The Elk's OWn Fizz IS A WINNER. No, seriously, the creator, St. Paul bartender Peter Sindar, won the 1901 National Police Gazette bartender's medal with this cocktail. And SOON you'll understand why.
This cool, smooth and complex tasting cocktail is a gem. Made with rye, port wine, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white, the drink's taste is unexpected. Also, unexpected was the journey to create a version of this drink that was balanced. I learned quite a few tricks and some hard lessons.
What is a "Fizz"?
Every good cocktail bar has a fizz or two on the menu. But what is a fizz? Personally, for simplification's sake, I take the definition from Death & Co.'s book "Modern Classic Cocktails".
You'll also notice the definition of a flip included above - which we will see more of as I traverse the 200 drinks of Knut Sundin's book.
The cocktail historians that Kaplan and the crew above were alluding to do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to fizzes and flips. To some historians a fizz is a sour that is made into a tall drink thanks to the inclusion of soda water. When the ingredients of a sour (base spirit, citrus, sugar and water) and the soda water are shaken, a frothy head appears after you pour. When you include an egg-white it provides a denser and more prominent head to the drink. To these historians the inclusion of an egg-white is merely a choice.
There is even some consternation among cocktail historians about how traditional fizzes differ from collins. The accepted difference is that fizzes are shaken and collins are prepared within the glass and stirred.
As with all of my other drinks I decided to consult Mr. Sundin's choices. He includes both egg-white and non-egg-white drinks in his chapter entitled "Fizzes". Good enough for Knut? Good enough for me.
Note: As I dive deeper into the book both fizzes and flips have starring roles. So please keep in mind the following passages as you prepare your drinks.
A couple of weeks ago I thought I had it figured out. But I didn't.
I played around with the proportions of the Elk's Own ingredients in four different ways. In the end, I poured 4 cocktails. I was pretty happy with the third version of the experimental pours so I decided to make one from scratch and begin taking photos.
I wrote up my experience and had it about 90% completed.
But then... something started to bother me. The glass I used. It didn't seem to fit the flavor profile of the drink. The drink is bold. The glass was dainty. In Knut's recipe he called for a "tumbler".
I had to start over. I didn't deliver the drink I wanted.
I went back to the drawing board. By doing so I learned a new shaking technique and started delving into the world of glassware.
Never settle for mediocre.
There was so much I did not like about the first round that I started from scratch. I deleted my notes and waited a week to make sure I didn't prime myself with a solution.
During that time I wanted to research answers for two specific questions:
- How do you create a consistent foam head to a drink?
- What glassware should I really use for the Elk's Own?
How to make a great egg-white Foam
With cocktails there are three kinds of shakes;
- Standard Shake (with ice)
- Dry-Shake (without ice)
- The Reverse Dry-Shake
In Knut Sundin's recipes, like most prohibition-era cocktail recipes, instruct the reader to "standard shake" all of the ingredients and then strain into the glass. There seems to be no "dry shake" during this time period.
The innovation of the dry shake allows you to add air to the cocktail, creating a smoother drink prior to dilution.
But "The Reverse Dry Shake" takes it even farther. By diluting the drink first, removing the ice and then shaking again without ice, the drink is not only diluted but the egg-white is whipped as the last step. The benefit of the reverse dry-shake is a foamier head that remains while drinking.
The Reverse Dry-Shake
Picking the Right Glass
The mistake that I made during Round One was that I had poured the Elk's Own into a slender stemmed flute. I did this because I had not previously used the glass - which is a lame reason to use the glass at all.
Based on the research I did, the coupé was the best bet for the Elk's Own.
I don't want to get too deep into the theories about what drinks you should be serving in which glasses. But I will try to give some direction with the quick information below.
Stemmed drinking glasses should be used when you have a shaken or stirred drink without ice present. You should hold the drink by the stem to keep the warmth of your hand from warming the drink to quickly.
DO NOT buy cocktail glasses over 5.5oz.
A rocks glass (also known as an Old-Fashioned Glass) is primarily used for drinks you build into the glass (such as an Old-Fashioned). With rocks glasses you are typically not pouring a drink into it - but rather stirring within the glass itself.
Rocks glasses come in two sizes, single and double.I prefer a single rocks glass over a double. But some recipes call for a double, so I have a set of each.
A highball is a tall, slender, cylinder shape. They vary in size from 5oz to 16oz. These glasses are typically used for highballs or collins drinks such as a Gin Gimlet or even a gin and tonic.
So what is a highball? Well that is when you have more mixer than base spirit. So think about mixed drinks (not cocktails) like the Moscow Mule. (Again the Moscow Mule is not a cocktail - it is a mixed drink.)
You can also use this for fizz drinks without egg white.
I have a set of 8oz highball glasses I bought from Crate and Barrel.
With an understanding of the reverse dry-shake and the glassware I should use, I decided to give mixing the cocktail and perfecting the recipe another try. With this round I wanted to focus on balancing the port wine and the rye flavors. I increased the lemon slightly and kept the simple syrup consistent with the original recipe.
I think you will agree that Round Two (below) was significantly improved over Round One. Everything from the frothy foam to the presentation improved. The final recipe is well-balanced and has no edge, thanks to the egg-white.
I did make one modification - I removed the pineapple. Why? Because its flavor did not seem to complement the drink. It was more of a distraction than anything. Sorry Knut.
As for you dear reader, I hope you enjoy the distinct, enjoyable flavor of the Elk's Own. Maybe its the spice of the rye whiskey meeting the sweetness of the port? Maybe its the egg-white that rounds the left-over sharp edges of the sour? The drink is not for everyone, but for those of us who have come to love it, it is one cocktail we will call on for years to come.
The Modern Elk's Own Fizz
1½ oz. Wild Turkey 101 Rye
¾ oz. Port Wine
¾ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp. of simple syrup
Egg-white of 1 Large Egg
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Complete a "reverse dry shake" by shaking until chilled and properly diluted, double-straining, and then shaking again without ice. Pour carefully into a chilled coupe. No garnish.
J.B. is the founder of 200 Drinks. He spends most of his day working as a design leader at a large technology company but finds time in his schedule to enjoy a drink and write about it. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, son and pup.