Brian Smith, beverage director at both Colonie (127 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-855-7500) and Gran Electrica (5 Front Street, Brooklyn; 718-852-2789), can thank the pages of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh for introducing him to the Twelve Mile Limit. While bartending in Seattle, Smith was introduced to Haigh’s classic cocktail manual, which is where he learned all about the origins of a drink that would soon become one he couldn’t leave out of his arsenal.
The drink stuck with Smith throughout his years behind the bar; “I always liked the profile about it a lot. I love that it’s firmly rooted as a prohibition cocktail” Smith says. He also notes the drink was named after the line of demarcation related to the Volstead Act, which was originally three miles off the U.S shore, but later moved to twelve in order to bolster the government’s odds against bootleggers. Those extra nine miles added rye whiskey to the rum and brandy-heavy “three mile limit,” which sits just fine with Smith. The drink is a favorite of Smith’s because it requires the use of freshly-made grenadine, an ingredient he loves to make.
The use of grenadine is important – as in most prohibition-era drinks; part of a ruse that you can still get away with a bit of mystery if the cops — or mom — pops in. Though Smith feels that the drink’s up-front notes of pomegranate and lemon-tart finish could classify the drink as “deceptive,” fans of booze-forward drinks will still feel satiated by the taste of rum, rye, and cognac. “Rum is great because it’s a story of the island it came from,” Smith says. The mix of spice and heat from the rum and rye help balance the sweet and tart flavors found from the citrus and simple syrup. And while the drink may look too fancy to some, it packs plenty of intrigue. “The first thing you taste is not the last thing you taste,” Smith notes, adding the drink moves “symphonically” over the palette.
Although he can always grab a Twelve Mile Limit at Colonie, Smith enjoys visiting Clover Club and Long Island Bar for other well-made cocktails too. Below, find the recipe Smith uses for a quick trip off the island.
Twelve Mile Limit by Brian Smith
1 ounce of white rum (Smith likes El Dorado 3 Year rum)
Half ounce of rye whiskey (Smith opts for Rittenhouse bonded rye)
Half ounce of Cognac (Paul-Beau cognac is suggested)
Half ounce of homemade grenadine *
Half ounce of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Mix all ingredients in a shaker and shake, strain into a coupe or a martini glass. Serve up, garnished with lemon twist.
*To make home made grenadine:
Mix equal parts by volume of sugar and pomegranate juice in a saucepan. Cook on low heat to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and pour into bottle.