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Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Early Cartoon in Athens

Finished Richard II and still hoping to find II Henry IV. So between histories, I picked up a book of between-the-wars travelogues by Evelyn Waugh, WHEN THE GOING WAS GOOD. A frightening book in a way, both with regards to how much we've lost and how little we care and also, yes, the melancholy understanding that attends reading an old book by a good writer: how few people value good writing to-day, and how many of we few (so often as I do myself!) elect to pour over the artful and unsanitized lives of characters long dead to dull airport prose that promotes the living.

But come to page 59 and Waugh, now in Athens on his meandering way to Ethiopia, describes a drink that is certainly a Cartoon cocktail: bitters, sugar, cayenne, champagne. He appears not to know the name of it.

I don't myself know the first mention of this drink. For what it's worth, the date of Waugh's Athenian cocktail, 1929, that fateful year, which he calls "unendurably desirable," is not the date of the publication of this book. The Cartoon is nonetheless decidedly not in the Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930; but Cartoon is indeed mentioned, however, in the 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book Coronation edition. I'd be grateful to learn of any earlier references, lest we credit Mr. Waugh with too much.

The good Dr. Cocktail at the Cocktail db affords this recipe:

Shake with ice and strain
Champagne glass
Fill up with Champagne
1 lump of sugar saturated with Angostura bitters (1/2 oz, 1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
Serve in a Champagne glass (6.0 oz)
&c. Another one to keep in mind around the holidays, around your birthday, around your anniversary, and around any time you may wake up discovering you have a surfeit of champagne from the preceding night.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

No No Nolet's

I can tell you that if you like this site or nearly any cocktail site that you will not like Nolet's Gin. This gin is so foul I can barely stand writing about it. I can only see it as a gin for people who don't like gin. The question is, so why try? The rose water in it wipes out absolutely everything, and even "medicinal" would be a step up. I have seen this gin reviewed favorably by people who call the flowers on roses "pedals" so that should tell you everything you need to know. If gin commenced its freewheeling life as a drink for the commoners, it ends up here as a drink for people who are so bothered by the taste of juniper that they need something entirely contrary to it to be able to drink gin. No.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Famiglia Negroni

I shall presume if you have arrived here in search of meaning or ideas or because you found the New York Times too facile that you already know how to mix a Negroni, the fabled gin with Campari with sweet vermouth drink. You likely stir it (mandatory) and serve it on rocks (usual) in a tumbler or old fashioned glass (prudent).

Drago Centro in DTLA has a Novac Negroni, the first word a portmanteau (No Vacancy) name of a fictitious town in the game Fallout New Vegas. $13 (the drink, not the game). The Negroni variant includes Aperol and a dash of Grand Poppy; it may seem counterintuitive to add Aperol to a Campari drink, but the end result indeed works. The gin they use is the fervently boquetcious St. George Terroir, so this is California, all right; the vermouth is the silky Carpano Antica. They serve it over and around one of those extra large ice cubes. If you haven't had a drink mixed Camparo Antica, you may not know what's possible in sweet vermouth.

Up the boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, The Black Cat in Silver Lake serves a Boulevardier, the Negroni family drink that swaps bourbon, in this case High West Double Rye, for gin, also with the lush Carpano Antica. $13. I've written of The Black Cat in another context; a gay rights riot involving the place preceded Stonewall by over two years. The place acknowledges the legacy without making it an insistent cultural tourist selling point; it remains comfortable, clubby, local.

I also spotted a large bottle of Carpano Antica, which comes in a smaller bottle and also a one liter size, in a refrigerated unit behind the bar at Hyperion Public, a halfway-to-sports bar within walking distance of me on Hyperion in Silver Lake that at first confused me as to whether or not it was a neighborhood bar but I have since determined it is. The space has good simpatico with The Black Cat as it used to be a gay piano bar, LA's oldest at the time of the conversion. I didn't ask what they used the Carpano for, and no drinks on the drink card call it out, but I did ask why they refrigerated it; the alert bartender told me that because it's sweet vermouth; in her opinion, if you don't use it quickly it may turn taste after a time. "At home, you can use the smaller bottle and cork it with a rubber stopper and pump it if you like," she said. And I buy that; as soon as I got home, I took the cork off of my home bar bottle and put on a rubber stopper top and pumped out as much of the air as I could.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mimosas formidable.

Plus formidable.

Some years ago, I reminded you about the virtues of french 75's in a new year. This new year, the topic is mimosas.

But before I get to mimosas, I'll tell you: french 75's made our past year---our past year, which was awful---a little happier.

So now the mimosa, a far gentler subject for the usual post new year's surfeit of champagne.

There are two basic recipes, and one is far more basic than the other:

The one you've probably already had:
1 1/4 oz orange juice (3.5 cl, 5/16 gills)
Fill with Champagne, ice
Serve in a cocktail glass (4.5 oz)
The one you're about to try:
1/2 ounce triple sec (1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice (4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)
3 1/2 ounces chilled Champagne (10.5 cl, 7/8 gills)
1 orange slice for garnish (1/2 oz, 1.5 cl, 1/8 gills)
Build in the order given in a Champagne flute. Add the garnish.
Serve in a champagne flute (6.0 oz)
Yes. Triple sec. Surprised? That recipe is from Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology, a book which is more about process and theory than recipe. Gary Regan is certainly accomplished, and also is a bit of an Internet-as-cottage-industry phenomenon. But so is About.com, and take a look at this awful recipe for the same drink; or maybe you too measure orange juice by the carton. So let's put it to the fire: does Gary know something so many others don't? Why would you add triple sec to something like orange juice, which is so sweet to start? (BTW, Rachel wants you to add triple sec too, but at the end, rather than at the beginning---I guess she wants you to light fire to it too, or something.)

Give up? Well, I'll tell you. It's about alcohol.

Adding triple sec is like infusing what would otherwise be a very fluffy Mother's Day drink with something more formidable. You're bumping your mimosa to actual cocktail level.

Triple sec is made from oranges, so it doesn't rustle your orange juice's feathers, and shouldn't overlay your natural oj sweetness too much---especially if it's high-proof triple sec. Triple sec runs up to 60 proof, and you shouldn't waste time with much less than that. If you're going to put it in a mimosa, putting something that's about 30 proof is not really adding much of anything.

It seems intuitive, and likely need not be said, to not use your favorite champagne for a mimosa. If you're drinking your favorite champagne, drink your favorite champagne---don't sugar coat it. Of course. You're insulted I even mentioned anything. Well, it must be said. It must be said because there are sites that say, "a bottle of favorite champagne" and where orange juice from a carton suffices. I will be very goodly god-damned if I am going to slop a bottle of Bollinger Grand Année into any kind of juice, let alone juice from a carton. In fact, I don't think I've had orange juice from a carton in the new millennium. Or maybe since the Ford administration.

You need a tasty champagne, to be sure, but you can do with an easily acquired one. Prosecco is popular right now and prosecco is excellent for mimosas, in my opinion.

As for glassware---you know, it's really shouldn't be fetishized for this particular drink. You're not going to be noting the size of the bubbles. I like even serving them in tumblers, as demonstrated above, for the guests get more at a time.

Rocks with champagne? If you're using a tumbler, why not? You put champagne in punch, don't you? And what is a cocktail, if not a punch for one?

The mimosa is one rare drink that you can enlarge a bit with considerable impunity. But if you must, the champagne flute makes for handsome presentation. The only problem is, with the flute, you'll be refilling them every seven minutes. Me, I'd look for some good Italian tumblers and clink.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Commodore

Whenever Indian summer comes (we’ve had a nonstop one in LA this year), you might be thinking of shifting gears a bit, prepping for the richer late-autumn drinks but not quite there. When it’s 79 and clear as the country, a manhattan may feel a little too heavy, even though the calendar says it’s fall.
The limes of late summer are turning yellow, but don’t toss them into the compost pile. They’re perfect now for a Commodore.

Never had a Commodore?

Over at Doc’s Cocktail db, the preferred recipe is:
4/5 rye whisky (2 1/2 oz, 7 cl, 5/8 gills)
1/5 fresh lime juice (1/2 oz, 2 cl, 1/8 gills)
2 dashes orange bitters per cocktail
sugar to taste
Bourbon is OK too. Basically 4 parts whiskey to one part lime, orange bitters and sugar to taste. Tangy!

Here’s a recipe for a more esoteric Commodore, not quite a parasol drink but a little fruitier: the Commodore No. 1.
1 1/2 oz blended whiskey
1/2 oz strawberry liqueur
1/2 oz lime juice
2 oz orange juice
dash orange bitters
No instructions; we figure if you’re at this site you already know how to mix these.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Creak of the Old Wood

Are you going somewhere, or just going?

Have a go at Tiki Oasis 14 in San Diego 8/14. This year: an inquiry into the Beats' relationship to Tiki. Sort of. Sort it out yourselves.

“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Team USA in LA

Noted: LA's Seven Grand makes listicle of USA's top bourbon bars.