Serious Eats: Drinks
How to Make the Self-Starter from Raines Law Room, NYC
"We look through a lot of cocktail books for inspiration. I love that Savoy had a female head bartender ages ago, so I often go back to them," Meaghan Dorman, head bartender at Manhattan's Raines Law Room recalls of her path to the Self-Starter.
"I was searching for something different, something I hadn't seen anywhere else, and we'd just gotten some Cocchi Americano, so this was perfect."
Raines Law Room's modern take on the Savoy original calls on Cocchi Americano, with its spine of quinine, as the closest modern equivalent to the original recipe's Kina Lillet. "It dries out your cheeks a little," she notes, giving hers a surprisingly illustrative suck.
For the recipe's London dry gin, Dorman turns to Plymouth, and, in the place of apricot brandy, she adds a bit of bright Orchard Apricot liqueur. She stirs the Cocchi, gin and Orchard Apricot with ice and strains into an absinthe-rinsed (or rather, sprayed) coupe.
A lemony aroma and the liqueur's fresh, stone fruit flavors jump out at the senses, a garnish of lemon peel making citrus a prominent note in this otherwise lemon-free cocktail.
The Self-Starter is Dorman's answer for the drinker who wants a martini, but nothing too strong. "It's a nice before-dinner martini," she says. Don't be mistaken, though; this one's not all fruit and no punch. The sweetness slowly recedes behind the gin and quinine's dry herbal and bitter kick.
Given a chance to settle, this silky number is first an absinthe-tinged martini, second an aperitif with soft, subtle fruitiness up front and a bitter bite in the back.
Dorman gives it a taste and a nod. "It's a gin and tonic drinker's martini."