properties of light; if you see three or more, call your doctor.

This is a very light and delicate cocktail, with a nice balance between the sweet dark flavors of the Brandy and the light herbal flavors of the Vermouth. In fact it's really a classic European apéritif, and whether or not you'll enjoy this depends heavily on your love of Vermouth. I, for one, can drink it straight--use good stuff, like Noilly Prat, and keep it fresh. A bottle that's been open and slowly oxidizing on the back shelf of a bar is going to taste nasty, which is perhaps the reason why so many Americans can't stand the product.

The drink is named after the Hotel Metropole in New York (as opposed to the nearby Metropolitan Hotel with a similar signature beverage), and the recipe goes back to the turn of the last century. The word itself refers to the capital of an empire, but in French métropole is a specific geographic and legal term for the French motherland in Europe, as opposed to its overseas territories. Everything outside of mainland France and the island of Corsica is called la France d'outre-mer or overseas France. This latter group includes Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, tiny parts of the French Republic off the coast of Newfoundland. That's one of my favorite bits of geography trivia, that just a little over 500 miles from the Maine coast you can be in France.


Deep In Blogs said...

So you think my disdain comes from the bottle of Martini & Rossi that has been in my fridge for, gee, 5 or 6 years at least?? ;)
You've inspired - I really like the cocktail addition.

Samantha Dugan said...

I never have left over dry Vermouth, so great for deglazing..makes a wonderful sauce! Now the sweet, man I have yet to find a use for that other than making Manhattans for my friends husband and they don't come over enough...any tips Benito?

Benito said...

Deep in Blogs,

Toss out the old Vermouth, get some new blood. :)


Well, the Manhattan can be mixed many ways. Try rye whiskey versus Bourbon, or a mix of the two. And as I discovered recently, bitters can put all sorts of new spins on the Manhattan.

But Sweet Red Vermouth can also be used in one of my favorites, the Negroni, which features the wonderfully bitter aperitif Campari. This is not a drink for everybody, and even the Italians say you have to try it a few times before you can appreciate it. But it's wonderful.

Samantha Dugan said...

No can do Buck-a-roo, I've always said that if I had a problem with my child swearing I would make him sip a Negroni rather than wash his mouth out with soap, wicked bitter....double IPA is about as bitter as my palate can stand. Ah well, thanks anyway.