I was thinking about the devil tonight and his gambling habit. Seemed like the right thing to do, don’t ask me why. I recalled the lyric “Now, you play a pretty mean fiddle boy…” and thought to myself, what constitutes a “mean fiddle”? Does it bite? Refuse the rosin? Whisper insults in your ear while you play? It would make more sense for the devil to be the one playing the mean fiddle, then I would understand it better. A mean fiddle is one that refuses to sound like a violin and goes with a funky bass thing. You’d be surprised just how long I went down this path, before I came up for air. It was definitely long enough to get a thirst, so won’t you join me now as we stand and make The Mean Fiddler.
In the interest of accuracy and fairness, he actually says “you play a pretty good fiddle” but getting the lyric wrong in the first place is way less funny than me spending too much time assigning emotions and character to inanimate objects. To be fair, I guess I could spend some time thinking about the good fiddles, that always stay in tune and whisper confidence building affirmations in your ear while you play. “Great job, Johnny! You’re the finest fiddler in all of Georgia.” That would be nice.
This drink comes from one of my favorite bars in New York City, the inimitable Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog. I haven’t had this one there, yet, but I will. After their signature Irish Coffee, of course. It is a truly amazing bar and their cocktails are world class. Seriously. Jack McGarry created this riff on the classic Tipperary for their menu in 2015. They say it’s a long way to Tipperary, but I say that all depends on where you’re coming from. Discuss that amongst yourselves while I make the drink.
Grab your mixing pitcher and toss in 1 ounce of Irish whiskey, I chose to use some Dead Rabbit, just seemed fitting; 3/4 of an ounce of green chartreuse, 3/4 of an ounce of sweet vermouth, 1/2 an ounce of an Islay scotch, I chose Laphroaig Quarter Cask, 1/2 an ounce of that devil bitch Campari, a barspoon of cinnamon simple syrup and 2-3 drops of 18-21 Prohibition Bitters. Add some ice and stir briskly to the strains of “Garrai na bhFeileoig“ now that’s a pretty mean fiddle and a damned fine stirring song. Give it a good go, you want this to be well chilled and a little dilution never hurts where Campari is involved. Strain into a Nick & Nora and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Let the record reflect that I am predisposed to dislike anything with Campari in it. I’ve just never learned to appreciate the way it comes in and wipes its muddy boots on your tongue before giving you a kick in the uvula for good measure. I am also a bit of a fanboy where Dead Rabbit is concerned so I’m torn on this one. I want to like it for the bar and I know I’ll hate it for the Campari. The thing is, I don’t hate it. I don’t even dislike it. In fact, I think I may love it. Yeah, the bitter red stuff is definitely there, but that smoky scotch and the cinnamon balance it. I have finally found a Campari drink I like. I may try it again swapping in Cynar to see how that does and I look forward to just trying the straightforward Tipperary, if only it weren’t so far away.
There you go, that is all I’ve got tonight. I’m distracted by dreams of farm work to be done and more than a little inclined to go make another Mean Fiddler, which is clearly someone who can master an unpleasant violin and dance with the devil, in the pale moonlight, preferably. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.