Tonight's Negroni #21: News around town!

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

Hey gang! Check it out! I've taken so long to write another installment of Tonight's Negroni that I have enough open tabs and saved links to do a link list! You love link lists!

What...? Why are you looking at me like that? You know I love you, baby. Really I do...

It's just sometimes I don't really have that much going on with me and I need to pull from other sources.

You'll like them, I swear. Promise. I picked them out just for you!

hugs

  • Remember when I kicked this thing off and I told you all about the things that make the Negroni interesting? Well, I was focused on fairly practical reasons at that point, but did you know the history -- and in particular the origin story -- of the drink is pretty interesting in and of itself? It is!
  • Then there was the time I told you to make batches of cocktails to take to parties, right? That was super helpful advice, if I do say so myself. (Also, I still love José Andrés.) Nowadays, the next level version of that is to pack in a shitload of tiny little bottled cocktails, which is pretty damned fantastic if you can actually motivate yourself to go through the trouble.
    • PROTIP: The secret is to add water to what would ordinarily be a water-free drink, bottle it, and then chill the bejesus out of it. It's the same as stirring/shaking with ice if you get the right proportion.
  • And with the final inline reference to the archives, I will first point you to this New York Times article which seemingly unironically refers to a "Negroni menu". At which I will respond with a fist-shaking "I knew it!"
  • It's too late for you lovely people to enjoy the one discussed at the link, but let's all get on board with the term "alcoholiday", shall we? Yes, we shall.
  • This is of note to me. Not because I am personally interested in paying a dude a bunch of money to teach me things I happen to already know, but because of reasons...
  • Of more general interest to me: bitters-heavy cocktails. I confess, most of these recipes are old hat to me, but you probably need to know about the wonder that is Pink Gin, and I am super interested in trying The Sawyer.

But if bitter ain't your thang...

Zombie

If the Spring/Summer overlap was the Age of Negroni, is seems like late-Summer-moving-into-Fall is all about Tiki drinks. I'm not sure if that's mostly a Denver thing or if it's all across the nation (signs point to yes), but if you like sweet and fruity, wild and boozy cocktails, a tiki revival should be right up your alley.

Another differentiator between tiki drinks and most of the cocktails I enjoy drinking and discussing is the shear complexity involved. While my typical Negroni night cap is just a part each from three bottles in a rocks glass with some ice, a lot of tiki drinks use multiple varieties of rum, a fruit juice or two, some liqueur or cordial you've never heard of and certainly can't find, plus fancy syrups and other concoctions.

Heck, half the time the ingredients for a tiki drink are as hard (or harder) to make than a lot of cocktails!

So given that, consider this recipe more of a demonstration than a suggestion to DIY. Unless you've got the guts.

  • 1½ oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
  • 1½ oz Aged Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz Lemon Hart 151-proof Demerera rum
  • ¾ oz Fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz Don's mix (See what I mean?!)
  • ½ oz Falernum (Right?!)
  • 6 drops Pernod
  • 1 tsp Grenadine
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • ¾ cup Crushed ice (You remembered to make a ton of crushed ice, right???)
  1. Put everything in a blender.
  2. Blend on high for no more than 5 seconds.
  3. Pour into a tall (Collins) glass.
  4. Add ice to fill.
  5. Garnish with mint sprig.

Now, before you even start to hit reply, I freely acknowledge there are easier ways to make something that you can legitimately call a Zombie. However, I'm also willing to believe this version from Jeff Berry's Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean is canonical. It's a remarkable book, too.

Besides... I was making a point, damn it.

Tonight's Negroni #20: The Stay at Home Bartender's Bucket List

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

(A quick note about the SaHB title: I may be running with it and even turning it into some weird kind of pseudo-brand, but it was my friend Andrew who coined the term. I like to think he was aware of this particular parallel when he did...)

Oh, cool! Number twenty!

OK, kids, I'm going to try to keep this one tight (I'll never say "short" because HA! have you seen these things?) because I had a hangnail this weekend that has left me with a gash that refuses to heal on the outside of my right thumbnail that refuses to heal and continues to flirt with angry infection but never quite commits. As such each primary-handed space causes me great discomfort, so be happy everything so far hasn'tlookedlikethis. Blame typos on my thumb instead of my drink (for once).

The first order of business is that MOST RYE WHISKEY IS A LIE!!! Seriously, I'm all kinds of bummed about this. (It also applies to other categories of booze, so - if you care - you might want to start doing more research.) I'm going to have to do a side-to-side with Bulleit and Templeton, because I am convinced the latter tastes better. Even if it does, though, I'd rather go a few buck higher and get delicious and actually hand made rye whiskey from Denver's own Leopold Brothers distillery.

In other news, I'm excited to play with my Neat Ice Kit, which just arrived in my mail box today.

Now on to the listicle!

No really, I'm doing a listicle in an email newsletter. Better yet, I stole the idea! Props, though. You only steal what you like, right?

First the direct thievery:

  1. Have a cocktail named after me. For real, how awesome would it be to go into a bar and order a drink that bears your name?
  2. Have a shot of fernet with Anthony Bourdain. I'm as big a Tony fan as anyone. Screw the fernet, though, I want to make the man a Negroni. He loves them!

    Where did my pants go, and who are you?

  3. Take a distillery tour in KY. I like bourbon a bunch and I grew up in East Tennessee, so it would probably be a lot of fun.
  4. Go to Tales of the Cocktail. I'm on the fence with this one, still. To part of me it sounds amazing, and I love New Orleans. Another part of me thinks is sounds like the third ring of Hell. A recent viewing of Hey, Bartender on Netflix has me leaning toward awesome right now.
Then there's my list, several of which are directly inspired by the those above:

  1. Distillery tour of Scotland. I mean, I claim Scottish heritage and love to drink the peaty brown water, so it seems natural.
  2. Trade gin & tonics with José Andrés. Just go read this.
  3. Have a cocktail recipe featured on a menu. Much like #1 above, this would be a nice feather in the old cap.
  4. Be published in a physical medium. I don't know if I would ever be able to write about booze in a book or magazine article of my own, but I would also be happy to appear in somebody else's. (As I've mentioned before, I have basked in some shared online light recently. That's pretty darned cool, too.)
  5. (I'm only a little sure I even think I want this, but...) Get behind the stick. While I don't doubt my mixing abilities within the confines of my own kitchen, I've never tested myself in a real bar setting. Maybe I should try that once. Maybe...

That last one's is a doozy. It goes to my own questions about the legitimacy of my internal thoughts, my projected knowledge, and my voiced opinions in the realm of cocktails and booze in general. We do people even listen to me if I've never been a REAL BARTENDER?

shruggles

Paloma

I fell like Paloma is almost a generic drink name now. Try looking up recipes and they are all over the map. So confusing...

Welp. This is how I like 'em.

Ingredients

  • 2oz Reposado tequila (or go crazy with mezcal if you like that smoky flavor)
  • 1oz Pink grapefruit juice (or more, to taste)
  • ½oz Lime juice (half a lime)
  • ~3oz Grapefruit soda (I use Squirt most of the time, but sometimes I get the fancy Italian stuff.)

Directions

  1. In a large rocks or highball glass (optionally with a salted rim), add booze and juices.
  2. Fill with ice and top with soda.
  3. Stir and serve with a straw.

Now that you are done with this silly email, go watch a cool video about why grilling really makes your food taste good!

Tonight's Negroni #19: How do I even?

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

I've gone through this before, back when I actively posted to my blog. The not knowing what to talk about or even why I was talking in the first place. Now I'm going through it with this "weird email newsletter thing", too.

no idea at all

My big sticking point is that I actually don't want to make this a weekly Tips and Tricks for the Stay at Home Bartender email. That stuff is fun and all, but I kind of want to put that in a different place some day (soon?).

I enjoy the notion that this is a newsletter about booze that isn't really about booze. The problem is that occasionally turns into "WTF am I going to talk about then???"

If I'm honest, the really good installments of Tonight's Negroni (IMO, of course) have been the results of actual face to face conversations with real life human beings. This is a bit of a problem, because I don't really do that all that often and certainly not with any consistency. I guess this is the thing I need to work on...

Anyway, long story short, I don't consider myself a writer, but I like to try every once in a while. I mostly suck at it, and you are nice people to play along. Thanks for that.

Meanwhile, I guess I'll just keep on doing whatever it is I'm doing.

still no idea

Now for the part I am actually kind of good at...

I was going to talk about the Vesper, which is a cocktail that I recently casked to interesting effect. Then I found this Dave Wondrich piece in which he points out the Vesper is basically a crap cocktail because the Lillet Blanc has no chance against the stronger flavors of the gin. Upon reflection, this is doubly true with my barrel aged version. It's a tasty beverage, but you'd never know there was anything as nuanced as Lillet in there.

So, screw the Vesper. Turns out James Bond is a dummy.

(NOTE: The "recipe" for the Vesper included in Casino Royale calls for "Kina Lillet", which had more bitterness from quinine than modern day Lillet. So maybe the original drink wasn't quite as unbalanced as it is today. If you really want to try a Vesper, you might want to find Cocchi Americano instead of Lillet.)

Corpse Reviver #2

Here's a fantastic cocktail that features Lillet Blanc. At 4oz total, it's also a larger than average drink, like the Vesper (which is a whopping 4.5oz).

As for the name, it's not so much about zombies as it is about curing hangovers. It's the tastiest hair of the dog ever. It even has Negroni-esque proportions, making it something you can probably remember how to make even when the daylight sears your brain.

Ingredients

  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Cointreau
  • 1oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1oz Lemon juice
  • 1-3 drops Absinthe or pastis (try Herbsaint if you can find it)

Directions

  1. Shake with ice. (PROTIP: When you have citrus juice in a cocktail recipe, you should always shake it.)
  2. Strain into cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a stemless cherry dropped into the bottom of the glass.

Tonight's Negroni #18: What you really need to have.

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

I tweeted a request for suggestions for talking points a while back, and much to my delight, I actually got some responses! The (handful) of responses fell into two camps:

  1. Drink as many Negronis as you can in X amount of time and then try to type a newsletter. UNTIL YOU DIE! (To which I replied "Duh, but what do I write about, dorks?!")
  2. Tell us about Stay-at-Home Bartender staples. Like, what mixers and such do you keep on hand at all times.

No surprise, but I'ma go with #2 since it's a for real request.

Before I start, however, I will remind you that Jeffrey Morganthaller's The Bar Book covers pretty much all of the territory I should cover in this particular newsletter. In fact, that book has made me question the very existence of this newsletter. It's just that good.

Here's the rub, though: The Bar Book is a little bit too "pro".

Jeffrey is a real live bartender, running multiple real live bars in a pretty booze-happy town (PDX). That shows in the book, if you ask me. As it turns out, that means his advice is mana from heaven to a borderline-psycho like myself, but maybe a bit over the top for a normal at-home mixer who wants to make cocktails for their Significantly Other Person and maybe a couple other folks on the weekend.

Even someone like me doesn't need to juice limes on the weekly. (And trust: I can use me some lime juice.)

The nitty and the gritty

So... here is what you, the run of the mill recreational cocktalian should keep in your house at most times:

Fruit

  • Limes (I always have about 6. If they start to look questionable, I start mixing lime-based drinks. Same applies for all of the following.)
  • Lemons (I generally keep 2 or 3.)
  • Orange (Like one for just in case. Scale up if you have something planned.)
  • Grapefruit (Only if you have something in the works ahead of time. Otherwise: See below.)

Sweeteners

Nobody in my house uses sugar in coffee any more, so we hardly have a need for sweeteners at all, but I still keep a little bit of the following in the cabinet:

  • Cane sugar ("Raw" or "Demerara" or whatever makes you happy.)
  • Honey (Like from bees.)
  • Agave nectar (I am suspicious of this one, because it is supposedly higher in fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup, but is does have a good flavor and rules are made for breaking. Again, see below.)
  • Brown sugar / molasses / whatever else... (Only as needed / planned for.)

Bottles & Cans

(and just clap your hands)

First, let me point out that I never drink sugar water on the regular. I just don't drink soda at all. I save that for the double whammy of combining it with alcohol, like a goddamned GENTLEMAN.

That said, I try to keep cans of the following around almost all the time:

  • Coca-Cola (I grew up in the South and can't abide Pepsi. I try to prefer the real sugar stuff in glass bottles -- especially the little 8oz "ass-kickers" (as my family call them).)
  • Ginger something (I go for Gosling's ginger beer or something more small-scale and made with cane sugar, but still offering the kick I want from my Dark & Stormy. Go ahead and settle for a Ginger "Ale" if you are lame like that. Note: I have still yet to DIY my own ginger soda, but I want to do it.)
  • Citrus flavored sodapop (My beloved Granddad kept Sprite. I keep Squirt most of the time. 7-up, Fresca, whatever, dude.)
  • Tonic water (Yes, I make large batches of tonic syrup each summer, but you are not insane like me. Buy Q Tonic or Fever Tree and be pleased with yourself. Avoid HFCS junk.)
  • Pineapple juice (In those tiny cans. useful for the occasional Tiki drink, though no comparison to the real thing.)
  • Grapefruit juice (Ocean Spray does small plastic bottles. It's not as good as fresh, but it's good enough to get by if you want to try a new recipe or someone requests a Salty Dog out of the blue.)
  • Orange juice (Usually just around for breakfast or whatever, it comes in handy at cocktail hour, too. Also: Mimosas.)
  • Tomato juice (I usually have a bottle of some kind of vegetable juice blend that is primarily tomato. You've gotta be able to improvise a Bloddy Mary at any time. Seriously: DROP OF A HAT!)

After all that, we get into alcoholic mixers, and that's a whole nother thing.

Feel free to let me know if you'd care to hear about it, though. I do have some thoughts on the matter, as you might guess.

Tikigroni

I freely acknowledge that the name is an abomination, but the drink is a damned fine thing.

Deal, dawg.

So last night, I improvised a Tiki drink for my Special Lady Friend and I. It involved the following ingredients with the addition of Tiki staples like orgeat and pineapple juice. Today, as I pondered what to feature in this email, I thought "I wonder..." and sure enough a Negroni variation was born!

  • 1 part Spiced (or maybe aged?) rum (I just went with Sailor Jerry. I haven't allowed myself to become a rum connoisseur. Yet. For reasons.)
  • 1 part Aperol (Campari's friendlier cousin.)
  • 1 part Swedish Punsch (I found Kronan brand at the very excellent The Proper Pour in Denver.)
  1. Add ingredients to a double rocks glass.
  2. Add rocks. (OR If you are more committed to the Tiki thing than I am - or prefer a "softer" beverage - loads of crushed ice.)
  3. Stir with finger.
  4. Drink.

FUN NEWS!

Gary (AKA: "gaz") Regan put out a call for Negroni variation recipes, so I submitted my Citrine, which I previously shared in this space. Well, he seems to be including it in the running for his 101 Best New Cocktails, 2014 edition (he compiles a new book each year -- nice gig!). This is, obviously, pretty darned humbling for a "professional amateur" like myself. Woohoo!

 

Tonight's Negroni #17: That's a bit harsh isn't it?

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

Have you seen Matt Buchanan's "Death to Negronis" post on The Awl?

You should.

While you can draw direct examples of the things his douchebag hipster Negroni lovers would say from this very newsletter, I'm not too stung by it. For the most part it feels like blowhard anti-hipsterism, making fun of people because they actually have opinions about vermouth. At the same time, it's also got its own version of a hipster vibe: hating on a drink because it's too popular and attributing that popularity to The Man (Campari in this case). In the end though, the most salient point seems to be this:

Just don't tell anybody about it.

He's just tired of hearing about it.

It's like so many things that cause people profess exasperation due to exposure fatigue: fitness routines (think CrossFit, Bikram Yoga, Zumba, etc.), diets (Atkins, Paleo, Vegan, and so forth), and further afield to all sorts of subjects from cars to child rearing. When groups of people within a culture get excited about something they talk about. Other people in the culture who do notparticipate in these activities grow weary of all the talk. It's a pattern that repeats throughout time and has only gotten more prevalent with the freely available real-time communication methods offered by the internet.

Sadly for Matt, it's not a thing that's going to end. There will always be something he is tired of hearing about. It's really up to him to curate his life and moderate his own reactions (if he cares to). Or he can sleep well knowing he will always have something to rant about. Either way.

For me, I found it interesting as a dovetail to last week when I was concerned about "negroni" being diluted into a category name. That concern was also a reaction to the overexposure the Negroni seems to be experiencing, though hopefully with a slightly more positive spin. (Hopefully...?)

I still love a Negroni. I also still love a gin & tonic. And a Manhattan. Right on down the line.

I love the entire world of cocktails and have just happened to hang my weird little newsletter shingle on the name of a drink that is getting a ton of love at this moment. (I swear this is accidental, or at least subliminal!) So it goes.

Ultimately, we shouldn't fault somebody for liking what they like. It's their choice based on their experiences of the world. They may change their mind given more experience, but as of their current state, that's the thing they like and it's really not ours to judge.

In our age of snark, this is sometimes a hard lesson, but I believe it's true and makes for a better life if you can adopt it.

Daiquiri No. 3

This recipe is from my latest cocktail book purchase, Jeffrey Morganthaller's The Bar Book. I've only just begun to read it, but it's making quite the impression already. If you are in any way the "Stay at Home Bartender" type, you should get this book.

  • 2oz White rum
  • ½oz Rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar:water)
  • ½oz Fresh lime juice (probably half a lime)
  • ¼oz Grapefruit juice
  • 1tsp Maraschino ligueur (Luxardo or Leopold's)
  1. Shake with ice.
  2. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
  3. Garnish with lime wedge.
  4. Serve with a straw.

Here's to the summer cocktail season!

Tonight's Negroni #16: Is "negroni" becoming the next "martini"?

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

The Denver Tour di Negroni (which I told you about a couple months ago) just had it's blowout finale with a party/competition (won by one of my favorite bar teams) and now Imbibe Magazine is taking a similar show nationwide with its Negroni Week. While both of these events celebrate the classic proportions and variety of possible ingredients (as have I in previous installments), there's also a lot of focus on Negroni variants or even "Negroni-inspired" cocktails. This is where participating establishments really get to stretch their wings and be inventive.

I get why that's a big driver. I'm super cool with that and even super excited about it.

What I can't get on board with is the increasingly common vernacular of "negroni" as a generic term to denote a class of cocktails.

I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly sprained my eye sockets when I read a #NegroniNight tweet that went something along the lines of "Our first Negroni of the night is The Handmaiden's Tale with something and something else." No, sir or madam, that is not a Negroni. That is a cocktail with ingredients that are reminiscent of those in a Negroni. It is perhaps inspired by the Negroni, but it is not, in fact, a Negroni.

This is what happened a while ago in steakhouses and the like, where at least half (if not all) of their cocktail offerings were printed on their so-called "Martini Menu". Most of the drinks on the list have nothing to do with the cocktail called Martini aside from being served in that most recognizable of glasses: an upside-down cone atop a tall stem. An Appletini is not a Martini. A Cosmopolitan is not a Martini. A Manhattan is not a GODDAMNED MARTINI! IT'S A COCKTAIL WITH IT'S OWN GODDAMNED CATEGORY!!!

~ahem~

Also, I know this is pedantic, but a Vodka Martini is just that. If I ask for a plain old "Martini, up with olives, please" I mean gin. Every time.

PROTIP: If you find yourself in one of these "Martini Menu" places (and they do still exist), just get a gin & tonic or pay the bucks for wine. At least, that is, if you have enough opinions about booze to be disappointed to see a guy in a uniform service vest shake the bejesus out of a Manhattan. If that doesn't bother you, keep on truckin'.

I just hope we don't start running into a "Negroni Menu" anywhere. A Boulevardier is not a Negroni. An Americano is not a Negroni. The wonderful cocktails invented by establishments that participate in programs like Negroni Week and Tour di Negroni are not Negronis.

A Negroni is one simple, beautiful thing: A combination of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, and 1 part Campari.

That's it.

Martini

Saw that coming didn't you?

I'm willing to bet a large portion of you have not tasted a classically proportioned Martini. By the 90s, if not well before, everybody viewed vermouth as a waste of space. Martinis progressively got more and more "dry". Flavoring more often came from olive brine in a "dirty" Martini than through the application of vermouth.

Probably because nobody at that time really knew what to think of vermouth. We all had a bottle that we kept around to wave near our shakers when we made martinis, but they weren't very good and they certainly didn't benefit from sitting around for years on end. Things have changed. There are very good dry vermouths out there that are really worth experiencing.

Here's the big shocker, though: Bitters! Who the heck every heard of putting bitters in a Martini! Well, it's true. And it's magic.

The following recipe for a "Classic 1950s Martini" can be found in the excellent Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.

  • 3oz Gin (Ted allows for vodka. Fine.)
  • ½oz Dry vermouth (Vya, Dolin, Ransom, etc.)
  • 1 dash Orange bitters
  1. Stir the gin and vermouth with ice "vigorously and long", as Haigh instructs.
  2. Pour into a coupe of cocktail glass.
  3. Add bitters.
  4. Garnish with a pimento-stuffed olive or lemon twist.

vigorously and long

Cheers. Thanks, as always, for reading this. It weirds me out that you people are out there, but I dig it.

Tonight's Negroni #15: Negroni Party Tricks

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

Disclosure: If you'd like to relive my writing experience for this one, follow these steps:

  1. Skip to the drink recipe.
  2. Make a drink (it doesn't have to the be the one in the recipe, silly!).
  3. Come back up and read until the prompt to watch the 25 minute GWU commencement speech by José Andrés.
  4. Make another drink.
  5. Read the rest.

OK, so enough with the "think pieces" about what we do with the free time we are lucky enough to have.

Instead, let's get to some brass tacks solutioneering about things we can do to enjoy that free time as effectively as bloody well possible!

To that end, we will revisit a few topics covered previously:

OMG!!! Go watch José Andrés!!!

AHEM... Topics, previously covered...

  1. The Negroni itself and why it's awesome.
  2. The whole collecting thing, though it's optional if you follow my prescription.
  3. Motherfucking ratios, y'all!

It turns out there are stages to a person's development as a Stay at Home Bartender.

Step One is you become known for making a hell of a cocktail at your own home. Makes sense.

Step Two is you start bringing bottles to events to which you are invited so that you can mix fancy cocktails. It starts our selfish: You don't want to settle for whatever the hosts are offering. It turns into a kind of showing off: You norms don't drink like this in your house!

Step Three is the compromise: You bring pre-mixed, bottled cocktails to events.

I'm actually letting you into a deep dark area of my existence right now... Because having people say "OMG! You brought bottled cocktails to our barbeque?!" is basically equivalent to "OMG! You drink how much and how often?!"

If you think about it from a stay at home bartender's point of view, it makes perfect sense. Why mix at the party? That's distracting! Mix before-hand and let people pour their own perfect cocktails!

This is where the previously covered topics comes in:

The Negroni and its variants are perfect for this because of its 1:1:1 ratio - You can just mix three bottles of booze and you're done! (The number of bottles you actually transport to the soirée depends on how many people are being entertained. You can always keep some for yourself.) The collecting bit comes in only if you are worried about having presentable bottles to deliver at the party. If not, you can just refill the bottles you emptied to mix the batch. It's actually a nice way to display your recipe.

Here's one you could rock if you really wanted to impress everyone:

Amber Negroni

Noilly Prat's Ambre vermouth has been popping up a lot as of late, so of course I got curious. Finally I found some at Denver's greatest little boutique liquor store, The Proper Pour, so of course I commenced my experimentations. This recipe is by far better than any "White" Negroni I've ever tried. If you know you like Suze, do this.

  • 1oz Gin (Try Sipsmith, it's great!)
  • 1oz Suze
  • 1oz Noilly Prat Ambre vermouth
  1. Put your boozes in a rocks glass.
  2. Add rocks.
  3. Stir it.
  4. Drink it.
  5. Repeat.

Tonight's Negroni #14: The Eff-Word Job?

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

Given all my pondering of hobbies and why we do them and how they relate to our vocations, my Special Lady Friend brought up something interesting to talk about. She has this notion of a "fantasy job", which is the job you occasionally joke or fantasize about leaving everything behind and picking up. It's not related to your actual job and it's probably not even related to your hobbies. It's not a passion you are pining to follow.

It's really a metaphor.

SLF's "fantasy" job is botany. This is hilarious, as she has next to zero aptitude or even interest in plants in general. Occasionally, however, when doing crisis psychiatric evaluations of people in a metropolitan hospital emergency department gets to be a bit much, she will release the pressure a bit by thinking "Maybe I'll just quit and become a botanist!"

Which is why I've started calling it the "fuck you job".

My version is welder.

It's laughable, I know! Did I really want to learn a new (and not easy) skill and trade my bourgeois web developer lifestyle for something more blue collar? Of course not! But whenever I entertained the idea, it was because something about my day-to-day at the time was just pissing me off.

There's a false perception of simplicity in the other. We assume that while sure, that's a hard job to have, it's probably not as hard or at least not as aggravating as the job that is currently making me crazy. "It's botany! You hang out with plants!" or "You're a welder. You make a thing stick to another thing and then you make the next thing stick to another thing. It makes sense!"

At the very least is was a way of expressing exasperation by saying aloud, "Man, fuck this, I'm going to go learn how to weld."

I'm curious to know if any of you have this fictitious career that you hang onto. Surely it's not just us?

Whatevs, I'll always have my Art.

flashdance_welder.jpg

BONUS: A kind reader sent me this video after the the previous installment about "Lost Interest" and coincidentally it dovetails nicely with the botany. If you haven't seen Adaptation, I highly recommend it.

Blanquita

This is a Sutton Original™, and that's the best name I could come up with on short notice for a drink that has a favor profile that surprisingly sits somewhere a more typical White Negroni and a Margarita. Based on some lackadaisical (spelled correctly on the first try, thankyouverymuch!) internet searching it is slang for both young, attractive white women and cocaine, so I've got that going for me. Also check out this awesome Cuban actress called Blanquita Amaro. I mean, amaro for cryin' out loud!

  • 1oz Mezcal (I used Sombra.)
  • 1oz Lillet
  • 3/4oz Suze
  • 1/4oz Orange liqueur (Leopold's for me, but go ahead with Cointreau or even Tripple Sec)
  1. Fill a rocks glass with ice
  2. Add ingredients and stir
  3. Garnish with an orange twist (a wedge of lime or even lemon might also work)

Suze is still kind of a premium ingredient, but given the price of limes these days, maybe some bartenders should consider this sort of variation...

Tonight's Negroni #13: Lost Interest

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

Hey gang! My mind is still on the hobby track that I started down in the last email, so I hope that OK with you.

First a little follow-up on my distrust/dislike of the advice to "follow your passion" in one's career: I'm not alone. Here's Michael Ruhlman, who in turn links to this guy. Make of it what you will.

Secondly, I will link to the second episode of the newly released Tim Ferriss podcast in which he talks to Josh Waitzkin, who (aside from being the inspiration for Searching for Bobby Fischer) has quite the impressive résumé of accomplishments. As with all things Tim Ferriss, it's a heady mix of "these guys are really smart and are making very astute points" to "God what a douchenozzle!" and everywhere in between. In the end, though, it's relevant to the whole hobby discussion because Tim and Josh are honest to gosh "experts" on the subject of learning.

As for me, I'm thinking about what happens when you quit a hobby.

It rarely seems to happen that a person actually decides to quit a pastime.

Sure, there's the motorcyclist who has a close call and calls it quits and sells his bike, or the amateur athlete who gets removed from their sport of choice by injury. There are certainly examples available of people actively quitting something they love to do, but more often it seems like a slow death.

For whatever reasons, you do that thing you love less and less and then not at all. During this stage you keep thinking "I should really get back into that thing. I loved it so much!" You still have an interest in the activity. You probably still read the blogs or magazines. You still identify as someone who does that thing.

But then after a while, you stop. You become someone who used to do that thing. You still think of your hobby fondly. Those were good times! You just no longer feel a need or interest in trying to recreate those times by participating in that particular activity.

A switch has flipped. That hobby is finished. End of the road.

I'll stop bullying you with the second person nonsense. This is me I'm talking about.

My prime examples of hobbies that used to be my IDENTITY, but are now nothing more than "a thing I used to do" are martial arts and rock climbing.

Martial arts is my oldest former hobby. I did it when I was a teenager. I've tried a few times to get back into it, but there was just no interest at all. I would say my current participation in CrossFit is filling exactly the same niche for me, but with a different enough modality that it doesn't feel the same. Coincidentally, because CF tends to attract folks with "tactical" interests, my gym is offering a seminar on Pekiti-Tirsia Kali (a Filipino close combat system with a focus on blade fighting), which should be right up my alley. I'm going to pass, though, because it just doesn't pique my interest.

Similarly, I was big into rock climbing when I lived in New England, of all places. Then I moved to Colorado and didn't know anyone to show me around or take me out. I'd go out by myself and visit crags and watch people climbing, but I wouldn't talk to anyone to try to make connections (Ack! Strangers!). Nope, I just stopped rock climbing. Now I actually have friend who climb regularly. I get invited along, but I always tell them it not my thing anymore.

Part of me feels like I should be bummed about these lost interests.

The rest of me is pretty sure that recognizing the fact that I'm "done" with them is a sign of maturity. It goes to the idea of curating your life and prioritizing your time and attention on the things that mean the most to you.

Yes, I guess I'm just too old for that shit.

Attention

See what I did there? wink-wink, nudge-nudge

RDJ wink

  • 2oz Gin (Nothing too crazy. Tanqueray is fine.)
  • 3/4oz Dry vermouth (Try Vya or Dolin.)
  • 1/4oz Crème de Violette (I use more of this than a lot of recipes because I love the flavor and the color. This is the absolute maximum you can use without blowing away the balance of the drink, though.)
  • 1 barspoon Absinthe
  • 2 dashes Orange bitters
  • Stir all ingredients with ice
  • Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe
  • Garnish with a lemon twist

This drink is just a Martini dressed up like a French pimp (like James Lipton!). That doesn't mean it's not a good thing, though. Sometimes the extra frills and ruffles are a lot of fun.

The Attention is flat out delicious if you ask me. The absinthe does add its signature anise flavor, so you may want to avoid this one if you hate black licorice.

The absinthe and Crème de Violette could be considered "specialty" ingredients, but they are both useful for other drinks, so I don't see a problem.

See also: Aviation and Blue Moon cocktails.

Tonight's Negroni #12: Why Do We Hobby?

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

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be an enthusiast or a hobbyist.

My friend Andrew coined the term "stay at home bartender", and I've taken that and run with it quite a bit. To the point that a few people use the term when they introduce me to strangers. Thanks to my aptitude as a (as some of my friends call it) Twitter whore, I get recognized by genuine professional cocktail experts (you know, actual bartenders) as something close to a peer despite having never been "behind the stick" in a professional capacity.

How did that happen? And perhaps more interestingly, why?

How did I go from making "dry" Martinis by proudly waving a bottle of vermouth near the shaker full of gin, to crafting (cringe) a "Classic Martini" with a solid pour of upscale dry vermouth and orange bitters? I once made "Mojitos" for my mother and my Special Lady Friend in pint glasses and forgot to top them with soda water, so we were drinking PINTS OF RUM...

Point being, I've made the journey from novice (aka: "enthusiastic ignoramus") to something near expert with the passing of time.

Of course, that's nothing unique to me. Lots of us do this. There's the home woodworker (another hobby I claim, but one at which I am much less skilled) making cabinets or furniture for his own household and for no other reason, but with great, carefully developed ability. Home cooks are the classic example of non-professionally skillful practitioners - everyone had a Nana who cooked food better than anyone and never went to school for it.

But she kind of did. She read cookbooks (or recipe cards handed down from her family) and actually performed the skill of cooking over and over until she got good at it.

This is getting close to the Galdwell 10,000 hours thing, but I think that idea (like many Gladwellisms) is oversimplified. It also offers a path to the trope of "following your passion", which is another one that I have grown to distrust. I definitely don't think hobbies are all potential new careers. Nor should they be! Why ruin your joy by making it your job?

(Now I'm oversimplifying. It's an easy trap to fall into.)

Hobbies (at least a certain category of them that challenge you in certain ways) are about the willful acquisition of skill outside of your profession. You have to purposefully educate yourself (reading, taking classes, repeated practice). Maybe this is obvious, but it seems like a really important realization to me. Why would we work so hard to learn something that doesn't affect our professional performance?

The primary answer I keep coming to is quality of life. Some people love their hobbies because they are loads of fun, especially as they become more skillful. They also offer the opportunity to "disconnect from" or "forget about" the 9-to-5 drag. The mental challenge is a useful distraction from the at-work mental challenges we don't have a choice about facing. (This moves us into "check your privilege" territory, I'm aware. Your ability to actually have a hobby reflects a certain amount of slack in your life. A single parent working three jobs to feed the kids is probably pretty sure anyone who talks about "disconnecting from the day to day" is an asshole with too much free time.)

Secondarily, though, I wonder if practicing a hobby keeps your "learning muscles" limber and therefore maybe do end up helping professional life. It's not a thesis I would argue too fervently to defend, but it feels like it's got at least a little truth to it.

Obviously it's something I'm thinking about lately. Let me know if you have thoughts either way. I'd be curious to hear them.

Now, how about a good Grampa drink?

Rob Roy

There's a part of me that resists making cocktails based on Scotch whisky. I prefer drinking the peaty stuff neat or with a tiny splash of cool water. That said, I would never turn my nose up at a well-made Blood & Sand. I also own Blue Blazer mugs, so I have to do that once in a while (no fires yet!).

The Rob Roy falls into this category, too.

  • 1.5oz Scotch (I went with Great King St. Artist's Blend from Compass Box)
  • 1.5oz Sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)
  • 2 droppers Homemade Blood Orange Whiskey bitters (or Cocktailpunk smoked orange)
  1. Stir with ice
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with an orange (or lemon) twist

This one also tugs some nostalgia string for me because it shares the name of a motel in Destin, FL that was owned by family friends who let my grandparents and me use their pool whenever we wanted. (The only slightly recognizable photo I can find is this one of a random family from ~1989 that mostly shows the marina in back.)

Tonight's Negroni #11: Ratios Are Golden

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

Something a lot of people don't seem to realize about mixing drinks it that it's all about ratios. Maybe I'm just old enough to remember people talking about cocktail recipes in terms of "parts"? (e.g. One part gin, one part Campari, one part sweet vermouth == Negroni!) It doesn't seem like that's as common now as it once was, but it was clever practice.

The beauty of thinking about drink recipes as a ratio of ingredients is many fold. You can mix a drink with any sort of measuring device, be it a jigger, a shot glass, or a soup spoon. You you will also be more readily able scale the recipe or even convert units of measurement.

Suppose you want to barrel age a batch of Boulevardiers? The ounce-based recipe reads as:

  • 1.5oz Bourbon
  • 1oz Campari
  • 1oz Sweet vermouth

Well, that's interesting... A typical bottle of bourbon is 750ml, which I have come to recognize as 1.5 x 500ml. So if I think of 1 ounce from the recipe and translate that to 500ml, that means I can mix a full bottle of bourbon with 500ml (2/3 of a full bottle) of each Campari and sweet vermouth, and just like that I've got a 2.25l batch of Boulevardier cocktails. It so happens that I use barrels that are around two liters in volume for aging cocktails, so I end up with just the right amount left for a couple rounds with my Special Lady Friend.

It's a good thing.

At first, trying to think of recipes as ratios can seem a little distracting, like it's slowing you down. It's really only a slight shift in perception, though. Pay less attention to units and more attention to the amounts as they relate to each other.

It helps if you regularly make cocktails for two (or more advanced, three!) people at a time. The next time you are entertaining friends and need to make four cocktails at once, grab that little juice glass in your cabinet and pretend it is the proverbial "ounce" referenced by the recipe you are following. PROTIP: If you end up with extra, you can always take a swig from your own glass and top it off!

("Dashes" for ingredients aren't much of an issue until you get to a much larger scale, like a two liter barrel. If the drink calls for two dashes and you are making a batch of four, you give it eight dashes, obviously.)

If you want to read someone smarter than me talk about cooking with ratios, you really should pick up Michael Ruhlman's book titled, simply Ratio (there's also an app). It is excellent and definitely started me down the path of looking at all types of recipes in these terms.

Martinez

If you actually happend to click the second link above, you'll already know I've also barrel aged a batch of a cocktail called theMartinez.

My favorite recipe is from 1884 and is reproduced in the PDT Cocktail Book:

(Rephrased in the light of tonight's topic, that's: 1 part Old Tom, 1 part vermouth, 1/6 part Luxardo. Or 6:6:1 if you're making a pitcher of the things. Who am I to judge?)

  1. Stir with ice
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with an orange (or lemon) twist

I've seen a lot of suspect history for this drink. Some say it was a progenitor of the Martini. Others refer to it as a "gin Manhattan". More likely, it was just one of many cocktails that followed the same formula of a spirit, a vermouth, and something bitter (consider the classic Manhattan or the Boulevardier we already discussed). It is certainly a very old recipe.

More interesting is the use of a particular kind of gin called "Old Tom". Old Tom Gin fits somewhere between London Dry gin and Genever on the juniper-infused spirit spectrum. Ransom makes one - based on consultation from David Wondrich - that will knock your socks off.

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.

Punt 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!

XK7Z.jpg

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".)