This is the first drink I’m posting as part of the Liturgical Calendar of Cocktails series; in fact, Sts. Crispin and Crispian (or Crispianus, depending on whom you ask) were among the first saints to inspire said calendar. Why? As I wrote on my other blog last year, they’re remembered as much for being mentioned in Henry V as they are for their own sainted lives.
That was something of a guide as I crafted a drink for them. One could commemorate Crispin and Crispian simply by drinking Crispin Hard Cider, but that seemed lazy. I spent some time in discussion with my friend Emily to determine what would be appropriate for Crispin’s Feast:
Em: I’m thinking something with anguished cries of dying soldiers, the dirt of hallowed ground, and the dreaded sounds of war horses’ hoofbeats, with a hint of bitter irony
T: Hmmm. So we’ve got…Fernet Branca…either gin or whiskey…not sure about the hoofbeats, but they may be “garnish with a nail”…and maybe some bitters on top.
Em: And of course you TELL people there’s honor in it, to make them think they taste it, when there’s actually no such honor in it.
T: Haha! Okay, so I’m going to toss in a bit of grenadine for bloodcoloredness, and see how that all works. If it’s too much to swallow, I may add some Drambuie. …admittedly, I think we’re passing over Crispin and Crispian in favor of battles fought on their vigil feast, which is different. Hmmm. …
T: Whiskey, Fernet, bitters, grenadine, and a nail still sound legit for Crispin and Crispian, I think.
So with all that in mind, I went to work. As I gathered my bottles, I remembered having sweet vermouth in the fridge, which seemed more appropriate than grenadine, so I added it with the Fernet Branca to three different spirits: cognac, Irish whiskey, and Scotch. Unsurprisingly, the cognac melded best with the vermouth and the minty Fernet. Should you find yourself without Fernet Branca, sub in Jägermeister.
[I mixed half an ounce of cognac with a teaspoon each of Fernet and vermouth, so as to not waste my spirits or get utterly sloshed whilst testing]
Having tested it, I then compared the nascent drink with other combinations: cognac/Fernet/vermouth with a dash of applejack, and cognac/Fernet/vermouth with Drambuie added. The applejack wasn’t a distressing addition, but it wasn’t very helpful either; the Drambuie simply stomped over all the other flavors.
Having concluded that the mini-drink had the proper proportions, I set out to make a full-sized version. I opted to add ice rather than shake, stir, or leave it neat, and added the promised nail by spearing some lemon slices. Unfortunately, while this made for a neat visual, it destroyed both the aroma and the flavor of the original beverage: the lemon smell overpowered the other scents, and the ice melted alarmingly quickly so as to water the whole thing down.
So then came the final proof: a chilled glass meant for a smaller amount (4-5 oz) of liquid, with the following stirred with ice in a shaker then strained into it:
1.5 oz cognac
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.75 oz sweet vermouth
Just the thing for both sainted cobblers and soldiers at Agincourt.
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.