Rule 37: The Oriental

Modern Drunkard Magazine’s articleThe 86 Rules of Boozing, by Frank Kelly Rich states:
Rule 37. Try one new drink each week.
The Rule 37 series of posts chronicle my attempts to accomplish this feat every week.
For the recipes of R37s past, click the Htf do I make these drinks? tab.

Le sigh.

I know what I want to drink, but it isn’t a Rule 37 qualifier.
All week I’ve been on a Manhattan kick. Rye, with homemade maraschino cherries. Remember those? They’re AWESOMES. And very pleasantly spiced for late fall/early winter. I’ve made a little nest of Manhattans and burrowed into it for the cold weather. But needed a unique cocktail for tonight, so I went page flipping in a thicker book that seemed like it might have something Manhattan-like. The book is “The Complete Bartender” by Robyn (with a “Y” ugh) M. Feller and promises to feature “the new drinks of the ’90s!” Radical! The copyright is 1990, though the “updated” versions on Amazon are from 2003. I bet they don’t have an exciting dust jacket that poses such quandaries as “What are the newest ‘fun’ drunks of the ’90s? [Ugh. A lot of Cosmos and “tini” variations. Soooo “fun”] How can you reduce the caloric count on your favorite drink? [Don’t drink it] How can you make the finest vodka taste even better? [you can’t. It’s not supposed to taste like anything.]” But I did manage to find a drink that was whiskey-based (rye even!) and let me go off on some tangents.

Now, I’m not sure that “The Oriental” is the most heartwarmingly correct term these days, but it has a better ring than “The Cocktail of Asian Descent.” What it did make me think of was a topic I’ve been investigating lately. See that guy? His name is Hotei. Or Budai. Or the Happy/Laughing Buddha (he’s not actually the real Buddha. Well, maybe). It depends who you ask. Anyway, he was originally a Chinese monk who lived early in the eight century and carried around a big cloth sack (“Hotei” means “cloth sack“) filled with presents that he would give to children, like an Asian Santa. After his death, he was kind of adopted into myths and foklore, in practices of Zen/Buddhism, Shintoism, Daoism/Taoism, and made it into the ranks of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods. He’s got a big fat belly from his big fat soul, and is a symbol of contentment, good health, abundance and prosperity. Oh, also, he’s a “patron saint” of children, restauranteurs (he liked to eat), fortunetellers (he could tell the future), and BARTENDERS. Seriously. There’s a bartender god. Sweet. It is said that drinking too much is attributed to Hotei’s influence, but he’s got plenty to share, so drink up.

So, this little drinking Hotei statue was given to me by some friends after their trip to Thailand (where there’s a similar guy named Phra Sangkajai) because they know I like drinking. Well, here’s the thing that puzzles me: in one hand, Hotei’s got an oogi, which is a fan that symbolizes his ability to grant requests and/or wishes. Right. That checks out. Now look at the other hand. He’s clearly drinking, though I don’t know what or if that’s a gourd or clay pot or whatever. Here’s the kicker: I can’t find any other statue or drawing of him doing that. Which is driving me nuts, because I would LOVE more little drinking Hoteis to keep me company and make me rich (in Feng Shui, place Hotei facing the front door of your home to greet the energies that enter and render them prosperous). I’ve scoured ebay, Amazon, and various other nooks of teh interwebz, and while there are a LOT of happy buddha, laughing buddha, good luck buddha, prosperity buddha, Hotei, Budai, Pu-tai and miscellaneous statues and figurings, NOT ONE is drinking. It seems that the novelty gift my friends found was somewhat unique, unbeknownst to them. It makes it even specialer. But if anyone sees another drinking buddha, LET ME KNOW.

So, yeah. Tangent. But hey, you just learned about a Chinese monk who is now the bartenders’ god.
So here’s the drink.

The Oriental
From Robyn M. Fellers’s “The Complete Bartender”

– 1 oz rye whiskey (Overholt)
– .25 oz sweet vermouth (Rosso)
– .25 oz Cointreau
– .5 oz lime juice

In a very Zen-like manner, combine the ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and shaker tin, and shake. The ice wishes to cool the drink, and does. Shaking the drink is the shaker tin’s intended purpose for existence, and it is most pleased to help you. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, which awaits a beverage to hold, and sip in a contented Hotei-like manner. Without all the children around.

So. Went with the Old Overholt rye on this one. Needed a simple go-to and didn’t want to dip into my nicer ryes, since they’ve taken quite a hit with the swarm of Manhattan consumption this week. Forecasts estimate this trend to continue well into the weekend. As a side note: the ingredients as listed from the book make a smaller cocktail than usual (somewhere around 3oz after shaking with ice) so you can use a smaller glass, or just make a double.

It smells primarily of whiskey, though with an orange essence from the Cointreau. There’s a limey tart citrus in there, but the orange liqueur does a pretty good job of covering that up. Orangy whiskey is by no means a bad smell, so I’m going in for a taste.

Hooooootei! Well, despite such a small quantity, the Cointreau dominates. Maybe a bolder rye would squash it down, but the Overholt is a good bargain whiskey, and is undercut by the lime tart and triple sec dryness. It is quite flavorful, though I personally dislike that dry, cotton-mouth effect from the Cointreau (I get this with most Cointreau/Grand Marnier/triple sec containing drinks). It’s nice and fruity with the lime, orange, and a slight hint of dark grape from the vermouth. The whiskey is content to ride along, adding in a nice note of rye spice and brown liquor, though again, a bigger rye would certainly change this drink. I think it might be needed to go up against the fruit flavors, as the orange in particular seems to linger, but overall, this is nice and tasty.

I might even offer one to Hotei. He seems like a party god.

[UPDATE] So, I did some more digging and I found out that thing he’s drinking out of IS a gourd, called a wu lou. It has two chambers, symbolizing the unity of heaven and earth, and is used by travelers to hold water or medicine. In Hotei’s case, the gourd of enlightenment holds the elixir of life. Booze totally counts as medicine, so that’s just Hotei’s flask.
Now that I know to look for a wu lou, I TOTALLY FOUND THREE MORE DRINKING HOTEIS!

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