Crystal Head vodka, Dan Ackroyd’s side venture, is packaged in a, yes, crystal skull, meant to reference the mysterious crystal skulls of Mesoamerica. Now a very bored forensic sculptor has taken one of the decanters and reconstructed the face of the human behind it. Sure. Why not? It’s vodka; you’re supposed to go a little crazy, right?
The company says, “Forensic artist Nigel from Scotland shared these incredible images with us. Check it out how he’s using his empty CHV bottles!”
That dude is wasted. So would you be, if you had a head full of vodka. We can all drink to that, in these sassy Doom Crystal Skull Head Vodka Shot Glasses.
But wait, I think I recognize him!]]>
Well, this is relatively insane.
First of all, dude definitely does not need more caffeine in his life. Secondly, Folgers coffee plus foam does not equal a latte. It equals … well, it is to a latte as the winner of the Seniors division of the Midwestern Exotic Dancing Championships is to Kate Upton. Thirdly, this wouldn’t be a latte even if it were made with espresso; it would be a cappuccino. But he does do one thing right here: he gives it to the caffeine-deprived woman. That is ALWAYS the right choice.
If you absolutely must have this gadget, I beg of you: Use decent coffee. But here you go. The Mr. Coffee BVMC-EL1 Cafe Latte is less than $50 at Amazon.
Word up, my friend. The importance of staying properly hydrated cannot be stressed enough, and by “properly hydrated” I mean that you must bring water to me in the form of strong coffee, good black tea, or (at a stretch) fresh lemonade.]]>
It is a fact universally acknowledged that a raincoaster in possession of a dining-out budget must be in need of a burger. I admit it: I’m a sucker for any savory-looking patty with nice buns. I try hard not to be That Guy, that guy who orders the steak at a seafood restaurant, but when there’s a burger on the menu it’s gonna get ordered and that’s a fact. Since I’ve been traveling the back roads and highways of BC lately I will update you on the state of burgerage around the province, starting with the capital, which is not Vancouver which everybody thinks it is, but Victoria, land of the newly wed and nearly dead.
Of Victoria we have spoken before, and shall again, for it is one of my favorite cities. Large enough and wealthy enough (thanks to our taxes!) to have a great arts scene, but small enough to be walkable, at least neighborhood by neighborhood, with a great transit system, a magnificent setting, and a foodie culture that runs far more to the making than the ordering-and-photographing, it’s a charming, pretty city. Heck, I made an offhand reference to it on a hacker forum recently and was blizzarded with posts expressing just how much these hardcore hackers adored twee little Victoria, with its houseboats, its shameless Anglophilia, and its borderline-deranged worship of afternoon tea.
God only knows how many burgers I ate there, but here is one whose photo I happen to have with me at the moment.
The Beacon Drive In just beside Beacon Hill Park boasts that it has been “Serving up smiles since 1958″ and I don’t doubt it, in part because I’m not sure they ever redecorated. I remember coming here in the early 80’s, and it was laughably old-fashioned then. Now, it’s bloody priceless (which reminds me, is Archie from the comic books still driving that ridiculous Model T, because if he is, it must be worth about the cost of a new Lambo, but I digress). It’s also still busy, for good reason.
Not only is the menu a classic Diner With Everything from a Gidget movie, but it has West Coast add-ons like the Oyster Burger and Salmon Burger. Mine hostess and photographer Lori Dunn even got a float, it’s that old-fashioned. You can order a float here without being ironic.
In the 80’s it was famous for its onion rings, and even now they’re terrific; perfectly cooked in a crispy batter that’s not too thick, the onions within just caramelized enough to fall apart when bitten and not before. Could use a bit of seasoning salt, but that’s my only quibble. I ordered the BBQ Swiss Mushroom Burger and it was exactly as a diner burger should be; sloppy with sauce, juicy patty, whopping big pickle on top. There’s nothing exceptional about the sauce or the burger or the bun; it is exactly what it seems, a plain low rent burger that is nonetheless perfectly respectable in its blue-collar way. Note: the “Screaming Deluxe” Cheeseburger has hot sauce. And this is a place where “Deluxe” itself means “comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions.” So don’t be sniffing that you can’t find truffle fries on the menu. If Bruce Springsteen eats truffle fries, I don’t wanna KNOW! You know what I’m saying?
But the soft serve looks truly wonderful, and if it hadn’t been freezing cold and raining I’d have tried some. Striped, swirled ice cream! Truly, we live in an age of wonders.
More burgers to come! And even some non-burger food items!]]>
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.
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.]]>
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.
Unlike the Kardashians themselves, Turkey a la Kardashian is at least comprised of biodegradeable materials. And it’s not high maintenance: a couple of lemons under the skin is as spicy as this dish likes to get! Five minutes and you’re good to go, although we understand certain chefs may prefer to spend a lot more time with the butter and the spice rub.
Then of course there is this season’s biggest hit, the Twerky.
Now THAT is food porn.]]>