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Me: Hey, J. and M. [our favorite married-couple-with-new-baby-in-Montreal friends] invited us over on Mother’s Day afternoon for cocktails. J.’s mother and grandmother are in town. J. says her mother and I will get along because we’re both drinkers.
The PhoBlograpHusband: Wait — for cocktails?! [J. doesn't drink; M. will drink beer but only because that's the law in Canada.]
Me: I know, right? J. even emailed me their list of what booze they’ve got in the house and, omg, it’s sooo “we never drink hard liquor.” It’s, like, gin, vodka, Jack Daniel’s, a little bit of dry vermouth, OJ.
PHB: We should bring our own stash over.
There’s a great future in aperitifs and digestifs. I don’t just mean that in a Benjamin-Braddock-searching-for-meaning-in-the-60s-oh-I-get-it-she’s-referencing-The Graduate kind of way. Italian liqueurs are mega-trendy big right now and I say good on it, because they’re relatively cheap (~$20 a bottle, less for vermouths), a little goes a long way, they’re becoming easily available, they have the best ad posters, they were born to make nice in endless kinds of cocktail recipes, and once you start you’ll want to collect them and play with them and come up with neat at-home displays for them like you used to do with your Smurfs.
The Bittman is a source of contention around here. Me, I don’t think much about The Bitt one way or the other. I never read The Bitt’s Minimalist column with regularity and have never understood the cult of his personality. He’s just a goofy white guy who mostly cooks off-book, right? Who can’t do that? Buy whatever’s wholesome and on sale, go home and Google “easy [something you just bought] recipe,” pick the one you can fudge the best and make. (At least, that’s what I do.)
(Having said that, my new love is Gojee.com, which lets you search blogged-about recipes by ingredients you have/crave/dislike. And I’m not just saying that because this blog is included in the new Gojee Drinks database!)
Anyway, Sean hates The Bitt. What Sean has to say about The Bitt is, “He’s just annoying and he seems like a hack. I don’t understand why anybody cares what he has to say. I do not trust his authority. I feel like anyone could be Mark Bittman, he just happens to be the one, probably because he knows somebody or various other social injustices.”
Yet I couldn’t look away when a recent Bittman headline in the Times touted “A Radical Rethinking of Thanksgiving Leftovers.” Just how “radical” were we talking here? Well, The Bitt had me at “pan-fried stuffing cakes,” and so I read until the end, where I was rewarded with the notion of a Cranberry Negroni. Or really, tortured by reading in print that The Bitt had come up with a way to sneak a cocktail into his list of 20 radicalizations, and WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT, DAMMIT?! DAMN THE BITT!! (I’m not the only one who feels this way, either.)
I have done such a complete 180 on Campari over the last few years… actually, sometimes I fear that it’s not so much that I’ve done a 180 on Campari as I’ve suffered from a life-long brain-fart conflation between Campari and Pimm’s. Because they’re both russet-toned and from the other side of the ocean, just like Communists, and my memory really started going to pot when I hit 34. The point is, I will still look at you sideways if you tell me you really love Pimm’s Cups and probably ask to see your papers because you’re clearly a pond-jumping toffer, but I will toast with you the whole night through if you tell me you love Negronis and Americanos. (Which are from Italy, I realize… logic’s not my strong suit today.)
It’s clear I’ve also been on a bit of an old-fashioned kick lately, probably because whiskey drinks on the rocks are inherently winter-appropriate, to my mind, and not terribly elaborate to make. This Campari Old-Fashioned is super-easy to make and gives you a reason to pull the Campari bottle down from the shelf between the months of November and April.
In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.
First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!… Wait, I’ve never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.
Starting from scratch, here’s how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won’t be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they’d even give you money for it.
Readers, I know I walked out on you six weeks ago sans peep, leaving you high and dry (literally) like a (figurative) con man who says he’s just stepping out for a pack of smokes, and I apologize fully and sincerely for the subsequent dormancy of this blog. Know this, though: That whole time I was gone, I did not cheat on you. Not ever. Not once.
Sure, my crazy, overpacked life since early May has included a cousin-in-law’s Vermont nuptials complete with top-shelf Knob Creek behind the open bar; the debut of a wine bar and beer garden directly across the street from my apartment (the night they opened, they served me a cheese plate that contained a pat of butter disguised as a slice of white cheddar, and yeah, I bit into it, but you know, bygones); a random tipsy game night here and a solitary evening at home with a bottle of wine there. But no cocktails. I really went well over a month without drinking a proper cocktail. So what I’m saying is, maybe I’m an ass for disappearing like that, but I’m a faithful ass.
Guest post by Joshua Brown, a St. Louis-based, full-time technology geek and part-time bourbon connoisseur
I’m a sucker for “old timey” cocktails, particularly those that have gone out of mainstream favor. I think this comes from a love of the art of cocktail crafting, frequently lost now where the most quaffed drinks tend to have a list of all their components in their names (“Jack and Coke,” or “Gin and Tonic”). This affection of mine—born, I suspect, from watching my father opt recurringly for the venerable Manhattan—hasn’t always cast me in a favorable light in the eyes of bartenders. In one case, I had admittedly pushed my luck too far at an open-bar gala. I started with a Manhattan (familiar enough), moved to a Sidecar, and then crossed the line in ordering a Sazerac. This was met with a dumbfounded stare, and then a, “Godammit, nobody drinks that old shit anymore!”
Today’s drink was born in a time where the word “silent” in front of “movie” was itself unspoken as the default.
Hey, ‘member a few weeks back when I blogged about that batch of Negroni I’d whipped together and funneled into my favorite flask in the name of cocktail-aging experimentation — and then couldn’t hold my wad for more than five days before popping it open? Well, someone sprouted some willpower this winter, as I’ve since gone a whole month without having a touch or sneaking a taste. Yay, Rosie! I’m a grownup!
If you want to drink at Death & Company, you talk to the guy standing outside with the pad and pen. In winter, he’ll be the one donning a puffy coat as big as a monster-truck tire. You give him your name, your cell’s digits and the number of people in your party — a number which should always be exactly two. (Seven’s the max, but take a moment to picture seven liquored friends trying to divvy up a tab of several $13 cocktails.)
He’ll then instruct you to go somewhere else (try Tile Bar or the McDonald’s on the corner) until you get a call from him that your table’s ready. This is when you kindly inform him that you’d actually prefer seats at the bar. This is how you will insure having the time of your life at Death & Co. — and getting your money’s worth.
Two things I jump: bandwagons and the gun.
Bandwagons: Ever since the New York Times ran a story in late December about the upswinging trend of barrel-aged cocktails — pre-mixing a large batch of an all-liquor tipple, like a Manhattan or a Martinez, then setting it aside for a month or more in either a glass vessel of some kind or a genuine oak barrel, preferably one that’s already been used to age something else — I’ve been all like gimme gimme I wanna I wanna. I even can brag my very own used oak barrel; Sean won a three-galloner from Tuthilltown Spirits in upstate New York (purveyors of Husdon Whiskeys) at their Facebook Fan Appreciation Day over the summer. (I originally misunderstood Sean’s e-mail informing me he won the barrel. I thought it came with three gallons of bourbon inside it and told everybody so. That was embarrassing.)