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March 2015

Shaken Not Stirred -- The James Bond Martini

Martini, Vodka Martini.  This is 007's cocktail.  Of course, martinis predated the literary and cinematic franchise that Ian Fleming spawned.  However, those martinis used gin.  Due to my obsession with James Bond, I've read a lot about his drinks and drinking habits (I even attended a seminar) and contributed to the discourse, e.g. click here to read about a cocktail I associate with the movie Goldfinger.

Drink like the world's most famous British spy.
Drink like the world's most famous British spy.

This recipe comes from a man who knows a lot about James Bond -- Sir Roger Moore.  With apologies to Sir Roger, I changed the recipe  ever so slightly:

3 ounces vodka (I recommend Zyr)
.5 ounces dry vermouth (I used Noilly Prat)

Pour the vermouth in a martini glass, swirl it around, then pour the excess into a shaker.  Swirl the vermouth around the shaker, and discard the remainder.  Put two ice cubes and the vodka into the shaker, shake as if you're maneuvering an Aston Martin DB 5 around Blofeld's trap, then put the shaker and the glass in the freezer.  Wait 30 minutes (if you can) and strain the shaker's contents into the glass.  Garnish with lemon.

Click here for an article in the Guardian in which Moore discusses how he makes a vodka martini.  Even though I really like Zyr, use whichever vodka you prefer.   

You'll notice that a shaken vodka martini clashes with the Hamlet Cocktail Conundrum.  Why shake a cocktail that has no citrus or egg white?  Shouldn't you stir it?  Technically you should stir, not shake.  But in the spirit (pun intended) of James Bond, dare to be different.  There will be no spectre of a weak drink.


A Hacker's Cocktail? -- The Black Hat

A black hat like this should be worn by a gentleman with a suit, not by a hipster who think he's being ironic.
A black hat should be worn by a gentleman with a suit, not by a hipster who thinks he's being ironic (and doesn't understand the meaning of the word).

Hackers generally divide themselves into two camps -- white hats (those who use their skills for good) and black hats (those who do not).  Consider this dichotomy as a high tech version of the Taoist concept of yin and yang.

This cocktail is adapted from Sable Bar in Chicago:

2.25 ounces bourbon (Willett Pot Still always works)
.75 ounces super simple syrup
Juice from 1/4 a lemon
Dash of cinnamon
1 egg white
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

One of my pairs of yin-yang cufflinks.
One of my pairs of yin and yang cufflinks.

Combine in shaker without ice (this is dry shaking), shake like you're penetrating your enemy's network, add ice (this is wet shaking), shake again like you're a particularly nasty piece of malware, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a dash or two of cinnamon.

Just so we're clear, I'm not a hacker.  My technological skills are hilariously limited.  If it wasn't for my lovely and very technologically capable wife, I probably still would be using a flip phone.  


Calorie Counting Cocktails

When you think of numbers for your favorite spirits, what comes to mind?  Price?  Age?  Proof? Now you can add nutritional information, at least for those spirits that are part of the Diageo conglomerate, e.g. Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker.

Click here to read a Wall Street Journal article about this recent news.

While I think Diageo's move is clever because it capitalizes on consumers' growing interest in nutrition, it won't make a difference to me. I certainly have nothing against an ostensibly healthier cocktail.  It's just that nutritional information seems irrelevant. To make it relevant you probably would have to drink a lot. Think about it this way --  if you're concerned that too many of your calories come from booze, weight loss is not your biggest issue.


French Quarter In A Glass -- The Vieux Carre

I won't book a flight to New Orleans unless I already have a reservation at Antoine's.
I won't book a flight to New Orleans unless I already have a dinner reservation at Antoine's.

New Orleans is a great and unique American city, and the French Quarter is the most popular part of it.  Among other things, the Quarter is home to my favorite restaurant in New Orleans (Antoine's),the world famous Bourbon Street, a plethora of great watering holes, wonderful architecture, and the Tales Of The Cocktail conference.

If you're like me and took French in high school, you might pronounce this cocktail as "veeyuh kahray."  Don't.  Instead, pronounce it like a local as "vookaray."  Trust me on this, as I am  someone who is multilingual, in that I've massacred dialects all around the U.S. and languages all around the world.

The Hotel Monteleone is home to the legendary Carousel Bar, where the Vieux Carre was invented.
The Hotel Monteleone is home to the legendary Carousel Bar, where the Vieux Carre was invented.

So how do you make this Crescent City beauty?

.75 ounces rye (where y'at Bulleit?)
.75 ounces brandy or cognac
.75 ounces sweet vermouth (go with Carpano Antica)
1 teaspoon Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine a shaker with ice, stir with the passion you will experience if (when?) you spend some time in the Quarter, and strain into a chilled glass.

Sharp eyed (or sharp livered?) followers of the Den will see that this cocktail is a very rough cross between two classic old school cocktails -- the Manhattan and the Sazerac.  It combines liquors and bitters from both drinks.  If you like the Manhattan, the Sazerac, or both, odds are you'll like the Vieux Carre. As with many other cocktails, you can adjust the proportions to accommodate your taste.  So have the liquid essence of New Orleans, and laissez les bon temps roule!

 


Boston Strong -- The Ward 8

Even though Boston is a great city with a rich history, it is not known as a cocktail town.  That being said, you never should accuse Bostonians of being teetotalers, unless you are ignorant and/or have a death wish.  Although the precise birthplace and inventor of the Ward 8 are unclear (the name refers to a political district), the consensus is that someone in Boston (my parents are from there) invented this cocktail around the turn of the 20th century. 

Make your liver Boston Strong
Make your liver Boston Strong

2.25 ounces rye (go with Bulleit or Willett if you can)
Juice from 1/4 a lemon
Juice from 1/8 an orange
.5 ounces glorious grenadine syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir as if you're walking with excitement to Boston's secular cathedral (otherwise known as Fenway Park), and strain into a chilled glass.

The ingredients of this cocktail may seem incongruous.  In that respect the cocktail honors the city.  For example, there's a wonderful line about Boston being a place where a lot of truly brilliant people coexist with a few violent psychopaths (I'm giving you the less profane version of how I heard it).  I'm not saying that rye is brilliant and grenadine syrup is psychopathic, or vice versa.  I'm merely saying that certain things go together better than you might think.  So make yourself a Ward 8, put on a good movie that takes place in Boston (such as The Departed, Good Will Hunting, or the original Thomas Crown Affair), and enjoy.


Glorious Grenadine

Ever wonder where grenadine syrup really comes from?  Pomegranates.  Who knew?  I didn't until I started doing some research.  

Making real grenadine syrup is ridiculously easy.  Here's how -- heat 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice in a small pot. Once it's about to boil, remove the pot from the heat source and stir in 3/4 cup of sugar until it dissolves.  Stir occasionally as the mixture comes to room temperature (you should wait for at least one hour).  Use the syrup immediately or refrigerate it.  This combination will yield about 10 ounces of syrup.

Most recipes call for an equal ratio of unsweetened pomegranate juice to sugar.  I thought that would be too sweet, so I used the same ratio as I did for my super simple syrup.  Some recipes add a dash of lemon juice or orange blossom water.  I opted for simplicity. You'll see that beautiful ruby red color and taste that mix of tart and sweet.  Now stop reading and start making real grenadine for your cocktails!