Are Bloody Caesars a thing where you live? As in, a Bloody Mary that swaps in Clamato for toe-mah-toe juice? They seem to be a thing in Montreal — or all of Canada — and I had my first (virgin) one last weekend at Cafe Sardine (to celebrate my Saveur best-blog nom; vote, won’t you?). Let me rhapsodize on this place for a sec before I continue:
This one’s been on my bucket list (it’s a champagne bucket, a-doy) ever since the PhoBlograpHusband and I date-nighted at one of New York Vintners‘ pizza-and-wine tastings: Come up with a cocktail that goes with pizza. A potable that pairs reliably with a slice or a pie — why/how is this not a thing?
The obvious answer: Because a nice glass of red ain’t broke, so why invent something to fix it? Backup answer: Pizza likewise does nicely with crisp Pilsners and not-too-hoppy IPAs. And thirdly, there’s something about a pizza cocktail that just doesn’t sound quite right, even to a boozehound like me. Is it that cocktails are meant for sipping while pizza’s meant for houncing? Do I have some unfounded fear that the cocktail’s going to reach room temperature before I’m done eating? (When I eat pizza, I eat lots of pizza.) Is it the bread, maybe, that eating large quantities of crust just doesn’t feel right with a liquor accompaniment. Is a liquor/’za pairing all too much grain, like eating the meat and the egg of a chicken at the same meal? WTF IS IT??!?
It’s been un longtemps and a day since I’ve posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you’re one of my kindly regular readers — let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).
Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I’m not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn’t it awful how I’m letting y’all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?
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.
Spring has come to Montreal one day ahead of schedule, and man, has it come correct. It’s a splendiferous afternoon up here, one I’ve happily wasted flitting around like a little butterfly, gazing through my office window as neighbors garden their front yards and stray cats strut about the sidewalk, repeatedly checking to see if the snow in our backyard has completely melted (it has not) and just generally jumpy as a junebug and grinning like an idiot. Seasonal affective disorder — what a real thing that is!
A few things about one of our Montreal neighbors, Nadine. First of all, she’s everything you could want in a neighbor, and the fact that she’ll probably read this blog post soon isn’t why I say so. She and her live-in, Francois, invited us over for wine only a few days after we moved here, and the alcohol’s been flowing ever since. We also do things like borrow irons and ice-cream makers and pick up each other’s mail when needed and get together to eat, not just drink, including breakfast, the least inebriated meal of the day. But imbibing’s still what we do most and best, and as Nadine has reminded us many, many times, she is happy to serve as our cocktailing guinea pig whenever she’s needed.
The only problem with that is, Nadine tends towards girlier drinks. To her credit, she’s always willing to give something a try. Usually when we have her and Francois over for cocktails, we start her out with something in the Manhattan vein, which she sips gamely until we pick up on the dissastifaction in her expression and make her admit it’s too strong. When there’s cranberry juice in the house, I’ll reward her with a World’s Greatest Cosmopolitan. Then I’ll use her to road-test all the lollipop stuff I’d rather not drink myself.
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.)
If that was Feh-bruary, I’m hoping this doesn’t become Meh-rch.
Part of the reason I didn’t post much last month was, Sean and I conducted a mega cocktailing session a couple weeks ago that yielded, like, 8 or so bloggable potations — zero-ish of which I felt any excitement about. We were going for volume, and aiming to keep the necessary ingredients in line with what we already had on hand. Such cocktailing under pressure can still yield inspiring results — and in fact, I always try to err on the side of fridge and pantry staples when composing recipes, because, you know, Shit At-Home Bartenders Have.
So maybe it was just Feh-bruary working its dour magic, or maybe the problem was that we relied on one book out of our entire cocktail reference library, a book I must now admit I find lacking in its organization, writing style, fonts and pretty much anything else you eyeball when you open a book.
(If you see this book cover, crack with caution…)
Ladies and gentlemen, where have I been all your month?
Where I’ve been is, first I went out of town for work, then I came home with a cold, then I went out of town again. The short month flew by, my skedge was always being cut at the corners, blogging got squeezed out, and all in all, it was a real Feh-bruary. (I just came up with that, really I did. You can use it, though. Or how about Meh-bruary?)
Throughout, I was hoping that an idea would percolate in the back of my head for this cocktail contest I wanted to enter (deadline: oh, about 89 minutes from this very moment): PAMA’s Best Home Bar Star. Just as it sounds, submitted recipes must include PAMA pomegranate liqueur, and the contest’s only open to amateur, at-home mixologists.
And yet, no inspiration was striking. Like, none. Feh-bruary really lived up to its name-I-just-made-up and I wasn’t coming up with any sort of hook to hang this drink on. So what I did was, I went to the supermarket, hoping that browsing the aisles would somehow reveal a perfect, secret ingredient to me. In the juice aisle, I found my muse.
Did you know that the French word for pomegrante is grenade? And just like a grenade, BOOM — cocktail framework smacks me upside the head. French ingredients, something that really goes pow on the palate. Voila.
The Grenade Launch
1 ounce Bulldog Gin
3/4 ounce PAMA
1/2 ounce St.-Germain
1/2 ounce Lillet
1 dash yellow Chartreuse
1 dash orange blossom water
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into cocktail glass.
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.