Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Satan's Bloody Whiskers

I've an educated taste in whisky and women,
waistcoats, and bills of fare.
Though I've had few chances to exercise it lately.
'Cause them that govern
spend all their time making up new laws
to stop men like you and me getting any.

~ Peachy Carnehan

Michael Caine made an indelible impression on me when I was a kid—not as just any character, but as ex-Army scalawag P.T. "Peachy" Carnehan in John Huston’s 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King. In their doomed scheme to become kings of remote Kafiristan during the time of the British Raj, Peachy and his compatriot Danny Dravot come across what they think are “blokes, twice as big as us” in the snow. He blurts out to Sean Connery’s Dravot “God’s holy trousers!” The phrase stuck and rattled around in my mind for decades.

It came back to me tonight. For the past few days, I’ve been hankering for a Satan’s Whiskers cocktail. The classic old gin drink has enjoyed an all-too limited renaissance lately among liquor geeks like me, in no small part to Dr. Cocktail’s take on it. It actually comes in two versions—straight and curled. No worries if you’ve never heard of it or its variants. The only difference between them is that straight calls for orange curaƧao and curled calls for Grand Marnier (think of them as tricked out gins & juice).

There’s orange all over this thing; plain ol’ juice, plus orange liqueur and orange bitters. Squeeze the juice yourself and you also get orange oil expressed from the peel for a four-knuckled citrus whammy. Now, I like both versions, and fresh orange juice really does make a difference, so try it curled or straight; unless gin just skeeves you, you’re bound to like one of ‘em. But it’s the height of blood orange season in San Diego and, as I looked at a bowl of blushing little Moros on the counter, I could almost hear Peachy Carnehan’s staccato voice exclaiming “Satan’s Bloody Whiskers!”

Swapping out blood for navel or Valencia oranges gives the finished shaken cocktail a devilish crimson hue, but the ephemeral berry taste of blood orange juice comes on stronger as the drink slowly loses its chill. Moros are the variety you want, not just for their taste, but because they are often much smaller than navels and fit in a citrus squeezer nicely. Make these with regular orange juice and you've got a plain ol' Satan's Whiskers. Give it a shot either way.

Satan’s Bloody Whiskers (straight)

1 oz blood orange juice
1 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz dry vermouth
4 tsp (20ml) Cointreau (just under ½ oz)*
1-2 tsp (5-10ml) orange bitters**

Shake over ice , strain into a large cocktail glass.

* for the curled version, substitute Grand Marnier.

** The Savoy Cocktail Book calls for mere dashes of bitters while Dr. Cocktail calls for a healthier dose. You could lay off the bitters some, but don't leave them out entirely. The most readily available in the US are Fee Brothers and Regan's. LeNell's keeps a great selection and may be able to hook you up with even more brands.

Goes well with


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