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What Santa didn’t bring me for Christmas
this last year, I got for myself at The Wine Library back in the States, including two key ingredients for The Apropos: 1) the Italian aperitif Aperol, Campari’s genteel cousin: lighter in color and alcohol content, but produced by the same parent company (nowadays, not originally); 2) yellow Chartreuse – likewise, not as strong as the better-known green Chartreuse — which was actually on the wish list of a bartending friend back in Canadia. (By the way, remind me never to tell you about the time the PhoBlograpHusband and I managed to transport a double-digit number of booze bottles across the border by being completely honest with the customs guard. I don’t know who reads this blog.)
The Bittman is a source of contention around here. Me, I don’t think much about The Bitt one way or the other. I never read The Bitt’s Minimalist column with regularity and have never understood the cult of his personality. He’s just a goofy white guy who mostly cooks off-book, right? Who can’t do that? Buy whatever’s wholesome and on sale, go home and Google ”easy [something you just bought] recipe,” pick the one you can fudge the best and make. (At least, that’s what I do.)
(Having said that, my new love is Gojee.com, which lets you search blogged-about recipes by ingredients you have/crave/dislike. And I’m not just saying that because this blog is included in the new Gojee Drinks database!)
Anyway, Sean hates The Bitt. What Sean has to say about The Bitt is, “He’s just annoying and he seems like a hack. I don’t understand why anybody cares what he has to say. I do not trust his authority. I feel like anyone could be Mark Bittman, he just happens to be the one, probably because he knows somebody or various other social injustices.”
Yet I couldn’t look away when a recent Bittman headline in the Times touted “A Radical Rethinking of Thanksgiving Leftovers.” Just how “radical” were we talking here? Well, The Bitt had me at “pan-fried stuffing cakes,” and so I read until the end, where I was rewarded with the notion of a Cranberry Negroni. Or really, tortured by reading in print that The Bitt had come up with a way to sneak a cocktail into his list of 20 radicalizations, and WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT, DAMMIT?! DAMN THE BITT!! (I’m not the only one who feels this way, either.)
Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.
I’m afraid that one of my oldest friends doesn’t like me much anymore. We used to be thick as thieves. We could really count on each other, you know? I’d sing his praises to anyone who would listen and in turn he’d lift my spirits, get me through tough times… hell, he even helped me meet my wife. But lately, things just haven’t been the same. Why, bourbon? Why have you turned on me?
See, used to be that I could drink bourbon all night and never have a problem. But lately, just a glass or two leaves me worse for wear the next day. This newfound shortcoming has left me in a predicament and wary of ordering my go-to drink, the Manhattan. Thankfully, I have a fallback… enter the Martinez!
Blogging is emotional, people, and here’s why. One day I’m confessing to you all the twists and turns, dead ends, missteps, frustrations and, ultimately, the satisfaction that comes from fashioning a cocktail recipe outta nada. And we liked that, right? The Bathtub Gin(ger) — it sounds delightful, no? We picture, like, those fantastical, Depression-era black-and-white flickers with the Mae West and the Ginger Rogers and the silky peignoirs and the heart-shaped hotel bathtubs on pedestals. Don’t we? (I have a pretty active imagination.)
And then the next day, what I have to confess to you is this: I found this other cocktail site that is a pretty excellent resource for mixologists of all levels, a really thorough, user-friendly, cleanly designed database of drink recipes that absolutely merits my recommending it to you, and now y’all are gonna leave me, I just know it. Boo hoo hoo! Now I’m picturing a Douglas Sirk B-grade weepy in which Barbara Stanwyck slaps the dickens out of her unrequiting lover because she is mentally unhinged and afraid of losing him.
Kindred Cocktails lets you browse recipes by author, ingredient, base liquor or most-recently-added recipes. Anyone is allowed to contribute. The guy who runs it calls himself “Chief Swizzlestick,” which your Head Blogtender finds almost but not quite as clever as Head Blogtender.
In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.
First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!… Wait, I’ve never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.
Starting from scratch, here’s how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won’t be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they’d even give you money for it.
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.)
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!
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:
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.