A post from Shady Characters

Miscellany № 53: Dinner ampersand drinks

Are you thirsty? I'm thirsty. (Image courtesy of @Monotype on Twitter.)
Are you thirsty? I’m thirsty. (Image courtesy of @Monotype on Twitter.)

I don’t mind telling you: I could use a drink. Work on the The Book continues apace — if all goes according to plan, the manuscript will be delivered to Mr Brendan Curry by the end of this year and the book published by the end of 2015 — and my thoughts are turning to how I might celebrate its completion. A tasty beverage would hit the spot.

Punctuation-related cocktails have been on my mind since I came across today’s header image a few months back on the Twitter feed of Monotype, the type company. The “Type Ice Tea”, “Ampersand Fizz” and “Pilcrow Fashioned” were all on offer at the Design Week Awards in London back in May; and though I missed the boat on that particular conjunction of punctuation and alcoholic beverages, I console myself with the knowledge that these heady concoctions are really just rechristened versions of the Long Island Iced Tea, the French 77, and the Old Fashioned. What would really get the juices flowing is a cocktail with its roots in punctuation; something novel, and hitherto passed over by the cocktail cognoscenti, just as the marks discussed here have been unduly ignored over the years.

Something like the Ampersand Cocktail.

As J. K. Grence of the Phoenix New Times explains, this venerable drink was invented (or at least first recorded) at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel sometime before prohibition forced discerning drinkers underground. Its name apparently comes from the ampersand in the name of Martini & Rossi, the Italian drinks company that produces the sweet vermouth necessary to make the cocktail. Speaking of which, the Ampersand consists of equal measures of three constituent liquors — cognac & Old Tom gin & sweet vermouth — along with a dash of orange bitters, and it is simplicity itself to make. According to Mr Grence’s recipe, take the following ingredients:

  • ¾ ounce cognac
  • ¾ ounce Old Tom gin
  • ¾ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 or 2 dashes orange bitters

Stir these together with ice cubes until chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, et voilà! Enjoy. I was excited to try out the Ampersand for myself, only to find that the Shady Characters drinks cabinet is currently absent any sweet vermouth.

How helpful, then, that I should discover not only that there is such a thing as artisanal vermouth, currently enjoying a renaissance in the USA, but that one of its proponents is a man named Karl Weichold who makes Interrobang Vermouth in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Karl provides a few recipes at the website for Interrobang Vermouth, and, given the symbol’s origins on Madison Avenue, it seems only fitting to share his “Interrobang Manhattan” with you. Take the following:

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part Interrobang Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 dash of Bitters

Mix together and shake with plenty of ice, then strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon. This is, I grant you, nothing more than a conventional Manhattan made with Weichold’s own vermouth, but I find it hard to judge his recipe too harshly: it has the work “interrobang” in it, for heaven’s sake.

And if neither the Ampersand Cocktail nor the Interrobang Manhattan take your fancy, perhaps an Asterisk would be in order? Doug Ford at Cold Glass describes this variant on a cocktail called The Last Word as containing:

  • ¾ ounce brandy
  • ¾ ounce Green Chartreuse
  • ¾ ounce cherry liqueur
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice

To make an Ampersand, mix all its ingredients together and shake until cold, then strain twice into a chilled cocktail glass.

Taste tests of all these cocktails will be forthcoming — right around the time that I finish work on The Book, I imagine — and I will be sure to report back once my wits have returned afterwards. In the meantime, what punctuation-related cocktails have I missed? Let us know in the comments!

2 comments on “Miscellany № 53: Dinner ampersand drinks

  1. Comment posted by Doug Ford on

    Keith— thanks for including a link to the Asterisk; I look forward to hearing how you enjoyed it.

    1. Comment posted by Keith Houston on

      Hi Doug — not at all! I’ve found myself at Cold Glass a couple of times recently, and I’ve very much enjoyed a ramble through your posts. I hope Shady Characters’ readers take a look too.

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