Cocktails for the evil capitalists
November 17, 2009 7:46 PM   Subscribe

My dad is a grouchy old man, and as much as I shouldn't be encouraging him I would like to make him an old-fashioned cocktail kit for Christmas. Something James Bond or an evil capitalist from 1928 would appreciate. I know I'll put some nice whiskey and some bitters in there- what else?

I want to put together a kit of mostly ingredients rather than tools, although I can throw in a shaker and a jigger or two. My questions are:

What did they put in cocktails 60 years ago (or really any number of years ago)? I am thinking orange bitters and Peychaud's bitters, real grenadine if I can find it, bourbon cherries . . . ?? What are your favorite "I can't believe people don't still use this" ingredients?

How do I find those things in Chicago or over the internet?

Can I get old style glass bottles of soda water somewhere in Chicago?
posted by ohio to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out the Ideal Bartender on Project Gutenberg for some great pre-Prohibition era cocktails.
posted by aquafortis at 8:01 PM on November 17, 2009

real grenadine if I can find it

Make it. Pomegranate syrup; not very difficult!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:07 PM on November 17, 2009

Response by poster: That Ideal Bartender thing is genius! I have no idea what he's talking about, but I am going to try to find out. Jigger of Appolinaris! Ha!
posted by ohio at 8:22 PM on November 17, 2009

I have the Wild West Bartender's Bible, and it's full of neat recipes and bar-related stuff.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:17 AM on November 18, 2009

Best answer: Angostura bitters are a classic -- not that you can go wrong with Peychaud's and orange bitters. Superfine sugar (bar sugar). Flavored syrups: this one is on Mr. Danaos' Christmas list, and I may get him this as well just to see what he can do with it.

In terms of other alcohol-based ingredients, we find ourselves reaching most often for Cointreau and cognac, but it really depends on what your dad likes to drink!

I know you want to minimize bar tools, but since fresh lemon/lime juice is used in so many old-fashioned drinks, I would strongly suggest an inexpensive but good manual juicer. And if you really want to impress, write to Chris Gallagher and have him make your dad a PUG muddler.
posted by timeo danaos at 4:40 AM on November 18, 2009

Here's a great article from EGullet. All the basics here.
posted by col at 4:58 AM on November 18, 2009

Apollinaris is still available in some specialty stores.
posted by zamboni at 4:59 AM on November 18, 2009

Best answer: Besides a bottle of straight rye (go for the 100-proof Rittenhouse, if you can find it; it's great whiskey and has a crusty label), maybe a bottle of Luxardo maraschino liqueur and definitely the orange bitters, I'd throw in a good cocktail book, such as Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails or Dale DeGroff's the Essential Cocktail. Both have anecdotes to go along with the recipes (essential for the crusty drinker), and both offer really good drinks.
posted by Splificator at 6:55 AM on November 18, 2009

If he likes gin, find him a bottle of violet liqueur, perhaps? Rothman and Winter's is just now being distributed in the US again, though Creme Yvette has yet to make a comeback. I have been drinking a lot of Aviations lately and find that gin and violet go together nicely. (The "Eagle" on that page is just an Aviation with an egg white. It's nice.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I put together a Christmas present like this for my Dad a couple years ago. I bought one of those silver attache case type things from some website, I think Amazon, with the customizable foam inserts. The kind of briefcase the assassin's disassembled gun/the drug dealer's money goes in in the movies, like a knockoff Halliburton Zero. Inside, I made little mounting points for the essential tools on the underside of the lid (a small knife, stirrer, jigger, corkscrew). I used rubber-coated wire twisted around the items to hold them in place. Flexible and easy. The case lid had a liner I was able to embed the wire in. Then I got small containers for all the components for making a few classic cocktails, either made them or purchased good versions and just transferred them to smaller containers. It has enough ingredients to make Manhattans and Dry Martinis, those were the benchmark cocktails (nothing special about the ingredients fitting together, they don't, they are just my Dad's two favorites). Then, I customized all the foam inserts so that the bottles and jars would all fit in their own spot, along with having a compartment for some napkins and toothpicks. (you basically just cut preperforated blocks of foam out of a larger block of foam). Lastly, I attached a small cutting board to the outside of the lid. This is a bit superfluous as their is no citrus to cut inside the kit, but hey, I thought it was a cool add on. and it gives you a flat surface to make drinks, plus hell, someone could buy a lemon.

So not only is this an old timey cocktails kit, its also a PORTABLE ONE! My dad loves it. You still need to add ice. I didn't see anyway around that. I also figured no use giving up space for cups, because who knows what will be available, and cups need to be either washed or thrown out anyway. So basically, if you have ice and cups, you can make a lot of drinks with this magic briefcase. If you have nothing, well, there's still bottles of booze in it, so its not a total loss. My dad brings on trips, on his boat, keeps it in the back of the car. I don't think he actually fixes drinks with it too often, but he really loves the idea of it. Everyone enjoys a nicely organized case. Every once in a while though, he takes it to a hotel and flips it open on the desk in the room after checking in. It's perfect for hotels cause they always have ice buckets, an ice machine, and a few glasses. It's pretty cool. I kinda wish I made one for myself.
posted by jeb at 10:37 AM on November 18, 2009

You can try checking at Sam's Wine and Spirits. They may not have some of the more obscure things (though they do go pretty obscure; I got buffalo grass vodka there once), but they're probably good people to ask.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 11:37 AM on November 18, 2009

There's this hipster pirate-y oyster bar here in Memphis that prides itself on its old fashioned cocktails. Might wanna give their drink list a look. They're especially fond of Louisiana stuff, Sazeracs and the like.

I'm kind of fond of sloe gin, myself. Not actually gin, but made from sloe berries. Might be too girly-sweet though for seems like old-timey "on the lawn" picnic-y stuff though, to me.

Here's some great old-timey feeling ones too: Mae West, Cucumber Fifty-fifty, and The British Lady. And a Queen Elizabeth cocktail. Yum.
posted by ifjuly at 11:41 AM on November 18, 2009

A muddler! And a jar of vermouth olives.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:14 PM on November 18, 2009

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