Great Baltimore cocktails: Ventures Into Verse at Ten Ten

  • The Ventures Into Verse.
The Ventures Into Verse. (Dave Seel )
September 24, 2014|By Meekah Hopkins | For The Baltimore Sun

In his 1935 essay "How to Drink Like a Gentleman," writer H.L. Mencken, Sage of Baltimore, compared drinking to sex: We could all use a few tips on how to do it correctly.

Clearly, he had a lot of pent-up wisdom to impart, post-Prohibition era. Mencken spent much of that time lambasting the temperance movement in the pages of The Evening Sun, blaming teetotalers for ruining the perfect conviviality of a good drink. He once said a cocktail is "the greatest of all contributions of the American way of life [and] to the salvation of humanity."

That is correct, sir, that is correct. But what cocktail would the great sage suggest that us modern Hons imbibe? Mencken was a big advocate for vermouths, aperitifs, fortified wines — they allowed one to conduct himself more articulately and eloquently, and less like a … boozehound, a term he is credited with coining.

In that spirit, Ten Ten's beverage director and self-proclaimed Mencken super fan, Tim Riley, has crafted a cocktail worthy of the writer: Ventures Into Verse.

Riley, known for his intricate recipes and attention to historical detail, was inspired to create an elegant seasonal drink for the Harbor East restaurant that he said is straightforward in style. This might be true in taste, yet it's anything but in concept and ingredients. A perfect nod to Mencken.

Riley said he named his cocktail after his favorite writer's first published book — you guessed it — "Ventures Into Verse," printed in 1903. "It was a collection of poems and the like, many of which weren't very good," Riley said. "There were only 30 copies printed, 25 were sent out for review and only two were supposed to have sold."

But don't judge the drink by the book. Riley says his drink is one of their most popular. Probably because, with the cooling temperatures, everyone is craving "fall in a glass."

The cocktail combines an eight-year Haitian rum from Barbancourt with Dubonnet, a French red wine-based aperitif. Cinnamon syrup, lime juice and spiced bitters finish the drink. The fruitiness of the Dubonnet combined with the spice from the syrup and bitters makes the cocktail taste like apples, though none are present in the recipe. The result is rich, bright and crisp.

If I were to ask Mencken out for cocktails, I imagine he'd reply, to wit, with his famous, "I'm ombibulous. I drink every known alcoholic drink and enjoy them all" line. Fair enough, H.L., but wait until you try a Ventures Into Verse. You'd enjoy that the most.

How to Make the Ventures Into Verse

1 ounce Barbancourt 5 Star rum

1 ounce Dubonnet

1 ounce cinnamon syrup (see below)

1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

2 dashes Bittermens xocolatl mole bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

To make cinnamon syrup: bring one cup of Demerara sugar, one cup of water and four cinnamon sticks to a rolling boil. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate and strain after twenty-hours.

Where to Get the Ventures Into Verse

Ten Ten American Bistro

1010 Fleet St., Harbor East



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