Lime Burst Garnish

You may recall, I posted a drink called the Chance of Showers.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the so called “lime burst” garnish or the drink itself.

To remedy the situation, I have made a movie!

Chance of Showers

1 dash Angostura Bitters
Juice 1/2 Lime (or 1/2 oz)
1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (or to taste)
Yeast Carbonated Ginger Beer*, chilled
2 oz Ron Zacapa 23
Lime Burst, with a pickled ginger stuffed peppadew pepper http://savoystomp.com/2013/10/11/ginger-beer-take-2/

Fill an old-fashiohned glass with cracked ice. Add Bitters, Lime Juice, and rich simple syrup to glass and stir to combine. Pour in chilled ginger beer to nearly fill and stir again. Float on Ron Zacapa and garnish.

So the components of the garnish are the lime skirt and a peppadew pepper stuffed with pickled ginger.

My first thought was to do a red spicy pepper in the middle of a simple lime wheel.

When I workshopped the drink at Holy Water, my friend John Ottman said I really needed a better garnish if I wanted to win. The judges go for that sort of thing. Though I did ignore his advice about vintage glassware. Anyway, I knew I needed to improve my presentation.

When I was in Boston earlier this year, one of the bartenders showed me a cool garnish which was a sort of citrus jellyfish thing.

Also, earlier this year, when working at South, in the Jazz center, the opening bartender did all the bar prep and garnish prep. For a long time I pushed off the lime skinning for lime pigtails to the barbacks, but eventually I bit the bullet and figured out how to do it. There is a knack to getting the ice pick into the lime pith at the right angle between the lime flesh and the lime skin.

I was thinking I would try to combine the citrus skin jellyfish with the lime garnish, but the lime was too thick to work quite the same way as the citrus zest squid.

So I started playing with the lime skirt and realized it made a kind of cool grass skirt effect when it was bent. Maybe I could combine the pepper idea with the tentacle idea?

Lime Squid

The first try was a little “tentacular.”

But when I flipped it over, it turned out to look pretty cool.

Holiday Ginger Beer

Another idea for a DIY Holiday Gift with a relatively short turnaround time.

Why not spice up your Ginger Beer with some holiday zest?

Holiday Ginger Beer

Holiday Ginger Beer

Holiday Ginger Beer

10 oz Ginger, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 Orange
4 Allspice Berries, crushed
5 Cloves, crushed
1 small stick Ceylon Cinnamon, crushed

1 1/2 Cup Washed Raw Sugar

32 oz Water
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast


METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Over low heat, dissolve sugar in 24oz water with spices and orange zest. Add ginger to blender bowl with 16 oz water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam. Makes a half gallon and a bit more.

Sassafras Anecdote

“Well, to make Root Beer, you’d have to actually use Sassafras, but since those kids at UC Davis proved it is dangerous…”

“Uh, what? Kids at UC Davis?”

I was chatting with an acquaintance about Gruit, Ginger, and Root Beers, and she threw this into the conversation.

According to her, a group of grad students at UC Davis were bored with their research projects and decided to use the facilities to research the potentially hazardous nature of several flavorings commonly used in soft drinks, because according to her, the students thought the FDA never really researched food additives. Sticking it to the man, using grant money and facilities to do research they thought would benefit humanity.

They picked 5 flavorings, one of which was Sassafras Oil, and dosed up a bunch of their lab rats with them.

Of the 5, the only strong correlation they got was with the Sassafras.

Now I’m going to have to confirm this!

Drinks for 40-60 People

“Hey Erik, would you be interested in making drinks for a surprise birthday party for my wife Dec 15?”

Request: Drinks for a daytime party for 40-60 people on Sunday, Dec 15, 2013.
Requirements: Lonsdale, Bloody Mary, Whiskey Punch, Mimosa

“This seems like a pretty doable few drinks, as long as I get most of it done ahead.”

I have a job, and it’s a busy time of the year, so I will absolutely need to squeeze the preparation into hour segments on several nights before the event.

Proposal: 5 drinks, 2 drinks per person. Bloody Mary, Alton Brown’s Cape Fear Punch, Lonsdale, Mimosa. Yeast Carbonated Ginger Beer with Dark Rum or Bourbon. Orange Juice, Grapefruit Juice, Sparkling Water. Pickle garnish bar for Bloody Marys.

Pre-planning:

Portion planning! 1 1/2 oz booze per drink. 2 Drinks per person is 3 oz booze per person times 40-60 total of 120-180. Divide by the 4 drinks, means I need 32-45oz of each booze. Basically, a 1.75 litre bottle of each booze should be about right, handily. And let’s say a gallon of Ginger Beer and a gallon of Bloody Mary Mix.

Make sure I have enough Ginger, Sugar, and yeast to make 1 Gallon of Ginger Beer.

I want drinks to move quickly, Lonsdale and Whiskey Punch will be fully batched and just poured over ice and garnish.

Bloody will be a pour mix and vodka over ice, mix briefly, and serve, with self-serve garnish.

I can only really effectively make a half gallon batch of ginger beer at a time, so that will need to be done at home over two nights earlier in the week.

For the Lonsdale, instead of shaking the Lonsdale with Basil leaf, I will infuse Gin with Basil for 2 days.

Wednesday

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First Half Gallon Batch Ginger Beer, see Chance of Showers post for recipe, and double it.

I also had a panic attack about drink service for 60 by myself and called up a friend to ask if he might want to attend the party and help out if needed.

Thursday

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Second Half Gallon batch Ginger Beer.
Infuse 2 Bunch Basil in 1.75 litres Gin.

Friday

Make Bloody Mary Mix

To be honest, I’ve never worked in a bar or at an event which serves Bloody Marys. I also am not super fond of the drink. However, I do like Sangrita so I have an idea to cross the two drinks, but am not sure if I should go the more traditional route. I run the idea past a friend who gives me the advice, “There will be a lot of foodies there, right? You should be creative, that’s the one I’d want to drink!”

Pureed Chiles

Bloody Sangrita Mix

12 Guajillo Chiles
12 Cascabel Chiles
12 Chile Negro
8 Chile de Arbol
1 tsp Cumin Seed, toasted and ground
1 tsp Coriander Seed, toasted and ground
8 Whole Allspice, toasted and ground

3 Quarts Tomato Juice
1 Pint Pomegranate Juice
1 Pint Blood Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
A little Rooster Sauce
Salt

Stem and seed the chiles. Cover with a plate and add water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until chiles are tender. Puree chiles in a blender with enough steeping water to loosen. Sieve pureed chiles to catch seeds and larger pieces of skin. Combine chile puree with spices and other liquid ingredients. Adjust salt and spice level using rooster sauce and salt.

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Make Cape Fear Punch Base

Alton Brown’s Cape Fear Punch is just a basic traditional Whiskey Punch. I will make the base and then dilute with sparkling water and sparkling wine the day of the event. The garnish is grated nutmeg.

Saturday

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Make Lonsdale Base

First, strain Basil infused gin off of leaves.

The Lonsdale is normally, 1 1/2 oz Gin, 1/2 oz Lemon Juice, 1/2 oz Apple Juice, 1/2 oz Honey Syrup, shaken with basil and strained into a glass.

Metric makes this easy: 1.75 liter Basil Infused Gin, 1 Liter Apple Juice, 500ml Lemon Juice, 500ml Honey Syrup, 25ml Sparkling water added day of event. Note, since I am chilling the base and pouring over ice, I am increasing the dilution with extra apple and a little sparkling water. Essentially punch-i-fying the Lonsdale recipe.

Sunday

Buy ice, basil leaf (Lonsdale garnish), nutmeg (Whiskey Punch garnish), Orange Juice, Grapefruit Juice.
Arrive at event.
Add sparkling water & sparkling wine to Whiskey Punch. Sparkling water into Lonsdale Punch. Pick Basil garnish. Cut limes for Ginger Beer Garnish. Set out Pickle selection for Bloody Mary Garnish Bar.

Rock & Rolla.

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Lessons: The Bloody Mary, Ginger Beer, and Lonsdales were complete successes, especially the Lonsdale Punch. I broke one of my cardinal party rules with The Cape Fear Punch, that is, never make something for a party which you haven’t made before. I figured that having made Whiskey punches before this would be a slam dunk. Unfortunately, the Cape Fear Punch had fewer partisans than any other drink that day. Perhaps the recipe could have used some tweaking, it seemed a little dry. Or maybe I shoulda just made Old-Fashionds…

In any case, I’ve worked at a lot of events this summer, and I felt like this one went pretty well.

On one hand, there was a fair bit of work and planning ahead, and serving out of spigots isn’t dead sexy.

On the other hand, I could walk away from the bar and chat with friends while people served themselves AND the drinks were super tasty.

Those aren’t bad things.

Chance of Showers

Ever since I’ve started making yeast carbonated Ginger Beers this summer, I’ve wanted to use them to make a drink with dark rum and lime.

Last week, an email arrived with the following subject: Ivy Room Cocktail Competition & Anniversary Party (12/09)

Sponsored by Ron Zacapa 23 Rum

Details:
Competition is open to any bartender currently working in the bar, restaurant or spirits industry
1st PLACE Prize = $500 gift card
2nd PLACE Prize = Bar Kit & Bottle of Ron Zacapa 23
3rd PLACE Prize = Bottle of Ron Zacapa 23
All cocktails shall utilize Ron Zacapa 23 as main ingredient and only spirit

Create four cocktails – recipes shall be original creations

We invite inventiveness and creativity, drinks should be delicious – try not to overthink it

Cocktails will be judged according to the following criteria, with a total of 100 points possible:
Use of Zacapa product: 25 points
Aroma: 15 points
Flavor: 15 points
Technique: 15 points
Presentation: 15 points
Creativity: 15 points

My first thought was to make the drink a bit of an “old-fashioned” and serve it stirred on a single large ice cube.

However, after workshopping that idea at a friend’s bar in my neighborhood (Hi John! Thanks for loaning me a well at Holy Water!), I discarded that idea and re-made the same drink on their lovely regular Hoshizaki cube ice.

When I got to a version where a coincidentally located booze salesman said, “I could drink A LOT of those!” I figured I was close.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Chance of Showers

1 dash Angostura Bitters
Juice 1/2 Lime (or 1/2 oz)
1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup (or to taste)
Yeast Carbonated Ginger Beer*, chilled
2 oz Ron Zacapa 23
Lime Burst, with pickled ginger stuffed peppadew pepper

Fill an old-fashiohned glass with cracked ice. Add Bitters, Lime Juice, and rich simple syrup to glass and stir to combine. Pour in chilled ginger beer to nearly fill and stir again. Float on Ron Zacapa and garnish.

*Yeast Carbonated Ginger Beer

5 oz Ginger
4 Dried Thai Bird Chiles, or other small piquant pepper

32oz Water
3/4 Cup Washed Raw Sugar

1/2 tsp Yeast

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Over low heat, dissolve sugar in 24oz water. Add ginger and chiles to blender bowl with 8oz water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam. Makes a Quart and a bit more.

If you know anything about cocktails, you’ll probably know that this drink is somewhat similar to a Caribbean Potation called the “Dark ‘n’ Stormy”, allegedly invented in Bermuda some time during prohibition.

However, the Gosling’s Rum corporation is quite insistent that if you put a drink called a Dark ‘n’ Stormy on a restaurant or bar menu, that you must make it with their Rum and their recipe or not at all.

The Right Stuff (by Law), Jonathan Miles, NY Times

“‘What’s in a name?’ Shakespeare famously asked. In the case of the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a Bermudan cocktail that’s been making a quiet resurgence in New York City bars and restaurants in the last couple of years, it’s two ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal rum and a fizzy hit of ginger beer.

“And, by law, nothing but.

“That’s according to two trademark certificates on file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which — in an exceptionally rare instance in the cocktail world — dictate the precise ingredients and amounts required to call a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, well, a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.”

So, as much as I might like to call this drink a “Dark ‘n’ Stormy”, it cannot be! It has Ron Zacapa 23, for one, and, it has lime juice, not to mention homemade yeast carbonated ginger beer.

“Dark ‘n’ Stormy” or not, this is a delicious drink, even if you must make it with Gosling’s Rum, not something I’d really recommend if you have another delicious rum like Zacapa 23 in the house…

Prepared with a NOT “Dark ‘n’ Stormy”, I wrote up the following to say to present my drink:

“Hi, I’m Erik Ellestad and I work for the Slanted Door Group of restaurants.

“My Ron Zacapa drink for this competition is called ‘Chance of Showers’.

“I have been a big fan of Ron Zacapa 23 for some time. A friend gave me a taste of it before I was really that into Cocktails and spirits and it blew me away. Mount Gay Eclipse had been about as far as I had journeyed up to that point vaguely in the direction of premium rums, and it basically convinced me that there was even such a thing as a sipping Rum. I frequently enjoy it as an after dinner digestiv, but my favorite story related to this fine Rum is in regards its other properties as a “mixer”.

“A while ago a good friend (Hi Rich!) of mine started dating a woman (Hi Humuhumu!) who was really, and I mean seriously, into Tiki Bars, Tiki drinks, Tiki culture, and related paraphernalia. One day he took me aside to ask for my advice. He wanted to buy his new girlfriend a bottle of Rum, but didn’t know much about Rums. My initial reaction was, don’t buy a Rum for someone who is that into Rum. What could you buy her that she hadn’t already tried or had in the house? He insisted, and I thought about it some more. Some aged Rhum Agricole came to mind at first, a little obscure, he’d get points for difficulty. But then I thought of Ron Zacapa 23. As I had liked it so much, maybe it could be a gateway Rum for him, as well as a fine gift for his new girlfriend. I mean, really, who can argue with Ron Zacapa 23, even if you already have a bottle?

“I guess it worked, as when they got married, instead of drinking wine to celebrate their new union, they drank Ron Zacapa 23!

“My drink is Angostura Bitters, Fresh Lime Juice, Homemade Yeast Carbonated Ginger Beer, and Ron Zacapa, garnished with a lime and a ginger stuffed pickled pepper.

“Please enjoy Chance of Showers. Or, now that I think about it, with young Wanda Trott in mind, maybe I should call it, ‘Chance of Baby Showers’!”

Pumpkin Pie, Thanksgiving 2013

Mrs Flannestad sometimes tires of my relentless experimentation in the kitchen.

I seldom make the same dish more than once. I’m always tweaking.

“Can’t we just have the Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon and Pecans that you used to make?”

So, I gave it my best shot, even though I had no pecans (No Pecan Pie? Thank China, Rain, and Pigs, NYTIMES).

The filling is based on 2 Martha Stewart recipes and the crust from the NY Times. Note, the crust recipe makes enough for 2 pies. Save for another occasion or double the filling and topping.

Pumpkin Pie, 2013

Pumpkin Pie, 2013

Pumpkin Pie, Thanksgiving 2013

Crust:

290 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups), more for rolling out dough
35 grams cornmeal (about 1/4 cup)
35 grams sugar (about 3 tablespoons)
2 grams salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
12 tablespoons butter, unsalted, chilled, and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup Love, I mean LARD, chilled, and cut into small pieces

Filling:
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Half & Half
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 15 oz Can Pumpkin
2 Tablespoons Bourbon Whiskey

Topping:

1/2 Cup Hazelnuts, crushed
1/2 Cup Sugar
Half & Half

METHOD:

1. Make the crust: blend flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add butter and shortening, then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 4 tablespoons ice water and blend until dough forms a ball, adding more ice water, a half-tablespoon at a time (up to 2 additional tablespoons), if dough is dry. Divide dough in half, flatten into two round disks, wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.

2. Whisk filling ingredients together until well combined.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out one dough round. Transfer rolled-out dough to a 9-inch pie pan and fill with pumpkin mixture. Reserve second dough disk for another use.

4. Place pie in the middle of oven and cook for 35 minutes. Combine hazelnuts and sugar and add half & half to loosen. Spread on top of center of pie and return to oven. Bake for another 20 minutes or until topping if browned and center of pie nearly firm. Cool on a wire rack and serve with whipped cream.

Krabappel Punch

One of the great parts about being in the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild is that you get to participate in fun events for good causes.

The other day I received a message titled, “Bartenders Needed for Holiday Farmer’s Market Cocktails with CUESA at the Ferry Building”.

“Would you like to showcase your talents and your workplace at our favorite fundraiser series Farmer’s Market Cocktails with CUESA at the Ferry Building on Wednesday November 20th?

“The theme this time around is Holiday Punches. A group of 12 talented USBG bartenders will utilize a sponsored spirit and the best fall produce to create unique punch recipes and pour them in sample size portions for a crowd of 300 foodies and cocktail enthusiasts.”

Well, yes, now that you mention it, I would!

I knew I wanted to do a Milk Clarified Punch, a la Jerry Thomas’ California Milk Punch. Initially, my idea was to recycle an old punch of mine, “Great Pumpkin Punch“.

However, when others chose the brown spirits, I took another tack. Trying the remaining spirits, the Reyka Vodka stood out as the cleanest tasting. But I knew the subtlety of a plain vodka would get lost in the pumpkin-spice punch. I needed a punch recipe that would be lighter.

I love apples and apple brandy and have always wanted to do an apple flavored Milk Punch.

There were some awesome little crab apples at one of the Ferry Plaza vendors, and I thought, what better tribute to Edna Krabappel than to make a punch?

If you want to sample it, you can make it yourself, or even better, tickets are still available to the CUESA event tomorrow, and then you’ll be able to try some 11 other fall themed beverages and enjoy some snacks! Hope to see you there!

Beat Them to the Punch

“Pull your party dresses and bow ties out of the closet for the kick-off event of the holiday season: Beat them to the Punch: Fall Cocktails of the Farmers Market. While the months ahead will surely feature obligatory office parties and family gatherings, you won’t want to miss this evening of overflowing punch bowls and savory bites with your friends.

“Join CUESA and the Northern California chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) in the Ferry Building’s Grand Hall for a cozy night of creative holiday punches, hot spiced drinks, and nogs. An all-star lineup of bartenders and chefs will highlight fresh produce from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, like pomegranates, persimmons, pears, citrus, and other fall delights.

“Guests receive two full-sized signature cocktails featuring Herradura Tequila, 11 sample sized drinks, and delicious hors d’oeuvres from ten of the Bay Area’s hottest chefs. A recipe booklet will be shared with attendees featuring all 13 seasonal drinks to inspire future party planning. Beat the party season to the punch and warm your soul with good friends as the winter holidays set in. There’ll be no Chardonnay, baked Brie, or fruitcake at this fete!

Krabappel Punch

Infusion:

8 750ml Bottles Reyka Vodka
1/2 750ml Bottle Batavia Arrack
8 Pounds Crab Apples, shredded
8 Lemons, Peeled and juiced

Sweetener:
64 Ounces Water
32 Ounces Washed Raw Sugar
1 Cup Chai Spice Tea
6 Lemons, Juiced

Milk:
1 Gallon Whole Milk, preferably not homogenized

Garnish:

4 Pounds Small Baking Apples, Cored
Enough Cinnamon Sticks, broken in half to fit inside apples
1 tsp Sugar per apple

Method:

Shredding Apples.

Zest citrus and add zest to Vodka and Arrack. Juice 8 Lemons, strain, and add to aforementioned liquid. Add Shredded Apples. Allow to infuse for at least 1 week.

Heat water and add tea. Steep 6 minutes and stir in sugar. Strain tea leaves out of syrup and chill.

Apples Baking.

Roast Apples at 350 until tender but not too mushy.

Strain Peels and Apples out of liquid, squeezing to get as much apple juice/vodka out as possible. Juice other 6 lemons and add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Heat milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to Flavored Booze Mixture. Allow to stand undisturbed for 30 minutes and filter through cheesecloth…

Straining Miik Solids.

…removing milk solids. Add Tea Syrup to filtered booze mixture and pour into clean containers. Allow to stand for a couple days. Rack clear liquid off of any accumulated sediment into clean, sanitized bottles and store. Chill well before serving. Serve on ice and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about 3 gallons.

Krabappel Punch

Here are a few pictures from the event!

Krabappel Punch Sign

Krabappel Punch Sign

Reyka Vodka Tablescape.

Reyka Vodka Tablescape.

Punch Station Ready to Go.

Punch Station Ready to Go.

Demon Rum

Demon Rum, Charles McCabe
From his collection, “The Good Man’s Weakness”, 1974

“The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who knew one when he saw one, defined an alcoholic as ‘a man you don’t like who drinks as much as you do.’ And Mrs. Fred Tooze, president of the 250,000-member National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a still flourishing outfit, tells us that ‘in every crisis Americans have turned to drink.’

“With these two pregnant reflections, I think we may have profitably get through the morning.

“It is generally accepted that Dylan Thomas died as a result of drink. He was a terrible drinker, would follow beer with creme de menthe, and that with rye. He drank with the clear purpose of getting drunk as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. His last terrible days were spent in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, New York, no more than a stone’s throw from some of his favorite bars.

“My own definition of an alcoholic is a man who allows the drink to notably affect the quality of his work. Some of my friends take a sterner view of the situation. They say an alcoholic is a person who lets the booze interfere badly with the conduct of his life, and specifically with the treatment of others.

“But there is a terribly hard question involved in accepting this broader definition. It is easy to enough to see the bad effects of whiskey and beer on the people we love. The insensitiveness, the childishness, the plain damned brutality. It is much easier to be a rotter when you have a bellyful. This is the part about alcohol that everyone, including Mrs. Tooze, knows about and talks about.

“A subject much less explored is how much genuine love for other people is liberated by the Demon Rum. Alkies are bound up people, usually little talented in the delicate matter of showing their feelings, especially the tender ones. They are suspicious of life because they feel, usually rightly, that it has not treated them well. They cannot give with ease.

“Yet somewhere within they usually want to give, and that is where the booze comes in. With all its acknowledged bad effects, a little ethanol tends to let you give and receive love.

“This is true of both the sacred and the profane kind. You may indeed want to have every chick in the place after the third martini; but you are also quite likely to say just the right things to just the right girl, which may result in something quite pleasant indeed for a period.

“So don’t rap anything too hard which provides a release from the prison of self. It has been estimated that the population of Ireland would be damned near the ideal proposed by the Zero Population Growth people, were it not for the emotionally liberating qualities of Guinness and Paddy’s and such. How many of my friends and relations would be around to tell the tale if the old man hyad not been fired up by Dutch courage provided by Irish booze.

“So, in balance, it is really quite hard to make a sound guess on the effects of booze on the feelings. These effects are indisputably good and indisputably bad, and it would require a sapient lad indeed, or some kind of damn4ed psychiatrist, to assign percentages and priorities to the good and the bad. There’s a little bit of each in it, as in everything.

“Whatever the point the good Mrs. Tooze was making in her WCTU statement escapes me now, and that surely is a bad thing, it is, it is.”

Should Bartenders Just Drink Cocktails

A couple weeks ago a friend, Jennifer Seidman, posted the following on facebook:

“I think its time all bartenders come out of the closet and admit we don’t drink cocktails. Truth.”

On the other hand, a while back there was a Class Magazine Interview with Sasha Petraske.

Sasha Petraske: I’m No Genius

(If you have an interest in modern bars and cocktails, I recommend reading the whole article linked above.)

Along with other things, the following quote seems to have generated a lot of controversy among the cocktail and bartender crowds.

“And he’ll always expect his staff’s passion for cocktails to be more than skin-deep. ‘Cocktail bartenders should drink cocktails. If you prefer a beer, you are a hypocrite and are morally wrong. You probably make bad cocktails too. It’s like being an acupuncturist and going to see a western doctor when you get sick.’”

Provocative statement, eh, from the person who opened (or helped to open) Milk & Honey, Little Branch, White Star, The Varnish, Dutch Kills, and Weather Up.

The two statements, though, seem to represent such opposite views, that they got me thinking.

First, I think Mr. Petraske’s use of the words “hypocrite” and “morally wrong” are sheer hyperbole, designed to fuel the Sasha Petraske hype machine.

In my opinion, words or phrases like “hypocrite” and “morally wrong”, should be reserved issues of some consequence in the world, not referring to whether a bartender has a beer or a cocktail after work.

Second, many bartenders don’t drink AT ALL. Either because they are recovering, or for health and/or cultural reasons. I should say, “Many GREAT bartenders I know and RESPECT, don’t drink AT ALL.” I am not sure what Mr Petraske would say about these people; but historically, it is interesting to note, that many of the bartenders who have actually managed to publish cocktail or bar books later in their lives, were the ones who did not drink.

Third, Bartenders, even ‘cocktail bartenders’, serve more than cocktails at bars. It behooves us to be familiar with Beers, Wines, Spirits, Soft-Drinks, coffee, tea, etc., not just Cocktails. We have to have opinions on everything we serve, not just the cocktails.

Thus, If a bar or restaurant has an interesting wine or beer that I’ve been dying to try, I might drink that instead of availing myself of their cocktails.

Not to mention, if I’m having food, I’m going to pick an appropriate beverage to complement my meal, not blanket order cocktails with everything.

On the other hand, if you’re going to seriously make cocktails for a living, and want the rest of us to take your cocktails seriously, you REALLY should be familiar with the flavor profile of most of the classic cocktails AND you should be familiar with what your compatriots in the field are currently making. You should be able to rock a Mojito, a Manhattan, a Negroni, A Martini, a South-Side, etc. and they should taste like those drinks are supposed to taste like.

Far too often, especially when tasting cocktails for competitions, I’ve wondered if some of the competitors have even tasted the spirit they are mixing with, let alone been familiar with the flavor profile of classic cocktails. More often than not, these cocktails will just taste like soft-drinks, gazpacho, or chilled fruit soup with a shot a booze. Not a cocktail at all.

Finally, after finishing a long shift of bartending, cocktail making, and then finally cleaning the bar, a lot of times the last thing you want is to make, or drink, another god damned cocktail.

Something far simpler is appealing. That IS the truth.

A Good Saloon

A Good Saloon Charles McCabe
From his collection, “The Good Man’s Weakness”, 1974

“A nice elderly lady who has never been inside one in her life asks me, ‘What is a good saloon like?’ She presumed from my writings that I had a certain expertise in the matter, and she is right.

“First, you should have certain warning signes. If there is any trace of neon outside the joint, shun it like a social disease. Especially, beware of those places which have a tipped cocktail glass about 15 feet up, done in glorious white neon.

“Not all of these places are terrible. The ones which have broken neon signs, like Gino and Carlo’s on Green Street, can be very good indeed. Despite the exceptions, though, the rule holds.

“Beware too, of artsy-cutesy names–like the Pink Panther, the Anxious Asp, the Dreamy Lagoon, etc., etc. This kind of name is for pop groups or Los Angeles. If the place has simply the name of the owner, and no neon, you’re on the way.

“Remember that a saloon is to pour drinks, in return for pay. Anytime a drinking place forgets that, it forfeits the right to be a saloon. The late John Lardner put it well:

“‘A drinking place in the purest possible sense of the phrase is one in which the boozing aspects dominates the eating aspect. This eliminates lunchrooms and all joints with floor shows or dance floors. In a true bar or saloon the focus of life is the bar itself, and the people on either side of it.’

“Like all good rules, this too has its exceptions. One of the best bars in San Francisco is at the New Pisa on Grant Avenue. This bar is just an adjunct to a crowded and thriving paisano-type restaurant. The small bar near the entrace is devoted wholly to the drinking business.

“Dante Benedetti, the owner, pours more whiskey for the money than any place I know in San Francisco, or, for that matter, anywhere. I once asked him why he poured so much booze. His answer was characteristic.

“‘Thirty years ago my old man told me to put out a good drink. So I do it.’

“Glenn Dorenbush, who has clocked more bar hours than anyone I know, has an added theory. In a good saloon, he says, everything will come to you if you sit on one bar stool long enough. He gets his friends that way, and his girls. He transacts his public relations business–for saloons, naturally–from the same stool right next to the brass service bar at Perry’s on Union Street.

“The owner of Perry’s, Mr. Perry Butler, is so awed by Dorenbush that he has placed a brass plaque on the bar, over the Dorenbush stool with the simple but impressive legend: Glenn Dorenbush.

“A good saloon is a great place to escape from cocktail parties, a curious form of social intercourse which gives a bad name to booze. Cocktail parties are a cross between a fashion show and a Persian Bazaar. Most cocktail parties are given by people who wish to make money out of them in one way or another. In a good saloon, you don’t talk about money.

“A good saloon should not have a clock. You go into one to get away from the tyranny of time, among other reasons. The most saloon-ish of all ‘Frisco saloons, the House of Shields on New Montgomery, does not have a clock. “Clock-watchers aren’t really people.” says barman Pete Ragen.

“The California attitude towards bars is well shown by the fact that, until the advent of this decade, you could not legally even call a drinking place a saloon. The liquor laws of this state seem to have been written by nuns, and administered by the FBI. Their underlying assumption is that there is a violent drunk inside every insurance salesman, and that all saloon keepers are felons at heart.

“A good saloon is, among many other things, a great place to exchange lies, to plan your future, get away from loved ones, make confession without fear of penance, learn what’s wrong with the ’49ers, work out the details of your estate, and eff off in general. It is also, as Mr. Dorenbush points out, a superb recovery room.”