I don't think it's news to anyone (particularly my mother) that I like a good cocktail. I'm delighted by the ongoing resurgence in vintage cocktail culture. I regularly read cocktail recipe and booze history books (see my "Boozy" shelf over at Goodreads). One of my recent Boozeventures™ involved arranging for some artisan bitters to be delivered over Solstice by a bitters crafter on Vancouver Island.
I've been obsessed with bitters for the last 8 months or so. It all started w/ a book I received for my birthday last year, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All (fyi .. affiliate link). Really interesting! Previously, if you said "bitters" I pictured that one crusty-rimmed bottle of Angostura bitters that has been in the fridge since 1976 that you get out once a year during the holiday season when someone says "Oooo .. we should make champagne cocktails" and you douse some very sad sugar cubes with said bitters and plop them in your glass of Baby Duck.
Bitters have a long and illustrious history both in association with cocktails, but also simply as digestive aides. And of course in our era of Artisan Everything, there are now crazy awesome bitters like the Shanghai Rhubarb or Grapefruit & Hops bitters from Vancouver's Kale and Nori Culinary Arts. Even my brother, Drew, got into the act, bringing me a selection of Fee Brothers bitters for Solstice last year.
Which brings me to the Ben Franklin. You see, once you have all these bitters, you need to MAKE something with them. While Drew was here during the holidays, we scoured several cocktail books and experimented with a few recipes. But nothing really struck our fancy. So, we created our own. We had a lot of bourbon in the house wanted to use .. so we developed this, a variant of the traditional Manhattan.
4 parts Wild Turkey
1 part Lillet Blanc
1 part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 tsp maple syrup
4 dashes cherry bitters
Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker
Strain and serve over ice with a mandarin orange twist
I'm 87% sure these are the right ratios. Drew and I did a LOT of testing. After conferring with him and checking my notes that I scribbled on the back of an envelope (Observation: my regular handwriting and my "slightly tipsy" handwriting are not all that different. Sigh.), it seems that these will work.
We then had the "what are we going to christen this delightful drink" convo. I wanted something French - to reference the Lillet Blanc - and also something Canadian - to reference the maple syrup as well as where the drink originated. Drew came up with "The Benjamin Franklin" (referencing the Wild Turkey - Franklin proposed that the official bird of the USA should be the turkey not the eagle - as well as a French connection (Franklin loved the French ladies)) - which I immediately dismissed (sibling rivalry?!). But by then Rosemary had grown tired of our drunken conversation and the sushi had arrived, so this lovely drink went temporarily nameless into the good night.
Flash forward 5 months. Blogging about bitters and cocktails is on my list, so I emailed Drew to confirm the ratios of this drink and said "So, are you OK with calling it the Ben Franklin? I really like that name, but I know you weren't thrilled with it."
It is a credit to Drew that he neither a) immediately phoned me and screamed "Are you KIDDING ME?" or b) unfriended me on Facebook. He just gently reminded me that the name was his idea and that he was OK with the shortened version. Though I'm pretty sure I heard him beating his head against the wall.
So .. there you have it. The Ben Franklin. Note to self: remember to take my own picture next time.
My next stop on my ongoing vintage cocktail odyssey is a trip to Vancouver's Modern Bartender. Have you been there? I haven't had a chance to go over yet, but they appear to be a paradise for boozehounds cocktail aficionados like myself. Can't wait!