Thursday, May 28, 2009

Am I the only one?

Oh, sure.

LOTS of people speak of tolerance these days. But it seems only I practice it.

At least in terms of beverages.

If you think people have weird issues about food -- "Oh, I don't eat anything red." -- they get even weirder about the potable stuff.

The good thing is that sometimes you will see those on opposite sides of the issue start taking bites out of each other. Those who prefer a gin martini and those who opt for a vodkatini are legendarily at each other's throats. Slurs about blandness fly one way and insults about the vileness of botanicals are hurled in retaliation.

Rye drinkers sneer at bourbon drinkers, and so do Scotch drinkers who, in turn are sneered upon by cognac drinkers. Cocktailians are looked upon with great disdain by those who drink wine, and beer drinkers consider both to be insufferable.

And so the long Happy Hour wears on.

But Chez Joke is an oasis.

I like a tipple with no small frequency. And, and mark this as vital, so long as the stuff is of unimpeachable quality, I harbor no disdain for any ethanol based reviver. Tequila and rum, Canadian and Irish, Absinthe and Armagnac...they all find me a willing participant.

The thing is that the quality has to be there. I'd rather not have anything if it's crap. Which is a huge change from when my parents were my age. In those days, the "grownups" drank. MadMen is not 'zaggerating.

My friend D. insisted his grandmother has managed to hang on as long as she did by drinking rye Manhattans every day (one with lunch, one with dinner). I remember my dad coming from the office every day and having a little something. Them my mother would join him so he'd have another. Then wine with dinner and, during the weekend, a nightcap or two. Every day.

And my parents' friends (and my friends' parents) were equally absorbent.

The funny thing is that, going by the photographic evidence, almost all they drank was -- and there's no getting away from it -- shit. In some photo from ca. 1972 a bottle of a certain gin is visible. This stuff, which I will assume tasted then the way it tastes today, is no better than a perfumed turpentine, but there are my parents and their cronies...cheerfully drinking it. The list is endless.

The only solution to this is to become a drinking meritocrat.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:37 PM 8 comments

No, seriously...I couldn't.

Let's just put it this way: I learned my lesson on jinxing things, blogwise.

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I'll post something useful, charming and innocuous soon.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:42 AM 4 comments

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lessons learned the hard way.

In a fit of boredom, I organized my bar.

This is something I ought have done far sooner. Had I done so, I wouldn't have accumulated THREE bottles of Bacardi Black, or THREE bottles of Bacardi Añejo or TWO bottles of Creme de Menthe.

Expect a lot of green rum drinks this summah.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:26 PM 6 comments

Sunday, May 17, 2009

For further information.

A couple of days ago I posted, buried deep in a meandering "Fauxlynesian" entry, my recipe for the Mai-Tai.

Well, for the visual learners in the gallery, here it is in a photo-essay format. Because I am awesome like that.

Okay.

Here is the road company of ingredients: (back to front, left to right)
Rock candy syrup
Orgeat
Steel half of the Boston shaker
Rum (today's star is Barceló Añejo)
Cointreau
Glass half of Boston shaker, with a clip-on strainer (OXO, which is not only the very best, it's also stupidly cheap)
Lime, atop the lime squeezer (were I to be making a bucket of this, instead of one, I'd use the electric juicer, otherwise, I'd wind up with forearms like Popeye)
We start by crushing ice. The first batch of which goes into the glass. (This glass? Birthday gift from the extremely lovely and monumentally gracious Poppy.)
For added cold-related excellentness, I put it in the freezer, on standby.
And we start building our beverage.
Start with 2 oz. of rum
½ oz. of Cointreau
½ oz. of rock candy syrup
½ oz. of orgeat
1 oz of lime juice.
Not only do I slice the lime in half, but I also score each half pretty deeply into quadrants. To get maximum juicefulness.
To be safe, I stick the juicer into the steel part of the shaker, lest I spray everything within a 10' (3m) radius with lime juice, especially my eyes.
...and here we have the post-squeezery phase.

Believe me there was an ounce of juice (and a tiny bit over) to be had from that small lime.

Drop the spent lime shells into the glass half of the shaker. Fill the steel half with crushed ice.

Assemble the shaker. When you do this make sure you squeeze the steel half ever-so-slightly and that you push and twist the glass half. This creates a seal. Important if you don't want to sprinkle any Mai-Tai all over the place.

Shake until you have a good frost -- not merely condensation -- on the outside of the steel half, then another 5 seconds. For those of you in arid climes, figure 30-45 seconds, total.

Retrieve your vessel from the recesses of the freezer, and pour through the strainer. It is very important you pour into fresh "dry" ice -- not dry ice, mind you.

Garnish with the spent lime shell (or some cherries, pineapple chunk, orange slice, etc.) and enjoy.

-J.


Posted by Joke at 4:52 PM 5 comments

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Why?" I hear you ask.

You will be pleased, dear Internet. No, really. Slightly relieved, but mostly pleased.

On the worrisome side, things are improving at a glacially s-l-o-w pace. So keep up your spiritual regimen -- anything which doesn't involve anyone getting 72 virgins in the afterlife is highly appreciated -- on my behalf. But enough about that.

You may have been wondering where I have cyber-been. (Then again, you mayn't, but this is my blog, and therefore such curiosity will be imputed to you, jointly and severally.)

It's a fair question. The answer to which requires a bit of a back story, so sit back and let the glow of the narrative envelop you.

Coming up soon is NOS's 12th birthday party. NOS -- like me and wholly unlike NTS -- really cares that he has parties which people remember. He enjoys the social-arbiter status of conferring standing and prestige upon invitees when they have been invited to a given NOS bash. (TFBIM, being the Goldilocks is somewhere in between.)

Therefore, he likes his parties to verily kick arse. Especially now that having girls hold you in great esteem dawns as something of ever-growing importance. The way that our parties seem to work out is that there are usually +/- 15 children (NOS was born in the middle of the summer, so there are a significant number of his friends who are gone.) about half of whom tend to be drop-offs and the other half, obviously, aren't.

This means the non-dropoff-ees usually drag along at least one parent (80% of these are mothers). Some drop off for the excursion or movie part, but come over for the edibles and potables. They skip the wedding, but attend the reception, if you will.

Interestingly, this represents a fairly streamlined affair from 3-4 years ago when a brigade of children was the norm.

Anyway.

Last year, the plan was to go to the wave pool for what passes for surfing in wave-free Fringe o' Paradise and then repair back to Chez Joke for Tiki-ish potables and edibles. That proved an epic smash. Hold that thought.

So NOS decides that, since last year was such a smash, and since last year his best friend's wildly overprotective mother wouldn't allow him (the friend) to go, but this year she will, that he should reprise the festivities -- this was a close call with the release of the 6th Harry Potter film, to which NOS is greatly attached -- and execute this plan all over again. When mentioned in casual chatter to people, many had said this was excellent and how much they loved it or how deeply they regretted having dropped off and not loitered around to "hang out with you guys.**"

At around this time, I got an email stating Trader Vic's in Chicago had FINALLY* reopened. I mentioned this lightly to Fiddledeedee and to the exceedingly lovely and amazingly gracious
Poppy (who had nurtured and fostered my silliness in this direction and who allows me to venerate her first class relic first edition copy of the Trader Vic's Guide to Food & Drink whenever I'm visiting), and then went to look at their site. Which led me to think that, if I planned a little bit ahead of time, unlike last year when the thing popped up last minute, I could do something more impressive and cheaper.

OK. The reason I have told you all that is so I can tell you this:

Doing the above takes research.

Which is where I have been.

Researching.

Thankfully, the Internet is scrofulous with people who are, in varying degrees of mental disturbance seriousness, really into this whole Tiki thing.

AND!

(
Tere, stay with me, you're in this.) One of the original "Polynesian Pop" outposts, like a coealacanth*** swimming through the ocean of the hospitality industry, the Mai-Kai, is practically in my backyard.

So.

I got to looking.

First off, it's a ton(ne) of effort to pull off the whole Poly-Tiki Castaway trip full-time. I, for one, do not have the DNA to do this, but my battered straw hat is off
to those who do.

Of those who do, there are two in particular to whom I'd like to draw your attention.

The first is a respected beverage journalist and author,
Jeff Berry. He needs no plug from the likes of me, but his blog is an excellent resource and crazy-fun.

The other is, by all indications, a regular guy named
Blair Reynolds. That is, until, you pore deeper into his bloggery. This guy is to cocktails what I am to food. A manic, obsessive mad scientist. Here is a guy who thinks nothing of making his own orgeat syrup (as well as a lot of the exotic ingredients that go into drinks like the Scorpion, Zombie, Navy Grog, etc.) because the commercial stuff is either unavailable or unacceptable.

If he had stopped there, he should be one of your heroes. But he didn't. If he had stopped at owning more different bottles of rum than the Caribbean Council of Distillers -- and not cheap ones, either -- that'd be pretty stunning, too.

But look at what this guy
has done with his basement. (Special awe and wonder for his wife who not only let him, but helped. Mrs. Reynolds: "Respect.")

Anyway, all this took me out of my loop for a while. I looked up crazy stuff on eBay, dredged up drink**** recipes, food recipes, tracked down crazy fonts and clipart, etc. That, dear Internet, is how I spent the time otherwise allotted to bloggery.
I was able to scratch out a prototype menu (and save-the-dates invitations, etc.) and cheaper than finding something that's not quite what I wanted.

So, to be a pal I will now share with you MY recipe for the Mai-Tai, which, I assure you, is the definitive one.

1 oz golden rum (I like Appleton VX, but Bacardi or equivalent is fine)
1 oz dark rum (I like Myer's, but Bacardi or equivalent is fine)
[the original recipe called for 2 oz of J. Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old Rum, which these days costs -- get this -- $2K if you can find it. You can try substituting any of those aged rums like Zacapá or Matusalén. I haven't gotten that far yet.]
½ oz orgeat
½ oz Cointreau (you can go crazier with Gran Marnier or milder with any triple sec)
½ oz "rock candy" syrup (which is basically simple syrup infused with vanilla, figure 2 drops of real vanilla extract into a half ounce of simple syrup. You can cut this in half if you are using one of those hyper-mellow, gigabuck aged rums.)
1 oz fresh lime juice, not that flourescent green stuff in the bottle.
Mix all ingredients (including the spent lime shells!) and shake with ice. Strain into a glass over fresh, crushed ice. Garnish with lime shell and a sprig of mint. Maybe a cherry and orange or pineapple.

There you go.

-J.

P.S. Yes -- and I cannot believe you ever doubted me -- I made my own orgeat and rock-candy syrup.

* They had lost their lease at their original location and between scouting for a new one and fixing that up it took 3 years or so.

** Enjoy the potables and edibles.

*** Utterly unchanged since 1956, and having survived the boom and the bust of the original Tiki fad.

**** Including alcohol-free "mocktails" for the kids, as NOS particularly enjoys playing with a blender and shaker
.

Posted by Joke at 9:14 AM 10 comments

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Honesty Is The Best Policy

In which our hero gets in a bit of trouble for speaking his mind.

It is gratifying, dear Internet, that even in these straitened times, there are those who call upon Uncle Joke in a professional capacity. Maybe not in a lucrative professional capacity, but nonetheless he is still sought and his advice and insight meet with the sagely nods of the multitude.

So it is in that spirit Uncle Joke decided to accept an invitation to be in a panel intended to discuss what's wrong with the world and how it ought to be fixed.

What was less obvious, however, was that the other panelists were the sort who exhibit the two characteristics for which Uncle Joke harbors the greatest disdain: they were humorless and they were utterly hostile to reality and facts.

Yes, darlings, Uncle Joke was up on a dais with people who were allergic to being correct and were dour about it.

Fool that I am, instead of delivering an ideologically charged harangue, I delivered my remarks as a series of neatly fashioned logical links hanging cheerfully from easily verifiable facts. This didn't sit well with my co-panelists who all managed to do nothing more than thump their collective chests and rant and rail. The general theme was the Unfairness of It All. These are the sorts of people whose primary motivating factor is making sure that, if Halley's Comet ever slammed into us, it killed the right proportions of all population subtypes, broken down by age and sex.

Which struck me as ironic, because these panelists seem to have been seriously broken down by age and sex.

But I digress.

What finally caused me to loosen my reserved charm was this exchange, which, for your delight and amusement, I reproduce verbatim:

Ms. Panelist: I do love the dichotomy of when a guy is difficult, he's "strong willed" but when a woman is, she's a "bitch."

Me: (Having had enough drivel.) That's wrong. When a man is difficult he's not "strong willed." He's "a dick."

Posted by Joke at 3:08 AM 8 comments

Monday, May 04, 2009

Updateness

1- Latest is up at Vinapedia. Please click and keep me in free wine.

2- There are THREE separate I-don't-want-to-jinx-it news. Please pray to God, Allah, The Universe, Zeus, Odin, sacrifice rats to Baal, etc. My gratitude will be permanent and manifest.

3- NOS wound up getting sick on the weekend just as we had switched insurance companies. It was a very simple viral infection but we have to keep on it, as he can develop a pretty scary flavor of asthma. Still it's a simple thing with a simple Rx.

So, naturally, it took 10 hours to get it all straightened up. TFBIM was in a perfectly foul mood. If we ever have a third child, you can rest assured it will not be within 9 months. To calm herself, I believe she went around the neighborhood strangulating vermin.

That is all.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:45 AM 10 comments