While I would not classify myself as a collector of cookbooks, it cannot be denied that at least one of our dining room bookshelves has been noted to contain more cookbooks than books of a non-recipe variety. Most of these cookbooks have been procured during the years that my husband and I have been married, with a few notable exceptions. I brought into our marriage a half dozen or so vegetarian cookbooks and a couple of copies of Joy of Cooking, and my husband entered our union with this:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that, were there points awarded for most useful and interesting books brought into a dual partnership agreement, the tally of points at the end of the inaugural round would look something like this:
Me: 15 points
Husband: 1,000,000 points
This book is, in short, fantastic. In addition to containing nearly 800 classic cocktail recipes, the book also contains a hefty 100 or so pages dedicated to the history, lore, and usage of different liquors, wines, beers, and accompaniments, and how those different items can be used to complement one another (totally useful). There is also an added hors d’oeuvres chapter, which includes separate sections on both caviar and foie gras (slightly less useful, but still appreciated).
Best of all, this book, written by Playboy’s longtime food and drink editor and culled from previously published articles dating back as far as 1955 (the book’s original publication date is 1971), reads like an instruction manual for those looking for tips on how to be a consummately urbane gentleman of the world—five decades ago. You enjoy vodka and clear turtle consommé. You serve daiquiris on your cabin cruiser, and precise and masterly cocktails at your June bachelor dinner. You are a man of all seasons. Not a conspicuous fusspot, the book clarifies, but a man of refined tastes.
Admittedly, not everyone will enjoy this book as much as I do, especially if one is offended by references to Canadian whiskeys having a strong appeal for the distaff side (it’s sweet and soft, you know, for the ladies), or is annoyed by a drink being classified as perfect “for unwinding after 18 holes on the fairway.” While it’s true that those statements are mildly obnoxious, I have no problem reading past them. Then again, any book that cautions a fellow against drinking for quantity rather than quality, and also takes the time to distinguish a drink as being a “postprandial” fit, is always going to be a winner by me.
Earlier this week, when the temperature hit 70 degrees for only the fourth time this year, I, fortified with knowledge about the mature American drinking man, and in possession of some dashing and petite Meyer lemons, decided to unearth the cocktail shaker and take my first step towards entering the “method school for the modern man at his drinking cabinet.”
Not surprisingly, my education started with me completely blowing the recipe apart. Not having blended whiskey or the required number of lemons, I improvised a bit. When I found a nearly empty bag of frozen sour cherries in the freezer, there was no way I couldn’t include them. The more ridiculous things I did to the standard cocktail, the more delicious it looked. And, in the end, it was a delicious drink, though not exactly what I think Mr. Thomas Mario had in mind.
Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour
Inspired by Playboy’s Host and Bar Book
I am not a huge fan of sweet drinks, so my version of this drink is on the tart side. If you wish to make a sweeter drink, increase the amount of sugar as directed. Alternately, I’ll bet that if you used all Meyer lemon juice, as opposed to the half-lemon-half-lime combination that I used, you’d end up with a drink that is much less tart (Meyer lemons are not nearly as sour as their standard lemon counterparts). If you do this, dial back the sugar initially and see if your all Meyer lemon juice drink is sweet enough. If it’s lacking the sweetness you desire, go ahead and add a bit more sugar, ¼ teaspoon at a time, then re-shake and re-taste until you find the drink acceptable.
1 large or 2 small Meyer lemons
½ to 1 teaspoon sugar
3 sour cherries, fresh or frozen
2 ounces whiskey
Juice your Meyer lemons and lime until you have a combination of ¾ ounces of freshly squeezed juice. Combine juice, one half of an already squeezed Meyer lemon, your desired amount of sugar, and 2 sour cherries in a cocktail shaker. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle the citrus, sugar, and cherry mixture for roughly 10 seconds, until the sugar has been pulverized into the other ingredients. Add whiskey and a handful of ice to the shaker, cover, and shake vigorously. Taste to adjust sweetness. For a less tart drink, add more sugar, re-shake, and taste again.
Strain into a short glass filled with ice. Garnish with 1 sour cherry.
Makes 1 drink.