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Our take on the Honeymoon reminds us that the sweet ain’t as sweet without the bitter 

They say necessity is the mother of invention, though it's hard to consider a new cocktail an actual necessity. But as I leafed through Jim Meehan's gorgeous PDT Cocktail Book (Sterling Epicure, 2011) last week, looking for Remix inspiration, I chanced on an entry I'd never noticed before: Meehan's adaptation of the Honeymoon Cocktail from a pre-Prohibition recipe.

Feeling more than a little miserable about the dismal state of affairs in the world outside my windows, I wasn't really in the mood to mix up a fancy cocktail. For those inclined to seek solace in alcohol, these days would seem to call for guzzling rotgut straight from the bottle. But my deadline approached, and needs must. The Honeymoon sounded sweet, both as a concept (honeymoon period, anyone?) and as a confection.

I had a mental picture of what I'd change, how I'd serve it – I even sliced up a lovely Honeycrisp apple for a garnish – but when I went to my bar, the bottle of Laird's Applejack I remembered having wasn't there to greet me. (Used up in a holiday party punch? Maybe.) Nor did I have curaçao or any type of dry orange liqueur, nor a bottle of Bénédictine. Lemons, I had. But that was it.

This feeling of "don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" seems like it might soon become a familiar one. So, I improvised. In this case that meant swapping out every ingredient except the lemon juice, resulting in a cocktail that is perhaps not strictly a Remix, but is extremely drinkable. The world is full of gin and lemon cocktails, so I went for a lesser-used bottle as my base spirit: Zubrówka bison-grass vodka, in solidarity with our Polish friends who elected their own right-wing strongman just months before we did. Instead of sweet orange curaçao, I added a grapefruit liqueur, a balance of sugar and acerbic citrus rind. And in place of the honeyed lavender-vanilla overtones of Bénédictine, I used Chartreuse – the two liqueurs are both classed as herbal medicinals, but Chartreuse, with its astringent, flinty bite, really lives up to the "medicinal." In small measures, though, it's brilliant at grounding almost any fanciful mix of flavors.

This Honeymoon, instead of a warm, apple-y, brown-liquor loving cup, is a cool, clear, slightly bitter quaff. Don't be bitter, you say? I think holding onto a hint of bitterness is essential, if you want to enjoy what's still sweet.

classic

2 ounces applejack or apple brandy

1/2 ounce orange curaçao

1/2 ounce Bénédictine

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

remixed:

2 ounces Zubrówka bison-grass vodka

1/2 ounce grapefruit liqueur

1/4 ounce Chartreuse

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

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