Willie Smith Cocktail

First, just a reminder that Sunday, Jan 30, 2010, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Willie Smith Cocktail
1 Dash Lemon Juice. (Very Generous Dash Lemon Juice)
1/3 Maraschino. (1/2 oz Maraschino)
2/3 Brandy. (1 1/2 oz Osocalis Brandy)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Sort of a Brandy heavy Sidecar, sweetened with (too much) Maraschino Liqueur, the Willie Smith Cocktail might have been named after Willie the Lion Smith…

From an Answers.com Article:

Willie the Lion Smith was a pianist who stood at the center of the New York City jazz world in the roaring 1920s. He performed at the most fashionable nightclubs in New York City’s predominantly African-American Harlem neighborhood, accompanied other musicians on recordings, and inspired and mentored a host of younger musicians. Smith is regarded as a pioneer of stride piano, the first important solo piano style in the jazz tradition. He is less well known than other pianists of the 1920s such as James P. Johnson and Thomas P. “Fats” Waller, primarily because he made few recordings under his own name until later in his career.

You can listen and learn more here on this NPR piece:

Jazz Profiles from NPR: Willie “The Lion” Smith

William Henry Joseph Bonaparte Bertholoff Smith, aka Willie The Lion Smith, was a piano player who greatly influenced many future Jazz greats during the early part of the 20th Century.  A contemporary of Fats Waller he bridged the “Stride” piano style with the Chamber and Swing Jazz styles that were to come. He made his true fame playing Harlem house parties during prohibition, influencing other more famous players like Duke Ellington.

Interestingly, he felt the legalization of liquor did more harm to Harlem, than Prohibition ever did, as White people with money no longer had a reason to frequent the clubs and house parties where many in that neighborhood made their money.

“It was legal liquor that did to Harlem what scarcer tips and shuttered warehouses had failed to do.”

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

The Bitter Truth about Bittermens

A few people have wondered about the formulation of Bittermens Bitters, now that they are again making them here in America, instead of contracting production to The Bitter Truth.

Nicely, Avery Glasser noticed that I had used his product in my re-modeled version of the Whizz-Doodle and commented with details.

In case you weren’t following that post, here are his comments:

So, here’s the reason there were differences between our initial Xocolatl Mole, what TBT was producing under license from us and the “real” Bittermens Xocolatl Mole that we relaunched with when we rebooted Bittermens in July 2010.

The initial Xocolatl Mole and what we are producing ourselves now after the reboot is exactly the same formula: it’s what we submitted to the TTB before we partnered with TBT. Only three things changed. First, we went from making 2 liter batches to 20 gallon batches, which is helping ensure consistency from batch to batch. Second, we went from filtering using a gold coffee filter to using a real filtration system (and every batch the filtration gets better – we’re now using a 5 micron filter for the first time – before, we were filtering at 10 microns), which brightens the flavor a little and improves shelf stability. Finally, we’ve really taken a great amount of care to find the right cacao nibs. Initially we were using Scharffen-Berger nibs, now we’re using smaller-batch nibs from artisanal roasters and finding that it’s improving the chocolate profile without making the chocolate too overpowering.

When we partnered with TBT, we had to make compromises so that our formulas would fit their processes. That meant changes in the maturation time and final alcohol content (and yes, we do think that the final ABV radically changes how the flavors disperse across the tongue). We also had to change a number of ingredients – we purchase 95% of our ingredients now from organic producers and really take the time to select the vendors to ensure that we’re getting the flavors we want. With TBT, they selected the vendors based on what they had access to. Some items changed (from peels to essential oils) based on what they could find and what they were willing to make (for example, certain ingredients were too much of a strain on their filtration equipment). At the end of the day, we did approve the final formulations before they went into production – and we accepted the compromises because at that time, it was the only way to get our products to market.

Now that we’ve ended our partnership with TBT and are self producing, we’re staying true to the products and formulas that we want to make.

Hope this is helpful

Oh – and you won’t have two expressions to play with regarding our Xocolatl Mole and the TBT produced version for much longer. TBT lost their right to produce any of our formulas in July 2010, so once their stock is sold out, there’s no more TBT produced Xocolatl Mole or Grapefruit bitters. They may come out with new chocolate or grapefruit flavors, but they won’t have anything to do with our recipes.