June 10th, 2006

The rare Seelbach sighted at Chez Henri

Seelbach Hotel

Recently, after a kindly bartender at Eastern Standard sent me home with a bottle of hard-to-find Peychaud’s bitters, I mixed my first Seelbach, a bourbon-and-Champagne-based cocktail born in 1917 at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Oh my god, was it good. I assumed I would never encounter this rare drink outside my own living room. Then one night I met Scott Holliday, bar manager at the Cambridge restaurant Chez Henri. When he took my order, I simply told him that I liked whiskey drinks. A few minutes later, he placed a bubbly, reddish cocktail on my bar napkin — a Seelbach! I wanted to marry the guy. I’m a sucker for drinks that top spirits off with Champagne. Mysteriously, the bubbles both accentuate and mellow the bourbon and bitters, and as a whole the Seelbach conjures up dueling memories of wedding toasts and camping trips. Try this recipe:

The Seelbach (from Gary and Mardee Regan’s New Classic Cocktails)
1 oz bourbon
1/2 oz Cointreau
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
7 dashes Angostura bitters
5 oz Champagne
Pour the liquor and bitters into a Champagne flute and stir. Add Champagne and stir again. Garnish with an orange twist.

Note: I prefer to stir the liquor and bitters lightly over ice and then strain them into the Champagne flute before adding the Champagne. It makes a pleasantly chilled drink that is not so cold or watered down that it dulls the spirits’ character.

Permalink | Filed under Boston bars, Cocktails, Whiskey |

4 Responses to “The rare Seelbach sighted at Chez Henri”

  1. Walt

    I made one last night which my boss and I sampled. It was delicious but not cold enough since the bourbon, cointreau, and bitters were at room temperature. I could try stirring those ingredients with ice before straining the solution into the flute and then adding the sparkling wine, but there’s going to be some dilution.

  2. ljclark

    Walt, you are correct. The recipe as cited makes a drink that isn’t cold enough. When I make Seelbachs, I stir all the ingredients minus the champagne over ice for, oh, 10 seconds. This doesn’t water them down too much and makes a really pleasant drink. Make sure your champagne is nice and cold, too. I’ll amend this recipe with this recommendation.

  3. Walt

    Thanks, Lauren. Sounds good. We will give it another shot.

  4. Andre Terreault

    I had one just this past week, at the suggestion of a co-worker … a Seelbach from Louisville …

    Unfortunately, it was however lacking the Peychaud’s bitters as the bar did not have them, and did not know the recipe, they made form a book).

    The results was less than stellar, very very bitter tasting. (to make things worse, we tried after dessert.)

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