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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.
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’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:
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:
This is the story of how a post-theater drink transmogrified in four days’ time into a cocktail made for first thing in the morning — although not really, just in a jokey way — and how your blogtender Sloshy got her groove back along the way.
So Thursday night, I went to see The Normal Heart (OMG GO) on Broadway with my friend Jackie, and afterwards the PhoBlograpHusband met us in midtown for a tipple or two. (It wound up being three, natch.) Beforehand, I’d scoped out this new-ish Theater District bar online called The Rum House, which is on the ground floor of the deliciously retro (if a shade shady) Hotel Edison, and as it’s from the guys behind Ward III in Tribeca, I figured we should check it out.
The lighting was perfectly dimmed and someone was playing away on the upright piano, so I liked The Rum House instantly. On its cocktail menu was a simple creation whose name now escapes me, comprised of bourbon, egg white and one of the countless Amaro liqueurs, served on the rocks. How had I not thought of something like this before? Then again, how was it possible that my home bar still lacked an Amaro, given the number of times I’d lustily ogled bottles of it behind the bars at such reputable establishments as Otto, Mario Batali’s awesome enoteca, and Brooklyn’s Watty & Meg?
Platitude-y as it sounds, the only secret ingredients in the World’s Greatest Mint Julep are care and time. There is no rare species of mint to hunt down and you can use pretty much any brand of bourbon you want. Most everyone (myself included) uses Maker’s Mark. Woodford Reserve is widely considered to be an appropriate top-shelf upgrade, but that’s mostly marketing hype (Woodford being the “official” bourbon of the Kentucky Derby). A julep’s mint and sugar bludgeon subtlety right out of any whiskey. This is not a bad thing. It is, in fact, a most yummy bludgeoning.
I do not advocate making juleps in large batches. What I do when I make an individual mint julep is this. I take pinches of fresh mint leaves and I tear them all in two before dropping them into my julep cup. I do this until the bottom of the cup is covered. Then I pour just enough mint-steeped simple syrup in there to cover the leaves. (To make mint syrup: Make simple syrup on the stove in a pot. The moment you hit boiling, turn off the flame and toss in a handful of mint leaves. Stir a bit. Once it’s cool, strain syrup into container.)
I muddle for longer than is comfortable and I listen all the while for that telltale crunch of the leaves’ veins submitting to me. The reason I first covered the leaves with syrup is, once you start smashing those leaves, they start releasing oils and aromatics, and if the leaves were uncovered and dry, all of that would just escape into the air. The syrup keeps those flavoring agents in the bottom of the glass where they belong.
Thank God it’s Good Friday! And just when I figured y’all had given up soliciting my mixology advice for Lent, lookie what one loyal reader emailed in:
Dear Mrs. Sean,
Ideas for an Easter brunch cocktail/punch thing? We’re doing a Low Country menu for 15 people, main dishes being kick-ass gumbo, shrimp creole, country ham, cole slaw, salad (?!?), biscuits and sausage gravy. Past years’ beverages have included sangria and various champagne cocktail things in punch bowls. We’re hunting for something with Low Country relevance that will be OK for us and appropriate for others of various shapes and sizes, and at 11am on a Sunday.
Now, I’m nothing if not sacrilegious, punny, and a little tipsy right now — that last one on account of my enjoying the heck out of Jesus’ Deathday slurping down some Passionfruit of the Christ Punch, which is what I’ve come up with for said loyal reader. I know that God only blesses those who are humble… but godammit, I done invented some awesome, yum punch! (God also blessed the poor in spirit, and considering my apartment contains about $800 in spirits, I’m screwed anyway.)
Read any good porn lately? Bourbon porn, I am of course talking about.
Back in my Royale days, one of my regulars was a fortysomething former Marine and East Coast transplant named David who, best we could deduce, bought a shack of a house around the corner from the bar specifically for commuting-to-and-from-alcohol purposes. I don’t think any of us ever knew exactly what he did for a living either, and the behind-the-bar debate on his sexuality was endless, but he was always friendly and a huge tipper, so yay David!
Anyway, David’s brother-in-law wrote a book, said David, and David kept promising to bring me a copy. Like many other aspects of David’s existence, I was suspect of this oft-repeated promise, the way you never believe any teenager who claims to have a significant other from summer camp/in Canada. But produce the book he eventually did.
Why did it take thirty-nevermind years of life for me to discover the Presbyterian?
A few months ago, a gaggle of us went to Little Branch, one of the elder statesmen of the New York/pre-Prohibition style/pay-$14-for-a-cocktail-and-beg-for-more temples of cocktailing. Little Branch’s menu does things a little differently that other bars of its ilk — in fact, let’s diverge for a paragraph or two and talk a bit about that, the organization of cocktail menus. (God, what a cocktail dork I am; this stuff actually excites me.)