Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Return Engagement In Cuba

This week we welcomed a new friend to take part in our travels through the worlds of linament, Old Spice and Worther's candies. Is was an appropriate time to go back to where it all began - Cuba!

El Presidente

The |" presidente " in this case would be Gerardo Machado, the right-wing strongman who ruled Cuba with an iron fist from 1925 to 1933. This particular drink was first concocted by an American bartender working at the Jockey Club in Havana during Prohibition. According to legend, Machado once offered one to Calvin Coolidge while the U.S. president was attending a conference in Havana. "Silent Cal" declined. The easy-sipping drink later became the house cocktail at the swank Club El Chico in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, where the high-hatted swells dubbed it "an elixir for jaded gullets."

"Always try to achieve your goals. But that's not for everyone."
- Clifford, 60, musician

1.5oz white rum
3/4oz orange curacao
3/4oz dry vermouth
Dash of grenadine

As an introductory class in drinking (Old Man-style) we couldn't have scripted a better drink. I was seeking refuge from yet another drink with gin and I have been dreaming of that night so many months ago when all this started with the Cuba Libre. It seemed a natural that we would go back to the beginning so that's what we did.

As it turns out, orange curacao isn't the easiest liqueur to source in this fine province, so I had to consult the World Wide Web to see what they'd suggest. As it turns out: orange curacao, Triple Sec and Grand Marnier are somewhat inter-changeable. Given the choice, try to substitute Triple Sec if possible because its got a more pure orange flavour and will more accurately replicate the taste that you're going for.

We cracked the bottles open and got with the drinking as we got to know one another. It was nice to have someone new come out and play and change up the dynamic a little. Also, having a 4th to play rock band with us didn't hurt either. Maybe it was the bottle of rum that we polished off or maybe it was the Rilo Kelly:

but I've got a new appreciation for rum! You've gotta be careful not to be over-zealous with the grenadine: a little goes a LONG way. But to be honest the vermouth was largely tamed and everything came together really well and the drink became much more than the sum of its parts.

If you're looking for a real nice Saturday night, I'd suggest inviting a few of your best friends over, serve some El Presidente's and let fun happen! This drink gets 4 breasts out of 2 red-heads.. and if that's wrong, I don't want to be right! Until next time dear friends...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's In A Name?

What do you do when you open the door to your liquor cabinet and all you can find among the empty bottles with yellow stickies in your handwriting that all say "I'm Sorry" on them? That was our challenge this week. Among the wreckage and 'dead soldiers' we did manage to cobble together some gin and a little bit of absinthe - but surely that wouldn't be useful for our pilgrimage through Old Man Drink-town could it?!

Monkey Gland

Not since the ill-fated experiment with  Harvey Wallbanger has the name of a cocktail so taunted us, dear friends. But when you consider the ingredients I suppose we should have been able to guess what was coming.

They say that W.B. Yeats had monkey glands implanted in his scrotum when he was an old man, to help restore his sexual potency. That revolutionary procedure, which was all the rage in the 1920s, provided the inspiration for this cocktail, first mixed up by Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry's New York Bar in Paris. The Washington Post pronounced it as the smash hit of the 1923 French tourist season, and it was later adjudged to be one of the quintessential cocktails of the Prohibition era. No representations are made or implied regarding this drink's - ahem - rejuvenating - powers, though it is a fact that Yeats got his groove back soon after undergoing the procedure.

"Jeanie is the perfect wife. She cooks, cleans, mends, socializes. One of these days she's gonna melt down, and I hope I'm out of town that day."
- Max, 66, salesman

Well put Max, well put.

2oz gin
1oz orange juice
Dash grenadine
Dash absinthe

If men in the 1920's were relying on surgically-grafted monkey test-i-cles for sexual potency I think the bad rep that the 'little blue pill' gets can just simmer down. I appreciate that for the artists out there you might need something a little off the beaten path, some Valerian root or oysters perchance, but having the balls (pun intended) for undergoing surgery in the days of cholera to stuff a few extra marbles in your skin pouch is way too hardcore for me.

I actually had some lofty expectations for this drink based on the Obituary where the absinthe was able to keep the gin-wretches (commonly called the Gretch's) at bay. And also... orange juice! I love some ice in my OJ and I'm careful not to stab at it with any knives for that would be VERY insensitve. At least not without some gloves and my Bruno Magli's.

White Bronco? Anyone? Al Cowlings?

I digress. As far as the gin drinks goes, I'd put it somewhere at the higher end of the spectrum but that really doesn't say much. There are few positives I can offer for this one - it doesn't even sound cool and your date will likely be running for the exit on her first opportunity when she learns that you'd like to sip of the Monkey Gland. And if she doesn't - YOU should be the one running for the door!! Lets just give this drink 2 gloves that don't fit out of an animatronic monkey that beats cymbals together. Yeah, cause there's nothing creepy about that at all....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Posh Pub-Crawl

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine and he mentioned that his boyfriend's brother was moving here from the UK and us hetero's should hang out and do some girl-watching. Now I\m a guy that doesn't mind knocking back a drink or 2 and admiring the female form so I took out the brother on a mini pub-crawl to familiarize himself a few of the downtown Vancouver hot spots and check out some lovely ladies along the way.

Scotch And Soda

Here's one you can write the recipe for on the back of your hand. On second thought, bugger the recipe. It's Scotch... and soda. What part of Scotch and soda don't you understand? For a Scotch and water, substitute water for the soda. See how easy it is? This is a good one to make at the end of a long evening of drinking because there's really very little even an intoxicated person could do to screw it up.

"Scotch goes well with everything, especially marriage."
- Gary, 65, retired marketing manager

3oz Scotch
3oz club soda
lime twist

For our 'Welcome to Vancouver' bar, I brought him to a place called the Yaletown Brew Pub. It's a nice little place to have a bite to eat, and it also has a separate bar/lounge for optimal people watching. By the time we got there (pre-10pm) the bar was fully packed and there was a DJ spinning some tunes. We got a few drinks and made our way to the patio, so we could admire the people (read: pretty girls) walking by as well as the ones in the bar. Truth be told it was a little too packed and we moved on to another downtown staple: Doulin's Irish Pub.

If you've never been to Doulin's let me spell it out: short, plaid skirts. We got there sometime after 11 and there was no line-up at all (really odd for a Saturday night), and we quickly learned why: the entire population of Vancouver was already inside! I'd say it was packed wall to wall, but it was more like floor to ceiling; we got through the front door and hit a wall of humanity so thick that this former football player was at a loss to get to the bar. We managed to ride the wake of one of the waitresses by the bar and I scooped us up a few more drinks and in the words of Fmr President George W. Bush, "Mission: Accomplished". Oh right, but now we were stuck in the ebb and flow of the humanity as it swayed and shifted with each pass of a waitress. We were lucky enough to grab a table, but to be honest it was WAY too packed for our purposes and we moved on.

Now, if you're from Vancouver you may have heard of the final stop on our tour but even then it's highly unlikely. The Famous Warehouse (formerly El Furniture Warehouse) on the north-west corner of Nelson and Granville has long been one of those hidden gems in the downtown bar scene. We arrived just at the stroke of midnight and were greeted by a very friendly member of the staff that got the Host to round us up a few seats. An interesting note about this place is that there's no standing allowed, you mush have a seat or you're not allowed in, which REALLY helps with the laid-back and friendly atmosphere and lets the bar-staff get around quickly to deliver everyone drinks/food. We took our seats at the bar and were immediately greeted by George Harrison. The drinks flowed once more and if I might say, I *love* this bar! We were flanked on either side by really friendly couples and passed the time by playing a game where I would test my musical knowledge against their Shazam which each new song/video that came on the tv. I was only bested by one:

Oh yeah.. there was a drink here wasn't there? I'm no stranger to some Scotch (went to the annual Hopscotch Festival in November) and I like mine single-malted and preferably 20 years old ;) Is that a euphamism? Who can say... Now since I was mixing it there was no need to break the bank, so I went with a pretty stock Glenfiddich 10-year. It was an evening of drinking Strongbow ciders and this was the prefect way to finish off the evening. It's smooth, has some bubbles which pop on your tongue and instantly puts me in a relaxed, content state of mind. Also, it goes really well with a $5 burger at 1am! Seriously, the kitchen is still open and serving a full menu at 1am.. this place is magical! In a review that harkons back to the history of the bar, I give the Scotch and Soda 5 ottomans out of a chaise-lounge. Soft, relaxing and suave. Magnifique!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Ain't Your Grandmother's Dragon You're Chasing....

Hey, Buddy.
C'mover here I wanna talk to you.
What do you know about Absinthe?


Old men spend a lot of time reading the obituaries. So why not drink a few while you scour the agate for the names of your old friends? This cocktail turns the Martini on its head with the addition of absinthe, which, if you were taking an extended whiz in 2007 and didn't hear the news, is now legal again in the United States. Back in the day, people claimed that absinthe could cure malaria, give you seizures, and make you see things that weren't there. All it ever did for me was turn my drinks green and make everything taste like licorice.

"If I had a nickel for every pretty girl I bought a drink, well, I'd still be far behind."
- Neil, 67, labourer

2oz gin
1/4oz dry vermouth
1/4oz absinthe

I remember a few years back a friend of mine had offered to order some special party favours from the Chech Republic when I was flying east for a friends wedding. Now I'm not going to say if the package did indeed make it's way through customs but I will say this: The bachelor party ended before 11pm. And by 'ended' I mean some people were in a heap of blood and their own vomit in a Keg bathroom while the bus-boy was offering to have his dinner brought to him in the stall. Estimated time: 6:45pm.

We did switch it up a little bit with one of 'the usual suspects' out of town on assignment, and we had a special guest in her place. We got ourselves settled and cracked open the bottles and initiated one more into the fold. On first impression we have finally found something that has been able to overtake the pungent-nose of gin. If you've ever smelled Anise (or more common, your mother's black licorice) you have a good starting place for absinthe.

I can't quite explain it.. by all rights this drink should have put us all straight into the madhouse, or at least in line for a stomach-pump. But no, it was.. dare I say... delicious? Maybe it was the teal-tinge of the drink, maybe it was the fact we finally found SOMETHING that would stand-up to this bully known as gin, or maybe it was the tall, raven-haired beauty that spoke in an eastern-block accent to me from the shadows all night; who can say? We three travelers gathered our collective shit and sat down for game-time. This week's offering actually had nothing at all to do with rawk poses or electronic key-tars; no this week we went Geek-Old-School with a role-playing game called Fiasco. Our particular story surrounded 3 strangers woven together through strange rituals, a shared calling, and a NEED ... for a drinking buddy. Oh yeah, and a dragon.

When I came to at 3 in the morning, I realized that tonight was not altogether different from that Keg bathroom. Where am I? How did I get here? and What is that taste? And what's more - a solid sense that on this night, the gin was vanquished! For that alone, I give the Obituary 5 slotted spoons over an open flame. Next time you're browsing through the classifieds and find yourself in the obituary section of the paper, you raise your glass to those fine men and women that have passed. One of them just may have thrown themselves in front of a subway train to escape an absinthe-fueled apparition.

Bottom's Up!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Voyage To The Emerald Isle (Again?)

Just because St Patrick's Day has passed us by doesn't mean that the Irish drinks have ended. For a people world renown for their drinking you had to know that any Old Man worth their salt would pay homage to them in the way they would want to be remembered - with a drink named after them!

Paddy Cocktail

I don't want to bury the lead here - so lets just get right into it.

Also known as an Irish Manhattan, this drink has a politically incorrect name but a more authentic heritage than such kitschy St. Patrick's Day cocktails as the O'Jito and the Emerald. In this case, the "Paddy" element is added by substituting Irish whiskey for bourbon. Otherwise, the proportions are exactly the same as the Manhattan. It's one in a class of ethnically insensitive riffs on classic drinks that includes the Paisley Martini and the Bobby Burns.

"I drank so much, I was sober. Then I had a few more."
- Leo, 88, retired military

That's right, it wasn't a typo - Irish Manhattan. 'Drink' that in. To say that I approached this drink with some trepidation ... would be an understatement! If you recall the conventional Manhattan - it was too sweet and generally just pretty average; but with the change from bourbon to Irish whiskey I thought that might just do the trick for it (that changing the vermouth did not).

The first sip was like looking into the eye of a storm - The Perfect Storm. Without George Clooney. And whiskey. It was actually pretty good - I wouldn't say really good, but it wasn't half bad! Once again our night hit the similar notes: drinks with a bite to eat from Dougie Dog, Rock Band 2 on the XBox, and much laughter. I'm glad drinking Old Man Drinks hasn't prematurely led me to things like searching Wal-Mart for deals, watching Nascar, and bemoaning about how kids were so much more respectful when I was young. (I complained about self-centered kids before I started this blog)!

Returning to the Irish roots of this beverage, what say we give it a Nil - Nil draw? Noone gets hurt, noone advances up the Table and noone is sent to relegation. Also this way we don't have any Celtic vs Rangers hooliganism. Always gotta try and stay safe people - keep those flares outta the stands!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Top O' Tha Mornin' To Ya

A late follow-up to the last post thanks to a rather busy holiday season but better late than never, right?! It was time for yet another Sunday morning get-together to take in the annual St Patrick's Day parade from the relative safety of a second-floor condo. I say relative because there's no telling what a drunken suburbanite is capable of - I always try to conceal my brains just in case all the excitement proves too much for them and a zombie outbreak occurs.

Irish Coffee

Could there be any other beverage for St Patrick's Day than this? Alright perhaps a Guinness drank out of a potato, but beyond that I mean...

It was a cold winter's eve in 1942, and a group of American airline passengers found themselves stranded at Foyne's Airbase in Limerick, Ireland, due to bad weather. (Is there any other kind in Ireland?) Enter Joe Sheridan, a chef in a restaurant in the terminal building, who invented this ingenious libation on the spot as a means of comforting the tired and cranky travelers. When one guest asked Sheridan if he was serving them Brazilian coffee, the chef replied, "No, that's Irish coffee." And another chapter in Ireland's rich history of drink was written.

"Can you help me write a text message to my wife? She's very upset with me and I don't deal well with cell phones."
- Gary, 68, retired bus driver

Well this is how you know he's a *retired* bus driver - any driver worth his salt can drive, text, and sip an Irish coffee at the same time. Errrr... ingredients you ask? Lets have a look before anyone notices what I just said!

1 cup hot brewed coffee
1oz Irish whiskey
1tbs whipped cream
Sugar, to taste

I feel as if every time I talk about a beverage I have to come clean about some deep seeded bias against the main ingredient (read: gin) and this week is no different. This week will come as something as a shock to you, loyal readers, as I've never been a fan of coffee. I can't say exactly why but growing up I gravitated to a hot cup of tea (or cocoa) and just never developed a taste for a french-pressed delight. The only coffee I remember drinking was back in my final year of high school where in homeroom we'd have a pancake breakfast every month and a good friend of mine thought it would be a good idea to put some Bailey's in his coffee and I helped myself to some after a successful taste-test.

I may have to re-examine this whole coffee thing cause I was OVERJOYED by the drink this week. Right up there with the Hot Toddy and the infamous Cuba Libre, the Irish Coffee knocked my socks off. A healthy dose of Irish whiskey and the WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSH of the whipped cream can and you're off. This had me grinning from ear-to-ear for hours; maybe that's why we forgot all about watching the parade, or maybe it was the Danny Bhoy line dancing through my head: fiddle-dee-dee-potato!

Ratings Time: NomNomNomNomNomNom out of More Please! I was struck with overwhelming deliciosity. Thank you sir, may I have another? I think I will just help myself to another ... how could you say no to this face?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Et tu, Brute?

I got a late invite to a St Patrick's Day fundraiser with some friends that supported a downtown-east side women's shelter (Link) where we were treated to a wonderful 3-course meal, some fantastic new friends and Irish folks songs sung loudly and out of key by inebriated lads. A great time was had by all and for such a great cause.

The following morning we re-convened half-a-block from the scene of the fundraiser at this fantastic little diner for some biscuits n' gravy and some hash & eggs. And now it was time for me to try my hand for a Canadian morning-after staple.

Bloody Caesar (Formerly Bloody Mary)

There are almost as many suggested recipes as there are origin stories for this Sunday-brunch staple and traditional hongover cure, which may (or may not) have first been concocted by Fernand Petiot, a bartender at Harry's Bar in Paris, in the 1920s, or by entertainer George Jessel in the late 1930s. Add-ins may (or may not) include horseradish, olives, celery, beef boullion, cayenne pepper, and various cold cuts used as garnish. One thing is (almost) certain: The gory cocktail was named after Mary Tudor, the queen of England. Or maybe it was Mary Pickford, the movie star. Or some woman in Chicago. Ahhh, forget it. Just make me one, STAT, so I can get rid of this damned headache. 

"Walking away is a woman's right. And then it's a man's right to watch her do it!"
- Andrew, 64, recruiter

2oz vodka
6oz Clamato juice
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce
Pinch of salt & pepper
1/2oz fresh lemon juice
Green bean

ANOTHER DAMN RIMMED GLASS! Ok so after I juiced my lime into the beverage I used the rind to de-rim the glass just in the off-chance that I'd mistakenly think of trying a mouthful of celery salt. This drink had a bigger kick than I was expecting, but not in the way you might think. This drink was a cold, tomato-y, and shocking like a spicy punch in the groin.

It wasn't altogether pleasant but nor was it the worst thing I've ever drank. I was however very thankful for the tall glass of water and the fact the food came pretty quickly and I had a tasty breakkie to use as a chaser (when required). The food was VERY tasty and we followed it up with a movie to check out Red Riding Hood. Seemed to be one of those days where everything was fine, but not memorable. This drink gets 3 chili's in a Hood. Almost like a man in a boat....

If you'll forgive me I do have a personal note for this week. I learned a few days ago that a friend of mine that I lost touch with passed away last week. Although we hadn't spoken in close to 5 years we had shared some really great times in the years we knew each other and I just wanted to put that out to the universe.

Hope you're catching sweet waves wherever you are Macker - Miss you brah.