The Making of a Cocktail Part 1 - Cocktail Kingdoms

June is in full swing, summer's on our doorstep and, most impendingly, my wife's birthday draws nigh. This year it shall be something special, because she has asked me to create a cocktail in her honor. Lo, what fortune! A gift wherein everyone wins, says I.

So, how does one tackle that proposition, exactly? Good cocktails blend art and science, and show how different and often disparate ingredients can come together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. An easy thing to just throw out there, but how about a little help? Experimenting behind the bar is tons of fun, but liquor ain't cheap. 

Flavor country

Flavor country

 

A good place to start (as I have done in preparation for my wife's present) is to get a general understanding of the taxonomy of drinks, at least at a basic level. A simple way to organize cocktails out of the gate is a two kingdom arrangement:

  1. Shaken drinks - daiquiris, sours, collins, etc.
  2. Stirred drinks - manhattans, old fashioned, negronis, etc.

Elementary, my dear Watson, as Holmes would say. Shaken drinks are concoctions of alcohol and other ingredients that are shaken in a mixing tin filled with ice for various reasons. Most notably it serves as a means to combine (through emulsion) liquids of different composition and viscosity. Generally, you will get far better results shaking a daiquiri with ice than you will stirring the same drink. When working on a whisky sour, you just can't get the egg whites all velvety smooth without shaking. Martinis you can take or leave out of this category - honestly, there is no compelling reason to shake them unless it is cool in your town. 

 

Stirred drinks, on the other hand, are generally combinations of a base or multiple base spirits and maybe an additional liqueur, bitters, sugar, or something. Drinks in this kingdom are 'built' over ice, or stirred with ice in a mixing glass to combine the ingredients and chill them to the proper temperature. 

Now, before you start poking holes all into my classification system, just consider it as a useful way to begin your work. Of course there will be some fungi that are neither plant nor animal, so just think of this as a filter through which you can pass your decisions: Do you like fresh, bright, citrusy drinks? Then your gonna be developing a shaken drink. Are you more of a spirit-forward, on the rocks kind of cat? Stirred drinks are your highway to flavor country.

Ok, I get it. Now how exactly is this useful? Let's walk through an example. If you want to get started and create the next great American stirred drink, you simply have to pick a favorite base spirit. How about we use Laird's Apple Brandy for this example? It's a low cost, tasty spirit that has a very distinct flavor profile which, as the name suggests, includes a bit of apple. So, what goes well with apple...hmmm....what could I add to this to make it interesting...Aha - spice!. Apple pies are delicious, and they have hella spice in them.  Maybe cranberries, or raisins? Why not get a little crazy and think about ginger or rosemary?

Since we're talking about stirred drinks, how could we introduce some of these flavors to our base spirit without having to juice, shake or blend? Well, if you're like me, you've got some homemade cinnamon tincture (recipe below) hanging out in your liquor cabinet. So a few dashes of that and 1/4 oz of maple syrup stirred with 1.5 oz of Laird's gives you a tasty Old Fashioned variant that is new to this earth - Congratulations, daddy, you just gave birth to your first cocktail! (You see what I did there, a pun on parenting and drinking. Baddum pssshh!)

A wonderful side effect of any culinary hobby is how you are encouraged to experiment according to your own predilections. Some of you will naturally gravitate towards a certain flavor profile and want to hone in on that perfect, archetypal "taste" that defines a genre, obsessing over ingredients and arcane preparation methods. Conversely, you free spirits might be more inclined to run a bunch of disparate flavors up the flagpole to see who salutes. Creme de menthe and mezcal? It's your world, burn it down. 

No matter what your approach, it's time to take your love of the game to the next level and build a true classic for your time and place. Cheers!


 

Cinnamon Bourbon Tincture

350 ml decent bourbon (say, Buffalo Trace)

4 inches of cinnamon stick

Combine both ingredients in a 12 oz mason jar. Let steep for 4 days. Taste, and if it meets your desired cinnamony-ness, strain into 2oz glass dropper bottles. if not, taste each following day until it does, then strain into dropper bottles. Keeps pretty much forever. This is an easy way to get introduced to the world of tinctures and bitters. Plus, it makes a ton and the 2oz bottle make great gifts!

 

Cinnamon Bourbon tincture

 

 

 

Spring is in the air!

And what a spring it has been! With the media circus surrounding Drumpf and the Bernie/Hillary showdown, its easy to lose track of the other cool spring stuff that has been going on around us. As you know we are big fans of seasonal transitions up in here, and are finally celebrating Spring's bold mike-drop on the last vestiges of winter.

So what's on tap this season? The first order of business is clawing back the dignity of fashionable drinking from St. Pat's Day and Cinco de Drinko. A fine rebuttal to these binge-and-purge fiascos is to explore the more dignified side of spring imbibing. 

First up, since I am writing from deep within the bowels of a town steeped in horse racing culture, let's tackle the Mint Julep. This grand champion of giant antebellum porches is a southern bourgeoise icon, Kentucky Derby staple, and sure sign the spring is in full bloom. Like all great classics this refined gentleman is plagued by controversy, most of which is just arrogant clownsmanship. Must it be served in a silver cup (that's not silver-plated, mind you)? Need the iced be pulverized to the downy white consistency of new-fallen snow, and garnished by mint from the lace-fingered hand of a virgin southern-belle? Only if you are an asshole. Or Colonel Sanders.

Not an ad for Makers, but they had a solid graphic

Not an ad for Makers, but they had a solid graphic

Fortunately for sane, reasonable people everywhere the Mint Julep staples - mint, sugar, bourbon, crushed ice - combine quite admirably under a variety of different proportions, and are very forgiving when combined together on a hot day. What's even better is that this cocktail requires virtually no effort. You aren't even supposed to mix it, otherwise it is ruined. You need only follow a few guiding principles when drafting this classic:

  1. Use a cask-strength bourbon. You'll need something with a little backbone to stand up to all that crushed ice. 
  2. Take it easy on the mint. If you crush the shit out if it, mint gets bitter and gross. Gently press it or slap the mint leaves to express the oil. Welcome to flavor country.
  3. Use crushed ice. If you have been looking for an excuse to buy a Lewis Bag and the Mai Tai wasn't enough to move you, time to get nuts. Cubes are just too big to make this thing work. Part of the charm of this drink is savoring of the slow changes brought on by the melting process, so at least pretend to care.
  4. Pinkies out!

 

That's really it, and guess what? Tastes great out of a glass.

The second seasonal treat that should not be overlooked is the annual appearance of Maibock style beers from your local craft establishment. In addition to the beauties from the lager kings over in Germany, there are a ton of American breweries that make a decent showing. 

NarragansettJack's Abbey and Berkshire Brewing to name a few. The style is best represented by strong, light-colored lagers that were traditionally favored by Bavarians during the transition from the bleak winters to the long hot summers. There's some pagan may-day shit with goats thrown in that I don't really get, but you can Google it yourself. Suffice it to say, the beers are delicious and classy this time of year. So go get a six pack and class up your neighborhood, because it is 1700 somewhere.

 

 

 

 

Cocktail/Mocktail #6: Marla's Maple and Maple Milk

Last month we looked at the fine art of maple sugaring, so it's only natural that we turn toward's ways to capitalize on the early spring bounty. Here's a one-two punch of awesome that showcases the slightly nutty, rich caramel flavors of the maple syrup you just made.

For the adults, I present a special concoction that boasts a hit of maple syrup to round out the balance between ripe, fruit forward pear brandy and tart meyer lemon juice. A good Vermouth like Carpano Antica Formula will really tie the room together, so make the commitment to excellence at your local liquor store. I chose to add a few dashes of some 5-spice bitters, but feel free to experiment there.

Marla's Maple

Marla's Maple

1 oz Wild Turkey 101

1/2 oz pear brandy

1/2 sweet vermouth

3/4 oz meyer lemon juice

3/4 oz maple syrup

3 dashes 5-spice bitters

Combine all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, then double strain into a Nick & Nora coupe. No garnish.

 


And for the children, a simple yet oh-so-delicious treat. So simple, in fact, that you might ask how it qualifies as a listing here. Well, did you try it? Ever even think of doing it? ...Though so. Maple milk, like it's big brother honey milk, has been delighting children across our nations' maple syrup belt for hundreds of years. Warm some up on those cold spring nights and put the kids to bed with a smile.

Maple Milk (serves 2)

16 ounces whole milk

1 tiny pinch of salt

1 1/2 oz maple syrup

Warm milk slowly in a pot over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent film buildup. Add maple syrup and salt, serve in cute kids mugs.

Maple Milk

See, it's a thing!

I'd Tap That!...tree, that is;)

As anybody from the Northeast (or Canada, ay!) can tell you, we are nipple deep into maple syrup season. Yes, there is indeed a season for this and it happens late each winter when daytime temps start to get above freezing consistently. The ideal sap situation is when it is above freezing during the day but drops back below freezing at night.

I had been wanting to tap a sugar maple ever since returning to the Least Coast almost 4 years ago where maple trees are in abundance, and I finally got a golden opportunity to this year. My neighbor graciously allowed B and I to to tap the huge sugar maple in his backyard. The process of tapping and collecting was actually quite easy, though the final processing part was not. That said, overall the adventure was quite satisfying, and as my wife would say <with gentle sarcasm> it was "everything I had wanted and more."

Why bother? Come on mang, why not? You get to use your hands and tools to make something from the earth that is delicious and makes people happy. I challenge you to be angry while eating a stack of pancakes coated in maple syrup that you made yourself.  If you've got the trees, it's a great way to establish a tradition of conservation and respect for nature with your kids as well. Tapping the tree doesn't hurt it, and if you are responsible you can harvest the delicious, renewable sap year after year. As if that wasn't enough, you can use maple syrup in a number of exceptionally tasty drinks. 


So here's a quick recap - there are many great resources on the Webs that will tell you when/how to tap maple trees in more detail should you find my experience wanting. 

Tapping

By far the easiest part. I drilled a 1/2 inch hole in the tree, lightly pounded in the spile with a hammer and wham-o! Instant sap spigot. It started flowing immediately, and was the most exciting 2 drips/second event of my life. Metal spiles are easy to find during sap season, and the kind I got came with a metal hook to hang the bucket from. Instead of using buckets I pimped out some gallon sized water jugs:

 

Key learnings: Tapping the tree is easy, do not fear it. Also, test out your bucket hanging system in advance to make sure it will be angled properly under the spout and can hold the weight of the sap.

 

Collection and Storage

We were surprised at how fast the jugs filled up. I was pretty much emptying them every morning and evening for the first 2 days. The weather got really warm and things became more erratic after that, but I was emptying them daily. I got a 4 gallon water jug of the type that are used in large water coolers to hold the sap. I originally just planned to hang onto it until the season was over and then have a little syrup boil down party, but I was informed that the sap does not stay fresh very long and it is best to make the syrup as quickly as possible. Doh! It sat outside next to the tree, which seemed ok because the outside temp never really got above 40 degrees or so. 

Key learnings: Sap collects fast, so ideally you can start boiling it down right away. If not, make sure you have a vessel(s) large enough to hold it all. Also, little bits of bark and stuff get all up in the jugs or buckets, so rig up a cover. I also used cheesecloth to strain the sap as I transferred it from the jugs.

 

Boil Down

Once I realized there was nowhere to store the additional sap that was showing no signs of stopping,  I started boiling down the first batch. I got my largest stock pot, filled it up and put it on the stove. It took all day to boil down, and was ultimately uneventful. Booooring.

Sap on stove

Sap on stove

The inside of the house got humid and steamy, and overall this experience was sub-optimal. So, for the next batch I borrowed a huge 5-gallon aluminum pot from my neighbor (in exchange for a share of the profit) and boiled it down under a fire in the backyard. I can now understand some of the more earth, visceral appeal of cooking of maple sugaring, as the old timers call it. Up here, they build sugar shacks and have wide, shallow evaporators that boil the excess water off quickly. It is quite satisfying to tend the fire and enjoy the last vestiges of winter knowing that soon, very soon, that sweet nectar will be yours. 

 

So, once the sap boiled down to about 2-3 cups, I brought it inside to finish on the stove. I figured that a more controlled environment would be better to prevent burning it or overcooking it, or whatever. In any case, I read that the finished syrup should boil at 7 degrees above the boiling point of water at your elevation. You can use a candy thermometer for this if you have it. So, 219 degrees later there we were:

Final maple sap boil

Key learnings: Do your boiling outside. Once again, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth when you transfer it, because little bits get in there from the fire and nature and stuff.

Bottling

Gotta move that syrup somewhere, and like all good hipsters I happened to have a few mason jars handy (you sterilize these first). Now, as I found out, there are some naturally occurring mineral particulates that you need to filter out of the final product right before you bottle. You do this while the liquid is hot because it needs to be as viscous as possible to pass through the filter. In this case, a pour-over unit:

It took about 7 coffee filters to get this amount of syrup, as they kept getting clogged

It took about 7 coffee filters to get this amount of syrup, as they kept getting clogged

That's it! All in, I had to boil down 3 times, but I did get about 45 ounces of syrup out of the deal, which I call a win. I will say that that while the syrup is delicious, it has a less potent mapley taste than the store bought variety I compared it with. I'm sure that there is much more to the craft part of this that accounts for the taste, and I look forward to learning and improving my technique and the product each year. So, I encourage you to try this out if you can. Put it on your calendar for next year. It's fun. 

New dad survival guide

"To secure peace is to prepare for war!"
-James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich

I am writing this post for soon-to-be father's everywhere, whether it is your first time at bat or if you just didn't pay attention very much the first time 'round. Either way, your kid is coming and you know it is going to be war - a war that you will have to win one battle at a time. Well dads (sorry moms, good luck!), what wins battles is information. So if you find yourself in the wrong quadrant of Chaney's Matrix of Disaster, I have you covered.

 

Don't panic, just gird your loins for my campaign of shock and awe. Your baby doesn't stand a chance of beating you when you follow these steps:

Step 1 - Hide A Secret Stash

The premise here is simple. In a troubled land of endless tears, wailing and vile smells, where the living move about like zombies in a hazy fever-dream of sleeplessness, a hero will rise! Everybody loves a hero, and in this story it is you. Why? because it's 3am and your wife informs you that you have just run out of diapers. You know what that means - a sacrifice! You must suit up, drive through the pouring rain for 20 mins to the only all-night establishment that may or may not have the diapers you so desperately need.

But wait! Not you, sir. Like a true champion you stride triumphantly to your hiding place and retrieve a 20-pack of Pampers and an extra box of wipes. "Where was that hiding?" she'll say. Not important General, victory is yours. Now have a sip of that bourbon that you also had tucked away and go back to bed. 

Step 2 - Make Your Man Pack

I can't stress enough how important this is - while having your man pack is about being prepared, it is also about maintaining your dignity and status as Alpha when surrounded by the enemy. Remember that what's in your manpack is just as important as what is not in it. Here's your list of bare essentials:

  • A diaper - just one (live dangerously)
  • Bag of wipes
  • Ziploc freezer bag for the inevitable (aka - major blowout)
  • Small, super-absorbent microfiber towel (think MSR's Packtowel)
  • Extra onesie for the little one
  • Black t-shirt (for when you get puke or shit on the one you are wearing)
  • Sunblock
  • Energy bar - you won't need this because you are a man, it is for your wife. Inevitably she will shut down from being overtired and hungry. Deploy in case of said emergency.
  • $10 bill (bribes, emergency cab ride, metro card, 2 beers or one cocktail) 

That's it dudes. If the baby is with you, never leave home without this. Or just bring your wife, because you know she has everything.

Step 3 - Use Earplugs 

Do yourself a huge favor and head over to a drugstore and get a 20 pack of foam earplugs. They work great, and are a must if you plan on sleeping. They don't call them Hearos for nothing. 

Step 4 - Drop Melatonin

To be used alone or in conjunction with Step 3, depending on severity of the storm. For those of you who don't know, Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. I'm no doc, but I do know this stuff makes for a great night of sleep. Use it for getting over jet- or baby-lag. 

Step 5 - Practice Baby Aikido

Real Aikido is a beautiful and graceful martial art whose practitioners are adept at redirecting their opponents movements and attacks. Baby Aikido, on the other hand, is a sloppy but affective technique of redirecting your baby's activity against your enemies. Need to take a shit when no public toilet is available? Want to leave that terrible company BBQ early? Use Screaming Baby Blowout. Need a table at your favorite brunch spot on Easter Sunday? Extra whip on your Frappucino? Use Smiling Happy Fun-time Attack or Cute Sleeping Outfit Overload. They're powerless against it. 

Baby Aikido

Step 6 - Listen to Heavy Metal

I know I know, it's so obvious. Did I really need to tell people to do this? Apparently yes. Some dads are still not aware that there is an entire genre of music dedicated to harnessing the power of anger and crushing weakness out of yourself. Plus, kids love it!

Time to get ready for action, new dads. While no plan survives first contact with the enemy, to be prepared is half the victory. 

Death from above! 

Make Valentine's Day Memorable This Year

Valentine's Day is upon us, yet again. Huzzah! While I don't go in for the general V-Day formula, (retail assault + unmet expectations = bitter disappointment) there's no good reason not to do a little something special on Feb 14. Behind all the red and pink things to buy lies a pleasant little kernel of sentiment – appreciate the ones you love, and make sure that they know it. Hard to argue with that. All too often we forget the simple joy that others get from our physical declaration of love, so when an opportunity arises don't squander it out of principle.

If part of your manifest devotion includes champagne this year, I encourage you to dedicate a small portion of the bubbly to a fine classic cocktail, the French 75 - Paris is, after all, the City of Love so we're coming full circle with our main theme. This is a good cocktail and can be elevated to greatness with a halfway decent bottle of sparkling wine and some attention to detail. For most it is a rare event to have a bottle of Champagne handy, so get romantic and seize this opportunity to try out a true classic in all it's glory.

French 75

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz dry gin

3 oz champagne

 

Shake lemon juice, simple syrup, and dry gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a flute and top with 3 oz of a good, dry champagne. Garnish with a spiral lemon rind*

*Pro-tip – Cut your sprial garnish from the lemon, then squeeze the juice. Wrap the cut peel around a bar spoon to encourage a good spiral.

 

Enjoy the holiday with your special lady and remember that, as the French say “La vie est une fleur dont l’amour est le miel”

Oscar Time

For many of you the Academy Awards are a much anticipated event, an exciting evening devoted to the power and magesty of modern cinema. Despite the controversy du-jour, there's still plenty to look forward to if you are willing to trade your sleep for a night of cheesy jokes and awkward acceptance speeches.

This year I have done a terrible job of keeping up with the latest from Hollywood, so I thought I would have a little fun with the B and let him pick this year's Best Picture. Take a look and enjoy!

 





Cocktail/Mocktail #5: Cold Brew! Old Fashioned/Cold Brewed Cocoa

As you know, cold brew is trending hot right now so I thought it high time to post about this burgeoning trend so that you can all give it a try. I chose to put this together as an episode of Cocktail/Mocktail. For those of you who haven't tried it, cold brewed coffee is like 1000 times better than iced coffee, so even if you don't want to make it yourself, try it on nitro at your favorite hipster coffee shop.

It is hella easy to make yourself though, so I recommend giving it a shot. Coarsely grind up about 4 ounces of coffee, and put it in any vessel that will hold 32 ounces of water. Let it sit for a day in the fridge and bam - cold brew. You can experiment with weaker/stronger brews, or leaving it at room temperature to steep, but that should be obvious. Enjoy neat, or get wild and crazy like the guys at Onyx Coffee Lab and make a cold brew old fashioned:

4 oz cold brewed coffee

1/2 tsp vanilla simple syrup

2 dashes favorite bitters (chocolate if you got 'em)

No garnish, be a man today

While riding the bleeding edge of the cold brew trend wave, I found a great way for the kids to start their hipster training early - by cold-brewing some roasted cacao beans. Nothing is more hipster than taking raw, organic ingredients that do not taste good by themselves (try raw cacao nibs  - don't believe the hype, they are awful) and turning them into something only marginally better that you can then obsess over until it becomes something truly noteworthy. Full disclosure, I'm at the "only marginally better" stage of this journey. 

I successfully roasted some raw cacao nibs, ground them up and made some cold brew for B. It was actually quite easy to drink chilled on its own. Nothing like sweet hot cocoa or chocolate milk, but rather light, nutty, a little tangy all the while being faintly reminiscent of chocolate. The next time I served it, I mixed with about a half-ounce of cream, and it was quite good. I used the same process as the coffee when I brewed it, though I had added roasting step for the nibs. If you can find raw beans, go for it. I found raw nibs on Amazon, and just roasted at 300 in my toaster oven for about 10 mins (you will smell it when it is ready). No controls, no science, just enthusiasm. 

This is what Cold Brew Cacao looks like

This is what Cold Brew Cacao looks like

I had a ton of fun with this, and I can see how, with more time and dedication to the process the cold brewed cacao could be phenomenal, even a rival to coffee. So, I present it here as encouragement for you to try it out. Throw some against the wall and see what sticks!

Things to look forward to in 2016

There are some interesting trends bubbling up in the drinking world for 2016. As new, innovative bartenders, brewers, and distillers seek to make their mark on the world we all benefit from the flood of new creations that are pushing boundaries and making new ground. Here are a few trends to keep your eye on this year:

1. Unaged whiskey – white dog, moonshine, call it what you will - this brash, raw alcohol is becoming a mainstream ingredient in trendy bars. New, upstart distlilleries can’t wait forever to cash in on the aged spirits (4+ years till they can sell!). In the meantime they have found an increasing market for fresh, unaged whiskey that highlights the sweet, clean taste of the grain before the flavors of the barrel take over.

Moonshine

2. Cider – This beverage is blowing up right now! Back in the early days of America, cider was ubiquitious and enormously popular. In those days cider mills truly dedicated to the craft made sure that no metal was used on the press so as not to taint the fresh juice with a metallic taste (long before stainless steel was available). Even the screw gears that pushed the halves of the press together were hand made of wood. Now that same fervor that swept through homebrewing 15 years ago is hitting its stride with the cider community. Look forward to seeing bold new combinations and variations like dry-hopped ciders from pretty much everywhere.

3. Those other cocktail ingredients... - For years there have been dedicated efforts by American distillers like Letherbee and Breckenridge to produce the herbally concoctions like Fernet Branca, Cynar, and other amaros. Now, all that work is paying off. They’re starting to get noticed, and more and more attention is being paid to back-bar spirits that serve as critical ingredients in many great cocktails. Vermouths are also getting more attention, so we can look forward to more choice that just Martini & Rossi. The best place to find out what’s new is by visiting your local craft cocktail bar. Most liquor stores only carry the big brands, but bartenders in-the-know will have a pipline to the good shit. Plus, when you ask a few questions most good bartenders will happily offer you a taste of something new.

letherbee fernet

4. Cold brewing – This is not so much a new trend, it has been going on for some time now. However, the limits are getting pushed again with many high end coffee shops offering it on nitro tap, and some even experimenting with barrel aging. Check out the next episode of Cocktail/Mocktail for a unique twist on cold brew. I’ve personally begun experimenting with cold brewed cacao, and while not there yet the preliminary results are encouraging. I’m really excited about this trend because it’s fun to do at home, and encourages a lot of experimentation .

There’s a lot of other great stuff happening out there, but you have to go exploring. Head on out to your local joint and see what's new!

Another mind-blowing read

 

Hi team, I just read an incredible book that was not only engaging and invigorating, but also represents the next step in the evolution of the cocktail craft. If you haven’t already, for god’s sake check out the book Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold. We’re talking about a nerd’s guide to making better cocktails, and it is packed with so much awesomeness it hurts. 

You had me at "titratable"

You had me at "titratable"

Dave Arnold has taken a detailed, often overkilled scientific approach to analyzing how alchohol, sugars, acids and water (all key ingredients in cocktails) perform together in the various mixtures that make up our drinks.  There’s an amazing chart that is like a map of middle earth for bartenders, a whole chapter on ice and an introduction to advanced Jedi techniques like rapid-infusing and fat-washing. 

When someone puts in this much effort to catalog the arcana of mixology, you know that it has moved from a novelty to something that needs to be taken seriously. I’m not saying that Cocktail Sommeliers are around the corner or anything, but this new wave of science will help pave the way for a relatable cocktail knowledge base that is backed by method. True cocktail artisans can build from this with the confidence that they are actually engaged in a quantifiable craft that is every bit as complex and nuanced as haute cuisine. Well done and thank you Mr. Arnold!

 

The Reason for tonight’s drink…

This episode is brought to you by mom and her ongoing battle with health insurance. The old provider is going out of business, we’re trying to add a new child, and some claims are still in play – this is the perfect storm of disasters. While any given customer service rep might be able to assist with one, maybe even two of these issues, there is no possible way to unify all three into a solution that doesn’t involve heavy drinking.

 

Or as my wife would say “being and adult sucks!” I’ve been watching the fight on the sidelines and it still isn’t clear who will come out on top. But no matter what, there will be blood- are you not entertained?



The 12 days of Christmas #12 - Dealer's Choice

‘Tis the night before Christmas, and hopefully you had a great fun-filled day of pre-Christmas festivity with the family. I’ve brought you 11 great cocktails this December, and for the 12th day of Christmas I appoint you as the bartender. Tonight is the night for the dram of your choice. While you lay out those presents for your little ones, have a taste from that special bottle that you’ve been saving. I'm going to listen to Eddie Vedder sing my favorite Christmas carol and have 2 fingers of Barrel Bourbon’s Batch #5. 

Cookies for Santa


Thanks for hanging with me this holiday season, I hope you have a magical, unforgettable time:)


The 12 Days of Cocktails #11 - Whiskey Sour

We’re in the homestretch now, so here’s an oldie but goodie. Unless you frequent a classy gin joint, the last one of these you had was probably from a mix. I can assure you the from-scratch raw egg preparation will erase any lingering fears you have of this concoction. In my opinion, it is way better than an old fashioned if done right.

Dat velvety texture tho...

Dat velvety texture tho...

 

Whiskey Sour

2 oz rye or bourbon

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

1 dash orange bitters

 

Shake all ingredients except the bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a double rocks glass with a single ice cube, top with a dash of bitters. Garnish with an orange & cherry flag.

The 12 Days of Cocktails #10 - Tiki Tuesday!

Mele kalikimaka! It’s Tiki Tuesday, don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. That’s right, it is Mai tai time. My vote for the all time greatest cocktail, hands down please.  If you don’t like the Mai Tai, you just don’t like things.

While the original is solid and needs no improvement, I do like to tinker with it every now and then in the spirit of creation. Tiki drinks as a category derive their potently memorable flavors not only from exotic flavoring agents, but also from the combination of spirit varieties. A disparate selection of rums will come together in a Mai Tai to create a new, unique flavor profile that is unmatched in any other cocktail. Here’s tonight’s recipe:

Ahhhhhhhhh.......

Ahhhhhhhhh.......

 

Mele kalikimaka Mai Tai

1 oz white rum

1 oz blackstrap rum

1 oz aged rum

½ oz orange curacao

¼ oz orgeat syrup

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz simple syrup

 

Pour all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake vigourously, strain into a tiki collins filled with crushed ice. Obviously I did not have a tiki collins filled with crushed ice, but that’s life. Enjoy!

I broke open a local bottle of spirit for the occasion: Colonial White Rum, not bad for upstate NY

Yankee Distiller's Colonial Rum

Yankee Distiller's Colonial Rum

The 12 Days of Cocktails #9 - South Side

Short & sweet today. Since I had leftover mint from yesterday, I’m going with a little gin special called the South Side. Crisp & refreshing, easy to make – just don’t muddle the hell out of the mint and you can’t mess it up:)

South Side

South Side

6 fresh mint leaves  

2 oz dry gin

¾ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 dash aromatic bitters such as Angostura


Add the sweet to the shaker then gently muddle the mint on top of it. Add remaining ingredients and ice, then shake vigourously. Double train into an old-timey coupe. Garnish with a mint leaf or two. 


The 12 Days of Cocktails #8, also why I won't be going to see Santa this year

As you have no doubt gathered, I am easily excited about the newness brought on by the change of seasons. Right now Christmas is in full swing and it is a great time to be a dad. Everything is kid friendly, and no matter where you go, people seem friendly, outgoing and willing to set aside differences in respect to the holidays.

There’s a laundry list of essential activities for this time of year - I’m taking the kids out to the annual Victorian Streetwalk, we’ll try ice skating if it gets cold enough, a hot chocolate here and there and even some light-duty Christmas shopping.

One thing not on the list though is going to the mall to see Santa. I can’t think of anything less fun than that, and every year I wonder why people bother. Do the kids even like it? I have no idea but I am not eager to find out. I can’t remember it being very magical when I was a kid, and the overpowering memory I have is not even my own experience. It’s the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie gets shoved down the slide and ever since Santa has been a bit of a villain.

 

Long story short, I am just not doing it. Kudos to you if you can stomach that level of masochism, but here are my top reasons for avoiding this misadventure:

  1. I’m getting too old "to wait in line" for this shit – I'm with Sgt. Murtaugh, life is too damn short. Think of all the Facebooking you could do with an extra 90 minutes in your day.
  2. Don’t want to pay for a pic – No need to deal with those elves whose sole purpose is to upsell you on a $30 pic of your kid crying on Santa’s lap.
  3. Santa is scary to a 3 year old – Must be. It’s too weird. I know beards are back in vogue, but the whole thing must seem so bizarre. After the age of 1.5, having a kid in my lap was pretty annoying, so lap-sitting has been discouraged in our house for quite some time. It would be counterproductive to re-introduce this activity with a red-suited stranger no matter how jolly.
  4. Santa’s grandkid goes to B’s school – The local Santa picks his kid up at the same time I collect B from preschool, and that’s just a little too close to home.
  5. Parents always lose with Santa – At best, your kid gets out of there without crying or wetting himself, but only because Santa promised to bring him everything on the list. So you’re pretty much screwed, good luck finding the Star Wars unicorn that he always wanted.
  6. I am not the world’s best dad – Despite what the mug says.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Merry Christmas!

 

Dominic (the Christmas Donkey)

Oh, I meant to throw up #8 of the 12 Days of Cocktails, here you go:

 

            The Dominic Petrovich

            1 ½ oz vodka

           ½ oz strega

            ¾ oz lime juice

            ¾ oz ginger syrup (see recipe below)

            4 oz club soda

 

Shake all ingredients except club soda in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a copper mug filled with ice. Top with club soda, garnish with a sprig of mint. 

Ginger Syrup: Juice about a pound of ginger to yield 8 oz of juice. Mix that juice with 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Enjoy in cocktail recipes aplenty, mix with lime juice and club soda for a homemade ginger beer that is better than Reed's. 

The 12 Days of Cocktails #7 - Hot Spiced Wine

Christmas time is rife with tradition, from the present-shitting log of Catalonia, to fruitcake and “sitting in Santa’s lap” there is certainly no shortage of questionable fun rolling around this time of year.

Caga Tio

 

Buried in the onslaught are a few old-timey traditions that are worth a second look. One such is the old-school,Dickensian bowl of mulled wine. Now that the weather has finally turned truly cold, the spirit of the season can be found readily in a hot mug of spiced cider. Cinammon, clove, anise, nutmeg and honey mellow together with a good bottle of arbor red to make an earthy winter warmer that is the perfect accompaniment to a night of wrapping presents.

Spiced Wine

1 bottle of red wine

2 cloves

1 stick cinnamon

2 pods of star anise

1 tsp crushed nutmeg

¼ cup honey

1 tbsp dried bitter orange

Juice from 1 lemon

 

Place all dry ingredients in a muslin teabag. Bring wine, honey and lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, add teabag.  Steep for 15 minutes. Ladle into mugs.

Hot Spiced Wine


The 12 Days of Cocktails #6 - Video Daily Double!

Surprise, here's a video post!

 

Grapefruit Negroni*

1 oz Pyrat Rum

1 oz sweet vermouth

1 oz Campari

1 oz fresh, strained grapefruit juice

2 dashes Love Struck Bitters from The Hudson Standard

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir vigorously to combine. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with grapefruit coin. 

*Note: Let's rename this cocktail. I shot that video with everything prepped except a good name. Lemme know what you think I should call it!