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Secrets of the Past: Old Cocktail Books

Anyone with a sustained interest in cocktails inevitably collects a few books. Some of us find pleasure in the obscure, letting a beat-up vintage tome transport us to another place and time. Such was the case last holiday season when we were presented a gift of several old cocktail volumes. One of them entitled Prelude to Pleasure by Ogden Nash was published in 1934 as a 1000 copy limited edition for the Continental Distilling Corporation of Philadelphia. What made this book so intriguing wasn't the poetry or the dated photos and kitschy line art—it was the handwritten recipe on the last page.

The rest of the book confirms some delightful classics that appear in other publications, but we wanted to know more about this personal notation. The book was purchased in a used bookstore in St. Paul, Minnestota, and a little research reveals that a Charles Nybeck did indeed live

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Drink of the Week: Savoy Tango

From the title you might expect something wild and exotic, but the Savoy Tango is a very simple cocktail. Boasting only two ingredients, it's also easy to make. But can a drink like this live up to its catchy name? You'll have to taste it yourself to find out, but if you'd like to take our word for it, the answer is yes.

When we first came across this recipe we had to wonder what all of the fuss was about. It appears in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, so it's been around for a while. It is also noted to have been a popular selection in its day. So, why don't we ever see it on the menu? Our guess is that it has something to do with Sloe Gin.

It isn't the first time the subject has come up. We have covered Sloe Gin before in

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Drink of the Week: Millionaire No. 1

Back in March I posted a recipe for the Sloe Gin Fizz. If you haven't had the pleasure of tasting this drink, or more importantly, tasting real sloe gin, I highly recommend making a little room in your cabinet for this wonderful spirit. Do everything you can to find Plymouth Sloe Gin since other brands may not be the same product. Some people say that the best sloe gin is homemade, and that's probably true. Just be aware that many of the bottom shelf brands have nothing in common with blackthorn berries, let alone actual gin. Plymouth, on the other hand, is made using the real fruit and their own gin, and it is absolutely delicious.

Besides the Fizz, there are several sloe gin cocktails worth trying, and one of them is the Millionaire #1. This drink appears in Harry Craddock’s

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Drink Of The Week: Sloe Gin Fizz

A Fizz—that sounds interesting, but sloe gin? Isn't that the sickeningly sweet red stuff from from when you were young and didn't know any better? Well, yes and no. And, that's a problem we need to overcome if we are to restore this drink to its rightful place as a refreshing classic. To get there, we need to understand a few things about our base spirit. Sloe gin isn't actually gin at all, or rather, it isn't gin anymore.

It's supposed to start as gin, but during an infusion of sloe berries (from the blackthorn bush, related to the plum), sugar is added and it slowly transforms into a liqueur. That seems straightforward enough. The problem is that American manufacturers have cheapened the process over the years to the point that most of what you find on shelves today isn't even made with gin. Untold artificial flavors and too much

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