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Aug 2020 wine dinner

 

A sexy cocktail

The Adonis

By Abigail Gullo

Of all the questions I get asked as a bartender, one of the weirdest was, "What is the sexiest cocktail order you ever got?" Stranger still, I have the perfect answer: the Adonis.

Just like me, The Adonis began its career treading the boards on the Great White Way. I was a theatre major who lived in New York city for over 20 years performing in various off (and off off off off) Broadway plays throughout the turn of the 20th century.

The show that the Adonis was named after goes back a century before I debuted on Broadway. Adonis was a burlesque show that is credited as being America's first musical. In 1884 it broke all records and ran for over 500 consecutive performances. A cocktail was created in its honor at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

While I may not have been alive to attend one of those performances, this is about where my family gets involved. My great grandfather, Arthur Charbonneau, was a barman at the Waldorf-Astoria and met my great grandmother, Theresa Gilmartin, who was a maid at the historic hotel. Their son, my grandfather Vincent, was a Manhattan man through and through, both in personality and drink. He probably loved the drink because it was what his father made for all the swells at the Waldorf-Astoria Bar. Gramps wasn't much of a drinker, but he was well known for his love of this cocktail. In fact, he taught me how to make a Manhattan when I was just 7 years old. When you are one of 48 grandchildren, you do what you can to stand out in the crowd, and my way was to become his personal barman. I guess it just runs in the family.

The Manhattan was the first great American cocktail to receive international acclaim. Prince and potentates alike around the globe traveled to Manhattan island to try its namesake cocktail in the 1880s and take the recipe home. It represented the growth of America and the influence of the refugees and immigrants coming over from Europe and bringing their drinking traditions with them, namely vermouth and other fortified wines. It began the wave of vermouth cocktails and was the grandfather of the Martini. Despite the popularity of its heir, it suffered far less modification over the last 150 years. A Manhattan is still essentially two parts whiskey, one part sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of bitters. It's an enduring cocktail that is delicious. And strong. To paraphrase a quote mis-attributed to Dorothy Parker, "I love a Manhattan, two at the most. Three I am under the table, four I am under the host."

So that brings me back to my Adonis. Built like a Manhattan, it is sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. But instead of Rye, the Adonis calls for a dry sherry, thus making it a great low alcohol snuggle composed of two types of fortified wines. If you think of sherry as something sweet your grandma drank after dinner, you should know that most sherry produced is the driest wine in the world; it is a wine with 3000 years of history. The ancient Phoenicians brought vines to modern day southern Spain back in 1100 BCE. Made from the Palomino grape, dry sherries are essentially aged and blended white wines that are strategically fortified. Many sherries age biologically under a cap of yeast called a flor. It prevents oxygen from oxidizing the wines until they want it to. It's a lot of magic and science, but what do you expect from a process older than Christ? I think it is no coincidence that the Bodegas, where the barrels of sherry are aged on the southern coast of Spain, resemble cathedrals. Sherry was practically designed to go with food, and that is why I love using it in cocktails. My career has always been focused on making great drinks to go with great food. Sherries on the dry end of the spectrum taste bright and crisp with salinity so you can taste the sea salt from the warm coastal breezes. Drinking sherry, I just want to eat cured meats, cheese, almonds, olives, and oysters by the fistful. In fact, I highly recommend you try that.

Fino and Manzanilla styles work best in this cocktail. They are very similar, but Manzanilla comes from a specific area, as sherry is regulated like Champagne. Amontillado will create a bit more richness in the cocktails as it has some more oxidation and would still make a lovely Adonis.

The key to using and storing fortified wines are in the name. Though they are higher in alcohol and thus preserved, they still should be stored like a wine. Keep them capped and refrigerated once opened. And try to consume them within a month. With this easy fifty/fifty recipe, you can make a date with an Adonis every night. And I often do.

The Adonis

1.5 oz Fino or Manzanilla Sherry
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes of orange bitters

Stir in a mixing glass over cracked ice. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

March 2020


 Abigail Deirdre Gullo spent her youth unknowingly gathering excellent craft bartender skills as an Off-Broadway performer and schoolteacher.  When the bartending golden age hit NYC at the turn of the 21st century, her passion for classic cocktails became her profession as well.  Abigail's original cocktails have been recognized in numerous national and international competitions and her cocktails have been featured in The New York Times, Imbibe, and Garden & Gun among others. When not behind the bar at Ben Paris, she is taking in the Pacific Northwest with her two terriers, Ronnie and the Bandit. Abigail has a cocktail podcast called Drink & Learn with cocktail historian Elizabeth Pearce and she occasionally blogs at www.ryegirlnyc.blogspot.com, though she would rather be singing in a Rock-n-Roll band.


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