English Ruff

by Matt Robold on February 9, 2011

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English Ruff

1 oz Applejack
.75 oz Smith & Cross Rum
.5 oz Punt e Mes
1 tsp Gomme Syrup
1 tsp Apfel Schnapps

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

I swear this blog isn’t just a repository for my own, personal drink recipes. This recipe is more of an adaptation than a wholly original drink, anyway.

During his exhaustive stomp through the Savoy Cocktail book, Erik Ellestad came to the “W’s” and posted the recipe for the Whist Cocktail. Apple brandy, rum and sweet vermouth sure seemed like a tasty mixture to me. I was immediately intrigued and caught up with Erik via instant messenger.

RumDood: So the Whist – is good or is meh?
Erik: Could use some bitters and maybe a twist but if you like that sort of thing, tasty.

Well that sort of thing is well-liked in my neck of the woods, so I set about trying the recipe at home. Erik was certainly correct: the drink could definitely use something. Bitters, maybe a twist, I wasn’t sure – but no one I made the drink for was blown away by it. The Whist mostly garnered responses of “interesting,” which to my way of thinking is pretty close to damning with faint praise.

I’ll confess that I did not do an exhaustive search of apple brandies to locate the perfect one for the Whist. Believe it or not, here at RumDood headquarters we do not have a large number of apple brandies at our disposal, and honestly I think the appeal of AppleBrandyDood.com is probably even more limited than that of this site.

I opted to add some punch via other means. I grabbed my trusty bottle of Laird’s Bonded Applejack and the reigning King of Hogo, Smith & Cross rum instead of the drier Spanish varieties and started running through variations until I settled on something with a good apple flavor riding just on top of the deep funk of the Smith & Cross.

The final drink can probably best be described as “big” and “round.” The apple flavor from the Applejack is dominated by the Smith & Cross but brought back to the forefront by the small dose of Apfel Schnapps (I actually use Apfelkorn at home, but when testing this at 320 Main on unsuspecting patrons I’ve used the Schnapps we have on-hand). The gomme and sweet vermouth do the hard work of holding this drink together to keep it from becoming a disaster of strong flavors and the end result is described by Marshall of Scofflaw’s Den as being “really, really good.”

I settled on the name English Ruff as an homage to the progenitor drink’s name. Whist was a popular English card game in the 18th and 19th Centuries and is related to Trump and a game called Ruff & Honours. In the 17th Century, Charles Cotton described a card game with similar rules to Trump and Whist in The Compleat Gamester as French Ruff (he also dedicates a significant amount of space to the actual game of Whist). As I have nothing French in the cocktail, I figured I’d swap out “French” for “English” and viola!

I actually debated for a while whether this should be its own cocktail or if – like my alterations to the El Presidente – this was a mere “adjustment” to the original cocktail. The differences between the kind of rum and the addition of gomme and apple schnapps convinced me that this drink was sufficiently different to be its own entity.

Maybe some will disagree with me on that point. One thing I have yet to have anyone disagree with me about is that this drink is delicious.

Question of the Day:

How much does a drink recipe need to be changed before meriting its own name?

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