The Brooklyn is an artist’s cocktail. Named after one of the boroughs of New York City, it’s the forgotten, or maybe misunderstood kid who sits in the back of the class and stares out the window. The creative one, who sees everything as something more than itself. A cocktail as much about meaning and expression as about drinking. The Manhattan may have the glamour of a Broadway glittering with lights, but Brooklyn has the brownstone, the ever present background to the dark reality of a Scorcese film, and to the warm nostalgia of a Neil Simon play. The cocktail named for this place is a blue collar project, a chore fit only for the inventive and curious pragmatist who’s happy to make the most of it, then make it their own.
The history of the Brooklyn cocktail is one of try, try again. David Wondrich more than adequately covers the history of this drink, all 8 versions of it, in his usual, and wonderfully entertaining style, so we’ll skip over most of it. In the end, however, it’s the rye, vermouth, maraschino, Amer Picon version that stuck. Really. Yeah, Amer Picon, because it’s the mystery ingredient, the one to which you gotta adapt because it’s super hard to find, but why? Why is this the last cocktail standing of all the cocktails called Brooklyn?
Every other borough has a simple cocktail named for it. Buy what you need at the liquor store and make a Manhattan. Throw a bit of rum in a glass with pineapple juice and call it a Staten Island Ferry. If you’re thirsty for a Brooklyn, however, prepare an expedition, for Amer Picon is a snipe in the bushes, and all you got is an empty glass.
Do you see now the appeal of the Brooklyn? It requires planning and experimentation. It’s a cocktail you have to think about. Amer Picon is a French bitter liquour, similar to an Italian amaro, but largely unavailable in the United States. Sure, one could go abroad and smuggle a bottle back, but it’s not likely those who covet this drink are about to do that. Get one of your jet set friends to bring one back for you? That works too, but, in that make-do sort of DIY way, acquisition isn’t the way to go.
The way to go is testing, tasting, and fiddling. Try different amari, add some bitters, play around until you find something you like. There’s a good bet that few who make a Brooklyn at home are familiar with Amer Picon, so that leaves you without bias. No preconceived notions about what the final product should taste like, only that it should taste good. It’s said that Amaro CioCiaro is a good stand in for Amer Picon, and who are we to say otherwise? It makes a great drink, but, in the spirit of the thing, mix and match until you find your own jam, then roll with it.
That’s the spirit we love about Portland. It’s a DIY town, and what we can’t find, we make. We even find something to love in things that aren’t ours, but, we do have a neighborhood called Brooklyn after all, so, why not? We’ll leave the maraschino liquour to Luxardo, but the rest is made right here. Rye, vermouth, and amaro, which is all we need. No expeditions, just a creative mind and a positive attitude to do what we can with what we got for a drink dependent on creative adaptation. What’s more Portland than that?
Our recipe, which will likely be totally different from yours, is a mix of the aforementioned Luxardo, along with James Oliver Rye, Ransom Dry Vermouth, and Townshend’s Kashmiri Amaro. James Oliver Rye is always our rye of choice, which you know by now, but what about the vermouth and amaro? Ransom is a winery and a distillery run by people commited to local ingredients. From organically farmed grape varietals to the Oregon Pinot Blanc, and the house distilled fortifying brandy, their vermouth is as local as it can get. The same can be said of Kashmiri Amaro, one of the most unique bottles in our collection. You see, Townshend’s makes tea. They make really good tea, and they bring their skill as tea producers to their spirits. Kashmiri Amaro is, as the name suggests, a blend of flavors from black tea and Indian spices, to the amaro-typical Italian herbs and roots. Is it a stand in for Amer Picon? Who cares. The better question remains, though, is Amer Picon a good stand in for Kashmiri Amaro? Again, who cares.
Pour this drink with a heavy hand. Our recipe favors generosity. You can find others that call for a dash of this, and a dash of that, but we tread boldly where others wilt. The only thing we dash is orange bitters, our own addition not called for elsewhere. RAFT Orange Bitters is our choice. You can leave it out if you prefer, or use different bitters. You’re bound to find something you like, and that’s the beauty of the Brooklyn cocktail. It’s everything you want it to be, and must, out of necessity, be only what you want, like a work of art, because you can’t make it otherwise. It’s named for a far away place, but it really is a genuine Portland cocktail.
Stir with ice, and serve up. No garnish.
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