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.