It’s not too often that I start writing before 6 am. The last couple weeks have had the blog on the back burner. Between work travels, a cold that made me want to go to bed at 8 pm and some other evening commitments, I just haven’t made time for a post. I’ve also found myself more eager to pick up the novel (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk) that I’ve been reading. It’s a fine book that’s funny, heartbreaking and with no wasted sentences. I stayed up last night to finish it and so this morning I’m left with no excuses.
I’ve had ideas for new posts. My work trip included a team event at a San Francisco Mexican restaurant with a giant wall of tequilas where they taught us how to make margaritas. The recipe turned out to be as simple as they get (2 parts tequila, 1 part lime and 1 part agave syrup) so while it was a fun experience with colleagues that I’m lucky to call friends, I decided to wait to on a margarita post till I try out one of the more interesting recipes in the Rick Bayless book.
I’ve also been experimenting with a couple new ingredients. I found a bottle of Gran Classico bitter at shop near my hotel in Union Square. While it may be available in Washington, I haven’t seen it yet and decided to pick it up since it is mentioned in recipes from time to time. I used it at family dinner for Mother’s Day last weekend to make a Negroni variation for Rebecca, Liz and Chris. The other new item is a quinine flavored red wine aperitif called Byrrh which was unknown to me until recently. I’ve used it to make some Manhattan variations that I’ve liked quite a bit.
The real news is that our dear friends Anton and Michelle moved back to Seattle. It was the absence of Anton’s bartending skills that helped inspire me to learn to make better drinks, so it is fun to have him around again to experiment with and share ingredients. They brought their two little girls over to our house after work yesterday for impromptu happy hour.
It wasn’t so impromptu that I didn’t have an idea for what to make. I used a new iphone app called BarNotes to do an ingredient search for Gran Classico and found a drink called Harjuku which was equal parts Japanese whisky, Byrrh, and Gran Classico with some chocolate bitters. It seemed exotic enough to serve Anton and I was interested to try it since I have liked several of the other Japanese whisky drinks I’ve made lately. The original version calls for Hakushu but since I didn’t have any I just tried it with Yamazaki. It’s certainly a useful app and has some social features.
Anton and I definitely enjoyed the drinks. It is not quite as boozy as my usual whisky drinks so it made a fine pre-dinner choice. I’ll be trying the Byrrh/Classico combination with other brown liquors again just to see how they come together. Michelle had a mocktail with pineapple sage shrub, honey syrup, ginger ale and crushed ice which she also reported liking. Since bedtime for the kids was fast approaching, we only had one but the best part was that they are now only a few miles away instead of a couple hour plane flight. I look forward to getting together more often.
Harajuku (adapted from Sam Ross’s recipe for Hinoki & the Bird)
1 oz Yamazaki 12 year whisky
1 oz Gran Classico bitter
1 oz Byrrh Quinquina
Dash of Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass with 1 large ice cube. Garnish with a swath of orange.
(on your mark, get set)
It’s Derby week. So it’s the time that all cocktail writers and especially bourbon bloggers should write posts about mint juleps. I don’t usually feel like I need to follow these kinds of conventions. This blog has no commercial interests so I can write about whatever I am in the mood to discuss.
The thing was that I really felt like making a mint julep last weekend. My sister Carolyn gave me a fabulous set of silver cups for doing so over Christmas, and I’ve been itching to use them. Two weeks ago I had barely a sliver of a mint growing, and by Sunday I had virtually a forest’worth ready to be put to use. The Boston post that I wrote last week had encouraged me to invite my longtime running partner Alicia over for drinks and a baby visit. My choices were to open up a bottle of wine, make her a pomegranate martini clone of a drink I know she likes, or to convince her to try a mint julep. I chose the latter.
I haven’t made that many juleps. The Sun Liquor class I took covered them, and Grant, Rebecca and I were recently fondly remembering making and drinking several of them in that before our more responsible existence as parents. I had another memorable one at a Tavern Law Derby party a few years back. That thing was part sno-cone, part bourbon and I am still a little envious of their ice. The Sun Liquor class provided me with a Lewis bag for crushing ice, and it works great. But it’s not a sno-cone. I wonder what those guys use to make it so fine. Probably a Lewis bag with less lazy execution. Or some $10,000 machine that makes ice for sculptures.
In my excitement over the prospect of finally making juleps, I mentioned it on twitter. Out of the blue, an account called @Better_Cocktail noticed my post and recommended that I check out their youtube videos on mint julep recipes. To be honest, I didn’t think that I needed much of a tutorial after the Sun Liquor class, but my curious nature led me to check it out. Brian Johnson has created some nice videos for people like me who aspire to make better drinks at home, and he had posted a video for something called a Prescription Julep. It’s not the usual mix of high proof bourbon, simple syrup, muddled mint & crushed ice, but after trying one myself, I can certainly vouch that it is worth experimenting with a bit. Cognac and rye have some other classic combinations, and while it is hard to beat the bourbon version, if you’re looking to try something new, I recommend giving it a whirl.
It was great to see Alicia and have her meet Archer. The tight knit training crew that we had for Boston and many other races has moved in a variety of directions in the last couple years. These days I mostly obsess about soccer and she’s been crushing triathlons. But when you’ve been through countless 20 mile sessions, you can likely talk about just about anything. We barely even discussed running, but it was good to connect again on all the things that matter far more than a race. My guess is that most people drinking juleps this Saturday before the Derby will only discuss the horses a bit, they just want an excuse to get together and have something refreshing and devilishly intoxicating. The julep does handles that with ease.
Mint Julep (adapted from PDT)
2.5 oz Weller Antique 107 bourbon
½ oz simple syrup
8 mint leaves
Muddle gently the mint leaves and simple syrup in a chilled silver julep cup. Add the bourbon & top with crushed ice. Stir and then top with more crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.
Prescription Julep (adapted from Imbibe! By David Wondrich & suggested by Better Cocktails at Home http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUNRxGJVGrI)
1.5oz Sarajishvili VSOP (my only Cognac substitute at the moment)
.5oz Russell’s Reserve rye
.25oz simple syrup
10 mint leaves
dash of Rhum Barbancourt
Add the mint and simple syrup to a julep cup. Muddle lightly. Add the cognac and rye. Add ice and stir. Add more ice and garnish with mint sprigs and top with the rum. Drink with a straw.
(I finished before her. I win!)
The past week I’ve been unable to concentrate on anything but the terrible events that took place at the Boston Marathon and the dramatic manhunt that eventually ensnared what we believe to be its primary perpetrators. It caused some late and sleepless nights, and some genuine anxiety about friends participating in the marathon and living in the Boston area.
Seattle seems almost as far away from Massachusetts as you can get and still be in the continental U.S., but the race and the city where it took place have been a big part of my life. I went to elementary and middle school in Connecticut, and rooted for the Red Sox during their heartbreaking 1986 World Series. I ran on our cross country team and had a coach who spoke with admiration about marathoners, and I think the seed was planted back then about someday running Boston.
It took me a long time to complete that goal. In 2003, I ran my first marathon in Chicago, and then the next year I trained with the hope of running a qualifying time in Portland. I ended up finishing a full 7 minutes too slow, and was bitterly disappointed. It took me five years to commit to trying again, but my third attempt was successful and a few months later I flew to Boston for Patriot’s Day weekend. Several Seattle friends accompanied me as fellow participants – we trained all rainy winter on the biggest hills we could find. We felt ready but also felt an inner pressure to have a good showing at a race that felt like the premier event for our sport.
The weather was ideal and the whole metropolitan area came out to cheer us on. It felt like a twenty six mile long block party. The woman students from Wellesley formed a “scream tunnel” and invited runners to kiss them with creative signs. People dressed up as superheroes encouraged me up a challenging section called Heartbreak Hill. Boston College students set up barbeques and I could smell the cooking as I got close to the final couple miles.
I had been in Boston several times for marathon Monday and cheered on friends from a vantage point near the 25th mile. But nothing prepared me for the emotion that I would feel getting close to Copley Square and the finish – the crowd builds into a frenzied crescendo as each step gets heavier. They kept me from faltering on that last long straightaway with the finish in sight and grandstands packed for the privilege of cheering ordinary people like me across the line.
Those are the people the terrorists aimed at last week with bombs designed to maim and kill. The citizens of Boston who willed me to my best performance ever in a race. My fellow marathoners who worked for at least months and likely years to get the chance to run that course. I’m not going to lie – I’ve been in shock nearly all week and am only starting to get angry about it.
On Friday they finally captured the remaining suspect and I did start to feel a huge relief. If nothing else, it served as a reminder on the opportunity to make each day count. I feel fortunate that I wasn’t running this year and that no one I know personally was directly affected. But any of us that have cheered from those streets or run there could justify feeling targeted and wondering a bit how lucky we were to have dodged the shrapnel.
This is a cocktail blog and so I picked out a couple recipes from Boston bars that I found on Frederick Yarm’s excellent blog (http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/). Mer, Matt and Jennie came over for dinner last night and we made the lamb popsicles recipe from Vij’s and an almond cake. I picked out a couple drinks that I thought would suit the girls’ tastes and one that would suit Matt and mine. I made a few substitutions (using Lillet Rose for Dubonnet in the Harvard Yard and Creole Shrubb in place of Cointreau in the Sunflower). Both turned out great and we toasted our time together and the city of Boston. If there is one thing I know about that city and the race, it’ll bounce back and won’t be intimidated. I guess David Ortiz already said as much.
Harvard Yard (adapted from Frederic Yarm’s cocktailvirgin blog)
2.5 oz Russell Reserve Rye
1 oz Lillet Rose
.5 oz Benedictine
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass rinsed with The Bitter Truth Pimento Dram.
.75 oz Oola Gin
.75 oz St. Germain
.75 oz Rhum Clement Creole Shrubb
.75 oz lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
(Seattle running friends celebrating after Boston in 2010. We ended up at a pub that was in one of the hotels evacuated during this year’s bombing)
(I got to ride the T back to my hotel and bumped into my parents on the platform who had cheered me on during the last mile)
One thing that surprised me after moving to Seattle more than a decade ago was the absence of regular thunderstorms. In nearly all the places I’d lived up to this point, they were a regular occurrence. Summertime thunder and a hard rain showed up nearly every day between 4 and 6 pm in Colorado, and growing up in Connecticut a lightning bolt started a fire in a house on our street.
This past weekend was full of fickle spring weather, but I was rather surprised that we had an afternoon of lightning, thunder, and then streets filled with hail. My twitter feed was full of hail related puns and Canon posted a photo of a mint julep they had made with collected ice balls. I was inspired to find my own cocktail answer to the tempest.
Yamazaki is quickly becoming my preferred spring whisky for cocktails. I also picked up a bottle of Lillet rose last week as Lillet blanc was Rebecca’s favorite aperitif prior to her pregnancy, and I thought she might like to try the new version. I spotted a recipe in PDT called Prince Edward that called for Lillet Blanc, Compass Box Oak Cross blended whisky, Drambuie and orange bitters. Although I didn’t have those ingredients exactly on hand, I decided to use the formula. I subbed in the Yamazaki, the Lillet Rose, and my charred pineapple bitters again. Ended up quite happy with the results, and the weather cleared up nearly in the time it took to mix the drink.
Hail to the Prince (adapted from PDT’s Prince Edward)
2 oz Yamazaki 12 year whisky
.75 oz Lillet Rose
.5 oz Drambuie
2 dashes Charred Pineapple Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.
A little over a week ago Chris and Liz showed up at our front door. They had returned from a trip from Portland where they procured me some Jerry Thomas bitters that I’ve had my eye on for a while. Chris’s sister had a baby girl just ahead of Archer’s birth, so they’ve gone down to visit a few times in the last few months. His sister lives in the same Portland neighborhood as the Meadow, which Chris quickly figured out was the ideal place for gifts for me as it stocks an extensive collection of bitters, salts and chocolates.
Liz had told me in advance that they had a “bitters challenge” for me. Rebecca and I speculated on what that might be. For quite some time we’ve thought that a marriage proposal could be forthcoming. Rebecca suggested that maybe they were going to ask me to make bitters for favors for their wedding and they were going to tell us they were engaged.
Turns out, Liz had spotted some Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters and thought picking up a bottle for me would be a nice surprise. Her challenge – make a drink that highlights them for our next family dinner.
I’ll admit I was disappointed to get these bitters. Don’t get me wrong – I love Scrappy’s and cardamom. But once you have in your mind that something is happening and then it doesn’t, well it is natural to feel disappointed. To be clear, it’s not up to me when or if they should get married. And I certainly don’t have to “involved” like an over anxious mother-in-law that is tasked with a series of chores even if I did like the bitters as favors idea.
This weekend we were invited to Liz’s for family dinner. The most famous cardamom recipe in our family dinner history is the pineapple upside down cake that Rebecca makes on a semi-annual basis. Readers who are familiar with last week’s post already know that I have charred pineapple bitters on hand, and the recipe calls for the pineapple to be caramelized with a bourbon brown sugar sauce. So it seemed like some sort of bourbon sour with rich syrup and pineapple bitters was the way to go. I spotted some meyer lemons at the store and decided they could be a good match.
I got a chance to play some soccer on Sunday afternoon so I was a bit late arriving to dinner. I had everything ready beforehand to bring over and make the cocktail, but when I arrived Liz let me know that they had opened some champagne and then showed me the reason why on her finger. I’ll never turn down champagne and especially when you’ve got a momentous occasion like an engagement to celebrate.
We had some good wine to open to match the ragu they had made, but I figured I might as well make a batch of the cocktails. Liz isn’t even a bourbon fan and she pronounced that if I ever open a bar (highly unlikely) that I should include this on the menu. I thought it was pretty tasty myself and would gladly make it again. Maybe as a signature drink at a wedding reception?
2 oz Trader Joe’s bourbon (I know, just for the fun of it - it’s not bad in a cocktail like this)
.75 oz Meyer lemon juice
.25 oz rich syrup
2 dashes charred pineapple bitters
1 dash cardamom bitters
Dry shake the egg white, then add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Float a dash of cardamom bitters on top.
(the reason to celebrate)
(the happy couple…because of the drink, surely)
(I took this photo outside which is a sure sign of spring)
Locals will tell you that summer in Seattle doesn’t start till July 4. Spring is much more ambiguous since our winters aren’t usually composed of snow and ice but a tireless cold rain. Last weekend here was the ultimate tease because it got warm enough that I even managed to get a sunburn in a noon time soccer game. I’m not saying my Irish complexion doesn’t make this task easy even for our feeble Seattle sun, but the city erupted in tube tops and other non typical March outdoor elations.
Rebecca and I also tried out a new Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood which had reminded us of a few things. We needed to try to visit the cherry trees at the University of Washington and take some photos with Archer and to commemorate the spring. We also had a feeling of nostalgia for our memorable trip to Japan back in 2006. I wasn’t that interested in whiskey back then other than the occasional single malt, so I didn’t really explore any Japanese ones even though it certainly has an alcohol friendly culture. The restaurant we visited has an ambitious bar program and I tried their pricey namesake the “Miyabi.” While I don’t own any of the key ingredients (after all, most home bars don’t carry gold flakes), I thought it was a category worth trying at home.
There are two Japanese options fairly easily available in the Seattle market – Hibiki 12 and Yamazaki 12. I am most familiar with Yamazaki 18 because my friend Sharon picked up a bottle on a recent trip and I got to sample some. It’s certainly an agreeable option so I opted for the Yamazaki 12 since it is less than half the cost of the 18 and requires a lot less time and effort to locate.
The cocktail that struck me as the right fit for the weather and my taste buds is called the Japanese Mule. I found the recipe published by Gary Regan in a San Francisco Chronicle article. I made a few modifications – mainly I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant by 1 to 1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger. If he meant length, that seems like far too much ginger for a single drink. If he meant to slice off a thin slice with a circumfrence around that long, that’s how I chose to interpret it. Plus I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate my homemade charred pineapple bitters into a cocktail and this seemed as good a candidate as any.
I could probably write a whole post about my love for all things basil, so I don’t think there was any real doubt that this cocktail was going to win me over. I’d certainly look to it again should the Seattle weather gods decide to grant us another unexpected weekend of glorious vitamin D and discomfort wearing a coat. I’m hoping that is sometime soon since we haven’t made it to the cherry trees yet and I think the photos will come out better if they aren’t taken in the rain.
Japanese Mule (adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle - http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Made-in-Japan-Yamazaki-whiskey-3340082.php)
1 quarter sized piece of fresh ginger
4 to 5 basil leaves
1.5 oz of Yamazaki 12 year whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 dashes Charred Pineapple bitters
— Ginger beer
— Basil leaf, as garnish
Muddle the ginger in a shaker, then add the basil and muddle a bit more. Add ice and the whiskey, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters, cover and shake. Strain the drink into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, stir and garnish with basil.
Charred pineapple bitters – (while this recipe is my own ingredients, it follows an established formula from Brad Parsons Bitters book and also rips off the flavor of charred pineapple from Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters – which aren’t easily available in Seattle and I just thought would be fun to try out. I’m sure they have a more sophisticated method but I was happy with the results).
Assorted charred pineapple pieces (bark & fruit) – 2 cups
6 cardamom pods
6 sage leaves
½ tsp lemon zest
½ tsp peppercorns
¼ tsp dried hops
½ tsp gentian root
½ vanilla bean
½ tsp orange peel
¼ tsp black nigella seeds
2 cups high proof rum
1 cup water
2 tablespoons honey syrup
First, cut up a pineapple into grill-able chunks that you can also fit in a large mason jar. Char them on the grill, and then cool to room temperature.
Place all the ingredients except the water and honey syrup in a large mason jar. Seal and keep out of sunlight. Shake once a day.
After 2 weeks, strain into a jar and remove the solids. Cover the jar and set aside.
This blog has somehow morphed into a weird genre over the last three months – cocktails ineptly made by an overtired new dad. This whole parenthood thing, it sure does take over your perspective and allow you to think silly things like “certainly all of my facebook friends would like to see a dozen more photos of my smiling son. How can they possibly resist his smile?” The biggest change is how much he becomes the center of everything important in your life, and even somehow makes his way into this blog about bitters and bourbon – things he won’t be experiencing for quite some time.
The latest friends in our lives to join the overtired club were Betsy and Grant. Their twins came several weeks early, and while everything is going smoothly, they were subjected to more tension about health than we’ve had to deal with in our first few months. We’re fortunate to live nearby some hospitals that are extremely capable of handling little ones and they have a lot of experience doing so. It is one of the benefits of living in Seattle that you never consider till one of your close friends or you need it.
Since their babies are still under observation at the hospital, they were able to come over for dinner last week and celebrate both Betsy’s birthday and the twins’ safe arrival. Rebecca cooked up a recipe from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen book called Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes. Deb has an extensive blog (http://smittenkitchen.com) and her recipes have been quite successful for us since Rebecca received the book for Christmas She was less than thrilled with the state of the chocolate bundt cake she made from another book and created a sign to display next to it saying that it had won the “ugly cake award.” She does have a sense of humor. As expected, the cake was delicious.
Betsy considered having a cocktail after her long hiatus, but opted to have a glass of wine instead. I opened up a bottle of Unti Grenache which Rebecca and I first discovered on our last trip to Sonoma a couple years back. Grant sent me a text in advance saying that he wanted to drink my most expensive bourbon. Some friend.
I complied given that we did have some big news to celebrate. I made a cocktail I’ve been eyeing in PDT for some time called the Staggerac. I’ve previously chronicled the extensive search that finding a bottle of George T. Stagg entailed and I believe I’ve mentioned my disappointment with the result. For me, I haven’t found the right amount of added water to make it enjoyable on the few occasions I’ve tasted it. Many of the critics disagree with my assessment – Whisky Magazine named it the best bourbon of 2013.
It also happens to be my most expensive bourbon so I definitely don’t want it to go to waste. Other than the instructions to use an absinthe rinsed glass (I ignored this), it sounded like my kind of cocktail. A small sugar cube is muddled with bitters, bourbon is added and they are all stirred with ice and then strained. I gave it an extra long stir hoping to get the right amount of dilution.
Since it is so strong, I thought it best to just mix one to split between us since I knew we’d both want to try the wine. A full one of these would definitely leave you unsteady, and lord knows I feel delirious enough these days without a potent high proof potion inside me. Grant is still getting mostly full nights of sleep, but I know he’ll soon join my wobbly state.
As for the results? I’d like to experiment with this again – I wasn’t sure that I liked the texture of the bitters paste or if I didn’t muddle it enough, but I think I’d use a bit of simple syrup instead. It definitely went down easier and while it wasn’t my favorite drink, I’ll try it again in a modified version.
Staggerac (modified from PDT)
2 oz George T. Stagg bourbon
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sugar cube
Muddle the sugar cube and bitters into a paste. Add the bourbon, stir over ice and then strained into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
(of these high proof options, the Stagg is the strongest and also my least favorite)
Less than three months into parenthood means most Fridays are spent at home. Rebecca just started a very limited return to work and had some duties to attend to this weekend, so Archer and I had a little boys night at home. We were fortunate enough to have a couple different shifts of visitors. Our friend Stephanie was in town from SF and she stopped in to cuddle with him for the first time.
It could be said that the most exciting moment of the day for me right now is successfully putting Archer down to sleep. I thought I had it all figured out on Friday after Steph left and was looking forward to John and Cait coming by for some cocktails and conversation later in the evening. I even got a few snacks out and was basically prepared to make them what I figured would be their preferred choices.
About two minutes before their arrival, I heard him start to cry upstairs. I did my best to comfort him and try to get him back to sleep, but it became apparent after they showed up that he wanted to join the party. Of course, that’s the real reason Cait wanted to come over anyway and she quickly ascended upstairs to retrieve his fussy self.
In the meantime, John coached me on the best way to make Cait’s dirty martini. I like olives aplenty, but I have never gotten into vodka drinks. John was well practiced and oversaw my technique.
He was equally interested in my old fashioned making. You’d think this was one I’d have down pat by now, but I found myself distracted by parenting and neglected my muddling duties. I guess it is better than the opposite scenario. I think our drinks came out fine despite my efforts. Abbot’s bitters rescued my ineptness.
My carefulness paid off with Cait’s drink and she seemed pleased with the outcome. I had a sip and wasn’t dissatisfied, although I wasn’t tempted to change my spirit allegiance. Perhaps with a plate of oysters it would be an ideal accompaniment.
We enjoyed our own array of salty snacks and I got some tips on entertaining the child from the more experienced parents in the room. Eventually they were off to dinner and Archer and I settled in to wait for Rebecca’s return. Fortunately, she did come home and we all slept better for it.
Cait’s Dirty Martini
2 oz Dry Fly Vodka
1/4 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1/4 oz olive juice
Combine the ingredients and shake over ice. Garnish with 2 olives, preferably pierced by a little sword.
(recommended swords were received as a white elephant gift from Cait for Christmas 2011)
(Archer and my early morning started with me dressing him in full Sounders gear)
Last weekend was the start of several things. A new month. A new season for my favorite local team the Seattle Sounders. Saturday was also the first time I had Archer solo for the day as Rebecca was teaching a class that ran from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm.
From the start, I’ve felt pretty confident as a dad considering I’ve never done it before. I was nervous going into it and I’m not saying I’ve had any challenges so far beyond the usual initial trials of endurance and patience. While I’m not doing very much running these days, I’ve completed a handful of marathons in the past so I’m used to some forms of physical tests. Being a new parent doesn’t compare to one incredibly taxing race day, but to a certain extent the 4 months of increasingly exhausting workouts have some similarities. The big difference of course is that I always slept quite well during marathon training and now half the time I feel like my eyes would not be out of place in a zombie movie.
Saturday was one of those grueling days that certainly made me feel a whole lot less sure of myself. The crying and fussing started around 5:30 am, and it became clear by 6 am that Archer was ready to be released from any sleep related duties. Rebecca left around 8 am, and while he’s usually pretty good natured, he was in a inconsolable howling mood. I was seriously questioning my ability to make it through the day without help by 9:15. Not a good sign when you’ve a full day ahead. My missteps including forgetting to take his diaper bag along for a lunch time visit to his mom for a feeding during one her breaks. Of course, he was a pooping machine.
The morning was rough, but after lunch was a bit more manageable. The plan was for a few of us who were headed to the Sounder’s season opener to meet up for cocktails at my place so I knew I could look forward to some help from his aunts around 5. His mood improved shortly before their arrival and he was all smiles and cooing while I mixed up some drinks for them.
I made a champagne cocktail with some pineapple infused rum for the girls. The bourbon cocktail of the week was called the Lion’s Tail which seemed appropriate for March which was starting with a rather angry roar.
One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is an excellent pizza place called Zero Zero which also happens to have a stellar bar program. It was there that I had a Lion’s Tail about a year ago, but I hadn’t really thought about it in a while until it came up in a Seattle restaurant review this week. I noticed that Robert Hess had a video on how to make it on the Small Screen network and seemed to recall having seen the key ingredient (The Bitter Truth’s Pimento Dram) at Wine World. They really do have an excellent selection of some hard to find items like that. I picked some up since I believe it will also improve some rum cocktails I hope to make in future months.
The drink was a success although I ended up not being prepared with all the ingredients. I needed to sub in lemon juice as the limes I had on hand had gone bad. I’d like to try it that way to see if it makes a big difference but under the circumstances I just made due.
I won’t lie and say the night got better from there. The rain came down furiously before the game, and the home team gave up a goal they couldn’t find an answer to before the final whistle. My exhaustion was in full effect and probably a cocktail before the game on such short rest was a bad idea on my part. I even partially spilled one of the Clink’s absurdly priced beers. All and all it was a wet and disappointing evening, although it was fun to get out and cheer the team on.
The real surprise came the next morning when apparently Archer was as wiped out as me. After some initial crying around 6:30 am, we all slept until 10:30 am. I don’t know if he needed it, but I surely did. Maybe there’s hope for some laying around like lambs before the end of March.
Lion’s Tail (adapted from http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/598/cocktail_spirit_lions_tail)
2 oz Weller 107 Antique Bourbon
½ oz Bitter Truth Pimento Dram
½ fresh lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup
2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
(we’ll be splitting, we’ll be stacking, we’ll be burning)
This past weekend Rebecca and I packed our car to the gills with various baby friendly items. It was our first attempt at a getaway with Archer. The eight week mark seemed like a reasonable time to make such an effort. After all, we’re used to traveling quite a bit and although my appetite for serious expeditions is diminished at the moment, I’m still interested in at least the occasional excursion.
I chose to rent a peaceful cabin made mostly of glass overlooking part of Deception Pass State Park. This ended up being a good choice for us for several reasons. It was a simple ninety minute drive and we didn’t have to share any hotel room walls with neighbors opposed to a fussy baby. Plus we had a kitchen so we can make some of our own meals, although in truth we just heated up things we had made at home.
About a week before we departed I learned that the place had neither TV nor wifi. I didn’t mind the TV so much but I’ll admit to being anxious about the lack of reliable internet. At the moment I’m quite occupied at work and the idea of being out of touch was a little concerning. It’s funny how the thought of being not easily connected for one workday creates stress when the whole point of getting out of town is being away from its usual pulls. Turns out my phone picked up the interwebs in a pinch, and there was no particular crisis to pull me back into responsibility.
We ended up having a few simple days. I fiddled with the wood stove and made some fires, at least partially inspired by the NY Times article on Norway’s wildly popular 8 hour long TV program on firewood. For the record, I tried both bark up and bark down. There was time to dig into a novel, and take a cold windy walk along the beach. Archer was fascinated by the giant skylight upstairs and could coo at it endlessly.
It goes without saying that I didn’t bring the whole bar along, but I picked a few choice items that I’ve been meaning to try. One was a tempting bourbon I’d yet to crack open, and the other was a chinato that I picked up almost a year ago but had also neglected. Chinato is a northern Italian bitter spirit, and while I’ve tried a few, I’d yet to use one in a cocktail.
I looked up a few recipes before I went away. There were a few good looking ones but I didn’t happen upon a simple enough one for the situation. In the end I just decided to stick to the manhattan formula and substituted the chinato for vermouth. It did not lead me astray, and it was the perfect low key option for an all around mellow weekend. I can confirm it is an excellent drink for contemplating which log to put on the fire next.
Chinato Cabin Manhattan
2 oz E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon
.5 oz Marcarini Chinato
2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic bitters
Stir the ingredients over cracked ice and pour into a chilled coupe. Brandied cherry garnish.
(Maybe they should have called this cocktail “Ruby Slippers”)
I grew up in a small town. Maybe not John Cougar small; but when that song played on MTV we sang along. Right when high school started I moved to the Chicago suburbs which were terribly exciting in comparison. No longer was it a major endeavor to go to a movie theater and the mall(s!) had every shop imaginable instead of a thirty minute drive to JC Penny and a tired Radio Shack. Best of all was the option to play out scenes from Ferris Bueller in the big city after only an hour long train ride. Wrigley, Second City, and the Art Institute were suddenly within reach instead of an epic journey. It was a joyful existence for me in comparison.
Now that I’ve lived in Seattle proper for more than a dozen years and a few other much bigger cities, it’s easy to pooh-pooh the suburban existence of chain restaurants, box stores and all of their trappings. Now the city feels like home for me and we have no plans to leave it, but my sister Carolyn recently faced the hard math and inconvenience of living with a baby in the city of big shoulders and decided to move back to our suburban town. She and her husband got a good dose of urban living and will now try their hand as adults back in the burbs. I must say the house they picked out looks fabulous and has the added bonus of being close to my parents who I’m sure will be plenty of help with their little one. I’m sure they were a little relunctant to leave but feel like it is the right time.
I guess it is merely a coincidence that I came upon a cocktail with the name Suburban on Esquire’s website a couple days after hearing my sister’s news. I was looking for a way to use some of the rum that I received for Christmas. The name didn’t exactly leap out at me, and I was a little wary of the inclusion of port as I haven’t had the best luck with the cocktails I’ve made containing that. But the primary ingredient was rye, and there were bitters. It certainly seemed worth stirring up.
So stir I did. I was concerned that the look seemed dominated by port. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I kind of wanted to pour it out and run back to a reliably pleasing Manhattan. But what the hell, I’m doing this for science, right? Perhaps not science, but the blog. Always an excellent excuse.
Turns out that David Wondrich and the folks at Esquire were right. It’s a hell of a tasty drink despite a name that might make you reconsider your order. If you have the ingredients on hand, I recommend it. After all, you can just tell your friends it’s a Manhattan variation.
Cheers to Carolyn and her husband Chris and their upcoming move back to the burbs. I hope it all goes smoothly and is full of pleasant surprises.
Suburban (adapted from http://www.esquire.com/drinks/suburban-drink-recipe)
1.5 oz Willet 4 year rye
.5 oz Rhum Barbancourt 3-Star
.5 oz Graham’s Six Grapes Port
1 dash Bob’s “Abbot’s” bitters
1 dash Orange Fig bitters
Stir the ingredients over cracked ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
(Sean & Lacey enjoying their libations)
Seattle is known as a coffee town and after we moved here 13 years ago I started drinking it regularly. Before that I drank considerably more tea, and I still like to have some in the afternoon when the weather or office is cold. These days I’ve been making more tea than ever as it seems to be the beverage of choice for the many daytime visitors of baby Archer, and Rebecca mostly gave up caffeine during the pregnancy. She did many impressively healthy things for his sake, and that is one that I surely would have struggled to do during the gloomy fall months especially. Basically right now it seems like the tea kettle is perpetually scaring our cats with its squeal.
So I was intrigued when I saw that Esquire’s Drink of the week called Early to Ryes contained sweet vermouth infused with tea. The name also seemed fitting to our current sleep state. Although in truth a lot of parents have worse situations than our conditions, it’s still a good excuse for my less than perky demeanor.
I did make one drink last year with tea called La Pere Bis but that was not a cocktail I’d likely repeat making. I believe it contains chamomile and I’ve never really been a fan of floral tea. Early to Ryes calls for cold steeping Earl Grey in the vermouth for 4 hours. I wanted to try making this drink for the family dinner we had celebrating Rebecca’s birthday on Sunday, but our tea selection had been drastically depleted by all our visitors and so I tried a version made with a Chai spiced tea. I’ve always loved cardamom and cinnamon and I’d say this version is also certainly worth making.
Our friends Sean and Lacey came over with a meal on Tuesday night and by then I had picked up some Earl Grey tea. They are both writers that we originally got to know from Rebecca’s time at the University of Washington MFA program and we’ve stayed friends with them over the years. I knew Sean liked manhattans and an old fashioned or two, so I figured he might enjoy this drink as well. For Lacey I picked out a cocktail called the Berlioni which is obviously closely related to the Negroni family. Sean had let me know she was much more “hard core” than him and could handle a less sweet drink like that.
The Earl Grey version didn’t disappoint either. I actually followed the directions pretty close to the letter of the law, although I opted to substitute some bitters. I know it is hard to imagine given my absurd amount of bitters acquisition and making, but I don’t have any grapefruit bitters. I considered making them this January but the new baby curbed my free time to get it together. It’s actually a pretty big component of the drink (4 dashes of grapefruit and 2 dashes of Peychaud’s) but I was happy with my substitutions of Scrappy’s peach and my cherry hazelnut bitters. I think I just use any excuse to put my cherry ones in. Most of Scappy’s bitters are uber strong and a dash or two is plenty, but the peach ones are more subtle so it didn’t overwhelm the drink. Sean seemed awfully happy with the results and they even stuck around for another round. In my book that constitutes success – but it is a free cocktail after all so perhaps the bar isn’t too high.
I confess I was tired the next morning and brewed a big old pot of coffee. Tea would have to wait.
Early to Ryes (adapted from Esquire’s blog)
2 oz Willett 4 year rye
1 oz tea infused sweet vermouth (chai or earl grey)
2 dashes cherry hazelnut bitters
4 dashes peach bitters
Stir all ingredients over ice until chill and serve in an old fashioned glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
(To infuse the tea, place tea bag in a closed container with the vermouth for about 4 hours. Original recipe calls for 4 tea bags for 500 ml. I made a smaller batch of about 4 oz with 1 tea bag).
Berlioni (adapted from PDT)
1.5 oz Berkshire Gin
.75 oz Cynar
.5 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass filled with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.
Right now there are obviously a lot of firsts going on. First time alone with our baby. Archer’s first visit with a cousin or aunt or grandparent. First time for our newborn with a giant octopus. In truth, it was my first time with a giant octopus too. Sometimes you are surprised with what you’ve done or haven’t done.
(apologies for the blurry iphone photo at a not so well lit aquarium)
This last week we hosted our first family dinner post baby. It was full on with both my parents in town for a visit as well. To make things a bit easier, I made a tried and true recipe for dinner from the Rick Bayless website. Faithful readers of this blog or those of you who know my parents might be shocked that I made an entrée that includes Arbol chilies for them. In truth, I halved the 8 chilies to 4, and added additional short ribs and beer to further dilute their affect. But even they might be surprised to read the recipe - http://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/view?recipeID=56 considering how much they at least stated to enjoy it. I didn’t keep a careful eye on their plates but I do think they at least forced it down.
They were in town to help us this past week as I went back to work and to ease that adjustment by washing every dish in our house, holding Archer while he was fussy, and doing various cooking and cleaning tasks around the house. My dad even became our cat Fitz’s best friend. Never have I seen any pet spend as much time in his lap as Fitz managed. That was perhaps the most important duty of all as he’s felt rather neglected since Archer’s arrival.
Considering the recipe, I probably should have crafted a fancy margarita. But there will be plenty of time for that come spring when the weather shows some signs of slight improvement over our current cold mist. One thing that was abundantly clear for us in the first week after we came home from the hospital was how great it is to have siblings close by who are determined to make our lives easier in this transition. Rebecca’s sister Liz brought over a whole week’s worth of meals which were not only regular but were also delicious. Every day around 6 pm she’d show up with the day’s menu. Trust me, you can get used to this sort of treatment in a hurry.
I realized that in more than a year of writing this blog I’d never made what Liz has said was her favorite cocktail. Probably that’s because she’s pretty easy to accommodate at our dinners and is always happy with a glass of wine if she’s not keen to try what I’ve been mixing. The Sidecar is an obvious classic and it struck me as one I should definitely have in my repertoire – I was even looking forward to trying it a bit after my success with recent cognac/brandy types of drinks like the Vieux Carre.
I won’t lie. I had in my mind a little bit the last time I had a Sidecar. Liz made it at a pre-funk before a Halloween party a couple years ago that truly needed no extra preparation. Many other beverages were consumed at that party, but I still held that Sidecar partially responsible for my less than stellar state the next morning.
So did the Sidecar erase its reputation and fully win me over in my hands? I can’t say it did. I only had a tasting sip so perhaps a full version would have convinced me the sins were not its alone. I hope that Liz enjoyed hers, although I did find a bit remaining in one of the glasses so perhaps my version was just not up to par. Or maybe she too knows the damage this drink can cause and thought it was wise to leave that to a weekend night other than Sunday.
Sidecar (adapted from PDT)
2 oz Sarajishvilli Brandy VSOP
.75 oz Creole Shrubb
.75 oz lemon juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Shake all the ingredients over ice and pour into a chilled coupe with a half sugared rim.
(Chris and Liz enjoying their well deserved reward for a week’s worth of cooking)
(do these folks look like they are having fun?)
So much has happened in the last year since I started this blog. Rebecca went back to Italy to teach for a month and found out her book of poetry Self Storage would be published. We visited Chicago, Colorado and Massachusetts to see family and friends and witness a wedding. I had a blast participating in fundraising for Seattle Arts & Lectures and Movember, and took a road trip to Walla Walla with Sharon. Family dinners got the regular addition of Liz’s boyfriend Chris, and we ate out at both new places and old favorites like the Inn at Langley. Then there were the really big highlights – like Rebecca and Betsy getting pregnant, and our baby Archer arriving just after Christmas. It was also great to become crazy Uncle Larry all over again with my sister Carolyn’s newborn daughter Nora joining the party this summer.
Of course there were also cocktails, bitters, and bourbon. I learned a lot about all of those things and became considerably more adept at making the first two. That’s the theme after all, but one of the benefits for me is that I look at things through a slightly different lens. I know every week I have an “assignment” – trying to come up with some cocktail to make and write about that fits what’s going on with our lives. Making the cocktail itself is usually quite easy. I’m not a professional so I don’t have to make hundreds of consistent drinks a night – a busy evening for me consisted of a couple rounds. Plus I’m not a cocktail historian so I only have to get the facts vaguely right.
This post was easy to think of because we had another visit from our friends Lowell and Elizabeth (the writer behind the Nosygirl blog - http://www.nosygirl.net/) who were in town from Boston staying with our friend Wilson. They all came over to meet the baby and share some cocktails. My employer was generous with my parental leave so I had time to hold the baby and browse through my books and think up what to serve them.
When they came to visit us last January, I made Elizabeth a Remember the Maine and Lowell a Sazerac. They both seemed to enjoy those so I had them in mind when perusing recipes. Wilson had never been over for drinks, so I had no idea what she might like to have. I decided it might be fun to put together a house “menu” for the night so she would have options to choose from and I could be prepared for a variety of possibilities, but not have to come up with something on the spot.
Most of the cocktails I picked out were ones I hadn’t made before, but I put a couple old favorites on there. I tried to come up with a mix of ones with different base spirits and taste profiles. Nearly all of them are from PDT since that is what I had within arm’s reach while holding Archer. In the end, Elizabeth chose a slightly modified Triborough – a cocktail that is at least a cousin of the Remember the Maine. Lowell chose a Vieux Carre – also a cocktail that has New Orleans roots as did the Sazerac. So my predictions for them came true. After tasting the Vieux Carre, I decided to make one for myself as well. Rebecca had the mocktail with smoked grapefruit & lemon juices.
The night went into round two for some of us, so a few other drinks got made like Betsy Ross. I got to use the Creole Shrubb orange liquor that I received as a Christmas gift, and it’s also contains port which I rarely use in cocktails. I think everyone loved the name and it is an attractive looking ruby drink. But for us it was mostly novelty, I don’t know that any of us would pine for it again.
I know that both Rebecca and I will crave another visit from this fun posse though. We were not lacking in laughs during our time with them, despite (or perhaps because of?) our delirious new parent state. It’s a shame that two thirds of them live so far away, but hope it isn’t a whole year before we have the opportunity to clink glassware with them again.
Triborough (adapted from PDT)
2 oz High West Double Rye
.5 oz Clear Creek Kirschwasser
.5 oz Punt e Mes
.5 oz Averna Amaro
2 dashes cherry hazelnut bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Vieux Carre (adapted from PDT)
1 oz High West Double Rye
1 oz Sarajishvilli Brandy VSOP
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
.25 oz Benedictine
1 dash cherry hazelnut bitters
1 dash Bob’s Abbot’s bitters
Betsy Ross (adapted from PDT)
2 oz Sarajishvilli Brandy VSOP
.75 oz Graham’s Six Grapes Port
.5 oz Creole Shrubb
2 dashes Orange Fig Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
(the menu for the night)
(the Betsy Ross cocktail also happens to fit the theme of this week’s Mixology Monday Fortified Wines post - details can be found here - http://mixologymonday.com/ or http://cocktailchem.blogspot.com/)
(is Lucas reaching for Dad’s cocktail?)
Turns out when you have a baby you spend a lot of time talking about boobs. I can’t say it is the same crass discussions that we would have as teenagers. Our friend Taylor pointed out that they often sound more like an economics class to her – all the talk about supply and demand, and various strategies to increase production. She and her husband Ariel came over for cocktails and to visit baby Archer, and they brought along their adorable four month old Lucas. Grant came by too to soak up some of our wisdom or at least some bourbon while Betsy was occupied with a work event.
We’re not yet in hosting dinner party mode but we’ve had a pretty constant string of visitors over since coming home from the hospital. Making cocktails and putting out cheese and crackers have been the extent of our hospitality capabilities since some days just getting a shower in seems like a win. Fortunately I’m still off of work so I can help out with the new diaper and comforting duties, and have time while watching baby to look into cocktail recipes. Ariel had sent me a link to a video showing Jamie Boudreau making a cocktail called the Denny Triangle that he was hoping I’d be able to make him. Seemed like a reasonable request after Jamie’s simple tutorial.
The one thing I can’t do is create the drink that Archer craves the most – he likes his milk straight up from the boob. It seems inevitable that nursing talk comes up anytime you’re hanging out with other new parents, and everyone has their tips and suggestions. Popular remedies to “boost production” include milk tea, fenugreek pills, pumping and beer. Apparently the hops are the key ingredient to the beer suggestion. You learn all sorts of things as a new dad, there is no doubt about that.
Drinks stretched into dinnertime so we ordered some pizzas. Ariel enjoyed his requested concoction – sort of a funky combination of gin, grapefruit juice, Benedictine and Fernet. The last ingredient is a popular one in the bartending community but it is one I hadn’t procured yet when Ariel suggested it. I have several amaros and most of the bottles barely have been dented since a little can make a healthy impression.
There are a fair number of recipes that call for it though, so it seemed like something to have on hand. I thought perhaps I could find a 375 ml bottle so I did a little looking around. I was surprised to find a mini 50 ml bottle available. I grabbed a couple of those and escaped the liquor store for less than eight dollars. That is certainly less than my average bill of sale. I think the clerk thought I was headed to the parking lot to consume them. Perhaps that is the look you acquire as a sleep deprived new dad.
Ariel’s drink looked like one I’d be happy to taste but didn’t think I’d want a whole one, so I made Grant and I a rye based one called the Toronto that also utilizes Fernet. I’d been eyeing the recipe in Bitters for a while and wondering what it was like, especially since I go to Canada for business travel quite often. Grant was a bigger fan than me but it would be something I could safely order on the road.
Back to boobs, shall we? One of the highlights of the evening was Ariel’s suggestion that Rebecca pick up some lactation cookies at Bed Birth and Beyond. Neither of us had heard of lactation cookies before but the idea of transforming the Bed Bath and Beyond retail operation into a place where you could go through all of your major cycles of life had the room rolling. Several suggestions came up about all the things you could do in such a store from conception, labor, and most certainly – beyond. Apparently there is actually a store called Beyond Birth that Ariel meant to reference, but a Denny Triangle will do that to you. Blame it on the Fernet.
No word on the effectiveness of the cookies yet – but we’re looking into them.
Denny Triangle (adapted from the actual recipe here - http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/video/507/raising_the_bar_denny_triangle/)
2 oz Greylock Gin
¾ oz Benedictine
¼ oz Fernet Branca
2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. No garnish.
Toronto (adapted from Bitters)
2 oz High West Double Rye
¼ oz fernet
¼ oz simple syrup
2 dashes Abbot’s Bitters
Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.