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.]]>
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.
Gene 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.
The table filled out later. And the bar was already full when we got there.
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.
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.
Biggie and Smallie, my homies @killjoybar pic.twitter.com/j0vHnE2hjj
— raincoaster (@raincoaster) August 8, 2013
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.
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.
Longtime readers of the blog (ie me, the Manolo, Mr Henry, and possibly the Liquor Locusts, plus all of my creditors) will know that of all the spirits in this world or the next, the one dearest to my heart — if not my liver — is gin. And today is the day on which the nation joins together to venerate this most sublime if most mercurial of libations. Raise an ice-cold Martini with me in honor of this glorious occasion.
Wait, what? You tell me they make Martinis with vodka nowadays? Well, yes, there has always been the Vodka Martini class, and what would we do without people like that, upon whom to look down?
One of gin’s greatest qualities is its infinite variety: floral, vegetal, crystalline, even spicy. No other form of alcohol has as large a range of natural flavors (of artificially flavored spirits we shall not speak, except in four-letter words).
My good friend and favorite bartender Jay Jones oversees a weekly celebration of gin at Gin & Sin nights at Killjoy in Vancouver’s fashionable Yaletown neighborhood, featuring special pricing and a different featured gin each week, although they always keep the largest selection in town on hand. A couple of weeks ago they started upping the Sin content by bringing in burlesque dancers to spice things up after 10; it’s useful to bring the entertainment on after the audience has gotten good and warmed up. A famous burlesque dancer once remarked that alcohol was essential to a good performance, “a little for you, a lot for the audience.”
Two weeks ago, the sponsor was the very fine Broker’s gin. Broker’s is, like Plymouth, a great example of the London Dry style, crystal clear, neither vegetal like Tanqueray nor floral like Hendrick’s. It’s versatile and smoother than others of the same type. You don’t have to feel guilty putting it in a G&T, nor cheap putting it in a Martini. It simply works either way. Lemon twist, olive or even lime in your Martini; it’s your choice, and all of them will succeed as flavor notes. In fact, this kind of gin is excellent for experimentation and creativity with the garnish, since they will not overpower the oils with their own orchestra of aromas.
If you like, here’s your excuse to get out the vermouth atomizer and the fancy oils and play. I call this one, a Dirty Martini with smoked Cerignola olives, the Martini of Yog Sothoth, which lets me find out at once who’s read their H. P. Lovecraft and who I don’t need to talk to at that particular party. Smoked smoked black Cerignola olives are my new favorite Martini garnish that brings out the masculine side of a well-balanced gin like Broker’s or Plymouth, yet also stands up to a serious knife-and-fork gin like The Botanist.
If you feel more chiffon and rosebuds than Savile Row and leather, switch to Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire and a spritz of rose water, plus a couple of organic rose petals (which you can buy in Indian neighborhoods, should your burb have such a thing, or you may grow them yourself).
If you find yourself at a loss for something to put them in, refer to our earlier post on the perfect Martini glass, plus several fun imperfect ones. Which reminds me of the strip club in Seattle that advertises “100 Beautiful Girls and 4 Ugly Ones.”
UPDATED TO ADD: clearly until my regular photographer returns from her Eastern sojourn, I need to read my friend Kris Krug’s book on iPhone photography. Either that or I have to buy you all enough Martinis to give you gin goggles.]]>
Cheers to this! In the summer, I can’t get enough of cold soups, and year round I can’t get enough of gin, so for me this might be the very best recipe of the entire year.
From SomeoneLeftTheCakeOutInTheRain on WordPress.com:
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.]]>
I want the recipe for that! For too long have the unholy duo of rum and brandy enjoyed a baking hegemony. Equal recipe rights for clear spirits! Solidarity in Booze!
Wait…what? What do you mean it’s not actually made with gin? The cake is a lie???
THIS cake, a gin and tonic cake, is real. And, apparently, delish. I’m no baker but if I attempt this, I shall report back.]]>
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!
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:
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:
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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.
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)!
Also No, the classic “Frat Bar “Martini Glass” even if it’s by Riedel, which it is in this case.
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.]]>
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.]]>