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Cherries

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.

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There are oh, so many things that are inappropriate about the Fort Washington Flip at the time of this writing. One: It’s clear from a quick scan of the cocktail’s ingredients — nutmeg, people; nutmeg – that it ain’t really meant to be quaffed in hot weather. (And it is hot up in herre, good people of places other than Montreal. It is so hot in Montreal today.) Two: Then I actually bothered to read the write-up this drink got on Serious Eats, like, four years ago (a time lapse that, while not outright inappropriate, surely gives away my occasional, self-loathsome tendencies towards procrastination) and, turns out, it was invented by a Cambridge, Mass. bartender in honor of Easter. Easter four years ago. An Easter that was  an “early Easter” that year. So again, faux pas sur moi. (If anyone else was surprised to read “Easter,” because the nutmeg made you think Thanksgiving/Xmas… me, too!)

The Easter connection was represented through the use of a whole egg — hence, this cocktail’s proper nomenclature as a flip. (Flip = a whole, raw egg in the drink. There isn’t a term for when you just use raw egg white, like in my World’s Greatest Cosmopolitan.) I made this drink the other day, I made it myself and I made it diligently, not half-assed, and I poured it for the PhoBlograpHusband and for our next-door neighbors and then I poured some for myself (a teensy portion, I swear) and then I drank my teensy portion and then I went home and like 30 minutes later I said, “Oh God, Sean. I’m pregnant and I just drank raw egg.”

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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.”

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Do you ever wonder how so many cocktails are invented and everyone keeps them all straight — or doesn’t? Like how you can consult one Very Trustworthy Published Source and get Recipe A for a cocktail of some historical note, and then you reference Another Such Source and Recipe B is variegated enough that you’re like, huh? Because if roads and bridges, whatever the recipe is for making them is, if those had been so casually bandied about we’d all be geographically stranded at best and dead from falling asphalt at worst.

Sometimes I think about those things. I thought about them recently while we were mixing Honeymoons. Doing so was actually the PhoBlograpHusband‘s idea, since we recently acquired our first-ever bottle of Applejack. We got Laird’s, natch, because JERZEEEEE! (Like Laird’s, Sean and I are from New Jersey.)

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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.

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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.)

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Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

Any good mixologist will tell you: The thing that makes a great cocktail stand apart from a good one is proportion. Yes, having quality product always helps, sometimes a lot. However, a strong case can be made that the true skill of a bartender/cocktail creator is in getting the ratio just right, turning average booze into a mouthwatering beverage. When Rose and I sit down to craft a new cocktail or to recreate something we had out at one of our favorite bars, we spend most of our time fussing over how much or this or that should be in the drink. It can often take us three, four or five tries to get it right. It’s hard work, really, but someone has to do it. And always remember, dear reader, that we do it for you… all for you!

All that being said, I’ve had a thing for equal proportions lately. Perhaps due to my summertime obsession with the Negroni*. When I came across this recipe for The Lamb’[s Club while thumbing through Mark Holcomb’s cocktail book library, I figured I’d give it a try.

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Guest post by Michelle Wiener, a great friend and fellow writer who I encourage you to follow here and here

Some people have a gift. They can create glorious cocktails and have a knack for dressing up traditional drinks so that they taste entirely new.

The proprietor of this blog is one of these wondrously inventive people. [Oh, pshaw. -- Ed.]

I am not.

Put me in a kitchen with a dozen random food items, and I can make something tasty on the fly. But with drinks, I tend toward tried and true recipes with little variation. I like Manhattans and martinis and the most daring I get is experimenting with a new gin. So when Rose invited me to write a guest post, I knew that I’d be seeking outside help. And my outside help happens to be a fantastic, outdated (sorry, I mean “vintage”) book that my boyfriend’s grandfather used to own: The Esquire Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949.

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