Friday, February 13, 2009

The Brown Derby Tasting

One of our more enjoyable tasks at the HCAR offices is cocktail tasting and testing. Recently, to bring a new life to the exploration we were sent a tattered copy of Patrick Gavin Duffy's The Standard Bartender's Guide by our sponsor and superior, Colonel J.R. Harmon. The drinks within hearken back to days when Galliano flowed the streets like gold, and requesting a Wild Turkey Mist with a Twist, would not yank forth looks of disdain from your bartender.

This week’s tasting was a small affair, and we decided to venture towards an area of drinking that not many of us were familiar with: Rum.

The Brown Derby.

Editor's Note: This drink is not actually in the book I loaned the young folks that staff this blog. I was deep in the midst of a conversation with the charming young Rachel whereupon she mentioned a time in which she drank a Brown Derby. I confirmed with her that it was, indeed, this drink, and it brought me back to another time. This drink was named after the famous Los Angeles location. I spent a few years in that torrid, horrid town doctoring movieplays, consulting with fat producers, and drinking whenever possible in order to rid myself of the awful malaise found everywhere in Hollywood. I was introduced to this drink by a young starlet who decency and history dare me not to name. I have always enjoyed it, and think fondly of her whenever I drink it. Here's to you, my dear, to all our failings and our triumphs. -- Colonel J.R. Harmon, Ret.

Tasting Roster:
The Masked Drinker
Faux-Bee June (your author)

The Pet
Fräulein N

It should be noted that there is another cocktail that goes by the name of “The Brown Derby.” This is not that cocktail. This is this cocktail:

Two Ounces Dark Run
One Ounce Lime Juice
One Teaspoon Maple Syrup

As usual, we mixed a small number of cocktails and divvied them up into smaller rocks glasses for the tasting.

For the first time in an HCAR tasting, every single person agreed whole-heartedly that the drink in question was quite enjoyable, and would likely be enjoyed again and again. Among the characteristics that were unanimously agreed on: The smooth finish, and light (not overpowering) rum flavor. Three of (us, myself, the Masked Drinker and Fräulein N) ventured into the tasting with a bit of hesitation about sipping a rum based cocktail. We were all pleasantly surprised that the rum really did not impose itself, nor did it leave the syrupy aftertaste we dreaded, in fact the MD thought the rum added an agreeable “heartiness” .

Rachel noted that the lime and maple syrup complimented each other. Ladyboy agreed that “the maple and lime are alternately dominant.” Sara noted that it was “sweet, but not too sweet.” The Pet and I were equally charmed by the maple syrup aftertaste which was, once again, not too overpowering, and not at all (shockingly) “syrupy.”

We all agreed that the drink was likely to be enjoyed by a wide variety of drinkers, even those not normally given to ordering cocktails. Ladyboy felt that it is not a drink that “requires a particular drinking style or encourages specific associations,” and Sara said that “It’s a cocktail for someone who doesn’t normally order cocktails,” although it was widely accepted that a few would suffice, and the drink might not stand up as the only drink of the night, if one were in it for the long haul.

The tasters mentioned in equal numbers that The Brown Derby could be enjoyed in the summer, on the beach with a funny little umbrella in it, and in the winter, cozied up in front of a nice wood burning fire place with one of those zigzag afghans that your great aunt crotched.

The range of ideas for improvement ran from “my glass would be bigger” (Sara, echoed by the Pet) to the idea of a pork garnish, by the Masked Drinker. (His interest in savory garnishes might not have anything to do with the fact that he recently reported on the Bacon and Bourbon Expo.) I couldn’t come up with a bit more than a sprig of mint for improvement, although Fräulein N’s suggestion of a splash of soda water sounded like it might cut the sweetness just that much more to appease my palate. She also mentioned that she would like to try it with maple sugar instead of maple syrup, which was suggested in the recipe, although the syrup texture pleased her as well. On the maple angle, Rachel admitted that she had previously enjoyed the recipe “kick[ed] up at least 10 notches” with the use of “a special high grade maple syrup that was aged in bourbon barrels” which (while the HCAR offices don’t currently stock it) just might make the shopping list.

Ladyboy was interested in seeing if it would work as a warm cocktail, but we dissolved into round two before testing the hypothesis.

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