Monday, February 29, 2016

Tequila 401: Evolution of a Cocktail: The Margarita

The actual origins of the margarita are very open to discussion. It's been claimed by countless bars and bartenders as their own creation. Some stories seem to be more factual or fanciful than others. I'm going off what I believe. I told my favorite story in my Tequila 301 post, in this one I'll go into a few more other plausible stories.

The Daisy
2oz. Liquor, 1 Lemon juice, 3/4 Sweetener, 1 Club Soda, 1/2 Cordial
Add all the liquid ingredients to a tin with ice, aside from the club soda. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with cracked ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. 
This is a very old style of drink with very little consistency in terms of the recipe. The drink style, daisy, is very similar to that of a sour, collins, or fizz. Any liquor can be used, brandy and gin being the two most popular. Grenadine is certainly one of the most common sweeteners used, but some recipes may call for simple syrup, gum syrup, or even an orange liqueur of some type. Some recipes omit the club soda or substitute chartreuse for the cordial. as a base, try 2 oz brandy, 1 oz. lemon juice, 3/4 grenadine, with club soda and orange curacao. 

The Sidecar
2 oz. Brandy, 3/4 oz Cointreau, 3/4 oz. Lemon juice, sugar rim
Add all the liquid ingredients to a tin with ice. shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a sugar rim. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. 
This is the drink that would seem to be the most natural precursor to the margarita. While the margarita is in its core components a sour, it had to take a few steps to get there. These days the margarita is the reigning sour, a cocktail comprised of a liquor a sweetening agent and a souring agent. The sweetening agent in a margarita is typically the orange liquor, unlike the usual simple syrup. The earliest record of this drink is from 1922 as equal parts cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. It's a simple variation on the brandy daisy. This drink predates the margarita by at least a decade, possibly two. The margarita was just two baby steps away from this cocktail. 
The Margarita
2 oz. Silver Tequila, 1 oz. Cointreau, ¾ oz. Lime Juice
In a mixing glass add all the ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed margarita glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel. 
Here we have the legend, the drink that is possibly the best selling drink in America. Margarita actually means little daisy, though it is quite different from many of the original recipes in its use of lime juice over lemon. A daisy was a very common cocktail style in it's day and one can see how it influences a great many modern cocktails. The margarita is a great sour style cocktail and can easily be modified with other fresh fruit flavors. It remains a blank canvas to play with while still being absolutely charming on its own. Many people will actually take this drink up, without ice. There are no rules, 

The Frozen Margarita
2oz Tequila, 1/2oz Triple Sec, 1oz Lime, 1/2oz Simple Syrup, 8oz Ice
Add all the ingredients to a blender with ice. blend until a uniform consistency, usually about 12 seconds
This is, unfortunately, one of the many times I'll have to add a cocktail variant after the original that may actually be the version the average person is more familiar with. The recipe I gave is a great way of making fresh tasting cocktails. With blended drinks, however, some people actually prefer drinks with concentrated lime juice or sour mix. Flavored mixes are so abundant that strawberry and mango flavored margaritas are just so easily replicable that everyone is doing it. This really is a good drink to sip on the vacation.

No matter how you enjoy your margarita, it's always nice to know a little bit of history behind it. The margarita is a canvas in its own right, but it does have its roots in other earlier cocktails. I'll never tell you what you should or should not like, but make sure you try the classics every once in a while.

- Tequila is like duct tape, it fixes damn near everything. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Antisocial Man's Bar Reviews: Maggie O'Neill's

The Space
There are three stories. The main floor is where you're most at home and most welcome. The upstairs has an O-shaped bar and a medium sized dance floor plus some booths along the wall. The basement is a simple banquet facility reserved for special events. This first floor is what has the real charm. It has a fishhook-shaped bar and is laid out in a traditional pub style with a number of little nooks so that it doesn't get too loud and each nook can hold its own conversation. The area is modeled from an old apothecary. There are drawers with labels like "Aspirin" and "Opium". There are cases made from old glass with antiques inside. Gaelic phrases are painted across the trim pieces. The natural wood and lacquer bring that sense of warmth that needs to be found in a pub. The second floor isn't always open but features an O shaped bar, several booths and standing tables as well as a dance floor area. 

Here, people are Irish. I don't mean that to be racist of nationalist, but they meet quite a few of the stereotypes. The bartenders are a bit surly and have no problem correcting you when you're wrong. Ask a stupid question and they'll look at you like you're stupid. That said, they're not mean, quite the opposite. Any request will be handled punctually and properly. There's a level of sarcastic charm that comes with a properly Irish feeling pub.

This is really a proper local pub. Its main feature is the beer menu but does feature the basic amenities of a bar. Your staple call brands and prepackaged mixers are available. They switch out half the draft system every month or so. These arguably aren't the highest of craft beer brands, but it's nice to get Guinness Blonde on draft or a flight of Goose Island. 

Food Menu
This is a proper Irish pub, in my opinion. There are clearly some regional and american influences, but you still find some classic dishes done right here. The Guinness wings are award winning. There are the Philadelphia / Delco staples of pretzel bites, buffalo chicken egg rolls, and cheesesteak. You  could also get potato soup, beef stew, shepherd's pie, banger's and mash, and even a traditional Irish breakfast. A few options are a bit unexpected but delicious all the same, such as the Thai shrimp or Tuscan Flatbread. When in doubt, go with a meal you know you'll like, and you're sure to love it. The hot roast beef sandwich is one of the best I've had. And this is one of few restaurants I've been to in the area that knows what you mean when you say you want your burger medium rare and is able to deliver that consistently. It's a large menu where you're sure to find something you'll like, and I've yet to be disappointed. 

I actually find this place a very good deal, especially for the portion sizes. The salads and desserts are enough to share. A hungry man going in for a meal will not leave dissatisfied. I've only found a few items that I ate and was still left somewhat hungry, and in fairness those were appetizers. The drinks are cheaply prices with some of the craft beers going up to fairly priced. You will not leave hear feeling swindled and every so often you will be actively surprised how innexpensive something so good was.

Overall I give this bar an 8/10. I was very tempted to give it a 9/10 though. This was one of the first bars I came to when I moved to Pennsylvania. My roommate and I were looking up bars in the area and their reviews. We stumbled across Maggie's review: "Maggie's is a great spot. Comfortable atmosphere, new selection of craft beers on tap, and everyone gets laid." It's hard to get better than that. The bar selection could be improved and the table service could use a little polish, but you'll almost always have a good time in here. The food leaves everyone happy. The company is good, and rarely too crowded. There's live music every once in a while. Go, sit, and enjoy yourself here. It really is a place to relax.

May you always have love in your hearts and beer in your belly. 

Tasting: Unibroue Sommelier Collection

Today I'm going to be starting a series of posts tasting a line of products put out by a brand or corporation and bundled together to create something of a variety pack for passionate drinkers. I'll be trying beers, whiskeys, bitters, and everything in between. Today, it's the Unibroue Sommelier Collection.
La Fin du Monde
9.0% ABV, Triple style golden ale
This beer I admit to having before, many times. It was one of my earliest introductions to what I would call craft beer. When I started drinking this I saw it as very high proof compared to the normal domestic beer I was used to. This is the kind of beer that goes to your head. It has a wonderful spice to it, some dry clove. The yeast flavor is very prominent. There typically is a little sediment in the bottle but don't let that discourage you. It's the end of the world. I give this beer a 10/10. You really must try this beer.

8.0% ABV, Strong Amber-Red Ale
After I poured this into the glass for the first time I noticed how long the head lasted. I really wouldn't go away. It's thick and malty. It's not an overly carbonated, but that foam is just stubborn. This is a nice amber. Again, there is a bit of sediment and cloudiness to this beer. The finish is nice and crisp. Inspite of the strong malty flavor you do get a little orange citrus complimenting the other spices. Despite the crispness, I don't love this beer quite as much. I give it a 7/10. Mainly because I can't think of an occasion or meal to enjoy it with. Though it is quite good. 

Trois Pistoles
9.0% ABV, Abbey Syle Strong Dark Ale
This was my first time trying this beer. The head is creamy, brownish beige, and rich. It starts fairly sweet on the tongue and finishes with a nice spiced rum finish. You pick up flavors of chocolate and spice in addition to the rum. The ABV is certainly still up there, but the creamier nature of this beer makes it a little harder to notice than in La Fin du Monde. There's a great malt flavor here. I give this an 8/10.
Don de Dieu
9.0% ABV, Triple Wheat Ale
When I think of a wheat beer I usually think of a massive glass with a lot of citrus. This is not a citrus heavy beer, and a 22 oz. wheat beer glass of that may be dangerous. Again at 9.0% ABV this certainly will bite you, especially after a tasting of the last few beers. The yeast flavor is certainly less in this than the La Fin du Monde and Maudite. There is next to no spice flavor by comparison. there are sweeter notes of honey with some vanilla and some floral and fruity components. It's described as having hints of an unfiltered sake and you can actually really see that. 7/10.

Blanche de Chambly
5.0% ABV, Belgian Witbier
As far as this tasting went, this was the beer I kept going back to in order to cleanse my palette. This is much more typical of a traditional wheat beer. It has the typical citrus feel, with some added coriander flavor. The head is light and the carbonation is akin to a champagne. It's a nice beer but feels very out of place compared to the rest of the line of products offered here. I'm actually only to give this a 5/10. It's a fine beer, but very average and with the price point you have better options. 

Ephemere Apple
5.5% ABV, White Ale Brewed with Apple Must
This really does remind me of a cider, but it's less sweet, harsher. It's made with granny smith style apples, but it is still a beer. Make no mistake about that. If a customer comes in and would like a cider, they will not be happy with this. I'm going to give this a 6/10. It's a nice drink, a decent ale, very akin to a belgian white. Unibroue has done some amazing things but this isn't amazing. Perhaps it's just not a concept I care for as I haven't had many apple beers. I doubt I'd seek this out again though.

“Isn’t beer the holy libation of sincerity? The potion that dispels all hypocrisy, any charade of fine manners? The drink that does nothing worse than incite its fans to urinate in all innocence, to gain weight in all frankness?”
- Milan Kundera