January 27th, 2009  |  Published in liqueur, recipes, scotch, whisk(e)y  |  3 Comments

CunninghamDuring Tales of the Cocktail last year, the Munat Brothers were handing out a book they had published for the event—a little spiral-bound compendium called Left Coast Libations. They were kind enough to tuck yours truly amongst the highly qualified contributors, but I have been sadly remiss in posting any recipes from the book. That is mostly because the poor little thing gets pushed behind the other books on the shelf and I periodically have to rummage around to get it back. Then again, having enough cocktail books to warrant rummaging isn’t much to be upset about.

So it happened that I fished LCL out whilst searching for a drink to make with Cherry Heering, a bottle of which was sitting on the bar looking forlorn. (Do bottles look mournful to anyone else? Cap slightly askew, label dinged from being shuffled about, silently pleading like a puppy in a window?) I had been meaning to get together a post about Heering in something less predictable than the Singapore Sling (which I have blogged not once, but twice) or a Blood and Sand. For those unfamiliar with Heering, it is a Danish cherry brandy created in 1818 by Peter Heering, whose name still graces the label. Dark red and relatively viscous, it is much sweeter than German cherry brandy or kirschwasser, which is traditionally dry and clear. Unlike kirsch or maraschino, Heering is made my macerating Danish cherries in neutral grain spirits and then cask-aging the mixture with sugar, which gives the liqueur its distinct flavor and beautiful color.

As I revisited the pages of LCL there appeared a recipe by Marco Dionysos, bartender extraordinaire from San Francisco, who created this recipe in honor of fiddle player Johnny Cunningham (Dionysos being a violinist himself). I had to tinker slightly with the recipe as printed, but the overall structure is somewhere between a Sling and a Sand—scotch base, fresh juice, savory Benedictine and sweet cherry brandy. Yes! Consider, as it were, that puppy in the window sold.

1½ oz Famous Grouse*
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh blood orange juice*
¼ oz Benedictine
¼ oz Cherry Heering

Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with brandied cherries and a flamed blood orange twist.

*The original calls for Johnny Walker Black and blood orange juice but, having never been a Johnny Walker fan and with my supply of blood oranges not yet ripe, I subbed for a blended scotch I do like and used some of the eight million pounds of regular oranges currently sitting around my kitchen.

The overall flavor of this cocktail is autumnal; there is a smoky, herbal component from the scotch and Benedictine that underscores everything, giving it a pleasant savory note despite the sweetness of the orange juice and cherry brandy. I really enjoyed this while sitting in front of a fire, but it’s hard not to enjoy a good cocktail while sitting in front of a fire.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for a forthcoming book from the Munats, also called Left Coast Libations, which will feature drinks from the best bartenders west of the Rockies!


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  1. Jacob says:

    January 28th, 2009at 11:55 pm(#)

    Mmm, thanks for posting this. I’m drinking one now.

  2. Chuck says:

    February 8th, 2009at 7:49 pm(#)

    We’re drinking one right now too. We were drunk and lazy and looking for inspiration for the next cocktail and I thought, let’s let Marleigh figure it out.

    We also have 8 million pounds of oranges and alas, none of the blood variety. This is a lovely drink even with regular oranges, and named for Johnny Cunningham! I loved him — great fiddle player and hilarious guy who left too soon. (Dig up some records by Silly Wizard, the Scots band he was in with his brother Phil.)

    Our bottle of Heering is lonely too, as is its vintage brother from the ’60s, which I picked up on eBay for cheap a while back, and never did open. We should crack it next time you’re over and see how it held up. :)

  3. Marleigh says:

    February 8th, 2009at 10:12 pm(#)

    I am certainly not going to turn down an offer like that! Glad you enjoyed the drink—we’re on the Union Club tonight and quite enjoying it. Funnily enough, I was feeling lazy earlier and decided to let Camper figure it out, pre-UC. :D

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