When you look at a cucumber, what do you think? Perfect for tea sandwiches? Great marinated with vinegar and dill? Over the eyes for depuffing? Something inappropriate for sharing on this site???
I look at a luscious summer cucumber and think, “Man, they’d be awesome mixed with gin and thrown into a soup.” Just me?
During this point of our vicious Summer, finding big, beautiful, and delicious cucumbers should be a super easy task. Now all you have to do is round up some other suspects and get them together.
The botanicals, rose, cucumber, and coriander notes of Hendrick’s make it an obvious choice for this soup. It will be boozy off the bat, so I suggest letting it meld and marinate over night. Once it has calmed down, the gin brings the cucumber and avocado to a whole nother level.
Cucumber Hendricks Soup Shooters
2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 small ripe avocado
2 scallions sliced, white and green parts
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons honey, or 2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Sriracha
2/3 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup Hendrick’s gin
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Now, head on over to the blog to get the instructions. Happy drinking…uh, eating. Uh. Souping.
Sumer is icumen in indeed, and it will be much more enjoyable once I have these geek chic Lego-Inspired Ice Bricks Tray. Wintery drinks are anything but whimsical, while summer is just the time for something light, pretty, and a little bit more ridiculous than anything you’d allow yourself to enjoy during the dark months. Think of summer drinks as the Britney Spears to your usual Cure cocktail.
[GOD I'M OLD]
Here’s a simple, pretty, easy drink that I have never known anyone to turn down: the Gimlet. It’s still a classic, and will still empower you to look down your nose at all the vodka tonic drinkers; vodka tonic is just another way of saying “I like to get drunk, but I don’t like to drink.” If you like the taste of tonic water (and we do, God knows, love the taste of tonic water) then drink tonic water and shut up about it. Save sixty calories a pop, minimum.
Where was I? Right, Gimlet. You can do these with Rose’s Lime Cordial and we won’t make you sit in the corner, but they’re better with fresh limes. Fresh limes that must be juiced for every drink have a way of telling you when you’ve had enough, too, which is a quality to be prized.
2 oz gin, preferably Plymouth or Bulldog. Something balanced or slightly on the vegetal side. Tanqueray would work. Beefeater would work. Bombay and Hendrick’s are too floral#
1/2 oz fresh lime juice*
1/4 oz simple syrup. You won’t be able to use sugar for this, even if you shake it*
#can be replaced with vodka. It’s vodka, it doesn’t matter what kind as long as it isn’t flavoured and isn’t so bad it takes the roof of your mouth off. Iceberg is what I use for blended drinks. If you use rum, this is a Daiquiri. Put the blender DOWN!
*can be replaced with 1/2 to 1/3 oz Rose’s
Put them all in a shaker filled with ice and shake it. Strain into cocktail glass. If you’re sitting in direct sunlight, it is permissible to leave the ice cubes in, and even top with soda. Garnishing a drink this colour is overkill, but if you must, you can add lime. I like a thin wheel floating on the surface.
Do not use the 4 oz or “stick it in a freezer overnight” recipes from Wikipedia. They are abominations. If you need a drink with 4 oz of alcohol in it, you need a defibrilator. Either it’ll get warm before you finish it or you will fall off your barstool, and then we will laugh at you.
Yes, it was back to the salt mines for your poor, martyred blogger here, thanks to an invitation to the opening of Xi Shi, the posh new bar in the Shangri-La hotel in glamorous downtown Vangroover. It helps when you know the head barman. The woman in charge of the bar at Xi Shi is Heather Yau, who competed admirably in last year’s Tales of the Cocktail both in Vancouver and in New Orleans. Accompanying me was the lovely and talented Cathy Browne, who took all these gorgeous pictures; impressive enough, but moreso when you realize she’s legally blind.
It’s a lovely space once you’re inside, but getting inside consists of going around to the “back” of the building which is really the “front” and standing around the lobby, looking confused, until a staff member asks if you’re here for the Xi Shi party, and gently points the way. I’d tell you how to find it yourself, but I think they’re trying to keep it a secret, and besides, the staff need to keep busy!
Xi Shi Bar
It’s a long, light, L space with ceilings that go up to HERE and sightlines that go out to THERE, which is great for people-watching if you’re not as nearsighted as I am. This isn’t the place for a discreet affair, as the “around the corner, tucked away” tables are basically just off Robson Street, ie you might as well be parked outside of TMZ. This is the place raincoaster, who now refers to herself in the third person because she’s imaginary-dating much higher-grade people lately, will be taking her next boytoy for a quiet drink.
Right after she alerts the paparazzi and gets her hair did.
The general theme is Contemporary Asian, meaning airy and Zen, with referential scatterings of Chinoiserie, as in the cheongsams worn by the waitresses. It must be said, and that by me, that it’s good to see a place that doesn’t go for Generic Vancouver Glossy: black on black on black with black leather chairs and chrome and everything shiny and hard. The cascade of glass over the bar changes colours thanks to clever lighting, although there’s a definite preference for pink: even the house cocktail is pink, at which point I am tempted to insert a reference to intimate anatomy but yea verily, am too way classy.
Ahem. Anyway…as I was saying, a lounge shouldn’t look like a dance club, and it shouldn’t look like an operating room. I like a place that looks good by day as well as by night. See for yourselves:
It's hard to pull off jazz in the daytime, but this worked
Did I say Chinoiserie? Yes, yes I did, even though Spellchecker tried to replace it with “Chitterlings,” but I was having none of that! Chinoiserie I said and Chinoiserie I meant, speaking of which, behold the Lady Grey Cocktail:
Lady Grey sure is pretty
The Lady Grey cocktail is a beautiful thing, a mellowed orange with brassy glints. The pot, by the way, is full of hot water so you can adjust it to the strength you prefer; it and the cup and saucer are a custom-made iteration of the classic Blue Willow pattern which tells the story of a pair of runaway lovers. It’s made with Earl Grey tea-infused Tanqueray gin with an extra measure of Bergamot, and seemed to me a little too sharply citrus. And oh! if you only knew what it costs my very soul to criticize a free drink! Ah, the trouble with using fresh ingredients is, the difference between one lemon and another can be substantial!
Jay Jones has come through with the recipe for us so you can judge for yourself. And wouldn’t a bottle of Earl Grey Tanqueray liven up a nice bridge party? I don’t know about you, but the presence of card snobs of any variety usually drives me to drink, or at least calls me a cab to. And somehow bourbon goes with poker the way gin goes with bridge.
1.5 oz earl grey tea-infused tanqueray gin
.4 oz fresh lemon juice
.6 oz sugar syrup
small pot of hot water
-all ingredients (except hot water) combined in shangri-la blue willow china tea cup & saucer
-served with matching small shangri-la blue willow china pot of hot water
-pour hot water to fill tea cup – top up as desired
*served with lemon zest
Earl Grey Tea-Infused Gin
1. empty a 1.14 liter bottle of Tanqueray London Dry Gin (room temperature) into a clean, dry, sealable container
2. place 4 heaping tablespoons of loose leaf Earl Grey tea in the Gin (use bags alternatively – much neater)
3. seal container and leave to steep for minimum 1 hour at room temperature – longer if desired (2 hours suggested)
4. after steeping, shake sealed container throughly
5. strain tea leaves/remove tea bags from Gin – the Gin’s colour should be deep brown
5. seal and refrigerate to preserve freshness (max 1 week shelf life when refrigerated)
Iron Lotus poured by Heather Yau
The signature cocktail here is the Iron Lotus, concocted by cocktail queen Heather Yau; only last year she was a humble apprentice at hipster central, the Waldorf, and look at her now! Xi Shi is a PBR-free zone!
The Iron Lotus is a hard drink to turn out in bulk, each being made from the same number of fresh raspberries. The sweetness varies wildly depending on the particular individual raspberries, but whether more tart or more sweet, this is as lovely to drink as to look at.
Raspberries in the Iron Lotus
The focus at Xi Shi is on lighter, less alcoholic, and more feminine drinks overall; this is not a place where you will find many people testing flights of bourbon or single malt. There’s no doubt that Xi Shi, named after a goddess, was put together with the fact that women choose the date spot firmly in mind. The flattering, rose-coloured lighting makes everyone look ten years younger (I’m sure they only failed to card me out of deference), and the lower alcohol content in the drinks ensures that you don’t slip from Charming Anita Loos to Scary Dorothy Parker.
And the food ensures you don’t slip from Perky Britney to Sad Britney.
Mary had a little lamb. And then she had another cocktail.
Squeeee! This adorable little roast of lamb was less than two inches long, and came with crunchy yogurt. Yes, crunchy yogurt, and not because it was left in the back of the fridge for six months and then scraped off the lid of the container like your revolting roommate used to do; because the kitchen is a Shangri-La kitchen, and they do things right and just a little weird.
Xi Shi has crabs. But she's a goddess, so who's going to tell her, eh? Not me, that's for damn sure.
Behold the mammoth crabcake! Did I already say “behold?” I did, didn’t I? Oh well, you wouldn’t believe how many people I’m beholden in this town, although their bank managers would.
The salmon was so good the waiter wouldn’t let me refuse, although I was getting pretty full. Believe me, I will never again doubt a Xi Shi waiter.
What to do when you’ve had as much food as you can hold? That’s right: back to cocktails!
Naked Botanical Martini. It sets a certain tone. I intend to order it when I bring Julian!
Just look at the legs on that thing! My pal Jay Jones knows I’m a gin snob, so he made me a Martini using The Botanist gin from Scotland, one I hadn’t tried before. Frankly, this may be Too! Much! Gin! even for me: the title role botanicals are dense and overwhelming if you’re unprepared. Because it’s produced by Bruichladdich, a famous and famously insane Islay Whisky distillery, it is viscous and powerful, and my recommendation is to have one, but have it James Bond style: very large, very cold, and very well-made. And have one only. This gin is Serious Business. Here’s a list of the various botanicals:
Apple Mint Birch leaves, Bog Myrtle leaves, Chamomile (sweet), Creeping Thistle flowers, Elder flowers, Gorse flowers, Heather flowers, Hawthorn flowers, Juniper (prostrate) berries, Lady’s Bedstraw flowers, Lemon Balm, Meadow Sweet, Peppermint leaves, Mugwort leaves, Red Clover flowers, Sweet Cicely leaves, Tansy, Thyme leaves, Water Mint leaves, White Clover, Wood Sage leaves, Angelica root, Cassia bark, Cinnamon bark, Coriander seed, Juniper berries, Lemon peel, Liquorice root, Orange peel and Orris root.
Say THAT three times fast! The nose on this is citrus and juniper dominated, the taste complex, puzzling…you just can’t figure out the various elements and it can’t be said they blend into one single whole. It’s like listening to a Beethoven symphony and then trying to pick out each of the instruments. And trust me, this ain’t Brahms: it’s DEFINITELY Beethoven. The aftertaste is long and powerful, and in it you begin to discern some of the different components. I like it, but it’s definitely Special Occasion Gin, not It’s Five O’Clock Gin.
Hemingway Daiquiri so much more macho than the Fitzgerald Daiquiri
Ah, the Neo-Classical Hemingway Daiquiri! One of the greatest summer drinks, featuring grapefruit where you’d expect lime, and a sour cherry where you’d expect … nothing at all. Not for Papa your silly blender drinks! Although this has a noticeable alcohol content, it fits right into the Xi Shi aesthetic of light-tasting, citrusy cocktails.
Cue the Darth Vader music…
Why ahoy there, sailor! The Nautical Disaster, a Jay Jones original
The Nautical Disaster is not a drink to be trifled with. It shouldn’t even be left alone with your wallet. This dark and dangerous newcomer is a rum-based take on the classic Sazerac, and it’s hearty, thick, spicy, complex, and sweet, just like me. It’s also definitely your last cocktail of the night. If he has one of these and still hasn’t sealed the deal, well my dear, just get up and go home.
And Martini (or, more properly, Cocktail) Glasses are one of those things.
It’s fun to have glassware of different shapes and sizes, or even different colours: in my house, you can have 63 consecutive beverages chez moi without ever having the same kind of glass. You cannot, however, drive home afterwards. I have at least one of everything, including a frosted plastic Martini glass that lights up in rotating primary colours like a 60′s Christmas tree, thanks to the miracles of fiberoptics and LEDs, but I generally save that for parties where even the dog wears a lampshade.
Now that is one deluxe cab service, but which one do you tip?
Did you know it was legal to ride your horse when you’re drunk, as long as you do it in Montana? Sensible if you’re using a Western saddle, otherwise the risk of slippage is too great. You dressage artistes are out of luck. My grandfather used to have a draft horse that would take him and the wagon safely home from the pub without any input from him, but unfortunately it meant he could never sell that horse, as it would always end up taking whoever it was home to his farm. But I digress…
Anyhoodle, to steal an expression from Plumcake, I’m also going to steal Plumcake’s Yes/No/Maybe post style and apply it to glasses for the classic Martini. I don’t really care what you serve your FunTinis in, as long as you do it well away from me, but if you’re going to serve a proper Martini, even to yourself, you must, repeat MUST, do it in one of the following.
Riedel Vinum Martini Glass. I don’t care what else you own; if you drink proper Martinis, you need the proper glass. This is it. You don’t have to do Riedel specifically: you can make do with any very, very plain version in good-quality glass or crystal, and yes, quality matters. Buying a heavy, clumsy Martini glass with a thick rim and a stem like a redwood is just throwing good money after bad design. There are solid practical reasons that beverageware evolved the way it has, and it pays to use the right container if you care enough to make the drink well. Don’t stick yourself with a bunch of Martini glasses that aren’t a positive pleasure to hold, because if it’s not a gratifying sensual experience, why bother in the first place? Just get yourself a paper bag and two straws and you’re good to go, right? It’s not as if “Plymouth 6:1 with a Twist” is on your diet anyway.
Now on to the No’s:
These are the Martini glasses you cannot buy for Martinis. You can buy them for your FunTinis and your blended drinks or whatever godforsaken Jagermeister concoctions your roommate (it IS your roommate’s Jagermeister, right?) whips up, but you are not allowed to spend your hard-earned money on these until you have one set of perfect Martini Glasses as described above.
The Sagaform Martini glass. It’s pretty. It’s hand-blown. It is very well-made. But it’s shallow, which will warm your drink up in no time even if you keep the glass in the freezer (they don’t get dusty in there, and the solid knob is supposed to hold the cold) and it’s anything but graceful or sexy. Grownups should never drink anything, even juice from glasses that could be described as “stubby” (Old Fashioned glasses aren’t stubby; they’re just impressively broad for their height, like so many of their aficionados)!
and the stemless version, which looks about as dignified as a man in a Hugo Boss suit who has forgotten his pants.
What is this? I don’t even...
Now, you may think I’m just being arbitrary and contrarian (moi?) but the fact is a Martini must be cold, very cold, to be very good. And the only Martinis you should drink are those which have been made very well, and served in glasses that will not interfere with your experience. Any glass that forces you to hold it by the bowl interferes, by turning you into a big, handsy gin warming device. And don’t try to kid me. “I’ll only hold it up near the rim” is the drinker’s version of “I didn’t inhale.”
Now the Maybes.
Once you’ve got a set of those perfect glasses mentioned first, just one for each friend you positively treasure enough to have over for the good stuff, you can add these and serve real Martinis in them. Yes, they’re slightly bizarre. And no, you can’t get these first. But they are ingenious, charming, attractive, and very practical. I’d bring them out with some adventurous friends, or possibly some people in the cocktail industry because although they never get tired of perfection, after your five hundredth perfect cocktail in a perfect cocktail glass, you might want to go just a little crazy.
The Nachtmann Dancing Stars Bossa Nova Martini Glass from, yes, Riedel. And no, they don’t pay me for this fetish of mine. This one is a Maybe because that stem is just sooooo thick. With these proportions it teeters on the edge of clumsy, but the beautiful cuts (click through and look at the zoomed pic) and the great quality of the crystal bring it back to the right side. It’s also nearly ten inches tall, so this is quite an imposing glass; singles will barely wet the bottom, so store these in the freezer and serve larger drinks in these. For all the “Dancing Stars” marketing, these are very macho glasses.
Libbey Swerve Martini Glasses. Because, just, why not? Libbey is decent utilitarian glass and these are cocktails we’re talking about, not holy water: some things just go better with a twist.
The actually useful stemless Martini glass. Unlike the above-mentioned atrocity, it will actually keep your drink cold; the downside is that you must be sitting down in order to use it (or freeze your left hand while turning the ice into water) and that it best suits drinks that are sipped slowly, as otherwise it’s completely unnecessary. If you’re a slow drinker, it might be just the thing for you, as it will keep your Martini good and cold for a very long time indeed, but coasters are going to be an essential accoutrement with the condensation. And word to the wise: shaved or crushed ice works: cubes, no matter how small, do not. Snow works really well, actually.
And now, my absolute favorite of the New Wave of glassware (“New” here meaning post-Prohibition):
The Starfrit Double Wall Martini Glass. It’s got a seven ounce capacity, which is just too big, but otherwise I love this little thing. That little pigtail at the bottom is just the right amount of crazy, even if cleaning this thing will drive you in that general direction. The clever double-walled design is not only useful for insulatory purposes, it’s also quite attractive. Just be sure to buy the extra-large olives and you’ll be all good.
Chef-Owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Blogger Heather Watson
Actually, as you can see there were no hogs involved in the Winedown event at Market, the Vancouver outpost of the Jean-Georges empire (unless you count the people who tried to scarf more than their share of the truffle pizza). It’s a strange fact but a fact nonetheless that now that I’ve got a blog with “food” right there in the name (scroll up and confirm for me that I’m not just hallucinating this, okay?) I get dozens of invitations to cocktail events and none at all to foodie events.
Fortunately for my liver, Market changed my luck with their invitation to the Winedown event, at which actual food was served. It still counts, even if the invitation came through the bartender, right?
There were cocktails served, too, and very tasty they were although I have to say the Palaciosour was something I’d order again whereas the Basablanca comes across as just a too-tart, much more labour-intense Tom Collins.If the lemons in yours were sharper than the lemons in the test batch as mine were, you were hooped unless you wanted to go back and ask them to splash in some simple syrup or something, which is a bit like sending your food back to get some ketchup on it. I know it’s heresy, but sometimes making drinks in a pitcher and sampling the pitcher before pouring is more likely to result in consistent quality. At a posh event, people want them made individually; the problem is, there’s no time to test them this way. One must strike a balance between practicality and pizazz.
The Palaciosour was a nice sour (and not too) but the float of rich, hemoglobinesque red wine completely made the drink. The interplay between the bitters, the citrus, the refined whisky and the wine added an almost electric dimensionality to the experience that made it something special. It also looks pretty wicked, as the Rioja remains floating instead of mixing in with the rest of the drink.
UPDATE: added the decimals into the recipes. Darn proofreading!
.75 oz Telmo Rodriguez !Basa” Rueda.
.5 oz Victoria Gin.
.5 oz St.Germain.
.25 oz Fresh Lemon Juice.
2 dashes Fee Brothers West indian Orange Bitters
combine ingredients and shake with ice
double strain into a coupe
*garnish with zested lemon peel
.5 oz Alvaro Palacios !La Vendimia” Rioja.
1.5 oz Centennial Rye Whisky
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice.
.25 oz Fresh Lime Juice.
.75 oz Sugar Syrup.
2 dashes Fee Brother Plum Bitters
2 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
combine Rye, citrus juice, sugar and bitters and shake with ice
double strain into an old fashioned glass
top with ice
float wine on drink surface
*garnish with brandied cherry on rim
And, didn’t I say something about food? The food was (as should be the case at one of Jean-Georges’ places) marvelous. Truffles don’t really float my boat, and thank GOD I finally found something expensive that I don’t actually adore, but the first item out of the kitchen was truffle pizza, and it had me reconsidering my truffle position. The truffle gave the cheese pizza an edge, a savory interest that wasn’t as overwhelming as truffles can be.
I remain, however, deeply skeptical of their celebrated truffle burger. I am a devoutly orthodox burgerologist.
For the second item, let me put this as simply as I can: the scallop sashimi with warm crispy rice and chipotle emulsion may just be the nicest thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, including my ex.
The Steelhead salmon sashimi with green chili, crushed pistachios, and mint (whatever happened to giving foods names instead of entire recipes?) was equally marvelous. It’s not easy to do foods that retain their individual component flavours while working together perfectly, and while this sounds strong, it was in fact subtle and perfectly-balanced.
The raw tuna with wasabi cream cheese and pickled ginger pizza was fresh and, again, well-balanced, but it made me wonder why some foods were sashimis and some were just pedestrian old “raw.” I suspect the salmon and scallops slept with the chef. The dish was radical, but very successful.
Rice cracker crusted tuna with a citrus-sriracha emulsion was my second-favorite of the night, even though I am allergic to the word “emulsion” outside of physics class. I’m a big fan of contrasting, bold flavours, and so was pretty much in heaven all night.
It was a good reminder that there is more to wine cocktails than sangria (or that lame excuse for white sangria that’s really just cheap white zin watered down with some orange slices in it, and Yaletown, I AM LOOKING AT YOU) and that less-alcoholic cocktails pair better with food, particularly after the second round.
Let me tell you a little tale of Twitter. WAIT, WAIT, don’t click away; there’s booze in the story!
There, now that I have your attention we can proceed.
So, one day I was on Twitter, nattering about gin as I do not-infrequently, and someone from Victoria asked what I thought of “the home team,” Victoria Gin. And, as is my wont, I went off on a rant, as I am all Team Hendricks, as we know, and while Victoria is a very floral gin, which I like, it is also light-bodied and volatile enough to be practically gaseous, which I do not like. And I said that, or words to that effect. I believe what I said was, “if you take the top off the bottle, the paint starts peeling from the walls,” or suchlike, for lo, I am way diplomatic and shizz.
The next thing I know, the rep for Victoria Gin is hitting me up on Twitter, saying “Sorry you didn’t like it, but we’ve changed the way we distill it and I’d like to give you a bottle to try the next time you’re in town.”
Truly, there is no better way to get my attention than to say “please may I give you a free bottle of gin,” and so a beautiful friendship was born. Sadly, while the gin has noticeably improved, it’s still a very light-bodied liquid and not as smooth as I’d like to see, particularly at a premium price point. I’ve also tried the Oaken Gin, and while it’s an interesting addition to blended drinks, it’s more a novelty product than anyone’s main choice of tipple.
They have a new product, Hempen Vodka to wit, and let me just say that while I am so NOT all about the hemp products being perhaps the last person who ever worked for Greenpeace never to have touched pot (not even when I had cancer; the stuff just makes my toes curl with revulsion at that nauseating smell), and while I am so NOT all about the vodka, believing (along with all right-thinking people) that vodka is for people who want to get drunk but who don’t like, you know, drinking, I LOVE THIS HEMPEN VODKA.
The bumph from Victoria says:
On the nose there is a subtle organic sweetness. On tasting, a rich silky texture is elicited by the smooth oils of the hemp hearts. Notes of hazelnut and a hint of spice are also present. The finish is long, clean and refreshing.
Which is good as far as it goes, but I’d put it somewhat more pithily, and in fact am about to do so. I’d say:
Imagine you just had sex with the sexiest hippie you’ve ever seen. (If you can’t think of a sexy hippie, go watch Viggo in Walk on the Moon, or just some old Doors clips.) Okay, you’ve just had sex with that. Now, imagine putting your nose in the hollow of his throat and sniffing deeply. THAT is what Victoria Hempen Vodka tastes like.
Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Mr. Manolo Blahnik. This website is not affiliated in any way with Mr. Manolo Blahnik, any products bearing the federally registered trademarks MANOLO®, BLAHNIK® or MANOLO BLAHNIK®, or any licensee of said federally registered trademarks. The views expressed on this website are solely those of the author.