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Did you know you can make a Manhattan* with aged rum instead of bourbon? Because you totally can and it’s really pretty good!
I happened upon this discovery of sorts while toying with recipes for that Montreal Bar vs. Chef competition I clearly can’t stop talking about. My original idea was to do a flip, but after many, many attempts to make even a halfway-decent one, it was clear that what I had on my hands was actually a flop. (Rim shot!)
I’m gonna be honest with you guys — I’m always honest with you guys, right? — and tell you that the Whatchawant is actually a mistake version of another drink I wanted to make for y’all. Maybe not so much a mistake as misinformation; based on what I’d read of it in a magazine, I went about recreating this particular cocktail — wrongly, as it turns out — that’s on the menu at a place in St. Louis called Sanctuaria Wild Tapas.
I can’t vouch for how “wild” the tapas is (does it belly dance for you unsolicited, just ‘cuz it feelin’ feisty?), but the cocktail side of Sanctuaria’s operation is phantasmagoric in concept and makes me regret leaving St. Louis before I got to set foot in the place. Get this:
When Tao — short for Taoufike Zrafi, bartender extraordinaire at Piano Rouge in Old Montreal — came out from behind the bar after his turn up at bat competing in Montreal Bar vs Chef, I beelined over to him, pat him on the back and bellowed, “Looks like someone really wants to go to Jamaica!” (Because the top prize at our little Appleton-sponsored cocktail competition was a trip to, um, Jamaica.)
What Tao invented (“concocted” is too culinarily namby-pamby a word) sent my lower jaw slamming into the floorboards. When you’re at home futzing around with your shaker and your bottles, do you ever play-act mad-scientist-going-MWAH-HA-HA fantasies in your head? Tao’s Smoking Kingston is actually that.
As if that is not enough, Tao’s presentation included a laminated copy of this flow chart (Tao calls it a “polygramme”; adorbs!):
And now, since you are absolutely as confused/titillated/stunned/feeling stupid as I originally was, I’ll let Tao explain (in cutely imperfect English) what’s up.
OK, yes, I know Dark and Stormies are so 2009-at-Botanica. Even if I did not know that, it is a fact that the D’nS has jumped the fad shark because by the time the NYT gets around to running a story about something, that something has likely already filtered its way down into a TGI Friday’s/Old Navy/insert corporate chain you love to mock here.*
The thing is, Dark and Stormies are good. So good. At our bon voyage boozeefest in July, our lushy-lush friends polished off an entire bottle of Myers’s in one night thanks to Dark and Stormies. And they’re so goddamned simple it’s almost not fair. They’re highballs, for Chrissakes. Why bother bashing your skull coming up with the GREATEST COCKTAIL EVER when it’s so easy to just fix yourself a Dark and Stormy? Read the rest of this entry »
You know that month and change earlier this summer (it’s still summer, right? Cuz in Montreal it kinda no longer is) when I wasn’t blogging? Becuz I was moving? Out of the country? Well, during the first couple weeks post-move — when Montreal’s August air hovered around a blissful 74-degrees-Fahrenheit-(eff-this-Celsius-shiz-up-here)-and-breezy — Sean and I often retreated to our blacktopped backyard for five o’clock cocktail hour. (It’s not just a blog; it’s a thing you can do!)
And during those first couple weeks, when boxes were still in the unpacking and Francophone grocery stores still scurred me a bit, I got into the habit of doing something that I chafe to admit to you good people… I made a lot of Ghetto Juleps.
I am writing to you from on a cocktail high. It’s almost noon yet I’m still riding my 3 a.m. buzz. Last night, I competed alongside 11 of the city’s best bartenders in the first-ever Montreal Bar vs. Chef competition. It was like PROM FOR COCKTAIL NERDS!!!
The contest was held at Le LAB, my maison away from maison here in Montreal. (The first night Sean and I went there, I got just pickled enough that I started blabbing about my cocktail blog, and next thing I know the LAB staff and the PhoBlograpHusband had conspired against me to sign me up for the contest, despite my being neither a French-fluent nor an actually-employed bartender.) It was sponsored by Appleton Estate and consisted of three parts:
Yesterday was also Grandparents’ Day. I have a soft spot for that day because when I was in the third grade, I guess there had been some sort of grade-wide or school-wide announcement that to recognize the holiday, your grandparents were welcome to come sit in on class on a particular afternoon; mine were the only ones who showed up to Ms. Nichols’ classroom. These were my mother’s parents, who were really the only grandparents I ever had.
As my mother tells it, as seniors her parents came to swap the personalities each had embodied during their child-raising years. My Grandpa had been the fearmongering disciplinarian of my Mom’s childhood (imposingly tall, his carriage had borne the obscure menace of a Hitchcock villain) while Grandma was the good cop, the parent you’d go to after the other one had said no, or the parent you’d run and hide behind when the other was chasing you down for a spanking. As I knew them, though, Grandpa was a peaceable, lovable giant and Grandma was a rusty, old broad who could turn on you in an ashy-tipped flick of one of her Vantages.
Since mid-August, I’ve had “Jean-Talon-tini” jotted down in my cocktail scratch pad (of course I have one of those), to be concocted as homage to Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market. Jean-Talon’s a great place. I’ve had a dark chocolate slushie there, which is even more enjoyable than you’d expect, even if you’d expect it to be quite enjoyable. They’ve got a great culinary bookstore with a spirits section that has sent my heart a-palpitating. I’ve bought ice wine there and plan to soon buy a dozen organic “pee wee” eggs because they look like the perfect size for including in cocktails. Also, there’s a Turkish dessert cafe that looks absolutely scrumptious and I plan on having one of everything they offer before I have to move back to the States.
But probably the best thing about the Jean-Talon is that the produce vendors put out slices of tomatoes, cukes, tangerines, plums and citrus (OK, so some of the stuff’s imported) for unlimited sampling. Most importantly, they put out peaches. I say this because I really can’t think of anything on Earth I like eating more than a peach. I remember when I was a kid, my mother used to buy them maybe a half-dozen at a time and kept them out on the counter, arranged on a cookie sheet that she’d line with paper towels. When the peaches’ texture was just so — when a big bite yielded an even bigger, audible slurping-up of juice, when the meat of the peach could almost be called creamy — I would often eat three at a time, standing in the middle of the kitchen.
There is a bar a few blocks down from our apartment in The Plateau, which is Montreal’s Park Slope or maybe Cobble Hill, that embodies everything this city doesn’t get about the art of drinking. For starters, its name is Bar Scoop. I like to call it Bar Le Scoop because it’s funnier, but my point is: Who wants to drink at a place called Scoop? This isn’t an ice cream parlor or a T-shirt neckline or, like, some little whippersnapper-squirt-neighbor-kid. (“Heya, Scoop!” It is a problem if your bar’s name makes me want to toot out a “Heya!”)