Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Amsterdam & Presidente

As mentioned yesterday, I was in Amsterdam over the last few days with some friends.

What a great city.  The big take-away from Amsterdam is just how quiet it is at all times of the day.  You can walk down the street at the height of their rush hour (whenever that is), and it's quieter than a cul-de-sac in the American 'burbs.

A lot of it has to do with the bikes.  Bikes run Amsterdam. 

We walked out of the Central Station, and there was a bike landing that must have held 5,000 bikes for the commuters who had taken the trains.  In the city itself, everything and everyone yeilds to the bicycles.  Foot trafiic beware, they are not stopping!

Of course though, most people think of debauchery when thinking of Amsterdam.  Coffeeshops selling pot, the Red Light District selling sex, etc.  Once you're there, the coffeeshops, the Red Light District, they blend in with everything else.  You could easily find an elementary school next door to a coffeeshop. 

The emphasis on, for lack of a better description, the wrongness of vice, doesn't seem to exist in Amsterdam.  With respect to marijuana, most people mistakenly believe that Holland is just a free flowing place, where pot and sex, and whatever else you want to do is all fair game.  I suppose that may be partially correct insofar as the attitude of the general populace is concerned, but the main reason for the existance of the coffeeshops is something else entirely. 

The coffeeshops allow Holland to keep soft drugs like marijuana and hard drugs like herion apart, while other countries like the United States and England struggle with increased addiction rates on hard drugs as a result of their close proximity.

Amsterdam is a unique city, and their coffeeshops, while the most well known aspect of the city, are perhaps the least interesting.  The canals trump the coffeeshops.  Along with the bikes, the canal system rules the land.  I knew it was a water city, but had no idea just how inescapable the canal system truly was.  They're gorgeous too.  Every street you walk along, you cross bridge after bridge, canal after canal.  It's stunning.

I took many photos while I was there, most of which include pictures of my friends.  I'll spare you their mugs, and instead show you a few of the photos I took at night.  The city is really beautiful at all hours of the day, but Amsterdam is especially beautiful in the eveing.

Along Raadhuisstraat, on the way to Dam Square

Along Raadhuisstraat, looking north

Zuiderkerk, view from the west

The famed Red Light District, looking north

View of Westerkerk, from the east

View of Westerkerk from the south

Westerkerk, from the south

Alright, enough about Amsterdam, let's check out the Presidente!

Upon researching the drink, it appears as though the Presidente may be the red headed step-child of what I'm calling "the Presidente family of drinks."

If you search "Presidente" and the word "cocktail", invariably you end up with El Presidente cocktail recipes.  They are similar drinks too, the Presidente and the El Presidente.  The El Presidente adds a small amount of triple sec and lemon juice to the mix that the Presidente leaves behind.

Their origins are likely similar.  According to one nice write-up: "El Presidente was created by Eddie Woelke, an American bartender at the Jockey Club in Havana. He shrewdly named the drink in honor of President Gerardo Machado, who ruled Cuba throughout most of the Prohibition years. Basil Woon, author of When It's Cocktail Time in Cuba, wrote in 1928 of El Presidente, "It is the aristocrat of cocktails and is the one preferred by the better class of Cuban.""

Sounds like it should be good - let's check it out.  Here is the finished product:

American Bar, page 158

Presidente (original version)

1/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 1/2 oz white rum
dash grenadine
stemmed cherry

Stir over ice cubes in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with cherry.

I hate to say it, but I'm not in love with this drink.  It's entirely too sweet for my tastes, and not merely sweet, but syrupy.  3/4 oz sweet vermouth is just too much to take, and there isn't enough to counter its intense sweetness.  Throw in the dash of grenadine, and even the stemmed cherry, and the Presidente quickly devolves into the drink equivalent of Kool Aid mixed with half the prescribed water.

I'm surprised by the lackluster result.  Presidente cocktails, whichever particular variety you choose, are classics.  I suppose though, that if we've learned anything with some of these cocktails, not all classics are good (see the Jack Rose).

Tomorrow, we'll making the first of my reader submitted cocktail ideas.  Until then, cheers!


JML on March 31, 2010 at 9:42 AM said...

Clearly El Presidente was no match for the mighty Amsterdam. Those photos sum up the beauty of the city.

Better luck next time El Presidente.

Maybe next time you should go up against Delaware.

Anonymous said...

El Presidente sounds awful. Too much sweet vermouth.

Anonymous said...

NIce post! Make sure you read the red light district guide before you go to Amsterdam, especially if you are planning on window shopping

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