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Bloodhound Cocktail

1.5 oz Leopold’s Gin
0.75 oz Dry Vermouth
0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
2-3 Crushed Strawberries

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and double strain into a coupe
Garnish with a fresh strawberry

* * *

If we had let today go by without posting the Bloodhound, I might have called for a 12BB inquisition myself.  After all, not only are we currently featuring garden fresh ingredients, but this past weekend was the California Strawberry Festival – right in our own backyard.  Say what you will about Southern California, but our strawberries are as good as they get, especially those grown by our friends at Harry’s Berries (but we’ll get to that).

The Bloodhound has been on my mind since I enjoyed one at Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Night a couple of months back.  In the form presented above, the Bloodhound comes from the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), which appears to have lifted it from Harry McElhone’s “ABC of Cocktails” (1922-1927).  There’s a contemporary version in Robert Vermiere’s “Cocktails: How to Mix Them” (1922) which calls for raspberries and Maraschino liqueur (not a bad idea in the slightest) and, since we’re taking a headcount, an even earlier variation in Thomas Bullock’s “The Ideal Bartender”  (1917), which skips the vermouths completely.  Given that Bullock’s “Blood Hound” contains gin and strawberries, I’m inclined to support any debate that his version is, at the very least, an ancestor to the Savoy recipe.

In essence, the Bloodhound is a perfect (using equal parts of both vermouths) strawberry martini, and if you put it in that parlance, it’s a very contemporary sounding potion.  In fact, I have a strong suspicion that a few of our Real Housewives-watching readers are already going, “I’d drink that”.  And while I’m sure that they’ll enjoy it, the Bloodhound is hardly a ladies-only libation.  If we are to believe the anecdotal history of the drink and accept that it was introduced to Europe by the Duke of Manchester in the early 1920s (per McElhone), then we’ve got a loose thread that can be traced through Whartonian New York to Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Bullock, of the 1917 version, himself.

Here’s the quick story:  In the 1910s, Thomas Bullock was the bartender at the St. Louis Country Club, a place where Teddy Roosevelt had stopped in for a drink – at least once.  How do we know this?  As luck would have it, in 1913, Roosevelt – on the campaign trail, lobbying to return to the Presidency for a third term – was accused of being a drunk by one George Newett, editor and publisher of the Ishpemig, Michigan paper Iron Ore.  Well, the former Rough Rider would have none of it, and he sued Newett for libel.  I should pause to remind you that the temperance nuts were gaining a great deal of traction around this time, and Prohibition wasn’t far off – so back then, a politician being accused of drunkenness was a big deal; today, we expect it.  The bulk of the testimony went to Roosevelt’s relationship with alcohol.  On this point, the former president offered:

“I never drank liquor or porter or anything of that kind.  I have never drunk a high-ball or cocktail in my life.  I have sometimes drunk juleps in the White House.  There was a bed of mint there, and I may have drunk half a dozen mint juleps a year, and certainly no more… I doubt if I have drunk a half dozen a year; since I left the presidency, in the four years since I left, I remember I have drunk two; one at the Country Club in St. Louis, where I simply touched a mouthful…”

The rest isn’t pertinent to our tale (but the second one was at a dinner in Little Rock).  Of course, the trial was national news, and on Wednesday the 28th of May, 1913, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published the following:

“Colonel Roosevelt’s fatal admission that he drank just a part of one julep at the St. Louis Country Club will come very near losing his case (this was meant to be humorous – Roosevelt won the case, by the way).  Who was ever known to drink just a part of one of Tom’s?  Tom, than whom there is no greater mixologist of any race, color or condition or servitude, was taught the art of the julep by no less than Marse Lilburn G. McNair, the father of the julep.”

The point here is, of course, that Thomas Bullock, creator of the 1917 Blood Hound, had, if only for a few minutes, occupied the same basic meter of turf as Theodore Roosevelt.

The next point is that Roosevelt was a man certainly acquainted with New York high society; he and his first wife, Alice, were regulars on the scene.  They were thinly related to the Mrs. Astor, and they had became part of what Edith Wharton (later, a close friend of T.R.’s) would call “the little inner group of people who, during the long New York season, disported themselves together daily and nightly with apparently undiminished zest.”  It was a group which included the nouveaux riches — among them, the Vanderbilts and the Oelrichses.  Later, Roosevelt’s ascendancy to the White House certainly didn’t hurt his social fortunes, and he would count men like Hermann Oelrichs – who, along with T.R., was an avid sportsman – among his close friends.  Oelrichs, a shipping mogul and one of America’s richest men, resided at Rosecliff, one of the great Newport mansions, where he would host dignitaries and nobility from around the world.  Including, in 1914, the Duke of Manchester – the same Duke of Manchester who is credited with the introduction of the Bloodhound to other side of the Atlantic.

Is this proof positive that the old Rough Rider himself conveyed the Bloodhound from Thomas Bullock to the Duke of Manchester?  Hardly.  It’s probably not even probable – but then again, it certainly wouldn’t have been impossible.   If nothing else, it’s a fun trail to follow and one which shows just how many of these things did travel from parts as far removed from each other as St. Louis and Paris.

As mentioned above, the base of the Bloodhound is a perfect martini – but it’s the strawberries that really set it apart.  If you’ve ever tasted a strawberry – which I’m assuming every one of you has – you’ll attest that a berry at the pinnacle of ripeness is a far cry from one which still retains its verdant flavors.  For my money, a perfectly ripe, just picked strawberry is such a thing of wonder and joy that it’s really not worth considering them at any other time – which, in turn, means that the window for making Bloodhounds should be confined to the same season.

The best strawberries around, as far as we’re concerned, come from Harry’s Berries in Oxnard, California.  And, apparently, we’re not alone in our opinion – rumor is that Martha Stewart has had the berries shipped overnight to her and that chef Thomas Keller brings them in to Per Se in New York, as do many other notable chefs around the country.   Be that as it may, since Harry’s doesn’t ship its berries, everybody – from local chef to bootstrapped blogger – has to stand in line at one of the general Los Angeles area farmer’s markets to buy them.  Having picked up a flat of amazingly sweet Gaviotas this past weekend, we can tell you that strawberry – and Bloodhound – season is nigh.

Harry’s has been a SoCal staple since 1967, when Harry Iwamoto established the farm.  Today, Harry’s daughter, Molly, runs the business along with her husband, Rick, and their children and grandchildren.  Of the varieties they offer, the Gaviotas are super sweet while the delicate Seascapes are much deeper, more complex and more acidic, making them perfect for anything where additional sugar is added.  Availability is, of course, subject to a myriad of factors, but when the berries are at their peak ripeness, they are the very definition of perfection.

While not all of the drinks we offer throughout the year match up perfectly with seasonal availability, there are those, like the Bloodhound, which really only shine when the fresh ingredients are at their best.  If you happen to see the drink on a menu over the next month, we highly recommend taking the leap.  The way we like to enjoy ours, of course, is to wander down to the local farmer’s market, pick up a few baskets of just-picked strawberries, invite some friends around, and whip up a batch.  From farm to shaker in a manner of a few hours – if that doesn’t make you feel good about your drinking, we don’t know what will.

Visit Harry’s Berries:  You can find a list of all Harry’s Berries market locations on their website, or you can go one step further and visit their 40-acre farm during their 25th Anniversary (since they began selling publicly in 1986) and Open House on July 23, 2011.  The event will include a farm tour and dinner, with all of the ingredients coming directly from the farm.  Tickets and additional information are available at any of Harry’s market stands.

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