Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Old-Fashioned

Last week, a friend requested I write a little something about whiskey and explain why it makes the world "slow down" every time she drinks it. I asked her to explain this "slowing down", and she said something about Makers Mark bourbon and confusion that... well... utterly confused me.

She may've just been drunk. But I'll admit: Bourbon has an effect on people. In her case, it throws her off her game.

In my case, bourbon's a muse of sorts. One or two bourbon drinks (by bourbon drinks, I mean bourbon on the rocks or neat, Manhattans, and Old-Fashioned cocktails, not half and half drinks) and I'm running through work with a little warmth in my belly and a touch of inspiration. Any more than that, however, and I'm just on my way to getting drunk and writing nonsense.

Well, enough about that. On to bourbon.

Bourbon is whiskey specific to Kentucky. Distillers outside of Kentucky can distill whiskey, but they can't call it bourbon. For example, Jack Daniels is much like Evan Williams. Both are "sour mash" whiskeys, meaning they reuse mash from previous distillation (more on distillation later). However, though both use similar methods, only the Kentucky-based Evan Williams can call itself "bourbon" (Jack Daniels calls itself "Tennessee whiskey").

Bourbon "mash" must contain at least 51% corn as its base. This use of corn lends bourbon its sweetness.

After distillation, bourbon is clear. It gains its color while aging in barrels (or through coloring agents added by some distillers).

Alright. On to an (easy) bourbon drink recipe.

The Old-Fashioned


An old-fashioned (or rocks) glass
A small shaker (the shaker should fit over the glass. A spoon works, too)
An orange slice
A maraschino cherry
One sugar cube (or packet, or spoonful)
Angostura bitters
Decent bourbon (Makers Mark is good)
Muddler (spoon works here, too)


Drop the orange and cherry into the glass. Add the sugar and a couple dashes of bitters. Now, muddle these ingredients with the muddler. If you don't have a muddler, use the back of a spoon. (Muddling = Crushing/Mixing)

Once properly muddled, add the ice. Fill to the top of the glass. Now pour 2 1/2 to 3 ounces bourbon into the glass. Shake, or stir, and you're good.

The Old-Fashioned. With AMC's Mad Men starting season 3 next week, I thought this was the perfect recipe for suits.

Or bald, goateed, t-shirt-wearing writers.

Either way, nothing says classy, worldly, experienced quite like the Old-Fashioned.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Martini

Alright. Let me preface this by saying everyone's got their own way to mix martinis. Some like 'em with gin; others vodka. Some prefer olives. Others lemon twists. Dry. Bone dry. Up. On the rocks.

A word. There are martinis, and there are the queer ass hundred and fifty cocktail drink menus out there with their appletinis and espresso martinis and Hypnotinis and what not.

Let's get on the same page. These "designer cocktails" ARE NOT martinis. They're simply given the "tini" suffix for lack of imagination.

So, when we speak of "martinis" here, we speak strictly of the traditional, genuine item: The gin martini. Far as I'm concerned, the vodka martini is called the vodka martini. As for gin - just martini will do.

Which means you best well express yourself properly when I'm mixing your drink, because if you just utter the words "martini, please", you're getting gin, up, with vermouth and olives.

And you're going to like it.


Before we get into mixing our martini, let's examine some of the myriad terms drinkers use when ordering at the bar.

Up - Means in a cocktail glass (see picture above)

On The Rocks - On ice, in a rocks glass

With a Twist - With a lemon twist, rather than the traditional olives

Dry - Light on the Vermouth

Bone Dry - Skip the Vermouth. Strictly booze

Perfect - With Dry and Sweet Vermouth

Dirty - With Olive Brine

You may, or may not, be surprised that few drinkers actually know what these terms mean. They just throw them around to sound cool. For example, "I'll take a dirty vodka martini. Up. Bone dry. On the rocks. With a twist."

Which always has me wondering, "Anything else? Moron?"

Ok, enough of that. On to the mixing of a martini.


You're going to need that pint glass, shaker and strainer, as well as a big (at least 7 oz.) cocktail (or martini) glass.
Bombay Sapphire Gin (My personal favorite. English. Fragrant, botanical, potent. Delicious.)
Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth
Cocktail Olives (I'm a fan of the Spanish Queens. They're bigger than the average cocktail olive, and look better in drinks. You can get them stuffed with all sorts of great stuff... Blue Cheese and what not... to put a unique twist on the martini. I prefer the traditional pimento stuffed olives. Not into cheese floating around my booze.)


Start by "frosting" your cocktail glass. Do this by throwing some ice into the glass, adding some water (soda water quickens the effect) and stirring. Now leave it, and mix your drink.
Some people like to mix their martinis in 3 to 1 ratios, i.e. 3 oz. gin to 1 oz. vermouth. I'm more of the 3 1/2 oz. gin to 1/2 oz. vermouth.
So, in a pint glass filled with ice, add your gin and vermouth. Ratio is up to you. Cap with your shaker. Shake.
Before you strain into your glass, be sure to dump the water and ice into an appropriate receptacle. Your empty cocktail glass should have a nice, frosty look going for it.
Now you can strain. You'll notice you haven't quite filled your glass. This allows room for the garnish, and provides an aesthetic effect.
Garnish with a couple olives speared on a spike. Or just drop 'em in if you're lacking toothpicks.

And there you have it. The Martini. Pretty easy, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Tanqueray & Tonic (T&T)

OK. Let's cut to brass tax here. Some people like to fuck around with simple half and half drinks like the T&T. They like to pour, I don't know, a quarter booze and load the rest up with mixer. Or a third booze and two thirds mixer.

Then they like to preen and schmooze with the high-class douches, blowing kisses to each other over their... ahem... cocktails.

I'm too working class for that bullshit. When I pour a mixed drink, I want to taste the alcohol, because I enjoy the taste of alcohol. If I wanted to, say, drink tonic, then maybe I'd go heavy on the tonic and light on the gin.

And maybe I'd wear Nantucket Red slacks and a commodore's cap, and go cruising with all the other faux yachties Downtown.

Which begs the question: If you don't like the taste of gin, why not just drink tonic? Because the end result of anything less than a half and half T&T is exactly that: tonic with a splash of gin.

Pretty goddamned weak, if you ask me.

That out of the way, let's mix a hardcore Tanqueray and Tonic.

Ingredients are as follows:

Pint Glass
Tanqueray Gin (The normal stuff pictured above is fine. Tanqueray Ten is higher quality, and quite frankly wasted in T&T's.)
Tonic Water (Polar is inexpensive, and fine for our purposes.)


Fill your pint glass with ice
Fill halfway with gin (Of course, half depends on the eye of the beholder. Since I'm a booze optimist, half is always slightly more than half.)
Top off with tonic
Garnish with a lime wedge (Roughly an eighth of a lime, cut lengthwise. I always give my wedges a quick squeeze before throwing them in.)

I usually skip straws. Straws, far as I'm concerned, are for sodas.

Then again, if you're pouring less than a half and half T&T, straws are right up your alley. Slurp, slurp away.

Now, though we'll move ahead to more complex drinks, I'll occasionally throw in a half and half like the T&T for a little something easy. But the preparation will be much the same: Half booze, half mixer.

Next, we'll discuss another, more potent gin drink: The gin martini. We'll skip the Tanqueray next time, though, and move up to Bombay Sapphire.

P.S. If you want a quality ECONOMY gin and tonic, go with Gordon's gin and throw it in the fridge or freezer. At less than $20 for a handle (1.75 L bottle), the Gordon's provides potency and decent taste at an excellent price.

Bottom Line: T&T's are perfect on summer nights.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Prepare Yourself!

Before we get into the gritty of mixing drinks, I ought reference the supplies that'll be mentioned often in my drink recipes.

1. A Pint Glass - Simple, sturdy, durable... and easily procured by snatching one from your local pub. At least that's what a friend of mine says.

I get mine by asking for freebies at my local liquor store. They get tons of free merch from their suppliers - And are more than willing to give said merch away to good customers. Otherwise, that shit just gathers dust.

2. a. Tall Metal Shaker - The shaker should fit snuggly over your pint glass, so it looks like a happy mating of metal and glass when the two are joined. What we're looking to do here is shake a shitload of liquid over our shoulders without getting wet. Can't do that with a poor seal.

2. b. Small Metal Shaker (optional) - In the case of shots/cocktails, a small metal shaker is sometimes all you need. This should fit into the big shaker without falling so deep into it that you can't fish it out. Better are the small shakers with their own caps and strainers.

If I had to choose between the big and small shaker, I'm going big. Big shakers are more utilitarian, more working class. They tell the world you're serious about mixing drinks.

However, if you're looking to impress or going classy (mixing a nightcap for two, perhaps), the small shaker is definitely the way to go.

3. Strainer - Absolutely necessary to keep unwanted ice out of your finely mixed drink. If you really want to look like a moron, go without. And start talking about "bruising" alcohol while you're at it.

4. Mixing Spoon (optional) - Some bartenders absolutely swear by mixing spoons. Some truly anal morons claim shaking "bruises" the alcohol.

Guess what? Shaking doesn't bruise anything but babies. But my fist bruises the throats of idiot clowns who claim alcohol can be bruised.

However, the mixing spoon comes in handy for stirring if you don't have a large shaker (or you have the shaker, but no pint glass). The spoon is also good for "muddling". But so are dildos... and regular spoons. More on muddling when the time comes.

5. Speed Pours - The tiny black things in the picture above, speed pours make pouring alcohol easier and somewhat faster, as you're not worrying about unscrewing caps and what not.

Application is easy. Just fit into the bottle, and you're ready to go.

6. Jigger (optional) - The jigger is the metal measuring device that looks like two offsized triangular cups back to back. One measures a half ounce, the other one ounce.

Jiggers are optional because there's something known as the counting method. We'll discuss that later. But until you get the counting method down, you might want to use the jigger.

7. Tongs (unnecessary) - Wash your hands. Then use them to gather your ice/ingredients. Best tools in the bar/kitchen are the ones you were born with.

Besides. High proof alcohol will kill just about every germ out there.

The point? Saddle up, nancy. Tongs are for pussies.

8. Church Key - The church key is that little wine/beer opener above. It's got a corkscrew, a knife, and a bottle opener. Priests love them for obvious reasons.

And that's basically all you need to get started. A bartender's setup like the one above can be procured at for about $30 bucks, though it's probably just cheaper to head down to a restaurant supply and pick up your own pieces.

Next blog, a simple, necessary mixed drink - The Tanqueray and Tonic. From there, all will be revealed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's Happenin?

Welcome all. As some of you may know, I'm an alcohol aficionado. I love to drink alcoholic beverages, and will drink everything on the bar at least once.

But the obsession doesn't end with imbibing brew. The brewing, winemaking, and distillation processes fascinate me. I've spent many hours studying these processes, and still my thirst hasn't been quenched.

One thing I'm not a fan of is the hangover. But you know what they say. Every passion has it's drawbacks.

This blog will be a sounding board for drink recipes, beer, wine, liquor and spirits reviews, and drinking stories. And if you've got any stories/reviews of your own, send them along and I'll publish them.

More soon.