Life Happens

•May 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

Rick Blaine, Casablanca

That’s what happens when you help someone. They succeed and move on.

Don Draper, Mad Men

Ever since the Season 5 finale of Mad Men last year I’ve had these two quotes in my head, interwoven and intertwined.  The source materials are among my all time favorites, which I’m sure is the reason.  In some ways I suppose I identify a bit with both characters – men that are making their way along in the world mostly on their own.  At least I think that is their perception.  How true it may be is debatable, including my circumstance.  But what has struck me is how each views their place in the world.  Rick lays it out – “little people in this crazy world.”  Don is more subtle but his intent is clear – it’s my world and now you are going to leave it- is the message I get.

As I’ve wrestled with these quotes over the last year, I think I’ve tried to decide if I have the mindset of Rick or Don.  Then boom, it hit me in an odd way.

I am a huge fan of the podcast 99% Invisible.  It is hosted by Roman Mars and it is ostensibly about “design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.”  If you have never heard his podcasts, stop reading this blog and search them out.  Amazingly, each episode is better than the previous one, no matter what order you decide to listen.  Roman was recently selected as number 63 in the Fast Company list of top 100 creative people of 2013.  In the Fast Company essay about Roman, the source of his podcast name is mentioned.  “99% of who you are is invisible.” – Buckminster Fuller.  I texted the quote off to my friend Laura, since it is a habit of mine to send her just a quote, no context, when I think it will resonate.  Then boom goes the dynamite, I realize why I can’t decide if I’m more Rick or Don.  99% of them is invisible to me.  How could I really know which fictional character I’m like.  As much as I think I know them, I don’t.  Even seeing them in their private moments, I’m only seeing them.

So I’ve stopped wrestling and started realizing:  don’t try to analyze stuff that you can’t.  Usually the reason is what it always is – life happens.

While it may be a stretch, I’ve selected a cocktail that follows the life happens mantra.  I’ve started making up Old Fashioned cocktails and barrel aging them.  In my case the barrel is a glass bottle with a few honeycomb oak barrel staves for maturing a cocktail with full American oak flavor.  I purchase mine from the Tuthilltown Sprits store.  My most recent aging was an Old Fashioned made from Bulleit Bourbon that was gifted to me by Andy and Jen on New Year’s Eve.  I mixed up a 5 drink portion of Old Fashioneds for aging and let us both just live life.  I typically forget about it until something triggers it in my mind.  I don’t know what it was this time but I poured a glass.  Easiest cocktail I’ll ever make in an evening.

Barrel Aged Old Fashioned

Barrel Aged Old Fashioned

The charred flavor definitely comes through.  It makes the drink taste like a steak that has been on the barbecue grill a little to long.  You don’t know if the charred steak taste is good or not, but you finish the steak because you kind of like it.  And I’ll just put my little barrel back in my cabinet and let life happen until I remember it again.

Better Than Free

•April 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Ask people what’s better than buying something and you may hear getting it for free.  I’ve found something better than that.  Getting it in trade.  I’ve been trading booze for years.  A few months ago my friend Julie looked in my cabinet and asked “Why do you have a lab sample bottle?”  I replied that I used it to trade whiskey samples with Doug and Rich at work.  That pretty much ended the questions.  It made perfect sense.

So I recently engineered a trade with my friend Keith from the Boston area.  We know each other through baseball cards, but we’ve expanded our friendship into some other areas.  One new one is Instagram; one old one is gin.  We both like gin cocktails and martinis.  We got to discussing different gins that the other can’t find, so we proposed a trade.  I sent Keith a bottle of Botanist gin.  He sent me a bottle of Dry Fly.  I used this as an opportunity to try it in my latest cocktail creation that I call Bottle Up and Go.

Bottle Up and Go

Bottle Up and Go

Bottle Up and Go

  • 2.5 oz Dry Fly Gin
  • 1.5 oz quince and apple Rhubarb Hops syrup
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 2 dashes Wormwood Bitters
  • pinch kosher salt
  • shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with star anise

The Dry Fly has a very unique taste.  It tastes like no other gin than I’ve had.  Their website describes it this way:

A distinctly different style of gin, Dry Fly has thrown out the rule book and taken an entirely different approach to gin. The nose on Dry Fly Gin is huge green apple, strawberry, confectioner’s sugar, and honeysuckle flowers, and back – way, way back in the background – is just a hint of pine. The taste is apple, pepper, peach, vanilla, wheat, nectarine, and lime peel. The finish is pretty quick and leaves your mouth very cool and clean. We like Dry Fly’s Gin but it’s the kind of spirit which will get people arguing as to whether or not it’s actually a true gin. Either way, it’s an exciting entry into this space and an interesting New American Gin.

I have to admit I didn’t really enjoy it in a martini, but in my Bottle Up and Go it really shined.  The Dry Fly allowed the bitterness of the Rhubarb Hops syrup come through as I had wanted when I built this drink.  Dry Fly will definitely turn any cocktail on its ear.

But the best part is trading bottles with Keith.  Trading is something we learn as kids and almost promptly forget as adults.  It may be the concept of sharing that I enjoy; it’s not about value, it’s about collaboration.  Keith and I are already working on our next deal.

What a Fighter Your Dad Is

•June 11, 2012 • 1 Comment

Man, if it is not one thing it is another! What a fighter your Dad is! I know how proud of him you are.

Ted, June 1, 2012

It’s always special to see how others who haven’t met my dad see him through my eyes.  Long story short, I took him to have an esophageal dilation to remedy his recent uptick in the number of incidents he’s had choking on his food lately.  During the procedure the doc didn’t like what he saw and took a few biopsies.  Now hearing of biopsies is never good and it was awesome to hear the well wishes I received for my dad from people that had never met him.  But to hear Ted’s reflection of him just made my day.  Couldn’t have been more spot on.

Dad is a fighter, and one thing that puts his dukes up is his martini.  We went out to dinner a few weeks ago and like father like son, we both ordered martinis with olives.  The waiter took our order, left our table, and when he walked to the bar he called out the order to the bartender.  While he did that my dad shouted “UP!” across the room, just to make sure that’s how the beverages were prepared.  Here’s hoping that I can follow in Dad’s footsteps and at 84 have the gumption to shout my cocktail instructions across the restaurant.

Happy Father’s Day….so what if it’s a week early.  Oh yeah, the biopsies came back normal.  Of course they did.

Perry’s Tot Martini

Since Dad is an old Navy man, I chose Perry Tot’s Navy Strength by New York Distilling for this martini. Legend says that Navy Strength gin is at the highest proof  that will still allow gunpowder to ignite should it become soaked with the spirit. I’m not in a position to test that, but it does make a damn good martini. Cheers Dad.

  • 4.5 oz Perry’s Tot Navy Strength gin
  • 0.5 oz Dolin dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes Berg & Hauck’s Lemon bitters
  • stir and strain into a chilled Nick & Nora coup with olives

I asked him for Automatic Midnight, He brought me Hanky Panky

•May 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

I had the wonderful opportunity this past Monday to make a quick trip to The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. for a couple of cocktails with Jan.  She had just finished the 2012 Blue Cross Broad Street run the day before.  That’s an accomplishment worth toasting.  In a more sobering outcome to her feat, she posted a picture of her blistered foot on her facebook page.  Any foot fetish I may have held has evaporated.

I wrote that intro a few weeks ago.  As I percolated on the post, I realized that it really didn’t go anywhere particularly insightful.  But now I realize it did, however that insight is all in the title.

I really enjoy the pierced and inked vibe at Franklin.  I kind of like that awesome drinks aren’t the realm of just the investment bankers or Main Line debutants.  I like that Franklin serves great drinks and that the clientele is truly a mixed group, if appearances count for anything.  I also really enjoy the menu at Franklin, specifically the drink names.  They are sourced from song titles and other random places.  Names like “Demon Tied to a Chair in my Brain”, “Death on Two Legs”, and “Always Crashing the Same Car” aren’t for the faint of heart.

So when I threw myself in the capable hands of Al the bartender, he made me an unnamed drink to replace the Automatic Midnight that I ordered.  He brought me a Hanky Panky.  I kind of wondered if I would have ordered that drink if I had to select it by name off the menu.  It came further to mind when Jan sent me an email with the cocktail menu at the Barnes Foundation.  She highlighted the “Gin Yummy” as her drink to try.  Jan loves a spicy cocktail, and this really does sound good, but I gave her some shit around the name.  You would never see a drink named “Gin Yummy” at Franklin.

So it all came around full circle when I threw my final Del mixed cocktail at Pegu in his hands and he served me a “Pink Gin”.  It was simply gin spiked with bitters.  So I had another drink I don’t think I would have ordered by name.  The best part:  Del said it’s his favorite gin drink, because you can’t taste the gin.

Long story longer, props to Jan for the not so subtle reminder that it’s not the name, but what’s in the name that counts.

Hanky Panky

This classic cocktail recipe is credited to Ada Coleman, head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin (Warwick American Dry)
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Dolin)
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca

Ice cubes
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: orange twist (I subbed lemon)

Stir ingredients well in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small swath of orange peel over the surface of the drink.

Despite the name, this drink rocks.

Old Dog

•February 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

…..the experience that comes with age seems less important than the intuition and daring of youth.

Simon Singh, Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem, 1998

I was at dinner at the Ropa Vieja in San Juan last weekend with three work colleagues.  We were part of a larger group winding down from a week long meeting and gearing up for a night of shenanigans.  None of the four of us at the table really knew each other too well.  For some reason, the conversation turned to everyone’s age.  Mike made the assertion “I’m the oldest, how old is everyone else?”  He plunked his ID down on the table and waited for responses.    I took a glance at his card and realized I had the nuts.  No way were Sarah and J’nate older than me.  I showed my ID and won the imaginary pot.

I win that game often.  Appearance may play a part but in my mind it is the way I act and react to life that is the tipping point.  I like to think I still have a “youthful daring” in me.  Not recklessness, but just a desire for a little adventure and personal challenge.  I don’t make New Year’s resolutions since I think life is lived day by day, not year by year, but I have resolved to keep more of that youthful daring in my life.

I created the drink below is a riff on the Old Fashioned.  It was time for me to create another beverage, for no other reason than I felt a need to tinker.

Old Dog but I Got New Tricks

This drink is kicked up with the ginger and chocolate bitters. It’s on the boozy side, but that’s how I seem to like my cocktails now. Rather than include tasting notes, just drop by and I’ll make you one.

  • 0.5 oz Domaine de Canton
  • 3 drops Fee’s Aztec Chocolate bitters
  • 2 oz Elijah Craig 12 year bourbon
  • build in a double old fashioned glass with one large ice cube
  • garnish with a swath of lemon peel

Little Things

•January 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Holy shit!  Who brought these glasses?

Joe, January 8, 2012

If you get into cocktails, sooner rather than later you get into glassware.  Cocktails and glassware are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  Form follows function but perception follows form.

I am a bit obsessive over glassware.  But just a bit.  I own maybe a dozen different types of glasses.  I pick them based on look, feel, and just the tiniest bit around what I can actually store.  I know they are fragile and I don’t expect them to endure.  I accept that and don’t give it a second thought.  The only time it really comes to mind is my glassware that has a personal lineage.  The glasses connected to my family, passed down to me from people that I’ve never met in the flesh, mean that much more.

OK, so perhaps the obsession isn’t around owning the glassware but selecting the right one for the right time.  Last weekend was one of those times:  a football tailgate.  I tailgate with friends that I’ve known longer than most anyone else in my life.  Last weekend was a little more special.  Not just a football game, but a playoff football game.

To step up my game for the game, I decided to bring a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black.  The dilemma here though is in the glassware.  Tailgating, like football, is frenzied.  I went through my mental Rolodex.  Flask?  Too small, I know Freddo will have some Scotch.  Plastic tumbler?  Perhaps, but I can do better.  Finally, I hit on it.  Sometime last year I bought on eBay a collection of six NY Giants glasses from the late 60’s or early 70’s.  I had a couple of Jets glasses from the same time frame that were passed down to me through friends of my parents, but no Giants glasses.  It turns out that Shell Oil gave away this style of glasses at their gas stations for every team in the NFL.  So I packed three Giants glasses in a cardboard tube designed as a gift box for a bottle of wine and was ready.  Fragile yes, but I accepted that they might not come home.

Sunday was gorgeous.  Sunny and warm, I unpacked the glasses and poured some Johnnie Black for me and Freddo.  Joe and Brendan came with their kids.  We were having a great time.  Suddenly, out of no where, Joe sees my glass.  I answered his question on who brought them.  I didn’t expect what followed.

As kids Joe and his brother Tom each had one of these glasses.  Joe’s was a Giants glass and Tom’s was a Jets glass.  As brothers they rooted for different teams.  They wouldn’t touch the others glass.  It was an unspoken rule.  We spent a few minutes talking about the connection between these glasses and just being kids ourselves.  When I told Joe I would send him a couple of glasses, he almost couldn’t believe it.

The next day, I boxed up a Giants and a Jets glass and out they went.  I enclosed a note saying “Sometime the little things mean a lot.  Enjoy.”  A few days later I got an email from Joe thanking me for the glasses.  He told me they reminded him of his dad.  That made my week.  Joe’s dad was killed in a New York City terrorist bombing in 1975.  Joe and I were in the same third grade class.

Sometimes the little things really do mean a lot.

Johnnie Black - neat

  • Johnnie Walker Black – neat

When I had Freddo take this photo I had no idea what was ahead.

Passing Grade

•January 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Last Thursday was a unique day for me.  In the morning I took the APICS exam to become a Certified Supply Chain Professional.  At least I think that’s what it is.  It is a four hour 175 question multiple choice test.  I studied for it over the previous week by reading 800+ pages of material and taking repeated practice exams.  The actual according to Hoyle test was given in a computerized test center that required, among other things, me to be photographed and to turn my pockets inside out to show I wasn’t smuggling in something to help me.  I couldn’t even bring in water if I wanted.  I found it interesting that at the conclusion of my exam I had to raise my hand to be escorted out of the testing area and then was handed a printout of my results.  I assumed I had a passing grade as I saw an exclamation point on the sheet of paper.  Other than that, the results sheet resembled everything else about the experience:  antiseptic.

That evening I went to my favorite bar.  One of the bartenders that I’ve only met briefly was experimenting with a new cocktail he’s working on.  He brought it over to Del to try and they went back and forth for a moment.  Finally Del gave a nod to me and said “Let him try it, he’s pretty good”.  He added “He’s better than me” as he turned away.  I realize that last comment isn’t true at all, but I have to admit, I felt a lot better getting a compliment on my cocktail palate than I did getting my test score earlier in the day.

I’ve been requesting more and more bitter cocktails when I’m out.  Maybe I’m developing that area of my palate.  I was pretty excited when the latest Imbibe Magazine arrived and when I flipped through I found a cocktail called the Bitter Old Coot.  Bitters and Fernet Branca; how could I go wrong.  It’s been in my cocktail heavy rotation at home ever since.

Bitter Old Coot

  • 2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
  • 1 oz Drambuie
  • 1 oz Fernet Branca
  • 4 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel bitters
  • Mix in a double old fashioned glass with a big ice cube

It’s a simple drink with a complex taste. I bumped up the amounts a bit here but kept the ratios the same. Fernet is such a distinctive taste and it can’t really hide in any cocktail. True to the test, it is the dominating taste here. That’s not a bad thing for me, but probably won’t work for most.

 
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