Monday, June 30, 2008

A Day in the Life

Today was a good day. Specifically, it was a good booze day. First, I spent a couple hours reading about booze. Then I spent a couple of hours mixing and drinking booze. After that, a couple hours looking at and buying booze. A couple more hours of drinking booze. Now a couple hours writing about booze. That's my kind of day.

Some of the reading time was, as always, spent reading, analyzing and sometimes mocking and correcting drink recipes under my breath. Most of the reading time, however, was spent with a fantastic little book by Ron Givens entitled Bourbon at its Best: The Lore and Allure of America's Finest Spirits. While it's certainly not perfect (for example, the author (or editor) seems to have difficulty with "(variable)teenth" century nomenclature), it is by far, one of the best books about booze I've ever run across. I suspect that it may even be the best book ever written on bourbon. Basically, it's something to check out if you get the opportunity.

The mixing and drinking involved tinkering with a delightful beverage, The White Lady. For those of you not in the know, that would be concoction of gin, lemon juice, and triple sec (I used Cointreau). Yet another way to enlighten those who "don't like anything with gin." Shake and strain into a cocktail glass: 1.5 oz gin, 1.0 oz Cointreau, 0.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice. For those who are already big fans of gin, feel free to bump up the gin -- a little. Anything more than 2 ounces and the orange and lemon become little more than additional botanicals for the gin.

The shopping was quite fruitful, more so than usual. I actually ended up buying three bottles. I picked up a cava, an asti, and a California cuvee. Okay, so it's not the most diverse bag of booze bottles to bring home, but as far as sparkling wines go, there's a significant amount of variation. Most of the liquors and liqueurs I want are on my birthday wishlist (July 2; send nice booze), and my inventory of beer has nowhere to grow, so I guess it was inevitable that I would end up bringing home some kind of wine. I'd also recently run out of sparkling wine, as I'm currently working on developing a bubbly way of guzzling St. Germain with delicious appleness. With my new stock of sparkling wines, it should be perfected shortly, so keep your eyes open.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mixology Monday: The Miss May No More

I know that it's not Monday, but I wanted to contribute a bourbon based drink to the blogosphere, especially seeing all the work that others had put into it. This drink is special to me because I created it as a wedding gift for a friend, hence the name. It's largely a variation on my favorite classic cocktail, The Old Fashioned.

The Miss May No More:

1 1/2 bourbon (Elijah Craig 12 year if available)
1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Build in rocks glass with ice. Stir. Enjoy.

This drink works very well as an intermediary to The Old Fashioned for those who "don't like strong drinks". The bourbon obviously serves in a prominent role, but the sweetness of the bourbon is brought out (and contributed to significantly) by the Heering. The Heering also brings an amount of complexity to the table, so there's no need to go crazy on the bitters.

I'm eager to try some other cherry liqueurs to see how they hold up. I've got my eye on some Luxardo.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Drinking Styles

Happy Fathers' Day to the gentlemen blessed and cursed with offspring. This Fathers' Day has me thinking about the drinking styles of different people. Due to my huge interest in mixology, I wanted to give my father a nice bottle of liquor or a liqueur. While he's somewhat interested in mixed drinks and is always willing to help me test out new and old recipes, I knew that he would be a litte bit more grateful for a bottle of scotch than St. Germain. While I don't have much money to be throwing around right now, I was able to pick up a 10-year-old Speyburn scotch to honor him this year for having fathered me. For such a young and reasonably priced single malt, it was quite tasty, and I'll likely add a bottle to my own collection shortly.

Sipping our glasses of scotch after dinner reminded me of how differently people drink their booze. As a mere 22-year-old, I'm used to seeing most of my peers filling a shot glass or holding a can of Red Bull. While this isn't my favorite method of consumption, it is not below me to join in on occassion. Of course, I also try to spread the gospel of quality drinks in the meantime, and the same people I drink fizzy yellow beers with one night, may halfway jokingly refer to me as an alcohol snob the next night. I generally don't get upset about this.

One thing that does occassionally get on my nerves is having to justify making myself a champagne cocktail for brunch to binge drinking friends, who may even have a hangover from the night before. So, in honor of different drinking styles, and to calm the minds of my loved ones: No, I am not an alcoholic. The fifty bottles of booze I own do not make me a problem drinker, nor does the fact that I semi-regularly have a drink or two in the afternoon or (perish the thought) the morning.

I am a much bigger fan of constantly consuming small amounts of quality booze than consuming large amounts of cheap alcohol during short periods of time. This does not, however, make me a booze snob either. I have been known to even play a game or two of beer pong, and I generally don't fill those iconic red plastic cups with Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale or a home-brewed hefe. Red plastic cups should contain the light varieties of Bud or Coors. I know it's a scandalous concept for many, but I hold that it's perfectly fine to enjoy these beers in their proper context, as long as you realize that there are other things to drink out there, which are brewed, fermented, cellared, distilled, and/or mixed with much greater care for quality of ingredients and richness of taste than for dollars to be garnered (although that can be an added bonus).

You don't need to eat filet mignon every evening. Even McDonald's is fine to have on occassion. I know that not everbody agrees with me on this point, and my opinion may change, but until then, this is how I drink, in many different ways, at many different times, and with many different people. While I'm not a fan of either drunkenness or addictions, every other way to drink, I'm more than happy to encourage and join in on, though still some more than others. It also seems that people need little if any encouragement to drink cheap beer and fake martinis. The endangered and extinct styles of drinking are the ones which need a little bit more press and it is with that in mind that I encourage you all to try something new to you (classic or modern), and as always, whatever you drink, to drink it well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fresh Eggs vs. Egg White Cartons and The Whiskey Sour

When it comes to cocktails, I am a firm believer that everything should be as fresh as possible. However, every rule has its exceptions. Firstly, the obvious exception to every cocktail rule: Personal tastes reign supreme. If you prefer the taste of Rose's "lime juice" to actual freshly squeezed lime juice in your daiquiris, go for it. Be sure to make mine with the real stuff though, or at least warn me before I accidently ingest a Rose's product. Another exception (perhaps a more interesting exception) comes in the form of egg whites. Egg white create a unique mouthfeel and an pleasant visual effect as well. The most famous use of egg white may come in the Pisco Sour, but I like to use it in other sours as well, especially Whiskey Sours. But that's for later discussion.

In order to determine which source for egg white was better, I decided to do a bit of an experiment, so I went to the store and picked up some fresh eggs and a carton of pasteurized egg white. I really thought that the fresh eggs would prove a better choice for cocktails, especially after reading on the carton that those egg whites were not recommended for meringues and the like because of the pasteurization. But I was pleasantly surprised by the results. When shaken alone, the fresh egg whites didn't have quite as much foam, although I would say that they both fell within the small range desired. Also, this discrepancy all but disappeared when shaken with the other ingredients. I decided also to taste for differences just between the shaken whites so that they would stand out more. The fresh egg whites had slightly less of the eggy taste, but when I say slightly, I mean slightly. This discrepancy was also more than masked by mixing with the other ingredients. While I didn't want to get enough of a swallow to accurately judge mouthfeel with the egg whites alone, I was, of course, more than willing to do so for the finished product. For the most part, I couldn't detect any difference at all, and on a couple of sips and gulps, I actually preferred the texture of the carton whites.

The non-mixology related characteristics weren't much more helpful in declaring a winner. In terms of price, depending on random sales and the quantity purchased, there's little difference. For the home bar enthusiast, who only occassionally uses egg white, I would suggest the pasteurized variety, simply because they last much longer before becoming unusable in cocktails. But on the other hand, fresh eggs come with the additional yolks, which can be used in a few different cocktails, or even scrambled up for something to nibble on while sipping down your sours. The fresh eggs do also pose the hassle and (for some) difficulty of separating the whites. Simply stated, the differences are minor, and the winner is slight. While others are more than welcome to disagree, I forsee my egg white stock will come already separated and pasteurized in a handy little carton.

Now, for the good stuff:

The Whiskey Sour

1 1/2 - 2 oz. Whiskey
1 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Up to 1 whole egg white (or 3 tbsp. from the carton)

Shake ingredients vigorously without ice. Add ice and shake again. Strain into chilled sour glass. Garnish with a cherry and/or lemon wedge.

This yields a rather sweet whiskey sour, so I encourage you to alter the proportions to your tastes. I like my sours quite sweet. It's also quite fun to experiment with different whisk(e)ys. The experiment was done with Jack Daniel's, but I'm quite fond of using bourbons. I've got a couple more bourbons to try out, then perhaps some scotch. Bushmill's makes for quite the tasty treat. Of course, there's no need to limit yourself to whiskey alone. Pisco is quite fun, or perhaps just a Brandy Sour. Try out your favorite liquor (or liqueur for that matter). Some will require slightly different ratios of sweet to sour, especially liqueurs. Experiment, have fun, and drink well.