Monday, December 10, 2012

All Those Whos Down in Whoville...

After a brief hiatus from the monthly Mixology Monday, I am back in full swing for JFL's Humbug! theme.  As described in his post...

Lets face it the holidays suck, yeah I said it. You put yourself in debt buying crap people will have forgotten about in a month. You drive around like a jackass to see people you don’t even like, or worse they freeload in your house. Your subjected to annoying music, and utterly fake, forced kindness and joy. Plus if you work retail your pretty much in hell, so don’t we all deserve a good stiff drink? So for this Mixology Monday unleash your inner Grinch. Mix drinks in the spirit of Anti-Christmas. They can be really bitter and amaro filled. They filled with enough booze to make you pass out in a tinsel covered Scrooge heap. They could be a traditional holiday drink turned on it’s ear. Or they could be a tribute to your favorite holiday villain. If you celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa then you still suffer through the holidays, so feel free to join in with your Anti-Holiday drink as well. Whatever it is add a hearty “Humbug!” and make your drink personify everything annoying or fake about the holidays.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

With the backdrop of a wonderful new daughter welcomed into our lives in July, the last several months have been anything but casual and relaxing.  While fatherhood has been fantastic, it does...ummm, cut into my available 'free time'.  And with that, I've had (as expected) noticeably less time to contemplate, consume, and critique new cocktails, flavor combinations, and spirits.  Nonetheless, the wheels continue to turn...I read little bits here and there, keep up on what is becoming available in my area, and, of course, never stop conjuring up a new mix or two.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Stalker

Another fresh month and another new MxMo is upon us, this time from the gracious Ed over at Wordsmithing Pantagruel...

With the warm days of summer now fading off into the distance in our rear view mirrors, let's pay one last tribute to the greens of summer before the frosts come and our outdoor herb gardens give up the ghost for the winter. For our theme for this month, I have chosen: (it's not easy) "Bein' Green." (Perchance due in no small part to my predilection for Green Chartreuse.) I'm giving you a wide berth on this one, anything using a green ingredient is fair play. There's not only the aforementioned Chartreuse; how about Absinthe Verte, aka the green fairy. Or Midori, that stuff is pretty damn green. Crème de menthe? Why not? Douglas Fir eau de vie? Bring it! Apple schnapps? is green. I suppose if you want to try to convince me it makes something good you can have at it. But it doesn't have to be the liquor. Limes are green. So is green tea. Don't forget the herb garden: mint, basil, cilantro, you name it - all fair game. There's also the veritable cornucopia from the farmers market: green apples, grapes, peppers, olives, celery, get the idea. Like I said, wide berth. Base, mixer, and or garnish; if it's green it's good. Surprise me. Use at least one, but the more the merrier.

Monday, September 17, 2012

All Else Equal

I know that I speak for many who thank Paul Clarke for his years of thoughtful contribution and insight thru the portal of Mixology Monday, while also welcoming the well-traveled imbiber Frederick as its new host.  Thankfully, he wasted no time in getting MxMo back in gear by offering up this month's theme, 'Equal Parts', as described...

For this month, I have chosen the theme of equal part cocktails -- those simple drinks where only one jigger is needed despite how many ingredients are added. These recipes have gained a lot of popularity as classics like the Negroni and Last Word have resurfaced, and variations of these equal part wonders have become abundant. Besides these three and four equal parts recipes, I have had delightful two, five, and six part drinks, and I have definitely spotted seven and more part Pousse-cafés in the literature.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

XXQC - Daiquiri

Ask the average person to envision/describe a Daiquiri and very good odds can be placed on the answer lying within the realm of a sweet, fruity, slushy drink served in a long stemmed, flared-lip glass with a straw and some type of fruit wedge garnish.  It is, in a word...sad...for the original composition of the Daiquiri could be nothing further from that which gushes from the constantly spinning ice machines filled with syrup/sour mix, and cheap booze.  Simple, crisp, and clean, the perfect balance of rum, fresh lime, and sugar (ex the slushy ice) makes the Daiquiri a cocktail that many should re-consider, or rather introduce themselves to altogether...another of the XXQC.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

'We want....a shrub(bery)!'

Ahh shrubs.  They can do one of two things:

1)  Help provide a sense of structure and/or define barriers within landscapes
2)  Elevate some cocktails to the next level

I shall focus on the latter and leave the leafy, decorative variety to the Knights who say 'Ni!!'

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hummin' along

As we quickly approach the summer months here in Chicago, it is perhaps with no better timing that the hum Spirits Company announced a contest in search of a signature cocktail for the season...

hum (no caps here) is a 70 proof spirit produced by cold tea maceration of four very distinct botanicals - hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, and kaffir lime - in pot still, cane sugar rhum.  Founded and developed by Chicago mixologist Adam Seger (formerly of Nacional 27, Tru, and The French Laundry), hum is reminiscent of Italian-style amari, possessing a slightly bitter, yet sweet profile with tons of depth and herbaceous complexity. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

XXQC - Sidecar

In reference to cocktails, sours are generally comprised of a rough ratio of 2:1:1, spirit:sweet:sour, with some subtle variation.  The existence and possibilities of combinations when considering such proportions and ingredients are simply endless.  From the most basic whiskey (whiskey, simple syrup, lemon) and pisco (pisco, simple syrup, lime) sours, to derivations such as the Caipirinha (cachaça, simple syrup, lime), Margarita (tequila, Cointreau, simple syrup, lime), and Daiquiri (rum, simple syrup, lime), or even further removed modifications with the addition of soda such as the Tom Collins (gin, simple syrup, lemon, soda) and Mojito (rum, simple syrup, lime, soda) to only name a handful.  And while the existence of such sours dates back to the mid 1800s, perhaps one of the most popular to have arisen since the times of Prohibition is the Sidecar...yet another of the XXQC.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bacon, Bacon, Bacon...BACON!!!

While there has certainly been a fair amount of talk over the last few years about bacon and its related products...some for good reason (artisanal/gourmet bacon and pork products, ie. Nueske's)...some questionable (Bakon vodka)...and others definitely not so much (Jones Bacon Soda)...the cocktail has been one particular focal point.  Those in the bar and at home have taken to creating tipples full of fatty goodness, often with varying ranges of success, at least in my experience.  It therefore comes as no surprise that with the fast approaching Baconfest Chicago, a bacon cocktail contest sponsored by the Chicago Reader has surfaced for enthusiasts to showcase their stuff, as written by the Reader's lead restaurant critic Mike Sula....

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cabin Fever Cocktail Challenge

As the majority of these past few weeks in Chicago have been exceptionally warm for the month of March (temps in the 70s/80s vs historical average in the low 40s - apparently referred to as 'season creep' among climatologists), it is fitting to have recently come across the 'Cabin Fever Cocktail Challenge' sponsored by Drinking In America.  As described on their site:

Spring has arrived and we’re ready for a toast to the season. This month’s challenge is to create the ultimate springtime drink. Give us your best recipe for kicking the last of this cold weather to the curb...

All entries must be submitted by March 28th before 5:00 pm EST. From there, Mike Cerretani, bartender at Bitter Bar, will judge the recipes. He’ll be looking for overall creativity based on the following:

  • Best use of flavor/combination of spirits (taste) 
  • Best representation of springtime theme

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hail The King

I love ginger.  The aroma, the spice, the slight hit of heat...and the way that it matches well with so many other flavors.  As a result, in the early stages of building up my collection of spirits and liqueurs, a bottle of the ginger profile was a necessity on the list.  And while it took a little longer than planned, I finally secured it.  I spent some time debating between two of the most popular bottles, Domaine de Canton and The King's Ginger.  While both were liqueurs that I had enjoyed in a variety of cocktails, I ended up going with The King's Ginger for a couple of reasons.  Perhaps most importantly, the more mellow and rounded ginger flavor of King's.  True, it lacks the brighter, more pungent, and slightly sweeter profile of Domaine de Canton, but I figured a touch of ginger syrup could help provide that additional fresh kick if I really needed without a bottle of Canton on hand.  Another noticeable distinction between the two lies in their composition.  While both begin with their ingredients in a base of neutral grain spirit, King's distillate of fresh ginger and lemon is finished off by the addition of a single malt whisky (82 proof).  On the other hand, Canton's recipe of crystallized ginger, orange blossom honey, and vanilla is finished with a V.S.O.P. cognac base (56 proof).  At the end of the day, the higher proof King's Ginger had the more straight-forward profile I was looking for, so the decision was made.  And while Domaine de Canton will likely be added to my shelf at some point, there is always the option of making your own version, an endeavor I'm sure I'll be taking on in the near future.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

XXQC - The Sazerac

Simply put...controversy and varied opinions abound when it comes cocktails, be they with respect to origins, recipes, variations, or preparation.  We need look no further than the recent introduction to the 'proper' preparation of an Old Fashioned put forth by Martin Doudoroff at Old Fashioned 101.  While certainly biased by my own views, Doudoroff makes what I consider to be very good points on the ingredients and methods when it comes to this most classic of cocktails, yet as highlighted by Chuck Cowdery, a raging debate was quickly raised by Kevin Kosar.  As far as Kevin sees it, Doudoroff's rigid approach and the New York Times favorable review of his site unfairly cast a shadow on other versions of this cocktail.  All contention aside, I merely raise the issue when reflecting on the relative lack of controversy as it relates to yet another classic cocktail, the Sazerac, perhaps one of the least contentious of the XXQC.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No time like 'Island Time'

Under the gun after having just arrived back from a two week hiatus in no other than Maui and Lana'i, I've managed to conjure up something for this month's very fitting MxMo Tiki theme hosted by Doug over at The Pegu Tiki Blog.  As described by Doug:

The Tiki scene, like classic cocktails in general, is reviving nicely these days. The lush, decadent marriage of tropical flavors and exotic kitsch carries us away to a better, less dreary place. Please join in and add your words, images, and offerings to the Tiki Gods on the 20th. Since Tiki is more than just the drinks, feel free to post on whatever Tiki subject floats your outrigger canoe. I suspect most of you will want to offer up delectable drinks, but feel free to wax eloquent on aloha shirts, exotica music, decor, garnishes, food or whatever else moves you to enter the Tiki spirit.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thai Time

From time to time I like to experiment with the concept of converting flavors from the culinary world to their counterpart equivalent in the glass.  Recently, this led me to the exploration of one my favorite cuisines, the fragrant dishes of Thailand.  Possessing character that spans sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, the bright layers of herbs and piquant spices lend themselves well to how I envisioned a parallel universe of Thai flavors in a cocktail.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

XXQC - Vieux Carré

Bourbon.  One of my favorite aged spirits, and truth be told, the reason I stumbled into the world of mixology.  Yes, were it not for my interest to branch out and discover what other components played nice with my beloved whiskey, I might still be only sipping the stuff neat or on the rocks...not that there's anything wrong with that at all.  But after my inaugural venture with the preparation of an Old Fashioned (albeit with the high rye bourbon, Basil Hayden), I was hooked.  Naive enough at first that the intended rye whiskey was a foreign spirit, I pressed to discover what other drinks married with this relative of bourbon.  The Manhattan and Sazerac, largely as expected, showcased the spicy rye in all its glory...but in seeking something entirely different, I eventually was introduced to the Vieux Carré (voo kah-ray).  'The what?', I thought.  Thankfully, however, I gathered up the missing components and mixed one up.  Mirroring my inaugural enthusiasm for the interplay of spirits, bitters, and liqueurs, this was a definitely a cocktail that further fueled my interest and inspiration.  The Vieux Carré, a simple yet distinct blend very much worth your time, and another of the XXQC.