Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hotel Belvedere

Hotel Belvedere

I'm a little late, but I should mention that the roundup for November's Mixology Monday has been posted over at Doc Elliot's Mixology! Check it out for eight brunch-appropriate recipes that will meet all your day-drinking needs. My contribution to the list was the Bombay Sour, which was inspired by my bottle of Black Cloud Saffron Mango bitters. It was the third drink I made with my Black Cloud sampler pack, and today I've got a fourth. Only bottle to go! I found all the flavors in the pack very inspiring, but when I tasted the Charred Cedar bitters, I was really blown away. They've got an incredible woody, smoky flavor that is amazing with bourbon. They make a mean Old Fashioned, but I was looking forward to tailoring a cocktail specifically for these awesome bitters.

Black Cloud Charred Cedar Bitters

I definitely wanted to pair the bitters with bourbon, and I liked the idea of them with Benedictine. This put me in mind of a drink from The PDT Cocktail Book I made almost exactly a year ago called the Hotel D'Alsace, made with Irish whiskey, Benedictine, and Cointreau. I decided to work with the recipe to include the bitters and make it a bit more to my taste, as I found the Hotel D'Alsace a little too sweet. I replaced the Irish whiskey with bourbon and the Cointreau with orange bitters. The result is rich, sweet, herbaceous, and a bit smoky. I made the first one in a Glencairn glass because it was what I had clean and nearby, and I liked the way the shape of the glass brought the smell of the cedar to your nose and forced you to get a good whiff of the rosemary. I decided to keep it in a tulip-shaped glass.

Since this version of the Hotel D'Alsace has charred cedar and burnt rosemary, I started thinking about ruined hotels when it came time to name it. I was reminded of an incredible experience my husband and I had in Croatia when we were traveling after college. We were exploring the Old City of Dubrovnik (now popularized for its role as King's Landing in Game of Thrones). Looking out from the harbor, you can see how the coast curves around slightly to the southeast, forming a small peninsula. On its tip was a big, beautiful building, and we wondered what it might be. Later, we walked a ways up into the hills surrounding the city to get an aerial view of the town and decided to walk there and see what it was.

As we got closer, we realized that while the building had once been beautiful, it was now completely in ruins. We had stumbled upon the ruin of the Hotel Belvedere, a luxurious hotel that was destroyed by the Yugoslav People’s Army on October 3, 1991, during the Siege of Dubrovnik.

Hotel Belvedere
The Hotel Belvedere - you can see why we weren't aware it was in ruins at first. Photo from Untapped Cities.

We wandered around for a while, exploring the hollow buildings and taking photographs. The gutted buildings are covered in graffiti and stained with rust. It was such a sad embodiment of the region as a whole, a real and chilling reminder of the violence that had occurred there not so long ago.

To this day I'm surprised the ruin was so empty, and that we hadn't heard about it before stumbling upon it. It's such a prominent landmark when you look out from Dubrovnik. If you Google it, you can find a few blogs where other travelers describe exploring the ruins, and there are spectacular photos here, here, and here. Part of it was used for the battle between Prince Oberon and the Mountain in Game of Thrones. I was happy to find an article that says the ruin was recently purchased by a Russian billionaire who is going to turn it into a luxury hotel once again. As interesting as the ruins were, they were a monument to a terrible conflict, and I'm glad the region is healing and moving on.

Hotel Belvedere
The Hotel Belvedere's sign in the ruins. Photo from Untapped Cities by Thomas Löbig.

Finding the Hotel Belvedere was one of the more memorable parts of our time in Croatia, and I think it makes a fitting name for this cocktail. Whereas Paris' Hotel D'Alsace is bright and sweet, the Hotel Belvedere is charred and bitter - but still elegant and strong.

Hotel Belvedere

Hotel Belvedere

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Benedictine
1/2 dropper Black Cloud Charred Cedar Bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a tulip-shaped glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Briefly burn the tip of the rosemary so that it is smoky and fragrant.

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