I've had a busy, and more or less productive day in and out of the kitchen (made Lebkuchen, fudge, and dipped the candied oranges in chocolate, run chores in town, finished Christmas cards) and so before I start cooking again for dinner I thought I deserved a treat.
The treat was to find a suitable cocktail to match Anita Loos' 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'. I've checked, and this is more or less currently in print, it is also one of the funniest books I've ever read, but it's nowhere near as widely known as it should be.
Anita Loos wrote it in 1925, and it follows the adventures of Lorelei Lee and her friend Dorothy as the travel across Europe in search of a man rich enough to get Lorelei the diamond tiara of her dreams. Various millionaires have to be rescued by their mothers, someone might get shot, and Lorelei acquires jewellery for as she says "kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and safire bracelet lasts forever." (her spelling). Which is entirely true.
My penguin edition has the sequel 'But Gentleman Marry Brunettes' which is just as good - definitely get an edition that has both, and definitely get this book.
I knew I wanted a cocktail (although Lorelei wouldn't object to Champagne either) and I particularly wanted something that would use apricot brandy as both the colour and it's fruitiness seemed a suitable tribute to Lorelei - and it's a classic thing to have around at Christmas, so I scoured The Savoy Cocktail Book for something suitable.
It took 3 goes to feel like the balance was right between character and something somebody might still want to drink. The first try was the promising sounding Babbie's Special, which is a dash of gin 1/3rd sweet cream, and 2/3rds apricot brandy, but although it really showcases the apricot flavour I also found it a bit one dimensional.
I'm out of French vermouth and the weather is to nasty to make leaving my flat to get more at all attractive so I didn't try the Fairbanks cocktail (No. 1) or the Dolly O'Dare, either would certainly give the right atmosphere. Another time. But I did try the Fairy Belle. This is the White of an egg, a teaspoonful of greanadine, 1/4 apricot brandy, 3/4 dry gin. It came out a grubby sort of beige colour, and was distinctly average to taste so most of it went straight down the sink.
Third time was more or less the charm. The Cuban cocktail (No. 1) is basically a daiquiri by another name - which makes sense, the Cuban cocktail (No. 2) is the juice of half a lime or quarter of a lemon, 1/3rd apricot brandy and 2/3rds brandy shaken well over ice and poured into a cocktail glass. Neither brandies seem particularly Cuban to me, but regardless the drink isn't bad. The apricot flavour is there, but well balanced, the lemon gives a refreshingly sour sour note, it has a pretty golden colour, and kicks like a mule. You know you're drinking this, which isn't a bad thing.
I can definitely imagine Lorelei and Dorothy drinking these, and I'd serve them too as a seasonal aperitif, as well as with the book that Edith Wharton called 'The great American novel'.