Saturday, January 28, 2012


PDT Interview
Personal Preferences:  caving to tradition
Style of Drink: classic
Spirit of Choice: vodka
Last Drink: Conquistador

Would you know this was a Cosmo if I didn't tell you?
OK, I’ve been putting this off for damn near a year now.   A Cosmo.  I’ve been dreading some ruby concoction that every fag & his hag order for happy hour at Gay Bar USA.  Such a cliche.  But I have to say, this was a surprise.  First of all, take a look at the color and proportions.  With only a half ounce of cranberry in a nearly 4 oz. cocktail, red this ain’t gonna be.  For a PDT recipe, I have to say, it’s rather classic in style.  More on the acid side than sweet, it has a rather generic tartness that is good for whetting the appetite.

Drinking more with his eyes and head than his palate,  The Partner declared these tasty and had 2 rounds, which was about all even I could stomach of these.  But as an aperitif, that’s appropriate, I believe.

An interesting exercise would be to mix up a couple of H & M’s version to see how they compare.  Then maybe one from a local establishment.  Perhaps episode 2 of He Shot-She Shot?  We’ll see.

Bon Samedi!

2 oz. Buddha’s Hand vodka*
¾ oz. Cointreau
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. cranberry juice
¼ oz. simple syrup

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

*: We didn't have any Buddha's Hand vodka, so we used Ketel Citroen.

Friday, January 27, 2012


PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Date nite, vacation-ready!
Style of Drink: up & cold,
Spirit of Choice: tequila!
Last Drink: Manhattan

The Partner is well again!  So on a Friday night, that means ... DATE NITE!  We reserve Friday nights just for us.  Sometimes we go out and burn it at both ends -- happy hour, dinner, clubbing, come home with the dawn.   Sometimes we order in and watch a movie on Netflix or a Fringe or Top Chef on our TiVo playlist or pop in a Battlestar DVD.  Sometimes it's all of the above.  Whatever it is, though, it's just us time.  No friends, no family.  But with him being under the weather so much lately, Date Nite's kinda been Lame Nite.  But not tonight!

At this writing, we're 2 days, 23 hours & 35 minutes away from an 11-day Caribbean cruise (but who's counting).  So I was definitely in the mood for something Margaritaesque.  The fact that the evening's plan called for carry-out from one of our favorite neighborhood Mexican joints made tequila imperative.  (Well, that and it was DATE NITE!!!).  Since restocking the bar I've been like a little kid who's rediscovered an old toy.  Luckily, some nice Don Julio was restocked.  Of the many tequila drinks in PDT, I settled on the Conquistador.  Meehan says that this was conceived as "a 'mellow' tequila drink that retained the spirit's vegetable notes". I thought it sounded like an interesting riff on the venerable marg that would compliment dinner, set the mood for the evening, and not repeat a bev.

The first sip was a popping surprise.  A real wow in the mouth.  An unusual but very enjoyable combination of dry and fruity.  Almost grassy -- in a good way.  The egg white gave it a unifying smoothness.

In the span of time it took me to draw my first sip and a half and think the above sentences, I hear, "Oh wow...Tastes like a margarita!"  I look and there's a visible dent in The Partner's previously filled glass.

"You better make another one.  I'm almost ready."

My eyebrow arches, Spock-like.

"Hey,  Take that as a compliment!".

The Conquistador went down super-easy, with a chicken quesadilla app and some bonus nachos that made it into our carry-out, unorded.  As I watched Padma prance across our plasma, dispensing the Quick Fire Challenge coup de grace, I notice The Partner looking at me.  Awww...a little Date Nite love eye.  I start to smile warmly in return.  But it's not the love eye.  It's just the eye, looking at me... then looking at his (nearly) empty glass... then at me... then at the bar... then at me.  I shake my head incredulously.

"Hey," says he playfully, "usually I don't like 'em and you're like 'let's have another' and I'm like, 'ugh...o-kaaay'.  But I like these!  KEEP 'EM COMIN'!"

So that we did through dinner, paired nicely with burrito suizo and chicken enchiladas en mole.

I love Date Nite.

1 oz. rum
1 oz. blanco tequila
¾ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1 egg white

Dry-shake, then shake with ice and strain into a chilled egg coupe*.  No garnish.

*We don’t own egg coupes, so we enjoyed ours from a cocktail glass.

Friday, January 20, 2012

He Shot, She Shot | Burger Bar

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: booze.
A good day for a burger & a bev with a friend.
Style of Drink: something to go with lunch,
Spirit of Choice: house aged rye, beer
Last Drink: Black Thorn (Irish)

I had a fun afternoon planned with my friend L. today.  It’s been a snowy day in Chi.  Almost 6 inches in the city.  But that was only gonna add to our fun.  We had lunch at Burger Bar.  Falling snow made for a cozy atmosphere that lent itself to lunchtime cocktails.  Since The Partner is under the weather – a-gain – I knew there’d be no happy hour tonight.  So this seemed like the perfect opportunity to evolve the blog.  L. is a photographer too.  Of the professional variety, not the dilettante kind like me.  She also is fond of the tipple.  We placed our orders & cocktails were delivered.  After I snapped our bevs, with my Android, she whipped out her iPhone. 

He Shot: 3-month aged Templeton Manhattan
“Now from my point of view,” she said, shooting them from her side of the table.

Thus the first installment of an occasional series, “He Shot, She Shot”.  Great double entendre there, too.

For lunch, L. had the Les Urbain [sic], which is a burger topped with brie, onion jam & dijonnaise.  To wash that down she sipped a Metropolitan Krankshaft Kolsch which Burger Bar’s 1-inch thick, ring-bound beer guide describes as having “very clean & crisp taste, with graininess & notes of hay in the forefront…wheat malt rounds out the bitterness of the Santiam hops.  Light bodied & easy to drink….”
She Shot: Krankshaft Kolsch

“And is it?”  I querried. 

“It is,” she enthused kitschily. 

When I looked at their cocktail card, I was uncertain if hard liquor was the right pairing for my Wild Bill (bison, arugula, goat cheese, tomato chutney on a pretzel roll).  But then I saw it:

“**House 3-month barrel-aged Templeton rye Manhattan**”

Done.  When it’s snowy and cold out, what better to warm your cockles than a special Manhattan?  Besides, Wild Bill and bison scream bourbon.  If you find yourself at North & Clybourn and want a beautiful cocktail made with home-aged booze, get yourself one or two of these.  A little smoky, with a nougaty sweetness and clear notes of vanilla.  And smoooooth?  Creamy.  Silky.  Yum.

Caveat emptor:  Burger Bar is one of these “boutique” burger joints where if they call them “stackers” instead of burgers and serve bison and elk and top them with onion jam instead of caramelized onions then they can charge $15 a burger.   Do go, but make certain you’re going with good friends who enjoy a fat, messy burger, good beer, and fabola Manhattans!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Black Thorn (Irish)

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: sipping
Style of Drink: aperitif
Spirit of Choice: whiskey
Last Drink: Blood & Sand

After the last drink The Partner commented about needing a nosh to go with it.  The inject-a-thought made me want something more to sip but not as syrupy as the last one.  Something a bit more savory.  Something that could keep us company while he put the finishing touches on dinner and munched on a handful of pretzels.  The Black Thorn (Irish) was a good next step.  In the same family as the Manhattan, Rob Roy, Old Fashioned, this one was a bit lighter.  With the lemon twist garnish it got more and more lemony as we got towards the bottom of the glass.  Made me think that maybe just a dash of lemon juice would brighten it up.  But then I risk another refrain of the acidity chorus. 

Black Thorn (Irish)
2 oz. Irish whiskey
1 oz. dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.  (Meehan says to rinse the glasses with Absinthe.  (We didn’t.)  Garnish with lemon twist.

Blood and Sand

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Something to sip while watching the game
Style of Drink: Collins, punch, fizz
Spirit of Choice: bourbon, whiskey, rye
Last Drink: Improved Whiskey Cocktail

Mmmm...prune juice in a coupe
We’ll ignore the personal preferences in the PDT Interview.  I was really looking for something tall and icy that The Partner and I could sip multiples of while we watched the Giants kick the Packers’ collective ass.  But nothing was blowing my skirt up.  So how did we end up with something that looks like prune juice?

“Wow, I notice you’re going with sweet ones of late,” was The Partner’s response to the Blood & Sand.  And sweet it is.  Not bad.  Not great either.  A definite aperitif, this one was named for the 1922 Rudolph Valentino movie of the same name.  As he said, “I feel like I need a charcuterie plate or something.  It's good, but you couldn’t drink these one after the other.”

‘Nuf said.

Blood & Sand
1 ½ oz. blended scotch whisky
¾ oz. OJ
½ oz. Cherry Heering
½ oz. sweet vermouth

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coup.  No garnish.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Improved Whiskey Cocktail

Very elegant & a total bomb.
PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: warming, winter pick-me-up, using a new liquor
Style of Drink: rocks
Spirit of Choice: Maraschino liqueur, peach liqueur, pear liqueur, honey bourbon
Last Drink: Pearl Button

We won’t spend much time on this one.  In both versions it wasn’t the best and far from “improved” in both my book and The Partner’s.  The recipe calls for the glasses to be rinsed with Absinthe.  The Partner can’t stand licorice.  So his didn’t get the rinse.  I’m not a fan of strong licorice either, but wanted to see if there’s any way to include Absinthe without it overwhelming the entire bev.  Besides, I always want to get the baseline before I start improvising.  No luck.  Mine was all licorice.  The Partner was done with the one round.  I made another without the Absinthe.  Still, the one word was cloying.  I couldn’t even finish it.  If I were to do this again, I’d definitely leave out the Absinthe and the simple syrup.

Improved Whiskey Cocktail
2 oz. rye
½ oz. Maraschino liqueur
½ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir with ice and pour over a single ice cube into a chilled rocks glass that’s been rinsed with Absinthe.  Garnish with a lemon twist.  

Cocktail Chat | Off to Binny’s!

One of 2 liqueur aisles at Binny's
The Big Ah-Ha for today:  I love shopping for booze!  Generally speaking, I don’t like shopping.  I can spend hours in book stores, grocery stores, computer & software stores, and that’s about it.  Now I can add liquor store to the list.  Especially when I have to find a particular new spirit that I’ve not used before.

Besides restocking with the staples: sweet & dry vermouth, gin, tequila; I also picked up a couple items that are new to our bar but in high use at PDT.  Included are white vermouth, peach liqueur, pear liqueur, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and honey bourbon.  Can’t wait to try them all!

For the Chicagoans following the blog:  Does anyone else miss Sam’s?  Ever since Binny’s bought them out in 2009, the warehouse on Marcy is just not the same place.  The selection is not as international or as extensive.  Used to be that there was practically nothing they didn’t have.  Now, it’s just a bit lacking even in some of the essentials, like bottle pourers, glassware, bar utensils.  I miss Sam’s.  But finding new and interesting spirits is a blast.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pearl Button

PDT Interview
Personal preferences: dark liquor, warming, "brown"
Drink style: rocks
Spirit of choice: scotch, bourbon, Irish whisky
Last cocktail: Bijou

Awesome Xmas gifts. Glasses: Mother-in-law, Sculpture: Sis
January 13th.  Friday. Chicago finally gets its first winter storm of the season.  PDT interview notes above reflect my mood.  Bar’s practically empty of stock liquors.  F***.  Heading to Binny’s tomorrow for sure (with that 15% off coupon from my inbox)!  I need something to lift my mood on this typical Chicago winter day. 

Leafing deeper into Meehan.  Looking for something I have ingredients for.  Anything.  Stumble across a section entitled "Seasonal Mixology".  Perfect.  His description of winter captures my mood and bev desires perfectly, noting that when the sun goes down in early afternoon and the temp drops, people start ordering “spiritous aperitifs such as Manhattans, Martinis, Negronis.”  Exactly.  Outta vermouth.  Can’t do a one of them.  Meehan continues: “When the weather gets bleak, I always put a tiki drink on the menu for comic relief on a chilly winter night.”  Permission to go tropical to lift my (excuse the pun) spirits.  And I did just change all my desktop wallpapers to tropical scenes – vacation is tantalizingly close.

Pearl Button.  First sip was a bit of a shock.  After that, both The Partner and I agreed, this will be a feature on the roof this summer.  First word to describe: Dry.  Then light.  Crisp.  Floral.  Citrus. Not at all acidic.  Effervescent.  Not a “ya know, these classic cocktails…” in sight.  I must admit to a bit of anticipatory skepticism when I read the recipe.  Cachaca & Lillet?  But it works.  Even got to trot out the new Collins glasses.  A Christmas gift along with the PDT from my mother-in-law.  Thank you, P-!

Happy Friday 13th!!

Pearl Button
2 oz. Cacha├ža
3/4 oz. Lillet blanc
1/2 oz. lime juice
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice.  Top with 1.5 oz. of San Pellegrino Limonata*.  Garnish with half a grapefruit wheel*.

*:  Damn.  Ran out of San Pellegrino Limonata just this afternoon.  Ditto on the grapefruit.  So a slight squeeze from the heel of a lemon over the ice before topping with seltzer and half a lemon wheel for garnish sufficed nicely.  Give an easy stir with a bar spoon to get all the ingredients lovin' each other.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


The Bijou, first cocktail of the new year from the new book.
PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: dark liquor, slow sipping
Style of Drink: classic, rocks
Spirit of Choice: scotch, bourbon
Last Drink: Manhattan

Over the Christmas break, the beverages for the fam vacillated between Manhattans and Tequila Sunrises.  It was a cooler evening on Friday, so for the first beverage in the new year from the new book, I was thinking an amber beverage was more appropriate to the mood and weather than a tequila cocktail.  I was also willing to push the envelope a bit with an accent liquor.   Interestingly enough, the Bijou, first mixed in 1895, fit the bill when considering my PDT Interview criteria.  French for jewel, what a jewel the Bijou is.  Look at that picture!  Rich ambers, the flash of red & yellow from the garnishes.  Meehan notes in the text that the liquors are supposed to represent the jewels of their color:  Gin=diamond, vermouth=ruby, Chartreuse=emerald.   And how about my new Waterford rocks glasses?  One of my Christmas gifts from The Partner!  Not a coupe, but I wanted to start with new glassware.

We were very pleased with the choice.  It was indeed a slow sipper, allowing us to pass the time and share our day while waiting for our late dinner reservation.  I was taking a risk here since Chartreuse is one of those very herbal liquors with occasional licorice notes – a flavor The Partner just can’t stomach.  ("Hmm...what all's in this?  Wait, don't tell me until we've finished it.  I wanna keep liking it.")  The flavors are complex and shift as one sips.  We added an ice cube to both keep it cool and dilute a bit as we sipped.  Impossible to drink quickly, it was a one-rounder.  It is just that rich.  It is so complex we both felt our next beverages – Martinis at dinner – seemed downright weak & one-dimensional by comparison.  A marvelous, grown-up cocktail to linger over while having good conversation with a spouse or friend.

1 oz. Gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. green Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with cherry & lemon twist.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Transition 2012

Happy 2012!  Our first entries for the new year, with a new book, new drinkware, and new inspiration for Dilettante Cocktailer.

I sat down with my new copy of The PDT Cocktail Book, penned by mixologist & GM, Jim Meehan and Chris Gall and started reading.  This might hold some promise.  A compilation of recipes from the famed New York speakeasy, Please Don’t Tell, it’s an assortment of recipes from PDT as well as classics updated for modern tastes.  To be honest, I think mixing from this might prove a bit more challenging than from the bible.  It’s rather fussy in a trendy East Village kinda way.  Right off the bat Meehan talks about ingredients “that aren’t currently available in the United States” with but are included here to “encourage producers and importers to ship them to our shores.”  Great.  So in the meantime, what are we dilettantes supposed to do?  In “The PDT Experience”, Meehan & Gall devote a page and a half to describing what it’s like for an imbiber once he passes through the “secret” phone booth entrance.  It’s all a bit pretentious.  Especially as they describe how once a guest finishes examining the menu, either an order is placed or the bartender “conducts an interview to help them choose the ideal cocktail.”  Ugh.  Really?  That's a bit much.  However, I kept reading and I think I’ve stumbled on a method of organization for choosing future tipples and blog entries.  (Without the “x down & x to go” MO of blogging about the bible, I was trying to figure out how to keep things organized.  Organization is an important consideration.  You can take the English teacher out of the classroom, but… I digress….)

On to the first selection from PDT.