Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Stir with ice and strain into a coupe
Finish with a citrus twist
* * *
I think it’s high time we broke some rules around here. Over the past year or so, we’ve only reached outside of our 12 bottles for very special occasions, so when you see “Fortified Wine” up there in the recipe, you should know that something’s up – although, in this case, that “something” may not be up in exactly the way you’re suspecting. No, today we’re going to learn one of the most important steps toward taking control of our home bars – how to substitute.
Sure, we here at 12BB can get finicky about our bottles, but we hope that you take our list as guideline rather than gospel — these are simply bottles that have never let us down whenever we’ve reached for them. Should you happen to see a Corpse Reviver or a Delmonico – or the above Dunlop, for that matter – elsewhere, you’re certainly likely to see different measurements and even different bottles called for. Which begs the question: Just how rigid does all this need to be?
Our recent week dedicated to Scott Beattie reminded me just how much I admire his cocktail menu at Spoonbar. For a drink like the Negroni, Beattie will offer up a classic, unfussy version followed by several riffs on the theme. Do you like Realism or Impressionism? The choice is yours to make. And this mixological flexibility stuck in my head when I read the Savoy Cocktail Book’s recipe for the Dunlop, which simply calls for “2/3 Rum, 1/3 Sherry, and 1 dash of Angostura Bitters”. Since we only have one Rum on our shelf, if I was going to make a Dunlop, it was going to be Pusser’s, Angostura, and some sort of Sherry. But I didn’t have a Sherry around that I wanted to use. I also didn’t want to schlep into the San Fernando Valley to chase down a $25 bottle I hadn’t tasted before, just in the hope that it might work in the drink. One of the perks of working professionally behind a bar is the ability to taste everything you can get your hands on – on someone else’s dime – a benefit which doesn’t always extend to us home mixers.
So, I took the lazy man’s approach (or Mother of Invention approach, depending upon your point-of-view): I used something I loved – something that wasn’t Sherry but that was close enough. In this case, it was a Broadbent 10 Year Malmsey Madeira, and it rocked.
If you Google the Dunlop, the vast majority of the recipes you’re going to see call for Light Rum and Dry Sherry, but for obvious reasons, I couldn’t take that route here. So, if I was going to break the rules (after all, the Savoy didn’t specify Light Rum), I figured I might as well go for broke. But, really, was I stepping that far outside of the box? Not at all. And this is where the bit about substitutions comes in. If you’re in a pinch and out of, in this case, Sherry, you should know about all the other wonderful bottles you can use in its place.
For as long as professional bartenders have substituted one spirit for another – like London Dry Gin for Genever – substitutions have played a significant role in the history of the liquid arts. After all, the above switch – Dutch Gin for English – marked the death of the John Collins and the rise of his cousin, the Tom Collins. When it comes to Sherry and its brethren, the substitution choices are all items with which I’m sure you’re already familiar — Madeira, Port, Marsala, and Vermouth. Besides being kitchen staples – actually, long before that – these fortified wines were mainstays of the decanter. What’s a fortified wine? Regular wine that has had distilled alcohol added to it. Why would someone do this? Well, long ago – in the days of extended sea voyages – fortifying was a way to preserve wines and, indeed, many fortified wines are considered ageless. While vintage Ports and other rare specimens will still go flat and should be consumed upon opening, the average stuff is pretty indestructible (but still best kept in the fridge).
Once you’ve accepted that one fortified wine can be substituted for another, you need to know that while they all spring from a common family, the flavor spectrum runs the gamut from the very, very dry (Fino Sherry) to the amazingly sweet and complex (Pedro Ximenez Sherry). For a successful switch, you’ll want to stay within the same relative profile (or maybe not, if that’s what you decide). In the case of my above Dunlop, I chose the Malmsey Madeira because I thought it would pair extremely well with the Pusser’s – indeed, the two were almost symbiotic – but the drink I produced was certainly an after-dinner tipple, even with the twist of lemon I added to brighten things up. Could I have picked a nice Amontillado or Oloroso Sherry instead? Certainly. Would I serve this variation on a hot Caribbean day? Definitely not. Drier fortified wines are typically appropriate for hotter climes and before food, while the richer, deeper, and sweeter examples are made for more contemplative situations, such as the middle of the Irish Seas, which — oddly enough — is where today’s drink takes us.
Cradled between the shores of Great Britain and Ireland is the Isle of Man (or, Mann, if you prefer). While Mann is a British Dependency, it is self-governed and is not considered part of the United Kingdom. Along with its tailless Manx cats, Mann is arguably most famous as home to the greatest motor race in the world, which began this past weekend and continues until June 10th. You can have your Indy and Daytona; I’ll take the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.
To describe the allure of the TT, I think it important to first set the scene. Mann itself is exactly what you might imagine in a British Isle – bucolic, somewhat hilly in areas, and speckled with small towns and villages. The roads (well-paved due to the race course) are narrow and lined with shrubbery — shrubbery which may very well conceal ancient stone walls. It’s the kind of place you imagine taking a lovely Sunday drive. Now, imagine racing though those same serpentine, narrow lanes at 200 mph, clinging to the back of motorcycle. Having trouble? This might help…
Look at some of the comments given to Isle of Man TT videos on YouTube and you’re bound to see things like “this is porn for me!” – a camp in which I firmly place myself. I could fill this post a dozen times over with arguments as to why the TT is the greatest single race on the planet, but I doubt if I could ever truly convey the goosebumps I get watching TT footage. Instead, let’s quickly tackle some history.
It all began with a 1903 British law that set the maximum speed limit at 20 mph (oh, those crazy automobiles!), essentially forbidding racing on public highways. This didn’t sit well with Sir Julian Order, Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britian, so he set off to Mann to seek a friendlier environment for his petrol pursuits. He got it. By 1907, with the support of the Auto-Cycle Club, the first regulated TT races began, and in 1911, the course was changed to include a section over Snaefell Mountain. 2011 marks the Centenary of the Mountain course, the main 37.73 mile circuit for the TT races, which has remained virtually unchanged since 1920.
To give you a brief idea of how the sport of motorcycle racing itself has changed, however, over the past century, in 1920 the Mountain Course lap record was 55.62 mph. Today, it’s 131.58 mph. Sure, the bikes are more powerful, the roads are better maintained, and some of the more egregious turns have been softened, but it still takes racers of a certain caliber to win the TT. And, high atop the TT winners heap sits Joey Dunlop.
Remembered as a shy, part-time barman from the small North Ireland town of Ballymoney, Joey Dunlop was known as “The King of the Roads”. While we has a five-time Formula One motorcycle racing champion, Dunlop is certainly best known for his unprecedented 26 victories at the Isle of Man TT, which took place from 1977 to 2000. Some folks name him as the greatest motorcycle racer who ever lived. Dunlop raced his first TT in 1976 without ever having set foot (or tire) on the course before. “It was wet, I rode a 250, and I’d never been round the circuit before, even in a car,” he recalled. “I remember coming up to Ballacraine and didn’t know whether to turn right, left or straight ahead!” He wasn’t among the leaders that year, but when he returned in 1977 astride a privately-owned Yamaha 750, Dunlop put all the factory racers to shame, claiming his first victory. After another win in 1980, Dunlop began his twenty-year relationship with Honda, and his records began to grow across all bike classes. Soon, Dunlop had passed the win record set by Mike Hailwood, and over 1985, 1988, 2000, he claimed an unprecedented hat-trick of hat-tricks.
Unfortunately, Dunlop’s amazing victories at the 2000 TT would be his last. On July 2nd of that year – little more than a month after the TT – he was killed while racing in Estonia. Seventy thousand mourners turned out for Dunlop’s funeral, one of North Ireland’s largest services. Today, the 26th Milestone of the Mountain Course is called “Joey’s” and a statue in his honor rests outside of the Mann motorcycle museum, overlooking the race course. Another statue of Dunlop stands proudly on Main Street in his hometown of Ballymoney, where the pub he and his wife owned has been transformed in Joey’s Bar, a shrine to the man’s legend.
Given that it’s TT time again and the hundredth anniversary of the Mountain Course, I found it impossible not to pay tribute to the man who conquered the mountain so many times. The fact that the Savoy Cocktail Book offered an appropriately named drink with such room for interpretation was just icing on the cake. How you decide to conquer your mountain – or your Dunlop – is, of course, up to you. Dunlop himself has shown us that you don’t need to know the course to win the race.