Our mission: to help in the transition from drinker of quantity to drinker of quality. Along the way, we'll have some laughs, or someone's catching heck. Prolly me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Harvard Cocktail

On the 01/06/14 Dig Radio live broadcast of the Dr. Radio Show, we tried the

Harvard Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces cognac
1/2 ounce Italian vermouth
2 or 3 dashes Angostura bitters
1-2 oz Seltzer

Stir with ice,
Serve in a cocktail glass, up.
Stick your pinky out,
Quaff with distinction.

This recipe was likely first published in George Kappeler's "Modern American Drinks," 1895 (free, legal copy HERE). It does seem to be connected with a certain university, but I can't find a direct claim, so I'll keep digging.

While modern versions, including my own, may remind you of a Manhattan, the original recipe was much sweeter, with a 1:1 cognac to Italian vermouth ratio, as well as gomme syrup. The addition of seltzer may have been a student's low-rent attempt to emulate a champagne-punch. I imagine the original was intended as a low alcohol "session cocktail" you could keep drinking all night, without getting into a fist-fight with a police horse. 

The recipe has been tinkered with through the years; some formulas want you to sweeten the cocktail with Maraschino Cherry Liqueur (eww) or use orange bitters. My version is much drier, with a stronger focus on the caramel and raisin flavors of the cognac. The Italian vermouth softens the cognac's boozy burn and adds a slight, sweet, herbal, oregano note, the bitters add depth and the seltzer livens it all up. You could increase the Italian vermouth if you like, maybe up to a full oz, for a sweeter, lighter flavor, but a 1/2 oz is certainly enough to take the cognac's edge off, while leaving its flavor mostly intact. Sometimes I just use a 1/4 oz of vermouth. But I loves the cognac more than you do, cuz of my rugged sophistication.

While this refreshing, yet wintery, warming drink has become a personal staple since I discovered it's charms, it's hard to get around the rather unfortunate name. I also haven't run across too many bartenders familiar with it. If you think asking for a "Harvard Cocktail" makes you feel like a douche, try describing the recipe to a bartender, "...and then you top it with seltzer, which really brings it to life! I'm a bourgeois clown!"

Still worth it, though.

Well, you marvelous doucheoisie, as we like to say around here,
Bottoms up, stay bourgie! I mean, classy!

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