Tonight's Negroni #10: Tour di Negroni

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

There's an organization here in my hometown that calls itself Industry Denver. While I'm not 100% sure what it is that they do as a business entity, I do know that they organize (and gather sponsorships for) friendly, themed cocktail competitions amongst the many excellent bars and restaurants in town.

Obviously, this is meant to drive some extra traffic to the participating establishments. Who knows, maybe there's some sponsor payola as well. Doesn't really matter to me.

The point being, as of April Fools Day (which is tomorrow, as I hunt and peck this now), twelve Denver drink slingers (a few among my very favorites) will be in the heat of "battle" of the Tour di Negroni

Seriously, be still my heart! I mean, you realize the name of this newsletter, right? I'm considering printing cards and stickers all of a sudden...

How it works is: each establishment offers one traditional Negroni, following the classic 1:1:1 recipe of gin:Campari:sweet vermouth. Along side that, each will offer something a bit more fanciful inspired in someway by the Negroni.

The former offering takes us straight back to TN#9 and the notion of varying your variables. Everybody is using different gins and different vermouths. Twelve different Negronis just by changing the labels on the bottles!

The fancied-up versions range a spectrum of:

  • Something made similarly with just three ingredients (but not the classic 1:1:1 ratio), but with ingredients with which most of us are totally unfamiliar.
  • cocktail with an ingredients list that looks like a dictionary and features ONE FULL OUNCE of Peychaud's bitters!
  • Another one that has not only Basque cidre, but a bit of beer as well!

(If it's not obvious, I plan to try each of those I mentioned. I'm a big fan of all of those spots.)

This all so goes to show the infinite room there is for creativity in the world of cocktails. I recently read a great piece about naming cocktails. I big part of it was the idea that you might "invent" something and then find that someone else (maybe two hundred years ago) did pretty much the same thing. The anointed expert in the article held the position that one should surrender to the original, in terms of naming.

I agree with that... to a point.

If your "invented" ratio is an exact match, then I suggest you introduce your cocktail like so: "This is a Something Old, but I personally like to call it a Sex Panther*." You can then optionally tell the story how you came up with the recipe yourself, but then found out that it has existed since before your grandparents. At the very least this demonstrates you study and care for the cocktail craft.

(To you. Nobody else cares, really.)

If your recipe differs even a little bit (in ratio, not brand of ingredient), I believe you are safe serving your drink with "This is a Sex Panther*. It's really close to a Something Old, but I've tweaked it a bit with extra root beer schnapps." This demonstrates your creativity, but still shows you know where you're coming from, historically.

(To you. Nobody else cares, really.)

On that note, I'll give you the drink that inspired my Citrine recipe, for which I still haven't found prior art.

* Sex Panther was a real live drink I was served just last night at Bramble & Hare in Boulder. I believe the barkeep said he found the recipe in Seattle. The illustrative bit for the invention/naming conversation is that NONE of the recipes I have found online match the one I drank.

Bijou

  • 1oz Gin (I'm using Ford's because they sell it in liters at the same price point as equally good 750ml gin.)
  • 1oz Green Chartreuse) (I'll be honest, I'm still working on Chartreuse. Talk about acquired tastes!)
  • 1oz Sweet vermouth (Tonight: Gran Lusso.)
  1. Stir with ice.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry and a lemon twist (if you're fancy).

OR

  1. Pour everything into a glass with ice cubes and stir it with your finger, as I did.
  2. Because I'm a grown-ass man, home alone.

This one comes from the previously mentioned PDT Cocktail Book. The recipe apparently dates back to 1895 (aka "Something Old").

It's a doozy, but I recommend you try it. You never know your true boundaries unless you test them occasionally.

Tonight's Negroni #9: Vary your variables!

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

Variants

Remember how I told you the Negroni is an awesome drink because it's so easy to make? Just 1:1:1 of gin:sweet vermouth:Campari, right?

Well, here's the magic thing about that: the specifics are WIDE OPEN! Gin has so many flavors. Hendrick's tastes like cucumber and roses. Uncle Val's is even crazier, with citrus and botanicals. Tanqueray tastes like everyday gin should taste. Roundhouse has a subtle floral flavor and comes from Boulder, CO. Gin is all over the map, so you get to (or "have to" for the skittish, I suppose...) think about what works best for any given cocktail.

The secret that people who haven't done my kind of deep dive into cocktail mixing, history, and culture don't know is that the same applies to vermouth. 

[STOP THE PRESSES: I was just looking for a link for a cheap vermouth example and instead found vermouth101.com. Holy Mary of Seven Bottles! This is where I'm spending the upcoming weekend...]

Sweet vermouth runs the price gamut for a 750ml bottle from around $8 to $35 and beyond. The whole rainbow is worth investigating. The key to knowing how to combine them is experiencing your ingredients alone, as they are. Try your vermouth (and your gin, and so on) neat. Do the nerdy "wine geek" slurpy, swishy thing with your booze, too. Only when you know the individual flavors can you even come close to imagining the taste of a combination.

And that is the thing with vermouth: as a "fortified wine" it IS a combination! That means the variation of this one ingredient can be pretty vast.

You can get a Carpano Antica Formula or Martini Gran Lusso, which are bold and amazing as sippers, but also make for a vermouth-forward cocktail if you mix them. You can also spend your extra money on a Cocchi di Torino, which is a great sipping aperitif, but fades into the background in a something like a Negroni. You can spend in the teens/twenties and get Dolin Rouge or Vya, which are both mainstays for my bar, and yet are vastly different. 

Or you can get Punt e Mes, which is my jam tonight. It's bold and flavorful and stands out against the Campari in a Negroni. 

The sub-$10 sweet vermouths are all pretty similar in my view. They aren't something you'd want to sip on the porch, but they are typically quite serviceable as mixers.

PROTIP: Unless you are some kind of animal (like me) and you don't consume a bottle of vermouth within a 2 week time span, store your vermouth in the refrigerator. Keep it corked/closed tightly, and don't leave it sitting with a speed pour spout, which doesn't really seal closed. (That's probably not a real concern. Only poseurs (like me, again) use speed pour spouts at home.) Evaporation is your foe with vermouth.

My suggestion to you is this: If you have access to a selection, don't buy the same sweet vermouth twice in a row. In fact, buy a new bottle until you've exhausted the selection. Explore the range and find your favorites in each price level.

As it turns out, I have a few favorites in the ~$20 band of the price rainbow. Dolin is nondescript. Vya is aromatic. Punt e Mes is bold, which is why I went for it tonight.

Someday I might branch out to talk about other variations of fortified wines, which progress from things like Madeira to Port to Vermouth to Quinquina. Plus the whole spectrum of dry vermouth... It's nutso.

Pun e Mes Negroni

I know Negroni recipes might be getting old, but bear with me... I'm playing a long con to teach you about substitution and variation.

  • 1.5oz gin (I used my current fave Half Moon Orchard)
  • 1.5oz Punt e Mes
  • 1.5oz Campari
  1. Stir with ice.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass with a very large ice cube or two.

The Punt e Mes is strong enough to give you a striking illustration of what varying your ingredients can do for a cocktail.
Please compare and contrast as you can. It will serve you well!

(NOTE: I didn't do the linking I might usually do for one of these. It seems like you guys don't click a bunch of links from what I can tell in the reports. If you miss the links, feel free to let me know. I'll just assume we all know how to use Google in the mean time.)

Tonight's Negroni #8: At least you know what to get me for my birthday

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

Confession: I am a compulsive collector.

Thankfully, this doesn't generally manifest itself as hoarding, although those of you who knew my compact disc collection might beg to differ. No, instead I tend to become obsessed with a particular category of object and decide I need one. Or a couple. Or several.

Examples are almost to numerous to list. Care to guess how many fountain pens I have? How about straight razors? You should see the stack of empty Field Notes notebooks in my office! Oh, and you know I've recently acquired a record player, right? Colored vinyl is just so pretty!

Yeah...

But, here's the thing: This compulsive collecting of mine kind of makes me a badass "Stay at Home Bartender"!

At-home bar tending has led to five "collections" that I can differentiate, four primary in my mind and one ancillary.

Allow me to explain (It's a newsletter after all... I have to write something.):

Gear

Shakers, strainers, jiggers and spoons! I love this stuff!

Right this second, my favorite set-up is a science lab beaker as mixing glass, a super-sexy bar spoon from CB2 and a julep strainer.

Glassware

Whether you grab the holiday "bottle of booze and two glasses" boxed sets at the packy (liquor store for those of you not exposed to New England culture) or go combing through consignment shops and yard sales for vintage glass, you are going to at least need some cocktail, rocks and Collins/highball glasses.

Then you can start thinking about whisky nosing glasses, Tiki mugs, Julep cups, Moscow Mule mugs, and so on and so forth.

Books

I am also a compulsive collector of knowledge! I still like physical books more than electronic media for learning recipes and cocktail history, but I'm also following a dozen booze blogs, so there you have that... My essentials:

Booze!

I mean... Right? The one thing that is absolutely required to make cocktails is liquor! (I'm including bitters here, FYI. I have an ever-expanding collection of those alone...)

By my calculation, the barest of bars should have six or seven bottles: gin, whiskey, dry and sweet vermouth, aromatic and orange bitters, and (optionally, if you're lame) Campari. What's the fun in that, though?! I typically expand each of those by a factor of at least three, and then move well beyond those basic categories.

The good news here is that these are consumables. They go away after a while. Then you either get some counter space back or have an opportunity to try something new. My bottle collection is admittedly ridiculous, but at least I'm able to maintain a slightly reasonable level of ridiculousness.

However...

My last collection kind of ruins that "consumable" benefit. 

Since I've gotten into doing DIY projects like infused vodka, tonic syrup, pimento dram and bitters, I've started building a large pile of various bottles and containers. I buy new, and I reuse bottles I like (removing labels can be harder than you'd think, BTW). It's not much of a problem when they are filled with stuff, but it's a bit awkward when they aren't.

It also occurs to me that my status as a hobbyist "mixologist" (not terribly fond of that label, but it's common enough, I guess) has caused me to collect acquaintances, which I actually find to be the best part. 

already talked about that a bit, though.

Americano

  • 1.5oz Campari
  • 1.5oz sweet vermouth (Nothing too fancy. I used Dolin Rouge.)

  1. Add ingredients and ice to a highball glass.
  2. Top with soda water.

Apparently this drink used to be called a Milano-Torino until booze loving American tourist made it seem like a good idea to rename it. So there's that.

Tonight's Negroni #7: The Development of Taste

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

Somewhere along the way, I've learned a little something about cocktails. Obviously, it has something to do with the fact that I like to drink them. A little bit. 

I am what you call an enthusiast. (In fact, the United States Bartenders' Guild, which can't even keep the punctuation of its own name straight on its web site, will gladly collect $100 to recognize me as such. How gracious!) At least in the realm of cocktails, though, I'm a high-grade enthusiast. I read books about it. I collect esoteric bottles of unfamiliar boozes. I am willing to make up and share cocktail recipes of my own. I will gladly dork out talking to a bartender at a place with a strong beverage program. 

I'm so enmeshed in the whole cocktail situation that I say things like "strong beverage program" without a drop of sarcasm.

My point is, I've developed a certain level of skill at making cocktails, and along the way to that, I've developed a certain amount of taste. I can recognize a fantastic cocktail versus a good cocktail versus a pedestrian cocktail versus a crime against humanity.

I think this development of taste is interesting.

Let me stop here, though, to allay fears of snobbery. My friend Miracle Ed (yes, as far as you know, that's his name) once very aptly differentiated me from a gourmet (a connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate) by labeling me a gourmand (a person who enjoys eating and often eats too much). These days I might argue a bit for something along the lines of epicure (a person who takes particular pleasure in fine food and drink), but who cares, really? What I'm trying to illustrate is that I take more than a little pride in still having a genuine appreciation of a tasty hot dog from a sidewalk cart, even though I occasionally spend time in highfalutin fine dining restaurants. I also actively culture my appreciation of sub-$10 red wines, which has become a sort of reverse snobbery on my part at this point, I'll admit.

One area of "taste" where I'm almost broken in terms of falling into snobbery, however, is coffee. I still use a drip coffee maker every day of the week, but I put really good, locally roasted beans in there. When I have time at home, I do go the extra mile to make at least one cup of pour-over or Aeropress coffee (usually with Tonx beans) before I move on to the drip carafe. Just a week and a half ago, one of my favorite restaurants, which happens to be around the corner from my office, started a coffee pop-up that is my new favorite thing ever. But yeah, I'm totally the guy that will give you a ride to Starbucks or DuDos and wait for you without buying anything for myself. I kind of hate that about me, but it's true.

Back in the first of these newsletter things, I noted that the cocktail called Negroni was a bartender favorite (among other reasons) because it was an acquired taste. What's the point in acquiring tastes anyway? Why not stick with frozen margs and vodka tonics if they make you happy? Why bother to learn about weird tasting stuff like bitters and amari?

Well, in the end, it's something you should do only if it interests you. Cocktails and food (and coffee) interest the hell out of me, so I'm diving deep. But I'm not going to judge you if you're not on the same dive as I am. I hope you've found something that has you swimming the dark waters, but it certainly doesn't have to me the same thing as me.

Just bear with me if I offer to make to a Caipirinha instead of your usual marg if you're at my house.

And so, let's talk about "fancying up" the already "fancy":

Fizzy Negroni

This is not just an Americano with gin, no! This is bending the will of Nature to put bubbles in booze!

  • 2oz gin (I used Tanq because I keep it int he freezer and cold is your friend here.)
  • 2oz Sweet vermouth (This time I went with Dolin Rouge.)
  • 2oz Campari (Duh.)
  1. Add ingredients to a Mastrad Purefizz soda siphon. (If you're adventurous, you can to this in a whipped cream siphon, but the Purefizz is the best thing going.)
  2. Screw on the top, nice & tight.
  3. Charge twice with 8g CO2 cartridges.
  4. Shake it like like you mean it for a little bit.
  5. Let it rest in the cold. The fridge is probably fine, but I actually went for the freezer for close to 20 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure. CAREFUL! It's possible (especially if you do crazy freezer shenanigans like I did that stuff will come shooting out when you do this!
  7. Pour it out on some ice cubes.
  8. Lookit the fizz!!! (Enjoy it when you pour it, though. It's still not nearly as carbonated as soda pop, so you'll never see that amount of fizz again.)

The carbonation really brings out the bitter orange of the Campari, making this the double-black version of what I consider a black diamond cocktail. Don't bother unless you know you've acquired the taste for Campari and Negronis in general.

Tonight's Negroni #6: The Lap of Luxury

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

The Lap of Luxury

(This is just a fancied-up Boulevardier, FYI. It's one of my favorite Manhattan descendants.) 

  1. Add all ingredients to mixing glass
  2. Add ice
  3. Stir
  4. Strain into a nice cocktail glass
  5. Garnish with a Luxardo maraschino cherry

It's really pretty!

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This drink is not as ridiculous as I initially felt it was when I was making it. 

I mean, the Gran Lusso is priced on par with Carpano Antica, which I regularly use in cocktails. But Antica doesn't have a name that translates to "Great Luxury". Are you even serious?! You have to play with that!

A word on the whiskey: This is where the drink could earn its name. You could break a bourbon geek's heart and make it with Pappy Van Winkle. I would never go that far, but I would definitely go at least one order of magnitude higher than I did this go around.

For me, right this second, it was a choice between George Dickel Barrel Select and Leopold Bros. Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey. I chose the latter because I thought the flavor profile would be interesting. (I was right.)

My first though while mixing this drink was "There aren't many people for whom I would make this drink. Luckily I consider myself one!" (No really. I thought that to myself. I'm a horrible person.) Well, trust me, you deserve it, too. I'd even make you one if you were in my living room.

Which you aren't. Suckers!

Tonight's Negroni #5: You guys are weird!

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

And not just because you subscribe to the ramblings of someone crackpot who is willing to write over 1,000 words on the topic of internet-influenced patronage.

No, more because more than one of you accused me of having - somewhere in my hopes and dreams - the notion of opening a bar! I mean, come on! Do you even know me?

Psh. The only bar I need to manage is called "my kitchen" and the bottle maintenance involved in keeping reasonably full measures of interesting gin, whiskey, whisky, vermouths, amari, and so forth on the counter is plenty for me to deal with. I don't need the hassle of "serving customers" or "running the business" of a bar. Nope. I am content to remain an Expert Level Stay at Home Bartender™.

Which may actually become a thing... 

My friend Andrew started things off with the phrase "stay at home bartender" a while ago. It made us both giggle a lot, so I registered some domains and whatnot. At some point we might make it yet another cocktail blog, or we might make it something else. I kinda really want to make t-shirts, at least. 

We'll see. 

In the mean time, the twitter users among you might follow @athomebartender (which is mostly me retweeting me, but hopefully won't stay that way). I was also going to suggest using the #SAHBU (that's for Stay At Home Bartenders Union) hashtag if you tweet about cocktails you make at home, but this SAHBU seems a bit more worthy... Maybe #AtHomeBar? Not sure. I need to workshop it a bit. Hit me up with suggestions.

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Anyway, it's Monday night and I'm keeping my drink simple. Yes even more simple than the stupid-easy Negroni, but no less glorious:

This stuff is amazing. It's the spice of Vya sweet vermouth turned up to eleven with the richness and roundness of Carpano Antica Formula.

Just wow.

They call it "luxurious vermouth", which is hilarious, but I'm willing to work with it. I had a Negroni with this vermouth last night and referred to it as The Most Luxurious Negroni

It's good to treat yourself now and again.

 

Insider tip for my Denver friends: [Redacted because I don't want to cause trouble for friends applying for liquor licenses.]

Tonight's Negroni #4: The secret life of a social media patron (and so can you!)

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

(Editorial note: Please read all quotation marks in the following as eye-rolling air-quotes. Because all of this is probably ridiculous.)

A weird thing has happened to me recently, and it involves two distinct and now interestingly connected things:

  1. Patronage
  2. Social media (in particular Twitter and Facebook)

Let's talk about the second one first. 

Let me first confess that I love Twitter and only use Facebook begrudgingly because people (and businesses, but we'll come to that in a bit) that I care about only use Facebook. There are still parts of Twitter that feel like the "old blogging days" of the early 2000s. I've made actual human connections with new people via Twitter. I've even met some of them IRL! (Note: I still have "online friends" from the "old blogging days" that I have not met IRL. It's a brave new world of introversion, friends!) Facebook mostly feels like it deals with the "people you already know" category of interaction. 

Except for the thing that I've been pondering and want to ... type about. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You see, a while back I "quit Facebook". The quotes are because I still used Facebook for what I feel is its most useful function: monitoring restaurants, producers of goods, and community news. If you want to know about a new product from a brand you like, Facebook is the way to do it. If you want to know about a new prix fix farm to table dinner or free cocktail class at one of your favorite restaurants, odds are Facebook is your best bet. 

It so happens I am "into" these types of things.

Thusly, I deleted my Facebook account (in as much as they actually let you do so), created a new account with an email address I never use, and followed all the businesses, brands, local news sources, and what not that I actually cared for. I looked at it no more than daily and referred to it as my "newspaper". 

But that version of Facebook was read-only for me. I made no comments and liked no links. No interaction. 

Meanwhile, on Twitter, the opposite was happening. I was engaging businesses and brands and getting responses ranging from "hired social media guru" to "I actually run the joint". Then when I "came back" to Facebook, I started behaving like I already was on Twitter. I would friend request bartenders who might think I was vaguely familiar if you showed them a picture but still wouldn't know me from Adam. And they'd accept because I was already friends with the guy that owns the restaurant where they shake drinks. And I would joke with them online and they'd joke back. And then they actually would know me from Adam the next time I sat down and asked for a Negroni, rocks. In fact, I currently have several restauranteurs, bartenders, shop owners, and even real estate developers who will stop and say hello to me mostly because of online interaction.

Which is what has me thinking about this so much. Twitter and Facebook and the casual online engagement they foster are becoming a substitute for the face time it takes to become a "regular" for these people/places. Or at least some kind of short cut to gaining that status.

This is really interesting to me. 

The places with real humans behind the social media are always surprisingly appreciative of the retweets/shares and favs/likes I give them. But I will say that I do all of that genuinely. I honestly see it as an act of curation (probably should have air-quoted that... ಠ_ಠ). I want to know about awesome things so that I have more opportunity to experience awesome things. I want to believe my friends feel the same way, so I share things I find that look awesome.

And this sharing is a part of my patronage of these people and businesses. Yes, I will come to your restaurant and drink your craft cocktails and eat your amazing food and rave about them on the internet afterwards as much as I can. I just can't do it that much. For one thing, there are other restaurants that are amazing and I haven't even been yet. For another, I will go utterly broke!

I guess I'm discovering an adjunct to the definition of patron, which I just looked up and will share with you:

pa·tron

  1. a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, cause, or activity.
  2. a customer, esp. a regular one, of a store, restaurant, or theater.

Add to that something along the lines of "one who actively engages with and spreads the word about a business or producer of goods", and that's me. 

Mutant Internet Patron, at your service.

OK, enough computerized ear-chewing... Cocktail time! I've already talked about it twice before, so tonight I'll actually mix it:

Citrine

  1. Add everything to a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice. (A Hendrick's gin rep taught me this trick, with the reasoning that if the ice is already in the mixing glass when you start adding your booze, you are immediately in a race against dilution. Seems reasonable to me.)
  3. Stir. (Work on your smooth, silent stir, because you're classy. Stir until the mixing glass is good and cold.)
  4. Strain into a fancy cocktail glass. (The color of this drink is pretty enough, and Suze is a rare enough ingredient that it deserves the - don't roll your eyes this time! - "up" treatment as oppose to most Negroni variations, which I typically prefer on the rocks.)

Suze is interesting stuff. First thing: it's a freakish yellow color. It's made with gentian root, which I discovered during my recent adventure in bitters making is some of the most bitter tasting stuff I've had in my mouth. Obviously the Pernod elves work some serious magic because Suze is mighty tasty.

Uncle Val's is also a bit odd. If you've ever had Hendrick's gin, just imagine that turned up to eleven with more emphasis on herbal and citrus notes than cucumber and florals. It almost plays a little too hard for this drink. Try the previously mentioned Half Moon Orchard Gin from Tuthilltown instead, maybe.

 

Thanks for reading. I'll keep the next one shorter. Maybe tell some fart jokes instead...

Tonight's Negroni #3: The Derpiest Marshmallow

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

Generally, I think I'm a pretty smart dude. Occasionally, however, I am presented with devastatingly irrefutable evidence to the contrary. 

This is one of those.

To start with, a confession: I am one of the 90+ thousand people who Kickstarted the new Veronica Mars movie. My Special Lady Friend (SLF) and I enjoyed the series quite a bit, and it was exciting to be part of such a crazily successful Kickstarter campaign.

Well, anyway, the fun begins when I get a Kickstarter update that mentions that there will be a funders-only preview the day before general release at the theater around the corner from my house. "That sounds like fun," I think to myself. "SLF would be excited to go to that."

Reading the updates again, I see absolutely no realistic way for my mistake to have actually happened.

AMC has also shared a few more details about what you can expect at their "Veronica Mars Fan Event": the advance screenings will take place on March 13 at 8pm, and will include exclusive footage from our red carpet premieres, as well as exclusive t-shirts and limited edition lanyards for all attendees.

And..

Again, these are the only 17 theaters where Fan Events are being held on March 13

The details are very clear, right? Tickets for the preview event on March 13 were going on sale on February 13. They also mention that tickets for the March 14th general premiere were going to go on sale on February 14. Simple.

Then something happened. 

When I bought the tickets (after some struggle with the AMC web site), my idiotic little brain suddenly ignored everything that said "March" and just saw "Thursday the 13th" and since February has 28 days (usually), days of the week in February are the same as in March, "Thursday the 13th" got magically translated to TODAY!

This really shouldn't be a problem. There are people around me who should be able to correct my confusion with no more damage to me than a little embarrassment. 

You'd think.

So, I (in my frothing state of mistaken knowledge) forward the ticket receipt to SLF with the note: "You'd better hurry home from ballet." Does she point out my mistake with a little "Babe, that's in March..."? Nope! "I'll be home at 6:45!" she says. 

Now she's infected. She actually thinks I know what I'm doing.

Sure enough, we head off to the theater and get the tickets from the Fandango kiosk. Now get this: We walk in the door and hand the tickets to the kid, he looks at them, his brow wiggles just a bit as if he might have the thought to correct our mistake, but then he tears the tickets and tells us "You'll be in theater 14 right there." Damn it, kid! YOU HAD ONE JOB!

Upside: We discover there in now a bar in this theater! Aces! 

We get a drink and a snack and we wonder where everybody is. The bartender lady asks what we're here to see and we tell her that we're here for the Veronica Mars preview event. "Oh, that looks great. I can't wait to see that one." she says with absolutely zero comprehension or awareness of reality. Then we get round 2 and go into the theater which is still labelled for the LEGO movie. We sit in the empty theater and grow increasingly concerned as people start filing in with their kids. 

We tough it out, stewing in our befuddlement, until the LEGO movie actually starts. At which point we trot over to the information desk and ask the manager what's going on. She tilts her head, looks at our tickets for a bit and then *BING*"These are for March!"

Holy crap. 

How dumb are we? 

Wow. 

Just... 

Thunderously dumb.

She assures us we'll be able to get into the real event (which is nearly sold out, BTW) with our torn tickets. She'll send an email, she says as she writes a note and her initials on the back of our tickets. Guess we'll see how that goes in March...

The astounding part is how my stupidity managed to pass so many checks. 

The derp is strong in this one.

By this point you no doubt believe my damaged brain probably doesn't need a drink, but let's do it anyway:

  1. Mix it in a glass with ice.
  2. Drink it.

My default "well" gin is Tanqueray. It's a great, no frills "London Dry" gin with good juniper. 

To class up this very basic Negroni, we turn to what I consider the king of sweet vermouths. Antica has a lot going on, but there's a vanilla flavor that really gets a highlight in this drink.

Thanks for reading (if you made it this far). Always feel free to reply to these and let me know what I'm doing well or not-so-well. I'd love the feedback. I still have no idea what I'm doing here.

Tonight's Negroni #2: Man Cycle or Mercury?

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

I don't know about you, but my emotions have been all kinds of wibbly-wobbly lately. 

If I held any stock is this sort of claptrap, I'd go ahead and blame a tiny planet far away, close to the sun. But supposedly that only started a week ago, and I've been on this roller coaster for over three weeks. 

Maybe I should just attribute it to shaving my beard off on the first of the year... Sure that works! Let the season of anti-crybaby beard regrowth commence! 

No, it's not a Negroni, but it's in the same tradition as a Boulevardier. As far as I know, it's just something I improvised, but it may be very close to something that already exists and has a clever name.
Typically this would be the sort of drink you would stir with ice and strain into a nice cocktail glass with an orange twist to garnish.
Instead, I strained it over a big ice cube in a whiskey glass.

Now stop looking at me. No, I'm not crying.

(Oh, and I've confirmed that I named my Suze-based Negroni variation "Citrine".)

Tonight's Negroni #1: Make it a double (it saves the trip back to the kitchen)

FYI: This is an archive of my Tonight's Negroni email newsletter.

I'll go ahead and live up to the name of the newsletter for the inaugural missive and feature a proper Negroni:

  1. Add two king size ice cubes to a large rocks glass.
  2. Measure each ingredient into the glass. (I pour them in the above order because it helps keep my little measuring cup from getting sticky.)
  3. Give it a stir.
  4. I don't bother with a garnish, because why ruin a whole piece of citrus for one drink? But, if you like, add an orange twist (OR: a single dash of orange bitters, unstirred).

Why is the Negroni the darling cocktail of bartenders and booze aficionados? (Trust me it is. Anthony Bourdain, when asked what his go-to drink was, answered something along the lines of "A Negroni if I'm in a good mood, otherwise whiskey." Ever since I read that, I have dubbed the Negroni "my happy drink".) 

It has several positive attributes (at least in the eyes of those two groups mentioned above):

  • It's an easy mix. Even proportions are next to unheard of in the cocktail world. If you've ever had too many to mix another, you might almost be dead.
  • It's an acquired taste. You really have to develop a booze-tasting palate to appreciate bitter liqueurs like Campari. 
  • It offers room for interpretation. Even with the 1:1:1 recipe, the Negroni can be a totally different depending on the gin you use or the vermouth. (For the record: Campari is non-negotiable if you are calling the drink a "Negroni". Other ingredients call for a new name. See: the Bijou with Chartreuse, and my version using Suze that I think I called "Citrine".)

In light of that last point, this Negroni features:

  1. A gin from the illustrious Tuthilltown distillery that features alcohol made with apples picked in upstate New York and an interesting botanical mix. It's light and a bit fruity. They call it "a smoother and rounder gin" and I rather agree. Plus it has a tall ship printed on the (1 liter!) bottle.
  2. A warm and spicy sweet vermouth from California that is quite complex on its own.

The end result has a welcoming front-end with that classic Campari bitterness at the end. Towards the end, when the ice is well-melted, the finish is largely medicinal.

Might need another... (Just a single this time, though, right? Am I right?!)

Cocktail: The Hyde-Away

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Just a little something I made up for a visit to Andrew Hyde's new house in the hills.

I had checked in with Andrew to find out what kind of whiskey he liked, but it turns out he is so gluten averse that even grain-based spirits could cause him trouble. Instead, he said he mostly sticks to mezcal these days.

I got lucky in that he is a big Campari fan!

The Hyde-Away

  • 2 oz Mezcal (Sombra is good)
  • ¾ oz Campari
  • ½ oz Lavender simple syrup *
  • ¼ oz Orange liqueur (Leopold’s, Cointreau, Triple Sec)

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Lavender simple syrup:

  • Dissolve equal parts sugar (or honey if you prefer that flavor) with water.
  • Simmer until completely combined and perhaps a bit reduced.
  • Turn off heat and toss in the unopened flowers of a lavender plant (no stems).
  • Cover and steep for up to 30 minutes.
  • Let cool, strain, store refrigerated.
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My Favorite Barware

As all three of you know by now, I enjoy making a cocktail now and again. With that being the case, I've tried a lot of gear and developed some preferences. 

Given the upcoming holiday season, I thought I'd share some of my favorites in case you were looking for some gift ideas.

  • Corkscrews come in all shapes and sizes. I have a Rabbit, but mostly I'm partial to the "Waiter's Friend" style.
  • For measuring ingredients, I've decided the old school two-sided jiggers are too much of a pain to use, clean and store. While hanging out at the bar at Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder, I decided to follow their lead and get a stack of these Oxo Mini angled measuring cups. I got a couple of these science lab-style beakers, too, but they don't quite have enough graduation markers to be perfectly effective.
  • Of course, when I'm mixing drinks that are all spirits, I stir it like a gentleman. For that, I use a pint glass (I like to use some old Sailor Jerry glasses I have because they are awesome.), my favorite bar spoon, and a Julep strainer (which I prefer over a Hawthorne strainer). The pint glasses tend to dribble a bit, so someday I might get a nice mixing glass with a pour spout. In the mean time I just got a nice bar mat that hides perfectly under a cutting board in my kitchen.
  • When the beverages have juice, sugar or eggs involved, it's time to put on a show and shake what my momma gave me. I'm partial to Cobbler shakers which have built in strainers. I thought this one from CB2 was my favorite, but the second one I just got seems a little leaky. That said, Cobbler shakers can suffer from stuck lids and are a bit troublesome to clean. I do have a fondness for the simplicity of the Boston shaker and might look into acquiring a nice one soon.
  • I juice my limes and lemons with one of these press-like juicers.
  • I get citrus twists with one of these vegetable peelers, which does a decent job, though my citrus garnishing game could use improvement.
  • I have yet to fall in love with a muddler, so I just have a basic wooden number.
  • I really like stabbing my olives and Luxardo cherries with these picks I just got from Williams-Sonoma, though they are a bit long for my favorite vintage cocktail glasses (featured in my Green Knight post).
  • As for glasses, I love the vintage set we have but I'm on the lookout for a good set of coupes.
  • Update: I forgot to mention the ice cube trays I like a lot. They are silicone and come in one inch and two inch sizes. I also have a couple different spherical molds, but those aren't really worth the trouble.

As you can tell, my mixology hobby definitely feeds into my predilection for collecting tools and gear. I just like to say it keeps me off the streets.

Oh, if you need any help using the items listed above, I suggest reading this book first and then maybe this one.

Cocktail: The Green Knight

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This one was a surprise.

I had some fresh Thai basil from the garden and thought I'd try to come up with a nice, herbal drink to use it. I thought I'd use Crème de Violette just for the purple color (although the flavor is also great, especially with gin), but then at the last moment I added some sweet vermouth. That addition shockingly changed the color to a rich green.

It doesn't hurt that the drink tastes pretty fantastic, either.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Muddle the basil gently in a mixing glass. (I do this by placing a few ice cubes over the leaves, covering the glass with my hand and shaking the glass up and down a bit.)
  2. Add the other ingredients and stir until well chilled.
  3. Strain into a coupe or martini glass and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.

Pardon the Dust

Since Joyent decided to end-of-life my "lifetime hosting", I have gone completely bonkers and switched my site to Squarespace 6. (Yes, I fell for the Dan & Merlin sales pitch.)

Somewhere in the course of importing my old content this got confused and old posts ended up living at /oldstuff/oldstuff/numbers/and/things but the blog index page links to just /oldstuff/numbers/and/things (which is actually the correct format).

I'm working my way through fixing them, but it's going to take me a while.

Active Curation

On Wednesday, I announced on Facebook that I was considering closing my account. It's not like I expected this to shake anybody's world. I just thought I'd open things up for comment to see if there were any compelling relationships in there that I had forgotten to appreciate and that couldn't be continued in a more meaningful way via other, more active, media such as email or even direct contact. Sure I like seeing everyone's pictures and posting my own, but does any of it actually matter. I've come to the opinion that - in MY life - it doesn't, really.

A conversation I had Thursday night with my lovely wife didn't change my attitude much. In fact, it probably reenforced it.

If you feel like reading someone a bit more articulate than myself pondering similar things, I'll point you to my "internet friend" Andre Torrez:

  • In June, he posted I Give Up, which is directly related to this.
  • Just today, he put up I Am Not Busy which is different but related musings about not telling people you're busy when what you really mean is you just aren't interested enough to do whatever it is they are suggesting you do.

Basically, it comes down to the idea of curating (a word that has pretty much been destroyed by hipsters with Tumblr blogs) my life a bit more strictly.

Grant Blakeman, who isn't even really an "internet friend" but to whom I've actually spoken in person, first hit me with the phrase "curating your life actively" at TEDxBoulder in 2010. It's something that has stuck with me for a while, even though I've ended up taking an exactly opposite approach in recent times when it comes to things like "social media" inputs.

I think it might be time to loop back and trim the fat a bit.

NOLA Bound

Tomorrow I get to hop on a plane with several coworkers (and even more acquaintances) and head to RubyConf in New Orleans. This is very exciting for me, because although my mother took me there more than a couple times when I was small, I have no memory of having ever been to New Orleans. I'm very happy to be remedying this omission in my Stateside travels.

Best yet: because I am an excellent husband, I'm staying in New Orleans a couple extra days beyond the conference so that The Wife can come out on Saturday to join me for some of those famous "good times".

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Depending on how things go, I might actually report back with details of what we ate and what we drank and what we saw. Or maybe not.

4th of July Status

Things I didn't do this holiday weekend:

  1. Ride my motorcycle
  2. Start building bookcases
  3. Hang out with friends
  4. Go to the Monday CrossFit workout

Things I did do this holiday weekend:

  1. Finished installing the new baseboard
  2. Made lavender simple syrup
  3. Took the wife out for a lovely lunch at Salt
  4. Cleaned up the garage just a tiny bit
  5. Cooked a bunch so we'll have lots of easy leftovers
  6. Went to the Saturday CrossFit workout and still can't walk straight

I call that a win overall.

The Foul-Mouthed Cook's Guide to: Goat Stock

First, realize that goat is fucking delicious, so stop making that stupid face and read on for some guidelines for making some seriously tasty goddamn stock. (Also, don't bother reading this if you don't like cussing, because I feel like cussing. A lot.)

With that out of the way, here's how you get this shit done:

  1. Get a bag of goat bones. (I ordered a half a fucking goat so it came with a package of trimmed bones and shit. That's fucking awesome.)
  2. Roast the shit out of those bones. (Like 400 degrees F or even 450. Flip the cocksuckers every once in a while, too.)
  3. Turn on the broiler for a bit just to really show those bones who's the fucking boss.
  4. Get a big-ass pot on the motherfucking stove.
  5. Throw in some onion chunks, a couple of garlic cloves (bash the shit out of them first), some celery, and some bell peppers. Or whatever the fuck you want, I don't fucking care.
  6. Saute that shit on a hot fucking burner. You want to build up a serious goddamn fonde.
  7. Add some motherfucking spices and shit. (Lots of salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, herbs de Provence, whatever the fuck.)
  8. Put the fucking bones in the fucking pot(s).
  9. Add a bunch of water to that shit.
  10. Bring it to a goddamned boil. It's gonna look like this -- you might get a fucking hard-on, so be careful.
  11. Turn it the fuck down and put a fucking lid on it.
  12. Leave it the fuck alone for a good long while.
  13. Strain out all the dead shit and try to skim most of the fucking fat off.
  14. Ta-da. You make some stock that'll make your mom want to punch you in the dick.