Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ice. Ice, baby.

One of the things that lets the world know you are very serious about your home bar is what professionals call -- without the merest trace of irony -- your "ice program."

What this really means is that the ice you use has no crazy off-flavors, it dilutes your drink neither too much nor too little (i.e., The Goldilocks Principle) and enhances the appearance of the drink in your hand. For Tiki drinks (please consult my published works) crushed ice, or sometimes very small cubed ice, will be fine.

Tiki drinks are usually opaque and/or served in opaque vessels and/or are garnished VERY distractingly, so the ice doesn't play a terribly important visual role.

But, sometimes you are serving something "on the rocks" or similar. It's a clear drink, so the ice will show. You want this to be attractive...maybe even a bit dramatic. So you get Dramatic Ice Molds, to yield either a giant cube (as above) or an ice sphere.

For this you will need an ice mold. I suggest that you get one of the freebies Maker's Mark sends out when you become (again, free) an "Ambassador" on their website.

The other thing is that you want to have your ice as clear as possible. I'm not that fanatical, so an opaque core doesn't vex me. At any rate, the trick is to direct the direction of the freezing so as to minimize the amount of cloudiness trapped within the ice. You do that by keeping the side exposed to the air (in the case of the red mold, where the vent openings are) warmer, so it will freeze AFTER the opposite side has frozen, pushing out as much of the assorted trapped gases, etc. as possible. I do this by placing a hot oven mitt on top of the mold.

And there ya go.


PS If you want to be really fanatical, Google "directional freezing cocktail ice." Have fun.

Posted by JMG at 3:05 PM 1 comments

Friday, March 24, 2017

By their suits ye shall know them.

You all have them. Maybe just one or two, maybe a trillion. Maybe they are co-workers, friends or relatives.
We speak, of course, of the philistine.
And, an excellent way to "suss" said philistine, is the seersucker suit.
This stellar garment first struck my sartorial consciousness in 1982, having read an essay in Esquire by John "Yes, THAT John Berendt." Berendt. It was in a section titled Man at His Best, and it gave a brief overview and general pointers and the like on the seersucker suit.
My sartorial DNA was more accustomed to suits made of Irish "drill" linen (more on this in a later missive) but the seersucker -- which performs the same general function -- struck me as new and clever, and the photo above (from 1983) cemented my desire.
If you look very closely, you will note the one on the top left is an Alan Flusser number. (The rest, IIRC, are: Bottom left - Calvin Klein, center - Perry Ellis*, bottom right - Henry "WEHT?" Grethel and top right - Ralph Lauren Polo.) I, naturally, fell deeply in love with the AF one, and I decided it would be mine.
The beauty of the fabric is twofold: 1- It's very reasonably priced, and 2- Immensely comfortable. So, what would ordinarily cost $$$$$ in terms of bespoke tailoring (like AF) it's merely $$$. The advantage of going bespoke is that, hey, you get the bells and whistles you want. Would sr prefer a ticket pocket? French facings? Surgeon cuffs? All there for the asking.
You can even select the exact color of stripes. (This is the most accurate one, colorwise.)
The natural partner of this suit is the white buckskin (not easy to find REAL buckskin, but sueded calf is fine) oxfords which set off the thing perfectly. Some, sincerely but unhelpfully, suggest topping off the entire ensemble with a straw boater -- the band in one's school colors -- but in all truth, I confess this is a lily I'm not yet comfortable enough to gild.
Anyway, back to the Philistines. They don't care for seersucker. This gets more complicated when you try to classify the various subtypes of philistine, something I assiduously recommend you avoid. You have your more benighted California types (easily spotted by their mating call of "[something, something] East Coast?") or those who seem to hold a general suspicion of lightheartedness in civilized gentlemen's raiments. More to be pitied than censured, I suppose, and probably worthy of prayers for conversion.
Anyway, the mere fact I have such a bespoke gem in my wardrobe makes me wish for a generous tumblerful of gin and tonic.
* Back when PE was a talented and clever designer and not a midlevel brand name.

Posted by JMG at 10:27 AM 1 comments

Friday, March 03, 2017

For Hannah & Kim

The lovely and gracious Hannah and Kim have previously asked for this and so here 'tis.
Find a suitable salmon fillet.
You will need 4 parts coarse salt (about 2/3 of the weight of your salmon fillet), 2 parts sugar (about 1/3 of the weight of your salmon fillet; I prefer dark brown sugar, but all I have was light brown "raw" sugar) and 1 part fresh dill, chopped. (Smoked salt will help add a bit of that smoked salmon "touch" should you want.)
Mix all your dry ingredients, and add a shot of liquor. I didn't want to open a bottle just for this, so I finished the bottle of a lovely smoky Scotch. You do -- you guessed it -- whatever.
You want something the texture of slightly damp sand. Add half of it to your plastic container.
Plop your salmon on top.
Pile on the rest of the cure mix.
Weigh it down with something heavy (the idea is to squish out excess water). The WAY-heavier-than-it-looks hideous platter your mother-in-law gave you three Christmases ago suggests itself. Then put to cure in your refrigerator.
Wait 24-48 hours. (36 is the sweet spot, IMO.) A shorter cure will yield a more supple result, a longer one a firmer one. Give the salmon a quick rinse and pat down with paper towels to dry.
Slice as thinly as your patience will allow.

Posted by JMG at 7:01 AM 0 comments

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Michael Mattis 1964-2014

(For #TBT, something -- quite sad, alas -- from the archives; 2014 to be specific.)

   I've just gotten the horrible news my pal Michael Mattis died unexpectedly last night.

   Michael was a bon vivant of whom Wodehouse would have been proud. A character, in the brightest and noblest sense of the word.

   Besides all of the boulevardier-ness for which he was justifiably famous, he was also, quietly, an exceptionally kind and generous man, on whom I could (and did) count, especially one time when I had very publicly and humiliatingly blundered.

   His advice, counsel, generosity and assistance to me were crucial at that time and, like the lion with the thorn in the paw, such kindness has and will not ever be forgotten. I had wished to catch up with him on his recent trip here to Florida, but we never managed to square away our respective schedules. (OK, my schedule.) And now I'll have to wait until we're both on the other side.

   I cannot express my sadness and shock and the depths to which I will miss him. Rest well, my friend.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Posted by JMG at 2:49 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cocktail cherries, that you may no longer live like an animal.

One of the latest things which has taken the world by storm, or at least my corner of it, is taking the decidedly fanatically,
 obsessive Joe-like approach to food and extrapolating it into the cocktail sphere. The first guilty party to go up against the wall, in matters of food or beverage, is The Artificial Ingredient. So, in pondering the ideal Manhattan cocktail for Speakeasy Month, I was stymied by the fact the cocktail cherry is a concentrated repository of multisyllabic chemical evilosity. Of late, there have been some places where cherries not aswim in an ocean of something-hyde and something else-zoate are available, but at prices which betray their purveyors' wide-eyed innocence regarding purchasing power during The Great Recession. This leaves me no alternative but to pursue the DIY approach, as I am simply not going to pony up $22.99 for a mere 8oz. Especially when I know the ingredients contained therein add up to a princely $3 at very most. Before you start to bemoan the effort required to make your own cocktail cherries know this – setting aside the time required for cooling -- a batch takes but a mere 10 minutes. There are, of course, eleventy gazillion different cocktail cherry recipes, but a good starter cherry recipe is this one:
6 lbs dark, sweet cherries
¾ c sugar
1 c water
¼ c fresh, strained lemon juice 2 cinnamon sticks
1 ¼ c cherry brandy or liqueur. For this go-around we have Cherry Heering, but the next time it could be Kirchwasser. (You can use brandy, bourbon, pisco, rum, rye, grappa, vodka...etc.) Put sugar, water, and cinnamon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice and cherries. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from burner, fish out the cinnamon sticks, and stir in the liqueur/liquor. The smart thing to do is to pit the cherries, but I chose to keep the pits for a more complex flavor...and because I couldn't be bothered in my zeal. Next time, I will enlist someone whom I have offsprung to man the pitter. I also chose basic supermarket sweet (NOT SOUR) cherries. These cherries are amazing.
You will need to make extra, because you will ingest half of them warm right from the stove. These will definitely migrate into your supply of vanilla ice cream, and banana splits will suddenly begin to materialize in your life. The ensuing cherry liqueur is also spectacular. Mind you, bereft of chemical escort, the cherries will eventually turn dark at +/-2 weeks, and they hit their peak of color/flavor excellentness at the 1 week mark.
Try this, I totally exhort you. -J.

Posted by JMG at 4:30 PM 0 comments

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bora Bora Punch

Staying on the track of Doug's Tiki Month vibe, I bring you yet another tinkering.

Bora Bora Punch

¾ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz cinnamon syrup
½ oz 2:1 sugar syrup (Demerara sugar is a nice variation)
½ oz Demerara rum (El Dorado 5 or 8)
1½ oz aged Haitian rum (Barbancourt 8 or 15)
Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake furiously. Pour into a chimney glass, top with more crushed ice to fill.

Posted by JMG at 4:35 PM 0 comments

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fare-thee-well, MxMo

[I'll tweak this later with links and pictures, but first I wanted to get this here, under the wire.]

For the MxMo swan song, and sort of riffing on Tiki Month, I give you:

St. Brendan the Navigator
1½ ounces Irish whiskey
½ ounce Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
½ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ ounce orgeat
1 dash Angostura bitters
A lime twist for garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or a coupe if you you are wired like Doug.

Posted by JMG at 11:57 PM 0 comments