It seems some retro drinks, like Manhattans, Gimlets and Sidecars, have never gone away. Then there’s the Harvey Wallbanger.
As the story goes, this time-warp riff on the Screwdriver made with vodka, orange juice and the Italian liqueur Galliano was invented in 1952 by mixologist Donato “Duke” Antone and popularized during the bellbottom era by a savvy Galliano salesman. (Consider: Megan Draper serves Galliano to her New Year’s Eve guests in the Season Six opening episode of Mad Men.)
Captured in a statuesque signature bottle shaped like a telescope, Galliano looks like banana syrup. You don’t see it at many hotel bars, but it’s on display at The Pierre’s TwoE Bar and Lounge this spring during a festival of drinks made with forgotten liqueurs.
Old liqueurs in new combinations seems the sub theme. Life with Some Spice, the neo
Wallbanger, goes retro with vodka (Grey Goose citron, to be precise) and Galliano but is propelled into the 21st century by fresh lemon juice, limoncello, a dash of Serrano chili and a blast of smoked paprika, salt and sugar on the rim. In other words, lose the Tropicana, add some zing.
“Galliano is a neutral liqueur,” says Paul Johnson, the Pierre mixologist who dreamed up the drink. It plays nice with other ingredients, in other words, while bathing them in an herbal halo of vanilla, anise, ginger, juniper and lavender.
Other retro liqueurs jolted into the present are Benedictine, a French 19th-century herbal liqueur that has nothing to do with monks, and Tuaca, an Italian liqueur supposedly made from a suitably tweaked Renaissance recipe; paired with small-batch Booker’s Whiskey, homemade brown syrup and orange bitters, they create Golden Leaf.
And liquid nostalgia doesn’t get more vivid, or campy, than Dubonnet Rouge, the syrupy French apertif beloved by Britain’s Queen Mother, who mixed it liberally with gin. Johnson mates it with Campari, Ultimat vodka, lemon juice and lemon syrup and transforms it into a Renewed Cosmo. The classic Cosmo, after all, dates not from Sex and the City but from the 1970s.
The verdict? Amusing. The Golden Leaf tastes manly and complex, with a dash of sweetness. And Life with Some Spice is more contemporary (and spicy hot) than I ever imagined a Wallbanger could be. But I’ll pass on the Renewed Cosmo. The story about the Queen Mum is as close as I plan to get to Dubonnet for now.