You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

So about this Cynar stuff. It’s starting to grow on me, intellectually if not gastronomically. Intellectually, the more I read straight off the website and paraphrase as I’m about to do now up on it, the more intrigued I get. It’s been around since 1952 (that alone, the cinematic notion of la vita bella circa 1952, is enough to sweep my grandiose imagination off its size 11 feet). In 1995 Cynar was bought by the Campari Group… which also owns  Cabo Wabo Tequila, wtf? The U.S. is not among Cynar’s top-five markets worldwide, although I have found pockets of American afi-Cynar-nados online; those are Brazil, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France, where apparently people like to spike their beer with it.

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Two things I jump: bandwagons and the gun.

Bandwagons: Ever since the New York Times ran a story in late December about the upswinging trend of barrel-aged cocktails — pre-mixing a large batch of an all-liquor tipple, like a Manhattan or a Martinez, then setting it aside for a month or more in either a glass vessel of some kind or a genuine oak barrel, preferably one that’s already been used to age something else — I’ve been all like gimme gimme I wanna I wanna. I even can brag my very own used oak barrel; Sean won a three-galloner from Tuthilltown Spirits in upstate New York (purveyors of Husdon Whiskeys) at their Facebook Fan Appreciation Day over the summer. (I originally misunderstood Sean’s e-mail informing me he won the barrel. I thought it came with three gallons of bourbon inside it and told everybody so. That was embarrassing.)

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For as much as I love booze, there is one virgin elixir I just might adore even more than all the liquor in the world, and that is a chocolate egg cream.

Oh, how I could rhapsodize about an egg cream, its gloriously proportioned trifecta of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer (neither eggs nor cream). When you’re this crazy about egg creams, you know that they must be made with Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup if they’re worth a damn, and you purchase specially marked pint glasses from Junior’s in Brooklyn that indicate how much of each ingredient to use, and you hunt online for genuine, old-fashioned seltzer bottles (which must be refilled regularly with carbon-dioxide cartridges, at no small expense), because you can’t get a good, fizzy head on a homemade egg cream with seltzer from a silly twist-cap bottle.

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Guest post by Mark Holcomb, the Blogtender’s cousin-in-law/former professional bartender/lead singer of The Sharpe James

I was raised by hippies… they were probably considered ex-hippies by the time the ’80s rolled around, but they were hippies nonetheless. My mother (who is a saint of a woman!) is the type of lady the who used to tote me around as an infant in one of those baby backpack-papoose contraptions, and who shed a tear or two when Jerry Garcia died. As for my father, well, he looks like Willie Nelson. Love him as I do there is no denying his hippydom. Unless you’re him, that is; he vehemently refutes this label for the sole reason that “hippies are too peaceful.” However, he is the same bass-playing, ponytail-rocking, bandana-wearing, beard-having, hitch-hiking Okie who once thought a good name for his firstborn son (that’s me) would be Thud Blues Holcomb. I only thank the sweet  Lord Jesus that my momma had enough sense to name me after my grandfathers instead.

aahhh, Red #40...

As you might imagine, having been brought up in this type of environment, my brothers and I were, to put it nicely, free-spirited individualists at a very early age. To paint a clearer picture of what that means exactly, I will say without a doubt that the term “driving me to drink” was coined for rugrats such as ourselves. While our wild behavior may have spawned many great discoveries, by far the grandest of them all is when my dear ol’ dad stumbled across what in my mind is a testament to the spirit of American ingenuity, and parental decorum.

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The Ward Eight has been around forever, yet few people have heard of it. What’s doubly strange about this is, it’s an incredibly palatable cocktail. It’s basically a whiskey sour with more juice in it. In fact, in his critique of the drink for Esquire, David Wondrich wrote, “the sharp tang of the rye blends just so with the bite of the lemon and the rounded sweetness of the orange, leaving absolutely no taste of liquor. In short, this drink lies like a politician.”

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We had some friends over yesterday afternoon (U know who U R! Luv U lots! Stay as sweet as U R! SIT!) to do some cocktailing, so I wanted to start this week with the drink that ran away from the pack, the hands-down favorite, the one cocktail to rule them all!

How freaking good am I talking? What Stephanie said: “I would wear this as perfume.” Michelle: “This is the Most. Intriguing. Cocktail. I have ever tasted.” And then more Michelle: “I would order a second one of these just so I could spend more time with it.”

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There’s a whole flow chart of professional angst leading to today’s drink, starting with this week’s edition of “The Tipsy Diaries,” a cocktail-centric column penned for the New York Times by its restaurant critic emeritus, Frank Bruni. Bruni’s restaurant-writing tenure — or I should say tenor; Bruni never refused the gooey puns that roiled forth from his brain, just as he couldn’t seem to wrestle the keyboard away from his occasional alter ego, Frannie Von Furstinshow — had its critics, some insidiously scathing in their put-downs.

Much of the disdain stemmed from the fact that Bruni had no professional food-writing background. But neither did I when I started writing restaurant reviews in St. Louis, so the worst I can say about him is 1) he went to UNC; 2) I am not him. And in order to become him, of course, I must destroy him.

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Guest post by Michelle Wiener, a great friend and fellow writer who I encourage you to follow here and here

Some people have a gift. They can create glorious cocktails and have a knack for dressing up traditional drinks so that they taste entirely new.

The proprietor of this blog is one of these wondrously inventive people. [Oh, pshaw. -- Ed.]

I am not.

Put me in a kitchen with a dozen random food items, and I can make something tasty on the fly. But with drinks, I tend toward tried and true recipes with little variation. I like Manhattans and martinis and the most daring I get is experimenting with a new gin. So when Rose invited me to write a guest post, I knew that I’d be seeking outside help. And my outside help happens to be a fantastic, outdated (sorry, I mean “vintage”) book that my boyfriend’s grandfather used to own: The Esquire Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949.

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Folks, how cool is my mother in law? So cool, she got me this for Christmas:

Moonshine! White dog! Rotgut! White lightning! Hooch! Fire water! Mountain dew!

Academically speaking, corn whiskey, made from a mashbill of a government-mandated-minimum 81 percent corn (with rye and malted barley making up the difference) that usually sees the inside of a charred oak barrel exactly never. In other words, it’s a sort of bastardized, unaged bourbon (which requires at least 51 percent corn in its mashbill and some time sittin’ in charred oak).

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Sometimes I get sooo sick of myself. Me and my “ooh, me likey bourbon cocktails, egg white, Licor 43, bourbon meow meow.” (You have to imagine Miss Piggy saying it to get the full effect.)

A good remedy for a cocktail rut is How’s Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well, by Eric Felten, an impresario equal parts food/drink/culture critic and jazz trombonist/crooner/bandleader. The book is a sort of loosely chaptered collection of drinking vignettes throughout history, with recipes here and there. It’s a great read to keep on the shelf and just flip through. Today, I flipped to the Clipper Cocktail.

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