Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hot Blooded

This was a cocktail I made for the Old Forester Old Fashioned competition. The only rule for this round was that it had to use at least an ounce of an Old Forester product. This was at WhiskeyFest Philadelphia. I figured the people judging this drink would appreciate a slightly lighter style cocktail. It was rainy weather that day. I wanted something warm. 

1 oz. Old Forester 90 proof
1/2 oz. Aperol
1/2 oz. Mulling Spice Syrup*
2 oz. Hot Rooibos Red Tea

Start by brewing 8 oz of hot rooibos tea. Add that to a tempered mixing beaker. Add 4 oz of whiskey, 2 oz Aperol, and 2 oz. mulling spice syrup. stir lightly to mix. Serve in 4 stemmed or handled glasses. Garnish with an orange peel with cloves. Feel free to make larger batches.

Mulling Spice Syrup:
2 tbsp Mulling Spice (mix of cinnamon chips, orange rind, allspice, and cloves), 1 tsp Fresh Ginger, 1/2 Orange (Sliced), 1/2 Lemon (Sliced), 8 oz. Water, 4 oz. Wildflower Honey, 4 oz. Demerara Sugar. Steep over medium heat for a half hour. Strain into a bottle and keep chilled. 

Like I said, I wanted to go with a cocktail that was nice and light and would warm the spirits of the people who had already been drinking for 5 hours at WhiskeyFest. A hot toddy was I found that my favorite tea for use with citrus flavors is red tea. In a hot toddy, you need to have a bit of spice. Cinnamon and cloves are pretty classic. I decided to add a bit of depth to the citrus components with the Aperol, and it helped the color too. It's a nice winter warmer style cocktail. Good to drink under the blanket on the couch. 

"Come, let us drink some tea and talk about happy things."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hidden Orchard

This was a cocktail I made for the Old Forester Old Fashioned competition. The only rule was that it had to use at least an ounce of an Old Forester product and it had to resemble an old fashioned. I actually had been experimenting with different bitters around this time and came up with a fun, earthy, fall old fashioned. 

1 1/2 oz. Old Forester 86 proof
1/2 oz. Averna Amaro
1/4 oz. Maple Syrup
2 dashes Apple Bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice, ideally one big cube. Garnish with an expressed orange twist.


I had recently had a seminar with one of the owners of Amor y Amargo and we tried some lovely products. I decided to procure a bit of the Barkeep Apple Bitters. I thought it matched with some of the apple notes of the bourbon and the citrus from the Averna played well. For sweetener, the maple syrup worked with the earthiness. 

I actually won judges' choice for this cocktail, the grand prize of the competition, though there was a people's choice round too. This was the first competition I've won without participating as a group. I did have a darling friend barbacking for me, helping me out. It was a great honor. I got to see some great friends and meet some new people. And I left with a fantastic prize. 

"It's an old fashioned kind of day."

Bhang! Cannabis Smoothies, a Diwali Tradition (NSFW)

Cannabis smoothies are becoming a bit popular in the states these days. People are adding weed to their breakfasts and just about anything else. Weed has been around for ages and is a part of more than one religion it turns out. Aside from the Rastafarians, the Hindu religion has a lot of affiliation with cannabis. Many of their gods smoke, which may explain some of their stories. During the Diwali holiday, which is a sort of Hindu New Years, they drink a milk based smoothie with cannabis leaves. Be aware, this is not a single serving, This should serve about 20 people. 

1/4 oz Cannabis (buds for this recipe)
1 cup Water
2 1/4 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Cream
10 Almonds
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Saffron
1 teaspoon Cardamom
1 teaspoon Fennel seeds
2-3 dashes Rose Water

You will also need some cheesecloth, a mortar and pestle, and your usual kitchenware like bowls, funnels, strainers, and a bottle to serve. 

To prepare you will need to soak the almonds overnight. Then remove the skins. Muddle the skinned almonds into a paste.

Start by removing any stems from the buds of cannabis. Discard these. If you are using dried buds, like most people do, you will need to hydrate the buds a bit. Boil a cup of water and add the weed and heat till it soaks up the water. Heat a 1/2 cup whole milk and heavy cream mixture (you could use half and half). Add the cannabis, milk mixture, and almond paste to a mortar and muddle until it becomes one consistent paste in the milk. More muddling doesn't really hurt, it just allows more time to infuse. You may need to do this in stages depending on the size of your mortar. The almonds and the fats in the milk with start to pull out the oil in the plant. Heat 2 cups whole milk mixed with 1/4 cup cream in a pot.

There are a few ways to go from here. You can steep this entire paste in the warm milk and let the flavors all mellow out, which does add some grassy flavor, or you can sort of wash the paste in cheesecloth with the warm milk which is much more labor intensive to get the cannabis effects but does greatly reduce the grassy taste. I personally don't mind a little grassiness so I'll just go with the method we used for this last batch.

Add the weed milk almond paste concentrate to the milk mixture over heat. add the spices and rose water and stir constantly for 30 minutes. Do not let it boil or allow scum to form on the surface. Set up a rig of three layers of cheesecloth over a mesh strainer over a funnel over a sealable bottle. Pour the mixture through the cloth slowly, allowing it to filter into the bottle. Allow this to cool and then squeeze the cloth to extract as much of the fluid as you can. you may want to repeat this filtering process. Chill the bhang. Shake before serving.

 Take note this is exceptionally potent and it takes a while to kick in. Start with no more than a shot glass worth and wait an hour to 90 minutes before taking anymore to gauge the effects. This is a fat based edible so it takes longer for the body to process than smoking.

"We didn't have rehab in the 70's. Back in the 70's, rehab meant you stopped doing coke, but you kept smoking pot and drinking for a couple more weeks."
- Denis Leary

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Milk Punch: Italian Flavor

So, this is my fourth attempt at making milk punch and my third success. For the record, this post is in no way an exact recipe with a glorious final product. It is a process I've been playing with and am still honing. That said, this was a pretty tasty drink. I first heard of the concept when I was in New York City for a bartending conference with the USBG, United States Bartender's Guild. I was actually truly fascinated by the process. It was captivating seeing clear liquid come out of that filter when it started with so many opaque. Let's start with the ingredients and tools you'll need:

Ingredients:
6 1/2 oz granulated sugar, 3 - 4 Lemons depending on size, 3 - 4 Limes, 2 Tsp Crushed Pepper, 1/2 tsp Cracked Black Pepper, 1 bag Rooibos Tea, 1 bag Mint Green Tea, 3 sprigs Rosemary, leaves of 3 sprigs of Sage, 1/16 oz. Thyme, 1/2 tsp dried Marjoram, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 3 oz. Amaro del Capo, 9 oz. Gin, 20 oz. Milk

Tools:
Mixing bowl, muddler, measuring spoons, measuring cup, at least 2 large pots buckets or bowls, a chinois, enough cheese cloth to line the chinois 4 times over (I used 28 x 24 thread count), and lastly a means of bottling the final product

The start to any good punch, in my opinion, is an Oleo Saccharum. Peel two large lemons and two large limes and all your dry ingredients. For the tea bags tear them open and dump them in. The oils and the flavors from the herbs, leaves, and peels will be pulled out by the dried ingredients in a form of osmosis. Everyone has different feedback about how long this process takes. It, of course, depends on the recipe. Some people say that for a standard oleo is takes up to 72 hours to achieve full osmosis. This can be reduced with fancy cryo-vac machines, which I do not own. I only let this sit for 6 hours.

The next step does help infuse the flavor a little faster, though. Add 8 oz of boiling water to the bowl. This is how we make tea. Hot water infused much faster than cold, and much faster than osmosis between the flavors alone. the point is adding all this to the final product so we need to pull as much flavor out as we can without diluting too much. Let this steep, covered, until it settles down to about room temperature. Strain the whole contents of the bowl to a large pot. Rinse the bowl with some of the alcohol to collect any flavors or undissolved sugars. Add 4 oz of lemon juice and 4 oz. lime juice. Stir this around to make sure it's uniform. Next, comes the risky part. 

The milk. Start by heating it and bringing it to a near boil. If it starts to boil, take it off the heat immediately. Trust me it gets messy. Add the hot milk to the pot. The mixture should start to curdle. If it doesn't curdle well, add more citrus. Stir it around a little to let it all bind. You could put this in the fridge and then skim off the curds. I'm told using cheese cloth is not only faster but certainly more reliable at getting all the particulates out. Line the inside of the chinois with several layers of cheesecloth and clamp it to the rim. The more volume you can fit the better. Pour the punch through the strainer. Naturally, have a bowl or a bucket under the strainer to catch it.

The first part of the run will come out slightly cloudy as the curds fasten themselves into the cloth. Once it starts running clear, start cycling the liquid back into the strainer. the more you keep cycling it the cleaner the product will be. Yes, this process does take some time, several hours. I tend to cycle it back in once the flow slows to being drop by drop. Usually, it takes about 3 to 4 full runs. It takes ages the to get those last few drops out. One it's effectively done, take the cloth and lightly squeeze it over another bowl. If it comes out fairly clear, drink it, if you're getting a cloudy liquid out, you can still drink it but it might not taste great if you're getting curd. Next, I just funneled the good stuff into a bottle and stuck it in the fridge to chill. Serve with ice and drink up. You can also cut it with soda, sprite, or sparkling wine. I made my batch over a week ago and it tastes exactly the same. The shelf life is effectively infinite. 
The final product is a clear liquid with a slightly golden brown tint. It is a very herbaceous cocktail. The rosemary and black pepper pop as flavors and it leaves the mouth feeling dry. The alcohol is not too dominant. The dryness does not make it a drink you could drink for hours on end like some of my other punch batches. but it is tasty. The infinite shelf life granted by this process is ideal for a fancy drink you'd have once in a while. Stick a bottle in the fridge and have some every now and then.

“Drinking just to get drunk is like having sex just to get pregnant.”
- Robert Hess

Greatest Bar Conversation I've Ever Seen (NSFW)

Bars and pubs were originally almost a sort of town hall. There are many tales of the founding fathers of America planning the revolution and writing the documents we read about in grade school. Bars for most people these days are a means of cutting loose, possibly venting your problems, and having a laugh.

If you work in this industry long enough in the front of the house you hear a lot of interesting conversations. I've seen first dates crash and burn. I've heard lawyers give counsel to clients. I've heard businessmen negotiate deals and a couple politicians talking shop. There have been many rousing debates ranging from "Who was the star of that movie?" to far more serious matters. There was one conversation I partook in the other day that I believe takes the cake in terms of greatest bar conversation.


What is the best food to eat while receiving oral sex?


I can't exactly remember how this conversation wound up to its final point of debate. I know it started with the idea of the greatest sensation a person can experience, or more sensations experienced simultaneously.

There is a great comedian by the name of Dylan Moran who I've referenced a few times in my blog. He was on stage one night said, "I know you people really want. I know what everybody wants. You're thinking 'I want to be laying down on a cushion, with my mouth full of chocolate, and something lovely happening to my lower half.' that's all you want."

A more commonplace idea I hear discussed is the idea of a "Shower Beer". This is a fabulous thing which I've partaken in many times. The hot with the cold, the relaxation, it's grand. But then the idea of "Shower Beer and a Blowjob" came around. A truly epic idea, which I may or may not have experienced. This was the case at the particular bar I was in one fortunate evening. The bartender said that she was partial to cheese fries and cunnilingus, perhaps the most modern American sentence of all time.

The debate raged with a few common agreements being made. Nothing using utensils where you had to cut the food up, or anything being excessively spicy need be considered. Pizza was a favorite. The joke of 69ing was of course made. But the idea really does sort of circle around the ego boost of the activities. You're feeling like king or queen of the world, like the great caesar being fed grapes by a concubine. Sushi was popular for a few people.

A few people went the desert route with ice cream sandwiches or chocolate covered strawberries. Someone just said a milkshake. One particularly interesting person said fondue. With cheese, we circled back around to savory. Peanut butter and jelly, lobster Mac'n'cheese bacon wrapped shrimp, ribs, wings. I personally think wings would be too much of a distraction. Gummi bears were well received. But a favorite was fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

What's your answer?
What's the best discussion you've ever overheard?

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Bar Battle Station

So I thought I would share this. This is the bar I decided to build for my new home. I started with a desk and built a simple tiered shelving system. That very quickly filled up. I needed to expand so I got a metal wire shelving system. It took a little longer but that did start to fill up. It also lacked a workstation. So I expanded.

I started with this, the Whitmor 6070-5264 Supreme 5-Tier Shelving Unit. Naturally I got it in black. I'm a bartender, it's our color. This did work well for most bottles, but some bottles with small bases might wobble or topple. Shelf liners are recommended. I opted not to use the recommended liners, like this. I opted for simple mesh plastic sheets. I bought mine online, but you can find these kinds of things at your average craft store. They're used in needlepoint. I like them because they clean very easy, are semi-flexible and allow for easy adjustment and good traction. They are also typically a bit more affordable than your branded custom shelving liners, sometimes up to ten times less expensive. This was my start.

I expanded, and it's very easy to do that with this kind of shelving. I got a second 5-Shelf Shelving Unit. This time, I found cheaper one of these. Amazon started their own brand, and it was naturally less expensive. I now had two great shelves, I decided to add a workstation shelving system, a bridge in between the two racks. I thought I'd made the station a little wider. I opted for this. I got two to make it a little more stable and add a space for tools. I am not a big wine buff but I did splurge and get a rack designed for bottles.

Here in lies a problem. Despite having all the same listed dimensions, different brands to have slightly different dimensions. It's no more than a centimeter or two at most but that really does create a big problem when trying to line up the posts with the shelves. I had to put some of the deeper shelves in the middle and the thinner ones on the top and bottom. The system actually bows out slightly in the middle. It does remain stable, though. I'd certainly recommend getting two shelves of the same brand to avoid some of this headache.

Budget wise, the 5-shelf units cost about $80. The three long bridging racks cost $15 each. So, excluding shipping, the whole bar costs a little over $200 to build. Liquor and tools are up to you.







I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.
- Hunter S. Thompson

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tequila 401: Evolution of a Cocktail: The Margarita

The actual origins of the margarita are very open to discussion. It's been claimed by countless bars and bartenders as their own creation. Some stories seem to be more factual or fanciful than others. I'm going off what I believe. I told my favorite story in my Tequila 301 post, in this one I'll go into a few more other plausible stories.

The Daisy
2oz. Liquor, 1 Lemon juice, 3/4 Sweetener, 1 Club Soda, 1/2 Cordial
Add all the liquid ingredients to a tin with ice, aside from the club soda. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with cracked ice. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. 
This is a very old style of drink with very little consistency in terms of the recipe. The drink style, daisy, is very similar to that of a sour, collins, or fizz. Any liquor can be used, brandy and gin being the two most popular. Grenadine is certainly one of the most common sweeteners used, but some recipes may call for simple syrup, gum syrup, or even an orange liqueur of some type. Some recipes omit the club soda or substitute chartreuse for the cordial. as a base, try 2 oz brandy, 1 oz. lemon juice, 3/4 grenadine, with club soda and orange curacao. 

The Sidecar
2 oz. Brandy, 3/4 oz Cointreau, 3/4 oz. Lemon juice, sugar rim
Add all the liquid ingredients to a tin with ice. shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a sugar rim. Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. 
This is the drink that would seem to be the most natural precursor to the margarita. While the margarita is in its core components a sour, it had to take a few steps to get there. These days the margarita is the reigning sour, a cocktail comprised of a liquor a sweetening agent and a souring agent. The sweetening agent in a margarita is typically the orange liquor, unlike the usual simple syrup. The earliest record of this drink is from 1922 as equal parts cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. It's a simple variation on the brandy daisy. This drink predates the margarita by at least a decade, possibly two. The margarita was just two baby steps away from this cocktail. 
The Margarita
2 oz. Silver Tequila, 1 oz. Cointreau, ¾ oz. Lime Juice
In a mixing glass add all the ingredients with ice. Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed margarita glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel. 
Here we have the legend, the drink that is possibly the best selling drink in America. Margarita actually means little daisy, though it is quite different from many of the original recipes in its use of lime juice over lemon. A daisy was a very common cocktail style in it's day and one can see how it influences a great many modern cocktails. The margarita is a great sour style cocktail and can easily be modified with other fresh fruit flavors. It remains a blank canvas to play with while still being absolutely charming on its own. Many people will actually take this drink up, without ice. There are no rules, 

The Frozen Margarita
2oz Tequila, 1/2oz Triple Sec, 1oz Lime, 1/2oz Simple Syrup, 8oz Ice
Add all the ingredients to a blender with ice. blend until a uniform consistency, usually about 12 seconds
This is, unfortunately, one of the many times I'll have to add a cocktail variant after the original that may actually be the version the average person is more familiar with. The recipe I gave is a great way of making fresh tasting cocktails. With blended drinks, however, some people actually prefer drinks with concentrated lime juice or sour mix. Flavored mixes are so abundant that strawberry and mango flavored margaritas are just so easily replicable that everyone is doing it. This really is a good drink to sip on the vacation.

No matter how you enjoy your margarita, it's always nice to know a little bit of history behind it. The margarita is a canvas in its own right, but it does have its roots in other earlier cocktails. I'll never tell you what you should or should not like, but make sure you try the classics every once in a while.

- Tequila is like duct tape, it fixes damn near everything. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Antisocial Man's Bar Reviews: Maggie O'Neill's

The Space
There are three stories. The main floor is where you're most at home and most welcome. The upstairs has an O-shaped bar and a medium sized dance floor plus some booths along the wall. The basement is a simple banquet facility reserved for special events. This first floor is what has the real charm. It has a fishhook-shaped bar and is laid out in a traditional pub style with a number of little nooks so that it doesn't get too loud and each nook can hold its own conversation. The area is modeled from an old apothecary. There are drawers with labels like "Aspirin" and "Opium". There are cases made from old glass with antiques inside. Gaelic phrases are painted across the trim pieces. The natural wood and lacquer bring that sense of warmth that needs to be found in a pub. The second floor isn't always open but features an O shaped bar, several booths and standing tables as well as a dance floor area. 

Service
Here, people are Irish. I don't mean that to be racist of nationalist, but they meet quite a few of the stereotypes. The bartenders are a bit surly and have no problem correcting you when you're wrong. Ask a stupid question and they'll look at you like you're stupid. That said, they're not mean, quite the opposite. Any request will be handled punctually and properly. There's a level of sarcastic charm that comes with a properly Irish feeling pub.

Drink
This is really a proper local pub. Its main feature is the beer menu but does feature the basic amenities of a bar. Your staple call brands and prepackaged mixers are available. They switch out half the draft system every month or so. These arguably aren't the highest of craft beer brands, but it's nice to get Guinness Blonde on draft or a flight of Goose Island. 

Food Menu
This is a proper Irish pub, in my opinion. There are clearly some regional and american influences, but you still find some classic dishes done right here. The Guinness wings are award winning. There are the Philadelphia / Delco staples of pretzel bites, buffalo chicken egg rolls, and cheesesteak. You  could also get potato soup, beef stew, shepherd's pie, banger's and mash, and even a traditional Irish breakfast. A few options are a bit unexpected but delicious all the same, such as the Thai shrimp or Tuscan Flatbread. When in doubt, go with a meal you know you'll like, and you're sure to love it. The hot roast beef sandwich is one of the best I've had. And this is one of few restaurants I've been to in the area that knows what you mean when you say you want your burger medium rare and is able to deliver that consistently. It's a large menu where you're sure to find something you'll like, and I've yet to be disappointed. 

Value
I actually find this place a very good deal, especially for the portion sizes. The salads and desserts are enough to share. A hungry man going in for a meal will not leave dissatisfied. I've only found a few items that I ate and was still left somewhat hungry, and in fairness those were appetizers. The drinks are cheaply prices with some of the craft beers going up to fairly priced. You will not leave hear feeling swindled and every so often you will be actively surprised how innexpensive something so good was.

Overall
Overall I give this bar an 8/10. I was very tempted to give it a 9/10 though. This was one of the first bars I came to when I moved to Pennsylvania. My roommate and I were looking up bars in the area and their reviews. We stumbled across Maggie's review: "Maggie's is a great spot. Comfortable atmosphere, new selection of craft beers on tap, and everyone gets laid." It's hard to get better than that. The bar selection could be improved and the table service could use a little polish, but you'll almost always have a good time in here. The food leaves everyone happy. The company is good, and rarely too crowded. There's live music every once in a while. Go, sit, and enjoy yourself here. It really is a place to relax.

May you always have love in your hearts and beer in your belly. 

Tasting: Unibroue Sommelier Collection

Today I'm going to be starting a series of posts tasting a line of products put out by a brand or corporation and bundled together to create something of a variety pack for passionate drinkers. I'll be trying beers, whiskeys, bitters, and everything in between. Today, it's the Unibroue Sommelier Collection.
La Fin du Monde
9.0% ABV, Triple style golden ale
This beer I admit to having before, many times. It was one of my earliest introductions to what I would call craft beer. When I started drinking this I saw it as very high proof compared to the normal domestic beer I was used to. This is the kind of beer that goes to your head. It has a wonderful spice to it, some dry clove. The yeast flavor is very prominent. There typically is a little sediment in the bottle but don't let that discourage you. It's the end of the world. I give this beer a 10/10. You really must try this beer.

Maudite
8.0% ABV, Strong Amber-Red Ale
After I poured this into the glass for the first time I noticed how long the head lasted. I really wouldn't go away. It's thick and malty. It's not an overly carbonated, but that foam is just stubborn. This is a nice amber. Again, there is a bit of sediment and cloudiness to this beer. The finish is nice and crisp. Inspite of the strong malty flavor you do get a little orange citrus complimenting the other spices. Despite the crispness, I don't love this beer quite as much. I give it a 7/10. Mainly because I can't think of an occasion or meal to enjoy it with. Though it is quite good. 

Trois Pistoles
9.0% ABV, Abbey Syle Strong Dark Ale
This was my first time trying this beer. The head is creamy, brownish beige, and rich. It starts fairly sweet on the tongue and finishes with a nice spiced rum finish. You pick up flavors of chocolate and spice in addition to the rum. The ABV is certainly still up there, but the creamier nature of this beer makes it a little harder to notice than in La Fin du Monde. There's a great malt flavor here. I give this an 8/10.
Don de Dieu
9.0% ABV, Triple Wheat Ale
When I think of a wheat beer I usually think of a massive glass with a lot of citrus. This is not a citrus heavy beer, and a 22 oz. wheat beer glass of that may be dangerous. Again at 9.0% ABV this certainly will bite you, especially after a tasting of the last few beers. The yeast flavor is certainly less in this than the La Fin du Monde and Maudite. There is next to no spice flavor by comparison. there are sweeter notes of honey with some vanilla and some floral and fruity components. It's described as having hints of an unfiltered sake and you can actually really see that. 7/10.

Blanche de Chambly
5.0% ABV, Belgian Witbier
As far as this tasting went, this was the beer I kept going back to in order to cleanse my palette. This is much more typical of a traditional wheat beer. It has the typical citrus feel, with some added coriander flavor. The head is light and the carbonation is akin to a champagne. It's a nice beer but feels very out of place compared to the rest of the line of products offered here. I'm actually only to give this a 5/10. It's a fine beer, but very average and with the price point you have better options. 

Ephemere Apple
5.5% ABV, White Ale Brewed with Apple Must
This really does remind me of a cider, but it's less sweet, harsher. It's made with granny smith style apples, but it is still a beer. Make no mistake about that. If a customer comes in and would like a cider, they will not be happy with this. I'm going to give this a 6/10. It's a nice drink, a decent ale, very akin to a belgian white. Unibroue has done some amazing things but this isn't amazing. Perhaps it's just not a concept I care for as I haven't had many apple beers. I doubt I'd seek this out again though.

“Isn’t beer the holy libation of sincerity? The potion that dispels all hypocrisy, any charade of fine manners? The drink that does nothing worse than incite its fans to urinate in all innocence, to gain weight in all frankness?”
- Milan Kundera