Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Bridal Cocktail

Bridal Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange peel garnish, flowers in background

A great apéritif for wedding season

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, summer is officially here in the US.  And with it comes our Summer Sippin’ Series:  We’ll feature a different summer-appropriate drink every week from now through Labor Day.  (But we haven’t lost interest in edibles!  We’ll still feature at least one food post a week.)

June marks the high season for weddings in the US.  So what drink could be more appropriate to launch our series than the Bridal Cocktail? 

This drink is actually a take on the original, 19th century Martini, which was much sweeter than today’s version (more about that in the Notes).  The modern Dry Martini (a mix of gin and dry vermouth) puts some people off, but the Bridal will appeal to a wider audience. It has as much booze as the Martini, but it contains sweet vermouth, which tames the gin and makes for a smoother drink.

Still, this cocktail is dry enough to serve as an apéritif — its crisp flavor stimulates the appetite and won’t overwhelm the food that follows. So it’s perfect for pre-dinner drinking at engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, or wedding receptions.

Even if you don’t happen to be attending one of those events, this drink is well worth your attention. Its softer flavor is better suited to warm weather than better-known drinks like the modern Martini or Manhattan Cocktail, and it’s a nice change of pace from traditional summer drinks, such as the Classic Daiquiri or the Gin and Tonic.

Best of all, it has a seductive flavor that will make you glad to embrace summer — now that it’s finally here again.


Bridal Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange peel garnish

Recipe:  The Bridal Cocktail

Beefeater is my go-to gin for most mixed drinks, and it works in this cocktail.  But many people favor Plymouth for the Bridal Cocktail — and I agree (the botanicals in Plymouth do seem to make a good drink better).  Feel free to try this cocktail with any gin you have on hand.  But if the drink becomes a favorite, you owe it to yourself to experiment with Plymouth.

This cocktail also contains Maraschino liqueur, a clear liquid with a slightly bitter flavor. It’s the polar opposite of the red juice that sweet maraschino cherries are packed in (so the two are definitely not interchangeable). The Luxardo brand is widely available, and of excellent quality.

All the ingredients for this cocktail are transparent (i.e., they don’t contain citrus or other elements that could make it cloudy). So it’s better to stir this drink rather than shake it (for more about shaking vs. stirring, see my post on Cocktail Basics.) Shaking introduces oxygen, creating bubbles that cloud the drink somewhat. If you stir, the cocktail remains crystal clear.

The Bridal Cocktail isn’t widely known these days. I learned about it from Robert Hess (the link is to a video of him preparing the Bridal), who in turn learned of it from reading the The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book. My recipe is adapted from both sources. BTW, it’s The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book that recommends Plymouth gin in this drink.

This recipe takes ~2 minutes active time to mix, 5 minutes total if you include the time to find the glasses, bottles etc.  It serves one.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces gin (Plymouth is best; Beefeater or almost any decent gin works too)
  • 1 ounce sweet (red) vermouth (I like Martini and Rossi in this drink)
  • scant ¼ teaspoon Maraschino liqueur (I use the Luxardo brand)
  • 1 or 2 dashes orange bitters (1 dash is traditional, but to taste; I like Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters)
  • optional orange peel garnish (some people like a cherry garnish, but I think that’s a no)
Procedure
  1. Fill mixing glass half full of ice, and add all ingredients except garnish.  Stir briskly with a bar spoon until chilled (20 to 30 seconds).
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass, add optional garnish, and serve.
Bridal Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange peel garnish, flowers in background

Notes
  • Maraschino liqueur is made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed cherry pits.  As noted above, it’s not the sweet stuff you put on ice cream!
  • The amount of Maraschino liqueur that’s optimal for this drink is open to debate.  The original recipe calls for a dash – maybe 1/8 teaspoon.  I think almost twice that amount tastes better, so that’s what I specify.  But you might want to experiment.
  • Up top we mentioned that the Bridal Cocktail is similar to the original Martini.  There’s more discussion about the Ur-Martini in my post on the Dry Martini Cocktail. The original Martini was made with Old Tom gin (which had sugar added) and sweet (red) vermouth. Early versions of the Martini might have had twice as much sweet vermouth as gin, although later versions contained equal amounts, or even used 2 parts gin to 1 part sweet vermouth. Orange bitters were common in all versions. 
  • BTW, there was also a drink called the Martinez that many people assume to be the precursor of the Martini. The Martinez probably contained 1 part Old Tom gin, 2 parts sweet vermouth, and a dash or two each of orange bitters and Maraschino liqueur. So it had almost exactly the same ingredients as the Bridal Cocktail, but the ratios of gin and sweet vermouth were reversed (and today we usually don’t use sweetened gin, although Old Tom is back on the market). 
  • I mention a lot of brand names in this post. So just a reminder: Kitchen Riffs is currently (and probably will remain forever) noncommercial; no one pays me to use or recommend their products. I buy all my own booze, and recommend what I like. If this ever changes, I’ll definitely let everyone know — but I don’t expect it ever will.
Bridal Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange peel garnish

June is Wedding Month (for Some Reason)

“Not a bad drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs reflectively as she alternated sips between two versions of The Bridal Cocktail — one made with Beefeater gin, the other with Plymouth.  “The one with Plymouth gin is definitely better, don’t you think?”

“It is,” I agreed.  “Say, why is June considered the traditional wedding month anyway?”

“Beats me,” said Mrs K R, pondering.  “It’s custom of course, but why?  This sounds like a question for the source of all wisdom and knowledge — the Internet!”

“Let’s do it,” I said as we fired up our browser.

“Hmm,” said Mrs K R, “there’s a theory that June weddings became popular in the middle ages because people were relatively clean after having taken their annual baths in May!”

“That might be TMI,” I said.  “Although May was probably the first warm month in much of the Northern Hemisphere, so I guess it makes sense.  If you can say that taking one bath a year makes sense.”

“Hey, I found a better source,” said Mrs K R. “It speculates that the custom came from the Romans.  June was devoted to celebrating Juno, after whom the month was named.  She was the Roman goddess of marriage.  So I guess people thought it would be lucky to get married then.”

I looked over Mrs K R’s shoulder and read the screen.  “Yeah, and it also says June weddings usually meant the bride would conceive before the fall harvest, but would still be in shape to help in the fields, bringing in the crops.  How romantic!”

“Yup,” said Mrs K R, pointing at the screen, “and the baby would be born in time for the wife to recover enough to help with spring planting!”

“Just in time for her May bath, too,” I said. 

So the next question is:  How did the Bridal Cocktail get its name?  After that last research adventure, Mrs K R and I decided we didn’t really want to know.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Cocktail Basics
Champagne Cocktail
Bellini
Mojito Cocktail
Gin and Tonic
Mai Tai
Classic Daiquiri
Negroni Cocktail
Pimm's Cup
Gimlet Cocktail
Sloe Gin Fizz
Manhattan Cocktail
Martini

68 comments:

  1. The photos are lovely. I may have to purchase some bitters to give it a try. :)

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    1. Hi Lydia, it's definitely worth trying! And orange bitters work so well in so many drinks. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Okay, you are the martini expert and I will link back to your post. My hubby and I were discussing buying some bitters and adding them to his booze collection. What do you recommend to start with? I'm thinking Father's Day gift!

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    1. Hi Laura, IMO the 3 essential bitters for a home bar are Angostura bitters; orange bitters of some kind (I like Regan's No. 6, but Fee Brothers West Indian are also good, as are those made by The Bitter Truth); and Peychaud's bitters. After that, there are tons of bitters out there that you can experiment with - both the Bitter Truth and Fee Brothers make some really intresting ones. Really good liquor stores will have quite a selection. They're really fun to play with - they are to cocktails what salt and pepper (and other basic seasonings) are to cooking. Have fun! And thanks for your comment.

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  3. This weekend we are giving a shower for a bride. It is a brunch. We are drinking mimosas. Boring!!! I'd have a lot more fun drinking these!

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    1. Hi Abbe, the good thing about Mimosas is you can drink more - not nearly as much booze. ;-) And that's actually the drink I'm doing next week! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I'll have a friend's hen party soon so I should give it a try.

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    1. Hi Marta, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. In Fact it is a Gin and it, as old as a martini Cocktail. Nirmally they used a Martini sweet vermouth but sometimes Martini rosso as well.

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    1. Hi Kagraner, it is indeed a gin cocktail. I don't know how old the Bridal is, but it's very similar to the original Martini and Martinez cocktails. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I don't think I've ever had this cocktail but it has all of my favorite ingredients - most of which I have on hand. Can't wait to try, thanks! Great photos as always.

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    1. Hi Katherine, it's a fun cocktails! I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  7. John I love this cocktail, the name, the photos and the recipe sounds great. Thanks for sharing:)

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    1. Hi Nancy, isn't this a fun cocktail? Glad it appeals to you! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Such a beautiful, elegant cocktail :D

    Cheers
    CCU

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    1. Hi Uru, it really is a beauty! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Your bridal cocktail is very elegant. I think that history of the old ideas of having a June wedding because they are still clean after their May baths is a hoot. I am sure it is probably true.. Have a super week.BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, Mrs K R and I were certainly amused by the May bath! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Hi John,
    I just came from Vegas and on our first night our bartender gave us different shots... green apple shots, gummy bear shot, and then for cocktails he gave us different flavors of martinis and vodka... I love the crisp refreshing taste of the cocktails. I am excited as you launch your summer cocktails again just like you did last summer.

    And oh, I came to tell you here that I made the ribs last weekend with my family in Vegas and it was a hit. I love the dry rub and the smokeyness of the paprika. Great recipe John. Thank you!

    Malou

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    1. Hi Malou, glad everyone liked the ribs! Thanks for telling me about that. Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Las Vegas. Glad you're looking forward to the Summer Sippin' Series - I certainly am! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. That has to be the prettiest drink ever! Such an interesting history about the reason for June weddings, I'm glad to live in the 20th century!

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    1. Hi Chris, isn't this a nice drink? And I do appreciate living at a time when I don't have to limit my bathing to once a year! Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I've never heard of this drink before! Can I just say how unbelievably excited I am to see your cocktail series come back!?!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, it's a nice drink but not one that's all that well known - I'll bet it's new to many people. Glad you're excited about the Summer Sippin' Series coming back - I sure am! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I love your official declaration that summer is here. I am taking your word for it and diving in! With this cocktail, bien sur!

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    1. Hi Shut Up and Cook, summer is definitely here where I live! Nice and warm. Mais oui! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Well, as lovely as this looks, I have never heard of a bridal cocktail. And down here June isn't a popular month to marry at all - because it's the depth of our winter with the shortest day involved there too. But, I think I could manage one or two of these cocktails in your bridal season regardless of what's going on down here xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, that June thing for weddings is definitely Northern Hemisphere. And I'll bet almost no one reading this has heard of the Bridal Cocktail - it is not well known, even among people who are cocktail fans. I just read a lot of different sources for ideas, and this one appealed to me - both for its name and its flavor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Hi John, excellent photography skill. It's not the brand of the camera, it's the person behind the camera that's important. I love these gorgeous pictures, very impressive and professional. Look like from those food and wines magazine.

    And your bridal cocktail is very refreshing and elegant. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    Best regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, it's a nice cocktail, and worth trying. Thanks for your kind words. Food photography generally, and cocktail photography specifically, is all about lighting. It's never easy, but gets easier once you figure out how to control your light. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Wow this is so pretty in both black and white. Your photos are stunning. Although I don't know the difference between beefeater and Plymouth I'll take your word for it. I'd love to try this - 5 minutes for one drink, is that considered long or short prep time?

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    1. Hi Vicki, it is pretty, isn't it? When I say five minutes, I'm including the prep time - which includes finding all the glasses, liquor bottles, and where did I put those bitters? ;-) It actually takes no more than 2 minutes to measure out, stir, and pour the drink. And if you're mixing more than one, the time is virtually identical. But perhaps I should revise that in the post. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Great amount of info here. I am not a cocktail aficionado but this sounds similar to a French martini that I love from a local eatery. Thoughts?

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    1. Hi Debra, a "Martini" is actually gin, dry vermouth, and (optional) bitters. These days vodka is OK as a substitute. But a lot of people are calling any mixed drink a "martini" because they serve it in a martini (cocktail) glass. So it's possible your local place is serving a similar drink and calling it a French Martini - people often play fast and loose with cocktail names. However, there is a drink called the French Martini that's actually quite different from this. It includes vodka, dry (white) vermouth, pineapple juice, and Chambord (raspberry liqueur). I've never tried one, but I'll probably get around to it someday. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. Love your research on June weddings! I got married in June - my husband was in grad school and it was the most convenient time with his class schedule. Maybe Juno was giving us a nudge, too! This is a lovely cocktail and I look forward to more in this fun series!

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    1. Hi Hannah, I think in the US June became a popular month for just the reason you described: it fit the school calendar so well. Particularly back in the days when more people got married at a younger age than many do now. But I kinda like the Juno story, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Wow, such a gorgeous drink! You always give us black and white background and I almost always love both that I am curious which one is your favorite. :) We used to have lots of wedding to attend, but this summer we have zero wedding to attend. I think most of them are married by now or are not in hurry. I love going to weddings! In Japan we also have Western influence and June is pretty popular month to marry...

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    1. Hi Nami, I like them all! In this batch I actually like the last (black) one the most, but in a way it's the "worst" photo in that it's the least representative of how the cocktail actually looks. Because of the physics of light, the transparent liquid in the glass acts as a sort of lens, and reflects all sorts of things, as well as bending the shape of other things. I like it because it's the most abstract. You can see another example of the weird physics of light in the top photo, where the image of the flower in the glass is of course a reflection of the flowers in the vase behind it. Thanks for your comment.

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  20. Beautiful drink and photos, John. Totally for a bride, this looks ethereal :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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  21. Your pictures are gorgeous.This drink looks like it would be fitting for a bride.

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    1. Hi Dawn, thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  22. I can always use a cocktail any day of the week. So you bet I'm very looking forward to your Sippin' series! This Bridal Cocktail is very sexy and elegant. I can't wait to give it a try. I have everything in the house except the Maraschino liqueur! Can't wait to get a hold of that. :P Cheers!

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    1. Hi Amy, Maraschino liqueur is cool stuff, and you can use it in several really interesting cocktails. Like this one! Thanks for your comment.

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  23. A delightful cocktail! Lovely pictures too.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it is a rather nice cocktail. Thanks for the compliment - that means a great deal coming from you! And thanks for commenting.

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  24. Such an elegant cocktail, John...and phenomenal photos!!!

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    1. Hi Liz, thanks for the kind words and comment.

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  25. I'm totally, utterly seduced. And sold. (Shit!)
    Thanks a million for burning down my damn eyes with those crazy good pictures!

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    1. Hi Suborna, ;-) Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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  26. I LOVE all of your pictures but I especially love the ones with the peonies. I use to have a huge peonies bush and I just loved them when they bloomed. They smell SO good! (it is a peonies, right?) Now for the drink - I love it! I've never heard of it but I'm a sucker for any type of aperitif which I probably should just call a cocktail, since I usually can't stop with a small drink. :) I'm very familiar with Beefeater gin but not Plymouth. Now that you and Mrs. KR have done the comparison for us, I guess I'll need to pick up a bottle of Plymouth as well as the Maraschino liquor. Another wonderful, wonderful drink for the summer! Thanks for the information about the June weddings - interesting - it's all about the harvest. :)

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    1. Hi MJ, those are indeed peonies! We have a big bush - they're great flowers. Plymouth gin is really good. If you like a martini now and again, it's a great gin in that (do add a dash of orange bitters to your martini - it's good). And it does seem to be all about the harvest! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. June is a popular month for weddings, huh? No matter what the reason is :) Here in Rochester, NY there's only so many warm months so all the weddings are packed into June, July, and August. Love the photos!!

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    1. Hi Ashley, wedding lore is so interesting, isn't it? You're right that these days there's a practical reason for summer weddings - nice weather for the ceremony, reception, etc. Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I love your cocktail series, it's one of my favorite things about visiting you! This looks wonderful!

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    1. Hi Kristy, the cocktail series is a lot of fun to do, so I'm glad you like it. I have some good ones lined up this year. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. What lovely photos - as always. The flowers create a great contrast to the drink. I look forward to your other drinks though I do like your food recipes with all the accompanying information.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, I'm mainly about food, but drinks are fun, too. I'll be having several rum drinks for you. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  30. I'm going to a few weddings this summer, but I won't be drinking till after baby comes. Soon enough! Until then, your words and photographs will just have to tempt me. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Monet, end of June, yes? Soon enough! Sorry for the temptation, but you'll be enjoying soon. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. That's one gorgeous cocktail! I hadn't heard of this before. I love learning new things about cocktails. And, I'm glad the once a year bath tradition is a thing of the past!

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    1. Hi Lisa, it's pretty, isn't it? And I'm glad I can bathe more than once a year too! Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Really nice cocktail and photography as well. Very impressed

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    1. Hi Raymund, it really is a fun cocktail. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  33. Gin is my husband's favorite liquor. He usually sticks with the same old gin and tonic. I'll have to kick things up a bit and serve him this treat.

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    1. Hi Kristi, your husband has good taste - gin is one of my faves, too! This is worth his attention - it's an interesting drink. Thanks for your comment.

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  34. Beautiful, beautiful pictures. I think I'll be sharing the link to your post here at home to see how long he will take to run and make one. ;)

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    1. Hi Alex, let me know how long it takes! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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