A Dog’s Life

You may recall, in 2009, I started working behind the bar on a semi-regular basis. Guest bartending at Alembic Bar once a month for our Savoy Cocktail Book nights, and occasionally working at Heaven’s Dog, either as a fill in bartender or on Sunday nights.

As the end of 2011 approached, some regular bartending shifts at Heaven’s Dog opened up, and I talked to the bar manager about covering them.

I could either pass on the opportunity, or take a chance on finding out what it was like to work more nights a week as a bartender.

So, in November and December, in addition to my full time job at UCSF and Savoy Nights at Alembic, I started working three nights a week at Heaven’s Dog, going straight from one job to the other.

On one hand, this was a crazy amount to work, basically 9AM until Midnight 3 nights a week, but on the other, even Mrs. Flannestad noticed that I seemed to be “happier”, if tired-er. Well, not to mention, in the food service world, these aren’t even crazy hours; many of the cooks, barbacks, and dishwashers in the restaurant easily bested me for hours worked for those two months.

As December wore on, though, it was starting to get apparent that I couldn’t keep doing this indefinitely, and if I wasn’t careful, the hours were going to take a toll on my health and my relationship with Mrs. Flannestad.

In my head, I looked towards the UCSF Winter break as my finish line, and started mentioning to Mrs. Flannestad the idea of doing one thing or the other, but especially bartending.

I’ve done lots of different things in my life. I’ve worked as a line cook, I’ve delivered coffee, I worked as a janitor, worked as a dish washer, tested video games, maintained computers, etc. For over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in the Information Technology field, which is a long time for any job in my life. Maybe it was time to try something different. Find inspiration elsewhere.

I have always loved food and drink, maybe that was the way to go.

We came to a decision, and I gave notice at UCSF, my last day would be the last day before the Winter Break.

Visit family for the holiday, come back, maybe work part time for a month or two while I regroup and gather my thoughts, but hopefully make a living in restaurants once again.

Of course, nothing is quite that simple, when I gave notice at UCSF, they countered with an offer to stay on temporarily at half time in the New Year.

As I hadn’t yet organized full time hours as a bartender, it seemed like a safe bet to take.

That’s where I am now, I’ve completed my first month as a part time tech worker and part time bartender.

As far as I can tell, I’ve got a couple more months of this, feet in both worlds, before I absolutely have to start looking for new opportunities, but I’m excited. A new year, a new start, interesting new challenges.

As Mrs. Flannestad said to me, “This is the first time, in a long time, that I can remember you actually being excited about a job.”

Here’s to interesting times!

Reform Club

First, just a reminder that Sunday, September 25, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

One of the nice things about working in restaurants, is when you can go out and enjoy the fruits of your friends labors.

In this case, a popup in the Specchio space called Reform Club. The meal and beverage pairings below were done by Allyson Harvie (Citizen Cake, Ragazza), Becky Pezzullo (Undercover Supper, Bar Bambino), and Dion Jardine (Slanted Door, Heavens Dog). I don’t know Allyson or Becky very well, but I worked many, many nights with Dion when he was working at Heaven’s Dog.

corn soup, eggplant caponata,
tomato, basil, balsamic
(and pork)

Dry Gin, Blackberry puree, Sherry.

roasted fig salad,
ham, almonds, ricotta salata

Aged Rum, Lime, Ginger Syrup, Egg White.

mixed heritage pork roast: belly, sausage, loin,
mustard spätzle, braised chard, market fruit

baked gravenstein apple
cinnamon, raisins, butter, brown sugar
(and pork)
Paired with a Chenin Blanc from Chatueau Soucherie.

There may also have been shots of Angostura Bitters…

The next Reform Club Dinner is planned for October 16, with a menu and chef soon to be announced. Join the mailing list, follow the twitter, “like” them on facebook, read their tumblr, support my friends’ labor of love, and have some awesome food and drink!

Imperial Fizz

First, just a reminder that Sunday, July 31, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, (they also have a great beer selection,) stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Imperial Fizz
The Juice of 1/2 Lemon.
1/3 Rum.
2/3 Canadian Club or Scotch Whisky.
1/2 Tablespoonful Sugar.
Shake well, strain into medium size glass and fill with syphon soda water.

Another Fizz from Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, Ensslin gives the recipe as follows:

1/3 St. Croix Rum; 2/3 Whiskey; 4 dashes Lemon Juice; Juice ½ Lime. Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain into a fizz glass and fill up with carbonated water or any sparkling water desired.

A few Savoy Recipes have called for “St. Croiix Rum.” I’ve never really seen much differential to using Cruzan or any other modern Rum from St. Croix. The Cruzan Single Barrel is a nice Rum, but there isn’t really anything in particular it brings to a drink. Or at least enough to justify calling for “St. Croix Rum” in particular.

However, once when I was talking to Martin Cate, (of Rum paradise Smuggler’s Cove) about this issue, he suggested he’d had good results using Spiced Rum when St. Croix Rum is called for. Well, if Martin Cate suggests it, I’ll give it a try. Besides, as this drink has no sweetener, it might be nice to use a sweetened product like most Spiced Rums.

Hey, some company promoting Kraken Spiced Rum was even kind enough to send me a bottle…

Damn! I was really hoping for a rubber squid.

Imperial Fizz

1 1/2 oz Macallan Cask Strength Scotch Whiskey
3/4 oz Kraken Spiced Rum
Light squeeze, juice 1/2 Lemon
Juice 1/2 Small Lime

Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain into a fizz glass and fill up with carbonated water or any sparkling water desired.

Yeah, that is not very sweet at all. I believe I over estimated the sweetening power of spiced rum!

And, yes, in the video you can see the problem with using a soda syphon shortly after charging it. The CO2 does not have a chance to dissolve properly, so the first squirt is always too charged.

So this is pretty, “Meh”. A definite waste of perfectly good Scotch. Even stirring a little simple syrup into this, it was pretty blah. The Kraken Spiced Rum and Macallan Scotch aren’t a particularly interesting combination.

But I was thinking about this, and thinking I was just playing it too safe. If you’re going to do something, why not do it all the way? Go Big or Go Home!

Islay Imperial Fizz

1 1/2 oz Laphroaig 10
1/2 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Couple Dashes lemon Juice
Juice 1/2 small lime
dash Rich Simple Syrup

Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain into a fizz glass and fill up with carbonated water or any sparkling water desired.

I may be on crack, but there is some real promise here. It’s kind of like a cross between Erik Adkins’ Rhum Agricole Punch and Sam Ross’ Penicillin. This is not bad, not bad at all. It’s lacking a little in middle flavors, but the combination of Smoky, Peaty Islay Scotch and Allspice Dram is kind of awesome. Definitely worthy of further experimentation!

Music in the first video clip from Efrim Manuel Menuck’s new recording, “Plays High Gospel,” maybe my current favorite CD. Music in the second video clip is from Craig Taborn’s new solo piano CD, “Avenging Angel”.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling
The Juice of 1/4 Lemon,
1/4 Dry Gin.
1/2 Cherry Brandy.
Shake well and strain into medium size glass, and fill with soda water. Add 1 lump of ice.

A lot of people get hung up on the Singapore Sling.

A famous drink from the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, so many people have written about it over the years, that I’m not sure there is anything to say.

The original recipe was secret and somehow lost. Eventually it was claimed found again by an ancestor of the barman who invented it, blah blah blah… Sounds like a made up story to me.

The drink the Raffles Hotel now serves after re-discovering the recipe is, reportedly, to most modern tastes, far too sweet and rather pink looking and artificial tasting.

So I think the response that people get, when they come across the Savoy recipe above is, “Uh, nope, I’m not going to make that, it sounds disgustingly sweet.” Well, right, that’s true, this does sound rather ridiculously sweet, and I’ve made it before to that exact spec, and I’m not doing it again. Tastes like vaguely medicinal fizzy cherry soda.

First off, there’s a red herring. Ahem. Or perhaps a Cherry Heering. Hoho.

Anyway, when confronted with this recipe, a lot of people grasp on to the idea of, “Cherry Brandy,” thinking perhaps that some confused editor, or author, meant to write, “Kirsch,” or “Cherry Eau-de-Vie” instead of Cherry Brandy, which is universally the cocktail recipe shorthand for Cherry Liqueur. And by subbing in Kirsch, they’ll be able to rescue the recipe from its syrupy origins.

One mixologist, in particular, Robert Vermeire, muddied the water by calling for, “Dry Cherry Brandy,” in his book, “Cocktails: How to Mix Them” (originally published 1922).

Straits Sling

The well-known Singapore drink, thoroughly iced and shaken, contains:

2 dashes Orange Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
The juice of half a lemon
1/8 Gill of Benedictine
1/8 Gill of Dry Cherry Brandy
1/2 Gill of Gin

Pour into a tumbler and fill up with cold soda water.

“O ho!” you say, “I have an excuse to use Kirsch in this recipe! This might not be so sweet after all!”

Well, the bad news is, lots of liqueurs are called “Dry”, which does not mean they are Eau-de-Vies. Triple SEC springs immediately to mind. In fact, speaking of Orange Liqueurs, the Bols Company, to this very day, calls their Orange Curacao, “Dry Orange Curacao,” in Europe. Oh, hm, a Dutch Liqueur Company, a recipe in Singapore at a Colonial hotel, what are the chances, Bols might have marketed its Cherry Liqueur in the past as “Dry Cherry Brandy”?

I will also add, Mr. Robert Vermeire, elsewhere in his book actually calls specifically for “Kirsch” when he means Cherry Eau-de-Vie, not “Dry Cherry Brandy”, for example, in the recipe for the “Pollchinelle or Cassis-Kirsch” in the “French Aperitifs” section of his book.

(Hat Tip to Mr. David Wondrich, for reminding me about Bols’ use of the word “Dry” in their liqueur line. You’d think I would remember, having used their Dry Orange Curacao about a million times. Duh. I believe Mr. Wondrich should have a far more well written and informative article on the subject of Slings coming out some time soon.)

And, uh, maybe you didn’t notice, but if you leave out the Cherry Liqueur entirely, this recipe has no sweetener at all, basically a Dry Gin and Kirsch highball with a dash of lemon. You give that a try and let me know what you think. I’ve have tried that version, and while perhaps nominally more appealing than the Fizzy Cherry Soda version, it’s not one of those drinks that jumps out as something that would have mass appeal, nor that I am going to make again.

Anyway, a secret recipe and a questionable reinvention means, well, it means, everyone will make up their own version.

Things that are indisputable: It has Gin, it has Citrus, and it has “Cherry Brandy”, (however you interpret that,) and it is served in a tall glass.

Erik Adkins put the Singapore Sling on the Slanted Door menu a while ago, and it has been a staple of that restaurant’s cocktail menu ever since. He based his recipe on one he got from the Rainbow Room in New York City, which, it turns out, was adapted by Dale DeGroff from something he was faxed by the Raffles Hotel.

I had some business to take care of with Jennifer Colliau, in preparation for the next Savoy Night, so I figured, what better place to stop for a Singapore Sling? I mean, aside from the Rainbow Room or Raffles Hotel.

Slanted Door Singapore Sling
1 1/2 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Sling Business*
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
2 Dash Angostura bitters

Shake and pour into a Delmonico glass. Garnish with a cherry on a lime raft.

*Sling Business is a mixture of 1/2 Cherry Heering, 1/4 Benedictine, and 1/4 Cointreau. If mixing this recipe for yourself it would be, 1/2 oz Heering, 1/4 oz Benedictine, and 1/4 oz Cointreau per drink.

Among other things that The Slanted Door might have in advantage over the Rainbow Room or Raffles Hotel, is that they are currently experimenting with using fresh squeezed pineapple juice. This not only tastes fantastic in a Singapore Sling, way better than canned, but you can also see gives the drink a great, light foam at the top.

What do I think is the right recipe?

Honestly, I don’t know. The pineapple version served by the Slanted Door is a great drink. Even at its most basic, the Singapore Sling is a Tom Collins sweetened with Cherry Heering, which isn’t really bad, as long as you take a generous hand with the citrus.

The moral of the story, if there is one? If you keep the recipe for your cocktail secret, there’s a chance that everyone will make it wrong. FOREVER. And even if the right recipe eventually turns up, some people may never believe it.

It’s hard enough for most people to make cocktail recipes the way their creators intended, even if the recipe is known.

Heck, I’m still trying to get that version of the Last Word I saw with Midori instead of Green Chartreuse out of my mind…

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Egg Sour

First, just a reminder that Sunday, April 24, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders (and me) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

Egg Sour
1 Teaspoonful of Powdered White Sugar. (I skipped the extra sugar)
3 Dashes of Lemon Juice. (Very generous 3 dashes Lemon Juice. OK, really the juice of 1/2 small lemon, about 1/2 oz)
1 Liqueur Glass of Curacao. (1 1/2 oz Clement Liqueur Creole Shrubb)
1 Liqueur Glass of Brandy. (1/2 oz Germain-Robin Craft Method Brandy, 1/2 oz Germain-Robin Coast Road Reserve Brandy, 1/2 oz Osocalis Alambic Brandy)
1 Egg. (1/2 large egg)
2 or 3 small Lumps of ice.
Shake well and remove the ice before serving. (Garnish with drops of Angostura Bitters.)

Right, I couldn’t even make a whole drink by combining 2 of the comically small, yet delicious, Brandy samples sent to me by Germain-Robin. I had to throw in a little Osocalis, sorry about that Germain-Robin. I understand smaller distilleries must struggle with sample requests, but how about enough to wet your tongue?

I couldn’t see the need for any extra sugar in a drink that is already half “Curacao” and only has “3 dashes Lemon Juice”. It certainly wouldn’t qualify as “Sour” if made to those specifications.

We only had “Extra Large” eggs at the moment, so using a whole egg seemed a little excessive.

On the whole, this is a tasty Egg Sour, I liked this drink quite a bit. I would definitely make it again for myself or even for a customer.

A lot of times, I find modern cocktail mixers will throw Lemon Juice into Flips, even though drinks in the “Flip” category traditionally contain no Citrus. I guess, thinking about it, what they’re making are Egg Sours for their customers. Tasty, but not a Flip.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Special (Rough) Cocktail

Special (Rough) Cocktail
1 Dash Absinthe.
1/2 Applejack. (1 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy)
1/2 Brandy. (1 oz Osocalis Alambic Brandy
Shake well and strain into cocktail.

Well, sometimes people are just drinking to get themselves somewhere else. Out of their head, out of their life, out of their city.

And I guess this is a fast train out of town.

On the other hand, the name is pretty accurate. This is a rough way to go, more like hopping a freight train than riding in a luxury sleeper cab.

I hesitate to call it a complete waste of perfectly good booze, but I will go on record saying I would have rathered just drunk the brandy on its own.

It’s also been made not too long ago, as the slightly differently punctuated, “Special Rough Cocktail“.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Oh Harry! Cocktail

Oh Harry! Cocktail
Saturate 1 lump of Sugar with Raspberry Syrup or Grenadine. (sugar cube saturated with Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
1/3 Vermouth. (Dolin Blanc Vermouth)
2/3 Hooch Whisky. (Buffalo Trace Unaged Whiskey)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

I needed to pick up something from Slanted Door this last Friday, so I thought I would take the chance to annoy the bar staff there, with a particularly annoying Savoy recipe.

“Hooch Whiskey”? What is that? The recipe doesn’t say what sort of vermouth. Doesn’t even really tell you what to do with the sugar cube, or the point of saturating it with syrup.

Fortunately, Jennifer Colliau, of Small Hand Foods was behind the bar and said, “What if we use Blanc Vermouth and just make this a “White Man” with a sugar cube?”

I dunno, as much as I like White Manhattans, this didn’t quite work. A bitters soaked cube would have made a lot more sense, or as Jennifer pointed out, some sort of sparkling wine to act upon the cube and circulate the flavors.

Maybe if we had muddled the cube into the drink?

I dunno, I still think even then the “Oh Harry!” doesn’t quite live up to its name.

It’s definitely no, “Oh sweet mystery of life, I have found you,” type of drink.

But maybe, you took what you could get during prohibition.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Mr. Manhattan Cocktail

Hey, wait, “Mr. Manhattan,” that sounds familiar! Why, yes, we made the Mr. Manhattan with Neyah White at NOPA a couple years ago. Well, who’s going to complain about making this Julep-ish cocktail again. Heck, it was so warm this week, I’m even going to leave it on cracked ice.

Mr. Manhattan Cocktail
Crush 1 Lump of Sugar in a little water. (1 Demerara Sugar Cube)
Crush 4 Leaves of Fresh Green Mint.
1 Dash Lemon Juice. (Squeeze Meyer Lemon Juice)
4 Dashes Orange Juice. (Squeeze Blood Orange Juice)
1 Glass Gin. (2 oz Bols Genever)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Or build and add crushed ice, stir, and garnish with mint sprigs.

I have a pretty serious, “one and done,” policy with Savoy Cocktails, and sometimes it is a struggle to get home, get everything together, and make the damn cocktail.

However, looking at this video, I see a lot of mistakes were made in the execution of this version of the Mr. Manhattan.

My first mistake was being literal and using a sugar cube. There’s no reason, really, to use a sugar cube in a cocktail. They just don’t dissolve well enough unless you spend about a half an hour muddling the damn thing. Use simple syrup, superfine, or at least caster sugar any time you are mixing drinks. My second mistake was that it’s really apparent I over squeezed the Meyer Lemon and undersqueezed the orange. I should have been using a measuring cup, so the juice wasn’t going right into the drink. Last, I used the stupid wrong spoon to mix with. I should have grabbed the spoon with the disk end, so I could do a good job of churning up this julep-ish version of the Mr. Manhattan.

All the same, this wasn’t bad at all, if a bit dry. There are definitely a lot of good points to the Genever Mr. Manhattan and I strongly recommend it as a drink. Just do a better job of mixing it than I did.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Karl K. Kitchen Cocktail

Cocktails Suitable for A Prohibition Country.

The following cocktails are especially suited for those countries where they make the best of Prohibition, and where the ingredients for making them are obtainable without much difficulty.

Karl K. Kitchen Cocktail
1/4 White Grape Juice. (1/2 oz Santa Cruz Organic White Grape Juice)
4 Dashes Grenadine or Raspberry Syrup. (1 teaspoon Small Hand Foods Grenadine)
3/4 Scotch Whisky. (1 oz Famous Grouse, 1/2 oz John Mark and Robbo’s Smokey Peaty One)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

You know, there’s this discussion, is someone who mixes up drinks a Bartender or a Mixologist? Generally, we say, someone who makes up drinks and doesn’t work behind a bar can call themselves a Mixologist, if they want to use a made up, vaguely scientific, name for what they do. Well, instead of “Dipsologist”.

So, I guess Karl K. Kitchen was out of Dry Vermouth during prohibition and used White Grape Juice instead.

Right now, I’m going to go on the line and say, “Karl K. Kitchen, that was a very bad idea.”

Pretty sure you qualify as neither a Bartender or a Mixologist.

I mean, I was expecting this to be bad, but it is just really bad.

Well, OK, it isn’t quite as bad as the completely inexplicable Wembley Cocktail (No. 2), with its combination of Scotch, Dry Vermouth, and Pineapple Juice, but still, pretty darn bad.

Karl K. Kitchen, of the New York World, is not a metropolitan but a cosmopolitan newspaper man, who from Petrograd to Paducah is rated as one who is distinctly ‘in the know.’”

Back to the newroom for you, Mr. Kitchen, you know a bit less than you think.

If this cocktail is any indication, I will be longing for “Non-Alcoholic” libations pretty shortly. It’s no wonder people would drink just about anything during Prohibition.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the drinks in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, the, uh, Sauterne Cup.

Zed Cocktail

Another month, another Savoy Night. Always great to work with the bar and service staff at Alembic. Over the couple years we’ve been doing them, getting to know these awesome people has been a highlight of this whole project.

In particular, I’ve learned a lot from a staff of bartenders that has been kind of enough to tolerate my awkward presence in their space once a month.

When I mentioned that I was just about done with the “Cocktails” section of the book, all but the “Zed”, Daniel Hyatt said, you have to save that one for us. So, after a medium Savoy Night I settled down on the other side of the bar and asked Danny Louie to whip me up a Zed Cocktail.

Half Calvados and Half “Hercules”, it’s a sort of Manhattan variation, I suppose.

Along with being one of the most technically gifted bartenders I know, Danny is working on getting a food truck together that will specialize in Asian Street Food. Called “TomKat” they are looking towards getting it up and running some time this spring. From what he’s told me, their chef will be tapping into some of his Mom’s recipes for the dishes and Danny plans to handle the front of the house.

Zed Cocktail
1/2 Hercules 5b.*
1/2 Calvados or Apple Brandy. (Chauffe Coeur Calvados VSOP)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Squeeze Lemon Peel over glass and drop in.)

Hm, you know this isn’t half bad. Maybe I just like Calvados and my take on “Hercules”, but this is a pretty good feature for both.

*Hercules #5b

1 Stick Cassia Cinnamon, crushed
2 tsp. Coriander Seed, crushed
3 Cardamom Pods, crushed
8 Whole Cloves, crushed
1 tsp. Quinine Powder
1 tsp Gentian Root
1/4 Cup Yerba Mate
Zest 2 Seville Oranges
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
750ml Quady Elektra
1/4 cup Osocalis Brandy

METHOD: Combine spices, peel, yerba mate and wine. Heat to 160 degrees. Filter through chinois and add Brandy. Let stand for at least a day and then enjoy chilled or where “Hercules” is called for.

Well, here it is, the Savoy Cocktail Index, with all entries, Abbey to Zed:

Savoy Cocktail Index

–End of the Cocktails.–

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed. Hey, wait, this is the Zed. Well, all right, I might as well keep going through the rest.