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The first time I ever drank alcohol (Mom, stop reading now) was at a party at Jeff Dakin’s house. I was 16, I think, and there was Budweiser in cans. As I couldn’t stand the taste of the
champagne of beer s, I emptied a can into an oversized, plastic cup and mixed it with OJ, which was all I could find in the Dakin family fridge that struck me as even plausible to combine with pissy lager. And so my career in mixology began .
I remember being so embarrassed by this that I only did my mixing when nobody else was in the kitchen, but I also remember coming up with a name for my concoction — the Rosebud — which means I must’ve talked to other kids there about it, or at least that I saw the humor in what I was doing.
If I’d known then about red wine and Coke, think 0f how boldly I could’ve plundered Mr. and Mrs. Dakin’s wine stash instead of making do with OJ’d-down, mass-produced swill. Imagine my rapt, pimple-pocked audience as I explained that rendering cheap booze palatable for consumption was a noted hallmark of youth across the seas! Think about what a precocious, pretentious ass I would’ve sounded like, expounding upon my own multiculti self-awareness. (Why, I may as well have checked my humility at the door and enrolled as one of Suri Cruise’s classmates at Avenues!)
Fitting as it may be, I did not name this cocktail.
Lantern’s Keep did. Lantern’s Keep being a swankadoodle cocktail spot inside NYC’s Iroquois Hotel on West 44th Street. I’ve never visited there, but I’m already kinda in love with the place just based on its website, where it describes itself as “a salon devoted to the art and enjoyment of great cocktails. This secretive salon [seems to be a speakeasy-style place located off the hotel lobby, hence the need for the lantern] is already luring cocktail aficionados in and transporting them back to a turn-of-the-century Parisian salon.” Which immediately makes me think: Midnight in Paris! C’est l’age d’or, Marion Cotillard! I want in!
The real reason we all drink, I think, when you get right down to it (and I’m paraphrasing myself here), is to whisk(ey) ourselves away in our mind’s eyes to another place and time, preferably involving fedoras, garters, cigarette holders, evening gloves, watch fobs and other accoutrements of a halcyon generation past.
This is certainly true when you now do all your drinking at 9 p.m. in your messy kitchen, with your kid finalllllly asleep a couple rooms away, a geriatric dog who perpetually smells like pee hanging out at your feet and a mound of dirty dishes staring you down from across the room.
But I don’t want any of you to think, now that I’ve got a daughter and a book that happens to be called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, that this blog is taking a permanent turn towards all things parental. Far from it (just a little for my first week back, perhaps), and my proof to you of this is the Stork Club cocktail.
I’ve been wanting to make this cocktail for months, ever since I scheduled my Midwestern roundabout (Mtl –>StL –>CHI –>TOR –>Mtl) for late April and knew I’d get the chance to revisit The Matchbox, that sliver of a Chicago watering hole that is basically the greatest bar on Earth. To sate myself in the weeks prior, I read through Matchbox’s Yelp reviews and saw that, time and again, opiners were recommending the pineapple gimlet. Doesn’t that sound ah-mah-zing? A pineapple gimlet!
And then the PhoBlograpHusband and I finally went to The Matchbox and got the last two seats at the bar during happy hour. It seemed foolish for me to order and pay for an entire cocktail that I could only take one sip of (per my own pregnancy rules) so I asked Sean to order himself a pineapple gimlet and he said no. He was in the mood for a Manhattan. I suppose I could choose to call my husband a big, fat jerk at this point but it’s really OK. I pouted for a moment and then moved on.
Something that may or may not surprise you: I’m one of those people who likes to scour the Internet for various DIY tutorials and then implement them all over my house, oftentimes to the mild chagrin of the PhoBlograpHusband. (Two nights ago, our kitchen table was occupied for 12 hours by our crockpot, wrapped in a beach towel, ‘cuz I was making yogurt.) If I were born fifty years earlier, I would have been a devout Hints from Heloise kinda housewise. As it stands, since the start of summer my freezer has contained a big Ziploc full of banana peels and eggshells, so I can spend my weekends making nutritious, eggshell-and-banana peel fertilizer for my outdoor plants.
Also in my icebox are whole, way-overripe bananas whose peels have turned brown. The peels will inevitably see the inside of the aforementioned Ziploc; the bananas themselves are there because a few weeks ago I read online about making a soft-serve, ice cream-like dessert using nothing but frozen bananas and a blender. Given that pregnancy has kicked my ice cream addiction into disgusting overdrive, I thought this was worth a shot. I also thought, frozen banana daiquiris.
The following all actually happened.
I was watching TV a few days ago when on came a commercial for the new Bud Light Lime Mojito. My first reaction was to groan, and to recall the cases of Coors Light Iced T that have been stacked near the checkout lines at my local supermarket for weeks; those also make me groan, anew, each time I must sidle by them to pay for my
thrice-weekly pint of ice cream habit groceries.
But my second reaction to the mojito beer was, shockingly (shocking I say!), this: That sounds pretty good, actually.
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…)
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.
In Sean’s Ph.D. program, there lives a British lad named Harold Thorrington, all of 22 or 23 years of age. Of course his name is Harold Thorrington, for he is so very, very British, and of course his mates call him Harry. Harry Thorrington looks like the cuddly-button love child of Tony Blair and Paddington Bear. Really, his name is just so terribly goddamned British — the very utterance of it makes me want to punch a crumpet.
Like many British blokes with few years and countless pints under their pudgy belts, Harry (who really is quite lovely and keeps me in stitches, I must say) only knows how to drink one way: More. Before the holidays, he confessed to me the three cocktails he’d ever consumed, at least to his recollection: a mojito, a Cosmopolitan and… oh, pish posh, I can’t remember the third. Doesn’t matter. The point is, I assured him he’d certainly had very bad versions of those drinks, wherever he’d had them, and I resolved to make him the World’s Greatest versions soon.
Thanksgiving-narrative guest post by Leslie Deak, who previously chronicled for us her experiences of drinking ice creaminess while having pizza stolen by an NBA player.
The following is a story of the wrong cocktail in the wrong place at a really, really wrong time. But it all works out in the end. So, three wrongs make a right, I guess.
My husband’s family has a tradition of gathering together for Thanksgiving, and last year was no exception. We found ourselves ensconced in one of the well-appointed residences at Jekyll Island Club in Georgia. After a lovely Thanksgiving morning bike ride, a freak accident involving another member of the family resulted in an ER visit, thus leaving me and my sister-in-law to our own devices for most of the day. (Don’t worry, everyone is okay.) With unplanned downtime, I considered my options. Hey, look — the club has a bar!
I perched myself in one of the rockers on the porch of the old hotel, overlooking the marshes at a distance. I waited until a respectable noon (well, it was mostly noon!) before moseying up to the bar. MISTAKE.
The bar was mobbed with well-heeled southerners meeting their families for The Big Feast. The tiny U-shaped bar was manned by one efficient, polite, overworked bartender with a line three people deep around the perimeter. As I approached the bar, I overheard one patron inquiring as to how the bartender made a Pimm’s Cup. “Pimm’s, ginger ale, and a twist of lime,” was the response. Intrigued, i asked what Pimm’s tasted like. The bartender, patron, and her companion all looked at me with bemused expressions. “It’s just… Pimm’s,” said the bartender. Suddenly, I was quite self-conscious of my three heads, but proceeded nonetheless.