This is an original creation of mine, and, I think, my best yet.

Our good friends John and Fiona, whom we haven't seen in a few years, were visiting from England in September of 2003. They're honorary Louisianians, being veterans of several Jazzfests (which is where we met them), and in honor of the long-overdue visit our mutual friend Diana challenged Wes and me to come up with an original cocktail in honor of their visit. I'd been running some ideas through my head, thinking of some flavor combinations from some of the the Mother-in-Law Cocktail ingredients that might work in different arrangements and quantities, and with a different base spirit.

Given John and Fiona's native land, I decided to start with that most English of spirits, good ol' Plymouth gin. In went the other ingredients, giving it a delightfully bitter and slightly nutty flavor balanced by sweetness and a touch of citrus. It's orange-based, but not too "orangey" or overly citrusy. I think I hit it on the second try, with me mixing and Wes tasting and providing feedback, quality control and suggestions regarding ingredient quantities. We think it's mighty tasty, and named it in honor of our friends. (Fortunately, they loved it, or we would have had to call it something else.)

This cocktail was created to feature the flavor of Torani Amer, an American version of the French bitter orange apéritif Amer Picon. Picon is more readily available in Europe, and while still a good product it's a shadow of its former self. In the 1970s the makers of Amer Picon changed the recipe, dropped the proof by more than half, and sadly it doesn't taste the same. (I've tasted some vintage Amer Picon, and that stuff is beyond extraordinary.) If you have one of the two current incarnations in Europe, Picon Bière or Picon Club, either is an acceptable substitute, but the best flavor comes from the Torani Amer (available via mail order from Beverages and More) or from Jamie Boudreau's recipe for home-made Amer Picon substitute which is informally known as "Amer Boudreau".

The Hoskins Cocktail was featured in the September 16, 2004 edition of Gary Regan's column "The Cocktailian", which appears fortnightly in the San Francisco Chronicle. Besides the recipe (and some very nice compliments from Gary), it also features a thinly fictionalized appearance by John and Fiona as characters in the column. Gary had never met them, but as a fellow Englishman was able to suss out their tastes well enough such that John and Fiona were astonished at how accurately they were portrayed. In fact, several of our friends thought they really appeared in the Professor's (fictional) bar in San Francisco, and one was even upset, thinking that they had made a visit to California without calling him! (All that to say, it's a good column, and you should read it. Subscribe to Gary and Mardee Regan's free newsletter and you'll get the column in your email every other week.)

Combine in a mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir for no less than thirty seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, then flame an orange peel over the drink and garnish with the peel.

(To flame an orange peel, cut an oval-shaped piece of orange rind, approximately 1 by 1-1/2 inches, leaving a ring of about 1/4" of zest around the circumference of the peel, with the white pith in the middle. Light a match; hold the peel gently by the edges, hold the match between the peel and the drink, slightly closer to the peel. In one motion squeeze the peel so that a spray of orange oil cascades over the lit match and ignites, while moving the peel slightly closer to the flame. You should see a little slick of caramelized orange oil on the surface of the drink, which makes it extra yummy.)

Torani Amer is the American version of the bitter orange aperitif Amer Picon, and is available from Beverages & More, both via online mail-order and in their meatspace stores.

Oh, and of course, given how difficult it is to find Torani Amer and orange bitters in the States, much less in the U.K., we got John and Fiona a supply of both. It's kinda cool having your own house cocktail!


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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com