Monday, September 23, 2019

1862 Brandy Sangaree with Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy by Spirits of French Lick

If you have gotten hold of a bottle of Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy by Spirits of French Lick, you have a real 19th Century American experience in a bottle. There is no shortage of distilled spirits out there there that put a bit of history or nostalgia on the label as enticing salesmanship (often very excellent spirits, I admit, and few people will be drawn in by 19th Century imagery as easily as I!). But this stuff is different. The distiller, Alan Bishop, is a personal friend; we came together because of distilling history. I have been to his facility, seen him work, and had the privilege of working with him. This is the culmination a lifetime of research and passion for bringing the often forgotten history Indiana distilling culture that was lost in Prohibition back to life.

And bring it to life he did! So, naturally, I had to put it to very 19th Century use. Enter, of course, Jerry Thomas's 1862 Bartender's Guide:

A lot of people say his recipes are difficult to interpret but if you're used to 19th Century recipes and equipment in general, you can get a pretty good idea pretty easily. A brandy cocktail that caught my eye right away was the "Brandy Sangaree," recipe 127 on page 55. It requires cross referencing with the "Brandy Toddy," recipe 133 on page 57.

To recreate this:

Put several small ice cubes in a usual cocktail tumbler (the recipe says "2/3 full" which bore out nicely on the ca. 1860s tumbler I was using but may be a little less in modern ones, which are significantly larger).

Add a teaspoon of white granulated sugar (modern teaspoon measure).

Add 1/2 a wine glass of water. (I happened to have some wine glasses on hand from roughly the same period or slightly later as the book; much smaller than a modern wine glass; 1/2 of a wine glass bears out to roughly 1 oz or very slightly more).

On top of that, add a wine glass of Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy (slightly more than 2 oz.)

Mix thoroughly.

Drop in a teaspoon (modern teaspoon measure) of port but do not mix- just let it drift in. I used Porto Morgado Ruby Port- very inexpensive but still pleasant and worked perfect for this.

Grate a bit of nutmeg on top (use your taste and personal judgement for how much.

The result was a very pleasant, balanced, nuanced, "round feeling" beverage unlike anything I thought of as a cocktail in the usual classic 20th Century sense. It was like sipping velvet and every drop was a great pleasure to be savored. Amy is partaking of one as I type this just now and enthusiastically agrees.

"The Professor" Jerry Thomas and I will be spending quite a bit more time together in the future. And don't worry, if what I have described here is too complicated or strange sounding but you have a bottle of Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy and still want an authentic 19th Century imbibing experience, consider recipe 213 on page 81 of Thomas's excellent guide:

"Brandy Straight
(Use small bar glass)

'In serving this drink you simply put a piece of ice in a tumbler, and hand to your customer, with the bottle of brandy. This is very safe for a steady drink, but thought a straight beverage, it is often used on a bender."

Have a sober coachman at the ready in the case of a bender and, by all means, explore what this remarkable distillery has to offer!

Your's & c.

The Victorian Man

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