We started the cocktail thing a few years ago when we instituted a Sunday dinner challenge with a friend. Because we usually had the meal covered, his contribution became a cocktail.
We began the ritual with a classic that was repeated over several meals. The Old-fashioned is a favorite of his and he fancied himself a pretty fair maker of the concoction. He did not lie. His version, brings together rye with muddled cherry, orange, sugar cube, and bitters. He believed that Peychaud’s bitters from New Orleans was a secret to even greater success, but when our cocktail odyssey began, the variety of available bitters was scant. We settled on the bitters that was on the grocery store shelf. Our source in New Orleans (shout out to you, Ali!), however, came through for us. That Christmas break, she returned home with Peychaud’s for all. We then had our go-to Old-Fashioned.
Not that we would ever get tired of the Old-Fashioned, but a time did come when we decided to venture beyond the tried and true. Holy cow, what fun! There is something thoughtful and ritualistic about cocktail mixing that I really embrace. Goodness knows I find nothing the matter with pouring a glass of wine or a good beer, but mixing a cocktail means considering what it will be, if the ingredients will be available, and when it should be served.
That brings me to the Friday evening cocktail. Friday is typically my day to stay home and write. I also am usually in charge of dinner that day. Dan will get home in the early evening and before we dig into a meal, we often settle down for a cocktail. It is a time to break the work week from the weekend. It is a time to change the pace and set the tone for the hours to come.
Today I am already thinking of The Yale. The Yale, like many cocktails, has several different interpretations. One reason for this is because one of the original ingredients was something called Creme Yvette. Creme Yvette is a liqueur that was made out of a violet found in Italy mixed with vanilla and other spices. The resulting product smelled of fresh picked violets and had a beautiful lavender shade. When Creme Yvette ceased being produced, the go to substitute was the similarly colored, but quite differently flavored, blue curaçao. Doing a search on The Yale cocktail, you will find several recipes that still use that substitute ingredient.
But a few years ago, an Austrian company began combining a grape brandy with violets that grow high in the Alps. The cocktail world had back its violet liquor. I first met Crème de Violette at a wine tasting. The distributor was set up in a corner with his tall slim bottles. I went to taste the Crème de Violette and before it hit my mouth, I got the aroma of violets. I bought a bottle with little idea of what to do with it.
And that is how I discovered The Yale – a cocktail that was first mixed in 1895 in the hey day of New York City mixology. A few years after it was first cited, it became a standard recipe in the prestigious Yale Club in Manhattan. There, alums could sit back with a chilled beverage boasting their school color. It combines a classic martini base of vermouth and gin and adds violet and bitters. Delicious!
I take my version of the Yale from those who brought back the violette:
Stir in an iced cocktail shaker until well-chilled:
- 2 ounces gin
- 1/3 ounce dry vermouth
- 1/3 ounce Creme De Violette
- dash bitters (Peychaud’s is what I use)
Strain into an iced cocktail glass.
Cheers and Happy Friday! Do you have a weekend introducing favorite?