Even after the grills are cool, the meat thermometers are sleeved, and one winemaker (in this case, Morgan Lee) has been named the 2012 Iron Vintner and walked away with the custom-made Azai knife prize, it seems some Washington winemakers can’t let the competition go.
Sitting in the Iron Vintner afterglow at Barking Frog on a Wednesday night, Efeste’s Brennon Leighton—freshly out of Black Raven suds and in need of something decidedly not wine—unwittingly throws down the gauntlet.
“It’s time for a round of Dead Frenchmen,” says the highly inked vintner.
Actually, what Leighton said was “it’s time for Death of a Frenchman,” which is what happens when a French 75 meets its Death in the Afternoon—sans simple syrup, with a float of pastis.
"When I first met Brennon, he looked like he was going to punch me because I didn’t have Ricard, just Pernod," says Bohrer, who is now the spirits guy at Vinum. "I eventually bought a bottle of Ricard and then we got to drinking, often and plentiful. He asked me to make him a drink like the Death of a Frenchman (inspired by Hemingway’s nonfiction work Death in the Afternoon) but better. We fine tuned it over a few."
As the last drop of Frenchman disappears from the glasses, Eric Dunham—who served as a judge for the final round of the Iron Vintner Challenge—promptly uncurls himself from his Adirondack chair, shouting over his shoulder as he disappears, “I’m going for a pitcher of Dead French [Ladies of the Night].”
Soon he’s back, cocktail waitress trailing behind him with a tray full of martini glasses.
“I told them to make something with bitters and broken cherries,” says Dunham, as the bright pink martini glasses make their way among the crew.
The drink turns out to be a twist on the Death of Frenchman, with said bitters and more muddled fruit. And, despite its color, it too is tasty, though not sweet. Delicious enough that Dunham says he could drink it without restraint.
It’s like weekend at Bernie’s, says Dunham. You can take that [lady of the night] anywhere.
Death, death, death. All the debauchery and decay leads Guardian’s Jerry Riener to but one conclusion, and soon an actual pitcher of Corpse Revivers No. 2 is circulating among the crowd. Because really, by this point, all anyone needs is another float of something anise flavored.
Death of a Frenchman
Build in a flute or, as Leighton prefers, a martini glass:
¾ ounce gin
¼ ounce lemon or the juice of 1 lemon wedge
¼ ounce pastis
Top with Champagne (but not, Bohrer says, domestic nonvintage sparkling wine)
Mortals who are not acidity freaks might do well with adding a touch of sugar
Dead French [Lady of the Night]
¾ ounce gin
Muddled wedge of lemon
¼ ounce pastis
Float of Champagne
1 muddled (or broken) cherry
Drop of bitters
Corpse Reviver No. 2
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 dash absinthe
Pour over ice, shake, strain and serve in a cocktail glass with a fruit garnish—in this case, a cherry.
Will Barking Frog dish up these creations at tonight’s final winemaker dinner? Unlikely. Still, there could be worse ways to celebrate Bastille Day next month than with a few dead Frenchmen, French harlots and Corpse Reviver No. 2s.