Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cocktail Chat | NYE 2011

It’s the day to reflect on what’s gone on over the previous 364 days. 

I can honestly say, until now I’ve never been as conscientious about maintaining a journal or log.  I suppose we can blame the liquor! 

I start every morning starts with a meditation from a fantastic little book, 365 Tao.  The meditation for today, the last day of the year and the last one in the book is entitled, oddly enough, “Continuation”.  Master Deng suggests that life is a series of cycles.  Endings are merely the lead-in to new beginnings.  Interestingly enough, Deng also suggests that the stage for any particular ending is usually set mid-cycle, long before the actual ending occurs.  Hmmm….  Things that make you go “Hmmm…”.

I’m definitely feeling this in regard to the current state of this blog.  It’s been a lot of fun and certainly a dilettante experience –  inconsistent, learning many little things about a subject but not being a master of any of it.  I’ve played with my interest in photography in a different way and (trying) to let go of the need to take every shot with my SLR and occasionally using my phone, point & click, or iPad.   And I’ve absolutely held to what I stated at the outset, that this little adventure absolutely would not be my Julie & Julia moment.  And I do feel pretty good about writing 58 entries over 8 months.  I’ve never been this consistent with a journal.  Ever. 

Diletantte Cocktailer has also brought some cool new opportunities.  First & foremost, we’ve expanded our palates beyond Ketel One martinis.  I mean it now when I say I like gin & bourbon!  We’ve added classic ingredient items to our bar that have given our offerings breadth, depth, and conversation opportunities, such as St. Germaine, Lillet, Pernod, & Chartreuse.  The cook in me sees that a cocktail recipe is no different than an entrĂ©e recipe, blending disparate ingredients to make a new, complex whole.  We learned that 2011 wasn’t the year of the pomegranate only in the grocery store as we now have two bottles of pomegranate liqueur, gifted to us from friends.  Our friends, A & R, have introduced us to The Drawing Room, an amazing restaurant cum speakeasy here in Chi.  We watched PBS’s Prohibition the old fashioned way – watching it “live” as broadcast – no TiVo  – and understood our Chicago roots in history and “The Great Experiment”.  And we learned how those bizarre and contradictory 13 years are still influencing contemporary American society.  The Partner has given me some wonderful new glassware as has his parents. And just last week for Christmas, The Partner’s mom  gave us an exciting new addition to our bar library with The PDT Cocktail Book from the St. Mark’s speakeasy.

Forty-eight down.  Two hundred twenty seven to go, huh?  That’s only 17% of H & M’s tome sampled.   Master Deng says the ending is set mid-cycle.  I feel it in this case.  For the past couple months I’ve been feeling that the blog was getting a bit stale.  I’ve been itching to use the new gifts and resources and add them to the blog.  Thus, I’m wondering, do we really need to sample every one of the 275?  Hasn’t the bible served its purpose in expanding our palates?  Is it time to move on?  

When this project first started, all we had was a dusty recipe book pulled from the back of a cabinet and boredom with our current tastes.  Now, eight months later, our cocktailing horizons have expanded.  So, I’m feeling the need to evolve Dilettante Cocktailer.  I’m not sure how that will happen or in what form it will take, but this project has led me to a number of different experiences and new resources that I’d like to explore & share.  Plus, an added benefit might just be to get The Partner to find some other way of responding besides the now classic refrain about “these classic cocktails…”.

So here’s to ending and continuation.  Starting a new cycle, the seeds of which were planted in an earlier moment. 

Here’s to 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tequila Sunrise | 48 down 227 to go

Mom & dad's pitcher, which mom said hadn't been used in decades. Glad we could dust it off for such a festive cocktail!

The eyes of several family members were peering over my shoulder on Christmas morning as I scanned the  bible snaps I brought on my iPad for Holiday festivity.  I had assumed the bar setup duties* for the day and decided that a couple cocktail pitchers would be in order.  Since this is our family, Manhattans would be one of them - served from the same pitcher my grandparents used at their parties so long ago.  The task at hand: Determine what the second pitcher would be.

My sister and I have a Christmas tradition (besides placing the Baby Jesus in the manger and wishing him a happy birthday).  We meet in the kitchen, usually after the bulk of dinner is over and toast the day & each other with a shot of tequila.  Therefore, the entire page of tequila recipes had to come with on the iPad.  The peering eyes included my sister and my Latin America-trotting aunt.  When I swiped to the tequila page and paused, a common cry came up:  “Ooo, Tequila Sunrise!  I haven’t had one of those since …”

“…college,” said sister.

“…the Sandinista revolution,” said aunt.

So Tequila Sunrise it was: a solid cocktail that holds its own either as a parallel breakfast bev to mimosas and screwdrivers or as a mid-afternoon happy hour when something warm and sunny is desired.  It certainly intrigued the rest of the family and triggered conversation of past brushes with the tipple even if they didn’t partake this time around.  And this was probably a good thing.  For unlike the Do Be Careful, do be careful here.  This is a classic proportion, remember, and on an empty stomach while putting the finishing touches on the mashed potatoes, one will absolutely rise into the warm tequila sun! 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tequila Sunrise
1 1/2 oz. tequila
2 oz. orange juice
1/4 oz. lime juice
dash genedine
Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled Collins glass filled with ice.  Garnish with lime wheel.

* Props to The Partner who did most of the bar tending for the day.  He did an awesome job!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Leap Year | 47 down 228

Merry Christmas! 

Leap Year even looks like lemon cough syrup!

The Partner & I are celebrating with my parents, sister, bro-in-law & nieces.  Not wanting to miss more blog time, I brought along some simple recipes from the bible that might make Christmas merry & bright.  Perhaps more appropriate for New Year’s than Christmas Eve, we kicked off the holiday with the Leap Year

A rather medicinal mix, highly reminiscent of a lemony cough syrup, we understand the name.  We recommend serving once every four years -- only if you must.  Here’s to something more festive and satisfying tomorrow and as the week goes on.

Leap Year
2 oz. gin
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. lemon juice
Shake over cracked ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist or orange twist.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wild-Eyed Rose | 46 down 229 to go

‘Tis the season to be hectic…

Wow, one wouldn’t think that during the Holidays it’d be difficult to find time to throw one back.  But things have been so crazy with both mine and The Partner’s work schedules.  Plus, has anyone else noticed that there don’t seem to be as many holiday parties this year?  Guess that’s a minus, actually.  Thus, entries have been sporadic.  My instinct is to apologize to those who have asked, “Hey, are you still doing the blog?”  But I’ll fight the urge and get over the guilt I feel for not writing more consistently.  I mean, "dilettante" is right in the title, for Pete’s sake!

On to why we’re here.  Wild-Eyed Rose.  I’ve discovered there’s an unexpected quality just the right amount of grenadine imparts to a tipple.  I’d characterize it at “creaminess”, believe it or not.  Odd, I know.  But in the proper proportion, it brings a velvety smoothness with almost hints of vanilla.

“Hmmm…fruit punch!” was The Partner’s remark upon seeing this glass of red.  He sipped, seemingly approvingly, before the qualifying drone about “these classic cocktails” began.  Then he qualified it with, “…although I did just brush my teeth.”
At this I finally put my foot down.  As he is a bit of an oenophile, I came back, “Y’know, you would never open a bottle of nice wine, pour it into Riedel stemware, let it breathe, take your first sips and cast judgment on its ultimate quality all after you just brushed your teeth.  I think you need to start respecting the venerable cocktail in the same way.  From now on, I will refuse to serve you if you’ve just brushed your teeth!”  Oy.  Partners.

But the smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth, the glint in his eye, and the lack of protest all indicated the rightness of my reprimand.  As we neared the bottom of the glass, the lips started smacking and the glass started dancing back and forth – both signals that another round is desired.  As time was ticking on our Date Nite dinner reservation, I had him try his hand at mixing while I hopped in the shower and got ready for the night out.  Remember… the benefit of grenadine comes from just the right amount … in the proper proportion.  Still, the lovely red hue did make it a Wild-Eyedly appropriate cocktail for this festive season :-)

Wild-Eyed Rose
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz grenadine

Shake with cracked ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime squeeze and a maraschino (and do squeeze that lime for the proper balance!).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do Be Careful | 45 down 230 to go

The name here sure makes it sound dangerous, doesn’t it?  Do Be Careful is fun to say, tasty, but ultimately, not in need of a special license to enjoy or chaperone to guard against one’s foolishness showing up naked on FaceBook.  A bright, citrusy bev that’s mediated by the dash – and I do mean dash – of grenadine, the DBC is innocuous and goes down nicely for a couple rounds.  We’ll make them again.  Moving on….
So, the real story this week is the cocktail vessels themselves.  Check those out!  Recently, I’ve been thinking to myself that the photos were getting a little stale.  We only have so many styles of glassware and seeing the same ones repeat over and over on the blog was getting monotonous.  Wow…is this the Dilettante or the Debutante who can’t be seen in the same outfit one cotillion to the next?  But what’s a home mixologist to do?  Do you know what quality drinkware costs???  Anyway, The Partner was apparently reading my mind.  (Honestly, I never expressed my thoughts out loud or even hinted!)  As I was about to decant the DBC’s into a set of our martini glasses, he stopped me and pushed a box across the bar.  “This is really for Christmas, but I think you might want to open it now.” 
Awesome.  Constantly chilled bevs that are never watered down.  Some cocktailing designer was really thinking on this one!
Do Be Careful
1 ½ oz. gin
¾ oz. Cointreau
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 dash grenadine

Shake with fine ice; strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a maraschino.