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Christmas Season Cocktails

Red, green and gold are the colours of Christmas – the winter berries, evergreen trees and soft candlelight have brought this time of year to life for centuries. And it’s this trio of glowing, festive shades that forms the basis for colourful Christmas cocktails.

From the glow of straight whisky in a handcrafted tumbler through to the warming, honeyed spice of a homemade Hot Toddy or the classic Scotch cocktail, the Rusty Nail, gold predominates in many classic Christmas drinks. And Smirnoff Gold, with real gold flakes and a light cinnamon flavour, could have been tailor-made for Christmas. Mix it with ginger for a Golden Mule, apple and lemonade for an Apple Bite Gold, or pair with sparkling apple juice to create The Golden Flute – the gold dancing in the bubbles is Christmas in a glass.

Use bold scarlet hues to your advantage. The Secret Garden, a blend of autumn fruits innovatively served in jam jars, makes an impressive choice for Christmas dinner parties. Or the classic Negroni, with its festive ruby glow, has been a cocktail hour favourite since Fosco Scarselli invented it around a century ago; the Rossini is a colourful contemporary take on the Bellini.


The Classic Cosmo

The Classic Cosmo – Drink Like it’s 1999

Christmas was typically the time when country folk first tasted the season’s sloe gin. Cocktails made from sloes, the dark fruit picked from the hedgerows and related to the plum, can be delicious. From the Sloe Bramble to the Sloe Gin Fizz, make a colourful Christmas choice. As with many a stuffed turkey, it’s hard to go wrong with cranberry at Christmas – either mix your favourite spirit with cranberry juice for refreshing drinks such as a Vodka Cranberry, or opt for contemporary cocktails like the Frosted Rose and French 21, or even the classic Cosmopolitan.

Serve up a beautiful array of drinks that match the evocative shades of the festive season.

Best of the Holiday Spirits to You!

GPOY, as the kids say

GPOY, as the kids say

This really is a gift: the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. I should start a Tumblr dedicated to this rarefied art form: the inspirational fitness quote, overlaid on a photograph of someone determinedly working their way through a bender.

Originally stolen from TheChive.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

Wasn’t that a party?

Finally, finally, finally, just in time for me to leave town for at least a year, the Vancouver Gin Society (here they are on Twitter) has launched, ushering the Wet Coast metropolis into the realm of Cities That Can Hold Up Their Heads In Public.

Imagine my surprise to find out that the current gin Renaissance is a Cascadia-driven phenomenon. And here I thought I was the only gin fan in the world sometimes. If the 57+ gins at Killjoy hadn’t clued me in, perhaps I shall blame the 57+ gins for the fact that my brain clearly wasn’t working properly to pick up all the clues, including more new, local gins than this part of the world has seen since prohibition (technical question: is each bathtub designated a microdistillery?). BC alone has 12 microdistilleries at or near production. Washington State has 80 or so.

The society is the brainchild of James Lester, proprietor of the squeaky-new Sons of Vancouver distillery; they launched with just one vodka, but they have big plans for diversification in a teeny-tiny space. After meeting James at the Northern Voice blogging conference afterparty back in the Spring, I have no doubt that they will do whatever they DO do, well.

Vancouver Gin Society LaunchGene Shook was shaken and stirred by the turnout

The Vancouver Gin Society is (as can be guessed from their web page) inspired by the very active Seattle Gin Society (there’s also a branch in New York), and we had Gene Shook, the head of that illustrious organization with us for this launch party. Something close to 60 of us sat down in the dining area of the enormous Legacy Liquor store to get in the spirit of things by downing these spirits in spirited company.

That’s enough of that. This is what I get for blogging sober: cheap wordplay.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch
The table filled out later. And the bar was already full when we got there.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

That’s Oxley, Schramm, Victoria Oaken Gin, plain old regular Victoria, Long Table Distillery, Sound Spirits, Big Gin, and Big Gin Bourbon Cask.

According to Gene and James, the Cascadia region is where it’s at for innovation in gin. First the craft beer revolution, then the renaissance of cocktail culture, now ginnovation. Is there any wonder nobody ever wants to leave??? He’s right, of course. Victoria, BC’s Oaken Gin has been around for years (and their Hemp Vodka), the product of a family business. They’ve also got a plain old regular gin, which is far over to the floral and volatile ends of the respective spectrums, and they just happened to go into production the year local bartenders were going wild for barrel-aged cocktails. What with bourbon casks being disposed of after one use, it wasn’t too hard to see what they’d do for their next product, and it’s been a strong seller ever since.

I started my tasting with a bit of the Ebb & Flow. It’s the first gin legally distilled in Washington State since Prohibition. I found it floral, with vegetal notes like cucumber poking through. Like a garden after a rain. Very smooth on the palate.

Bartender and Author (yes, both are capitalized in THIS blog!) Mark Sexauer, whose cocktail book Aphrodisiacs with a Twist was featured at the launch, mixed our drinks and in between spoke about the way an official appreciation society brings together the producers, bartenders, and the public, all of whom have a vested interest in supporting the spirit they love. Alcohol and good society enhance one another and if done right (and moderately), elevate the public discourse.

Spanking-new Long Table was the first official pour of the night. It took three years to bring the downtown distillery to fruition, although only 4 1/2 months to produce a decent gin. Their standard gin features 8 botanicals: it’s a London Dry style, juniper forward, with orange, lemon, coriander, and earthy afternotes and a bit of burn from the two different kinds of peppers. I bet these guys are no strangers to mescal! This summer they went a little crazy and produced a cucumber gin with cukes from Pender Harbour in the Gulf Islands. It’s cuke and pepper and only available at the distillery, so get your butt to Vangroover if you want some!

The Long Table was presented to us in a beautiful rosy-pink cocktail featuring a cordial made of blackberries, verbena and honey. It’s called a Blackberry Bramble, and it’s a perfect patio drink, although the dark and stormy winter night outside was NOT what we ordered.

Victoria Spirits Gin was released in 2008, and was Canada’s first premium gin. True to their vintage spirit, they use spring water from the property and a wood-fired still, leaving those of us with pervy minds with ample fantasy material (if you’re into sweaty blacksmith and fire-stoker fantasies, not that we’d know anyone like that! Ahem!). They do tours if you want to objectify observe them for yourself. This gin has 10 botanicals including roses, accounting for the bouquet-like aroma, and a secret ingredient that they assure us isn’t all that secret but I’m too lazy to dox a gin right now, so it shall remain secret. There. Don’t say I never did nuthin for ya. The botanicals steep overnight right in the pot, unlike some gins where the botanical essences are added after distillation. Once begun, distillation takes about six hours. The result is less juniper, more citrus, as could be predicted by anyone who’s ever left unpeeled lemon slices in a pitcher of water overnight.

Vancouver Gin Society Launch

They gave us a lovely, lemony cocktail called the Hartland, which I could happily quaff all night long, but that’s no surprise: Solomon Siegel is legendary. It’s refreshing, not too sweet, not too alcoholic, and on the other hand not too “your 17 year old cousin will be safe with this.” It’s a sophisticated cocktail at the same time as it is an approachable one.

Schramm gin, from the Pemberton Distillery up near Whistler, BC, is a potato-based gin. I’ll let you think about that for a minute. Potato. Based. Gin. We’ve already covered what potatoes do for vodka (wonderful things), and they do exactly the same things to gin. The result is a silky texture unlike any other gin I’ve ever tried. The volatility of the spirit seems evened out, as if someone put the handbrake on the evaporation, but only one notch. It lets the flavours of the liquid itself come forward and disclose a lovely, heavy-bodied, balanced gin with that distinctive texture. Most of the botanicals come from within 15 km of the distillery, and they include hops and rose hips. We also tried it in a Schrammbuie, a cocktail of 1 part Drambuie to 3 parts gin. Although I loathe Drambuie with a fervor that will never die, I quite liked this cocktail.

Big Gin is named after Big Jim, father of Ben Capdevielle, a third-generation booze producer and the man behind Captive Spirits in Seattle. I never knew the man, but I have known the gin for awhile now, having first tasted it at the aforementioned Killjoy on a juxtaposition-themed outing.

Capdevielle explains that although he is a third generation distiller, “This is our first TAX PAID distillery.” His family made whiskey during Prohibition, and his presentation style reminds me of Tom Bulleit of Bulleit Bourbon; it’s the same “oh, he’s a character” character that seems to go so well with fine spirits. “I swear to god, tonic is the reason people don’t like gin,” he says. “Ours is a gateway gin. It swings both ways.”

Big Gin is a London Dry style, very juniper-forward. “If you don’t like juniper,” he says, “you don’t like gin!” And the floral gin makers at the table didn’t DARE contradict him. He uses the peel of bitter orange to give it an elegant edge, and it has absolutely no florals. Like with good bourbon he hand-numbers each bottle just because he likes the old-fashionedness of it. It shows that real people are making this stuff; it’s not being churned out by robots in a factory.

Bourbon barrel Big Gin is self-explanatory, and extraordinary. It’s finished for six months in the oak, and it shows. It has a reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally savoury, oily aftertaste, and smells like a clean, wet dog. These are good things. God knows I’ll never be hired by a marketing department, but when you get this stuff in your glass you will know exactly what I mean and you will be glad you bought it.

Sound Spirits of Seattle are close to my heart if only for the octopus on the label. And they immediately take up the tonic challenge gauntlet; they have brought their own, home-made tonic water. It’s historically accurate; originally, tonic water wasn’t carbonated, and it certainly wasn’t clear. Most tonics today use powdered quinine, but this Kina Water uses the real chinchona bark and amply qualifies for the highest hipster accolade, “artisanal.” This leads to a discussion of the medical uses of tonic and alcohol, and a reminder that the reason cocktails and cordials came into being in the first place was to be used as medicines. Then certain clever ancients decided to be slightly ill all the time and thus an industry began.

Sounds Spirits are the producers of Ebb&Flow and their Old Tom gin, which is NOT a London Dry style. It is not a floral gin. It is, like I told you, an Old Tom gin, which is the kind of announcement that makes sixty slightly tipsy people put down their glasses and knit their eyebrows (have you tried that after tasting seven gins? It takes a lot of coordination, let me tell you). Their base spirit is made with local barley, and it’s given a “tiny” amount of barrel aging, which gives it a tinge of colour and some savory oils. It’s sweeter, smoother, denser, and spicier than a London gin, and in a truly radical moment that can only come after 7 other tasters, the presenter suggests we try it in a mint julep.

*clutches pearls*

Then everyone went off to the afterparty and I met my friend Cathy for a drink and a burger at the Tap & Barrel next door, since I’d never been. The service was terrific, but the burger was too dry. A deep fried pickle is a nice touch, but it needs to be thicker to stand up to the brutal frying process. The beer, however, was delicious and monumental. For some reason, my notes become illegible right about then…

The next event for the Vancouver Gin Society is a punch-off: gin punch fanciers vs rum punch fanciers: Vancouver gets Beefeater, and the Long Table distillery will be using their London Dry; they go up against the Seattle Rum Collective with Diplomatico Añejo Rum, and our hosts the Shameful Tiki Room will wield Panama Red Rum. Proceeds go to the Harvest Society, and may the best booze win. You can get your tickets on Eventbrite.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Drunk Dial a Congressman!

Cheers! To the Unemployment Office!

Cheers! To the Unemployment Office!


Let’s face it, if you’re a furloughed federal employee, what else do you have to do?

The internet is way ahead of you, and has stepped into the void formerly filled by your work hours, stuffing it full of hours of bilious and bibulous joy: DrunkDialCongress.org exists, and it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

You type in your phone number, you hit Call, and a faceless, nameless robot that is probably take a job away from a good American quietly and efficiently connects you to the public phone line for a representative for your district.

Not sure what to say? Don’t worry, this is politics: there are talking points (with proper citations, no less)! “Why don’t you make yourself useful and mow the lawn” is my particular favorite.

Below the talking points, we have the key ingredient: DRINK RECIPES! What type of tipple is most appropriate for calling up your elected representatives to scream at them for not doing their jobs? Well, Rosemary’s for remembrance, so how about some B&B? But the idea of getting plastered on an imported French liqueur is not sufficiently patriotic. And you’d have to drink a lot of Bud Light to get drunk enough to really do this. The listed cocktails are pretty good bets: they’re all sweet enough, and mixed with enough cogeners that you will wake up with a life-threatening burden of self-hatred the next morning, which should remind you of your public servants (that is, if they had the ability to regret their bad decisions, which they don’t).

The Bad Representative might go down smoothly (well, interns would have the whole story on that) but the Southern Congressman is probably going to be the crowd-pleaser. At least in his first term…

THE SOUTHERN CONGRESSMAN

2 oz Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey
1 tsp lime juice
5 oz sour mix

THE FANCY STATESMAN

2 oz blended whiskey
1 cherry
juice of 1/2 lemons
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 slice lemon

THE BLOODY BASTARD

1 part sour mix
1 part vodka
1 tbsp grenadine syrup

THE BAD REPRESENTATIVE

1 oz Scotch whisky
1 oz cherry brandy
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz lemon juice
1 slice lemon

The Sleepy Senator

1 oz absinthe liqueur
1 oz tonic water
1 oz sugar syrup
2 tsp lime juice or sour

Cheers!

Aspirational Libations: The Rum Steak by Julien Escot at Papa Doble

We are not natural enthusiasts of novelty beverages; indeed, we (the royal we) may be called puritanical by some, but we generally prefer cocktails that were invented long before we were born. Let’s face it, a Martini or a Sazerac just outrank a Redbull and Vodka. I once saw a group of girls tossed out of one of my favorite bars for asking for tequila shots. The bartender leaned over and hoarsely stage-whispered, “This is a grown up bar. We do whiskey, and we do beer. If you want tequila shooters and Redbull, you want the Blarney Stone down the street. Come here when you’ve learned to drink like grown-ups.” And out they went, buzz deflated, to party with teens from the outskirts.

But thanks in part to knowing Shawn Soole of Little Jumbo, also known as Liquid Revolution, we are broadening our horizons somewhat. I mean, the last time I saw the man make a Martini he used liquid nitrogen, and water that he’d distilled himself. This is the bartender who invented the Grilled Cheese Washed Rum and the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Martini, which got so much media coverage that now he refers to it as “that bloody cocktail.” So, he is a horizon-broadener of the first rank, because it’s impossible to resist the tasty if deranged things he mixes up.

In any case, our good friend Bart Calendar, he who lives a lifestyle which literally embodies the word “aspirational,” has introduced us to a cocktail so crazy, yet so dazzlingly tasty-sounding, that we simply must try this at home. It is called the Rum Steak, it has rum and steak in it, and it comes from Papa Doble in Montpellier, France.

NSFVegans!

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

The Rum Steak from Papa Doble

Ingredients:

  • 2oz aged rum
  • 0.2 oz absinthe (yes, it’s a fiddly recipe and everything’s better in ml but I figured you’d want the ounces)
  • 0.4 oz homemade vanilla & spice maple syrup
  • 4 drops Peychaud’s bitters
  • 0.2 oz acacia honey infusion
  • 1 slice fresh beef, cooked according to instructions below.

Stir all the ingredients with ice in the mixing glass and strain into a chilled old fashioned. Garnish with a baked slice of beef marinated in homemade acacia honey infusion.

Now, here’s the backstory, ie how to make the spiced maple syrup and acacia honey infusion…

Vanilla and Spice Maple Syrup:

To prepare 17oz: in a saucepan with maple syrup 17 oz, cajun spice 3 bar spoons and separated (ie seeded) vanilla 2 pods. Leave to simmer and fine strain.

Acacia Honey Infusion Beef Slices:

Mix acacia honey 3,5 oz and angostura bitter 5 dashes. Spread homemade acacia honey infusion over a slice of fresh beef. Bake it in the oven for 4 hours at temperature of 60°C.

Yes, it does sound like hella work, but it also sounds absolutely amazing. I’m going to ask Bart for a debrief after he has one (or quite possibly more) of these on his next visit to Papa Doble. By the way, it retails for $17.

Toe Jam

Well, that’s how you know you have too god damn much money: when you go into a bar in the Yukon, ask for the infamous Sourtoe cocktail, the one with the actual preserved human toe in it, swallow the thing whole including the toe, slam the $500 fine down on the counter, and walk out.

As one does.

The Sourtoe cocktail is a real thing, and has been a real thing in Dawson City since the Seventies, 1973 to be exact, when a severed human toe turned up in a boat. You know, as they do. It’s even inspired a book: The Sourtoe Cocktail Club: The Yukon Odyssey of a Father and Son in Search of a Mummified Human Toe … and Everything Else!

sourtoe cocktail book

Well, being Northerners, it occurred to the locals that the best thing they could do with their toe booty would be to preserve it in salt, then charge tourists outrageous prices to drink a cocktail with this most Goth of all garnishes in it. In the beginning, the cocktail was a beer mug full of Champagne, but soon enough they realized that using expensive ingredients cut into the margin and besides, they wanted to cater to the Bacardi and Coke crowd too, so they allowed people to order whatever they liked, “Sourtoe style” and charged them premium rates.

Sourtoe Cocktail in the flesh

Sourtoe Cocktail in the flesh

The rule was, the toe had to touch the lips, and many a toetippler would pose for commemorative photos brandishing the brown and shriveled appendage like a stubby cigar. Naturally, when tourists are paying $20 a shot for Canadian Club with a toe in it, and $5 a shot for CC without, it behooves one to take care with one’s toes, and to put exorbitant fines on anyone who would masticate or otherwise abscond with or damage said tootsie-section. In the Seventies, $500 was a big fine. Not so much today, as one American tourist reportedly knew. He was the (hero? No. Protagonist? No.) nouveau riche or at least nouveau flush in the first paragraph, who apparently had done his homework (there’s a website whose design apparently dates from the 90′s. The 1890′s) and thought the boasting rights were worth the money.

Hell, any fool can get bottle service, but how many can talk about the time they committed cannibalism legally?

The Vacation so far

I have not had an actual vacation since 1997, when I celebrated my recovery from cancer with three weeks in Indonesia, so relaxing was a high priority for this time around. You can see how that’s going from these Vine videos.


Phillips Ginger Beer, of which we have blogged previously.


Bombay Sapphire and Tonic with lime, which is a classic.


Yet another Bombay Sapphire and Tonic. Can you ever have enough (apparently on a really hot day you can, and I have the sunburn to prove it).

Happy Birthday to Moi: essential pressie

Yes, it’s a Milestone birthday for raincoaster today, and you know what that means: GUILT! You didn’t get me anything, did you? Oh well, it’s not too late to get me something I want. As a friend said, “You’re the easiest person in the world to shop for because given the funds, there is nothing you would not buy for yourself.” Here is the perfect example.

Silver Monkey Straw

Silver Monkey Straw

This solid silver monkey highball straw would be a fine start to the birthday haul. Yes, it is solid sterling silver from Tiffany. Yes, it is utterly ridiculous. The latter is why I covet it.

 

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