Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Delmonico Cocktail

Delmonico Cocktail with orange slice garnish

A taste of New York history

Delmonico’s restaurant opened for business in lower Manhattan in 1827—and forever changed the way we eat out in America. It was the first restaurant to introduce à la carte dining in the US. That was a major innovation at a time when most commercial eating establishments were inns or dining halls, where people ate whatever the house happened to be dishing up that day.

The Delmonico steak (a fancy cut from the short loin) was invented at the new restaurant. So too reportedly were Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg, and Chicken à la Keene (today known as Chicken à la King).

The Delmonico Cocktail was yet another of the restaurant’s inventions. Their house drink was a gin- and brandy-based concoction, livened up with both sweet and dry vermouth.

This sip of cocktail history still tastes great before dinner. Or as a nightcap after an evening at the theatre.


Delmonico Cocktail with orange slice garnish

Recipe: The Delmonico Cocktail

The Delmonico Cocktail—sometimes called the Delmonico No. 1—is essentially a Manhattan Cocktail with gin and brandy replacing the whiskey typically used in a Manhattan. And because the drink contains equal quantities of sweet and dry vermouth, it’s actually a form of “perfect” Manhattan. In drinks lingo, a cocktail is “perfect” when it contains equal quantities of the two vermouths.

Our favorite recipe for the Delmonico (and the one we present here) comes from cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich.

This drink takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • ¾ ounce gin (use “London” dry gin; see Notes)
  • ½ ounce cognac or brandy
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth (the “French” white stuff; see Notes)
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth (the “Italian” red stuff; see Notes)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (or substitute orange bitters if you prefer)
  • orange or lemon peel, or orange wedge, for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until well chilled.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass (or into an ice-filled rocks glass). Garnish, if desired, and serve.
Delmonico Cocktail with orange twist garnish

Notes
  • Some versions of this drink specify 1 ounce of gin. Feel free to try that if you like, though we prefer ¾ ounce.
  • Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because when you shake, you introduce tiny air bubbles, which (until they dissipate) give the cocktail a somewhat cloudy appearance. This isn’t a problem with drinks that contain opaque ingredients like citrus juice (we always shake those). But in cocktails like the Delmonico, where all the ingredients are clear, stirring delivers a drink with more clarity.
  • Although this drink is usually served in a cocktail glass, we think it works well when served over ice in a rocks glass, too.
  • When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood these days to mean London dry gin—which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores. Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
  • In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste. Both of these varieties are less common than London dry.
  • You can use cognac or brandy for this drink. Cognac is simply brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. (Brandy is what happens when you distill wine.)
  • No need to use expensive brandy or cognac for this cocktail—something in the range of $15 (or a bit less) per bottle should work fine. We generally use a VSOP like St. Remy or Raynal. If in doubt, ask a sales person at your local liquor store—they’re usually very helpful.
  • Vermouth is fortified wine that’s been flavored with botanicals. It was developed in Italy during the 18th century. The sweet red type is known as Italian vermouth, while the dry white version is known as French—although both countries in fact make both varieties. Martini & Rossi is a good-quality brand of vermouth that every liquor store stocks (although when it comes to dry vermouth, we like Noilly Prat quite a bit, too).
  • BTW, even though vermouth is a fortified wine, its alcoholic content is relatively low. So once you open a bottle, the contents will begin to oxidize, eventually spoiling the flavor. We always store opened bottles of vermouth in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life.
  • Delmonico’s restaurant was started by Giovanni (John) and Pietro (Peter) Delmonico, a pair of brothers from Switzerland. Their first eatery was a pastry shop, which soon evolved into a full restaurant.
  • It was actually their nephew, Lorenzo, who turned Delmonico’s into a high-quality restaurant. When Lorenzo joined the establishment in 1831, he was eager to imitate the fancy restaurants that had been popping up around Paris, and which were famous for their fine food and service.
  • The extensive menu that Lorenzo developed was a novelty in the US at the time. Other eating establishments offered sandwiches or simple fixed menus. Delmonico’s menu was much larger, offering myriad choices for each of many courses.
  • Because Delmonico’s introduced the à la carte menu to the US—thus creating what we think of today as a true “restaurant”—it is considered to be the first restaurant (in the modern sense) in the US.
  • Delmonico’s also had the largest wine cellar in New York during the early 19th century, with over 1,000 bottles.
  • At the time Delmonico’s opened, Americans had not yet developed the habit of lingering over a leisurely meal. In those days, eating was for fuel, not pleasure. Delmonico’s changed that; a meal at Delmonico’s could (and often did) last hours.
  • Delmonico’s quickly became the place where New York society went to see and be seen. And with its great food and drink, it was a natural place to celebrate special occasions.
  • Over the years, the Delmonico family opened and closed restaurants at several different locations. A New Orleans Delmonico’s was opened in 1895, and was purchased by Emeril Lagasse in 1997.
  • The last New York City restaurant owned by the Delmonico family was located at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue. It closed in 1923.
  • Since then, other owners have opened several restaurants that use the Delmonico’s name. Currently, there’s a Delmonico’s Restaurant on Beaver Street in lower Manhattan.
Delmonico Cocktail with orange slice garnish

We Heart New York

“What a great drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And what a great way to celebrate New York City.”

“It is,” I agreed. “Especially since we just had a wonderful time there on vacation.”

“Great museums and theatre,” said Mrs K R. “Not to mention many wonderful old friends from the days when we lived in New York.”

“Loads of great restaurants too,” I said.

“Too bad we never made it to Delmonico’s,” said Mrs K R.

“Maybe next time,” I replied. “So much to do and see. We need to get back there, and soon.”

“Speaking of soon,” said Mrs K R, draining her glass, “that’s when I’ll be needing another one of these.”

“Good thing they’re quick to make,” I said. “I can mix us another round in a New York minute.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Manhattan Cocktail
Opera Cocktail
Algonquin Cocktail
Brandy Smash Cocktail
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Dry Martini
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

124 comments:

  1. This looks pretty perfect to me, John. Glad you and the Mrs. had a good time in my home state [though to us upstaters, NYC is like a different planet :)] & welcome back to blogging - missed you this past month!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, it's a great drink -- and you're so right that upstate is way different from NYC! It's great to be back. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I love a good Delmonico steak and I'm guessing this would go pretty well with it! Another great cocktail, John!

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    1. Hi Kristy, yup, this would indeed pair well with steak! Or it's good all by itself. ;-) thanks for the comment.

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  3. My MIL drinks sweet Manhattans and my dad drinks his dry. Wonder if either or both would enjoy the Delmonico? If not, I think I'd happily sip on one :)

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    1. Hi Liz, I'll bet they would! And if not, more for you. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. What a mighty drink for a mighty return! Glad you had a well deserved break and am happy to see you back!

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    1. Hi Abbe, it's great to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Welcome back!! I haven't been to NY but your "mix of NY" would be nice right now :)

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    1. Hi Ansh, NY is a wonderful place -- definitely a place you'll want to see at some point in your life. At least IMO. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I did not know the difference between stirring and shaking a drink - thanks for that tidbit - this drink has such a gorgeous coloring!

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    1. Hi Shashi, I do like drinks with great color. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Love your always definitive discussions.....thanks for another lesson and a great recipe!

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    1. Hi Debra, isn't this a great drink? And I love its history! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. It's time I got myself back to NYC. We used to have an apartment at Jones and Bleeker (though we technically lived in Los Angeles). It became a ridiculously stupid expense and we let it go. The idea was (with the money saved) we could go to New York once or twice a year and have the cash to do it up right. It didn't work out that way. In fact we haven't set foot in the city in almost 10 years (though there's a little part of me that still considers myself a New Yorker). Crazy how life works. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, NYC has changed soooo much! Among other things, much more expensive. We rented a flat through Homeaway -- worth looking into. In Chelsea around 10th Ave (which used to be an awful area, but is really trendy now), and very close to the Highline (an elevated rails-to-trails -- an amazing experience to walk). Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Hi John , glad to have you and Mrs. K R back , what a beautiful drink and love the history behind the drink .
    As always I enjoy the chats , John I enjoyed this post , we visits Emeril Lagasse each time we visit N.O. and the food is great and the service is wonderful .
    Well , again let me say welcome home . ~~Nee~~ :)

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    1. Hi Nee, thanks for the welcome (and the comment!). It's great to be back. :-)

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  10. I went to Delmonicos as a teenager and I thought I was the hoi polloi. It was the first real restaurant - I had stepped into history. LOL

    I can't remember what I had to eat but I know I didn't have a drink like this! I'd better try it for old time's sake.

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    1. Hi Maureen, we really need to try Delmonico's -- although there are so many great restaurants in NYC it's hard to choose! Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I will take one of these, actually.
    I need something to instantly warm me bones and loosen me joints.
    Nothing but rain and cold here on cape cod.

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    1. Hi Dawn, this drink will do it! Really a nice cocktail. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. So pretty John and I love that it's so easy to throw together!

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    1. Hi Chris, isn't this nice and easy? And so tasty! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Hi John,
    So glad that you are back with yummy posts. Hope you had a great time. What a delicious and colorful cocktail this is. Years ago when I was young my grandmother used to belong to the Catholic Daughters of America and she was president of her chapter. She used to have a big affair (luncheon) for her whole chapter and it was held every year at Delmonico's in the city. I used to go with her and help them out setting up the prizes etc. But I do remember the lunch which was amazing. I even still have a few of the menus in a box saved. I was too young (16) to try this cocktail, but now I am ready to enjoy one. Love all the history and info on this drink. Thanks for sharing...missed your posts..Have a great day!
    Dottie :)

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    1. Hi Dottie, how much fun it must have been to have that yearly luncheon at Delmonico's! And now you're grown up and can have the cocktail. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Welcome back, John. I hope you had a lovely break. This cocktail looks gorgeous. And that restaurant! It certainly was ahead of its time. I'd never really thought about people dining for 'fuel' rather than for an experience. The owners of this restaurant were certainly innovative and able to look into the future xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, we did have a nice break. And I know that technically food is fuel, but I never think of it that way either! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. So awesome to have you and your fabulous cocktails back! Haven't heard of a Demonico cocktail before but I like how it is simple to throw together :D
    I love Angostura bitters by the way :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, aren't Angostura bitters wonderful? There's a whole world of bitters out there to try (definitely try orange bitters). Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Welcome back you "guys" we sure did miss you two:) How wonderful that you got to spend some time in NYC. I'm sure you both had an amazing time. (especially if you skipped Tiffany's lol:)

    Lots happened since you've been gone but I'm sure you'll be catching up John.

    Ah, Delmonico's. Whenever I see that name I think of times past and the days of Diamond Jim Brady and the rest of those "big" eaters:) when I was younger I use to wish I was born during during those times when restaurants and the nightlife were dramatic and oh so romantic at the same time. Of course many drinks crossed those tables but none could covet the title of The Delmonico:)

    My son just gave me the Dining at Delmonico's Cookbook. Would you believe it's still wrapped. I'm waiting for just the right moment to open it. I must remember to toast with this drink. Thank you so much for sharing, John and again, Welcome back!!!

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    1. Hi Louise, we had a great time! And I do have a lot of catching up to do -- which is a fun thing to do! This would be the perfect drink to have when you open that book. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. No one needs to go to Delmonico any more! You just shared their "secret"! ha ha!

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  18. I was hoping you were out having fun during your time off. Sounds like you had a great time in NY and that you obviously got a little inspiration as well. :) I had heard of The Delmonico restaurants but didn't know their history, nor did I know anything about this drink. Sounds like a very busy family and a nice little nightcap of a cocktail. BTW-thanks for the heads-up on vermouth. I've never refrigerated mine, but will start now since I just opened a new bottle. Welcome back!

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    1. Hi MJ, we never take time off -- but we've decided we need to do a lot more of that! We had a great time. And it's definitely worth storing your vermouth in the refrigerator -- it really lasts much longer that way. Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Denise, it's a pretty drink, isn't it? Tastes great, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  20. So glad to hear you were out having fun. I have stopped by a couple times and began to get concerned, so glad you were on vacation and having fun.

    Madonna
    MakeMineLemon

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    1. Hi Madonna, we had a great time while we were away! But happy to be back. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I have never been to New York, nor the USA, and I don't think I've had gin for decades! What a sheltered life I lead! Nice one, John.

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    1. Hi Lizzy, and I've never been to Australia! Someplace I really want to get to. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Oh John...this cocktail with gin just make me want to try...I am glad that you had a gray time in NYC...indeed a fun place to spend vacation...so much to do and see...
    Welcome back!

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    1. Hi Juliana, NYC really is a great place to spend time -- we had a blast! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. The Delmonico No. 1 is a zingy sip...angostura bitters play there magic in here too and the pictures are crystal clear,gorgeous....we loved learning so much about the development of modern restaurant culture in America,it was amazing,great to see your delicious posts again,thanks so much :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, I love the history associated with this drink! So much fun. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Thanks for the history :) I hope to visit beautiful New York someday! Great looking drink!

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    1. Hi Kristi, NYC is totally worth a visit -- so much to see, do, eat, and drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Great cocktail! You make me want to go to New York...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, NYC really is a fun place -- hope you get there someday. Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Pam, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. Another great looking cocktail and very interesting history of the Delmonico Restaurant. And now I have the Eagles, "New York Minute" song stuck in my head! Ha-ha, Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, it'll be gone in a NY minute. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I was just reading about Delmonico's and how they created so many famous dishes. Didn't know they were responsible for cocktails too. Must be a great restaurant - and of course, a great drink!

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    1. Hi Laura, Delmonico's is really an interesting place -- loads to learn about it! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Beautiful as always John! You are a master of cocktail photos.

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    1. Hi Alyssa, ah, :blush:! Thanks for those kind words.

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  30. Welcome back! You were missed but glad you had a nice break, in NY no less. As usual, I loved the history lesson and didn't know all that about Delmonico's. And as usual, beautiful drink and photos. Looking forward to more!

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    1. Hi Nazneen, we had a fun time in NY. ;-) But glad to be back. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I was wondering where you were on holidays! Sounds like you had a wonderful time in New York. Great to have you back blogging again.

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    1. Hi Beth, it was really a great trip, but it's fun to be blogging again. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Hi John, glad you guys are back, sounds like a great trip to New York.

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    1. Hi Cheri, we're glad to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Glad you are back. I want to come over to your house and have some of your delicious drinks!

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    1. Hi Amy, come any time -- we always have the fixings for something on hand! Thanks for the comment.

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  34. That looks like the quintessential NY cocktail. Even though I don't get to that city as often as I would like, at least I can drink like I do. LOL

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    1. Hi Carolyn, it's great to visit NY, but if you can't, drinking like you do is the next best thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Welcome back. I no idea about the history of the restaurant. Like the others who are commenting I found it fascinating. You present the information so well. It's an easy pleasurable read. It's because of your blog that I have gotten interested in cocktails. Nothing too deep, but an experimental curiosity has bloomed on a plant I didn't even know was there. Ha! I haven't really started building much of a liquor cabinet yet. I need to figure out what skeleton selection would make a beginning to build from.

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    1. Hi Carol, isn't the history interesting? My suggestion in building a liquor cabinet is buy a bottle of something you like (gin, bourbon, whatever) and make drinks using that spirit. You'll branch out soon enough. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. This cocktail sounds very tasty. I'm sure with one sip I'd probably be hammered but no doubt I'd enjoy it going down. Hmm I may have to try this one.

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    1. Hi VIcki, it really is tasty! Worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Welcome back John and Mrs. KR!! Sounds like you two had an amazing trip to NYC! My first time in NYC was last December... I could stay there forever! I kind of wished that I went before having kids so that we could enjoy fine dining and theaters... not to mention real hard core shopping! We still had fun with the kids. I enjoyed learning about Delmonico's and I need to remember to visit next time. I'd love to hear more about your trip, too!

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    1. HI Nami, NYC is a wonderful place, isn't it? Fun for kids and adults both! If you didn't visit the American Museum of Natural History with your kids, it's really worth it -- they'll love it! Thanks for the comment.

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  38. What a great drink! I want to go to that restaurant sometime :) What shows did you see in NYC? I was just there at the end of August and saw a few broadway shows. They were awesome!

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    1. Hi Ashley, we had time for only one show, and saw The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Very funny. It's a remake of the 1940's movie Kind Hearts and Coronets, where Alec Guinness did such a sensational acting job (for legal reasons they couldn't use the same name). Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I've heard of the Delmonico, obviously, but had no idea what a pivotal role it played in restaurant history! And this drink: so Mr. Table made me a Manhattan one night, but i'm not a huge rye whiskey drinker: i liked it, but it was not my favorite. This version? I would like this one much better. thanks, John! Lovely, as usual.

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    1. Hi Shannon, I like rye, a lot. If you like bourbon, try a Manhattan with that -- a lot of people refer it that way. But if you're not a whiskey lover, you'll probably like this -- similar character as a Manhattan, but quite different flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Thanks for that tidbit of history. I did not know that about Delmonico steaks or the drink. I love how you photographed this drink with those crackling icecubes and the bright hue of the ETOH and the black background are just stunning. Welcome back and take Care

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    1. Hi Bam, thanks for the comment, and kind words. Photographing cocktails is hard! I'm finally getting halfway good at it, but have a ways to go. But they're such a fun subject. :-)

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  41. This cocktail looks insanely good! Thank you so much for that history! I didn't know anything about Delmonico!

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    1. Hi Marcela, isn't that history interesting? So much fun! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Glad to see you back, and glad to see this drink! What a beauty!

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    1. Hi Pamela, glad to be back! And this is a beauty, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Ahem, you don't happen to follow baseball, do you? Good game - and the outcome was never in doubt, right?

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    1. Hi Beth, I think it's illegal in St. Louis not to follow baseball when the Cardinals are the in the playoffs. :-) There has been a lot of interesting games thus far -- Kansas City has been the story of the playoffs thus far to me.

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  44. I remember a reference in a book about Delmonico's when I was in grade school here in Argentina! Definitely a landmark restaurant.
    The flower in the glass is gorgeous, not to mention your photography!!

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    1. Hi Paula, Delmonico's really was an amazing place in its day (I'm sure the current restaurant is still good, but definitely not as fabled as the original). Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  45. wow, what a nice shoots!!!
    happy to see you back my friend!!!

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    1. Hi Dedy, being away was fun, but it's great to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. I am happy to hear that you had a great time in New York, but glad to see you back. I love reading the history in the being of your post very interesting. Sounds like a wonderful cocktail.

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  47. Hi Dawn, isn't this a fun drink? And so tasty! Thanks for the comment.

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  48. My husband and I do not drink and I can't imagine how this must be but i thoroughly enjoyed reading your post :-)

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    1. Hi Taruna, we didn't drink cocktails for ages -- but we always loved their history! And their great looks. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  49. Another classic cocktail and shot so beautifully! There are so many great places to eat in NYC...do you go traditional or new? With a cocktail like this...might need mix up the old with the new.

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    1. Hi Pamela, we usually focus on ethnic food when we're eating in NYC, and places that we can't find so readily where we live. So much to eat there! Thanks for the comment.

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  50. What a showstopper! A great drink and amazing pictures :) Welcome back!!

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    1. Hi Dana, isn't this a nice drink? Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  51. Welcome back! I missed your informative posts

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    1. Hi Raymund, glad to be back! Thanks for the comment.

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  52. Hi John, you sure is an expert for cocktail drinks. Thanks for sharing the notes. As usual, very spectacular click.

    Have a great week ahead,regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, this really is a wonderful drink! Love its flavor. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  53. I recently visited NYC and saw the Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre- this drink would have been perfect for after the show!

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    1. Hi Fran, this really is a nice after-theatre drink. Or before it. Or during intermission. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  54. Manhattan tastes lovely, and I'm sure this one does, too! You give the best cocktail tips in the world, John! Clear vs cloudy comes in handy ;) Thanks!

    Gourmet Getaways

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    1. Hi Julie, I sometimes do shake drinks that I'm "supposed" to stir, but a perfectly clear drink is really pretty! Thanks for the comment.

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  55. What a fascinating story. A restaurant that created Eggs Benedict and Chicken à la Keene (King) is signficant in history so this has to be a top cocktail creation. A Delmonico delight and your photograph is purely gorgeous as well.

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    1. Hi Merryn, the Delmonico restaurant history is really interesting, isn't it? And the drink is wonderful! Thanks for the comment.

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  56. Some fab ideas, I do love your glasses.

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    1. Hi Caroline, aren't those cool glasses? One of the few actually antiques we have! Thanks for the comment.

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  57. Amazing!! Could really do with one of those right now.

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    1. Hi Asmita, it's a wonderful drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  58. I am back and all I want is a delicious delmonico to celebrate :D

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    1. Hi Kiran, this is the perfect drink to celebrate your return! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  59. Another brilliant cocktail that I hadn't heard of before. I always learn something new with you John. If it has cognac it can only be great!

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    1. Hi Helene, I really love the flavor profile of cognac! Such lovely stuff. ;-) Thanks for the comment.,

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  60. I love the sound of absolutely every ingredient in that cocktail! I always learn about new cocktails to add to my "must make" list when I visit.

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    1. Hi Amanda, always happy to help with your "must make list." :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  61. I've never been a cocktail drinker beyond a summer gin and tonic or an occasional margarita. But a year ago, I became entranced by Manhattans - trying all sorts (and looking for the amaro liqueur for one). I will be trying this - because on the occasional Saturday while prepping a big family meal - nothing takes the place of sipping a Manhattan in-between chopping and braising. I do remember the lower town Delmonico's from my growing-up years in NYC. Very beautiful.

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    1. Hi Claudia, Manhattans are wonderful, aren't they? One of my favorite cocktails. So, of course, because this is similar to a Manhattan, this is one of my favorites! Thanks for the comment.

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  62. Love this history. I never thought to mix gin and brandy. You know I love cocktails, so I am game to try this lovely cocktail! Gorgeous, Take Care, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, isn't this an interesting drink? Love its history! Thanks for the comment.

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