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