Saturday, December 13, 2014

Coffey Park Swizzle

The pic captures my mood this season.
Ambivalent and washed out when it comes to the holidays.
But the Coffey Park Swizzle is a bright spot of warmth and color.
The Holidays.  Or, the Holla-daze.  I'm finding myself a bit ambivalent about the season of light and gifting now that Thanksgiving is over.  So, I thought a cocktail that tasted like a North American Christmas would help me rally.  Isn't it funny how the flavors of a northern winter are downright Caribbean?  All those warm spices like nutmeg and clove and allspice and ginger.  I don't know whether I want to build an edible house, bake cookies shaped like amorphous little men, or make jerk chicken.

The Dilettante sat down with Death & Co. over morning coffee to cruise the text looking for just the right sipper to suit the mood.  (At this point I'm feeling the need to reassure that even though he was looking at a mixology text while enjoying his morning cuppa, the Dilettante does not have a problem.  Well, let's qualify that.  The Dilettante does not have a problem with booze.  Several other categories are up for grabs!)  Leafing through the pages I came across a whole section of swizzles.  Interesting, but not necessarily what one thinks about as a winter beverage since swizzles are typically served in pilsners filled with crushed ice.  Think adult snow cone.  That's summer rooftop, right?  But then Coffey Park Swizzle caught my eye and the taste buds began to imagine.  This could be just the cocktail to jump start my mood for the winter season.  But first I needed to do some shopping and then just a bit of advance prep before Happy Hour!

Such an interesting mix of ingredients -- both familiar and new.  Even as we were taking our first sip, I really didn't know if this was gonna play out.  All the ingredients -- sherry (recalling that classic short story, "The Cask of Amontillado"), French Caribbean rum, lime juice, ginger syrup, the exotic new Falernum, bitters -- each on its own was so good.  But mixed incorrectly, this could easily wind up being a tall cold glass of soap.

There is a lot to sort out in that first sip.  The words "interesting" and "I don't know" immediately followed it.  The Partner and I stood in front of the tree, warily eyeing each other.  We couldn't even sit down, locked in place by that first sip, impish smirks on our faces as we processed what our taste buds were telling us.  I wanted to like it, so, the next sip.  Processing.  By the third, we knew we had a winner.  Cold, wintery, refreshing and spicy.  A little ginger syrup goes a long way.  So much so that our lips were still tingling in the cab on the way to dinner after only one round.  And one round is really all an imbiber should attempt.  A tall, cold aperitif that morphs as the crushed ice melts and nuances the drink's complexity.  In fact, the Coffey Park Swizzle put us very much in mind of the Bourbon Squash which has become one of our summer go-tos.  So summer swizzle, winter swizzle. Coffey Park could be the featured cocktail on the bar until spring.

Coffey Park Swizzle
1 oz. rhum*
1 oz. sherry
1/4 oz. Falernum
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. ginger syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a shaker with only a few pieces of crushed ice and shake just until cool.  Strain into a pilsner filled with crushed ice and swizzle**.  Add the bitters and blend it down through the drink, swizzling and stirring to do so.  Garnish with mint sprig.

*: Rhum or rhum agricole is the French Antilles version of rum, made from cane sugar as opposed to cane molasses.  If you can't find the former, feel confident substituting the latter.

**: The verb swizzle means to stir by spinning a stirring stick between both hands while drawing it up and down in the glass.  The noun swizzle or swizzle stick is not what we think of today as a stir stick.  It's more like a muddler with a set of short spines coming perpendicularly off the bottom.  So when it spins it creates a bit of a vortex to mix.  A regular stir stick will not do this effectively.  If you can't find a swizzle stick, you can get the job done pretty well with a long bar spoon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

New Book Haul

Lillet rouge, Falernum, rhum agricole, ginger syrup,
  and a new strainer, just cuz.
I love getting a new cocktail book.  There's always something in it that's new to me.  New information, new history, or a new spirit -- which means a field trip to Binny's!  Here's a little preview of today's haul and anticipation of the evening's cocktail.

I took advantage of seeing rhum agricole mentioned more than a few times in Death & Co. to pick some up.  It's not part of tonight's cocktail, but now it's on the bar.  Just from the French, I've been assuming it's a more, shall we say, "rustic" version of rum.  In fact, it's rum made from cane juice instead of molasses -- the way they do it in les Antilles (ou, the French West Indies).

I finally picked up some Lillet rouge.  If you're a fan of the Corpse Reviver #2 or the Vesper, then you're already familiar with the blanc variety.  Not in the specs tonight, but can't wait to give it a whirl too!

Falernum will be in tonight's tipple.  It's an Caribbean liqueur infused with island spices.  The ingredients include lime juice, sugar, almond and clove essences and white rum.  Tonight's cocktail also calls for ginger syrup, so I whipped up a batch this afternoon.  This is going to be my new favorite thing on the bar, however it will need to be used sparingly.  It is smoooooth, but spi-cy!  I have a sneaking suspicion The Partner might not take to this.  It is hot.

On to the mixin' 'n' shakin'!

Ginger Syrup

The hardest part of making this amazing syrup is grating the ginger by hand.  I suppose it could be done in a food processor too and it wouldn't be such a workout (note to self!).

Here's how:
  1. Finely grate about 16-24 oz. of fresh ginger root.
  2. Wrap the grated root in cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze all the juice out of it.  Strain it 2-3 times to get all the little root and peel bits out.
  3. Place 1 cup super fine sugar* in a blender with 1/2 cup of the ginger juice.
  4. Run the blender until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth** (about 2 minutes)
Makes about 1.5 cups.

*: Super fine sugar is not confectioners sugar.  It's finely ground sugar -- the kind we all buy by the 5 lb. bag.  If you can't find it in the store, just throw some regular sugar in a food processor and let it spin for about 2-3 minutes.  Voilá!  Super fine sugar.

**: Taste gingerly (***groan***...but I had ta!) for smoothness.  It'll be sweet, but hot!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Death & Co. Double Fill-Up

Ahhh...Here's to homecomings.  It's good to be back and getting into a cocktail groove again.  Something to look forward to in the cold, dark months ahead as winter takes hold of Chicagoland.  Thanks to all who have provided feedback and encouragement during the Dilettante's hiatus.  It's so affirming to hear that people read the blog and have missed it while dormant.

So, why the return now?  Last week, The Partner and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time.  My folks -- the consummate road-trippers -- drove in from NJ with dear family friends to spend the week with us.  (The Partner's folks were here and it was great stuffing them full of food and drink too; though their road trip was just from the suburbs :-)  As thank you/host gifts, my folks brought two great books.  One is the spark of inspiration to reboot our exploratory cocktailing and blogging.  It's a gorgeous book from the famous NYC bar, Death & Co.  I'm going to enjoy reading it as well as mixing from it.

Friday is, of course, Date Nite.  I chose our pre-dinner tipple as an homage to the gift givers.  Nothing would please dad more than if he never had to stop for gas when on the road.  A double gas tank?  Heaven.  So, Double Fill-Up caught my eye and seemed an appropriate choice.  Reading the ingredients list, I recalled a conversation in the kitchen with mom on Thanksgiving Day.  While I was preparing something she was reading over the recipe for one of the sides I made.

"Pomegranate molasses?  I've never heard of such a thing!"  So again, Double Fill-Up seemed the right choice for our first sip from the new book they gave us.

What good luck to pick a new bev for the Dilettante's return that goes right into Drink it Again, Sam.  Not only does it look like a nice apple cider, it rather tastes like one too.  It's very much about the play between the lemon juice and molasses that gets it there.

Now, what you've all been waiting for, The Partner's reaction:

"Oh.  OOOOH!" as he responded to the initial refreshing tartness and then the slightest teasing sweetness in the finish.  "This is good!  This is really good!"  Three sips later, "I'd do this one again!"  He would repeat this refrain two more times on our way to dinner.  And as you know, if The Partner has a second, it's a good drink and not too citrusy.

So there you have it.  The "inaugural reboot post".  Google pomegranate molasses and find a store near you that carries it.  Not only is it good in a cocktail, it's great in stews and salad dressings, so it will get used.  Bottoms up! 

Double Fill-Up
2 oz. good quality rye
3/4 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. pomegranate molasses
3 mint leaves

Shake all ingredients over ice and double strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with a mint leaf.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is this thing on...?





Is this thing on?

Uuh...OH!  It is!  Ok, here we go...

So, let me just get in here...and  There.  All.  Right.

"Dude!  What's up with the blog?!"

"Are you doing the blog anymore?  I know I never commented, but I read every post.  I miss it!"

"My RSS feed has been empty for over a year.  It's lonely.  I looked forward to my weekly cocktail read."

Well, there's new inspiration just arrived.  Stay tuned.  There will be something freshly shaken, poured, toasted & posted before the weekend is out!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The L'Orange and The Gene Splicer

The Orange Popsicle, or The Gene Splicer
Not the best way to start one's Sunday morning, opening the New York Times over coffee and seeing a headline heralding the demise of breakfast across the continent: A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA.

With the Florida orange business coming in at $9 billion a year -- second only to Brazil globally -- you'll perhaps forgive me if I don't take  beknighted little orange farmer, Ricke Kress, at face value when he suggests he's fighting against the big, bad FDA, consumer groups, and environmentalists to save the noble orange as a service to mankind.  I think it's pretty safe to say it's about profits.  And when the article concludes with Kress talking about how GMO technology might one day “... improve orange juice....  Maybe we can find a way to have oranges grow year-round, or get two for every one we get now on a tree.”  who is he kidding?  This is about Big Agribusiness doubling down on yet another mono-culture (think bananas and corn) and doing anything and everything it has to protect that monoculture, supersize its production and thus its profits.  Even if it means twisting nature by inserting pig or spinach genes into orange trees to do it.

Remember seasonal produce?  Wouldn't it be great to return to them.  We value things so much more when we can only enjoy them for a limited period of time each year.   Scarcity not only makes things more valuable, but when it comes to food, I firmly believe scarcity makes them taste better.  It's not like the Frankenfoods Big Agribusiness has produced to keep seasonal fruits and veggies in our supermarkets year round are tastier.  So now we have them year round.  How is it a bonus to the consumer?  For all their genetic manipulation, irradiation, and nitrogen storage foods have no taste and lousy texture.  Take tomatoes.  So we have them year round.  The outcome is that they're now orange/pink, mealy, and tasteless year round.  Unless you're willing to shell out $5-$7 a pound for "heirlooms".  Big Agribusiness is making our food supply more vulnerable to disease and species eradication the more they widdle our food stocks down to a mere handful of species.  Genetic diversity is a bulwark against disease and extinction.  As we're seeing with bananas and now oranges, we're just one bug away from losing some of our favorite foods.  But hey, as long as Southern Gardens Citrus, or Tropicana, or Florida's Natural, or Monsanto gets those record profits in the here and now, who cares if future generations never get to eat another banana or drink another glass of OJ again.  Right?

OK, ranting is over.  Let's drink.  In the interest of genetic diversity, I made two tipples here.  The first is more cocktail-like with nice depth and body.  It's a little sweet, but not cloying.  It's a surprisingly nice orange cocktail -- which doesn't get said too often.  Let's dub this one L'Orange, given most of its ingredients' French pedigree.  The other is a nice summer sipper -- light and tasty. In the summertime as a kid, I loved to make homemade popsicles by pouring straight OJ into popsicle molds and putting them in the freezer.  So seasonal.  Well, this one tastes just like that.  So we can call this one The Orange Popsicle, or the Gene Splicer.  I think I prefer the latter because it starts off as a L'Orange, but then you splice in some other ingredients, just like Southern Gardens Citrus and Monsanto!
L'Orange:  The template DNA for The Gene Splicer

1 1/2 oz. orange juice
1 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
1 oz. Cointreau

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add the OJ, Cointreau,  and Lillet.  Shake 12-15 times.  Decant into a chilled martini glass.  No garnish.

The Orange Popcicle, or the Gene Splicer
2 oz. orange juice
1/2 lime juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
2 dashes orange bitters
2 oz. seltzer

Pour the OJ, lime juice, Cointreau, Lillet, and bitters in a Collins glass.  Fill with ice.  Top with the seltzer and stir.  No garnish.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sloe Gin Fizz or The Cure for US Health Care

Hello, Dilettante Friends! Long time no see.  Happy Fourth to you!  Life’s been busy the last four months, but not without it’s cocktails, despite what the dearth of entries might suggest!

So right to it, shall we?  

After years of wondering exactly what it was, I purchased a bottle of sloe gin about 3 months ago which promptly got shoved to the back of the bar, forgotten and unopened.  It got pulled out at last weekend’s Pride celebration and once again became a priority.  Wow.  Sounds just like the on-again, off-again health care deform reform in this country.  But I’m getting ahead of myself...

First, though, check out that awesome single block of ice in The Partner’s Manhattan. (Prepared with orange bitters this time around.  He seems to prefer that these days.  I know, right?  As you regulars will know, this is unexpected considering his constant whinging about classic cocktails being too citrusy and acidic.  **sigh**  Though I will admit, they do brighten the bev up a bit.)  For my birthday, The Partner’s parents contributed to the bar with a set of ice cube forms that yield these fantastic blocks of ice.  Coincidentally, they didn’t even know how much we covet the look, sound, cooling power, and overall effect of these when we go to trendy, hipster, shee-shee-la-la bars.

For mini-Date Nite, on a damp, foggy, July 3rd, we closed up shop a little early.  Never having had sloe gin before, I tried a sip of it straight.  The Partner winced.  Apparently, sloe gin figured into his days as a frat boy.  Wishing me well he took his Manhattan and several steps back, waiting for me to finish making my fizz.  The brand I have is Plymouth.  Click the link above and read the description of the taste.  Mmm-hmm.  Right.  Let’s just say it’s more akin to watered down cherry cough syrup from when we were kids and call it a day.

That said, I was a bit apprehensive on the first sip of fizz.  But to tell the truth, it was quite delightful and refreshing.  The lemon, gin and seltzer cut the medicinal sweetness of the sloe gin to nice effect. Had the weather been a bit less October in London and a bit more July in Chicago, I could have had multiple rounds of these.  The Partner even ventured a cautious sip...which turned into four:  “...[sip]...Hunh...[sip]...Oh wow...[sip]...This is a lot different than what we drank in college...[sip]...Sure beats drinking it straight outta a bota bag!”  

Good lord.

So I’ve read in my hometown rag that the administration might be postponing parts of the health care “reform” bill.  Possibly, in part, in order to get Dems through the mid-terms before elements of the bill go into effect.  Naturally, Republicans are making hay out of this, even though they’ve been fighting the bill tooth and nail for the past 5 years.  I say, hey, what’s the rush?  Politicians have enjoyed very comfortable health care benefits for decades.  So they’re good.  And We The People’ve gone 237 years without a comparable safety net.  What’s another two?  We’re hardier stuff anyway.  In the meantime, if we get sick and we’re under-age, unemployed, not employed, self-employed or our employer hovers around the cusp of 50+ employees and is tarrying about providing insurance, we always have sloe gin.  Straight.  For that cherry-flavored cough syrup experience of our childhood.  Or Jäger.  Or Pernod.  Or slivovitz.  Or...

Sloe Gin Fizz
1 oz. sloe gin
1 oz. gin
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake ingredients with ice.  Decant into a fizz glass with ice and top with club soda.  No garnish.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dedicated to Congress - The Blarney

Now that Congress has to get home
we all can fly the friendly skies again...
It's been a few weeks since the last post.  Coincidentally, since then, The Partner and I had the pleasure to travel via our nation's airways.  On the outbound trip our original flight was cancelled.  Then our new flight was delayed 6 hours before we finally pulled the ripcord and decided to try the next available flight to our destination -- 36 hours later.  Granted, those delays were due to all the rains and flooding hitting Chicagoland.  On the way back, we just barely missed the first wave of delays brought on by sequester-induced furloughs at the FAA.

As the week wore on, people were getting fed up.  Pilots were directly telling passengers that if they're upset they should call Congress.  Then this morning, in the face of outraged business travelers and the airlines' CEO's, and their own recess & need to travel themselves, lo' and behold, Congress was able, somehow, to pass a law allowing the FAA to use hundreds of millions of dollars to pay air traffic controllers, end the furloughs and keep America flying.  And in a bill that was barely four pages long.

So today's cocktail is the Blarney - a cocktail from the old H & M bible and dedicated to Congress and all its bullshit.  Delightfully smooth, peaty, smokey, it's amazing what a few ingredients can do...rather like Congress when they put their collective minds to serving their own self-interests.  A good sipper for back room politicking, boardroom wheeling & dealing, or  Red Carpet or Admirals Club fuming as you wait or reschedule your flight home.  

The Blarney
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 oz. sweet vermouth

Shake over ice and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a maraschino.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

NRA Shooter

As if it were possible to have anyone crazier than Moses as the face of the NRA, meet Wayne LaPierre.  In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, he's gone unabashedly nuts.  From "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." to the call for putting an armed cop in every school, the man and the lobby have no sense of propriety or respect for what we all lost that day.  His lap dog, Asa Hutchinson is hardly better, pushing the school program in Congress at a price tag of $2 billion.  (Can you imagine what that would do going to the schools for programs and teacher training?)

So today's original bev is the NRA Shooter.  This was a challenge to craft since as a shot it needs to be sweet enough to go down easy.  But we don't like cloying shots (sorry Intoxicator!).  So I wanted it to have some kind of sour or bitter effect too.  Just like the NRA!  The Partner describes it: "It starts off without much effect, then goes to sour, then finishes like a mouthful of Smarties."

Without putting too fine a point on it, no matter what, it was going to be a red shot.  Get it? 

NRA Shooter
2 oz. gin
1 oz. strawberry cachaca
1/2 oz. grenadine
3 deep-cut strips of lemon zest
grapefruit bitters

Muddle the lemon zest in a bar glass with the bitters and a dash of gin.  When the zest is fragrant, add the  rest of the ingredients and shake over ice.  Pour into shot glasses. 
Makes 4 shots. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Amigo, or the Rand Paul

Tea Partier Rand Paul has come out of the closet on immigration reform! But looking at his effusive remarks in this Washington Post article about how he "lived, worked, played and grew up alongside Latinos" working shoulder-to-shoulder as a teenager "alongside immigrants mowing lawns and putting in landscaping around businesses," one could hardly be surprised at this sudden coming out. Ay Guero! He's practically an immigrant himself! This might be Rand's own "Ich bin ein berliner!" moment, save it being more like Soy un inmigrante!  But hey, this makes total sense.  With more above-board taxpayers it's easier for radical Tea Partiers to hold their hardline ideological stances on taxes. 

This week's homemade concoction is The Amigo, or the Rand Paul, made completely with ingredients from south of both the Mason Dixon & the Gadsden Purchase. It's gonna sound a bit shocking, but oddly enough the mix of silver tequila & some honey bourbon kinda works. Thank goodness. After all, it wouldn't be a true homage to Rand Paul without Kentucky's native spirit.  That said, the effect of the drink as you sip is much the same as the Tea Party itself.  On the surface, it sounds good.  The initial pulls are palatable enough.  Still, like the Tea Party, there's something that doesn't sit quite right the more time you spend with it.  And like US immigration policy, with some minor tweaking, it could be quite good.

The Amigo, or the Rand Paul
2 oz. silver tequila*
1 oz. honey bourbon
1/2 bar spoonful agave nectar
4-8 dashes grapefruit bitters
1 good squeeze of fresh lime juice

Fill a bar glass with lots ice.  Add the ingredients and stir well with a bar spoon.  Adjust the lime juice to taste.

*:  I imagine the use of añejo might make for a smoother tipple.  But the silver adds a smokey touch and keeps the hue of the beverage from looking too mestizaje.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Corpse Reviver #3, or the Marco Rubio

I’ve been getting bored lately with posting mere reviews of new beverages and quips from The Partner (hysterical as they are).  But recently, I had a brainflash. Let’s give it some time and see how it works. Here's the story of my brainflash. 

There is so much in the media that makes me sad or angry lately that this NPRoholic can't even listen to super-high quality news shows like Morning Edition or All Things Considered anymore.  And don't get me started on The Partner's fave: Today.  At least in the former it's the news that disturbs.  In the latter it's the cast that makes me apoplectic.  (Yes, cast.  I will not besmirch the Fourth Estate by suggesting that biased Matt; bland, insipid Female Sidekick; bland, insipid Female News Reader, or clownish Al are even remotely related to professional journalists. But I digress...somewhat.)  Then there's "reality" TV.  Talk about man's inanity to man.  If we take these shows as a reflection of society, then as a nation we must be a bunch of developmentally stunted adolescents who can't get enough of the trumped up drah-mah more characteristic of middle school classrooms and high school drama clubs.  I'm digressing again. But bear with me. It's all about to come together here.

So The Partner and I were catching up on our TiVo queue and I felt like getting mixologically experimental.  I looked at the bar and saw two lone Florida oranges about to skip past their expiration dates.  I also had a sudden jones for something akin to a lemonade.  Then it occurred to me.  I'll riff on the Corpse Reviver! I whipped one up with fresh OJ and found it worth repeating.  (Look here to learn more about the Corpse Reviver and here for the Corpse Reviver #2.)

As we sipped, a news tease featuring Marco Rubio and his filibustering ass zipped by as we fast forwarded through a commercial block.  If you’ve paid any attention to the news over the past couple weeks, the message (for now) is clear:  Marco Rubio is the savior of the Republican party!  In fact, just try Googling “Marco Rubio savior”.  In a mere .27 seconds you’ll get about 58,000 results.  Scoffing at the TV, I took a sip and it hit me.  The media, and probably even Marco himself, see him as the reviver of the Republican party corpse.  And thus the latest incarnation of Dilettante is conceived.  Cocktailing as social commentary!

So here’s the first such entry:  The Corpse Reviver #3, or the Marco Rubio.  During the late 19th early 20th Centuries, revivers were hair of the dog bevs after excesses of the night before.  After the excesses of the party of frightened, angry, old, straight, white men-in-denial, the media and the party are hanging all their hopes on Rubio.  He’s young, Hispanic, telegenic, from Florida.  What do you know?  Everything Tea Partiers and the rest of the party have been saying is true.  The Republican party really is a big tent!  I love it when they point to one or two people going against type and call it proof of their rhetoric. 

But more importantly, as I sipped I was thankful, thankful that God sent us Marco.  See, recently I haven’t been sleeping very much out of fear that a drone might come crashing through the window of our Chicago condo and take us out.  But now I can sleep at night, feeling safe that my president and his justice department have promised not to dispatch us from a distance in the middle of the night.  Phew!  Marco, despite your tweeted protestations: are my savior! 

Corpse Reviver #3 or the Marco Rubio
equal parts:
Lillet Blanc
orange juice

Shake over ice and pour into (an Absinthe-rinsed, if you must) coupe.  No garnish.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gone Fishin'

A hectic weekend with social events, family obligations, and prepping for a crazed week ahead of  12- to 15-hour days Monday-Friday.  So we're taking a week off from creative cocktailing & blogging.  Instead, it's coasting with easy-breezy martinis & manhattans at our favorite sushi joint.  (Remind me sometime to tell you about a friend's $200 bowl of noodles!)

Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Smoky Grove

PDT Interview
Personal preferences: Something new & warming
Style of drink: cocktail
Spirit of choice: whiskey, bourbon, brandy
Last drink: Siesta

Despite the fact that I've stumbled upon the tactic of letting The Partner select the tip, I thought I'd do a little reconnaissance earlier in the day.  I was gonna run it past him, but ... nah.

While I was prepping, he snuck a peak over my shoulder at the Smoky Grove, "Hmmm...interesting."  Still, I think it's something he'll like. 

Made with a single malt scotch, this bev comes by it's name honestly.  It's a mouthful of smoky peat.  The charred orange twist only adds to the effect.  It's not unpleasant, but it is powerful.  At first one might expect it to be rough, but despite the smokiness, it's nice and smooth with notes of vanilla & orange (so The Partner detected).  Just like one ought to do with a good scotch, this is a sipper, maybe one or two before dinner, no more.  The rave of the night?  The Partner: "This is good.  I could have a couple of these.  It's my kind of drink:  not overly citrusy or acidic.  Nice and smooth & smoky.  I like it."

Validation.  Date Nite can proceed.

Smoky Grove

2 oz. single malt scotch whisky
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Stir ingredients in a mixing glass over ice.  Serve in a chilled coupe.  Garnish with a flamed orange twist.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Last night was Kitchen Warming #2.  The guest list included friend & kitchen remodeler, T., so we needed the signature cocktail to honor him & his fine work.  Since of all the intoxicants on the planet one can imbibe he only drinks tequila our choices were limited.  Or perhaps it's better described as "focused".  Enter PDT's Siesta.  

On the page it looked decent.  The reality was something we haven't had in a while-- a cocktail worthy of the "Make it again Sam" label and unanimously positive reviews.  The Partner & I took it out for a test drive on Date Night, just to make certain it was something our guests would enjoy.  Such sacrifice....

The best way to describe the Siesta is a grapefruit margarita with depth & dimension brought by the Campari.  Think of it as the ultimate American cocktail.  Where else in the world can a Mexican, an Italian, and a Jamaican come together and make such beautiful offspring? 

How did our warming guests take to it?  Well, let's put it this way.  Of our four guests, J. & E.  don't really drink.  T. only drinks tequila, as mentioned.  And his partner, C., is orbital by the bottom of his second glass.  As I mixed one round, I'd look up to find the other couple's glasses empty.  Upon refreshing those, the ones I'd just filled were only moments away from needing refills.  No one should be surprised to hear that there were several "These go down way too easys" spoken throughout happy hour.  This is how we killed a bottle of Patrón in about an hour's time.  Good thing dinner was shrimp étouffée with andouille spoon bread.  The total fat from half a pound of butter, 3 cups of heavy cream, four eggs, and a pound of pork sausage provided an effective firewall to all that firewater!

2 oz. tequila*
1/2 oz. Campari
1/2 oz. grapefruit juice**
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2-3/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake with ice and pour into chilled coupes.  Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

*:  On Date Nite we tested the Siesta with Patrón Silver.  For the warming we used PatróAñejo.  The Añejo makes a much smoother cocktail.
**:  We used ruby reds and squeezed the fruit ourselves.  We then strained it to remove the pulp which, while delicious and adds healthful fiber to any cocktail, also makes them cloudy.  It's a sweet, fresh ingredient as opposed to the odd quality even the freshest "fresh squeezed" store-bought variety generally has.

Friday, February 8, 2013


PDT Interview
Personal preferences: Partner's choice
Style of drink: Partner's choice
Spirit of choice: Partner's choice
Last drink: killer Manhattans & Old Fashioneds

I am so into this new strategy for drink selection.  When The Partner picks it the odds of approval go way up.  This was a great Friday & Date Nite.  We both knocked off from work around 2ish.  Went to the gym.  Came home and showered up.  We sipped on C's. suggested "pre-cocktail" while The Partner made dinner.  I delivered the PDT Bible to the kitchen with instructions for him to select the evening's beverage.  It was duly returned to me with a sticky marking the desired page.  PDT says the Algonquin "was named after the historic Manhattan hotel where a number of famous writers, artists, and actors (members of the Algonquin Round Table) gathered for lunch before Prohibition went into effect."

As for me, I'm reminded of the "mean streets" of my childhood, with names like Monhegan, Pawnee, Hiawatha, Massasoit, Manito, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Shoshone, Ramapo, and of course, Algonquin.

Light and sweet with some notes of vanilla from the bourbon, this wasn't too bad.  The dry vermouth soft-pedals the sweetness of the juice & bourbon.  On the first sip The Partner, savored -- lower lip jutting out, eyes to the ceiling.  "Not bad," as he went for his second sip.  "Though I'm surprised so many of the cocktails in this book are up."  Thanks to my new selection strategy I'm now able to respond with a smirk, "Well, you selected it!"

2 oz. Rye
3/4  oz. dry vermouth
3/4 oz. pineapple juice

Stir with ice & strain in chilled coupes.  No garnish.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nicole's Rosemary Refresher

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Something new, aperitif, to get Date Nite going before we head out to dinner
Style of Drink: Short Drink
Spirit of Choice: no preference
Last Drink: Morango Fizz

This month's Chicago Magazine's cover feature is "100 Best Bars".  We've been reading it all week.  I was excited to try my hand at one of the many featured cocktails in the article.  But wow, is green chartreuse en vogue right now!  I know in the Dilettante's house we don't like the sickeningly sweet, dessert-like bevs, but does the new trend have to be towards licorice flavors?  Yuch!  So many, while fulfilling our desires in the PDT interview, were just going to be too much licorice, too medicinally herbal.  So...

Plan B:  The Partner's dear friend and colleague -- who we humorously refer to as his wife (with a respectful nod to her actual husband) -- shared the basic recipe for this cocktail several months ago.  She had had something very similar at an event and wanted to share the idea with me with suggested tweaks from how the original was made.  My notes have been sitting in a Word doc on my desktop ever since.  I must admit to enjoying a certain positivity from The Partner lately -- putting him in charge of sipping selection, giving him a placeholder bev while I do the photo shoot.  I figured, if we mix up the wife's tipp, he can't complain too much!

After mixing it up we texted her saying it was a success and needing a name.  Between the 3 of us, we've settled on Nicole's Rosemary Refresher which consists of vodka, pineapple juice, simple syrup & fresh rosemary. Yeah, that last ingredient is a bit of a surprise.  But it works.  The piney herb adds a complimentary-if-unexpected dimension to the tropical sweetness of the pineapple juice.  But be very careful with it.  It's a powerful herb that will quickly cross a thin line and go from interesting accent to tasting like a Christmas tree.

Bright and tropical with a light sweetness & savory depth, this can easily become a regular -- especially with our large crop of fresh rosemary that we've kept alive from last summer's herb garden!   

Nicole's Rosemary Refresher
2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
fresh rosemary

Use a short sprig of rosemary with only about 6-8 needles on it to start.  Modify the amount to suit your tastes.  Muddle rosemary with a few drops each of simple syrup & vodka until it becomes aromatic.  Add ice, vodka, juice, remaining simple syrup & shake.  Strain into iced martini glasses.  No garnish.

Variation:  The Partner requested the second round be made with some lime juice to counter some sweetness.  His wish = My command ∴ I added 1/2 oz. lime juice. He like it.  I found it added a level of bitterness.   We'll continue to play with the recipe.