I first met "King of Cocktails" Dale DeGroff at a lovely bar in West Hollywood. He was on a small book tour for his wonderful volume The Craft of the Cocktail, and was behind the stick that night as well. It was a cash bar, except for a few of Dale's own creations that he was mixing that night ... and of course, I opted for those!
A few years back Dale was commissioned by Courvoisier to create a new cocktail featuring their Millennium Cognac bottling, which he then called the Millennium Cocktail. He later figured he needed to change the name, as he was very happy with the way the cocktail turned out and he'd hate to see it relegated to the trash heap of millennial merchandise. Later on, he discovered that an out-of-print book called The Roving Bartender, written by Bill Kelly in 1946, had a cocktail called the East India Cocktail that contained the same basic ingredients. Dale's version has some subtle but important differences that make for a wonderful flavor, and as far as I can tell, he's still calling it the Millennium (he was the night I had one, at least). It was absolutely lovely. It was also the night when I learned how to flame orange twists, which would be a heavy influence on one of my own signature cocktails, to come later.
1-1/2 ounces Cognac
1-1/2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce orange curaçao (I use Cointreau)
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Flamed orange twist, for garnish
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Shake all the ingredients vigorously with ice and strain into a
chilled cocktail glass. To flame the orange peel, cut a thin, oval
slice from the peel of a thick-skinned orange, about 1-1/2 inches by
3/4 inch long. Hold a lit match in one hand, and carefully pick up
the peel in the other, "as if holding an eggshell." Don't squeeze
the peel prematurely. Hold the peel by the side, between thumb and
forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
Hold the match between the drink and the peel, closer to the peel. Snap
the peel sharply, propelling the orange oil through the lit match and onto
the surface of the drink. Be sure to hold the twist far enough from the
drink to avoid getting a smoky film on the glass.
This takes practice. Once you go through a few oranges' worth, though, you
could be on your way to being almost as much of a pro as Pepe and Dale.
(Well, let's not aspire to cocktail godhood just yet, but you can definitely
get the hang of it with practice.)
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Chuck Taggart email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com