At first glance, the array of influences from which the Au Cheval cocktail list was designed is apparent. Quite an alluring mix representing classic, modern, and house cocktails originating from various pockets of the globe, the search through numerous cocktail books and the countless (and oh-so-tiring) attempts at getting a recipe just right coincides with a theme of our beverage program: provide esoteric, high-quality options for people to have fun and just maybe step outside their usual box. Thus we bring to you El Presidente.
Created by American bartender Eddie Woelke at the Jockey Club in Havana, Cuba, El Presidente seems to have been lost among many of its Prohibition era sisters. We are using the most original recipe, as found in Manual del Cantinero, 1924. Apparently, El Presidente became the house cocktail at Club El Chico in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where America was introduced to the rhumba in 1925 (esquire.com). Perhaps the most important element is the vermouth; many sources insist that French vermouth is absolutely necessary, and Dolin Vermouth de Chambery is the most recommended.
To warrant our selection, we indubitably tinkered with the vermouth component. We tried the recipe with Lillet Blanc, similar to French vermouth, which produced too sweet of a concoction. When we experimented using solely the Dolin dry vermouth, the flavor was boringly less complex. After a handful of trials and sips, it was agreed that Dolin Blanc produced the best results, which tends to be subtler than other versions. Plus, we are proud to honor the original recipe. The 1924 copy of Manual del Cantinero calls for Chamberly, where Dolin was established in the late 19th century.
The significant vermouth presence lends to the awesomely distinctive flavor of El Presidente; it’s rare to find a concoction with vermouth as a main ingredient, as our recipe calls for equal parts rum and vermouth. With all flavors combined, the sexy El Presidente surpasses expectations. David Wondrich expresses the cocktail aptly: “Rich and lightly sweet yet still refreshing, with layers of flavor that are fully integrated into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts” (Imbibe, Issue 33, p. 20). While it’s easy drinking with a smooth, velvety texture and lighter mouth-feel, the flavor is rich and very unique. The delight continues well into the finish, which lingers on the tongue with a pleasantly slightly sweet flavor.
And, true to the Au Cheval brand, El Presidente is not your typical sweet and fruity mai-tai-esque rum-based cocktail, making it an exemplary fit among the others of the list: a lovely counterpart with bold foods, yet light enough so as not to limit your indulgence. Above all, I’m obligated to warn you that the swanky El Presidente also induces a slight urge to bust out the rhumba. ¡Salud!