Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fernet!

Oh, Fernet-Branca, you fickle, fickle beast.

Now, I’m not one to necessarily shy away from a challenge, but Fernet-Branca had me a little flummoxed. Amazingly, I had never experimented with it before, and was honestly a little taken aback by how absolutely intense this stuff is. It’s technically an Amaro – an Italian bitter liqueur – but Fernet kind of takes the idea of Amaro and eats its soul. It’s very bitter and has some extreme herbal notes – think Christmastime – that definitely knocked me back on first sip. Fernet does not wilt under the pressure.

But! I’m happy to report that, after some unsuccessful playing around, I have managed to tame it! The trick is two-pronged, really. One, tread lightly with it. A little bit goes a hell of a long way, and too much will definitely have you thinking you’ve jumped all the way ahead to December. Two, pairing it with a robust partner, like bourbon, definitely helps the matter.

I call it The Gem Saloon. Full disclosure, I’ve been watching a lot of Deadwood lately. How the hell have I never watched this show before?!? It’s throwing my whole notion of my top TV shows of all time into absolute chaos! Fuck you, Al Swearengen, for making me question my absolute devotion to The Wire and Breaking Bad.

Anyway, here she is:

The Gem Saloon

*1 part bourbon (I recently got a bottle of Rowan’s Creek – tasty stuff!)
*1/2 part Aperol
*1/4 part Fernet-Branca
*2 parts apple juice (as always, use the fancy stuff)
*Lemon juice (a good splash)
*Dash of mint bitters

Put all of that in a cocktail shaker and shake until your heart’s content. Just watch your back – Al might shoot you in the back just for a taste of it.

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End of Summer

Sadly, we’re here. We’re at the end of another summer. I guess it’s not quite as awful as when we were kids, when autumn’s approach meant that we had to get out of the dirt, into the shower, and back to our arithmetic. And honestly, down here in Savannah, the end of the summer basically just means that it’s not going to be as hot and humid as hell anymore.

Still, there’s a certain nostalgia for summer that never quite leaves us. So to honor that, and to say farewell, I’ve created a cocktail that’s sure to help you through the mourning process and embrace autumn’s coming embrace. I call it, simply, “End of Summer”. Nice name for a drink, I think. Here she is in all her glory.

End of Summer

*2 parts gin (please, please, please, use Hendrick’s Gin at all times)
*1 part St. Germain (can’t get enough of this stuff)
*2 parts grapefruit juice (as always, use the fancy 100% stuff)
*Lemon juice (not a tiny bit, but not too much)
*2 dashes orange bitters
*Splash of hibiscus syrup (optional)

Now, the hibiscus syrup is technically optional, since I know a lot of you probably don’t have this. And the drink is great without it. However, if you do have some on hand, it really raises this cocktail up from great to superb, so I’d highly recommend grabbing some.

Anyway, ain’t she pretty?! Especially in my new coat of arms highball glasses, which I’m pretty geeked out about. The amount of glassware that we have in the house is pretty obscene already, but I couldn’t pass this set up. It was too good.

Anywho, this particular cocktail is particularly fantastic, I have to say. One of my true favorites – nicely balanced, refreshing and light, yet complex, which really does make it perfect for this time of year. So face that impending sweater weather with gusto (and this drink in your hand) and you’ll be just fine.

Until next time!

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A Sweet and Spicy Monday

Hey y’all-

It’s Monday. Sucks, right? I suppose in my world of eternal unemployment, that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, but I imagine there’s some mental letdown from the weekend, so I’m here to brighten your spirits with, well…spirits. One mixture of spirits, in particular.

I call it the Swoocy, which could be the lamest name of all time, but I can’t for the life of me come up with anything better or more creative, so we’re all gonna have to deal with it.

But before we get to the recipe, I have to talk about one of my very greatest joys in life:

I’m certainly not the first to extoll the many, many virtues of Sriracha. Unless you’ve been living in a woefully flavorless world these past 10 years, you already know about this spicy goodness, and I don’t have to tell you that this stuff is the JAM. I basically put it on everything.

But, I’m about to let you in on a little secret and maybe blow your mind a little bit in the process…it also works exceedingly well in cocktails! If used in the right cocktail and in the right portions, at least. Too much Sriracha can totally overpower a drink, so be careful! We want spicy and delicious, not a plate of spicy thai food. But used in the right context and in the right amount, you can concoct a beverage that will knock people’s socks off.

One other very important note – Sriracha really doesn’t work in drinks with clear alcohols. Again, it’s too overpowering. You need a more robust flavor to tamp down the flavor of the Sriracha a little bit.

So, that brings us to bourbon. Ahhh, bourbon. So delicious. Delicious on the rocks or even neat, to be sure. But damn, if it doesn’t make an awesome cocktail too. And it’s got the cajones to stand up to that Sriracha and tell it who’s boss, while still letting it have its say. I wouldn’t trust many boozes with it, but Sriracha is in good hands with bourbon by its side.

And now, without further ado, The Swoocy! (I know, I know, it’s lame, and I apologize).

The Swoocy

*1 part bourbon (I used Elijah Craig 12 Year here)
*1 part Lillet Blanc
*2 parts limeade
*Lemon juice (a healthy dose)
*Sriracha (again, depends on how spicy you want – I used about 20 drops – that made it good and spicy)
*Dash of Peychaud’s Bitters

Put that cocktail in ye ole cocktail shaker and go to town! Your taste buds will cry out a little bit, but they’ll thank you in the end, I promise.

So don’t let that Monday get you down. With a tasty Swoocy at your finger tips, you might just get through the beginning of this week after all.

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Hey now, you’re terrible musicians

Hey everyone-

Sorry for the lack of blogging as of late. I’ve been playing the dutiful house husband and preparing our house for our very first potential “visit Dan and Bri in Savannah because they really miss their friends” visitors. The porch swing is hung, which is really all that matters. Morning coffee on the porch swing is pretty hard to beat.

So, onto more terrible and awful things. Oh my god, you guys.

This just happened to me, and I’m not very happy about it.

Yes, you heard me. Apparently, Smash Mouth is still making music. And I’m not sure my ears will ever recover from the shock.

Bad doesn’t even scratch this surface. This may very well be the worst thing I’ve ever heard. I’m not even sure where to start. The opening track, Perfect Planet, has to be the most terrible opening track that has ever been wrought upon this world. Steve Harwell (he’s the lead singer whose name I’m SURE you didn’t know), is autotuned and atrocious and spouts some lyrics that I think I could have pooped out during a mediocre bowel movement. I would post some of the lyrics here, but that means I would have to go back and listen to the song again, and I’d honestly rather eat razor blades.

Incredibly, the album gets worse. Live to Love Another Day has some painfully misguided spoken word sections. Magic, the title track, is currently giving me stomach pains, and features a tremendously god awful rap by some rapper named J. Dash. Then they have the audacity to make fun of Justin Bieber by making fun of him being a one-hit wonder. I’m not Bieber fan, but holy shit guys, are you that shockingly self-deluded?!

But the capper is really their cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me), which is most assuredly the biggest bastardization of a song that you’ve ever heard. Simple Minds definitely defecated all over themselves when they realized that this somehow managed to come into existence.

You might think I’m speaking in superlatives here, but I’m really not. I think it’s the worst album I’ve probably ever heard. I need to go cry in the bathroom now. I’ll be back tomorrow with another cocktail recipe because, good lord, I’m gonna need it.

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Unemployment be Damned!

Just a quick one today for y’all out there paying attention.

Despite my desire to find a way to really embrace the sloooow Savannah lifestyle and milk that unemployment for all it’s worth, it might be time to start pulling my weight around here in ways other than setting up our spare bedroom and always having our favorite cottage cheese in the fridge. Hey! These things are important!

So, I’m applying for this job! It’s something relatively new for me, but with my new-found love for blogging and a built-in snark that comes from living in New York for 14 years, I think I’m kind of perfect for it.

Anyway, wish me luck! I’m going to spend my day perfecting my writing samples, but I promise I’ll be back tomorrow, most likely with another post about how I’ve managed to completely destroy the molecular structure of a once delicious piña colada. I may very well be covered in coconutty foam by the end of the day.

Oh, and one more quick thing. I’m really into the relatively new, eponymous Django Django record. It’s really fun and incredibly listenable. It definitely smacks of The Beta Band, maybe crossed with some Beach Boys. There’s not anything entirely groundbreaking about it, but the record has been on repeat here for days, and I keep going back to it, so I guess I’m really enjoying. Standouts are the trippy Default and the surfy Life’s a Beach. Anyway, give it a listen. It’ll get in your head and make you want to do a silly dance.

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Molecular Crap

Hey everyone-

In a possibly misguided attempt to be cool, I recently purchased this:

This, my friends, is a “molecular gastronomy cocktail kit”. It was a Groupon Goods special, so how could I resist?!

I felt like a giddy schoolboy when I got it in the mail yesterday afternoon, after waiting several weeks for it to arrive. Kind of like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, which should kind of tell you how the whole story ends up.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Today was the day! I was about to make some molecular gastronomy cocktail MAGIC.

My first indication that things might not end up as magical as I had initially intended was the “instructional DVD.” Apparently, this particular cocktail kit was made for the “classy lounge” set, which I can safely say I am not a member of. Basically, a bunch of recipes set to some seriously god awful lounge music. I felt like I had just wandered onto a Virgin America flight.

But! My enthusiasm would not be quelled. I pressed forward and was pleased to see a classy arrangement of “sachets” – the critical ingredients in the making of molecular cocktails, and even some classy tools to go along with them. Perhaps all was not lost.

After struggling through some more terrible music, I settled on making the “Gin Tonic” recipe. This was one of the “spherification” recipes offered – spherification is the act of shaping liquid into spheres. Maybe a daunting task, but hell, I was up for the challenge.

Well, apparently the challenge was not up for me. The process is too complicated and frustrating to really go into detail, so I’ll spare you the ins and outs, but basically, I ended up with the monstrosity that you see below, which all too well resembles a pitcher of snot.

Needless to say, the spherification did not go so well. I didn’t expect everything to go perfectly well the first time out, but I think the most frustrating part is that the “recipe” DVD is completely uninformative – it skips steps and berates you with awful music – and many of the recipes require very specific tools that do not come with the package. It’s a very thinly veiled attempt to get you to buy even MORE of their crappy products. I was lucky enough to have a blender/mixer that allowed me to finish this particular recipe, and yet I still came away with a pitcher o’ snot.

Still, I’m not relenting. I will conquer this yet! I will make some foams and I will thicken some liquids and it will be delicious, dammit. I’ll report back tomorrow!

Java Patience

Hi guys! I’m back. After a fantastic long weekend, and despite being laid up with a bad back and smelling seriously of menthol because of it – seriously, how old am I?!? – I’m pushing through and posting something new today. Just know I only do it out of love (and a slight need for validation).

In case you’re unaware, I love coffee. To an unhealthy degree, I’ll fully admit. And as much as a love a steaming cup of hot coffee, I think my love of iced coffee is even greater. Maybe I just want to be more like Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The fad of cold brewing iced coffee has really picked up in the last few years, so after spending a long time wondering how it’s done and assuming it required a bunch of fancy contraptions, I decided to get to the bottom of it. As it turns out, it’s incredibly simple and just requires a little bit of patience (which, I fully understand, might be a foreign concept to you avid coffee drinkers out there). Don’t be fooled by the likes of Williams-Sonoma, trying to sell you a $40 “cold-brew” coffee maker – I guarantee you can cold brew to your heart’s content with what you have in your kitchen right now.

First off, let me give a shout out to the folks at Perc, whose coffee I’m using today for all of my cold brewing purposes.

Perc is the local coffee roasting company here in our lovely town of Savannah, and they really do a bang up job. I’m pretty excited that I can walk into most of the great restaurants here in Savannah and order a cup of this stuff.

So, cold brewing! Here we go.

Making Coffee, the Cold Brew Way

*A good thing to note before we really get going is that what you should get out of the cold brewing process is a iced coffee concentrate. Unless you love really strong coffee, you’re going to need to water down the concentrate before you drink it. It’s pretty ingenious – you can make a bunch of this stuff and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and because you’re diluting it as you go, you get a really good amount of coffee for a very little amount of work.

*Okay, let’s talk about ratios. Different sources say different things here, but a lot of people seem to think that a 4 to 1 ratio of water to coffee is the way to go. Personally, I find this to be a little weak. This really doesn’t allow much room for watering down, and it doesn’t really accomplish the whole concentrate thing, at least for me – I found myself drinking the concentrate directly without any dilution whatsoever. So I recommend a 3 TO 1 ratio. Again, for those of you who really want to put hair on your chests, this might be perfect as is. But for most of you, this will give you a great concentrate to work with.

*If you are working with whole bean coffee, obviously start with grinding your coffee – you can grind it somewhat coarse. This will help to avoid some silty coffee as your reach the end of your concentrate.

*Next, take your grounds toss them into a sealable container – this is important, because you’ll need to keep it sealed for a while for the brewing process to work.

*Throw in 3 parts room temperature water to your 1 part of coffee grounds. The grounds will be a little clumpy, so just give the whole mixture a good stir for about a minute until all the grounds are evenly distributed in the water.

*Seal the container and leave at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Basically, instead of letting the heat of the hot water to the brewing work for you, you’re letting time do its thing instead. So definitely be patient. I usually leave my mixture sitting for 24 hours which only makes for a better concentrate.

*Finally, once you’ve let it sit for long enough, you can go ahead and strain the whole mixture. I use my French press, which works like gangbusters, but you can use a regular coffee filter, a cheesecloth…whatever you prefer.

*Stick that concentrate in the fridge and you’re ready to enjoy your delicious cold brew! See? Simple.

You’ll notice that the coffee has a bit of a different flavor than what you’re used to. Some of the bitter acids and oils that come through in the normal brewing process do not come through nearly as much in the cold brewing process. The result is a much smoother cup of iced coffee. It’s not for everyone, but personally, I love it – it’s a little bit sweeter, and to me, the flavors of the bean come out a little bit more than in the traditional brewing process.

All in all, I’m pretty excited that I figured out how easy and practical it is to cold brew coffee at home. I’ve got a batch brewing right now, in fact! I’m still tweaking with the perfect recipe, so I’ll let you know if I have any revelations in the future.

Alright, that’s it for now. I’m going back to my Icy Hot patch and tearing through Season 2 of Arrested Development. Thank god for Netflix. See you tomorrow.