Friday, February 25, 2011

Start Spreadin' Tha News

As we move back into our regular schedule of evening drinks by the hot-dog cooker, I felt it was time to take a trip. Last year for my birthday I felt a little overwhelmed with the Olympics (among other things) and decided to take a leave of absence from here and head south to the warm confines of San Diego. This year I'm in a New York state of mind.....


It was actually a 2-part trip, as my friends' dad makes a mean 'So-Co Mon' (which is a Manhattan made with Southern Comfort). We were all down in Florida last Christmas and drank them every night. If only I had a picture of  Allan's mustache - I'm sure I could've found a way to get him in this book! I dedicate this weeks drink to Allan, Minnesota cool and Miami hot.

Take a trip back to the Gilded Age with this classic cocktail, which was reportedly invented in 1874 at New York's Manhattan Club at a reception in honour of Governor William Tilden. Winston Churchill's mother was one of the first people to drink one, and it was the cocktail of choice for Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, so you know it's as old school as it gets. For a more authentic nineteenth-century experience, substitute rye for the bourbon. That's the way Diamond Jim Brady would have had it.

"You should have seen me back in the day, kid. I was a real terror. The ladies loved me and the men were afraid of me. A real terror"
- Arnie, 75, "businessman"

2oz bourbon
1oz sweet vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry

Still not ready to get back into the gin I figured that a little bourbon would do me right. When my pop goes on his annual pilgrimage down to Florida in the R.V. his drink of choice down there is a Jim & cola. It's in my jeans right?

Yeah not so much. I mean it was fine, but it was also unspectacular in every way. At one point we experimented with using a red vermouth instead of the white but that was more sweet if anything. Adding a sweet vermouth to a sweet bourbon and cherry with just the bitters to balance it seems like a rookie mistake to me - or at least it doesn't jive too well for my palate. I like a drink that's balanced, has a good up-front kick from the alcohol and finishes smooth.

To be fair this one snuck up on me a little bit. By drink #4 I was rocking out to some Bang Camero on Rock Band (as one is known to do) and I recognized that familiar act of one slowly losing his grip on sobriety: rock kicks, playing the guitar like a ray-gun, various tongue gymnastics.. and so on. I guess after everything is said and done this drink wasn't half-bad. Something you can feel comfortable ordering in a posh restaurant so you look cultured while you're trying to work your way into a socialite's drawers. I have said too much!

Now for the grade part of the program: I like Manhattan's, I give them a 42 but I can't dance to it (honorable mention to John Keating for that one).

Stay tuned my dear friends as drinks will be coming fast & furious (with a Vancouver Drift) this week as birthday celebrations are upon us. Which drink will receive the coveted slot of 'Birthday Dinner Beverage'? Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Afternoon Delight!

After 2 straight weeks of 'the gin', I felt it was time for a change. So desperate was I to change up the bad mojo that we not only switched out the gin for a different alcohol; we also changed the time of day - opting for an mid-afternoon tasting instead of our usual 'evening affair'. 

Hot Toddy 

Every week I get together with 2 of my very best friends and together we all partake in the Drink of the Week. Recently these friends came down with some super-bug on the level of H1N1, Ebola, or Mad Cow disease and as I flipped though the Bible of Beverages I came upon quite possibly the most storied of cure-all remedies. As my effort to help with their healing processes I arrived with ingredients in-hand to kick-start their immune systems like a Mack truck! Poor sick puppies.

A piping hot mug of this stuff will cure what ails you. In fact, the hot toddy has long been considered a cracker-jack cold and flu remedy - despite the American Medical Association's recommendations to the contrary. But hey, what do those doctors know? I know that when I drink this on a cold winter's night, I feel better immediately. Besides, if alcohol didn't have some health benefit, they wouldn't put it in cough medicine, right? Feel free to swap in your preferred whiskey for the rum. Cloves, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg are all traditional add-ins as well. Oh, and the name toddy apparently derives from the sap of an Asian palm tree. But that's a whole other story...

"That guy Spock was an idiot. My kids turned out okay because my wife and me raised 'em like we were raised."
- Ron, 72, retired teacher

1oz rum
1oz lemon juice
1oz honey
boiling water
Cinnamon stick

In a word.. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. THAT'S what I'm talking about! Little rum, little lemon, little honey - this is just what Dr. Maurice prescribes. Now take 5 of these, and spend an afternoon watching John Hughes classic's like Sixteen Candles and Weird Science.

As far as drinks go, this was a dream. It was smooth, and you get the warm body glow from a hot drink combined with the rum. Unlike last weeks Gin Sour all the ingredients came together perfectly and the notes all complimented each other instead of fighting to over-power you. I can't say for certain that the healing properties of the drink were confirmed (as of this writing my friends are JUST now becoming upright and able to perform normal human functions) but hey, it didn't hurt!

I think 5 or 6 drinks into my afternoon after being snuggled up on a couch watching movies, someone (with a striking resemblance to yours-truly) got the great idea to watch some stand-up comedy to round out the evening and lord if that wasn't one of the best idea's I've ever had! After nearly an hour of struggling to breathe between laughing fits and wiping away tears of joy it was time to put an end to the day.

As far as this drink goes: a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in a juicer. Using a natural rememdy as a cloak for this naughty-little-pleasure is enough of an excuse for me. I think a weekly Hot Toddy might just make sure I never get sick again - and even if I do I won't care that much.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Groundhog Day? Again?!

Oh dear friends, the things that I do in your loyal service. I think that after this weeks beverage I may need to regroup and really reconsider what we're doing here. As it turns out Mr. Collins (formerly known as 'Tom') has proven himself unwilling to leave and we've had to have a restraining order put out on him. It's not pretty but here's the story....

Gin Sour

So yeah this may have been named the Gin Sour, but I present to you "Tim Collins", the bastard brother of sophisticated Tom.

Popular in the 1940's, gin sours went out of fashion along with the Edsel, the poodle skirt, and the Truman administration. But just like Give 'Em Hell Harry, this one is primed for a comeback. For authentic Prohibition-era flavor, use bathtub gin instead of that fancy bottled stuff.

"Remember [Massachusetts] Governor Bill Weld? If you could go out drinking until late and still make it into work the next day, you were okay in his book. Same with me."
- Leo, 75, retired banker

2oz gin
1oz lemon juice
1/2tsp superfine sugar
Maraschino cherry

I know what you're thinking, "Maurice, you already reviewed this drink last week. We know because we drank it along with you and my what good times we had. And you have such a hawt rockin' body.. " and so on. It's ok, that's all normal (especially the rockin' body part)! There is however one ingredient missing and as it turns out a VERY key ingredient! As we sat down to put this drink together I have to sheepishly admit that I was a little bit over-confident that this weeks entry was going to be something of a cake-walk. I mean it's only missing a little club soda, right?!

Yeah so here's the thing: club soda, it's a magic ingredient. I can only assume why the absence of those little fizzy bubbles ruined EVERYTHING - something to do with the club soda keeping the sugar from settling at the bottom of the glass or something-something, but the truth is I have no idea. I know this: this Gin Sour is appropriately named. It was akin to sucking a lemon and punching yourself in the face. Upon my first sip I exclaimed, "Oh My God, it's like I kicked in the face by a mule". Every further sip induced the following face:

I did my best, I soldiered on as much as I could and even poured myself a second glass of this vile prank but I couldn't muster any more. Mercifully I got to the bottom of the second glass and I noticed that there was a build-up of sugar that never dissolved and assimilated into the rest of the drink. I think the sugar KNEW how revolting this drink was going to be anyway and abstained from the normal laws of chemistry to avoid being grouped together with this abomination. As you might have gathered by now.... I was not a fan of this drink. So much so that by 9pm my evening of drinking had ended and I was relegated to water for the duration of the night.

Final review time. I think there's not too much more that I can say so here's the skinny: this drink gets 1 donkey-punch in a prison shower. And may I never drink anymore gin as long as I live..

Oh wait. there's still another 20-something gin drinks left in this book. Its time to build a bigger basket!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friends, This Is Tom; Tom, Friends

Thanks for coming by for Week 3 of 'Drinking With Dan'. I hope you all enjoyed meeting my friend Harvey last week, I know he can get a bit rowdy but who doesn't like a little excitement now and again? I thought I'd introduce you to a more laid-back friend this week, some a little more.... sophisticated.

Tom Collins

Awwwww yeah, now THAT'S sophisticated!

This is another one of those old, old drinks with a murky pedigree that even cocktail historians have had a hard time keeping straight. If your were alive in 1874 and someone asked you if you'd seen Tom Collins, then you were about to become the victim of a strange and Byzantine practical joke - the Pink'd of its day - known as the Great Tom Collins Hoax. That may have inspired the name of this cocktail, which just as plausibly could have come from a mash-up of John Collins - a London head-waiter who had a popular gin punch named after him - and Old Tom, the brand of sweet gin originally used to make this drink. Who really knows for sure? All we do know is the Tom Collins was all the rage in the 1870s and should be consumed, in the words of noted epicure David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Making Drinks, "slowly, with reverence and meditation."

From the Book of Fred, 90, Retired janitor,
"I never had a threesom, but it's bound to happen soon."
Hallelujah, Praise be to Fred.

2oz gin
1oz lemon juice
1tsp superfine sugar (berry sugar)
3oz club soda
Maraschino cherry

Whoh, whoh, whoh. Gin? Already? Couldn't we have drawn this out for a few more weeks before we had to dive into the *wretch* gin? Alright so if it's time lets ease into it with a nice, classic beverage and a diluted gin taste.

The first thing to accomplish was picking up a cocktail shaker. Four stores later we had our shaker finally and we were able to pick up the ingredients and get home for some dinner and a little Weeds. After touching base with our Denver correspondent Nathan (a former bartender and current cool-cat) that gin was finally on the menu his initial guess was Gin Rickey's (which will be coming up later in the book). Then is was time for a little shake-shake-shake, shake-shake-shake, shake your booty!

So you throw the gin & juice into a shaker with ice and the sugar and give it a toss, pour it over ice in a tall glass and you add some club soda & top it with a cherry. It has a pretty clean taste initially, the tartness of the lemon and gin is offset by the sugar and the club soda gives it a little pop as it rolls over your tongue. A point of fact: the reason for using berry sugar is that it can be dissolved in cold water so don't try to cheap-out and put whatever you've got in there as a substitute. Do the right thing, get the right stuff,  you deserve it! The key for drinking Tom Collins is understand that this is NOT a drink that you'll be getting bombed with, not if you have any plans the following day. It packs a huge punch and its a smooth, sipping drink moreso than something you guzzle. I will point out that towards the end of the evening (sometime between 2am and 3am) when all the ice in my glass had melted and the remnants were pooled in a puddle at the bottom of the glass I gave it one last swig and tasted what I'm sure my grandmother's socks must taste like. That's the gin for ya; just when you think you made it out on a good note....

Final Thoughts: Pretty good opening salvo into the Gin part of our programme (which is quite extensive), it was a nice transition while at the same time firing a few shots across the bow of what the Gin may have in store in the future. By the way, I am no more at ease now having finally tasted gin about the abomination that will come from Gin & Milk. I'm going to have to psyche myself up for that at least 2 days leading up to it. For a rating of the Tom Collins, I give it 3 fedora's out of a Frank Sinatra lounge act. Impressed, but also respectful of the fury it could cause. Beware of possible emotional breakdowns lasting 2 days that may also lead to friendship redefining and possibly leaving work early. It's Gin, someone shoulda known it was coming....

Say goodnight Tom, "Goodnight Tom"