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Cocktail of the Month: Global Warming

In Poland, bison grass vodka is most commonly served with apple juice in a cocktail called the Tatanka. If the name of this drink rings a bell, you can thank Kevin Costner.

The Cosmopolitan: Once the “It” Cocktail

Maybe it’s the appealing pink color, the pleasing tart flavor or the swanky glassware. Perhaps it was the four liberated and stylish ladies of New York who adored them. But for one reason or another. the Cosmopolitan -- or Cosmo, for short -- was the “It” cocktail of the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s. This tipple hit its zenith of fame when it became the favorite drink of Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” But believe or not, the Cosmo pre-dates the prime time television show by years. It was also another trend-setting celebrity that lent her hand at influencing this drink ‘s destiny before Sarah Jessica Parker started to imbibe on this vodka, cranberry and citrus concoction. The Museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted a seminar on popular vodka drinks, which included the history behind the Cosmopolitan. Phil Greene, founding member of the museum and author of “To Have and Have Another : A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” hosted the event, which was held at the Warehouse theater inside the Passenger bar. Several recipes for cocktails similar to Cosmopolitan have been uncovered. One recipe for a drink named “Cosmopolitan” that Greene dug up dates back to 1934, from the book “Pioneers of Mixing Gin ?at Elite Bar 1903-1933.” While this early recipe uses gin instead of vodka, its remaining ingredients are comparable to today’s version. Using gin in a cocktail during that time was commonplace. Vodka did not start to get a stronghold in the American drink scene until the 1950s. Another similar recipe from the Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers from the 1960s, was unearthed by Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff which calls for one ounce of vodka, one ounce of cranberry and a squeeze of lime. The invention of the modern-day Cosmo is generally credited to bartender Cheryl Cook in Miami’s South Beach. According to Greene, “In the mid-1980s the martini was making a comeback, and many customers were ordering them, seemingly just to be seen holding the iconic martini glass. However, for many, including women, martinis were a bit too strong and powerful. So she came up with the idea to create a drink that was visually stunning and uses the martini glass. Using a new product called Absolut Citron, a splash of triple sec, a few dashes of Rose’s Lime and some cranberry juice to turn it pink, the Cosmopolitan was born.” The Cosmo further evolved when cocktail heavyweight DeGroff sampled it at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. DeGroff decided he could improve upon this formula and created his own version for the Rainbow Room in New York.  According to Greene, he used Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, along with a flamed orange peel garnish. It was at the Rainbow Room where the Cosmo’s superstardom began. Its prominence skyrocketed when Madonna was pictured sipping one at the Rainbow Room Grammy party, when the award show was held next-door at Radio City Music Hall. Next came “Sex and the City,” which cemented the Cosmopolitan’s place in drink history. Soon, Cosmos were on cocktail menus across the nation along with various drinks with names ending in “ini” and served in the cone-shape big martini glasses. While the Cosmo’s place in the sun has faded somewhat, it has earned a spot on the list of classic cocktails. Even our favorite New York girl seems to have cooled on her Cosmopolitan. In the film version of Sex and City, Miranda asks why the girls stopped drinking Cosmos. Carrie replies, "Because everyone else started." Dale DeGroff’s Cosmopolitan: 1.5 oz. Absolut Citron Vodka .5 oz. Cointreau .25 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1 oz. Cranberry Juice Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel. The Museum of the American Cocktail will be sponsoring evening of stories, cocktails and songs led by Dale DeGroff on Thursday, April 12. For more information, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org

Cocktail of the Month: The Coquito

In Poland, bison grass vodka is most commonly served with apple juice in a cocktail called the Tatanka. If the name of this drink rings a bell, you can thank Kevin Costner.

The Nica Libre

Rum and Coke may conjure up memories of college fraternity parties or youthful nights sneaking drinks in your parents’ home. It was probably one of the first mixed drinks you tried, back in the day when Natty Boh and Milwaukee’s Best were your choice of beers. But if you head 90 miles south of Florida, the rum and Coke has a more romantic vibe. On Castro’s island, it’s called the Cuba Libre and includes the addition of lime juice. In Cuba, the rum and Coke can trace its earliest beginnings. While the exact circumstances of its birth are unclear, Wayne Curtis, author of “And a Bottle of Rum,” offers a plausible explanation involving Americans soldiers in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Americans and Cubans were gathered in a bar where the soldiers mixed rum and Coke and called out “Por Cuba libre!” – “To a free Cuba!” The drink migrated north. During Prohibition, Coke was an easy mixer used to mask the taste of bathtub alcohol, and during World War II, when rum was plentiful and whiskey scarce, its popularity increased further. But it was a popular song that blasted the drink into the apex of pop culture. In 1945 the Andrews Sisters’ song "Rum and Coca Cola” entered the charts, where it remained in the number one spot for 10 weeks. The song, which was based on a Calypso song from Trinidad, sold 7 million copies and made rum and Coke an iconic drink for years to come. Its prevalence endured throughout the generic 50’s into the age of Wonder Bread and canned foods. The drink was simple to mix and required no exotic ingredients. Going back to its origins, a proper Cuba Libre, made with fresh squeezed lime, can be a refreshing elixir, especially in the muggy hot Cuban climate. However, while rum flows freely in Cuba, Coca Cola, thanks to the trade embargo, is not readily available everywhere. When your order a Cuba Libre, most bars will mix it with Fiesta Cola, a soft drink packaged in a red can with a white logo that looks suspiciously similar to Coke’s trademark script. A true Cuba Libre should be mixed with Cuban Rum, which is illegal in the states. Luckily, I found a pleasant alternative during a holiday in Nicaragua. While many Americans associate rum with the Caribbean islands, Flor De Cana rum is as ubiquitous in Nicaragua as Bacardi is now in Puerto Rico. Whether you are sitting at an open-air restaurant along the Pacific in San Juan del Sur, a colonial courtyard in Grenada, or at a reggae club on Corn Island, the liquor of choice across the country is Flor de Cana. Any bartender will mix you a “Nica Libre” with Flor de Cana, fresh lime and Latin Coca-Cola. In Latin America, Coke tastes slightly different than what is produced in the states; it’s made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. But there’s no real need to travel afar. This classic highball can be easily mixed at home. However, if you prefer going out (way, way out), I recommend seeking out Isaiah at the Best View Hotel on Big Corn Island. The Nica Libre 2 oz Flor de Cana rum Juice of ½ lime Coca Cola Lime wedge Add first two ingredients in a tall glass. Fill with ice and coke and stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Ingredients to make the Nica Libre may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.

Cocktail of the Month: The Chestnut Old Fashioned

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose ...” This standard tune, whether crooned by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or...

Cocktail of the Month: Pumpkin Pisco Punch

Thanksgiving week marks the tail end of autumn and the last call for fall flavors before the busy December holiday daze. One flavor that...

Cocktail of the Month

As a lover of rum, I’m always on the lookout for innovative cocktails and combinations. The resurgence of tiki culture helped put rum back in...

Staff Picks: The Sweetness of Summer

Sonya Bernhardt Recently, I was searching for a good frozen recipe for a summer dinner party and discovered this Aperol sorbet concoction. It is delicious,...

Cocktail of the Week

The Suffering Bastard is a curious name for a drink that I’ve seen on numerous menus in Tiki bars and Chinese restaurants. Aside from the humorous moniker, I never really gave this drink much thought. But like many popular cocktails, there’s a story behind this concoction, which belongs to a man named Joe Scialom, who was perhaps one of the world’s most famous bartenders. The Museum of the American Cocktail and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the author of five books on vintage Tiki drinks and cuisine, recently hosted a lecture, “The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery,” at the Occidental Grill. Berry’s research began after reading Scialom’s obituary in the New York Times, in 2004. He tracked down Scialom’s daughter Collette and recorded his fascinating story. Scialom, who was educated as a pharmacist, was born in Egypt in 1910. While working as a chemist for Lever Brothers in the Sudan, he began applying chemistry principals to mixing drinks to entertain his colleagues. Here he found his calling and set out to become a bartender. His career began at the opulent Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, which was one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. Shepheard’s welcomed royalty, heads of state, and famous celebrities. Scialom, who spoke eight languages, dazzled the elite guests from near and far. He counted Winston Churchill, Charlton Heston, Charles de Gaulle, Conrad Hilton, and Egyptian King Farouk among his many guests. During World War II, the hotel served as an unofficial officer’s club for the British and became an informal press club for war correspondents. When there was little news from the war, the media wrote about Scialom’s amusing antics. Due to wartime supply shortages, drinks were being mixed with poor quality alcohol, and guests began complaining of headaches. In response, Scialom created the “Suffering Bastard” as a hangover cure. According to Berry, the original recipe for the Suffering Bastard consisted of “Black market gin from South Africa, stolen British army-issue brandy, a homemade lime cordial, bitters brewed by a druggist across the street, and ginger ale from a Greek merchant of dubious character.” The hotel bar, which was now referred to as “Joe’s Bar,” even featured a chart prescribing the number of Suffering Bastards needed to relieve a hangover based on its severity. Another amusing anecdote that Berry shared involved Scialom making gallons of the Suffering Bastard for a hungover British army that fought the battle at El Alamein. When the British won, the ever-present foreign correspondents reported Scialom’s hand in the victory. Following these reports, the Suffering Bastard became internationally known. Trader Vic’s was the first to copy it. Then it began showing up at Tiki bars everywhere, even though the recipe was nowhere near Scialom’s original. According to Berry, Trader Vic’s version was very similar to a Mai Tai. Scialom was the consummate host at Shepheard’s. When the hotel was destroyed, during the course of the civil unrest of the Egyptian revolution of 1952, Scialom continued to serve drinks and was one of the last to leave. But Scialom’s popularity did not go unnoticed by the Egyptian authorities. They were suspicious because he mingled consistently with so many important people. He was imprisoned as a spy and then later expelled from Egypt by President Gamal Abdel Nasser. While Scialom’s illustrious bartending career continued in Puerto Rico, Havana, and New York, it was his time at Sheapherd’s Hotel that cemented his place in cocktail history. The Suffering Baststard Courtesy of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry 1 ounce gin 1 ounce brandy 1/2 ounce Rose’s lime juice cordial 2 dashes Angostura bitters Ginger beer Add gin, brandy, Rose’s, and bitters to an ice-filled glass. Fill with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with orange slice and mint sprig. Ingredients to make the Suffering Bastard may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown. Scialom’s story will be published in Berry’s upcoming book, “Potions of the Caribbean: Lost Cocktails from America’s Playground”. For information visit www.BeachBumberry.com or www.MuseumOfTheAmericancocktail.com. [gallery ids="99208,99209" nav="thumbs"]

On the Mall: Armenia and Catalonia

At the 51st annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which runs through July 1 and from July 4 to 8, visitors are invited to engage with the traditional arts and food right on the Mall.