One of the hardest things to do in life is to sustain anything. We’ve been going on for a while now and it is sometimes tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hard to keep on keeping on, but what are you going to do, give up? That’s not really an option. The world doesn’t change because we are tired of it and wishing just burns up stars. So let’s make a drink and forget for a few moments that things are pretty weird right now and not the fun kind of weird. Won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the Gypsy Queen.
This drink is one of the oldest vodka cocktails in the U.S. Vodka wasn’t a particularly popular spirit through in the first half of the 20th century, a time when whiskey, brandy and gin reigned. The earliest reference to this one comes from New York’s Russian Tea Room in 1938. A super swanky place for a family simple drink. I used to really enjoy vodka, but I am not a huge fan of it in cocktails. At its best vodka is a clean carrier, a neutral spirit, by its very nature it brings no real flavor to the drink. That is what makes it great for infusions. So, if you need a carrier in a drink vodka is great, but it doesn’t bring a lot to the table on its own. That is sort of what makes this deceptively simple drink work, let’s mix one up and then we can look at the why’s afterward.
Grab a mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of a good clean vodka, I chose Monkey Head; 1/2 an ounce of Dom Benedictine, because sub Benedictine just wouldn’t work here and 2 drops of 18-21 Prohibition Aromatic Bitters or Angostura. Add ice and stir to the beat of “Into the Mystic” a song that exists almost exclusively for rocking your gypsy soul. Use your julep strainer to pour into a chilled coupe and garnish with a ridiculously long orange peel. Go crazy with it, let it puddle on the floor like a silk dress as it falls carelessly from the shoulder of the drink.
This is nice, booze forward, which makes sense as it is literally all alcohol. The vodka doesn’t bring a lot of character to the drink but it does defuse the Benedictine which can be a little too in your face, herbally speaking, when served straight. I think this is the goal of the drink, to take that wonderful bitter herbal thing that Benedictine has going on and temper it into something that can be sipped comfortably. I am not going to have these every night, but I get the appeal. This drink is versatile too. Garnish it with some fresh flowers and it feels light and springy, a little orange peel and some cinnamon and it is perfect for an Autumn fireside sip. This is a great way to explore Benedictine and become more familiar with it.
There you go, a simple drink with a long history. If you want some deeper thoughts you’re gonna have to call Jack Handey, I’m fresh out. I’m gonna sip my drink, spin some Miles Davis and listen to the rain fall on the tin roof. I’m not gonna think about nights at the Russian Tea Room or walking the streets of New York in a vodka fog or traveling literally anywhere to have someone else pour the drinks. That way madness lies. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.