After stumbling on adult fiction at a young age, when I rapidly gave up Judy Blume in favour of fictional sex and alcoholic endeavours from the likes of Chandler, Fleming and Wodehouse (not that I knew what sex was – quite frankly, I still have some questions), I had visions in my head of gentlemen scoffing potions in the morning to battle hangovers and of men drinking mint juleps at the Kentucky races. It was a foreign and barely imaginable world to me – but it was also a masculine world. And then, when I finally came of age, it was a disappointment to find that cocktails were largely considered a frothy, feminine affair in my own town and era.
Times, however, are changing – as the recent Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year competition showed, with the third and final round asking Australia’s bartenders to create a classic gentleman’s cocktail inspired by pre-prohibition recipes, using either Ron Zacapa 23 rum, Talisker 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky or Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve scotch.
The top three contenders in Sydney were:
- Tim Phillips from the member’s-only Level 6 at Ivy (which I checked out for the first time for the tasting – it’s a bizarre, 50s-style place, complete with femme fatale hostesses who could have come straight from one of the novels of my youth. Apparently Level 6 was going to be Justin Hemme’s personal apartment until he realised that having the Pool Bar underneath was too noisy. Now it can be your after-work bar (complete with two hot tubs) if you have more than five grand to spend on the membership fee)
- Luke Redington from Eau de Vie
- Luke Ashton from Duke Bistro (which is the bar/restaurant above the Flinders).
Both Redington and Phillips made variations of the flip, a type of cocktail that uses a whole egg. Actually, the original flips were mainly an American affair made with beer, rum and sugar that were heated by “branding” – ie sticking a red hot iron in them (a good site where you can read some classic flip recipes is Historical Foods). However, they’ve since evolved to become a type of cocktail that involves egg, spirit, sugar and spice (often nutmeg) and were known to be a gentleman’s morning helper.
(Incidentally, one reason why flips might have been good as hangover cures is that eggs contain cysteine, a chemical which helps break down acetaldehyde, a toxin produced by the alcohol in your stomach).
What’s interesting about Tim and Luke’s versions is they both use quail eggs, the reasoning being they’re roughly the same size as a chicken’s egg was back in the day. As someone who hasn’t had a flip in over two years, I forgot just how creamy both these flips were, even though no cream or milk was used (One difference between a flip and an eggnog is that no cream is used in a flip).
It’s also worth noting, for those who want to follow the flip recipes listed below, that both Tim and Luke’s recipes call for the ingredients to be dry shaken to emulsify them before adding ice.
Tim Phillips – Ivy Level 6: The Royal March Flip
- Half a fresh fig (or tbsp of homemade fig conserve if unavailable)
- 10ml lemon juice
- 40ml Talisker 10-year-old single malt Scotch whisky
- 30ml Ron Zacapa 23 rum mixed with honey
- 1 whole fresh quail’s egg
- Add ingredients, dry shake, then shake with ice. Serve up and garnish by spraying with an atomizer filled with ‘Ron Zacapa 23 rum Cinna-man Eau de parfum’. If you’re wondering what the hell this is, it’s basically the bastard child of cinnamon sticks macerated in rum that’s been put into an atomizer)
The result is a smooth drink that has a whisky backbone and a cinnamon aroma. If I hadn’t tried it in Level 6, where a bevy of femme fatales were cruising around the billionaire clientele, I’d no doubt be able to focus more on the drink. Instead, I just gulped my drink while wondering how I can start earning more money.
Luke Ashton – Duke Bistro: Ashtons Elixir No. 23
- 45ml Ron Zacapa 23 rum
- 10ml Amaro Ramazotti (an Italian liqueur that’s sweet, bitter and spicy – it gives the drink a medicinal feel)
- 4 dashes homemade ‘Muddy Moonshine Stomach Bitters’ (Ashton says he made this with corn whiskey and was influenced by an old Jerry Thomas recipe – btw, to digress further, you can read Jerry Thomas’s classic recipes at the Classic Mixology site)
- Combine all ingredients in chilled mixing glass and chill and dilute with large ice cube.
- Drop orange twist into the glass.
- Strain drink into frozen miniature labeled bottles (after all, who doesn’t have these on hand?)
- No garnish needed.
Ashton says this drink was inspired by the traveling snake oil salesmen of the US who used to peddle their wares on the back of their wagons (I know this is tragic, but it made me think of this Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson video clip for Say, Say, Say).
It’s a strong, no-holds barred drink that kicks like a mule. I like it but, at the time I drank it, I couldn’t imagine myself wanting to drink it again because it is so potent. Now that I’m writing about it, however, I’d die to have another one. It might be addictive.
Luke Redington – Eau de Vie: Foppish Flip
- 40ml Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve Scotch whisky
- 20ml Laird’s bonded Apple Jack brandy
- Half a barspoon (2.5ml) of Branca Menta (this is an Italian liqueur with mint flavours (it’s a cousin of Fernet Branca)
- 15ml of maple & champagne reduction (it’s basically a syrup)
- 1 whole quail’s egg
- Add ingredients, dry shake, then shake with ice. Strain into a refined gentleman’s glass and garnish with a dusting of nutmeg and a spot of fanfare.
To be honest, there’s no way on earth I’m going to make a maple and champagne reduction at home – I’m far too lazy – which is a pity, since this is a great flip. On one hand it’s smooth and easy to drink (I’d be happy to have this as my every day pre-coffee morning drink) and yet there’s a complexity in its flavour. It’s also possibly the first time I’ve ever had Branca Menta in a cocktail.
And … that’s it. Quite frankly, I wrote four times as much as I planned to for this post. Still, if you have any flip/gentlemen/femme fatale musings, feel free to leave a comment below: