Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gin Ricky

Scott’s eyes opened with the sunrise.  They usually did.  Each morning his first thought was to roll over and wrap around Katie as she slept.  It was always a calculation though. He longed for the response of every other girlfriend he ever had.  How they yielded to the warmth of his body.  He loved, too, when they wrapped around him in the middle of the night.  His consciousness surfaced just long enough to sense that entwining and then submerge again, feeling strong and protective as well as safe and protected.  

But Kate was not like that.  He suspected that she came to completely as his body molded to hers.  A threat response.  Her neurons firing Warning! Danger!  Rather than melting into him, she solidified.  No observer would ever see it – the imperceptible stiffening that happened on a cellular level.  But he felt it.  It humiliated him.  He felt spurned.  Undesirable.  Ego-crushed.  But then there were the occasions when she pulled his arms around her, backed up and pressed into his pelvis.  On those mornings he soared.  He felt whole.  His senses buzzed, yet he was completely relaxed.  The world was a perfect place.  In these moments Scott believed Katie did want to be with him.  Did, in fact, love him.  Desire him. 

But with so much risk, it could never be spontaneous.  Each morning it was a decision.  An unsafe moment in what ought to be a safe place.  Should he take the chance?  What is the cost-benefit ratio for his ego today?  This morning he felt strong enough to absorb likely rejection.

“Uuunnh,” she groaned, and rolled out from under his arm and as close to the edge of the bed as she could get.  She grimaced.  “Don’t….”

He laid there, looking at her back.  “What time did you get in last night?”

“I have no idea.  I think we hit every bar in the Viagra Triangle.”  

“Wow.  Cheryl and her daddy issues.”

“Tell me about it.”   Katie groaned again as she flopped her legs to the floor and hauled herself up to sit on the side of the bed.  She stood slowly and, holding her head, lurched towards bathroom.  She looked a wreck.  “We wound up at The Lodge where some fifty year old with a bad toup kept buying us gin rickies.  Round after round after round.”

“Well, I suppose you could’ve just said, ‘no’,” he called towards the john.

“If I wanted a father, I’d bar hop with Cheryl more,” she half yelled back.  “Besides, they went down way too easy.”

Scott got out of bed, pulled on his pajama bottoms, and followed her.  “I thought you don’t like gin,” he said, leaning against the doorframe.

“I don’t.  But this didn’t taste like gin, exactly.”

“Rickies are good.  Very bright and citrusy.  We should make it this year’s summer cocktail.”

“Do you mind terribly if we don’t talk about booze right now?”  Katie pleaded, head hanging, elbows on either side of the sink.  Her hair fell every which way to completely hide her face.  She grabbed her temples.  “I just need to get through this day so I can come home and collapse after work.”

“Ok,” Scott lilted as he turned around and headed off towards the kitchen.  “But remember,” he called back, “you have that intervention tonight with your mom & Aunt Gina.”

He couldn’t contain the smirk as he heard the words oh god slide into the sounds of a night’s overindulgence coming to its rightful conclusion in the sink.


Gin Ricky
2 oz. gin
1oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
club soda

Short shake all ingredients except the soda with a few ice cubes -- just enough to put a chill to the ingredients.  Pour into ice-filled highball glass.  Top with soda and garnish with a lime wedge.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mulled White Wine

“Look kiddo, we love that you want to hang out with us and that you’re comfortable enough to just drop by.  But you really need to get out more.”

“I am out.  I’m not home, I’m here.”

Mickey smirked, raised an amusedly irked eyebrow, and looked over the tops of his readers at his son on the other side of the kitchen.  “You’re handsome, young, and single.  So, when you show up on your parents’ doorstep on a Friday night with a thermos of mulled white wine, yeah, we gotta think there are better places for you to be.”

“What?  Where else do I have to be?  Besides, I feel so English and lord-of-the-medieval-manor when I drink mulled wine.  It’s a payoff of your investment in my MA.  Plus, you have the best goblets to drink it from.”  He clinked is father’s chalice and sipped.  “What do you think about the pear in it?”  

“Ok, let’s quit dancing around this elephant here, shall we?  So it didn’t work out with Theo.  That was Theo —“

“Here we go!”

 “ — You have tons of talent and love to give someone —“

“— ‘And we know there’s a guy out there who will connect with you and you with him.’”  
“That’s right.  But you’re not going to find him hanging out with your folks on prime club nights.  Get your ass out of here and out on Halsted!” 

“Really, dad?  Get my ass out on Halsted?”

“Yeah," he winked, "get your ass out on Halsted.”


“Oh, look who’s here.”  Gina came into the kitchen adjusting a bangle earring and kissed Christopher on the cheek.  “Is it Friday already?”

“Perfect.  Take your son with you.” 

“Nope.  It’s girls’ night with a mission.  I can only handle one broken-hearted depressive at a time."

“Nice,” said Chris, and raised his glass in a sarcastic air toast to his mother.  “Besides, I do not want to spend an evening with that Trixie bitch, Katie.”

“A master’s in English, the entire language at your command, and that’s the word you choose to describe a woman.  What did we get for our investment?”

“Mulled wine on a cold night delivered right to our door,” Mickey retorted, pouring her one.  "Served in goblets!"

Gina pinched Chris’s scruffy chin affectionately.  “Sweety, get your ass out on Halsted.”  

Mulled White Wine
2 t. black pepper corns
2 t. whole cloves
1 bottle pinot grigio
1/8 c. granulated sugar
1 small bunch sage
1 small bunch thyme
Rind and 2 T. juice from 1 lemon
1 c. pear eau de vie or brandy
1 firm, ripe pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Place the peppercorns and cloves in a  medium saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat until fragrant, approx. 2 minutes.  

Add wine, sugar sage, thyme, and lemon rind and juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.  Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids.  Return mixture to saucepan and stir in eau de vie or brandy and pear slices.  Simmer over medium low heat until pears are fork-tender but still retain their shape, about 8-10 minutes.  Serve placing several slices of pear in each glass as garnish.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brandy Alexander

“Evening, Ladies.  What’ll it be?”

Emma sat down on the bar stool.  The winter cold had set into the hardwood seat and seeped right through her skirt to the back of her thighs.  It made her shiver on this frigid night.  It didn’t help that the bar was directly across from the door and this place was so damned popular.  She just knew it would never be closed long enough for her to warm up before another blast of January slithered along the floor and coiled up her legs.  

“A Brandy Alexander.”

“A what?”

“Jesus,” Katie whispered, rolling her eyes as only a twentysomething can do when her parent does something so unbelievably stupid.  “I’ll have a gold margarita, please.”  She said it to the bartender, but was looking at Emma with a passive aggressive smile.  A mean girl.

This was a mistake, Emma thought.  And not for the first time since leaving the house.

“Emma, this is a Mexican place.”  Gina was Emma’s closest friend.  They met only one month after Emma moved to Chicago.  They had been through hookups, boyfriends, marriages, child birth, death, and now, divorce together.  There was no one Emma was closer to.  They cherished each other.  Closer than sisters.  But sometimes Gina could be utterly clueless.

“What’s in it?  Maybe I can make it for you.”

“No, you can’t,” snapped Katie.  “It’s a classic cocktail from, like nineteen-fifty-whatever, that she and my father used to drink like all the time.  And if you make one for her she’ll just wallow in it.”  She turned to Emma.  “We’ve come here - on a Friday night - with you - to get you out of the house and have a fucking good time.  You’re having a margarita like everyone else.”  

The bartender escaped awkwardly into his phone and slowly withdrew from the scene, wandering toward the refuge of the kitchen pickup window.  “Great!  Now you scared off the bartender!” Katie exclaimed and spun on her stool to pout at the packed dining room.  A moment later he was back.  Gina asked for a gold margarita as well and he started mixing.  

Emma sat, hands in her lap, staring blankly at the back bar, mirrored and up-lighted, bejeweled with glowing bottles of all shapes and colors.  Gina placed her hands on Emma’s and gently spun her stool so they faced each other.  “Em, it’s been five months since the paperwork was final.  You have to get out of the house.”

Emma sighed.  “Please, Gina.”  A divorce after 42 years of marriage.  She shouldn’t have to explain the grief and devastation to her closest friend.  So they sat holding hands, staring past each other.

“Ok, ladies, here you go.”  Katie jerked back around.  “Two gold margaritas and a Brandy Alexander.”  Katie grabbed her straw and rolled her eyes as she sucked.  He leaned in to Emma.  “I looked it up.  We just don’t have any nutmeg for the top.”  She looked at him.  She felt her lips catching his smirk.  “But we’ll call it a Brandy Alejandro so we don’t piss off la princesa over here," he said, nodding towards Katie.  He winked. His smirk nearly broke into a full blown smile as he walked down the bar to another customer.

Gina looked at Emma.  What almost broke on the bartender had on Emma.  A smile spread gently across her face.  Tears brimmed but did not fall.  Her heart warmed so, that she didn’t even notice another winter gust blowing in the open door.

Brandy Alexander
3 oz cognac or brandy
2 oz dark creme de cacao
4 oz half and half
1 cup crushed ice
Nutmeg to garnish

Combine the cognac or brandy, creme de cacao, half and half and ice in a shaker.  Shake well and strain into 2 chilled highball glasses.  Sprinkle with nutmeg to serve.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hot Buttered Rum

Christmas came down Friday.  Saturday we awoke to snow and freezing rain.  Thus begins the dreary slide that is Chicago between New Year's and  Memorial Day.  So we are definitely in need of something to cozify.  Having a new bar text specifically dedicated to winter cocktails is just what we need to warm our happy hour cockles!

Hot Buttered Rum.  It sounds so rich and comforting, doesn't it?  Honestly, it's just this side of gruel.   The specs for this was a starting place.  Tweaking was done.  

This bev is an exercise in delayed gratification.  It gets better as you get closer to the bottom and in the end, it's all about the last mouthful -- rich, fatty, and full of winter flavors. The trick is to get each sip to taste this way.

Hot Buttered Rum

The Butter
4 T. butter
1 vanilla bean
1.5 T. dark brown sugar

Using a knife tip, slice the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds from the pod into the butter.  Add the sugar.  Stir it all together until the vanilla seeds and sugar are well mixed throughout the butter.

The Rum
Hot Buttered Rum is all about the butter.
Additions like vanilla bean and brown sugar make it special.

6 oz. dark rum
3 cups hot water

Divide (room temperature) butter mixture between 4 toddy glasses.  Add the rum mixture.  Enjoy*

* : Ok, so here's the tweaking.  To start, give the drink a few swirls with a spoon to break up  and dissolve the butter mixture throughout the drink.  It's not a bad idea to keep one handy and do it a couple times as you sip, as the butter fat will both float to the surface and settle to the bottom of glass.  In this state, the drink will be more gruel-like when first sipping and become richer as you get to the bottom of the glass.  

The first round I made with Mount Gay rum.  It's dark, but not as dark as Myers -- which I used in the second round.  Additionally, I only used about 2.5 cups of hot water to the 6 ounces of rum.  In the future, I'd try only 2 cups, all in an effort to get a richer experience from each sip and not just towards the bottom.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter Cocktails

The weeks after Christmas are such fun as we actually get to play with our gifts.  In the Dilettante's case, it's delving into a bar book from The Partner -- Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Pary Snacks, by María Del Mar Sacasa.  I guess I'll just have to do more planning over morning coffee :-)

I've always wanted to do more seasonal mixology.  This tends to be much easier in the summer months.  Tipples like Margaritas, Moscow Mules, Pimm's Cups, Caipirinhas, Corpse Revivers clearly refresh.  But what warms and cozies during the frigid winter months?  Most cocktail books don't organize themselves seasonally.  So winter sippers like hot toddies and mulls aren't typically included.  But I'm very excited to delve into the latest addition to the bar literature! 

Last week we did a traditional hot toddy after a walk on a raw, lakeside New Jersey day.  So, why not stick with tradition on a freezing, rainy day, here in Chicago?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hot Toddy-Or, The Siblinghood of the Traveling Mug

"After a strenuous six months of travel all over these great and glorious United States, I've finally returned home.  And what perfect way to celebrate that homecoming than with a walk to the end of the lake on a damp winter's day and a hot toddy?  Traditional?  Yes.  Easy?  You bet.  But then again, what should the holidays be?  Especially when sipping with family!"

(This post goes out to The Dilettante's sister, C. of One Kiss Creations fame!  *SMOOCHES!*)

Hot Toddy
2 T. honey
1 c. hot water
6 T. bourbon
2 cinnamon sticks

Bring water just to a boil.  Mix with the honey.  Place 3 tablespoons of bourbon and a cinnamon stick in two toddy glasses (or in this case, a traveling mug and another of wintry spirit) and pour half the hot water and honey mixture in each.  Stir and garnish with a strip of lemon peel.  If you'd like a bit more lemon zing, squeeze just a couple drops from the lemon.

Enjoy one or two with someone you love -- and who needs their cockles warmed! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Drinking Chocolate

Drinking chocolate- spiked or not,
the perfect sippable winter dessert
It's been a busy week in the run-up to Christmas.  While our annual Solstice celebration was pared
down to just a few family and friends, there was a lot of cooking and baking to do.  So no cocktails Friday night.  Yet the Dilettante needs to post something during the fragile opening stages of a return from hiatus.

At this time of year we always tend to think big when it comes to desserts.  Cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies are all just delivery vehicles for over the top gooey, creamy, buttery, sugary.   And I'll admit, I was no exception to this extravagance.  In 6 desserts on the buffet I used 1 1/2 gallons of whole milk, a gallon of heavy cream, 2 pounds of butter, about 2 pounds of sugar, and 2 dozen eggs.  My lord.  Double your Crestor dosage.

But here's an idea.  Instead -- or in addition to fewer of the gooey, creamy, etc.-- why not make dessert drinkable?

As part of the solstice dessert buffet, I included a pot of drinking chocolate along with decanters of cognac and Irish whiskey.  Revelers had a choice of straight chocolate or to spike it according to their tastes.  Simple.  Elegant.  Classy.

Happy solstice, everyone!  There will be one more minute of daylight Monday!  Long live the Oak King!

Drinking Chocolate*
1 vanilla bean
4 1/2 c. milk
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 T. sugar

Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise, put in a saucepan with the milk and bring to a boil.  Course-chop the chocolate into small pieces and put in another saucepan with some of the warm milk to melt.  Remove the bean and scrape the vanilla seeds that are left in the pod with the tip of a knife and add back to the milk.  Stir the chocolate mixture into the hot milk along with the sugar.

At this point you could serve it as is.  But if you want a super silky drink, strain it once or twice.  Drinking chocolate is not very sweet, but it is rich with intense cocoa flavor.

Serve in shooter glasses as is or with cognac to make Russian drinking chocolate or with Irish whiskey for Irish drinking chocolate.

*: Recipe courtesy of The Chocolate Bible, by Christian Teubner, et al.

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.