Golden Ratios: The Red Hook

by Rhett Williams

The second cocktail to examine is the Red Hook, created only ten years ago by Vincenzo Errico at Milk & Honey. This is the most popular of Brooklyn variations (something we discussed last post), with Punt e Mes playing the role of both vermouth and bittering agent for Amer Picon. To bartenders, the beauty of this drink is more its balance than its flavour. Given almost any three ingredients (within reason), applying a Red Hook structure will surprisingly often make a dry, balanced flavour. Some bartenders like to push the maraschino to half an ounce, but I implore you to add no more than a quarter lest the drink become sweet, cloying, and the liqueur dominate the flavour. Here is the ratio:

  • 2 part spirit
  • ½ part fortified wine
  • ¼ part liqueur

Like the Negroni, there are numerous options just with the above ingredients, but swapping similar ingredient-types gives a mind-boggling number of options. A fun experiment is to randomly choose a spirit and any two ingredients off the backbar and add them together in Red Hook ratios (using your judgment) and you’ll be surprised at how well these drinks tend to turn out. Keep in mind that the spirit is your drying element, the ½ oz ingredient will add flavour but also soften edges and strong flavours, and the ¼ oz ingredient is potent and therefore requires only a small amount. Reserve strong flavours, like Chartreuse or Fernet, for the ¼ oz.

Below again are just a few variations, the first two from Pourhouse in Vancouver, and the last again from yours truly.

 

Name              Spirit                    Fortified Wine          Liqueur                  Additions

Red Hook         rye                                   Punt e Mes                  maraschino                

Crit Milano    Booker’s bourbon      Averna                           Strega

Wilhemsen’s   Linie Akvavit (1.75)       Bitter Truth EXR         Campari

Gun For Hire   Elijah Craig bourbon   Averna                 Y. Chartreuse      Bitter Truth Aromati Bitters, Ardbeg rinse

The Red Hook ratios also lend themselves extremely well to classic cocktails, some of which may seem unbalanced to our modern palates. Try some of the below and you’ll be inspired to scour old cocktail books looking for old ideas to update.

 

La Louisiane      rye                          sweet vermouth          Benedictine        Angostura, Peychaud’s, absinthe rinse

Martinez           gin                          sweet vermouth         maraschino         Boker’s bitters

Toronto                 rye                          Fernet Branca             simple syrup          Angostura (3 dashes)

The next time you find a drink you think might be unbalanced or you come up with a combination of ingredients you want to try, look to classic structures. They’re classic for a reason.

 

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