Saturday, October 31, 2015

#037 Vulpix

This is a part of an ongoing project I'm working on to make a Pokemon cocktails for each and every Pokemon. I'm starting with just generation one and we'll see how the response is. 151 drinks is a tall order, but people have done crazier things. If I succeed I will most likely publish an eBook or possibly hard copy collections of each drink. Give them a try and let me know what you think. 

1 oz. Amber Rum
1/2 oz. Peach Schnapps
1/2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. Orange Juice
1/2 oz. Strawberry Liqueur

Shake and strain all ingredients except the strawberry liqueur in a tin with ice. Strain into a rocks glass with ice. Lightly drizzle strawberry liqueur over the drink. Stir one or two rotations with a sip stick. Garnish with a strawberry. 

This drink took a bit of inspiration for an old favorite of mine, the Alabama Slammer. I opted to use a bit of rum as a base for Vulpix as the color versatility of the spirit helped with this evolutionary line. the peach, amaretto, and orange juice came straight from the inspiration. When I learned about the drink I was taught that I should basically see sloe gin as a strawberry liqueur. Since then, I have learned the difference between the two (though with cheaper brands there isn't much difference), but I still believe that strawberry pairs better with orange juice. The Sloe Comfortable Screw was always a little light so I'd often strengthen it up to the Alabama Slammer. This is a slightly condensed version of that, in that it's no longer a tall drink; it's on the rocks. The flavor is very full, and the alcohol is just prevalent enough. Enjoy. 

"At the time of its birth, Vulpix has one white tail. The tail separates into six if this Pokémon receives plenty of love from its Trainer. The six tails become magnificently curled."

<-- Clefable

Recommended Brands: Bulleit Rye, fresh juice, quality maple syrup, Dekuyper

#069 Bellsprout

This is a part of an ongoing project I'm working on to make a Pokemon cocktails for each and every Pokemon. I'm starting with just generation one and we'll see how the response is. 151 drinks is a tall order, but people have done crazier things. If I succeed I will most likely publish an eBook or possibly hard copy collections of each drink. Give them a try and let me know what you think. 

1 oz. Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz. ROOT Art in the Age
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz. Maple Syrup
1/4 oz. Sour Apple Liqueur

Add all the ingredients to a mixing tin except the apple liqueur. Shake well with ice. Strain into a shooter glass or a whiskey tasting glass. Lightly drizzle the apple liqueur into the glass. It should form a light green layer at the bottom of the glass.

This drink doesn't actually have much inspiration other than the taste preferences of a good friend of mine. I knew I wanted to use ROOT for the classic flower / root Pokemon. Bellsprout is one of the most prevalent background Pokemon in the show that wasn't actually captured by one of the main characters. Technically James did come into a possession of a Victreebel as a Weepinbell offscreen. 

"Bellsprout's thin and flexible body lets it bend and sway to avoid any attack, however strong it may be. From its mouth, this Pokémon spits a corrosive fluid that melts even iron."

<-- Machamp

Recommended Brands: Bulleit Rye, fresh juice, quality maple syrup, Dekuyper

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pope's Hangover

This was a cocktail I was playing with during the Pope's visit to Philadelphia. Every week at my restaurant we feature a different city in Italy. We do regional dishes and wines and even a cocktail designed to pair well with the menu or that uses some regional ingredients or flavors. I was told that for our week in the Roman ghetto I would need to use a cocktail with Cynar. Why Cynar, I'm not entirely sure, but it's good to have a guide. Here's what I came up with. 

1.5 oz. Brandy
.5 oz. Cynar
.75 oz. Earl Grey Tea Syrup
.75 oz. Orange Juice
.5 oz. Egg White
Peychauds bitters

Add all the ingredients except the bitters to a mixing tin without ice. Dry shake until the ingredients are well emulsified. Open the shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange wedge and a dash of Peychauds. 

Now, I don't personally like Cynar, but I find that amaro-style liqueurs work very well with tea. Perhaps it's the natural digestif qualities of both. I decided to continue this with brandy, a typical after dinner drink. I know lemon is more traditional with teas and toddies, but I was drinking during brunch time and found that the orange was more mellow and better maintained the balance of the drink. I called this drink the Pope's Hangover because everyone was beaten down by the Holy Pontiff coming to town. There was a crazy rush of tourists, but not enough money to keep people jazzed up. This drink was for that morning after.

"Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age."
- Pope John XXIII

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tequila 201: The other Agave drinks

Pulque is known as the drink of the gods, a Mexican Ambrosia, so to speak. This drink dates back about a thousand years. The drink was considered sacred and a privilege reserved for the upper class. Unfortunately, the beer industry spread a lot of stories about pulque and how it had cow excrement in it and pulque started being seen as low-class. Pulque is the fermented sap of the agave plant. Think of what beer is to whiskey. Pulque is that to tequila and mescal. Pulque is usually made in a number of delicious flavors called curados. It's low proof, usually 3-5%. It's also pretty healthy, almost like a slightly alcoholic smoothie. 

Mezcal or Mescal is actually the original form of tequila. Much like how brandy is the basis for Cognac. All tequila technically is mezcal but produced in the designated regions around tequila Mexico. Tequila is a protected term, enforced by the Mexican government, while mezcal is not. The CRT, Consejo Regulador del Tequila (tequila regulatory council), makes frequent inspections on every aspect of tequila production to allow the producers to sell their product as tequila. Mezcal doesn't have that. Now you might think that this inherently makes tequila a better product but that's not necessarily the case. Tequila has to use at least 

Many modern mezcal producers have actually created products that rival and even dwarf the quality of some tequilas. For a while the only brand of mezcal I could find was Monte Alban, which was a decent mezcal, but these days you can find all sorts of premium brands, like Wild Shot, Ilegal, and Joven. While tequila can only be made with the Weber Blue Agave, mezcal can be made from any of dozens agave plants, but most commonly the green agave, or Agave Angustifolia. It is effectively still just distilled Pulque. It's made mainly in Oaxaca and has a stronger smokier flavor than tequila. It also has the worm. Yes, this is where the worm in the bottle comes from. It won't hurt you; drink it once. 

Bacanora at its foundation is just a different genre of Tequila. Bacanora was named after a town where it was popularly produced. Today, it is a protected term ensuring that is only made using the certain agave grown in the select northwestern regions of Mexico, the agave Pacifico or Agave Yaquiana. It is another government regulated name that ensures that the product is only made to certain standards. It terms of flavor it's a bit more robust than most tequilas but not quite as harsh and smokey as many mescals. 

Sotol is worth mentioning as well. Sotol is another distilled Mexican spirit made and distilled in very much the same vain as mescal and bacanora. It technically doesn't use the agave plant, however. It is made from the Desert Spoon, or Dasylirion Wheeleri, which is a type of evergreen shrub common in North Mexico and parts of Texas. This plant was originally fermented some 800 years ago. It started being distilled in the 16th century when the Europeans brought over distillation techniques. The production of this spirit is nearly identical to mescal down to the way it's harvested and trimmed. Much like tequila, it is put in three different age classifications: Plata, Reposado, and Anejo. Sotol is generally slightly smokier and more vegetal in flavor than the average tequila. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Shamrock in the Guinness.

I remember the first time I went into a pub and ordered a Guinness. This was a good, proper pub that poured it on nitro, had the glasses and knew what they were doing with it. I'd had Guinness by the can and bottle before but there's something special about getting a beer on draft. I also remember going into a pub a few years ago and ordering a Guinness and noticed an extra step in its serving, drawing a shamrock in the foam. I thought this was a cute little touch at first, but the more feedback I hear from people whose opinion I respect in such matter, the more I dislike the idea. 

The original piece of negative feedback I heard on the subject was from a character named Super Hans on the David Mitchell show, Peep Show. He said you were effectively drinking an advertisement for a product you're already drinking. I find that argument a bit lacking, but it is a point. I more prefer the argument that it actually diminishes the ritual of the perfect Pint. 

Guinness has a long-standing standard of what it is to perfectly pour their beer. They offer a certification program for bartenders. You're meant to take a clean, dry, clear Guinness branded glass at a 45-degree angle and pull the handle. Once the beer reaches the harp you straighten the glass and stop the tap. Let the beer cascade until it's gasses settle. The continue to fill to give the beer a perfect head. Or as Dara O'Briain explained: "You have to let it sit, let it go black. Then you push it back so that more gas goes into it. 5/12 of an inch is the ideal head around the top. And if somebody paints a shamrock into it, you're allowed to stab them in the eye with a fork." 

As a friend put it once, "Never go into a bar that has a neon shamrock." The Shamrock in the pint seems to be the mark of a place that is Irish for the sake of being a theme restaurant. There's a big difference between your chains and your properly Irish pubs. A pub is simple, it doesn't need frills or flashy lights. It just needs good beer and quaint surroundings to be with friends. I can't stand plastic cups. Karaoke belongs in karaoke bars. Irish Pubs just need beer, proper beer. It's a pub, not a Starbucks. I've said enough quotes this post so I think I'll close on a song that explains what way too many pubs have become:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Golden Apple Martini

This was actually a discussion I had almost a year ago over the best way to make an appletini. Many bartenders would say 2:1 vodka and sour apple pucker. This drink somehow gained popularity. Lord, if I know how. I suppose it was the simplicity of the drink in combination with the craze of the fancy glass. It's also incredibly easy to make at home if it's a drink you particularly like. All you needed was two bottles. On my opinion, though, the drink is rubbish. Many people have jazzed it up so to speak with sour mix, lemon juice, or citrus vodka. none of which really save the drink, they merely help balance a bit of the sweetness and lessen the proof. I wanted to take my crack at it

1 1/2 oz. Citrus Vodka
3/4 oz. Berentzen Apple Liqueur
1/2 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Rich Honey Syrup

Add all the ingredients to a shaker tin with ice. Shake the drink well and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a golden delicious apple fan.

This drink was sort of inspired by the various appletini recipes I've seen and blended with a sort of sour and Cosmopolitan recipe. I thought of creating an apple shrub or using a calvados, but I wanted something that would be fairly accessible to the average person, as that was a part of the appeal of the original. I think the flavors carry over well and do give the proper taste of an apple rather than the sour sugar taste you get from most appletini's.

"I'll have an Appletini and the girliest drink in the house"
"Two Appletinis coming right up"
- Scrubs

Van Gogh Vodka

This was an interesting cocktail I made for the Chilled Van Gogh Vodka Competition. The specifications were simply to use at least an ounce and a half of any of the flavors of Van Gogh Vodka. Unfortunately the one flavor available at my local liquor store was espresso. On the bright side, I do know my coffee.  

1 1/2 oz. Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka
3/4 oz. Amaretto
1/2 oz. Blood Orange liquor
1/4 oz. Apricot Nectar
1 oz. Cream

Shake all the ingredients except the cream with ice. Double strain into a chilled martini glass. Gently float the cream on top of the drink. Garnish with some shaved dark chocolate.

I recently began working at an Italian Cafe and I knew I wanted to play with the espresso flavor. I combined some complimenting dessert flavors like almond and a bit of blood orange. I opted for some apricot as well. I knew it would be a bit too strong but didn't want to make this into a creamy drink. The float made for a beautiful presentation. This drink was really inspired by a nice midday coffee and a nice sampler platter to pair with your espresso. Orange, almonds, and apricot slices are amazing snacks to enjoy while enjoying a lazy afternoon at the cafe.

"The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself."

- Mark Helprin

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Antisocial Man's Bar Reviews: Brick and Brew

The Space
The area is quite unique and actually quite charming. The exterior is all brick and stonework. on the inside, every surface seems to serve a function, but it retains a level of rusticness. The walls are filled with shelves or function as chalkboards to write the specials on. There is about a ten seat bar area, a six-seat bar area to observe the pizza oven and kitchen, four or five high tops, a booth area that can probably fit about twelve, as well as outdoor sidewalk seating to accommodate another fifteen to twenty. Including standing room, this place could hold between 75-100 guests. The lights are rustic and a few even use cut absinthe bottles as shades. There is a good deal of wood and exposed brick naturally. It's a warm and homey space with quite a few corners to allow privacy and quite, but a big enough main area to meet some new people. 

The servers are very casual and friendly. This is not a fine dining atmosphere where everyone is extra formal, calling you sir. I like that. When the have time the staff will remember you. The place really can of a victim of its own success. On busy days, they are really busy. I've heard of guests waiting ages and receiving burnt food. It does really fill up and sometimes it can be difficult to get anyone's full attention. You can see the frantic look in their eyes. The other thing is that while much of the staff is very well trained, this is not the city. These guys are very familiar with the service industry and most have worked in it for years but certainly not all of them in high-volume, craft environments. Often times they'll need to check with someone when asked a question and the drink recipes are somewhat inconsistent. They are very friendly and when you go in during the day they are very aware of what you're looking for in terms of service and are very accommodating. 

Ther first thing you see when you walk in the door is the shelves upon shelves of whiskey bottles. Their selection seems to be expanding and there are easily well over a hundred bottles on the shelf right now. Aside from that you see the beer taps with chalkboard handles. The Allagash White, Bells Two Hearted, and the Tennant Lager are the three beers permanently on tap. The 12 taps include one nitro that they change regularly. It's actually really fun having a beer you may have had before being pumped through nitro and noting the change in texture. 
The cocktail list is quite blissful to see. Any bar that has a Sazerac on the menu and is able to execute it is good in my book. The majority of the bar program was designed by a former national rep for Johnnie Walker, not that they advertise that. There are quite a few wonderful whiskey cocktails and there are a number of other styles of cocktail to round out the menu. Aside from the Old Fashioned, manhattan, whiskey mojito, sazerac, and house whiskey sour, they do a few infusions. There's a tea infused whiskey, a pineapple tequila, and my favorite, a pineapple blood orange habanero tequila. That sweet and spicy tequila makes for a great house margarita. You don't see drinks of this caliber in the suburbs. 

Food Menu
Despite the name, this is not exclusively a brick oven pizza bar. The craft dishes provided are of very high quality. Prices are again a bit high for the portions. Every week they change the specials. One week, I had an amazing burger with a soft shell crab on it; it was truly amazing, the crunch and juicy richness of the meat. There is also cycling charcuterie, flatbread, and chicken wing flavors. The regular menu does feature some very fine pizzas. The menu has always been delicious. Though I must say I've been disappointed with the portion sizes. 

If you're looking to go spend $3 for a beer and $5 for a basket of wings then this will not please you. All in all the deals are very good. The beers they keep on draft could cost nearly double in the city. The cocktails go for about $9 each instead of the $13 I'd be willing to pay at some other bars. The food, however, is a bit pricey. The charcuterie plate goes for up to $24 dollars for what is very little food, and certainly not the best spread I've had in the area. Any appetizer you get will be on a plate the size of your hand, and while most are incredibly tasty, they disappear fast and leave me unsatisfied. I highly recommend the prosciutto fries, though. The frustrating thing is that most of the specials do not have a price listed. While this may fly in the more chic city bars it doesn't mesh well with a local bar. Though the grilled cheese is a steal for the quality you get.

Overall I give this bar an 8.5/10. The location is ideal for many upper-middle-class townsfolk. The space has a rustic charm while remaining clean and having modern amenities. The staff is casual and polite. The drinks are sublime and well rounded. The food is delicious though a little pricey. Though my two main grievances I have are that they can't handle the crowd and are trying to appeal to everyone. I hate sitting in a bar with children, especially young screaming children. At dinner time  and even bleeding into the nightlife, this is what you get, though. It's a family restaurant. But it's also the best suburban cocktail bar I've found so far. There is a disjoint there and it means that they get a good crowd day and night, but there are so many hours where I'd be unhappy going there. Either it's to crowded, or it's a place for families. There are a few sweet spots, but you have to be lucky.

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
- Dave Barry

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Whiskey 401: Dissecting a cocktail: The Whiskey sour

The drink known as the Sour has gone through countless iterations over the centuries. I thought of organizing this by time period, instead I opted to go simply by the level of complexity and adding a few variants once the foundation has been laid. The Sour has gone through so many modifications and iterations it's near impossible to pinpoint a date when the trends changed. The origins of the sour as an individual cocktail and not a punch probably started around the 1850's. This was most likely done by sailors drinking rum while trying to fight scurvy with citrus juice and adding sugar to make the drink taste good. It was certainly after World War II, in the 60's, when store-bought sour mix became widely popular. Eventually, it even made its way onto some of our soda guns. In the nineties bartenders started exploring the idea of fresh ingredients once again. 

The first recipe I ever learned was 1 oz Whiskey and 2 oz of Sour Mix. This was shaken and served in a rocks glass with ice. It was mentioned that this could be served up, but most people took it on the rocks. Most people I saw wouldn't even really shake this, especially if it was going on the rocks. They'd just give it one or two shakes and dump it in.  They thought that shaking was to chill a drink. No, it's to blend the ingredients and to incorporate air, adding texture. To cite a blog that helped inspire me to start this, Death to Sour Mix. Assuming you use a prepackaged store-bought sour mix, this should just be called a sour, as you can't taste or appreciate whatever liquor is in the drink. The chemicals and sugar content in that mix just destroys the integrity of the other ingredients. I did learn how to make a simple sour mix however and that's where we get into the real recipe. 

This drink follows much more closely to the classic cocktail bars. I eventually learned a true recipe for this drink. It being 2 oz. Whiskey, 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice, and 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup. It's shaken good and hard, strained or double strained, and served up or on the rocks. This is an example of proper balance. A drink should have an equal balance of sweet and citrus. This while maintaining a respect for the alcohol makes a proper ratio of ingredients. This is a bit stronger than the standard drink ordered at the bar today. It's about twice the ABV of a whiskey ginger or similar highball. This is much more in line with cocktails and less focused on speed of production. Store bought sour mix was created to increase the speed of drink production and to eliminate a lot of the prep work that would need to be done every day, namely squeezing fruit and making syrups. But losing the craft means losing the character of a drink.

This drink took a little adjusting to when I first heard about. It took a bit of a leap in order to try it, but to my amazement, it was really good. To this day, there are very few Americans that know about using egg white in cocktails. People think that the drink will taste like breakfast or egg nog. Neither is true nor are you at all likely to get salmonella. So, what does the egg bring to the table? The proteins in the egg while unravel and create an amazing silky texture and decadent foamy cap. This kind of cocktail should use the same recipe as the Classic Sour but add the white of one egg, or about 1oz. of egg white. You can't just shake a drink with egg white normally though if you want the best consistency. You need to shake the drink without the ice first to blend the cocktail and open up the proteins. This is called dry shaking. Once you do that, you shake normally with ice to chill the drink and usually double strain into a sours or cocktail glass. Most people think that the beautiful foam that comes from using egg white is lost when the drink is served on the rocks, but it can be done. 

Other Great Variants
The Stone Sour is a very fun variation which uses orange juice as well as lemon and simple syrup. A Gold Rush uses honey instead of simple syrup. The New York Sour is one of those drinks that just keeps adding to a great drink. It's a classic or traditional whiskey sour served on the rock with a float of red wine. I always find this drink very odd when made with egg white and red wine floated on top of the foam. I prefer it made without the egg white and served on the rocks. The ice makes it much easier to float the red wine. I also find that a layered presentation works best with more cylindrical glasses, rather than martini glasses or coupes. There is also the Fix, which is just a sour made over crushed ice. A John Collins is just a tall whiskey sour topped with club soda. A Fizz is the same thing but also using egg white to create a very fluffy foam on top.

“Sometimes life is sad. You can cry in your booze if you want. I think that’s called a Whiskey Sour.”
- Jarod Kintz

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Yellow Blur

This was an interesting little cocktail I created. Technically it's the first cocktail I've ever made that actually won a competition. At a guild luncheon that was hosted by Ruffino Prosecco, they decided to pit us in something of an Iron Bartender Competition. They divided us guild members up into 5 teams and told us to make 2 cocktails per team, one on the rocks, and the other served up. We were given free reign of the bar at Stratus Lounge. Many teams tried to come up with a game plan, but our team took a totally different approach, a more playful one. We all just hopped behind the bar and started making drinks. I started with a sort of orange French 75. It was a good drink but a bit boring. My friend Dan was working on a sort of strawberry smash. As the five of us were playing around we would taste each other's drinks and give feedback. In the end, Dan turned his into our up cocktail and I switched mine to a collins style drink with a little chartreuse zing. 

3/4 oz. Bombay Sapphire
1/2 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 a Peeled Orange
1/4 oz. Simple Syrup
Ruffino Prosecco

Peel an orange and tear away about half the slices. Add the slices and all the ingredients except the prosecco to a mixing tin with ice. Shake very vigorously to break up the orange. Strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with prosecco and garnish with a lemon wedge.

This cocktail took quite a bit of ingenuity. Toward the end of the time limit, all the tools seemed to disappear. I had been fresh squeezing juice from halves of oranges for all of my experiments but when the clock was ticking I couldn't find a juicer, or a knife for that matter. I just said, "I'm doing this like in grade school." I used my thumbnail and peeled off the skin, tore off half the orange and chucked it into a tin. The ice they had at Stratus was good and dense so I knew it would do the job pulverizing and juicing the orange. I originally planned to double strain this to make for a clean presentation, but they were counting down the seconds as I wrapped up and a mesh strainer was nowhere to be found. I wound up just using a Hawthorne strainer which filtered the big chunks of pulp but left a few bits. This actually made the drink a lot more fun. I made it again later by double straining and I don't think it was as good. The pulp added a feel of scratch made lemonade and I think made the drink feel lower proof and more drinkable. The pulp floating around the drink in the bubbles is actually partly what inspired the name of this drink. Though the name takes an indirect reference to a Ron White bit. 

"Tiny bubbles. In the wine. Make me feel happy. Ah, they make me feel fine."
- Don Ho

Photos by Bry Guy of dumbartender

Monday, July 27, 2015

Superfruit Creamsicle

This was a cocktail I designed to be submitted to the VEEV, A Better Way to Drink, bartender challenge cocktail competition. The cocktail must feature 1 1/2 ounces of VEEV. Which was a hard thing restriction when you have such a strong liqueur. I was a bit confused by this challenge as it asked you to recreate a classic cocktail using VEEV, an ounce and a half of VEEV. Yet, points were awarded for originality. I took inspiration from a few classics and put my own spin on them while incorporating the liqueur. 

1 1/2 oz VEEV
1/2 oz Thyme infused Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Orange juice
1/2 oz Heavy Cream
1 Egg White (1 oz)
Chocolate Bitters

Dry shake all the ingredients except the bitters for one minute. Add ice and hard shake for 15 seconds. Double strain into a sours glass and add four drops of chocolate bitters. Use a pick to make a pattern in the bitters. Serve with a smile.

The original inspiration came from the standard Creamsicle recipe but drew inspiration from the Fizz as well. I knew I wanted to really bring out the dessert snack notes of the acai. One of my favorite snacks is chocolate covered acai berries. I included some cream and orange flavors as well as a bit of grassy flavor from the thyme and Voila!

“When you are attracted to, and eat, fruits, occasionally a seed will be carried within you to a fertile ground.”
- David Wolfe

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Ideal Meal

This was an interesting thought experiment I posed to myself. What would my ideal meal be if money, materials, and time were no object? My birthday is coming soon at the time of writing this post and I was wondering what I'd like to do for it. A nice hearty dinner has always been tradition, but if I could have anything, from any restaurant, for any number of courses, along with any drink pairings, what would I want? To be clear, these are all items I've enjoyed individually in the past, though not necessarily together. While these are not all my favorite foods specifically, they are foods that hold some significance or nostalgia to me. I hope you enjoy. What would you do for your greatest meal ever

Drink 1: Americano
This is my staple before meal drink. It's light. It opens my palate. It won't compete with other flavors and it's one where I can sip it at any speed I like and on a hot day it is truly refreshing. This drink was the first drink ever ordered by James Bond in Ian Flemming's novel, Casino Royale. I adore Campari so I knew I'd need that in my first drink as it is an aperitif. For the vermouth, I would prefer Vya, a new, Californian made, line of Vermouth. I might take it with regular soda, but I would prefer it with Perrier. It is worth mentioning that during the entire meal I would like a side of ice water. 

Appetizer: Cheese and Meat Plate
To follow up with the last bits of my cocktail, I would like to consume an array of cured meats and fine cheeses. I know I would require some prosciutto, ideally thin sliced prosciutto de parma. Some of the meats must be a bit spiced, some properly made pepperoni, salami, or bologna. One of the greatest slices I've eaten recently was actually of duck prosciutto so I'd like a few slices of that, but not too many as it's quite rich. I'd like a bit of Roquefort, sheep's blue cheese, but again not too much. For contrast, I believe that some smoked brie or Pierre Robert would be in order. We may as well throw in some goat's milk cheese as well, some bucheron perhaps. naturally there would be a few other compliments such as candied walnuts and spicy stone mustard, along with bread, oil, and jam.

Drink 2 and 3: Sazerac & Fruh Kolsch
As I move from lighter flavors of cheese to some stronger flavors I opted for my ultimate favorite cocktail and a good all day drinking beer. Yes, a bit of double fisting here, but I would be sitting and having water as well. The Sazerac is really a favorite cocktail if I know I have a competent bartender tending to me. It's supposedly the first cocktail truly invented in the United States though there is much dispute over this. The original recipe supposedly called for cognac, and then started being cut with rye, until eventually it just became a rye whiskey cocktail, which is how I like it. I like Dad's Hat Rye with Grande Absente for the rinse. 
Fruh holds a special place in my heart as the first drink I ever had technically legally. Sorry Herr Goetz but I had a few beers when I was on the school exchange in Germany. It was in violation of the school regulations, but it was worth it. A group of us students went out with the German students to the Rhein Park and we drank. We got a case of Fruh and of something else, Spaten or Becks. I'd had plenty of beer before, even wine, and a few liquors. But there was something about that beer that made me feel good. This was the first where I really felt like that there was nothing wrong with it. We didn't have to hide it from anybody. I looked for this beer everywhere when I came to be of age in the United States to no success. It is in no way the best beer I've ever had, but it's a simple true pleasure. One particularly bad day I found myself at a bar and they had Fruh on draft. As I was drinking that beer all the awful things that were happening fell away.

Entree: Surf and Turf with Potatoes and Mac 'n' Cheese
You can never go wrong with two premium pieces of meat. Steak is one of those things that pairs well with the heartier cheeses and my new refreshments. One of my favorite meals at my old job was a 9 ounce steak cooking in it's own bloody juices topped with a disk of melted soft cheese, I forget which one at this time, and a few potato medallions cooked in what I recall being duck fat. Like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, I typically take my steak bloody as hell. To pay homage to the song of a dear friend, I think I'd have a porterhouse. Though I'd take it pan roasted to medium rare with butter and light seasoning. A really wet steak would not be best paired with my other dishes and sides.
I have a long-standing love of lobster. I remember being a boy and cooking live lobsters with my parents. My cat would fight them and my father would try to recreate the scene from Naked Gun 2 1/2. I remember visiting Cape Cod in the summers as a child and eventually coming to love ripping apart and eating the messy treat. A bit of melted butter to pair with a split lobster tail and two big fat cracked claws is all I could ask for were it to be paired with a steak as well. I imagine a 2-pound lobster would suffice for this.

I debated a long time what side or sides I would want with this main course. Potatoes were what came so naturally it was almost a cliche. Baked potatoes were never my style. Roast potatoes in duck fat would easily be my ideal, but I alway like mashed potatoes too. So I decided to have both. A half dozen or so baby potatoes split and fried to give them a nice crisp snap. Naturally, a little salt and pepper, possibly rosemary.
The mashed potatoes would require some mix ins. A bit of garlic and cheddar cheese should suffice, but butter, cream and other light flavors would be welcome. A nice creamy feeling to wash the palate. I don't care for them overly lumpy or fluffy. a nice creamy texture is what makes it my comfort food. I thought of incorporating bacon to the potatoes, but I thought that better suited to some pasta, or better yet, some Mac 'n' Cheese.
I firmly believe that the best macaroni and cheese is baked with bread crumbs on top, so that is a much. Bacon pieces should be incorporated, not bacon bits, pan cooked bacon sliced to about 3/4". Also, nice long noodles please, while elbows and shells promote nostalgic thoughts of Mom making Kraft or Velveeta, I believe, in this case, comfort food serves the function of providing the comfort. Oddly enough the cheese sauce blend isn't a real concern for me in this dish though I would like it not to be over watery, and preferably to have a little spice to it, a little warmth.

Drink 4: Patron Burdeos
I thought a very long time about what my after dinner drink should be. Ideally my previous two would hold through my main course spread. I thought of whiskey, port, amaro, or even a boozy milkshake kind of drink. While whiskey was my style, I thought it better suited to leave that to pair with the steak and not to be with dessert. Then I thought of brandy. No, that wouldn't be for me. While I like it, I knew there was something better. Then it hit me, the most wonderful drink I was privileged enough to taste as a gift when I did my first cocktail showcase. Patron Burdeos had the taste of fruit and wine from it's wonderful aging in the Bordeaux wine barrels. When you mix that with the proof of a good tequila you get a drink a say is better than cognac at being brandy. A snifter of this neat would be fitting for a last drink.
Dessert: Lava Cake, Ice Cream, Berries 
I needed some chocolate for dessert, but also a little more creaminess other than just cheese and butter. Lava cake is a great go-to dessert because it's never bad, but when it's good, it's tremendous. If the cake has a good crunch to the shell that almost cracks allowing the hot lava to flow out, then you have yourself an amazing cake. You naturally need some cold to go with that. So some vanilla ice cream, you can't beat a cliche sometimes. A few chilled strawberries, and maybe a few raspberries

I thought of doing a whole spread of every kind of food imaginable, but I knew much of it wouldn't pair together. So I opted for the most luxurious cohesive spread I could. A meal that would remain uncluttered was a necessity. I wouldn't want a volcano sushi roll with some barbeque pulled pork and creme brulee. It just would mesh right on any level, though all of those things are amazing on their own.

I thought I'd price this were I to order it at a restaurant assuming average markup and prices. I'd actually estimate this at a little over $200, maybe $240. A good chunk of that comes from just the Burdeos. Were I to make this on my own, excluding cooking costs, it may only cost about $65 if I shopped the deals available to me. Of course, that is by the ounce for cocktails and may be considerably higher than that if you factor in the cost of whole bottles and containers. But I think this meal would be worth that. In practicality, I might switch the Burdeos for something more practical, but this thought experiment was for the ideal meal.

"The meal isn't over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself"
- Louis C.K.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wine Keys and Openers

Pull Corkscrew
This is the oldest style of wine bottle opener around. The style of it makes it look like it was some type of woodworking equipment. In short, you press the point in, screw the handle until it is deep enough. Grip the handle firmly and yank the cork out. The original design is of course very risky to use as it requires a very firm grip on the neck and shoulder of the bottle to be able to physically yank the cork out. These are the kind of screw you find Many times when an amateur tries to use this type of corkscrew they will drop the bottle and make all kinds of mess, especially if it's a bottle of white wine that's been chilled and has condensation on it. Some modifications were made over the years. Springs and levers and more form fitting grips have helped, but they still tended to rely on physical strength to yank the cork out

Waiter's Wine Key
Give me a lever and a fulcrum and I can move the earth. Just about anyone who has worked in the service industry has used one of these at some point. They start as a sort of swiss army knife of handy bits. There's a blade for removing the foil around the cork. There is, of course, the metal helix on a hinge which screws in. What gives this little tool the nickname Waiter's Friend is not just the portability of the tool, it's that little extra piece of hinged metal which just makes the job so much easier. Once the metal helix is screwed in, you tilt the handle and bend down that metal plate so it presses against the top of the rim of the bottle. Carefully holding all parts in place, raise the open side of the handle levering out the cork. It takes so little effort compared to trying to pull it straight out.  It does take a little getting used to. You need to figure out just how deep to screw it in so that when you pull, the entire cork comes out. Some newer keys have a two-tiered metal plate. This allows the key to pull the cork part way out, and then finish the job with the whole length of the plate. 

Butterfly / Wing Corkscrew
These are the most common wine openers I find in your average home. This is a very novel modification to the standard cork pull. they simply took the standard cork screw that had a brace on it and added some levers attached to gears so that it pries itself out rather than having to be yanked out. It maximizes efficiency and cuts the amount of force needed in half. simply position the screw at the top of the cork and twist the knob. If you have a firm grip on the base of the corkscrew and the bottle then it should screw in with very little resistance. As you screw the winged levers will raise. When you reach a sufficient depth firmly grasp the levers and press down. the cork will be forced out without much strain. Often times the twisting knob serves a second function of a beer bottle opener.

Rabbit Opener
This is a sexy piece of bar equipment. The advantage to this model is that it twists itself into the cork as you raise the handle. So all you have to do is grip the two ears, lift the lever up, and then pull it back down. When these work they seem like the smoothest bottle opener I've ever worked with. But these are far more form over function I find. They are sexy and can impress your house guests, but sometimes they just don't work. The worm will slide in but then slide ride out without pulling the cork with it. I find the expense and bulk of this item to be impractical for a bartender though they do look pretty at home

Electric Wine Bottle Opener
I'm seeing more and more of these on the market today. Yet I don't see enough of them used in bars or even households. I think there's always been a certain charm to seeing a bottle opened by hand. While as an employee I like expediency in my work, as a guest I like the little ritual. They operate very much on the same system of the rabbit opener but use a battery to spin and pull the worm helix. Oddly enough, these tend to be cheaper than the rabbit openers. Yet, there's no lifting, twisting or squeezing necessary. I find these work very well for home use. The average battery would not be sustainable for a busy wine bar environment, only being able to open five bottles a day. I like these though, most brands work well and look very sexy sitting on the counter with the other appliances.

"Wine is bottled poetry."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gin 201: The Different Botanicals

Juniper Berries
This is what gives gin that note of Christmas trees. All gins have to use juniper in order to be called gin. This goes way back to when gin was first invented and they started modifying the recipes from Dutch genever. Legally Juniper has to be the predominant flavor. That rich pine flavor actually comes from the fruit of the evergreen tree. Well, not really a fruit, but a seed or conifer cone. It also has slight notes of lavender and occasionally a touch of heather. Juniper is a very potent flavor and gins that are too juniper forward tend to be very off-putting to the average drinker so a rounded, balanced gin is much more preferable for most distillers.
Cassia Bark
Cassia Bark is a close relative to cinnamon. Many people find that cassia has a slightly more delicate flavor though. It again comes from a breed of the evergreen tree this time originating in the south of China. Many gin makers source their cassia from other countries like Indonesia, Thailand. India, and Vietnam. Chinese Cassia does remain the most common. In gin, the freshly dried bark is typically ground to release as much of the flavorful oils as possible. Cassia bark supposedly is also good for blood pressure.

Angelica Root
Angelica root, sometimes known as wild celery, is grown widely in Northeast Europe. It does have its roots in the celery family, no pun intended but has a more woody vanilla smell. It blooms as a many-headed flower and is often harvested in the winter months. Angelica is rarely a dominant flavoring component; it is more being used as a balancing agent to bind the harmonies of various oils together. It does add a slight earthy tone but it more about providing a balance. Angelica is also used as medicine to fight viruses and bacteria.

Orris Root
Orris is really just a part of the Iris flower. This isn't used in the vast majority of gins but it is a fairly common component in more floral gins. Flavor wise it is very similar to violets. Tragically, due to its allergenic nature orris root was banned in many parts of Europe and the US, though this ban is mainly for cosmetics and scents. In gin production, the flower is harvested in late summer and made to dry a couple years before being ground. As with most gin ingredients Orris root has been used in medicine, in this case, it's helpful with sore throats and as an anti-inflammatory.

Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, also known as Chinese parsley or dhania. The entire cilantro plant is edible, stem seeds and leaves, but the vast majority of gin producers only use the seed. The flavor of the leaves and seeds are similar in a few regards but really have completely different profiles. It's worth mentioning that coriander seeds if consumed in severely high doses, can act as a narcotic. This goes away during gin production though. Coriander is probably the second most botanical in gin actually. Its flavor is a blend of citrus and sage. Its aroma is very akin to rose actually. Coriander in olden times was used to fight flatulence and arthritis.

Grains of Paradise
Grains of paradise are native to West Africa and Ethiopia. This area became known as The Pepper Coast. Grains are actually the seeds of a member of the ginger family. It's also known as Melegueta pepper, alligator pepper or Guinea pepper. These are often used in medicine as stimulants. The flavor is of course quite spicy and peppery, but the aroma is a bit more floral than your standard black pepper. Several centuries ago it was actually more common to use grains of paradise in cooking than pepper. Its use in gin was actually briefly banned in England for tricking people into thinking that the spirit was stronger than it really was.

Cardamom Pods
Cardamom is actually a member of the ginger family. It's native to southern India and is very hard to grow and cultivate aside from very hot climates like Tanzania and Guatemala. It is thus also one of the most expensive spices. 5000 years ago it was used in tooth cleaners and perfumes. Cardamom is widely used in South Asian cuisine, namely curries. There is black cardamom and green cardamom. Black has an almost peaty, smokey flavor while green is more floral, like the eucalyptus. Cardamom is a very warm flavor, slightly sweet, but very pungent.

Citrus Peel
The oils from lemon and orange peels are used very regularly in gin production. Almost everyone knows the flavor of citrus and it's very easy to place a citrus heavy gin. A fun fact is that the aroma molecules of a lemon are the mirror opposite of those of an orange. Citrus oils are great for a number of healing factors. It's good for the skin and also acts as a mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic. Citrus was also used to fight scurvy which made it almost a necessity among British naval sailors, who popularized the gin and tonic. Another useful aspect of citrus is that it's helpful as a cleaning agent. That's right, lemon Pledge actually has a reason to be lemon scented. This actually makes a distillers job easier as the tanks don't get as dirty when citric acid is in the gin.

Other botanicals may include: lemon grass, black peppercorn, cucumber, rose, culeb berries. anise, licorice, almonds, grapefruit, chamomile, sarsaparilla, nutmeg, saffron

"The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk."
- Jacqueline du Pre

Sunday, June 21, 2015


There are two main types of shakers used by bartenders across the globe. Each bears its own merits. Some are designed for aesthetics while others are designed for versatile use. 

The Boston Shaker
Supposedly the first concept of a shaker goes back to well before the common era to Central and South America where it was used to incorporate chocolate into a beverage. The Egyptians also used it to  incorporate spices. The shaker as we know it today goes back to the late 1800's where an innkeeper noticed that two of his serving vessels nested together. In 1872, a device was actually patented to shake six drinks at once.

In America and many other countries, when you shake a drink, it's going to be in a Boston shaker. Especially in a high volume bar environment. The two pieces of a Boston shaker are very multi-purpose. Mixing glasses can be used as beer glasses or even collins glasses. Take a mixing tin, and insert it with the open end down over the mixing glass and give it a light smack to make a seal. Most bartenders find it easier to create a seal with the tin cocked to the side to create a flush seal between the glass and tin. This makes it easier to separate the two once shaken. Shake vigorously, horizontally, rather than up and down, for 8-10 seconds. to break the seal that has most likely tightened due to the ice shrinking the metal strike the side or the tin, at the rim, 90 degrees from where the two parts are flush. This should break the seal and allow the removal of the glass.

Variants of the glass on tin combination are very common. Many craft bartenders have opted to use smaller, 16 oz., cheater tins to make the seal rather than a mixing glass. this allows for a seal that can be gripped and maintained with one hand while shaking. This allows for the shaking of two drinks at once which is very handy at craft cocktail bars as they have become famous date venues. No one wants to stare at their drink waiting for their partner to get theirs, so two drinks at once allows for a proper toast. The French shaker may deserve its own category, but I regard it as a simple variant to the standard Boston shaker. The smaller tin is specially designed to create a perfect seal with the mixing tin and bows in to create a firm grip for the bartender. This also has the advantage of not having any glass that could break.

The Cobbler / Three Piece Shaker
The cobbler shaker has a similar design but with an added dedicated middle piece in the design. It dates back to 1884 as a modification to the Boston shaker which included a built-in strainer. One simply builds the drink in the bottom tin, adds the middle strainer piece to the top of the tin, and then adds the cap on top to create a full seal. Some people say that this incorporates less air into the drink and that when liquid gets trapped between the top two pieces it creates a less emulsified drink. I do find myself just naturally shaking these drinks longer to make sure it's well chilled. Personally I really don't enjoy this style of shaker as they often can become stuck together and impossible to separate. With a bit of training, I'm told this won't occur but I really don't see it as a time saver in the long run. There is still a separate strainer piece you need to clean and the pieces are far less versatile. These styles of strainers can look very impressive and ornate, but they really don't serve much function, all things considered. 

"You can't buy happiness, but you can prepare a cocktail, and that's kind of the same thing."