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San Francisco Chronicle - SF Gate Blog August 2013

San Francisco Chronicle - SF Gate Blog August 2013

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Published by Frank Caiafa
Frank Caiafa, Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria, New York City, Cocktails, Robert Burns Cocktail, A Tale of Two Roberts, Gary Regan
Frank Caiafa, Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria, New York City, Cocktails, Robert Burns Cocktail, A Tale of Two Roberts, Gary Regan

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Categories:Topics, Food & Wine
Published by: Frank Caiafa on Sep 22, 2013
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Rebirth of the Robert Burns
Gary ReganPublished 4:39 pm, Friday, August 16, 2013
A Tale of Two Roberts; styling by Sarah Fritsche Photo: Craig Lee, Special To The Chronicle
 
The Robert Burns cocktail is one of thosedrinks with a documented history, but it canstill raise hell in arguments between cocktailgeeks. I like that in a drink. Albert Stevens Crockett, author of "TheOld Waldorf-Astoria Bar Boo," noted that theliquid Robert Burns was created prior toProhibition at the Waldorf Astoria inNew York."It may have been named after the celebratedScotsman," he writes. "Chances are, however, that it was christened in honor of a cigarsalesman, who 'bought' in the Old Bar." And a brand of cigar named for the Scottish bard certainly existed in the early 20thcentury, so it's certainly possible that the drink was created in honor of a big spender at the Waldorf, back before the great drought of 1920 to 1933.One thing that everyone agrees on when it comes to the Robert Burns cocktail is thatscotch must form the base of the drink, and sweet vermouth is the modifier. After that, variations on the other ingredients can be found in many "authoritative" cocktail books.
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The Waldorf recipe also includes a dash of absinthe and a dash of orange bitters, forinstance, whereas "The Savoy Cocktail Book," printed in 1930, replaces those with Benedictine. And just to round things out, in the 1950s,David Embury , author of "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks," suggested that Drambuie could be used instead of either absintheor Benedictine.Frank Caiafa, beverage manager at Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria, recently decidedthat it was time to put yet another twist on this drink. So now, more than 100 years sinceits creation, the Robert Burns has gone through a rebirth of sorts.It's sort of a "hybrid of the old Waldorf bar book recipe, and the Bobby Burns, from 'TheSavoy Cocktail Book'," he says. "I didn't add orange bitters to this version as I feel thedrink is complex enough, and the bitters helped to muddy up the mix."To happily confuse things more," as he says, he asked the Waldorf Astoria pastry kitchento make shortbread cookies as a garnish.The drink is a masterpiece from beginning to end. Robert Burns might even compose anode to this baby if he were still around.
A Tale of Two Roberts
Makes 1 drink 
 Adapted from a recipe by Frank Caiafa of the Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria, New  York.2 1/4 ounces Sheep Dip 8-Year-Old or other blended scotch whiskey 1 1/4 ounces sweet vermouth1/3 ounce Benedictine6 dashes absinthe1 lemon twist, as garnish2 shortbread cookies, as garnish
Instructions:
Stir the whiskey, vermouth, Benedictine and absinthe over ice; strain intoa chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnishes; the twist to the cocktail is to serve the cookies ona side plate.
Gary Reganis the author of "The Joy of Mixology" and other books. E-mail:wine@sfchronicle.com
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