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Properly Sauced: The Harry Caray Cocktail

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Dec 15, 2011 9:20PM

2011_12_14_HarryCaray_cocktail.jpgJason Wilson, the Washington Post's cocktail and spirits writer, raised an intriguing question in a column last week. The subject was savory cocktails - to drink or not to drink? Most folks are accustomed to sipping sweet, citrusy drinks, but what about ones that rest squarely in salty, savory territory? His question turned on a particular example out of Seattlite, bartender and fellow drinks writer Maggie Savarino's new book, The Seasonal Cocktail Companion: Recipes and Projects for Four Seasons of Drinking. The name of the drink immediately caught our eye. Savarino had devised a cocktail she thought captured the unique concert of savory flavors that make up the Chicago dog. She calls it the Harry Caray. Holy cow!

What makes the Harry Caray akin to our local paragon of encased-meat artistry, you ask? As with many of her cocktails, Wilson points out, Savarino starts with a two-ounce base of aquavit, the caraway-tinged Scandinavian spirit. To that she adds a measure of pickle juice (to mimic the pickle spear) and a few dashes of celery bitters (standing in for celery salt). No sweetener. No citrus. Nada.

We're not going to weigh in on how our experiment with the Harry Caray went, primarily because we want you to try it out for yourselves. Also, being fresh out of celery bitters, we had to improvise our Harry Caray, opting to swap in a few hits of Tabasco sauce as a substitute (à la hot peppers). Would Savarino mind us tinkering with her recipe? Not likely. As Wilson quotes from her book, "Hardly any of the recipes here are too precious to avoid further alteration." He goes on to describe her as "one of the most refreshing and irreverent drinks mavens in America" - and judging by the Harry Caray, Savarino clearly brings a playful attitude to her mixing, which we certainly appreciate.

So where do you stand on the savory cocktail divide? Why not stir up a Harry Caray and find out.

The Harry Caray

2 ounces aquavit
1 teaspoon pickle juice, preferably sweet-and-sour
3 dashes celery bitters
Lemon peel twist or pickle slice, for garnish

Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the aquavit, pickle juice and bitters. Stir vigorously, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.

Garnish with the twist of lemon peel or pickle slice.