It looks like Bernie Sanders mittens are all the rage this week. I get it and I don’t. Sure, it appeared to be a little unusual for him to show up dressed sensibly for the event, but I am not sure why folks are surprised by that. His whole hook is sort of doing his own thing with a certain yankee practicality that suffers no fools. Sure it was adorable and all, but a heavy coat and warm mittens made a lot more sense for the near freezing day than what most folks were wearing and it’s not like the fashion columnists were all waiting on the red carpet to see what the Senator from Vermont was gong to wear anyway. So, in the spirit of practicality, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the Old Vermont Cocktail.
This is another of those drinks that pinterest boards love, but the actual origin is a bit sketchy. Brian Bartels recorded it in his book “The United States of Cocktails” in the Vermont section stating that the origins were unclear. It was featured by Bobby Flay on his “Brunch with Bobby” show at a Vermont B&B, so Food Network has it out there as a recipe “Courtesy of Bobby Flay” with nothing but their credibility to back that up. This is basically a riff on a gin gimlet with some local ingredients swapped in so it was most likely created by some enterprising front desk clerk/bartender at a small ski lodge upstate who was asked by some dude with a popped collar and $400 dollar sunglasses, for a “gimlet with lemon, shaken”. Seeing they were short on simple syrup and not feel like making a new batch at the end of a shift, he swapped in the maple, upcharged the dude for this artisanal infusion and, thus, history was made. That feels good enough to be a decent origin story and has the added benefit of being completely made up, like a lot of history.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of gin, I went with New Amsterdam; 1/2 an ounce of Grade B Maple Syrup, I went with Websterville, Vermont’s own Highland Sugarworks; 1/4 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2-3 drops of 18-21 Prohibition Aromatic Bitters. Add ice and shake to the beat of “This Tornado Loves You” by Vermont native Neko Case. This is my second favorite of her songs, but the other one is not good for shaking. When your tins are well chilled, double strain into a coupe and garnish with a simple, yet practical dehydrated lemon wheel.
This one is as nice as expected. Simple, but well balanced. Nice sweetness coming from that maple to counter the tart lemon, with the herbal base of the gin shining through. This is a nice variation. Good thing that bartender ran out of simple on that fateful night, huh?
I wish I had a sweet pair of mittens like Bernie’s, but I hear that the woman who knitted them for him is all booked up. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I wore a pair of mittens. I had red ones when I was little, with little silver snowflakes on them. Whatever happens to things like that? One day they are an important part of your life and suddenly 40-something years have flown by and they’ve been lost to time. Life gets away, or so they say, and with it the trappings of each age. Maybe I will get some more mittens someday, maybe not, but I will definitely enjoy the Old Vermont Cocktail again. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.