Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm such a cliche.

Truly, friends, I am deep into the worst part of my work year. That isn't remotely a sufficient excuse for my complete absence here but I haven't abandoned this endeavor no matter how bad it looks. It may be mid/late-July before I'll be free enough to post semi-regularly again but the fat lady hasn't even hit the stage on this little blog-style vanity project. It ain't over yet.

So, to those of who still stop by looking for something new I thank you. Please keep me bookmarked at least a little longer.

If you didn't see it below a visitor name Jeffrey commented under one of my Alberta Straub posts to point out her new online show. It's a boss little thing she calls Cocktails on the Fly and you should check it out. It's the essence of Alberta in vastly entertaining little video snippets. Sure, it's not quite like sitting across from Her Geniusness at The Orbit Room and being served actual cocktails but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Damn. Time flies.

Wow. I knew I was long overdue to post something new here but I hadn't realized just how overdue. I'm still up to my neck in work so I've got nothin'. I hope you'll check back in a couple weeks.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Drive-By Update

Hey, all. If you've stopped by lately looking for a new post I'm sorry to have wasted your time. This post sure as hell won't make up for your efforts but I just wanted to let you know that I most definitely haven't abandoned this little project. It's simply been set aside like so many others due to the vagaries of life, work, and procrastination. I've got a few unfinished posts that are sorta almost nearly ready to go. Hopefully I'll get my write on and put the polish to one or two of 'em shortly. If you check back later next week I think you'll find something new.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mixology Monday does shots.

I was a little surprised by the topic for this month's MixMo. I know all too well that shots remain a staple of the bar biz but they simply don't rate very highly in my particular cocktail-snob aesthetic. It's stupid to dismiss a category of drinks out of hand but I'm not sure what I might be forgetting. Pousse-cafés, maybe? I'd rather thwack my forehead with a barspoon than pour booze lightly over the back of it into a tall shot glass or, worse, to drink the sickly sweet result. So, me, I got nothin'. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by what other MixMo bloggers come up with but I won't be holding my breath.

Is my lack of interest in shots due to what some might call "maturity"? I dunno but, honestly, I no longer see the point. Sure, there's the camraderie thing and there's also the "get drunk faster" thing. I'm no teetotaler. I've done far too many shots for both of these ridiculous reasons and it's not remotely my place to lecture you on the evils of over-indulgence. But, ya know what, I can't for the life of me remember why my friends and I used to be in such a big goddam hurry. The liquor sure as hell wasn't going anywhere. Oh, well, youth wasted on the young. If that's "maturity" I guess I have a teeny bit.

Really, though, if the booze isn't worth sipping why should I spend good cash money on it only to toss it back before I can taste it? How about instead we order a nice glass of something and enjoy it? Or, if it's something the bartender has to put together like, say, a Kamikaze* or an Alabama Slammer*, well, why don't we just have a nice cocktail? It's no more work for the bartender except maybe for the little effort required to chill a cocktail glass.

On the other hand, all that being said, when I started this post the weather was terrible. It was very cold here in Chicago and had been for weeks. I was thinking that if there's one half-way respectable reason to get loaded it's cabin fever. Not that drinking to excess is necessarily a good idea when one's stuck indoors but it is one way to pass the time. Of course, now that the time has come to post this it's absolutely gorgeous outside. It was in the 60s yesterday and it's above 70 today. Apparently we'll be closer to normal by the weekend but it's a little hard for me today to think about sitting around with a bottle of booze and a shot glass whiling away the hours and avoiding the frozen outdoors.

However, when that thought was crossing my mind I learned of a holiday that suits the cabin-feverish mind particularly well. It's called Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day and it's held out of doors on February 20th. I don't know exactly where it's commonly held--"northern hemisphere" isn't exactly specific, is it?--but there's no reason not to start your own tradition next February. According to Frank Kelly Rich , founder of the adolescent but generally damn funny Modern Drunkard Magazine, "At high noon everyone yells 'Hoodie-Hoo' to chase away winter and usher in spring." Why not run outside right now and holler out a belated "Hoodie Hoo!"?

Mr. Rich offers up this shot as an additional means of celebrating this day:

Crazy Swede
1 oz ouzo
1 oz vodka
1 tbsp cinnamon schnapps

Shake with ice, strain, shout "Hoodie-Hoo" and shoot.
A little googling didn't turn up anything on the Crazy Swede outside of its inclusion in Mr. Rich's article nor did visits to some of my favorite bookmarked cocktail recipe sites so I'm guessing that the Crazy Swede is Mr. Rich's own concoction. My liquor cabinet is short two of the three items so I can't vouch for it but knock yourself out. If you insist, well, okay, a shot of John Powers Irish goes might nicely with a pint o'Guinness. You'll have to forgive me for nursing it though.


* I realize the linked recipes are for full-size cocktails but I've never come across them in a bar in anything other than shot glass and, to be frank, I wouldn't drink them any other way. To my mind these are not well suited to sipping. If you disagree I hope you'll leave a comment.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Great minds?

Well, slap my ass and call me Shirley. This new post at looks mighty familiar.

I don't think for a second that cocktail evangelist and Museum of the American Cocktail mover & (cocktail) shaker Robert "Drinkboy" Hess reads this blog or even knows of its existence so it's damned unlikely that he's taken to plundering little-known blogs for ideas. Kinda weird coincidence though, ain'a? It's not like The Liberal is the hot "new" drink that's sweeping the nation, the one on every "Martini" menu from coast to coast and in the hand of every supermodel.

Now there's a thought. Can you even imagine a world where the "new Mojito" or "new Cosmopolitan" is a rye whiskey cocktail made with bitters, vermouth and Torani Amer? I think perhaps only children and the mentally ill have the unlimited imagination to dream of such a wonderful world as that....


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Ten Ton Cocktail (or is it Tenton?)

[Revised slightly 3/2/2007]

Here's one I tried last weekend. I had a nice grapefruit that needed using before it headed south so I juiced it and hit CocktailDB for ideas. I was in the mood for something with rye whiskey and CocktailDB turned up the Ten Ton Cocktail (or Tenton Cocktail).
Ten Ton (tenton) Cocktail

1½ oz rye
½ oz dry vermouth
½ oz grapefruit juice

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain. Add cherry.
There seems to be some confusion about this one and it goes beyond whether there's a space between "ten" and "ton". CocktailDB also has a Ten Ton Cocktail #2 which features gin and kümmel rather than rye and grapefruit juice. lists this gin/kümmel version as the Tenton Cocktail. So I dunno what to think and Googling didn't turn up much else. I prefer "Tenton" because I don't see how "Ten Ton" fits this drink. Even had I made it with 100 proof rye it's not exactly a drink that hits you like a ton of bricks. It is light and dry and extremely refreshing.

As for "tenton", well, your guess is as good as mine. Is it a town? Is it a bartender, actor, bar, hotel, city, racehorse...? I dunno. CocktailDB doesn't often include the provenance of its cocktails so I don't even know what book this came from. I checked a couple older ones and came up empty. Lemme know if you can shed any light. Meanwhile, I guess I'll call it the Tenton Cocktail but, by any name, two parts rye to one part dry vermouth and one part grapefruit juice is a very, very nice, very simple cocktail.

I used Old Overholt rye, Noilly Prat dry vermouth and fresh-squoze grapefruit juice. I skipped the cherry though I suppose one of my rye-soaked beauties might have made a nice addition. I chose Old Overcoat thanks to Sam Kinsey's "research" in rye whiskey. Sam (aka slkinsey) is one of the big guns in the eGullet drinks forum. He's not a pro--that is, he doesn't tend bar or write cocktail books--but his posts at eGullet show that he most definitely knows his way around a liquor cabinet and knows his cocktail history. That he's also "in" with the NYC cocktail elite--Wondrich, Saunders et al--only adds to my estimation of the man as a font of cocktail wisdom. So, when Sam posts that Old Overholt is his preferred rye in The Blinker I listen. And when an Old Overholt Blinker (the raspberry syrup version) turns out to be surprisingly tasty--unlike my less-than-memorable previous attempts made with the generally superior Rittenhouse rye--well, it's the kind of lesson that sticks.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing: I made several of these over the course of last weekend and, as a member of the "everything's better with bitters" school of cocktail geekology I thought for sure that the drink could be improved with a dash of something or other. It turns out that neither Peychaud's bitters or Regan's Orange bitters were an improvement. In fact, what they added was an off-note that threw off the balance of the drink. I also tried one with a dash of Angostura bitters. This didn't make for a better drink either but it wasn't necessarily any worse, just different. I can say, though, that all Tenton cocktails in my future will be sans bitters.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

The 1794

There's a thread at eGullet discussing various cocktail joints in San Francisco. Recently one post mentioned a cocktail that can be found at two of San Fran's more chi-chi, de rigeur, yadda yadda cocktail lounges, Bourbon & Branch and Range. The cocktail is called 1794. It's a rye whiskey cocktail with Campari and sweet vermouth and it's garnished with a flamed orange twist*. If I understand correctly the cocktail's creator, Dominic Venegas, works at both establishments.

1½ oz Rittenhouse Rye
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz Vya Red vermouth

Stir with ice, strain, garnish with flamed orange peel. [If the word on the street** is to be believed Range subs Old Overholt for the Rittenhouse and Cinzano Rosso for the Vya.]
Once again, if you'll indulge me, I'll point out that this is pretty solidly in the Manhattan family as I've outlined it here and here. There's whiskey, sweet vermouth and a bitter component of some sort. I guess one could argue that I'm stretching things a bit as, in this case, the vermouth and bitters together equal the amount of whiskey in the recipe rather than half of the whiskey. So be it. I'm a cocktail lover not a fighter.

Frankly, I think the next time I mix one up I'm going to use a more traditional Manhattan-style ratio--maybe 2 oz rye to a half-ounce each vermouth and Campari. While I enjoyed the 1794 there's just something about what Campari brings to the table that stops me short of really loving this drink. I will say, though, that the 1794 is a more appropriate summer drink than the Manhattan Special. I prefer Torani Amer to Campari so I'm more likely to stir up a Liberal but either would be a nice turn off the path beaten down to the dirt with Gin & Tonics and suchlike.

Hey. Hey, you. C'mon, eyes right. I'm talkin' here. Okay, that's better. As I was about to say, Campari is a bitter liqueur from Italy. So, it's not a concentrated bitters like, say, Angostura or Regan's Orange. It's a "potable" bitters that is beloved by Europeans as an aperitif. As you can see in the photo I've "borrowed" from the 2007 Campari catalog it's also molto sexy (or, in Ms. Hayek's case, muy sexy). Of course, just about anything is sexier by definition when done in an Italian cafe or restaurant. Whether that be drinking sparkling water or enjoying a bitter, herbal libation that gets its bright red color from bug shells that's just a fact and we Americans have no choice but to accept it.

[I wonder if power tool and auto parts companies have tried claiming their catalogs featuring scantily clad women are simply a "European" style of advertising? The 2005 Campari catalog is even more "artistic".]

I've had some success in getting used to the unusual flavor of Campari but I'm far from being a full-fledged convert. I've made a couple Negronis that I didn't particularly enjoy (though I later learned that the Negroni is kinda like jumping into the deep end of the Campari swimming pool). I think my first was the standard 1:1:1 version. I don't remember the details of my second attempt other than that it wasn't exactly my cup of herbs and bug shells either. The only drink, so far, in which I truly and completely like Campari is in a highball with fizz-water and lime. Somehow Campari and lime together taste like grapefruit. That discovery was kinda weird but this, friends, is a beverage that is cool, refreshing and very lovely in the glass.

The 1794 is, as I said, pretty darn close to completely succesful. I certainly enjoyed it enough that I will make it again and, if it is true that Campari is an aquired taste, it may well become a regular in the summer rotation if I manage to fully acquire it.

* Ah, the flamed orange twist. I had been meaning to try this little trick for a long time but somehow hadn't gotten around to it. I'm proud to say that the occasion of mixing up this 1794 was my first attempt at flaming a twist and that I was wholly successful. I surfed a bit hoping to find some video of this technique for you but came up empty. I did, however, find a nice set of instructions in an article on King Cocktail, Dale DeGroff. Here's what Dale has to say:
The aroma and flavor in citrus fruits is concentrated in the oil cells of its peel. Chefs and bartenders often extract this oil along with the juice to add the essence of the fruit to various dishes and drinks. In cocktails, the oil in the citrus peel provides an additional advantage because it can be flamed.
  • Always use firm, fresh fruit; the skin will have a higher oil content.
  • Use large, thick-skinned navel oranges.
  • The twists should be 3/4 inch by 1 1/2 inches long. The peel should be thin enough that the yellow shows all around the circumference with just a small amount of white pith visible in the center. Cutting uniformly sized, thin oval peels that flame up well takes control, concentration, and practice.
  • Hold a lit match in one hand, and pick up the twist in the other very carefully, as if holding an eggshell; if you squeeze the twist prematurely the oil will be expelled.
  • Hold the twist by the side, not the ends, between thumb and forefinger, skin side facing down, about four inches above the drink.
  • Don't squeeze or you'll lose all the oil before you flame.
  • Hold the match between the drink and the twist, closer to the twist. Snap the twist sharply, propelling the oil through the lit match and onto the surface of the drink.
** Considering that my cyberpal and fellow Wisconsin ex-pat Erik is playing the role of Huggy Bear in this case I'd bet the house that the skinny he's providing here is on the money. Erik, by the way, is currently working his way through an early edition of Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book in a blog-as-forum thread called Stomping Through The Savoy. It's chock full o'great info. If you've ever leafed through an old cocktail book and wondered how some of the old drinks might taste, well, Erik's actually doing this drink by drink(!). He's knowledgeable in the realms of cocktail history and spirits but even if the only thing you take from his efforts is which old drinks are best left to history you'll consider your time reading his thread as time well spent. [I edited this post to add a link to the cocktail menu at the Range website. It includes the ingredients for the 1794 just as Erik listed them at eGullet. I told you he could be trusted.]

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