PEN/Faulker Foundation Cocktail Reception at Compass Coffee
The PEN/Faulkner Foundation, the fabulous establishment that promotes the love of literature, was welcoming two authors to DC, starting with nothing other than a cocktail reception. Hosted at Compass Coffee and catered by Union Kitchen, we were asked to create signature drinks. It’s a request we were all too happy to say, ‘Yes,’ to; there are few things we enjoy more than coming up with cocktail recipes to suit specific, unique occasions. We created a drink for Faulkner himself, and then one for each of the featured authors, Leslie Jamison and Mitchell Jackson.
The Faulkner: brandy, bourbon, dark rum, Compass Coffee Azimuth blend, anise liqueur
As you might guess, PEN/Faulkner is named after William Faulkner (actually it’s named after a foundation which is named after Faulkner, but perhaps that’s getting too technical). Faulkner was born in Mississippi but moved to New Orleans. This cocktail does the same. We took the Mississippi Punch and added the New Orleansian touch of an anise float. In honor of the reception’s location, we also added an ounce of double strength Compass coffee. The coffee was originally intended for Thursday’s drink, the Jackson. On a whim, we tried it here too and ended up liking the interplay of the coffee’s earthy bitterness with the sweetness of the spirits and the anise flavor.
The Jamison: Gin, dry vermouth, Amaro (ramazzotti), maraschino liqueur, orange twist
Neither of us has read any of Jamison’s work, though a brief internet scan tells us we’re missing out. Since we’re sadly ignorant of the substance of her writing, we ran with the one thing mentioned in all of the various author bios we saw: she lives in Brooklyn–which we probably would have guessed without it being mentioned. Isn’t Brooklyn residency pretty much a job requirement for critically acclaimed authors nowadays?
It just so happens that there’s a Brooklyn cocktail. The Brooklyn, like its sister drink across the river, is a whiskey drink with vermouth. The Brooklyn, however, uses dry vermouth instead of sweet, with the addition of maraschino and Amer Picon. We turned the Brooklyn into a Jamison by substituting gin for whiskey. We thought it was appropriate because Leslie Jamison’s novel is called The Gin Closet–although maybe that makes it horribly inappropriate, because I think the novel is about substance abuse. In any case, we needed a clear liquor drink in the menu, and the swap makes for a delicious drink.
The Jackson: sweet vermouth, coffee liqueur, bourbon, proper maraschino cherry
The second author being welcomed at the PEN/Faulkner cocktail reception was Mitchell S. Jackson, author of The Residue Years, a novel that shows a much different side of Portland, Oregon, from Portlandia. Being a critically acclaimed new author, he, like Jamison–it could go without saying–lives in Brooklyn. But since he works in Manhattan, we used that as our jumping off point for his cocktail.
We always like to make sure that we have a low alcohol drink on the menu, and that seemed especially necessary here with the oversized Faulkner and the stiff martini Jamison being the other options. So, we reversed a Manhattan’s normal proportions of whiskey and vermouth. Then, as a nod to the event being held at Compass coffee, and for an extra note of bittersweetness, we added some coffee liqueur. While we usually consider rye to make an equal or better Manhattan to Bourbon, for this one we prefer the smoothness of Bourbon.
This is a rich, smooth, sweet, fruity drink–with the whiskey and coffee bringing just the right amount of bite to give it depth and complexity.