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Drink Of The Week: 21st Century

Last year around this time I started the Drink of the Week, a journey through classic and contemporary cocktail recipes. The 52 cocktails I chose, along with many that were posted in-between, form a good foundation for 2011. Already, we started the new year with a popular New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré. This week, however, I thought I would feature a riff on the cocktail that started all of the momentum fifty-three weeks ago.

Last January, I featured the 20th Century Cocktail. You may recall that I mentioned an updated version called the 21st Century. New York bartender, Jim Meehan created a cocktail that puts a nice spin on the original, and while I encourage you to try both for comparison, his goes something like this:

21st Century Cocktail by Jim Meehan
1.5 oz silver tequila
.75 oz white crème de cacao
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz absinthe (rinse)

Coat a chilled cocktail glass with absinthe, then add the other ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, and strain into the prepared cocktail glass.

Jim's recipe appears in the book by Robert Hess called The Essential Bartender's Guide. If you are familiar with the original, you'll note that the gin and Lillet have been replaced with tequila. I really welcome this change—there are just too few tequila cocktails out there. Tequila was virtually unknown during the golden age of cocktails which is why there aren't any older classics that contain it. Fortunately, new tequila and mezcal recipes are appearing all the time.

I am always surprised at how nicely crème de cacao pairs with tequila. Meehan's creation also ups the amount compared to the century-old classic, and he adds an absinthe rinse. I like to have an ounce of absinthe in an eye dropper for this purpose, but you can pour just a tiny amount from the bottle and turn your chilled glass to coat the surface. The effect is similar to the preparation of a Sazerac, and the result is subtle yet lovely. In fact, a rinse using some bold ingredient is often just what a cocktail needs to transform its flavor. Some people find it over-the-top, obsessively detailed, or sometimes even a bit snobby, but like adding bitters, it's these tiny refinements that can take a basic recipe to the next level—and it's the kind of effect I'd like to explore further in the coming year.

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