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In Montreal, Halloween’s a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM…).
We’ll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world’s greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I’m so excited!
Do not attempt this at home. This is the work of a mad genius. Do you have absolutely nothing to do for the next month and want to devote every minute of your days to concocting ONE DRINK TO RULE THEM ALL??!?
The previous sentences are ones I’ve brainstormed over the past few weeks, trying to figure out how the hell I’m gonna blog about Tony Galdes’ entry in last month’s Montreal Bar vs Chef. I’m still not sure how to explain to you what I’m about to explain to you.
Tony was bartending at LAB over the summer. Stopped to go back to school. He is 21 years old. I REPEAT: He is 21 years old. He was born in 1990. I will give you all a moment to collectively sigh, go inspect your gray hairs in the bathroom mirror, and wonder if you’ve ever accomplished anything as massive and brilliant as Tony’s Green Rhum Thumb.
The ex-boyfriend of an ex-friend of mine, a guy who last I heard is now an ex-actor, played the cunnilinguistic Mr. Pussy on an episode of Sex and the City. His audition for the part, I remember hearing at the time, entailed eating (out?) a fig with oral, in flagrante delicto brio.
But that’s neither here or there. I actually want to talk about figs today because, as
I’m hoping at least a few of you noticed over the weekend, I posted on this blog’s Facebook page that I was playing with a recipe I’d found at The Kitchn for a Fig Old-Fashioned. It caught my attention because I happen to have some figs on hand in a very-delicious-and-not-at-all-derelict way. Back in August my friend Jackie visited us and, upon spotting figs at the Jean-Talon Market, declared herself a huge fan and promptly purchased some. Most of them wound up becoming the property of The Five O’Clock Cocktail Blog (certain restrictions apply), and the PhoBlograpHusband, as he is wont to do, immediately set about brandying them.
A Christmas or two ago, I received a bottle of Godiva chocolate liqueur as a gift. It’s not something that I would normally keep around and I don’t generally drink the kinds of drinks that call for it. But it was given with love by someone who liked it herself and I held on to it, stashing it out of sight until recently, when it occurred to me that there was one legitimately very delicious thing I could do with it: augment hot chocolate.
If this blog betters your drinking in but one, minute way, I hope it provides you with a plethora of ideas for mixing easy, whiskey-based cocktails. Sometimes I picture you — yes, you — lumbering through the door of your recession-era, DIY-chic digs, on the edge of weary after a long day slogging through your paper-pushing profession of choice (or, in keeping with the recession theme, necessity), and of course nine times out of ten you’re going to reach for the bourbon. Neat or straight-on-the-rocks will always do, but don’t you deserve a bit more of a to-do? Just something uncomplicated that can add a little brightness, a little aroma, a soupcon of civility to your drink and your day? That’s what I’m here for.
I’ve been trying to recall a good example of how much of a goody-two-shoes I was during my grade-school days. Kids called me “the A girl,” in second grade I wrote a short story about a botanist, and once during a 7th-grade-wide trivia competition, I avoided elimination by successfully (and accurately, ahem) convincing the MC (my math teacher, I believe) that a peanut is, in fact, a legume. Take that, coolness!
Try as I might, though, I can’t think of anything nerdy enough to compare to the eight-page dossier presented by my friend and Le LAB bartender Gabrielle to the panel of judges at Montreal Bar vs. Chef, her completely unrequired, written dissertation for the cocktail that, as it turned out, took first place. (Eight pages = first place. Must remember that for next time.)
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Rye Perfect Manhattan
Rye used to be implied
When ordering Manhattans
Bourbon’s bastardized that, but it’s ok, bourbon; I love you, too.
I like to surprise people
By serving them a Manhattan
And then a rye perfect one.
Watch their faces as a new favorite drink is discovered!
So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.
Let me see if I can explain to you what I’ve done so far today. I woke up at what I consider an ungodly hour, cooked breakfast for others and then didn’t bother to cook any for myself. I took the subway downtown — I much prefer using the Bixi bikes, but the people who were my ward today don’t ride bikes. Then I
felt like I was dragged around walked around various (underground) malls looking at various gewgaws and having near-arguments; in one memorable instance, I had to insist to one of my charges that yes, this is the hat you had on when you left the house this morning.
At 10:50 a.m. (also an ungodly hour, I barely believe in showing my face in public for any reason at that time of day) these annoying twits wanted lunch. By 12:40 p.m., they decided it was snack time. We came back to my place at 2:30 p.m. to take naps. Their naps didn’t last as long as I wanted mine to, which means mine didn’t last as long as I wanted mine to. Since then, I’ve been showing people how to use the phone or admonishing them not to touch this or that.
Why even think about having kids someday? Just babysit your in-from-out-of-town septuagenarian parents all day long!
The origin story of my house cocktail begins with a glass of amaro, the bitter Italian liquor flavored with a secret mixture of herbs, roots, dried citrus peel and who-knows-what. After a meal at Frankies Sputino, a terrific Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, a friend offered me a taste as they drink it in Italy: straight-up, after a meal, as a digestif. I wasn’t a fan. Too syrupy, too bitter, too sweet. But, I thought at the time, this would go great with some seltzer and a splash of citrus.
So I tried that combo — and loved it. The seltzer cut through the viscous amaro and some lemon (or a combination of lemon and orange) brightened its dark flavors. It was refreshing, tasty and (to use a word I try to avoid when writing about booze) addictive. I tried a few amari and settled on Averna, a Sicilian brand that is particularly herbal and dark. I drank that combo all through that summer.