May 17, 2010

How to make cocktails: The Magnolia Blossom

I spend more time than I should on the website. It's about the closest thing you can get online, and increasingly in real life, to the secondhand bookstore experience--you really have no idea what you'll find. Like LEGO movies. A children's book from 1866. Or a cookbook for men, by men, written in 1922.
My favorite is The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks, written in 1900. Devoid of any trends, slick photography or uppity know-it-all descriptions, you're forced to imagine what wonders the author is making. Would Milk Seltzer be good? Well, no. At least I assume it wouldn't be, because it's made from combining milk and seltzer. Thus, Milk Seltzer.
Things, my friends, were just different then. Ladies wore bustles, men were working for Ebenezer Scrooge and people ordered Milk Seltzer at bars.
But I did get distracted by something called a Magnolia Blossom. It's a combination of port wine (stay with me, I know, port wine isn't thought of as a cocktail ingredient, but don't worry because I'm not leading you into Wine Cooler territory), orange liqueur, lemon juice, superfine sugar, a little bit of soda water...and an egg white.
Yes! An egg white. Back in the olden days, eggs in cocktails was about as common as ladies not being allowed to vote. And just when the ladies were allowed to vote, the egg cocktail fell out of fashion. I'm not saying there is a connection....
It does sound creepy, putting egg whites in cocktails. And it is. An egg white is supposed to froth up the drink and add a velvety texture. But if you don't mix it right, or use a new-ish egg, you'll end up with a residue at the bottom of your glass that's closer in texture to something that would end up in a Kleenex.
Instead, I left it out. What I got was a cocktail that tastes like a pomegranate. The orange liqueur brings out the sweetness of the port, which is tempered by the lemon juice. The sugar, I think, it unnecessary. And the soda water should be poured lightly.
The Magnolia Blossom
(adapted from The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks)
1 1/2 ounces port wine (I use The Portly Gentleman, an Australian port)
1/2 ounce orange liqueur (like Triple Sec or Orange Curacao, not worth being fancy here)
2 tsp. lemon juice
Soda water to taste
Shake all ingredients (except soda water) until shaker frosts over. Pour into glass, top with soda water. Optional: The original recipe calls for fresh grated nutmeg on top, which I tried. It looks terrible, but the spicy kick is pretty good.

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