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In Montreal, Halloween’s a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM…).
We’ll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world’s greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I’m so excited!
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Rye Perfect Manhattan
Rye used to be implied
When ordering Manhattans
Bourbon’s bastardized that, but it’s ok, bourbon; I love you, too.
I like to surprise people
By serving them a Manhattan
And then a rye perfect one.
Watch their faces as a new favorite drink is discovered!
So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.
The origin story of my house cocktail begins with a glass of amaro, the bitter Italian liquor flavored with a secret mixture of herbs, roots, dried citrus peel and who-knows-what. After a meal at Frankies Sputino, a terrific Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, a friend offered me a taste as they drink it in Italy: straight-up, after a meal, as a digestif. I wasn’t a fan. Too syrupy, too bitter, too sweet. But, I thought at the time, this would go great with some seltzer and a splash of citrus.
So I tried that combo — and loved it. The seltzer cut through the viscous amaro and some lemon (or a combination of lemon and orange) brightened its dark flavors. It was refreshing, tasty and (to use a word I try to avoid when writing about booze) addictive. I tried a few amari and settled on Averna, a Sicilian brand that is particularly herbal and dark. I drank that combo all through that summer.
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.
There is a bar a few blocks down from our apartment in The Plateau, which is Montreal’s Park Slope or maybe Cobble Hill, that embodies everything this city doesn’t get about the art of drinking. For starters, its name is Bar Scoop. I like to call it Bar Le Scoop because it’s funnier, but my point is: Who wants to drink at a place called Scoop? This isn’t an ice cream parlor or a T-shirt neckline or, like, some little whippersnapper-squirt-neighbor-kid. (“Heya, Scoop!” It is a problem if your bar’s name makes me want to toot out a “Heya!”)
I was a good kid growing up, but a lousy history student. If I’d been a bad kid — if I’d drank, I mean — I think I would’ve done much better with the history stuff.
Intellectually speaking, what I love about booze (food, too) is that it’s everything. It’s history and it’s agriculture, it’s economics (both macro and micro? I was especially shitty at Econ), culture and style, a science and, some of us even like to believe, an art. If I’d been remotely interested in a subject like cocktails as a teenager (rum and diet Coke not included), it could’ve been my entry into giving a shit about the subject of history.
Which brings me to Tom Bullock, St. Louis bartender of yesteryear and creator of the All Right Cocktail.
It’s the end of Spring Break week. Which means it’s time to take this Spring Break into Overtime!
This is how you make a Duck Fart: You pour equal parts Kahlua, Bailey’s and Canadian whiskey into a shot glass, in that order, using a bar spoon to layer the latter two liquors.
This is what it looks like when you make a Duck Fart:
First off, a note about this week at the blog: SPRIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNGGG BREAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKK!!!!!
Spring break is kinda my favorite time of year for a number of reasons, the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament being the top two of those reasons, but I’m getting ahead of myself. To kick off Spring Break week, nothing seemed more appropriately debauched than a cocktail in honor of Mr. Full of Bad Decisions himself, the opprobrious Carlos Irwin Estevez.