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When I was penning The Big Book of Martinis for Moms – because that’s how one writes a book; one pens them ever so eloquently; one doesn’t thrash at one’s laptop until the “c” key gets permanently stuck or try to organize one’s writer-blocked thoughts by haphazardly slapping a bajillion Post-Its on the wall like a mental patient — I had an idea for a chocolate-cherry cocktail.
read skimmed why haven’t you bought this book yet please buy this seen the book, you know that the cocktail recipes therein each correspond to a particular feat of motherhood that deserves a potent, potable reward. So like babyproofing the house is an accomplishment that calls for a Rusty Nail, while helping with homework earns Mom a Brainstorm. The chocolate-cherry cocktail, I thought, would be a mother’s just desserts on those blessed afternoons or evenings when she gets to do nothing at all, fluffy-slippered feet resting atop the coffee table. In other words, like drinking a bonbon.
When Googling “aviator cocktail,” one of the top search results is this 2008 story from the NYT’s Dining section entitled “A Brotherhood Formed with Cocktails and Ice.” While the boys’-clubbish headline does make me wince (here’s one occasion where I’m all for a “personhood” amendment; how about “camaraderie,” Gray Lady?) the story tickles my historical fancy, as I feel like it’s sort of the ur-trend piece about us modern-day cocktailians (as one of those quoted in the piece preferred to be called, rather than “cocktail geek”).
A recipe for the Aviation Cocktail No. 1 is one of two that accompany the piece. Note that I just wrote Aviation Cocktail No. 1, not Aviator Cocktail No. 1. [Inner cocktail geek jolted awake by persnickety clarification.] The latter is actually more obscure, it seems, and therefore much harder to come by online. [Geek full of pride for self, knows more obscure cocktail knowledge than most, is so cool!] And as the numerical nomenclature suggests, both the Aviation Cocktail and the Aviator Cocktail come in more than one accepted form. [Geeeeeekkkkyyyeeeeaaaahhhhh!]
If you are a minutia-obsessed Seinfeld fan like I am (Is it possible to be any other kind of Seinfeld fan? Minutia is that dude’s umwelt) then you remember the episode wherein Jerry tries to decipher the note he scribbled in the middle of the night while half-asleep. He finally figures out it’s a line from a sci-fi B-movie he’d been up late watching. A line, it turns out, that’s actually not that funny.
Such it’s been for me the past few weeks with a drink name and recipe I came across and jotted down and now I’m all like, wuh? The drink’s called The Filthy Narwhal, and Googling it comes up goose eggs as far as a source or point of origin.* I think I may have seen it on the online cocktail menu of some resto in Boston. I have no idea why I think that, seeing as I can’t remember the last time I was in Boston, nor do I have any plans to be in Boston, but so fire the synapses of my sleep-deprived memory these days.
What I need no help recalling is what about the Filthy Narwhal made me want to copy it down — it’s got a pickle garnish! I [heart] pickles. When I
shove pastrami down my piehole dine respectably at a Katz’s or a Schwartz’s or any other Jewish deli, I’m mainly in it for the pickles. (Maybe I just have a thing for foods that are green?)
On a different** episode of Seinfeld, Seinfeld said, “I’ve never had a really good pickle.” While this statement should bring much shame on Jerome and his Hebrew roots, I am here to state that you can have a really good pickle martini. Like, The Really Good Pickle Martini.
Have I really never discussed with you peeps my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream? Let me rephrase more accurately — my looooove, my looovvvvvelurrrrrvemmmmnomonomnomnomohmommymygoddammmnnn for mint chocolate chip ice cream? That’s just not possible. Is that possible?
[Point of information, as I've just now bothered to fact-check my own query: It is indeed not possible. I blogged about my mint-chocolate fetish last June when I made up the Alexander the Great, my mint chip-arak concoction. Yum.]
What’s really not possible, then, is that it’s taken me this long to talk about the Grasshopper.
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.
A million years ago Last year, I did some damage to a bottle of yellow Chartreuse. Actually, it was only half a bottle; a Francophone friend up here in Montreal asked me to bootleg him back from the States a 375ml-sized bottle of the stuff, and as I could only find the 750ml size, I shared it with him.
Anyway, I’ve had some yellow Chartreuse on hand, is what I’m saying, and it’s one of those liqueurs (like ouzo) where a little goes a long way. Especially since it’s got a peculiar flavor that doesn’t go with every Old Tom, Dick and Harry. Even more especially because yellow Chartreuse, unlike its green cousin, is super ‘spensive, so you want that shizz to last.
The real reason we all drink, I think, when you get right down to it (and I’m paraphrasing myself here), is to whisk(ey) ourselves away in our mind’s eyes to another place and time, preferably involving fedoras, garters, cigarette holders, evening gloves, watch fobs and other accoutrements of a halcyon generation past.
This is certainly true when you now do all your drinking at 9 p.m. in your messy kitchen, with your kid finalllllly asleep a couple rooms away, a geriatric dog who perpetually smells like pee hanging out at your feet and a mound of dirty dishes staring you down from across the room.
But I don’t want any of you to think, now that I’ve got a daughter and a book that happens to be called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, that this blog is taking a permanent turn towards all things parental. Far from it (just a little for my first week back, perhaps), and my proof to you of this is the Stork Club cocktail.
Hi there. I don’t know why the otherwise lovely pic above insists on orienting itself sideways. But let’s just accept it as some sort of metaphor for the randomness, the precariousness with which life can come at a person, the balancing act we all agree to execute every time our feet hit the bedroom floorboards. It’s still a proper cocktail, goddamn, and after all this time I’ve been away, that’s all my thirst cares about.
So, there is a little bit of news to share on my end, a couple new developments in my life since last we spoke so very long ago. (Months! Practically a year! Are months the new year? Is that a trend I missed since going underground? On a related topic, wtf is a Harlem shake?)
I have a baby now.
People, life was filled with perfectly great reasons to libate before I had the kid. Now there is but one reason to seek out solace in a cocktail glass, and it is this awesome, animated mound of delight, terror, havoc, charm and chaos. She is a writhing, smiling, life-sucking raison d’inebriate.
I’ve been wanting to make this cocktail for months, ever since I scheduled my Midwestern roundabout (Mtl –>StL –>CHI –>TOR –>Mtl) for late April and knew I’d get the chance to revisit The Matchbox, that sliver of a Chicago watering hole that is basically the greatest bar on Earth. To sate myself in the weeks prior, I read through Matchbox’s Yelp reviews and saw that, time and again, opiners were recommending the pineapple gimlet. Doesn’t that sound ah-mah-zing? A pineapple gimlet!
And then the PhoBlograpHusband and I finally went to The Matchbox and got the last two seats at the bar during happy hour. It seemed foolish for me to order and pay for an entire cocktail that I could only take one sip of (per my own pregnancy rules) so I asked Sean to order himself a pineapple gimlet and he said no. He was in the mood for a Manhattan. I suppose I could choose to call my husband a big, fat jerk at this point but it’s really OK. I pouted for a moment and then moved on.
Something that may or may not surprise you: I’m one of those people who likes to scour the Internet for various DIY tutorials and then implement them all over my house, oftentimes to the mild chagrin of the PhoBlograpHusband. (Two nights ago, our kitchen table was occupied for 12 hours by our crockpot, wrapped in a beach towel, ‘cuz I was making yogurt.) If I were born fifty years earlier, I would have been a devout Hints from Heloise kinda housewise. As it stands, since the start of summer my freezer has contained a big Ziploc full of banana peels and eggshells, so I can spend my weekends making nutritious, eggshell-and-banana peel fertilizer for my outdoor plants.
Also in my icebox are whole, way-overripe bananas whose peels have turned brown. The peels will inevitably see the inside of the aforementioned Ziploc; the bananas themselves are there because a few weeks ago I read online about making a soft-serve, ice cream-like dessert using nothing but frozen bananas and a blender. Given that pregnancy has kicked my ice cream addiction into disgusting overdrive, I thought this was worth a shot. I also thought, frozen banana daiquiris.