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H.L. Mencken called the martini the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet, but I think the Sidecar goes one better: It’s as engrossing and enrapturing as the Great American novel.
While riffling through my ever-beloved Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks by Simon Difford’s recipe for a Sazerac. Ask any goomba how to make a classic one and you’ll be told rye whiskey, bitters (Peychaud’s, sometimes Angostura too), a sugar cube, and an old-fashioned glass coated with absinthe. Well, that’s just not good enough for Monsieur Lord Simon Difford, Esq., Ph.D. VII…
When I tended bar at The Royale Food & Spirits in St. Louis, floating in the ether inside that hallowed drinking hall was something called the Birthday Cake Shot. By “floating in the ether,” I mean it was a concoction that wasn’t in our top-secret, behind-the-bar recipe binder or on our official menu — but it was on patrons’ minds all the same, and many of them knew to ask for one on their (or their friends’) birthdays. Hence, we tenders had to have the shot committed to memory.
Except I never quite did. Instead, I often and repeatedly annoyed my fellow bar employees by asking them to remind me what was in it. I resented the Birthday Cake Shot because I was there to make grown-up cocktails, goddamnit. The Birthday Cake Shot wasn’t even a concoction so much as a contraption, because it was one of those where you had to do it by sucking on a slice of lemon at the finish, and maybe lick some sugar beforehand… again, I can’t remember whatever particular gymnastics were involved. Also, there was Frangelico, and somehow the lemon and Frangelico wound up tasting like yellow cake mix when combined on the tongue. Anyway, you get the point — it was one of those shots wherein its puerile overcomplications were taken as clever by the completely blotto.
So when it came time for me to include a Birthday Cake Martini in The Big Book of Martinis for Moms (because, hey, of course a book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms has to have a birthday-cake martini; I may be a cocktail snob, but I’m not an idiot), I decided that we were gonna do it a little more grown-up-like. Because hey, like it or not, growing up is in fact what a birthday is about.
There are oh, so many things that are inappropriate about the Fort Washington Flip at the time of this writing. One: It’s clear from a quick scan of the cocktail’s ingredients — nutmeg, people; nutmeg – that it ain’t really meant to be quaffed in hot weather. (And it is hot up in herre, good people of places other than Montreal. It is so hot in Montreal today.) Two: Then I actually bothered to read the write-up this drink got on Serious Eats, like, four years ago (a time lapse that, while not outright inappropriate, surely gives away my occasional, self-loathsome tendencies towards procrastination) and, turns out, it was invented by a Cambridge, Mass. bartender in honor of Easter. Easter four years ago. An Easter that was an “early Easter” that year. So again, faux pas sur moi. (If anyone else was surprised to read “Easter,” because the nutmeg made you think Thanksgiving/Xmas… me, too!)
The Easter connection was represented through the use of a whole egg — hence, this cocktail’s proper nomenclature as a flip. (Flip = a whole, raw egg in the drink. There isn’t a term for when you just use raw egg white, like in my World’s Greatest Cosmopolitan.) I made this drink the other day, I made it myself and I made it diligently, not half-assed, and I poured it for the PhoBlograpHusband and for our next-door neighbors and then I poured some for myself (a teensy portion, I swear) and then I drank my teensy portion and then I went home and like 30 minutes later I said, “Oh God, Sean. I’m pregnant and I just drank raw egg.”
I can feel another Eric Felten rager coming on — my curious condition wherein I just want to make cocktails from his book, How’s Your Drink? — and as this one coincides with the advent of the new season of Mad Men, I give you the Vieux Carre.
First, please allow me to quote liberally from Felten’s prose regarding the Vieux Carre’s New Orleans origins (New Orligins?):
“Then there’s the Hotel Monteleone‘s Carousel Bar, where the circular bar revolves slowly under a whimsical carnival canopy of carved wood, mirrors, and bare bulbs. The barstools don’t go up and down, thankfully, but the experience can still be a little disorienting; get caught up in a conversation, and the next thing you know, you’re on the other side of the room. Ask bartender Marvin Allen to mix you up a Vieux Carre, a terrific drink invented by the Carousel’s barman in the 1930s, and unknown to most mixologists outside of the Hotel Monteleone.”
Do you ever wonder how so many cocktails are invented and everyone keeps them all straight — or doesn’t? Like how you can consult one Very Trustworthy Published Source and get Recipe A for a cocktail of some historical note, and then you reference Another Such Source and Recipe B is variegated enough that you’re like, huh? Because if roads and bridges, whatever the recipe is for making them is, if those had been so casually bandied about we’d all be geographically stranded at best and dead from falling asphalt at worst.
Sometimes I think about those things. I thought about them recently while we were mixing Honeymoons. Doing so was actually the PhoBlograpHusband‘s idea, since we recently acquired our first-ever bottle of Applejack. We got Laird’s, natch, because JERZEEEEE! (Like Laird’s, Sean and I are from New Jersey.)
From what my Facebook feed tells me, summer is already in the air for many of you Americans. For me, it’s hit a balmy 45 degrees F two days in a row and I’m ready to cartwheel down the sidewalk in short shorts even though the sidewalk’s still encrusted with shin-high piles of dirtsnow on either side.
While walking the dogs this morning in nothing but a heavy wool coat (wheee!) I noticed that construction has finally started on a new SAQ that’ll be located a full 1 2/3 blocks closer to us than the SAQ that’s currently closest to us. Even better, the new one is clearly too big to be a SAQ Express, which means maybe they’ll carry something other than wine and Jack Daniel’s.
(The different kinds of SAQs (government-run liquor stores) up here in Quebec are SAQ Express (bodega), SAQ Depot (warehouse) SAQ Signature and SAQ Selection (the difference being?). It’s kinda like Gap, BabyGap, etc.)
Let’s just call Valentine’s Day what it is — a test — and I’ll openly admit to what I am, a flunky. Which means that this year, not only did I completely neglect to get a gift for my sweet, patient, kind and deeply attractive PhoBlograpHusband, but whenever it did occur to me that I oughta do a V-Day cocktail for the blog, I’d be all, “Err, d’ya really think those guys [Ed. Note: that's you] want a special drink for Valentine’s? I don’t know if they’d be into that…”
So this weekend, while away on a five-day, half-work/half-play trip to my old St. Louis stomping ground, I briefly mentioned to the PhoBlograpHusband via gchat that, if possible, it’d be great if he could whip up something holiday-appropriate while I was gone that we could then post. He’s in the middle of a large project right now for a class on Hollywood film musicals, which helps keep things spicy in our relationship by causing me to wonder on occasion just how gay he is, because he’s really into it, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I brought it up once and that was that. And a couple of days later, he emails me the recipe and photos for the Is You Is My Baby. Now there is a man who can ace a test with flying colors even when it wasn’t a test I was actually bothering to proctor.
This is a post about friendship, a subject that tends to worm its way into your cranium quite a bit when a) it’s January and b) you’re spending your first of several years abroad, hundreds of miles from the people you like best and also from a TV that carries American college basketball.
Our friends Michelle and Dan, back in New York, are pretty awesomesauce peeps. I knew Michelle vaguely but fondly from the first time I lived in the city, before moving to the Midwest for several years. From the very minute I moved back to Gotham, thanks to forces I’ll never quite understand but will forever appreciate, the friendship was just there, fully realized and present. We both met our respective fiances within a year, doubling the number of very cool people we got to hang out with whenever we hung out together.
Of course, Michelle and Dan are big cocktail fans. (Srsly, why else would Sean and I ever hang out with anyone?) They’re not quite as fanatical as we are, I’d say, because in their hearts they save some room for beer, and also their whiskey allegiance veers towards the waters of northern Europe (IRL, UK, etc.) rather than the Nation of Kentucky. But a couple summers ago when Sean and I wanted to drive upstate to the Tuthilltown Distillery‘s Facebook Fan Appreciation Day (yes, that was a real thing — shut up, Sean won a bourbon barrel!), we knew exactly who we wanted to come along with us.
OK, OK, some of y’all are probably thinking, Enough with the juleps!
And then there are folks like me, who simply cannot have enough julep recipes at their disposal. I collect julep recipes like I used to collect Smurf figurines. Srsly, how you can possibly have enough deliciousness at your fingertips?