Dress British Drink Yiddish: The Automobile Cocktail

Here we have another cocktail creation by Paris Ritz bartender Frank Meier, this one titled The Automobile. There is something charmingly 1936 about the name -- 1936 was the year Meier published the recipe in his book "The Artistry of Mixing Drinks," and it was a year in which automobiles were still so exciting that their name alone could inspire a drink. It's hard to think of contemporary advances in transportation that might do the same. The Segway Cocktail? The Hoverboard?

Meier's drink is essentially a martini, except made with sweet vermouth and with a large helping of scotch added in. Here is the recipe:

1 oz Scotch Whisky
1 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir well with ice and strain into cocktail stem or rocks glass.

I'll note that there is a school of thought, argued by David Emory in his 1948 book "The Fine Art of Mixing Drink," that believes a well-made cocktail highlights a specific liquor, with additional elements added in in smaller quantities to act as modifying, coloring, and flavoring agents. The Martini is perhaps the purest example of this, consisting almost entirely of gin, with a small amount of vermouth as flavoring agent, and then, classically, with orange bitter and a garnish to top it off.

Just dumping in equal measures of scotch and vermouth is pretty openly defiant of that formula. Perhaps this is why the Martini is still widely served while the Automobile has lapsed into obscurity.

That being said, Meier knew his business. The Automobile is a fine drink -- really fine, dominated by the flavor of the scotch, but smooth and comfortable, like something that should be drunk by a fireplace in an overstuffed leather chair while a dog sleeps at your feet. I always bring my dog along with me when I go drinking, but he's a comically tiny, one-eyed little beast who tends to approach the world with a wild smile and a tongue dangling to one side, looking absolutely mad, so I'll never be able to pass myself off as classy.

No matter. Drinks are often aspirational, rather than reflective: We drink to represent the life we wish we lived, rather than the ones we are living. And there are times I wish I was the sort of guy who could have made it in Paris before World War II, a frequent visitor to one of the finest hotels in the world, sharing drinks and stories in the Cafe Parisian, made by Frank Meier and drunk by Hemingway, who both would have looked at my dog and laughed.