Friday, October 18, 2013

Chilled Perfection

Despite my previous railing against difficult to source ingredients and twee cocktails in general, I have found what may be the perfect expression of the martini known as the Vesper.  For the Bond fans, my apologies for swapping brands, but Gordon's Gin isn't what it once was.  This is my current recipe, and it's kicking off my weekend quite well. 

Chill a martini glass with crushed ice and a small pour of absinthe. 

In a shaker, combine with ice:
1 oz Aviator Gin
1 oz Dogfish Head Jin
1 oz Kettle One Vodka
1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth
2 shakes Angostura Orange Bitters

Shake vigorously until well-chilled. Empty your glass of ice and absinthe. Strain the cocktail into the seasoned glass. Ba-boom! Chilled perfection.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reading. You know, like, books?

I miss bookstores.

I know there are still bookstores around, but it's harder and harder to find one to actually spend time and browse in.  When I find one, I make a point out of going in and I almost always buy SOMETHING, even if it's something small.  The independents that are still struggling along deserve help to stay afloat, because at this point, they're the true believers.  So I pay my tithe every time I enter.

Like I say, often it's something small.  When in Manhattan, I try to get to the Strand just because it's the Strand.  They don't need my help to stay afloat, really, but I like buying books in actual stores, browsing and succumbing to impulse.  Two weeks ago, I bought a copy of Catcher in the Rye.  Why?  Well, I managed to skate the entire way through school, college, and grad school without it ever being on a reading list and I never got around to it.

I always suspected that it was something you had to read at a particular time in your life for it to hold real meaning, and now I'm halfway through, with my suspicions pretty much confirmed.  Still, I'm enjoying the book because it has a sense of place for me.  Amazon can put a smile on the box, but I won't ever think "hey, I got that when I was in NYC meeting with potential film investors."

Don't get me wrong, Amazon works.  I use them.  But I still like the real thing: a store stocked with knowledge and opinions inked on paper, staffed by an eclectic bunch of devotees.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bitter Progress

After two weeks steeping, the first batch of homemade bitters is coming along nicely, I think.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Craft Cocktails

What you see in these jars represents a promise long unfulfilled.  Back in the hazy days of having twin toddlers and many housebound hours with them, I used to have serious slices of time to get up to some strange stuff in the kitchen.  One summer, I went through a jag of making fresh ice cream periodically and was experimenting with tons of different toppings.  I happened across a recipe to make homemade maraschino cherries.

Now, cherries are, hands down, my favorite fruit, with their explosion of meaty sweetness and dark red juice.  They're really good for you and they taste like summer to me.  I aslo love maraschino cherries in all their many varieties (even the toxic-looking nail-polish red ones). So, when I saw the recipe it seemed like a no-brainer and I made an extensively large batch of fresh maraschino cherries.  It was like the food of the gods, that's how good they tasted.  Drenching fresh vanilla ice cream with those cherries and their juice was one of the best things I ever ate.  And then, you know, summer was over.  Cherries were out of season.  By the next year, the kids were busier over the summer and I didn't have quite as much "leisure time."  The year after that, we got a pool membership so I didn't have as many long afternoons needing to entertain my kids and myself with kitchen projects.  For years, the recipe was lost and every summer I'd think, I really should make some maraschino cherries again, if only I could find that recipe -- with sort of an elegiac tone.

The years passed and the kids required less herding from me and my "leisure time" was starting to increase again.  Two years ago,when rooting in the attic for something totally different, I rediscovered the maraschino recipe and that lingering impulse started anew.  But Cherries were gone for the summer.  Then, I embarked on my Manhattan Project: a scientific approach to coming up with the perfect recipe for the classic cocktail based on different combinations of ingredients.  Since the traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry, it got me to thinking about the recipe again.  On a late fall trip through the Target, on the bottom shelf of a sale rack, I came across a set of canning equipment on deep discount and I thought, wow, maybe I really should make those Cherries, and preserve them for the winter.  I bought the canning stuff, but again cherries were gone. The canning stuff sat unused in the basement.

I did, however, continue to drink Manhattans, and start creating my own cocktail combinations, often with a cherry as garnish.  As my quest for creative ingredients continued, I came back to the idea of those damn cherries and I thought, this summer, I'm gonna do it.  And I did.

I'm waiting to pop the first jar and see if my efforts help me along in my quest for the perfect Manhattan.  Friends who are craft cocktail obsessives, hit me up if you want a jar to try.  I'll throw in a couple of my own drink recipes for fun.  Because anything worth doing is worth obsessing over from the ground up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Food Guidelines

Don't be misled, this has nothing to do with anything the FDA is laying down.  These are some ad hoc rules I've established in a Bitter Dregs reaction to the constant cute-ification and marketing bullshit of the food industry.

Rule 1.  Not every beer is a "craft" beer.  Stop pretending that everyone who puts something in a bottle or can for micro-production and slaps a clever graphic on it is making good beer.  Many of those beers taste terrible and show very little... craft.

Rule 2.  Let's put a little more "loca" in the locavore movement, shall we?  Sitting down at a supposedly locavore restaurant and finding they bring their ingredients from a neighboring STATE is bit of marketing caca.  If your food isn't sourced within 50 miles of where you're eating it, don't try to tell me it's local.  And don't try to charge me extra for it.

Rule 3.  "Artisinal" should mean something.  It's now the most over-used adjective in the high-end food industry.  Artisinal Cheese has become the craft beer of dairy.

Rule 4.  Let's eliminate obscure ingredients.  Lately, in food and drink, recipes seem more of a scavenger hunt challenge for difficult-to-source ingredients than a plan for cooking something you'd actually want to eat.  So, for those of us not living in Brooklyn, stop calling for one drop of monkey-blood-orange-distilled-cognac-barrel bitters in a cocktail that ends up tasting like a jock strap.  It looks suspicious when said bitters in only produced in a "craft" distillery with "artisinal" methods by someone in your family.

Rule 5.  A "Farmer's Market" should feature actual farmers.  If it doesn't, you're being duped and shopping at a mobile food mall.

Of course, ignore the rules.  Eat what you like, drink what you like.  Don't be pressured to like something, no matter what the label says.  If a craft beer tastes like horse pee and you keep drinking it, then the only craft involved is mis-direction.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Science Experiments

Today's experiment: a new citrus martini recipe.

2 dashes absinthe
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes lime bitters
1 part Dogfish Head blood-orange infused vodka
1 part regular vodka
1/2 part Dolan Blanc vermouth
1/2 part limoncello

Fill a martini glass with crushed ice and drizzle with the absinthe.  Swirl it all to chill and coat the glass. Set aside.

In a shaker combine ice, bitters, vodkas, vermouth, and limoncello.  Shake vigorously until the shaker is  well-chilled.

Toss the ice from your glass.  Strain the cocktail into the glass over the absinthe residue.

A nice chill for a summer happy hour!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

5 Observations From Summer Concerts

1. To the drunk couple singing all the lyrics meaningfully into each other's eyes: no one came to see you sing and it's really not going to relight the sputtering spark in your sex life.

2. To the guy 10 feet from stage center: you're pretty cut to be able to hold your girlfriend on your shoulders that long, but everyone behind you came to see the band, not your girlfriend's ass.  It's a one-song limit on the shoulder-elevator, pal.

3. To bands that encourage unison, over-the-head audience hand-clapping: toss out some free deodorant with that.  Pit-sweat is the only thing stronger-smelling than weed.

4. To the weed-smokers: up your game.  I don't mind smelling your puff, but I do hate when it smells like a skunk's ass.  Shell out for more than stems and seeds, bud.  Get it?  Bud.

5. To the venue operators: $11 for light beer? Blow me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Projects

In the long dark of the winter months, you've got a lot of time to sit and drink--er, soul-search.  You review accomplishments, obsess over failures, come up with grandiose plans for the future.  My plans often take the shape of various projects.

These include a wide range of disciplines, from cooking to home improvement to the arts to film to high-tech.  I've been accused of taking things too seriously and possibly that's an accusation that sticks, but I'll tell you something: when I look backwards through my life, it's the things I didn't take seriously enough that haunt me.  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against being a dabbler.  Life should be about experiencing and experimenting with a lot of different things and I don't think anyone has a duty to be an expert in all of them.

When I undertake a winter project, though, I try to take it seriously enough to approach it in an organized way.  Generally, this is in self-interest, because I want to have something to write about later.  So, if I can get myself out of my own winter doldrums, I'll start reporting on my projects here.

Next: The Daily Newspaper Project

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Annual Ritual

So... Time for the annual ritual of commercial-watching amidst a "sporting" event. This year, it's even more evident than ever that commercials are the real reason the "super" bowl exists. The unveiling of commercials for particular products is getting as much advance hype as the game. Let's face facts: it's early February, the football season is long over, and were in the long march through winter. Between now and spring training, you won't be watching a lot of football, but you will be drinking a lot of beer, hence all the commercials.

The game itself is usually a bore. If it all has worked right, the two best teams will be evenly matched, which results in a defensive heyday, with low scores, and little cause for fan celebration. Like watching a pitcher's duel in baseball.

As always, I'll be having the makeyourown hoagie party, drinking beer and watching to see what those sexy Doritos women do this year.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Number Eleven

This week's new cocktail recipe, called The Number Eleven. A bourbon-based sazerac variant using Art In The Age's Sage botanical spirit.

2 parts bourbon
1/2 Part Sage
1/2 part simple syrup
1/2 t Royal Rose Cardamom Syrup
Dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake over ice, then strain over ice in a low glass. Garnish with a cherry.