There's a certain level of comfort when it comes to the classics. There was no Tiki movement, no vodka, and folks knew what to expect from a cocktail. By today's standards, times were simpler then, although it's all relative. Still, we think there is virtue in exploring basic, spirit-driven recipes that have stood the test of time—and some that have become lost in it. The Metropole is one such drink.
Originally the house cocktail for the Metropole Hotel in New York City, this brandy based drink has survived since the late 1800s while the hotel where it was created is long gone. It's a common story shared by many classic cocktails, although in our opinion, too few of them contain brandy. It's a simple enough formula, but it has changed somewhat over the years.
2 oz cognac
1 oz dry vermouth
.5 teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Combine with cracked ice in a mixing glass, stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Early documentation reveals that when it was created, the Metropole was constructed using equal parts cognac and dry vermouth. There's no reason you can't continue to remain faithful to that early design, but most people today appreciate some emphasis on the base spirit, allowing it to assert itself a little more instead of getting lost in the vermouth. A more acceptable 2:1 ratio achieves that goal. And while we are discussing the spirit, there's no reason to break the bank using a fancy cognac. Any VSOP will do fine in this recipe.
It may look something like a brandy Manhattan that uses dry vermouth—or a Dry Martini that subs cognac for gin. We could go on and on about how one drink resembles another by subbing this for that, but the fact is, if you lined up your base spirits next to your modifiers, it would only be a matter of time before you pulled this basic combination at random (and practically every other classic). So, why isn't it more popular? If the ingredients are so simple and so common, why aren't more people ordering the Metropole? We cannot say, but are working to change that.
The bitters do transform the flavor, as they should, but it's a nice layering effect. We also tried a version without the modern addition of simple syrup but feel it's just what this drink needs to round out the flavors. It's still a dry cocktail that deserves observant dilution when stirring to take the edge off the spirit. We've seen the garnish take the form of a lemon twist which is a very nice addition if you don't have a decent cocktail cherry.
If you are normally a whiskey drinker, but you are looking to expand your repertoire, adding cognac to your cabinet is a smart move. It affords opportunities to mix seductive spirit combo drinks like the Vieux Carré, the Saratoga (one of our personal favorites) and a handful of other brandy greats like this fine drink.