Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Cocktail, The Scofflaw!
Greetings, Wonketeers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. Today’s cocktail was inspired by an emergency text from Yr Editrix. It’s also got a funny story about Prohibition attached to it, and uses leftovers from your fridge.That’s a lot to cram into one glass, so let’s get started. Let’s make a Scofflaw. Here’s the recipe.
1 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz house grenadine
½ oz Cinzano dry vermouth
½ oz dry white wine
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash orange bitters
Shake and strain into a chilled Nick and Nora or coupe glass. No garnish.
A few months ago, Rebecca texted me with a cocktail question: “Can you use dry vermouth in a Manhattan?" The answer is an emphatic “no.” I tried to warn her, but it was too late. She tried it. It was terrible. Yr Editrix is hardly the first person to try to make this work. I’ve seen recipes for “improved” or “perfected” Manhattans that use dry vermouth. It never works. These monstrosities are never improvements. They certainly aren’t perfect. They’re always terrible.
I did file away the cocktail disaster in the back of my head to explore later. Maybe there was a cocktail out there that used dry vermouth and bourbon that worked? Sometimes flavor combinations that don’t make sense just need a little help. Peanuts and peppers sound terrible together, but pad thai is great. As it turns out, there is a nice dry vermouth and bourbon Prohibition era cocktail out there. And it’s got some fun history behind it.
The word “scofflaw” is entirely made up. A prohibitionist by the name of Delcevare King held a contest in a local newspaper. He wanted to find an epithet to shame lawless drinkers, “to stab awake the conscience.” Harry’s Bar in Paris got wind of the contest. They immediately crafted a cocktail to celebrate all the unstabbed consciences among their customers. (It seems that when the Supreme Court tries to legislate morality from the bench by banning something, it doesn’t work. I’m certain this observation has no relevance whatsoever to our current Supreme Court session.)
The original Scofflaw cocktail was okay, but this modern take is much, much better. Interestingly, the vermouth is extremely prominent in the glass. The other ingredients balance out. The white wine gives the vermouth a little space to breathe. You can pick out the vermouth in the cocktail without being overwhelmed. This drink would be a great way to test vermouths for summer martinis.
Let’s talk ingredients:
Ingredient shot. The bulge to the left of the cocktail is my cat, Nightshade, who is being super helpy. Matthew Hooper
Four Roses Bourbon: I wanted a mild, middle of the road bourbon for this cocktail. A nice rye, like Rittenhouse, would also be a solid choice. Bulleit or Larceny would be fine. Bourbon is a strong team player in this glass, but it’s not the star of the show, so don’t pour a $40 bottle in here.
Grenadine: Use the home-made version I put together for a Hurricane a few weeks ago. Rose’s grenadine is garbage. A quick reminder: Grenadine is equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar, with a few dashes of orange blossom water, heated until clear.
Cinzano dry vermouth: This cocktail does a great job of supporting dry vermouth without letting it dominate the glass. I’d love to try making Scofflaws with Martini and Rossi, Gallo, and some other cheap vermouths just to see what the differences are.
Cheap Dry White Wine: The brand is irrelevant. Use the bottom end stuff. We’re talking Charles Shaw, Crane Lake, Barefoot — basically, Kool-Aid for grownups. Pino Grigio or Riesling are both fine. The vermouth needs some room to expand and breathe. If for some reason you’ve got some Lillet Blanc in the fridge, by all means use that. Death & Co’s Scofflaw uses dry and blanc vermouths. But buying two vermouths for one cocktail is a big ask. Everyone’s got a half a bottle of white wine hiding in the back of their fridge. Use that instead.
Fresh Lemon Juice: Always fresh, never from a plastic lemon.
Orange Bitters: The sweetness from the grenadine needs to be tamped down just a touch, and the flavors in the cocktail need to blend. One shake of orange bitters does the trick.
It’s not easy to make a direct NA version of this cocktail. You could put grenadine and lemon juice into a glass with seltzer and ice. But that’s a Shirley Temple, not a Scofflaw. I talked about Shirley Temples last year. On the other hand, Shirley Temples with house grenadine are really, really good, so make one up and drink along if you’d like. Proportions are up to you, but I’d go heavy on the house grenadine. Adding a few drops of orange blossom water or rosewater might be interesting too. Don’t be afraid of bold, complex flavors in your glass. No one will stab your conscience if you indulge.
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