When it comes to cocktails, we can all be millionaires
Even when it comes to drinking, the rich are different.
Throughout the history of drinking in America, mixing alcohol and poor people has been a cause to crusade against. It has been called a disastrous scourge to the country, to families and to society as a whole. The rum that fills their glasses is a demon drink.
Meanwhile, at the Vanderbilts, the glamorous sip on El Presidente. That’s, uh, demon rum with pineapple juice, lime and a dash of grenadine.
The wealthy imbibe in their liqueurs. The destitute drown in their swill.
“I used to have a problem with drinking, but then I started making enough money to pay for it,” a noted celebrity once confessed.
Especially in the early part of the past century, drinking cocktails epitomized the image of carefree wealth. In the drawing rooms of stately mansions, there was always a perfectly placed liquor tray with a ready bottle of seltzer. Dapperly dressed men and flamboyantly dressed women sipped drinks while putting the roar in the 1920s. And can anyone think of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” without a mental image of endless wealth and “floating rounds of cocktails?”
And has any couple before or since downed so much alcohol with more class than the glamorous Nick and Nora Charles of “The Thin Man” film?
Coming out in 1934, the year after Prohibition ended, this film instantly put glamour and fun back into drinking. It inspired the famed Nick and Nora Martini. The drink is the standard martini of gin, but the magic is in the making. According to Nick Charles’ directions in one movie, a “Manhattan you shake to a foxtrot, a Bronx to a two-step, but a dry martini you should always shake to waltz time.” That’s not how it’s done on skid row.
Part of the magic of cocktails is their illusion.
One never feels poor while sipping a good cocktail that has its own name from a glass designed just for it. Olives are just green things with red tongues until they are swimming gently in a pool of gin. Ice is just frozen water until it makes music inside a silver shaker. Six o’clock is just the end of one work day and the prelude to another until the first drink of the cocktail hour makes work a four-letter word. Playwright Oscar Wilde said it most pointedly when he wrote, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
Certain drinks help this illusion along better than others.
Although it might seem perfectly fine for a layman to start his cocktail hour trip with a Sidecar — a mixture of brandy and triple sec — the smug CEO-wannabe down the bar is driving through his with a Golden Cadillac, a fine blend of white crème de cacao, Galliano and light cream.
And while it first appeared during the heart of Prohibition, it was after the 1929 stock market crash the Millionaire could be found at almost any bar.
Just why this popular cocktail was called the Millionaire isn’t known, other than there is that saying, “You are what you drink.” With all the variants of recipes, most had one thing in common — egg white.
The first printed recipes for the Millionaire came out in 1930 in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” and even he had two versions. The first used Jamaican rum, apricot brandy, sloe gin, lime juice and grenadine, but without the egg white. His Millionaire No. 2 combined anisette, egg white, gin and absinthe. During Prohibition, however, the Millionaire was rarely without egg, and the liquor was almost always Canadian whiskey, that being the illegal liquor everyone had plenty of.
One classic recipe calls for 2 ounces of rye whiskey (Crown Royal works well), a half ounce of Grand Marnier, a dash of grenadine and the white of one egg. All of this goes into a shaker with shaved ice and given a shake about twice what one would give a martini — a fast waltz, if one is following Nick Charles.
Of course, a millionaire in the 1920s is hardly close to a millionaire today. That inspired New York bar man Dushan Zaric of Employees Only to create a 21st century version called the Billionaire.
This is a potent drink made with 107-proof Baker’s Bourbon, which is a 7-year-old small batch bourbon made by Jim Beam, along with lemon juice, simple syrup, pomegranate grenadine and an absinthe bitters mixture, which by itself has three kinds of bitters, two kinds of absinthe and almost 2 ounces of Green Chartreuse. One of these will make a person feel rich. Two will inspire a run for president.
Nick Stephenson, manager of Marais, a waterfront multi-venue on 2015 FM 517 in Dickinson, has created his own version of the Billionaire, with a Texas take.
“I took an absinthe cocktail called the Billionaire’s Cocktail and I created the “Texas Billionaire’s Cocktail” that is made with Balcones Baby Blue Bourbon, absinthe, lemon juice, simple syrup and grenadine,” Stephenson said.
It was French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1750, however, that first suggested money can’t buy happiness. And it was a later great philosopher named Henny Youngman who followed with, “What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money.”
But maybe we shouldn’t approach the bar with dreams of wealth, but instead, with dreams of title. It’s possible to drink like royalty.
Houston-based cocktail caterers, Palace Party Beverage Co., works throughout the Gulf Coast area offering, appropriately, the all-inclusive King package, followed by the Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Anne. There’s also a non-alcohol package, but one must assume that’s an impostor king.
Palace’s event coordinator, Sarah Castillo, is a modern royal, however, and has no problem sipping with the subjects. In fact, she invented her own version of the Millionaire. In what’s called the Millionairess, she tosses the Canadian rye and substitutes, in a nod to the colonies, a honey bourbon.
“For something to drink in the summer, I wanted a little citrus taste, so I added lemon juice. The cocktail is very smooth and has hints of vanilla.”
This is a new take on the Millionaire No. 1 in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book.” The recipe is from Palace Party Beverage Co. Event Coordinator Sarah Castillo.
Palace Party Beverage Co. Millionairess
2 ounces honey whiskey, such as blends by Seagram’s Seven or Jack Daniels
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ounce orange Curacao
1 teaspoon grenadine
1 teaspoon raspberry syrup
1 raw egg white (can be divided to make two drinks)
1 fresh flower, such as orange or grapefruit for garnish
Place all ingredients except the garnish in a shaker with cracked ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass over ice and add garnish.