Sunday, June 19, 2011

Centering a Cocktail Around Maraschino: The Glass House

Conventional wisdom relegates some spirits to the back of the bus.  They might provide a nose or an aftertaste for a drink, maybe help balance other flavors, but seldom provide the dominant flavor.  Examples of such liqueurs that come to mind include creme de menthe, Gran Marnier, and elderflower liqueur.  At best they tend to share the stage.

Maraschino liqueur fits into this group.  With its very strong flavor profile, it tends to add a bit of complexity to drinks or balance other strong spirits like Green Chartreuse, which it dances with in the Last Word.  I've been wary of this spirit in the past, having been less than thrilled with the way that it seemed to knock certain cocktails out of balance.  I don't particularly care for the Martinez for this reason (and yes, I used actual Old Tom Gin).  Recently, I decided to try to build a cocktail around this maraschino and devised the Glass House.

The Glass House

1.25 ounces of Old Tom Gin (Ransom)
0.33 ounce of maraschino liqueur (Luxardo)
0.75 ounce of fresh red grapefruit juice
1 dash of angostura bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Taste (flavor, balance, and clarity): 7

I think it worked pretty well.  The cherry flavor is still a bit bracing, not exactly sweet but very strong.  I think that the grapefruit juice succeeded in largely offsetting the sweetness of the maraschino and Old Tom Gin, which I used instead of conventional gin because of its louder herbal background.  If anything, I might in the future reduce the maraschino amount.

Versatility (when and for whom the drink works):  6
I would also put this drink firmly in the camp of cocktails to be slowly sipped with some contemplation.  While good, it is not an easy drink and not a casually refreshing one.  Sort of the equivalent of watching Mad Men or Breaking Bad (though not to say this cocktail should be as well regarded as they are - perhaps Boardwalk Empire is the better comparison.)  Further, I think a lot of people aren't real big on cherry flavor in anything other than cherries.  Such people, including my wife, might struggle to enjoy this cocktail.

Hassle (Cost and Time):  6
The drink was fairly expensive, using both Old Tom Gin and Luxardo and took a moderate amount of time to make with the juicing.

Overall:  6.5
This is an interesting drink and one that features some unusual flavors and combinations to reasonably good effect.  It is challenging and not accessible to everyone. 

Potential Modifications
I might lower the maraschino a bit.  I also think that white grapefruit juice, with a stronger and more bitter taste might better balance the cocktail.  Such balancing would essentially change its nature of the cocktail to one that balances two strong flavors instead of one that surrounds one strong one.

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