Monday, November 19, 2012


I find I'm not terribly inspired to write about the Martinez.  It wasn't all that pleasant, though I tried to rationalize it as an aperitif.  But neither The Partner nor I felt like finishing it.  It tasted very familiar and was not unlike the Leap Year or the Sensation.  

Below is the recipe.  But don't dwell here.  Instead, click to read a Cocktail Chat entry on bitters.  I needed to do a little research into Boker's bitters to see if I had what I needed to make substitutions.  As it turns out, reading about Boker's was much more interesting!

1.5 oz. gin
1.5 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Boker's bitters*

Sir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with an orange twist.

*: Read the Cocktail Chat entry linked above.  I approximated the Boker's with a dash each of orange bitters and Jamaican #1 (allspice, ginger, & black pepper).

Cocktail Chat-Bitters

Bitters today
So if you've landed here from the link in the Martinez entry, you know that this Cocktail Chat is a result of the research I had to do to find out exactly what Boker's bitters are.  In doing so, I thought I'd also post some interesting cocktail trivia about bitters in general given they're such the rage these days.  

If you've spent any time in a trendy drinking establishment lately, you know that bitters are the hipster fetish du jour.  You can see evidence of the fad in even the most bare bones liquor stores.  Not long ago, Angostura bitters would be all you found, with Peychaud or orange bitters -- if you were lucky -- in the more "withit" shops.  Now you can walk into almost any liquor store and find shelves of bitters ranging from Aztec chocolate to "Tiki" -- whatever the hell that would be.  From the sublime to the ridiculous.  Gotta love a trend.

In general, bitters are infusions of herbs, spices, roots, and fruits with alcohol. They started out in the 19th century as tinctures and marketed for their purported health benefits.  Eventually, their use migrated to the mixological arts where they became exceedingly popular in drinking culture.  The lighter ones would be mixed with soda alone and served with ice.  Stronger ones were used in accents in more complex cocktails.  Their use in a beverage was the mark of elevated cocktailing and a bartender who knew what he was doing.  But, between the FDA lowering the boom on unproven medicinal claims and Prohibition, bitters were largely wiped out until only a few years ago.  Until the recent trend, Angosturas were the only kind available.

Sidebar: I for one, can testify to the curative powers of Angostura bitters.  Once, while out with friends in a crowded happy hour bar, I got a most debilitating and frustrating case of the hiccups.  I was the stereotypical drunk, sitting on my bar stool, wracked with intermittent convulsions accompanied by that telltale chirp that could be heard over the din of the bar.  My drink would slosh out of the glass if one hit while I was holding it, they were that bad.  I wasn't even drunk, for Pete's sake!  Embarrassed and uncomfortable, I was about to leave when the bartender approached me.  He saw me getting ready to take off when he motioned for me to sit.  He leaned over the bar:  "Hiccups?"
He put his palm up to me in a sign to wait a moment.  His hands disappeared below the bar, working something in the well.  A moment later he slid a cocktail napkin across the bar to me.  On it was a lemon wheel with some amber liquid soaking into the top of it.
"Eat the whole thing.  Rind and all."
I did.  And as sure as I'm sitting here, the instant that thing hit my stomach I felt my diaphragm relax.  "What was that?"  I shouted.
"Lemon & bitters.  Works every time."  Cured, I didn't have another spasm the rest of the night.  To this day it's my go-to remedy for singultus!
Bitters bottles from back in the day

Back to my research on Boker's.  As it turns out, they were produced by a company in New York.  With Prohibition, the company went belly up nearly a century ago.  Just recently a bottle was found still holding a small portion of the stuff which was characterized by notes of cardamom, cassia, and bitter orange peel.  Sounds pretty good, in fact.  With renewed interest in classic cocktails and the bitters craze, a company has reconstructed Boker's.  They are available from Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Boker's Bitters.

With all the different flavors out there, the wrong variety can significantly alter the taste of a drink.  However, the difference between a cocktail with and without them is noticeable.  As an accent, only a few drops add all kinds of dimension.  A simple comparison:  Make two Manhattans, one with and one without.  Do a side-by-side taste test.  You will see the difference and will never want a bitters-less Manhattan again!  

Friday, November 16, 2012


Friday night's brief happy hour started (and ended) with the Leapfrog before heading out to our fave neighborhood Mexican joint for dinner.  What made this drink so interesting, given its ingredients, is how much it tasted like grapefruit juice-- with the slightest finish of mint.  

It's quite possible there could have been a second round of these.  The Partner did have something witty to say and commented how he looked forward to seeing his humor immortalized on the blog.  However, it was the evening before the week's grocery shopping and I used the last fresh lemon we had in the house to make the one round.  And then there were the gigundo margaritas at dinner.  So I don't remember what he said that so hilariously summarized the bev and whether or not other rounds were even desired had the necessary ingredients been on the bar .  Gotta love Date Nite :-P

2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. apricot liqueur
1/4 oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
6 mint leaves

Muddle the mint with the syrup.  Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice.  Strain* into a chilled coup.  No garnish.

*:  You may want to use a fine strainer.  Small bits of mint, as you can see in the pic, will get through the standard bar strainer.  But since this has no garnish, I thought the few vivid green flecks bobbing around gave it some visual interest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dr. Feelgood

Tonight's cocktail results from a couple  influences.  Friday was our first Date Nite since returning from BFF, J's., quiquagenary cruise.  It was a gay cruise, so perhaps that's one reason why the boisson de choix is white.  But the real influence had to do with the fact that I made mulligatawny this week and couldn't let the rest of the coconut milk go to waste.

There's a dearth of good cocktail recipes online that make use of coconut milk.  That's where I had to go to source this drink.  So we can't lay blame a the feet of my usual sources.  No, the Dr. Feelgood was lifted from the internet (Alex's Cocktail Recipes).  That said, this looked the most palatable on paper, which isn't saying much.  There are a lot of nasty sounding cocktails online with coconut milk as an ingredient.  That is, unless your tastes are in line with current cocktail vogue and prefer thick sweetness in an up glass.

Is this unappetizing-looking?  Perhaps it's the context from which we recently debarked, but I found it challenging just to look at. On tasting, The Partner and I agreed:  it's essentially a thin pina colada.  But only a single shot of vodka up against nearly 6 oz. of fruit juice will do that. One was all we could stand.  No need to rush to try this one.  Unless you're looking for a "dietetic" bev, have some light coconut milk on hand, and can't stand the thought of putting money in Bethenny Frankel's pockets by purchasing Skinnygirl anything, then this could be a lighter choice than a real pina.

Dr. Feelgood*
3 oz. coconut milk
3 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. vodka
1/4 oz. lime juice

Shake and serve with a lime wheel as garnish.

*: Measurements were originally in ml's.  So I converted and actually used about 2-2.5 oz. of juices.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sipping at Wood

Wood's Rusty Nail
It was a gorgeous fall day as we drove back from Michigan yesterday.  And the Wolverine State was in full fall color to boot.  Simply gorgeous.  As we drove through the city on a fine Indian summer afternoon, The Partner and I were not ready to settle in for a Sunday indoors.  So we unpacked our suitcases, loved, fed, and watered the Old Man, and walked on over to Boystown.  

We decided to try our luck at Wood, the restaurant that has replaced Fire Fly -- one of our regular haunts when we were dating.  When we got there they were in the midst of a power failure.  I said, "If you can pour a cocktail without needing electricity, we'd be glad to sit at the bar and see if the lights come back on."   With a fun esprit about there being no lights save the bright fall sun we were seated at the bar and made quick friends with our mixologist, Gustavo.  

The bar was stocked with some amazing spirits.  Looking to get a "baseline", I ordered a classic off the classic menu -- a Rusty Nail.  It was warm and herbal -- just enough to balance the smoky sweetness of the whiskey.  It was also a generous serving that sipped well through dusk.

Wood's Cherry Wood

The Partner decided to let Gustavo have his way with him. A Brazilian, Gustavo couldn't help but proffer a Cachaça-based beverage in the void of our initial indecision. In the end, The Partner capitulated and was mixed an original tipple, the Cherry Wood. A mix of Cachaça, a raspberry liqueur, and I believe I caught a whiff of Chartreuse, the cocktail was flavorful and smooth without being overly sweet. It did indeed taste like cherry wood -- in all the good ways (and I'm certain there's no irony in the name, what with the restaurant being in the heart of Boystown!)

For the locals, go park yourself in front of Gustavo and strick up some conversation. He's friendly, mixes a good drink and has fun doing both. Then order up some of the small plates. The power did come back on about 20 minutes into our visit and folks were lined up at the door in an instant. The pork belly was very good. The risotto was average. But hands-down, the best item we had -- and we had seconds of it -- is the Tarte Flambé flatbread. Rich, creamy, crunchy, chewy, caramel-y. Run, don't walk

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maple Scotch Glazed Apples

This will be the last of the cooking posts this week.  The Partner's Gram turns 90 and celebrations are planned for the weekend with family jetting and driving to Michigan from all over the country.

So while we're away celebrating Gram this weekend, I'd love to hear back from readers.  Recently, D. mentioned that he looked forward to my making him a featured bev.  I remarked that I'd hoped readers were trying things out for themselves.  So jumping in to Web 2.0, I'm putting a call out for a little interactivity.  

Your assignment: This weekend, try out a recipe or two or three from the blog.  Cocktail or cooking, doesn't matter.  Then leave comments on the post (or posts) you tried.  Leave them in Comments on the blog post so we can all participate.  Some of you have been subscribing and commenting via email, which I love.  But I'm the only one who sees those.  Then we'll all discuss.  (Once a teacher, always a teacher!  :-)

Ok, on to today's post.

A bit mono-chromatic, but tasty!
A decidedly fall dish, dinner last night consisted of pork chops, cabbage slaw & apples.  Tonight both the pork and the apples got the treatment.  For the pork I used the somewhat Asian flavored marinade featured in the very first Cookin' with Booze post.  Here's the card for the apples:

Maple & Scotch Glazed Apples*
2 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 oz. scotch
1 oz. butter
fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

Peel, core and slice the apples.  Toss them with the juice of half a lemon to keep them from browning.  In a medium sized sauce pan, bring the syrup to a low simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the scotch.  Stir it into the syrup and place back on the heat.  Simmer until it reduces slightly.  Add the butter and stir constantly until it is completely melted and the sauce begins to thicken.  Take half a lemon and give it a gentle squeeze.  You're not going to want all the juice because you've already put some on the apples.  Just a couple drops to brighten up the flavor.  Salt and pepper to taste -- again, just to balance flavors.  Add the apples to the pan and gently stir to glaze them with the sauce.

This will keep warm over a low/simmering heat until ready to serve.

Serves 2

*: A nice variation on this would be to add a 1/4 t. of cinnamon, nutmeg, or 1/8 t. clove, or allspice to these.  I did not, however, as it would not have gone with the pork marinade or what I did with the cabbage.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cooking with Scotch

I was inspired by a sauce I saw Jose Garces prep on Iron Chef the other night.  Thought I'd give it a whirl.  My original plan was to glaze some white acorn squash with a maple, scotch sauce. But the steak I made as the entree was marinated in EVOO, lemon, garlic, & thyme.  These flavor profiles seem to clash, the former being fall, the latter being summer.  So I improvised.  Here's the recipe.

Baked Acorn Squash with Orange Marmalade, Scotch & Fresh Thyme Glaze
1 acorn squash- seeded, peeled, & cubed
2-3 T. orange marmalade
2 1/2 oz scotch*
1 T. butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed

Bake the squash at 375 in a lightly (canola) oiled cookie sheet until tender -- about 15 minutes or until tender depending on the size of the dice.

While the squash is baking, melt the marmalade in a sauce pan over medium-low heat.  When melted, remove from the flame and add the scotch.  (Remember what happened to Roz if you don't take it off the open flame before adding the booze!)  Stir until combined.  Return to the heat and add the butter.  Stir until melted and the sauce thickens and comes together.  Sprinkle thyme leave over and taste.  Add salt if needed.  You could also brighten it a bit with a half-squeeze of fresh lemon.

When the squash is done, toss it with the sauce and serve.  Deep, warm, citrus flavor with the cake-like goodness of acorn squash.  Mmm-mmm, good!

* We have 15 different bottles of every kind of scotch & whiskey under the sun on the bar.  Single malt, Irish, Tennessee, Kentucky....  The "youngest" bottle is probably 5 years old.  At this rate we'll be cooking with it until the crack of doom!  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cooking with Jim Beam

Getting back to boozing and blogging the past few weekends has been fun.  It's also reminded me that we have an inordinate amount of ancient brown liquors on the bar that we'll never get rid of if we limit ourselves to cocktailing.  So we return to the kitchen with a long overdue post about Cooking with Booze!  This week's liquor for the larder: whiskey.  Well, that'll be the liquor of choice no matter what week it is since that's pretty much all we have taking up space -- various varieties of whiskey, bourbon, or scotch.  

Here in Chicago it was a foggy, rainy, fall weekend last week which was an excellent excuse to sit on the sofa (nurse a hangover from Date Nite), watch movies and putter in the kitchen.  

Not having alerted The Partner to my plan to putter in the pantry, he had already started defrosting some ground chuck and mild Italian sausage.  I decided to take advantage of the Chopped moment and go with chili.  We like our chili with tons of veggies and beans along with the meat despite the fact that some would say this is not true chili.  Oh well.  What's great about using booze in chili -- which I do often, is that it doesn't really matter what kind of chili you make, the liquor gives it an added dimension of flavor that a diner can't always put their finger on.  (Grating a generous portion of fine dark chocolate into it does the same thing, but that's a different post!)  And, I think it's less about the kind of booze you use so much as when you use it during the cooking process.

What To
In the past I've used either beer in the chili -- which isn't so rare -- or tequila -- which isn't as common.  But I don't need to cull either of those ingredients from the bar, so my eye turned to a bottle of Jim Beam that had perhaps a round and a half left in the bottle (about 6 oz).  Given our penchant of late for more top shelf bourbons, I knew this grog would never see a glass.  To the kitchen with it!

How To
If you cook you have your way to make chili, so I'll sidestep the whole recipe part for now and jump to the place where one browns the meat.  These are the first ingredients to hit the heat in my chilis and then remove them.  This leaves behind yummy caramelized bits that add flavor.  Then I throw in the veggies.  As they soften and sweat they also pull up some of the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan.  But they don't pull up all of them.  That's where Jim (or Sam or Jose) comes in.  After the veggies have softened and browned, turn off the flame and move the pan to a cold burner or counter before adding the liquor.  (This is very important.  Otherwise, the video below could happen to you.  The trick is to be as funny during a kitchen fire!)  

Once the bourbon is in the pot, give it a stir, put it back on the heat and bring to a simmer.  Continue to stir until and all the brown bits come off the bottom. This is called deglazing the pan: a fancy French term for a simple process that makes for a lot of delish!  Return the meat to the pot and continue cooking according to your particular chili custom.  

I used about 1/3-1/2 c. of bourbon because that's what I had to finish off the bottle.  I found this to be the perfect amount for flavoring the chili, but add the amount that suits your tastes.

*Note:  This particular recipe was kicked up by adding the juice of one lime before the final simmer.  It gave a fresh brightness to balance the warm oakiness of the Jim Beam.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Givens: Last night was Friday
              Last night was Date Nite
Statement: Food ≤ Cocktails x Fun = Post ÷ Hangover
Short Post.

Happy hour: Sidecar.  Close relative of Maiden's Prayer & Between the Sheets.

Tasty aperitif.

Partner: "I think I can drink this one.  It's just the right balance of sweet and sour and acidity.  I don't think D. & S. would drink it.  But, oh well...."

Me: "They'll drink what I make 'em!"

A rave for an old classic.

Side Car
2 oz. cognac
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup

Shake with ice.  Serve in a chilled coupe half rimmed with sugar.  No garnish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

 Last weekend was my budd, J's. bday. A collector of cookie jars, The Partner suggested we get him one to mark his big day. Luckily, there's a cookie jar store up the block from us. No kidding.  Alas & alack, it wasn't open yet when we hoofed it up there to accomplish our mission.  So what did we do?  Walked a few doors up to browse the local liquor store, of course.  Why the liquor store is open on a Saturday morning before the cookie jar store, is beyond me.  

Besides stock items for the bar, they also had unique craft beer offerings.  Given our post-blog bourbonlicious life, we had to bring home a six of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  Tonight, while The Partner was making dinner, we cracked a couple.  There is no missing the fact that this brew is aged six weeks in decanted bourbon barrels.  Sweet, smooth, vanilla, oak, bourbon are all right up front.  Delightful to sit at the kitchen bar, chat about our days, and watch The Partner make dinner.  Very enjoyable and we both agreed that this is a one-time tipp a night.  With only one KBBA it's not a cloying or syrupy sweetness, but more than that at the start of an evening, it could be.  Keeping the KBB ale on the bar as well as the stout (which we've had out before) would be a good thing.  Great for conversation and starting the evening off in a unique and tasty way.
We did eventually make it back to get the cookie jar!

Friday, October 5, 2012


A keeper on the menu list for those with a sweeter palate.
As much as I loathe to admit it, it's October.  The summer has passed in the blink of an eye, and it feels like we barely got a chance to enjoy it.  Today is a cool, damp, cloudy day.  And while I don't want summer to end, resistance is futile.

So in an act of capitulation, I hit the PDK's seasonal recipes and found the Newark under "Fall".  We did not have the Fernet Branca.  I looked it up to see if there was a substitution I could make.  (I'm getting pretty chefly with this mixology thing!)  It's described as "a dark, syrupy alcoholic drink similar to an amaro, with a flavour that's best described as being a cross between medicine, crushed plants and bitter mud." Yum. And we don't keep Jager on the bar. So what do we have that comes close to this to add that dimensionality? I opted for a splash of Pimm's. Thinking about it again, Campari might have been a better choice. 

Still, I don't know if I'd try again with either the Campari or the Branca, assuming I could find it.  Both The Partner & I were in agreement from the first sip -- way-aay too sweet.  Oddly enough given the pear base, it had a smooth, apple quality to it.  It is the essence of fall.  Despite it not being our cup o' tea, I don't know that I would discount it out of hand.  This is a good bev to keep on hand for the guest who might be up for something new and has a palate for sweet tipples.  In that case, I think this could be a hit.

2 oz. pear brandy
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur

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

Friday, September 7, 2012

Puttin' the "D" in "Dilettante"

Few things say, "Summer in Chicago" like the lights at Wrigley Field as viewed from the roof.
To all our friends and readers who have been asking what's happened to the blog, let me first offer regrets for not posting for so long.  Let me then softly redirect us, Gentle Reader, to the definition of dilettante and warmly suggest that the sporadic nature of this blog is embedded right in the name.  I suppose we all need to get used to the fact (myself included) that there will be dry spells from time to time, as odious as that is for a cocktail blog!

To answer the question that the Dilettante's absence has surfaced, no, we have not gone on the wagon.  Indeed, what we have done has been to make use of the blog during these oh-too-short summer months, clicking the "summer" tag early and often for rooftime and spontaneous celebrations with friends.

I'm glad to report that this summer, the initial mission of this blog has been successfully accomplished.  Looking back over the season, it's clear: our tastes have indeed been expanded.  Bourbon is decidedly the new vodka for both the Dilettante and The Partner.  And for The Partner, so is gin.  So perhaps the best way to bring back the blog is to review some of our summer faves with updates to the original entries for the season's top bevs, discuss some of our new favorite liquors, and suggest some labels.

Bookmark this page.  As the entries for the listed tipples are updated they'll become active links back to their original and updated pages.

Welcome back!

Beverage Updates  Links below will take you to the top of each page.  Scroll down to find the updates.

Pimm's Cup #1
Corpse Reviver #2
Bourbon Squash
Moscow Mule
Mint Julep
Cuba Libre
Champagne Cocktail

Favorite Liquors  Click here for top of page.  Click individual liquors below for direct links.

Willett Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select Bourbon
Eagle Rare Bourbon
Hendrick's Gin
Bombay Sapphire Dry Gin
Small's American Dry Gin
St. George Botanivore Gin

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Favorite Liquors & Labels

Nothing is pleasant that is not spiced with variety.  

So says Sir Francis Bacon.  

As many a faithful reader, friend or family member will know, Sir Francis's sentiment has been the motivation of this blog and cocktail project.  After years of being locked in our choice troika of beer, wine, or vodka, The Dilettante and The Partner have busted our parochial palates.  For the past 18 months now we've been exploring the mixological arts via our guides, Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century and The PDT Cocktail Book.  

This summer has been a dry spell for the blog, but not for our liquid explorations.  In fact, this season has seen the realization of our mission in the most diverse terms thus far.  Looking back over the summer and examining our recreational sipping habits, we have clearly built up a repertoire of cocktails that we now confidently order or mix beyond the big three above.

Here are some of our favorite "new" liquors and the labels we've enjoyed thus far.  Bookmark this page for updates as time goes on.  You'll also be able to find links back here from the entry, "Puttin' the 'D' in 'Dilettante'".  Those links will bring you to the top of this page.  Scroll down to see the updates.

Here's to building palates as well as bar shelves!

What a great bottle.
There's no better place to start than at the top of the list.  Willett has become our absolute favorite bourbon.  The Partner would have it in any bourbon bev.  I, however, reserve it for either sipping straight or cocktails with few ingredients so it can be appreciated for the jewel it is.

To date we have not found a smoother, more balanced bourbon.  Vanilla and caramel play of nice wood notes that are almost piney.  Wonderful and warm.

Willett has also become a great gift for the two main bourbon connoisseurs in my life -- my sister and my father.  Knowing our love of it, it's also been gifted to us by our friends, M. & B.  Recently, we've turned our friends S. & D. onto it -- self-avowed non-bourbon drinkers. 

If you're intrigued, purchase this genie bottle when you see it.  It's seasonal and batch-distilled.  When it's gone for the season, it's gone and not easy to find.  You'll know a quality bar when they have this on the top shelf.

Woodford Reserve Distillers Select
If Willett is our measuring stick, then Woodford Reserve is about half a shelf down from Willett.  We liked it better than the Rare Eagle, which honestly, I thought was clearly not Willett, but still good.  That is until we had the Woodford which has much more body and character.  Another limited-batch spirit, it's a bourbon I feel good using to create a high end cocktail without using an over-qualified spirit like Willett.  That said, it's nearly as expensive as Willett.  But still, somehow you don't feel as bad combining it with other mixers and accents.  Woodford elevates them rather than the other ingredients bringing the bourbon down.

Woodford is characterized by a nice tanginess.  It is strong.  Imagine a peppered toffee.  Smokey.  Spicy.  It makes a nice Manhattan and holds up very well to the citrus in a Bourbon Squash.

Eagle Rare Bourbon
One Saturday afternoon, while on a Binny's run, I decided to grab a couple other liquors that I'd either heard of or were on the Binny's recommended list.  ERB was the latter.  Initially, I found it to be a suitable mixing bourbon when I didn't want to use Willett.  It had a complexity and warmth I found lacking in more commercial bourbons.  But right off the bat, The Partner detected the difference:  "Is this Willett?"  You can practically see the pinched face and scrunched nose as if a baby in a bad diaper just walked by.  And I have to admit, that in a side-by-side comparison, it does not hold up even to the Woodford Reserve, never mind Willett.  In that company the Eagle Rare is thin and watery, relatively flavorless.  When I have a choice, I'll be going with the Woodford.  But in a pinch, the Eagle Rare will do.

St. George Botanivore Gin
The name alone is enough to get this English teacher to purchase it.  What a great word, botanivore!  "Botanical eater"! The marketing person who came up with that one sure earned their keep on that day!  Going beyond just marketing, it's an apt name for this gin.  As many a reader will recall, the Dilettante doesn't enjoy naked gin.  However, this is one was purchased due to its prevalent use in the PDT bible.  Even from this anti-ginite, SGBG is to be appreciated.  Cocktails that allow gin to shine will benefit greatly from this spirit.  It is herby, green, floral, with whispers of juniper, citrus, maybe even some coriander.  From here on it will be the gin of choice on the Dilettante's bar.  Nineteen different botanicals means it will play nicely with all kinds of mixers and accents.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Really? A summer cold?

Water, Kleenex, & Coca-Cola (Mexican, of course!).
The best we could do with a summer cold.
Why? Why? Just when we were getting the summer under way. And after nursing The Partner through four killer winter colds without catching a one. Now I get one?

Date night and he asks, "So what's on the mixology menu tonight?" You're kidding me, right?

"Nothing," says an ailing I.
A few moments later I'm served a sicky's cocktail -- a Mexican Coke on the rocks in a Waterford brandy snifter.

Perfect.  Please pass the Kleenex.

Friday, May 25, 2012


My girl, L. - of He Shot, She Shot fame - joined the Partner & me on the roof Friday.
Pictured with my caipirinha (left) is her mojito (right).
The Partner's bev? *Yawn* a glass of white wine ;-)
PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: light, refreshing, summery
Style of Drink: short but strong; on the rocks; a summer sipper
Spirit of Choice: clear liquor
Last Drink: Pimm's Cup #1

Finally, Caipirinha!  I've been wanting to mix this bev for the longest.  I've even had a bottle of cachaça on the bar for nearly a year now.  So as the return entry after being distracted and derailed by a major, month-plus kitchen remodel, I decided this would be the one to feature.
I was first introduced to this tipp over 15 years ago at a crazy gay disco cum bar cum restaurant called Rhumba.  Mojitos were just becoming all the rage (the best I'd had at that time being at Nacionale 27,  served with a sugar cane swizzle stick), so when our server suggested the caipirinha and described it in terms of a Brazilian mojito with this exotic Brazilian liquor that was a cross between rum & tequila*, I was all in.  Alas, Rhumba is no more.  But in the years since, I have enjoyed several Caipirinhas on warm evenings with my dear friend, M. over at the Matchbox (sitting along Milwaukee Ave. a must while sipping!).
Meehan’s version of Brazil’s national cocktail is good.  Looking around the web, he goes with the classic using just 3 ingredients.  He calls for Demerara sugar – which is somewhere between Sugar in the Raw & light brown sugar.  This makes sense as it gives added heft than plain white or simple syrup and counters the slight veggie quality of the cachaça.  Beyond that, I took a modified page from the Matchbox playbook and rimmed the glass with sugar.  Once I have the kitchen back, I’ll do it the way they do and use confectioner’s sugar -- an enjoyable twist.  This will be another feature on the rooftop this summer!

*: Cachaça is actually a rum, not a tequila.  Unlike Caribbean rums, however, it is made from sugar cane juice, not molasses.  Reputedly, it is the first spirit of the Americas, first produced in Brazil ca. 1532.  Thus, cachaça can only come from Brazil.  The comparison to tequila probably stems from two things: its slightly veggie quality on the palate and like tequila, the similar legal limitations on what can be called cachaça.

2 oz. cachaça
½ lime, quartered
2 barspoons or 2 cubes of Demerara sugar

Slice and juice the lime into a pint glass and muddle hulls with sugar.  Add cachaça and shake.  Pour unstrained into chilled rocks glass filled with ice.  No garnish (unless you want a sugared rim :-P  )

**: Since this entry is already a linkapalooza, here’s a fun one to native pronunciations of caipirinha.  Now you too can order like a Brazilian!

UPDATE: As it turns out, the Caipirinha was a summer feature, though not as often as we would have thought.  This is a strong drink with unique qualities.  Thus it doesn't lend itself to many in a row like, say, a margarit, a mojito, or something out of the Island Oasis machine.  But this does hit the spot after tiring of a run of one of those other drinks and you're not ready to stop yet and you don't quite know what you want next.  In such circumstances, have a Caipirinha.  It's different on the palate and definitely keeps the buzz going until dinner.  You might not have two at that point, but that's ok.  It's the transition drink!

Friday, April 13, 2012


Looks pretty.  Tastes less so.
PDT Interview
Personal Preferences:  Something to kick off Friday Date Nite
Style of Drink: A stiff aperitif
Spirit of Choice:  gin or vodka-base, fruit or citrus accent
Last Drink: Pimms Cup #1

It’s been a while since we had such a stinker.   A true disappointment since the Tuxedo looks pretty good on paper.  I made two versions.  The one as prescribed by PDT, complete with the absinthe rinse and one without for The Partner’s licorice-averse tastes.  I thought the cherry and the absinthe might work together.  But honestly, unless you want a mouthful o’ licorice, I find nothing redeeming about absinthe.  It’s simply impossible control in any way whatsoever.  A “rinse” or a pour, there’s no difference; the result of which is to completely deaden the palate for any other flavor or nuance.

That said, even without the absinthe, The Partner was not a fan and with a couple sips off his bev, I have to say, this was not special enough to warrant making again.  To his credit, he didn't whine about "these classic cocktails" and in this case he would have been well within his rights to do so.

2 oz. gin
1 ½ oz. dry vermouth
¼ oz. Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled, absinthe-rinsed coupe.  Garnish with cherry & lemon twist.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pimm's Cup #1

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences:  Something new
Style of Drink:  A happy hour kickoff
Spirit of Choice:  Pimm’s
Last Drink:  Corpse Reviver #2

We have two bottles of Pimm’s.  One was a gift and I’ve been dying to try it for some time.  But the thought of cukes in a cup really doesn’t blow The Partner’s skirt up.  Plus, it’s rare that we have a cucumber left in the crisper by week's end since we love ‘em on our salads each night.  But tonight we had one of the English variety in the fridge, so it seemed the appropriate time to slip the Pimm’s Cup #1 into the lineup.

Pimm’s itself is an interesting concoction.  Back in the 19th century, oysters were all the rage with British gentlemen.  Gin, the national bev, was a bit too harsh to go with oysters, but is what was served with them nonetheless.  That is until 1823 when James Pimm opened his London oyster bar and served up Pimm’s House Cup – gin mixed with fruit extracts and various other liqueurs.  It started a rage that swept the Empire.  Before long, what we call Happy Hour was called "Pimm’s O’Clock".  Eventually, Mr. Pimm would create two similar mixes with different bases – scotch being the base of Pimm’s Cup #2 and brandy for Pimm’s Cup #3.

The spirit pours a little syrupy with a reddish brown tint.  The best way to describe the taste is somewhere between a very thin cough syrup and a watered down Jagermeister.  Not the most appetizing, but not as god awful as the cough syrup or Jager either.  When mixed with the other ingredients in this tipple, it’s quite refreshing.  A solid summer sipper with clean, bright notes of cucumber and ginger.  Definitely glad to have finally gotten around to this one!

Pimm’s Cup #1:
2 oz. Pimm’s Cup #1
½ oz. simple syrup
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 oz. ginger ale
3 cucumber slices

Muddle two cuke slices with the syrup.  Add the lemon juice and Pimm’s and shake with ice.  Serve in Collins glasses with ice and top with the ginger ale.  Use the last cuke slice to garnish.

UPDATE:  Well didn't this turn out to be the most notorious sipper of the summer!  For his birthday, The Partner decided he wanted to have just a few friends over for cocktails on the roof.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time behind the bar mixing different cocktails all night ("just a few friends" turned out to be 16).  So besides wine and beer, I featured two cocktails for folks to choose from that could be mixed quickly from only a couple ingredients.  Pimm's Cup #1 was one of them.  As a result, we burned through the two bottles we had on the bar.  With friends A. & R. leading the pack, and it became the most requested drink of the summer with calls, texts, and emails from all quarters asking for the recipe.  Thank goodness for the blog.  Responses were as easy as a pasted link.

What of The Partner you may ask?  He still claims he doesn't like it.  When asked if he'd like one he declines.  The reason:  "Cucumbers are for salads.  I don't like to drink them."  That is until a Pimm's #1 is mixed and placed in his hand without getting permission first.  Then it's:

"What is this?"
"Pimm's #1."
"The one with the cucumbers?"
"The one with the cucumbers."
"Hmm....  It's nice.  Refreshing."
"That's the cucumbers."
After hitting the bottom of the glass: "Ok, I'll have one more...."

Doesn't like it my @$$.  He's just a condiment snob.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cookin' with Booze

One of the things I've been struggling with on the bar is a glut of ancient liquor and liqueurs that The Partner and I have moved from place to place and have had since before we even knew each other.  You know the stuff-- those same bottles you’ve seen on your grandparents' bar or your parents' bar for as long as you've been able to form memories?  With about a year of barmanship and mixology under my belt now, I can see that there are certain bottles that will never go away unless they're thrown out.  But that's sacrilege in so many ways.  Denigrating the memories of the ancestors, waste, a crime against Dionysus.   That is until I had an inspiration when we were at Costco one day.

On a recent run to restock the staples we were cruising the meat case and I saw a pork loin that was in some horrid marinade (packaged, marinating meats are another crime against the gods in my book).  As I tossed it back into the case for some philistine to purchase one word on he label caught my eye: whiskey.  **DING**. Light bulb.  I instantly knew what I would do with all our ancient spirits!  After all, I cook with beer and tequila in chili and wine in all sorts of things all the time.  Why not whiskey?

So another permutation of the blog is born.  "Cookin' with Booze"! Here at two marinade recipes that I've concocted to cull the bar. Enjoy!
Note:  I tend to do palmfuls and fractions there of to measure dry ingredients and measure by eye with liquids.  So amounts here are approximate.  Taste and balance as you go (before adding the meat).

Whiskey Dijon Marinade
We have so many different kinds of whiskey, clearly holdovers from a time before Homo discovered vodka.  So this is the first use in cooking.  When cooked, the pork has a grilled & garlicky, sweet flavor.

1/4 c. Whiskey

Thanks to my neice, A. for this pic from her dad's grill.
1/4 c. Soy sauce

1/4 c. Dijon

1/4 c. Packed brown sugar

1/4 c. Finely chopped scallions

A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Black pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste

Whisk it all up.  Marinate meat for a couple hours.  Baste with extra marinade while grilling.  This is good with pork loin roast.  But I imagine this would go well with steak or chicken too.

SoCo Chicken Marinade
What the hell is Southern Comfort, anyway??  Having a taste, I understand why it’s so popular these days when tastes trend so sweet.  This marinade will taste differently in the bowl than it does on the cooked chicken.  When grilled the chicken has a bright sweetness, not at all cloying like SoCo itself.

SoCo Chicken

1/3 c. Southern Comfort
¼ c. water
1 ½ t. cider vinegar
3 T. canola oil
½ lime, juiced
2T. light brown sugar
2T. minced onion
3 cloves garlic
1 T. chili powder
1 ½ t. ground cumin
½ t. cumin seed
½ t. celery salt
½ t. onion powder

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  Add 6 chicken thighs and marinate for at least an hour.  Grill chicken on a hot grill and baste with additional marinade while grilling.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Date Nite | Marigold

A couple years ago, via Date Nite, we discovered Marigold, an amazing Indian restaurant in Chi’s Uptown neighborhood.  Instantly, it was a favorite and we became regulars – especially during the winter months when the warmth of Indian cuisine soothes and comforts.  The food was fantastic, with a menu that got the average Anglo diner past the standard curries, chutneys, and tandooris.  The atmosphere was upscale, trendy & chic with dark wood finishes and deep red walls and ruby lighting fixtures.  Tables were donned with white table cloths.  The bar was liberal and had a good wine list.  Service was friendly, personable, and attentive without being overbearing.  The owner/host knew us by name even when we hadn’t shown up in months. 

My cell cam sucks. Still, this Old Fashioned was as anemic as it looks.
After a particularly challenging few days at work, I decided The Partner (and I) needed a dose of Indian comfort this Date Nite and we headed up to Marigold once again.  Now, if you’ve picked up on a wistful tone in this entry, you’re not mistaken.  Things at Marigold have changed.  The food is still very good.  However, all the electric Date Nite ambiance is gone.  Little things are big, right?  The card stock menus have been replaced by plastic bifolds.  Gone are the table cloths.  And at 8pm on a Friday night, there were still tables – plenty of tables – to be had.  Contrast that with a couple years ago when, if you didn’t make a reservation in advance you weren’t likely to get a seat much before 9:30.  **sigh**  The service is still good, but nowhere near as personable.

Aiming for the cocktail menu, I had to try an Old Fashioned Indian (pictured) with tamarind puree & date palm sugar for muddling and rimming.  But it was disappointingly weak with nary a hint of Indian flavor  given the name, right?

It always makes me sad when places we like flame out so quickly.  We'll probably be back again as the food is still very good and on the whole it has not gotten as bad as Sola in it's drop. Marigold was such a unique place, too, with it’s combination of a trendy, hip vibe and rockin’ Indian fare that was both contemporary cuisine and comfort food all at the same time.  Truly unique.  Truly past what made it awesome. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Corpse Reviver #2

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Something new
Style of Drink: aperitif
Spirit of Choice: gin
Last Drink: Manhattan

The Partner had one tough week at work this week.  So rather than tax him with something new, I made him our now standard Manhattan.  For me, how could I not mix up something called the Corpse Reviver #2??  I’ll need to find Reviver #1 – which Meehan ties to the Savoy Cocktail Book.  Wow, was this enjoyable!  Think of a smoooooth lemonade.

For A. & R., you may want to consider this one for Orphans’ Easter.  I know you’ve already made a choice from the Dilettante's list.  But this one is really nice, not to mention easy-breezy to mix.  Plus, you still get to use Lillet!

As for The Partner, it’s a good thing I love the man.  Whenever I don’t make him a new concoction, mixing him a Ketel or Manhattan instead, he always asks, “What’ve you got there?”  The question is usually tinged with envy.  Read: "How come you didn't make me one too?" and pouted through boo-boo lips.  I got the same this time around too.

“It’s a Corpse Reviver #2.  And no, you can’t have a sip.”  He shot back with some faux wounded quip about it not mixing with a Manhattan anyway.  But sure enough, by round two he wanted a sip and I was willing to give it over.

“Oh wow!  That’s like a smooth lemon drop.  That’s gonna be a regular on the deck this summer.”

Husbands.  He really oughta just trust me from the outset  :-P

Corpse Reviver #2
¾ oz. gin
¾ oz. Cointreau
¾ oz. Lillet Blanc
¾ oz. lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Absinthe-rinsed coupe*.
No garnish.

*: Again, we don’t own coupes and we’re not fans of Absinthe – even a rinse of it.  So I didn’t use them here.

UPDATE:  This was the other offering for The Partner's birthday cocktail party mentioned in the Pimm's Cup #1 Update.  And A. & R. did wind up featuring it for Orphans' Easter, as recommended above.  Easily this could've been a more regular feature on the roof this summer.  However, we ran out of Lillet pretty early on and, for whatever reason, it didn't get restocked in a timely manner.  Still, the CR2 became my order of choice when cocktailing "off-site".  If the mixologist is worth his rimming salt, he knows the beverage.  If not, with it's equal proportions and short ingredients list, it's easy to remember and coach him through.  That said, be sure to ask if Lillet is behind the bar.  This is not the same cocktail without it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Old Pal

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Headin’ out & need to get into the groove!
Style of Drink: Something on the rocks
Spirit of Choice:  Tilting towards something brown
Last Drink: vodka up

As mentioned yesterday, The Partner & I are heading out to Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat.  It’ll be our second time at what is by far the most commercial & trendy of our top Chef  experiences.  I suppose it’s to be expected when you set up shop along the Randolph strip.  The food is decent and derives its wow factor from some of the different offerings (like the infamous ham frites, duck tongues, and, of course, various goat dishes).  The ambiance is crowded and loud to the point of being nearly unenjoyable.  So the dining company is crucial at this venue.  After our first time, finally getting a reservation after a year, we left saying we did it and didn’t need to rush back.  We went with friends N., C., M., & B. the first time and tonight we’ll go with them again.  The company will be much fun.  And thanks to N. who got the reservation both the last time and tonight!

I wanted to be sure to get back in the blogging swing and start shakin’ again tonight.  So our cocktail this evening, the Old Pal, is to get us in the mood for a late reservation.  Campari contributes the ruby hue as well as the bitter finish that makes this a good aperitif.  An enjoyable sippin’ bev that stimulates the appetite and provides a comfortable buzz without wasting you.  The Partner reports that it grew on him.  He wanted another bev for the shower as we get ready to head out, "But not another one of those.  Yeah."  Can't win 'em all.

The plan is to take my phone tonight and take some snaps of GatG.  Tune back in for an update tomorrow.

Old Pal
2 oz. rye
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
3/4 oz. Campari
Stir with ice and strain into chilled coupe.  No garnish.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

What's one to do when one comes home from a great afternoon with colleagues and finds his 20 year old cat stumbling around with a quarter length of his tail bent 90 degrees to the floor?  Well, not prepare for Date Nite with a yummy new cocktail like one planned, that's for sure.

The internet is a horrible thing at times.  Because after all of 120 seconds online and seeing that my poor cat's tail could be a symptom of anything from a fractured spine to a pelvic abscess, he was in his kitty carrier and out the door to the vet so fast he didn't know what hit him.

The Partner, though, awesome dude that he is, had it covered when we got home.  Chilly Ketels up with limes to get me through the shower and a schmear of Core Wellness Turkey & Chicken with a cold bowl of water on the side for the kitty.  Then a fantastic bottle of Guenoc petite syrah to accompany some great panko-crisped talapia with wild rice & broccolini (for me, not the kitty).

And here we are.  I'll try to post something on topic tomorrow.  Though we will be dining with friends at Girl and the Goat, so no promises there.

Meet Puck.... Not a fan of me right now.
(Oh, and if you're wondering, the Old Man, after 2 1/2  hours, a thorough palpitation, a neurological exam -- the details of which I will spare you -- and 4 x-rays, turns out he's in pretty good shape for a 20 year old.  Looks like some age-onset arthritis is effecting some vertebrae in his tail and some spurs in his hips.  A shot of pain-killer and a wrap and hopefully he'll be fine.  He probably forgot he's a feline geriatric and got carried away with the crazies and wacked his tail on something.  Hopefully, he'll be around for another 20 years.  Ha!)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cocktail Chat | Catching Up

...And we're back!
"Air" & liquid nitro at "Molecular Bar"

Has it been a month already??  Let's see.  Three days in Bonita Springs, FL.  Eleven days on board Celebrity Equinox.  Three days upon our return to put on our fabulous annual Mardi Gras party.  The party itself. Then two days to clean up.  A week of not feeling well with some nebulous, nondescript illness.  A very busy week of work and here we are.  Yup. That was February.

Not much to report during this month on the mixology front.  High marks for the Celebrity Equinox and it's contribution to bringing cocktail culture to the high seas.  After six cruises now, I'd say Equinox has one of the best cocktail setups going.  Yes, there is the so called "Molecular Bar" where a shorter, hipster version of Gordon Ramsey struts around behind the bar in his custom tailored chef coat mixing with liquid nitrogen and topping concoctions with all kinds of foams and airs and freeze-dried bits.  But save our first night checking out the Friends of Dorothy meeting there, it was not our happy hour or after hours hangout.  That honor was reserved for "Martini Bar" where very talented bartenders deftly mixed up classic cocktails as well as a bunch of other more contemporary specialty cocktails tailored to the sweet, modern palate.  The coolest feature of the bar was the fact that the bar surface itself was frozen -- coated with the thinnest film of water and chilled to frost.  Very cool.
The frosty top of Martini Bar

The bartenders even do some fancy flair à la Tom Cruise in Cocktail.  Naively, I thought we were lucky enough to have a very talented barman when we were there.  But as this YouTube video will attest, it’s clearly a standard routine learned for the ship.  The performance we saw was exactly the same right down to the configuration of the glasses for the pour.

More coming soon as we get back into the swing of things.