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When I picture my perfect Memorial Day — meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot — what I’d really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack — I’m not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful.
The key part of that scenario is the porch. I love porches. Back decks are for frat boys; porches are for ladies. Patios are for Ice Storm-era outdoor key parties; porches are for timeless, halcyon-hazy relaxation and reflection. Stoops are for selling your old shit; porches are, gloriously, for doing as little shit as possible.
I’d made some iced tea earlier this week. I’d made it for Sean’s Uncle Kit, who had dinner at our place while he was in town for work and who doesn’t drink. I made an iced white tea infused with lemon and spiked with ginger water. (Ginger water = what’s left over when you boil fresh ginger to make candied ginger. I made a lot of candied ginger in the fall and saved the water in Popsicle molds.) It was so good that I couldn’t wait for my teetotaler to leave so I could use it to whip up a cocktail.
Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put ‘em together and what’ve you got? A 35-day month, but one that’s worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.
When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe’s inspiration from a restaurant‘s cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I’m paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.
Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn’t wait to get down somebody’s gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that’s despite that fact that I’d subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.
So the Triple Crown wound up being a big bust this year. And even though the news is kinda bittersweet/poignant/ironic for us alkies who thought we’d finally found our spirit animal in a horse named I’ll Have Another, it’s no bigs. Let’s keep sippin’ juleps all the same. Let’s just make ‘em stiffer to take the edge off.
Came across this recipe from so-awesome-I-must-slay-him-in-order-to-become-him David Wondrich on Liquor.com and knew we had to try it. Have I ever done a white julep before? Wait… have I never done a white julep before?!? Where’s my brain? (Blotto’d on moonshine, obvs.)
Damn you, St. Louis! Damn your exploding cocktail scene, three-and-a-half years after I move away. Damn you and your 150-libations-long cocktail menus and your Tales of the Cocktail award noms, your Ted Kilgores, your envy-inducing, membership-only cocktail boites that just happen to be housed in the most awesomest speakeasy-style restaurant space EVER.
And damn the recent cover story in Alive Magazine (a local lifestyle rag for chicks with meticulously maintained blonde highlights that I make fun of a lot in my head, but still) listing the top 20 cocktails in the city, which just so happened to be the current issue when I swung through town a few weeks ago, reeling as I customarily do from the timewarp-mindfuck that comes from revisiting my once-hometown, coupled with the fact that I’m still pregnant and
can’t shouldn’t really no damnit can’t drink anyway. You are killing me Saint Louis.
Wedding season’s sprung up early this year here at the blog. Last week, besides my trucking down to NJ to attend Cousin Mark‘s fiancee’s shower, one of you e’d me desperate for help with a groom’s cocktail to serve at his upcoming nuptials. Why desperate? Because of when upcoming: This very gracious gentleman, Jon, e’d me on a Wednesday needing a recipe for the reception on Saturday. Ladeeeeez, dudes and wedding planning OMG AMIRITE??!?
Obligatory awwwWWW! pic of Mark and his fiancee, Molly!
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.”
In my rush of enthusiasm for all things post-vernal equinox, the Triple Crown is of course on my mind. I have a love/huh? relationship with horse racing which is also not a very deep relationship, but it’s also a fun relationship. What I mean is, I really really don’t understand horse racing, but when I lived in St. Louis I enjoyed playing “horse hooky” on summer afternoons, sneaking off with my friend Mike to the track, and of course there are all the cocktail traditions that go along with the sport.
The Preakness Cocktail actually bears a closer resemblance to a Manhattan than a mint julep, and it’s not even the most “official” cocktail of the Preakness Stakes. That would be the Black-Eyed Susan, so named because the winning horse is ceremonially sheathed in a coverlet of Maryland’s state flower. The Black-Eyed Susan, in turn, is like a first cousin to a Hurricane or some such monstrosity: it’s made of vodka, cheap whiskey, sour mix and orange juice, garnished with an orange slice and a Maraschino cherry (skewered together on a cellophane-frilled toothpick, I’m sure). I believe it’s what they serve to the muddied masses who buy the cheap tickets that allow them standing-room admission to the infield, which this May includes a Maroon 5 concert! Sounds about right.
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?
Now just hear me out.
Back in July, out of semi-desperation, I bought a pre-bottled, pre-mixed, $11 Jack and Coke from a vendor at a Mets (again, just hear me out!) game. It was surprisingly good, actually rather delicious, with no chemical sheen to the taste and a proper balance of liquor and cola. I noticed, perhaps for the first time, that Jack Daniel’s is well suited to the and-Coke genre. Bourbons almost blend in too well, with too much overall roundness to the highball; rye whiskeys can work but can also go down scratchy. Jack and Cokes are smooth up front and finish with a pleasantly peculiar, sour twist. Duly noted.
This post, however, is more about the Coke part. Not long at all after that Mets game, the Times ran a story on The Rise of the Hipster Soda Jerk (not its real title). And yes, the piece read as a cavalcade of waxed mustaches, sassafras, seltzer siphons and suspenders, but also the notion that “soda” oughta be “special” — uttered by not one but two of the jerks quoted.