Friday, August 22, 2014

The Hearst Cocktail

Its been a while since I have made a classic cocktail that I found in a magazine and/or cocktail book. I came across the Hearst Cocktail in the September 2014 issue of Esquire Magazine in the MaHB column by David Wondrich where he profiles different utensils that he recommends when it comes to making cocktails. He describes the recipe as such:
The Hearst Cocktail
2 Parts Gin
1 Part Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters 
Over ice, stir and strain into a cocktail glass 
Now that sounds simple enough except that on the Esquire website where Wondrich has a column, there is a slight difference in the version that is listed above. Here is how the Hearst Cocktail is listed online:
Hearst Cocktail
2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce Italian vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Glass Type: cocktail glass
Stir the London gin (or Plymouth gin, if you can find it) and the other ingredients well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Wondrich further goes into the following details:
Gin. Vermouth. Okay. But soft! Two parts to one? And could that be red vermouth? Sweet vermouth? Anathema! Moloch! Did not the Lord command us to, in the words of Leviticus, "put difference between holy and unholy, unclean and clean?"
Fortunately, there's a simple incantation that'll put you back on the way of the righteous. Throughout the construction process, repeat sotto voce: "It's not a martini. It's not a martini." By the second sip, you won't have to. After all the pish-tosh about dryness and martinis and eyedroppers -- nay, atomizers! -- of vermouth has been pished and toshed, you're left with a perfectly suave cocktail that has nothing of the milquetoast about it. If you want to leave the Angostura out, do -- but then it's a Hoffman House you'll be enjoying.
Diffords Guide for Discerning Drinker's listing for the Hearst Martini has the following dimensions:
Hearst Martini
2oz London Dry Gin (Tanqueray)
1oz Martini Rosso
1 dash Angistura Bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
What to do with these differences. It seems that I am at a stalemate with all three cocktail recipes listed. It would seem that based on Wondrich's statements, that the first listed recipe is more in line with the Hoffman House cocktail recipe. If you notice it contains two dashes of orange bitters instead of a one and one ratio of Angostura and orange bitters. Another point of confusion this time for the Hoffman House is that Except that it has French Vermouth instead of the Italian Vermouth that I have seemed to find in recipes for a Hoffman House. I guess that is a mission for another post.

For simplicity sake, I'm going to have to make the recipes listed on the Esquire and Difford's websites. I know, its a tough job...For my two cocktails I used Beefeater London Dry Gin, Cinzano Rosso Vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Bitter Truth Orange Bitters.

The first cocktail I made (Esquire) had 2oz Gin to .5oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has a beautiful red-brown color and I can see where some people online have said that this cocktail reminds them of The Martinez. Now I can see that in terms of look but I found the Martinez with the Old Tom Gin to be a bit of a sweeter cocktail. The Hearst with the 2-.5 ratio wasn't very sweet at least to me. I do agree with David Wondrich in his assessment that this cocktail is a perfectly suave cocktail. It is strong without being overpowering in both the strength and the sweetness.

2oz Gin/
.5oz Sweet Vermouth
The second cocktail I made (Difford's) had 2oz Gin to 1oz Sweet/Italian Vermouth. It has the same nice red-brown color though I find that this one is a bit sweeter and not a crisp as the version that had half the amount of sweet vermouth. To be honest, I don't find it offensive in the least. I think that if I had a choice, I would go with the crisper version that had .5oz of Sweet Vermouth rather than the full ounce. But if I was served this one, I'd be fine with it.
2oz Gin/
1oz Sweet Vermouth
One last point I want to touch upon. Wondrich gives the following explanation for the origin of the cocktail:
The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book credits this simple gloom-lifter to certain of old William Randolph's minions "who were in the habit of dropping in at odd times when assigned to a story in the neighborhood." Probably not more than three times a day, we'll bet.
Since Wondrich mentions the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, I decided to look at my copy (The 1935 Reprint) to see what is said about the Hearst Cocktail. In terms of the recipe, it calls for equal parts of a half jigger of the Italian vermouth and Plymouth Gin with the one dash each of Angostura and Orange Bitters.

In terms of the origin, the cocktail is named not after William Randolph Hearst directly but after his employees of whom probably worked at one of Hearst's newspapers such as the New York Journal later known as the New York American and/or the New York Evening Journal. These and other competing newspapers were located in the Herald Square area, near where the flagship Macy's Department Store is today. For more information, with a number of historical pictures of the Herald Square area, I refer you to the article A whirlwind tour of Herald Square: More than just Macy's, the intersection of publishing, theater and debauchery from the Bowery Boys website dated December 14, 2012.

In a bit of NYC newspaper history, The New York American and the New York Evening Journal would merge into one paper in 1937 as the New York Journal-American. The New York Journal-American was an afternoon and evening paper. Part of the New York American's morning news section would be become part of the New York Daily Mirror which was also owned by William Randolph Hearst. This was described in the article Hearst to Merge New York Papers from the Miami Times dated June 23, 1937 (which is found online at Google news)

The New York Daily Mirror would fold on October 16, 1963, after the 114-day 1962–63 New York City newspaper strike. The New York Journal-American would merge with with its evening rival, the New York World-Telegram and Sun, and the morning New York Herald-Tribune in 1966. The consolidated paper would be known as the World Journal Tribune and started publishing its daily paper of September 12, 1966, but would close shop eight months later.

There you have it. A little cocktail, NYC and newspaper history all rolled up into one nice little package with in a chilled cocktail glass. In terms of the cocktail, I wonder what it would taste like using an American Dry Gin such as a Dorothy Parker Gin or a Bluecoat Gin. That, as with the Hoffman House cocktail, is a post for another day.

Until Then Happy Drinking,