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...