(the man who claims he only drinks my manhattans)
Every so often, Rebecca’s poetry friends congregate in Friday Harbor for a weekend of writing, readings and shining large lamps into the sound with the hopes of seeing a squid or manta ray. The University of Washington has a small campus there where her friend Sierra is teaching a class this quarter, and we were able to secure accommodation there for the weekend in an apartment with a nice view of the ferry’s comings and goings.
Rebecca usually goes to these retreats alone to maximize her writing time, but she had just spent the weekend before away in Sonoma celebrating her sister Liz’s bachelorette party. Even though Archer and I had a nice “boy’s” weekend, neither of us was quite ready for another so soon. So it seemed like a good time for him to make his first trip to the San Juan Islands. We tried to pack lightly this time in comparison to our previous weekends away when we stuffed the car ever so full. This time I could even see out the rear window.
Of course, where there are writers, there is often whiskey. This group was no exception and I found room in the car for some bitters and bourbon. Before the reading on Saturday night, a group converged on our apartment for a little happy hour. Word spread and the place filled up. I made quite a few batches of manhattans. Some of Rebecca’s friends are fans of my bitters and in particular I get a lot of requests for the orange fig ones. So mostly I just made quite a few of those.
One highlight of the evening for me was Rebecca’s friend Jason’s quote – “I don’t drink anymore, except for Larry’s manhattans.” I made him a special one with apple bitters and my newest mole kind. I thought the combination of a little spice and the classic fall fruit fit the chilled and dark late afternoon. We’ve reached that time of year where happy hour at 5 pm means complete darkness, especially when you’re away from the light pollution of the city.
This time of the year also means my annual participation in Movember. Most of you who read this already know about this month long event. In case you’re not familiar with it, the concept is simple. You grow a mustache for the month of November, which for clean shaven guys like me ends up sparking conversations.
My mustache is particularly horrible looking so it does indeed spark at least outrage among my sisters. The idea is to raise awareness of men’s health issues and encourage guys to make regular visits to the doctor, as many of them aren’t so keen to do. There is also a fundraising aspect of it which is used for research into cancers common in men like prostrate or testicular. Just a few days ago my friend Bow lost his dad to cancer, and most of us will sadly know multiple people affected at some point. So it seems like a pretty simple thing for me to do for the month, although by the end I’ll definitely be eager to have it go. In the meantime, I’ve named this drink in honor of the month and will share my mole bitters experiment. I say experiment since I’m not 100% satisfied with this version, but it’s a good place to start if you’re interested in making your own.
2 oz Oola Bourbon
1 oz Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
2 dashes Mole bitters
2 dashes Apple bitter
Stir ingredients over ice and serve in a chilled coupe with a lemon garnish. For best enjoyment, drink with a mustache during the month of November. If you care to support my campaign, the link is here: http://us.movember.com/mospace/1600256
1 ancho chile
1 pasilla chile
2 tbsp dried orange peel
2 tbsp sliced almonds
2 tbsp raisins
1 tsp gentian root
1/4 tsp cinnamon chips
1/2 tsp cacao nibs
1/8 tsp licorice root
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp sesame seed
2 cups high proof rum
1 cup water
2 tbsp honey syrup
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.
Place the solids in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes of simmering, let the solids cool and then add to a jar. Cover and shake daily.
After a week, strain and combine the two jars. Add the honey syrup, shake, and then wait three days to full dissolve. Strain again as needed to remove any solids.
The bitters are now ready to be bottled and labeled.
(the photo that inspired a haircut upon my return to the mainland)
Part of what makes the first year of parenthood so interesting is all the milestones. Rebecca and I had a lot of years together before we had the baby, and I won’t say that they weren’t interesting years. We found plenty to keep us occupied between work, various journeys, friendships and fortunately infrequent hardships. But the past 8 months have felt full of various firsts, if only because our son is bound to have developmental hurdles to cross and we’re prone to make a big deal out of those.
The past week was a bunch of things that we could cross off the list. Archer got into crawl position and started scooting all over the house, and Rebecca noted that was like having a baby swiffer with a passion for electrical sockets. Just before he picked up speed, Rebecca went on her first overnight trip for work leaving us behind. It was a mere one night trip and Archer and I were able to handle it in stride.
The other big event of the week was finally having Betsy, Grant, Anton and Michelle over with all of the babies in tow. We wanted to make the fried chicken recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook. Even though this is the preparation that he serves at his less formal restaurant, it requires some work so we don’t make it every day. Actually, the last time we had made it was two years ago for a 4th of July picnic.
After many specific steps starting the night before, we were ready to fry up an excessive amount of bird. I had insisted on three since I wanted leftovers and we have some big eaters at the party (mainly Anton). It was the hottest part of the late afternoon and I dressed in jeans, long sleeves, an apron and a pair of sunglasses to shield my eyes from the pop of the oil. There is a reason we only do this every couple years. It’s a sweaty and greasy job.
We had just finished the serious frying when folks started to arrive. I changed back into shorts and cooler shirt so that the cocktail making could begin. I had a few in mind to serve. Rebecca had a drink on her trip at the Modern Hotel and Bar that she liked and described to me as having “Irish Whiskey, orgeat, and some other things.” I checked out their menu online but nothing matching that description appeared – fortunately their Twitter account was able to point me to a photo on their Facebook page that described the drink (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152121841549056&set=pb.41444869055.-2207520000.1377575264.&type=3&theater)
Turns out, this is a drink from the PDT book called Cameron’s Kick and I had the recipe all along. Now orgeat, I had ordered a bottle made by Fee Brothers online. When it arrived, Rebecca read over the ingredients and they were woefully disappointing. I’m not sure almond was even among them. So I decided to give the recipe from Craft Cocktails at Home a try (http://craftcocktailsathome.com/2013/04/a-blasphemously-easy-recipe-for-the-best-homemade-orgeat/). It was easy and the only ingredient I needed to pick up was almond milk which was easy to find.
I found a few other recipes utilizing orgeat from Imbibe that I thought might please the crowd. I altered a Peruvian Summer Smash with blueberries since I had plenty on hand and I thought Betsy might like it. I made one for her and Michelle had a taste and she asked for one too. Score. For Grant and I, I made Attorney Privileges which were simple and maybe a bit too sweet for our tastes. They went down easy though. Anton made his own experiments with my Gran Classico and his St. George Dry Rye.
(halfway done sizzling myself)
The funny thing about the Cameron’s Kick is that I never got to make it during the party since the timing didn’t work out for her to have a cocktail. The window between nursing and pumping can be mercilessly short if you want to get some sleep. I made one tonight and she had a sip. She wrinkled her nose at my version as it seems the scotch I chose was considerably stronger than their version. It suited me just fine tonight for our fall like weather.
As for the chicken, it came out great. To make the night even better, Rebecca made biscuits, Michelle made a tomato salad and Betsy made a blueberry pie. It was a long overdue milestone for us all to get together even though it is a lot more work with four babies under one. Certainly the food and company were worthy end of summer highlights.
Peruvian Summer Smash (adapted from http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Peruvian-Summer-Smash-Recipe)
2 oz. pisco
1/2 oz. orgeat
1/4 of a lemon, cut into 3 wedges
6 – 10 blueberries
Muddle all ingredients and shake with ice cubes. Strain into a cracked ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Attorney Privilege (adapted from http://imbibemagazine.com/Attorney-Privilege-Recipe%20)
2 oz. 114 Old Grand Dad bourbon
1/2 oz. orgeat
2 dashes Abbots bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.
Cameron’s Kick (adapted from PDT & the Modern Hotel & Bar in Boise)
1 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 oz Talisker Scotch
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz orgeat
Shake ingredients over ice and serve in a chilled coupe.
(Betsy and her smash. She noted it looked like a smoothie. Sophie the giraffe makes an appearance too)
For those of you who have been reading this blog for months, I wrote about this cocktail back right before our baby arrived. Small Screen just released a new video with Jamie Boudreau making a Canon, which is the namesake drink of his bourbon palace.
Also, my original post: http://loudtalknliquor.tumblr.com/post/37568046291/canoncocktail
People are already talking about this summer in Seattle like it is one that we’re going to look back at when we’re grandparents and tell stories about the time that the sun made daily appearances. A popular meteorologist had a blog post last week that noted that we have the best summer weather in the nation. Normally though it is cruelly short and rarely over 75 degrees, but this year the gorgeous days started in June and haven’t let up.
We’ve been trying to meet up with our friends Jody and Mike for months but our schedules got in the way. Perhaps it is for the best as the killer weather allowed us to spend the whole evening outside. Our baby monitor fortunately works quite well in the backyard, and we got to share drinks and catch up on the patio before moving to the deck for dinner. Rebecca and I had hustled during the afternoon so that we wouldn’t have to do too much during the meal, but since she was frying up some zucchini blossom fritters on the stove for appetizers, it was definitely better to be outside than in the smoky kitchen.
The other food highlights included pork burgers from a Suzanne Goin recipe (http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-public-kitchen/summer-grilling-go-with-suzanne-goins-pork-burgers-35411.html) and an easy peach dumplings recipe with a bourbon hard sauce from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I even made those, although I cheated on the pie dough and just used a pre-made one from Trader Joe’s. They turned out great despite my lack of effort and as is customary I ate a leftover one for breakfast. She has lots of other tempting peach recipes on her smittenkitchen.com blog but I guess that one isn’t one of them.
Conversation is easy with Jody and Mike. Jody and I ran many a long run together when we were both dedicated distance runners and would pass the hours with stories about just about anything. Now we’re not logging nearly as many miles and haven’t had as many occasions to get together regularly with both having little boys in the last year. For both being relatively new parents, we managed to cover a variety of non child rearing subjects even including New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s proclivity of sending inappropriate pictures of himself to young women. I suggested that future politicians should just out themselves of whatever dirty habit they have when they announce their campaign. Rebecca argued that sending nude self portraits may not be the most rock solid platform to run on. I thought that in this age whatever bad practice you have is bound to get out anyway so you might as well declare who you are up front rather than dealing with it in a scandal setting. I don’t think I’ll be managing anyone’s political career anytime soon. It may have been the cocktail making that argument after all.
Oh yeah, the cocktails. For Jody, I just made a simple sour called the Bee’s Knees. Gin, honey syrup, lemon juice. It’s a classic anytime of the year but seems particularly good in summer.
Mike and Rebecca are both big Campari fans, so I tried making them a drink I had spotted in BarNotes called the Bitter Mai Tai. Sadly my quest for orgeat (an almond orange blossom syrup) ended in failure and there wasn’t time to make my own, so I just substituted some of the lime syrup I had made for the Bitter Monk. I hope to try making it again sometime with original ingredient, but the stuff seems a little tricky to come by. Wine World apparently carries it, but they were out when I stopped by and the person that helped me had no idea when they would get more. I may resort to Amazon but the substitute served up a more than adequate drink. Certainly the conversation was rather lively, and we ended up staying out on the deck nearly as late as non parents. The only thing missing from the evening was a few photos to document it. Oh well.
Bitter Mai Tai (adapted from the recipe attributed in BarNotes to Jeremy Oetel of Dram Bar)
1 ½ oz Campari
¾ oz Jamaican Rum
½ oz orange curacao
1 oz lime juice
¾ oz lime syrup
Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a crushed ice filled rocks glass.
Rebecca always says that I’m utterly predictable. She should know as earlier this month we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. We have had our share of influencing each other over the years we’ve been together which is now creeping up on fifteen years. One of the impacts on our daily lives has been sharing good food and drink together which is something we’ve done from our earliest dates even when our resources were rather slim.
There is no doubt that Rebecca has the more adventuresome palate even though we both were born in east coast meat and potatoes environments. I won’t lie – I would have been perfectly happy eating a quality pepperoni pizza and a bottle of red wine for our anniversary dinner but we can do that anytime. Instead, we enlisted Liz as a babysitter and went to Staple & Fancy which has two options for their menu. You can choose a la carte from a variety of tempting options or you can put yourself in Ethan Stowell’s (or whatever chef is working there that night) hands for a family style dinner.
I could easily pick out a few safe items to order for myself, but the family style requires that everyone at the table gets it. So yes, I played along. As Rebecca has discovered, sometimes it is better to not tell me what we will be making or describe too carefully the ingredients because I might find something to turn me against it. We ended up with a lovely dinner with a half dozen small plates to share before we even had a pasta, main entrée or a dessert. Nothing stretched my taste buds too much and anything I was sure I wouldn’t like I could just leave be for Rebecca. It was a lovely evening and I ordered a predictable Manhattan like cocktail to start the evening and brought along one of my favorite cabernets for us to enjoy with dinner.
One thing about this blog is that even though I consistently make bourbon drinks from mostly the old fashioned and Manhattan family, I do force myself to try new things. For this week’s drink, since the weather has been nearly Caribbean with cloudless blue skies and 80 degree days, I ventured into the rum family again. I found a recipe in Bar Notes called the Bitter Monk. I’m not a huge fan of Aperol which is a central ingredient, but I’ve got a couple possible substitutes and I made a couple variations. For one, I used a couple items that may be harder to track down (Gran Classico Bitter) and my homemade Charred Pineapple bitters. The other version uses Lillet Rose and Jamaican bitters by Bittercube which places like DeLaurenti’s and Wine World carry. The original version called for Tiki bitters by Bittermans, but I don’t have any yet.
Like my last rum drink, this is a fine choice for a warm evening on your deck or patio. I enjoyed mine while monitoring my baby’s sleeping next to the firepit Rebecca gave me for a previous anniversary gift. If you like a more mellow version, go with the Lillet option. If you prefer something more bitter, go with the Gran Classico (or Aperol if that suits you). Enjoy this heat while it’s here. I’m sure I’ll be back to my usual bourbon and pepperoni pizza choice soon.
Bitter Monk (adapted from the iphone app BarNotes - http://barnotes.co/)
1.5 oz Dark Rum
.75 Gran Classico (or Lillet Rose)
.75 lemon juice
Dash of bitters (charred pineapple, Tiki or Jamaican)
Shake the ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
(when it’s hot things get blurry, right?)
Those of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I have been making a lot of trips to our northern neighbor lately for work. Most of the places I’ve stayed at or dined at aren’t hotels with strong cocktail cultures so I’ve usually steered clear of their offerings. There are a few Canadian cocktails like the Bloody Caesar and the Toronto (which I’ve made previously but didn’t especially love).
On Saturday night I spotted a “Canadian Punch” on the menu at Rumba. It was my first time visiting, and my friends Danny & Sharon came along as we were out celebrating Pride on Capital Hill. Curiously it was not at all packed, and we even managed to snag a spot on their sidewalk patio. We’ve been having unseasonably hot weather – after all, summer rarely starts here till after July 4th but it was the kind of unusual evening weather that called for leaving the hoodie sweatshirt at home. The punch was a refreshing mix of rye, rum, pineapple, lemon and sugar that was an excellent pre-karaoke libation. After Rumba, Sharon and I sang our fair share of Elton John and practiced our falsetto. He’s probably not in our range.
Last night we had family dinner on Liz’s deck as the heat wave continued. She made some chili encrusted steaks and a simple green salad, and we talked about the weekend’s fun and how I was missing my little boy and wife who were off in the Berkshires visiting grandparents. I decided to try to duplicate the punch but most of the recipes I found online called for a lot of water and large portions, and I don’t think the Rumba version was made that way. I didn’t have a chance to ask the bartender, but made my best guess at the ratios. Fortunately pineapples were on sale at the grocery store and I used a tool that my wife bought to puree baby food to make the juicing quite easy. I think it is definitely one of those drinks that benefits immensely from fresh juice if you have access, and leftover pineapple makes a tasty breakfast treat as well.
So if you’re looking for a cocktail to celebrate today’s Canada Day with during this heat wave, I wholeheartedly recommend this. Careful you don’t have too many on a Monday night though, it is sneaky good and can make you pay for it the next day.
Canadian Punch (adapted from Rumba Seattle)
2 oz Russell’s Reserve Rye
1 oz Rhum Barbancourt
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz agave syrup
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled glass filled with ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
UPDATE - Rumba was kind enough to share their recipe. Here’s the official version from them:
(Liz & Chris enjoying their punch. I spent part of the dinner trying to convince them to install a hot tub in their outbuilding)
It’s a sign of how busy my life has felt lately that my blog is feeling a week or so behind the current calendar. I have been crisscrossing our country and the one directly north of it far too frequently since May began, but I’m in the home stretch with only a short hop south on my current itinerary for next week. Travel feels much more manageable when the time zone is the same. Flying to the Eastern Time zone wreaks a special kind of havoc on me, although in some ways I’m more prepared than ever with my early Archer wake up calls.
I probably should be timing this post for something to sip on while watching naked body painted bicyclists at the Fremont fair. But I already noted how I’m tardy with my posts. A lot of weeks I could just skip ahead, and I do think the Solstice Parade is quite a lot of fun. Maybe I’ll get to that next week? Previously I’ve mentioned that this has become a bit of a new inept dad makes new inept cocktails sort of blog, so I guess I’ll stick with that theme.
After all, last weekend was Father’s Day and it was my first time experiencing it as an actual dad. Rebecca did a fabulous job of making me feel like she appreciated the role that I’ve played and did a number of nice things for me. We had an epic family dinner that included a Campari cocktail requested by Liz and Rebecca and some improvising classics for Chris, Mer and me. We talked about doing a variety of things for the day, but I knew there was nothing I’d rather do than spend the evening at home with them. The weather even cooperated for a dinner on the deck and a lengthy Cards Against Humanity game that drained several bottles of wine. I wasn’t especially keen to get up early the next morning for another flight but the evening’s fun felt worth it.
I don’t know what my own dad was like when I was less than six months old. Maybe my mom and he had raucous dinner parties while I slept in my crib. There is some apocryphal story about finding me sleeping in a salad bowl on the floor at a very early age. It was the seventies after all.
What I do know is that he took raising my sisters and I seriously and put us above all else, and I feel like I owe him a lot for his unselfishness and care. I try to channel that approach now that I’m also wearing dad shoes. Every once in a while I catch myself replicating something I think he might have done, and I reflected a bit tonight on that while trying rather unsuccessfully to put Archer down to bed while Rebecca was off enjoying a girl’s night. The books all say that you should have a bedtime routine, and ours usually involves reading some books and singing some sort of short lullaby.
For the nights that I am doing the singing, I’ve chosen a little Abbey Road medley based on the songs “Golden Slumbers” and “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Obviously this stems from my own dad’s love of the Beatles, and at some point in middle school getting obsessed with his record collection. The songs I learned from them have fueled many karaoke nights and now a ritual that almost always calms down my own son, even though he knows the dreaded nighttime sleeping part of the day is upon us. I wonder whether I’ll end up passing on my dad’s music or my own current tastes, or some combination thereof.
Speaking of taste, I can’t say that Liz’s requested cocktail or the recipe was exactly my taste. But I know I have some readers that love Campari and this is very much a summer drink. I made a few modifications (who muddles mint for several minutes?) but I pretty much always do. Rebecca and Liz both were quite happy with the results and it kick started an evening that loosened us up for a very adult card game that made us feel terrifically immature.
Campari Mojito (adapted from thekitchn.com)
4 large sprigs of fresh mint
1 oz lime juice
1 oz white rum
1.5 oz Campari
Gently muddle the mint, lime juice and rum in a shaker. Add the Campari and fill with ice, shake until well chilled. Fill a glass with crushed ice and fill the glass a quarter full with tonic water, then pour in the strained mixture. Add a bit more crushed ice, tonic, and garnish with a lime wedge, mint, and straw.
(the day began with a brunch on the deck, and ended with an evening game of Cards Against Humanity in the same place)
Last week was like few others in memory. I consider it a good thing that weeks like that happen so infrequently. It was a certainly an exhausting few days. On Monday, I traveled over to the eastern time zone for a work trip, and when my plane landed I found out that my company had laid off nearly a fifth of our employees. Since my profession involves hiring, this was obviously a disturbing development.
Fortunately I was able to retain my job for which I’m quite grateful. It’s hard to find what I have there and I wholeheartedly recognize that. So the 3 hour time difference, a so-so hotel room and the news made for even less sleep than a night at home with my combination baby/5 a.m. alarm clock. My return trip was equally primed for exhaustion as I had an itinerary that required me to get up around 2 am pacific time. Like a zombie, I played in a late soccer game after arriving since I felt some exercise would do me some good. By the end of the week, I was a sleepy mess.
I know my coworkers and former coworkers also had a hard go of it. One of them ended up heading down to Portland on Friday night for a little getaway, and she sent me a photo of the menu from Red Star Tavern where she was enjoying a delicious variation on a whiskey sour. I didn’t have a recipe, but I figured it was only fitting for it to be my drink of the week for Sunday night dinner.
I knew it was my kind of cocktail since it was named after one of my favorite ryes. High West Double Rye is “made” in one of the most unlikely places – Park City, Utah. Of course, like many ryes and bourbons, it’s actually sourced from another location and either blended or marketed by High West, although I believe they also have a working distillery producing for future products . I’m an amateur on those details but this rye has hit all the right notes for me in the past, especially in manhattans.
The only real wrinkle in this sour’s recipe was adding an amaro. Red Star’s menu says they used Ramazotti but I substituted Averna. They didn’t indicate what kind of syrup, so I used my personal favorite of honey to pair with the lemon juice and egg white.
My coworker indicated that she found this so good that she had to have two. My version certainly went down quick before dinner, but since it was Sunday night I resisted doubling up since we were planning on some wine with dinner. This Monday was considerably less dramatic, and I might just have to make another one to celebrate that.
Park City Sour (adapted from Red Star Tavern’s cocktail menu)
2 oz High West Double Rye
.25 oz Averna Amaro
1 oz Lemon juice
.75 oz honey syrup
Teaspoon of egg white
Dry shake without ice, then add ice and shake to shill. Strain over a large cube in a chilled old fashioned glass.
(a good drink for regaining your footing)
(Impromptu happy hour with Amanda & Brandon)
The past couple weeks have been whirlwind and not particularly blog friendly. A work trip took me to Ontario and back, and then a day later Rebecca, Archer and I caught a plane to visit my family in Chicagoland. I’ll admit to more than a little trepidation about taking a 5 month old on a plane, probably primed from memories of screaming children on innumerable business trip flights. Fortunately he was far better than I anticipated, with nary a cry and big smiles for the flight attendant and our fellow travelers.
No cocktails were made or consumed while at my parent’s house, but we had ribs and cake to celebrate the holiday weekend and my lovely 4 year old niece’s birthday. Cousins met for the first time and we caught up on their latest developments.
The festivities continued on Thursday night back in Seattle when we had a party at Richard Hugo House for the launch of Rebecca’s first full length book of poetry Self-Storage. More than 100 people came and the signature drink of the night was the Negroni. They were so popular that they sold out before the reading even started. Her book sold at an even better clip and the night felt like a combination of her birthday and a Seattle friend reunion. It was a worthy night for a book many years in the making.
On Friday, Rebecca suggested that I make her a different cocktail where Campari also plays a leading role. She found the recipe for Boulder’s Oak at fourteenth’s Venetian Cup in a Saveur article and posted it on my facebook page. Our friend Amanda from our new parents group noticed it and indicated she liked the sound of it, and an impromptu baby friendly happy hour at our house was born after a long day at work.
A Venetian Cup is a pretty good choice for new moms’ (or anyone) who wants a lower alcohol cocktail. Neither Campari or Pimm’s are particularly high proof, and the total amount of alcohol is only 1.5 oz, but with the added ginger beer and ice, it can be sipped for some time. Amanda’s husband Brandon had a a simple scotch based drink called the Rusty Nail, and I felt like an old fashioned was the right choice for Friday night. I believe we were all happy with our choices.
With so much having happened in the last week, and more travel ahead, we had plenty to fill the conversation. Plus both babies were determined to stay up for the party and with only a month separating them, they were fun to observe. At one point, we even got out the scale and did a baby weigh in. Yup, that’s our idea of a wild and crazy Friday night right now. It’s not so bad when you’ve got good friends and cocktails to share.
Venetian Cup (adapted from http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/venetian-cup-cocktail)
1 oz Campari
½ oz Pimms No. 1
3 oz ginger beer
Combine Campari and Pimm’s in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and top with ginger beer. Serve over crushed ice in a Collins glass.
Rusty Nail (adapted from PDT)
2 oz Scotch
.75 oz Drambuie
Stir over ice and strain into an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. No garnish.
(Some of Rebecca’s favorite things)
(Last minute edits in “the green room” with a Negroni)
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)