The Bishop's Sidecar

Bishop's Sidecar Cocktail

Christopher Bloom '73 shares his recipe for a custom Kenyon cocktail.

by Molly Willow '00

Meet Christopher Bloom '73, a Chicago attorney by profession and a certified mixologist by decade-long pursuit. For Bloom, ordering an adult beverage is as much a history lesson as it is about refreshment. Recently applying his expertise to a Lordly task, he developed a custom Kenyon cocktail dedicated to the memory of none other than Philander Chase.

Actually, James Bond had something to do with it all. When the famous spy tried a mojito in Die Another Day (2002), Bloom's interest was piqued, prompting him to read histories on the beverage. He was encouraged in his pursuit by Bridget Albert, the author of Market-Fresh Mixology and a client in his intellectual-property practice. Soon Bloom was taking advanced cocktail courses at the Cordon Bleu school and passing the rigorous testing to become a United States Bartenders' Guild member.

He describes his passion for mixology, specifically pre-Prohibition era drinks, as "a hobby that went out of control." His favorite concoction, the Corpse Reviver No. 2, dates back over one hundred years and is one of a class of drinks historically served in the morning (think "hair of the dog"). Not many bartenders know how to make it. The recipe calls for equal parts gin, cointreau, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc (a French aperitif wine), plus a few drops of absinthe. And you thought your triple shot Venti latte was strong.

Bloom has invented a number of drinks and competed in, and won, mixology competitions. He even has a drink exuberantly named after him and published in The Bartender's Gin Compendium, by Gaz Regan. His "infectious enthusiasm" so inspired a judge in a Chicago limerick-and-gin-cocktail competition that she created her own drink and named it "The Christopher Bloom!"

So it seemed only natural, when Bloom was on the planning committee for his thirty-fifth class reunion, that someone would suggest he create a Kenyon cocktail. The father of alumnae daughters Anna Bloom '04 and Mary Bloom '09 gladly took up the challenge.

Creating the perfect purple-hued beverage was a task well suited to a man who keeps from one hundred fifty to two hundred different spirits in his home bar. Bloom approached it with a studious eye. "What you're trying to do is keep in balance all of the different tastes," Bloom says. "You want to balance the salt, sour, sweet, and bitter. All good cocktails have balance. How they achieve that balance is the difference."

So he wouldn't be serving just vodka and grape juice. For one thing, grape juice makes a lousy mixer. "Grape juice didn't work by color and wasn't heavy enough, wasn't robust enough to hold against the ingredients," he explains. "Trying to get color and taste is not a trivial problem. Usually, you're just going for taste."

He tinkered with his recipe for a month or two, devising about a hundred different versions of the drink through trial and error. This process has its pitfalls—not least, it's a good way to get completely hammered. But Bloom learned early in his mixology efforts to make small servings when testing. Also: "You don't drink the failures."

The result of Bloom's tippling toil is the Bishop's Sidecar, a blueberry-infused concoction that not only comes out a perfect royal purple (or PMS 266, as the school color is officially designated in the Pantone color system), but which also tastes delicious. The balance Bloom prizes comes across to the palate, and the garnish of sugar-dusted blueberries earns the drink extra credit. It's a fun, strong cocktail that allows any Lord or Lady to show school pride when imbibing (in moderation, of course—one doesn't want to be un-lord or -ladylike).

As much as he is a drink aficionado now (Bloom admits to carrying the Corpse Reviver and other recipes with him to bars), Bloom says mixology is one skill he didn't hone at Kenyon, where he was a political science major. "I don't recall anything more exotic in college than a highball, or a mystery punch," Bloom says.

Still, with his encyclopedic knowledge of drink history, it's clear Bloom is applying good study habits to his hobby. He recently attended the "Tales of the Cocktail" conference in New Orleans where, among other things, he learned about the history of the julep, which dates back to the 1600s. Sample drinks were included.

How's that for a twist on cramming for exams?

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