Saturday, January 29

Apple Blow Fizz

Is it just me, or is that a really unfortunate name?

Apple Blow Fizz:
  • 2 oz. Applejack (Lairds)
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 tsp. sugar (2 tsp. simple syrup)
  • 1 egg white
Shake and strain into 8 oz. highball glass. Fill with carbonated water.

The effect of egg in a cocktail imparts a really smooth, creamy texture that's just wonderful. There's a lot to be said about the benefits, but some people will say that raw egg is bad for you, be it Salmonella or what have you. For one, since the Salmonella scare of the last few years, standards have been tightened up at egg farms. The odds of getting Salmonella from a bad egg were pretty slim to begin with, but with some extra care given to the screening process, the odds are now statistically insignificant. If that's not enough to convince you, then I'll also say that both alcohol and lemon juice are powerful antiseptics. I'm not worried. You can do the drink without it, it doesn't alter the taste, but the texture really is awesome, so I highly recommend it.

Also, a note on technique. In order to get a rich foam on top like you see in the picture, you have to shake really, really well, because egg isn't accustomed to being separated. There's a neat trick that I'll pass along: take the spring off of a hawthorne strainer and put it into the shaker, along with everything but the ice, and shake it everything pretty hard for a while first. This is called a dry shake, which would be advised in any egg cocktail, but the addition of the spring really helps to emulsify the egg and helps hold off on the wear and tear on your arm.

After you've done the dry shake, open the shaker, add the ice, and shake it to chill. I double-strained it, and the foam comes through fine. And it's pretty delicious. The apple and the lemon make it like an Appletini, which I abhor, but it's delicious regardless, and the soda water makes it so refreshing. It's a keeper.

Friday, January 28

Pedalboard update for January

Okay, so what started out as me just wanting to add a few pedals turned into a full-blown cable-building frenzy which has only just now concluded. And the end result is probably the slickest 'board I've ever put together. Mostly because, when I was in Home Depot looking for a wire stripper, I came across some cable tie mounts which were running $2 for 10 of them, so I said, "Why not?" I also ran across a quality multimeter which I needed and a 10-foot piece of 2x10 that eventually became a soldering workstation, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, new pedalboard!

 As you can see, there's a lot of new stuff on there. The current signal chain is:

Guitar -> JHS Little Black Buffer -> Strymon OB. 1 Compressor -> volume pedal -> loopmaster bypass strip:
Tuner out: Hardwire tuner
1. - Fulltone Fulldrive 2
2. - Boss BD-2 (Keeley mod)
3. - Pigtronix Aria Disnortion
4. - Voodoo Labs Tremolo
5. - 2 Boss DD-7s
6. - Line 6 DL4
7. - Boss RV-5
-> BBE Sonic Stomp -> Amp

That's a lot of changes. The astute readers will note that things look an awful lot like Daniel Carson's latest board. That's not entirely by accident. I prefer to think of it as a blend between him and James Duke. Mostly, the fact that we've got a volume pedal, a compressor and a tubescreamer of some kind that's almost always on. I actually had an MXR Dynacomp for about a day that I'd gotten used from guitar center for $40, but it had this nasty mechanical throbbing sound that was probably some sort of malfunction, so back it went, but it reopened my eyes to how much a compressor really adds to a guitar. Does it color my sound? Sure, everything does. But I think I like my tone better (95% of the time) with my OB.1 in the loop.

I also blatantly stole the dual DD-7's synced to a single tap tempo from Carson, but it's great. I love the DD-7, and I've been trying to find a delay like it so I can run dotted 8ths on one and quarters on the other, or quarters and halfs, or just have one doing reverse and one analog, or anything like that. I kept trying out tons of different delays to make it work, when it turns out that all I needed was just another DD-7. And if you're going to try to sync them yourselves, be forewarned; it's hard to find a cable that will do what you want it to do. It's not a good idea from an audio perspective to split your signal like that, so no one really manufactures a cable that will do precisely that, because there's no market for it. I had to invent my own using three separate hunks of cable and a whole lot of solder. But it was fun, and now things are awesome.

They also both have the RV-5. I wanted the RV-3 for a long time. I don't really want to pay $130 for a pedal that was $80 a year ago, though. I don't care about Radiohead. Also, the RV-5 has a modulated reverb that everyone seems to love. Just got it in the mail today, slapped it on, and considered my board to be complete. But the modulated reverb does sound sweet.

Here's what I'm particularly proud (and anal) about:

Yep. All those glorious cable ties. I got some black ones while I was at Home Depot. And you can see my JHS buffer, still hanging out underneath there on the left side, still making my tone awesome without giving away that he's the one to blame for the awesomeness. Booyah.

So that's that. For now. Board rigged up with a bypass looper, a great buffer, and Canare GS-6 cables with G&H Showstopper plugs. I can't possibly complain about my board's tone-sucking abilities anymore. Now any sucking that happens is my own fault. Or my amp/guitar's......

Wednesday, January 26

Appetizer Cocktail

A simple twist on the Bronx Cocktail.

Appetizer Cocktail:
  • 3/4 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. Dubonnet
  • Juice of 1/4 of an orange
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

This one is simple enough, and delightfully, doesn't have any Creme de Cacao in it. That said, I've never been a huge fan of Bronx-style cocktails. They're good and everything, but in my opinion, orange juice just doesn't add much to a cocktail, particularly in small amounts. Maybe it's because I'm so used to drinks composed solely of a glass of orange juice with some alcohol in them (Screwdriver, Tequila Sunrise, etc.) where the orange juice is a huge part of the drink's flavor profile. But honestly, this isn't bad. It's a standard, and I'd recommend it if you don't have any experience with this kind of drink.

Tuesday, January 25

Apparent Cocktail

This one's a pleasant surprise.

Apparent Cocktail:
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 1/4 tsp absinthe
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

As I said, I was expecting something bad to happen here, but was pleasantly surprised. The strong flavors in the gin and absinthe keep the bad flavors in the Creme de Cacao from becoming readily, ahem, apparent. But what we're left with is a chocolate aftertaste with none of the unpleasantness. A very intriguing cocktail that starts licorice and ends chocolate. And not too sweet, which is good. I think I may have found one legit use of my Creme de Cacao...

I even used my "bad" absinthe, expecting this to be dreck (hence, the light blue tinge), but since it's used in such a small amount, the only quality of the absinthe that comes through is the strong licorice taste from the anise, which is perfect for this absinthe since it's so...unrefined...that the anise flavor is super far forward as to overshadow any of the other flavors and it actually works well in this drink. The weakness when compared to a good absinthe is a strength in this drink.

Monday, January 24

A quick update from guitar world...

I should never bother saying "done!" when it comes to guitar. I know, I keep referencing how my gear constantly changes, but it seems like I'd learn to be okay with the constant change, to not feel the need to say that I've found the perfect rig for me....oh well.

Right now, I've started the long, yet rewarding, process of soldering up my own patch cables for my entire board. I had some solderless cable kit from Livewire, which was okay. It was really convenient. The cables suck, though. Really unreliable when you move them around at all. Which, with my (and most other guitarists') inability to pick a setup and stick with it, is not exactly a good feature.

It's also giving me a chance to develop my soldering skills, which is awesome. I'm using Canare GS-6 cable and G&H Showsaver plugs, which have a copper core so they conduct really well. I was going to use GS-4 cable, but for 50 feet of cable, the difference was like $15. The plugs were the expensive part, by a lot. I'm making 22 cables for my electric board and 3 or 4 for my acoustic one, which is more than 50 plugs. I kind of sprung for good ones, but even the cheap ones would have run in excess of $100 for as many cables as I'm making, just for the plugs. I guess I figured, it's probably cheaper in the long run to do it right the first time.

Pictured: ingenuity!

I've got a lot of work to do, but it's fun to have a project. And once I'm done, I won't really have any more excuses to put more money into my effects, other than perhaps buying more effects....but I'll finally have some rationale to upgrade my amps!

Sunday, January 23

Angel's Wing

Angel's Wing:
  • 1/3 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 1/3 oz. brandy
  • 1/3 oz. cream
Layer in a Pousse Caffe (shot) glass in the order given.

Again, because of the cream I'm using (it's 30%, and I suspect heavy whipping cream would float better. Or worse. Maybe just differently. But either way, brandy floats on the cream I have.) I flipped the cream and brandy so it would layer better, and it seems to be slightly better. At the very least, it looked pretty good.

I also use an Oxo jigger most of the time; it's super handy for any and all measurements, but it should probably have a 3/4 oz. mark on it, and maybe a 1/3 oz. one. But lucky for me, google says that 1/3 oz. is almost exactly 10 ml, and the jigger has milliliters going up the side. Perfect.

Again, a Creme de Cacao-heavy shot. Not bad with the brandy, but this one barely tasted like anything. I guess I shot it too efficiently.I wouldn't recommend it, unless you like chocolate.

Saturday, January 22

Angel's Tip

Angel's Tip:
  • 3/4 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 1/4 oz. cream
Float cream on Creme de Cacao in a Pousse Cafe (shot) glass and garnish with cherry.

Yep, here we have a shot composed almost entirely of Creme de Cacao. Can you guess what I thought about it?

I will say, the cherry added a lot to the shot. I really need to find a Creme de Cacao that I like, but I'm afraid that this grand experiment in mixology is going to turn me off of the stuff for good. Too sweet, too chemically-tasting. When straight cream is used as a mellowing agent, you know it's got to be rough.

Thursday, January 20

Angel's Kiss

Strap in boys, it's going to be girlie shots for a while. If it's any consolation, this one didn't come out quite as pretty. Everything was going well until I got to the cream...maybe you should put the brandy on top, since it's going to want to be on top anyway. Probably.

Angel's Kiss:
  • 1/4 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 1/4 oz. Creme Yvette
  • 1/4 oz. Brandy
  • 1/4 oz. cream
Layer into Pousse Cafe (Shot) glass in the order given.

I went back-to-back with this one, because there's so little alcohol in either of these shots, so I figured it couldn't do much harm. There's definitely more of a kick to this one, with 3/4 oz. of liquor instead of 1/2 oz. in the previous shot. Still and all, not quite as delightful as the previous shot. Maybe it's the added alcohol, maybe it's my general distaste for the Creme de Cacao that I have (and, perhaps, all Creme de Cacao everywhere...), but I didn't enjoy it quite as much. But brandy and chocolate flavors traditionally pair well together. I'm a little puzzled by the Creme Yvette, but it's not unpleasant, just doesn't go so well with chocolate as it does with the fruity flavors in the Angel's Delight.

Angel's Delight

I'm not exactly one for shots, but this was delicious. Plus, it gave me the chance to do some layering, which isn't something I often do....because I'm not exactly one for shots...


Angel's Delight:
  • 1/4 oz. Grenadine
  • 1/4 oz. triple sec
  • 1/4 oz. Creme Yvette
  • 1/4 oz. cream
Pour carefully in order given into Pousse Cafe (shot) glass, so that each ingredient floats on the proceeding one.

Speaking of floating ingredients, let's see what Jamie Boudreau has to say on the subject.

In a word, delicious. Quick word of warning: I don't actually own any Creme Yvette, but it's long been said that you can sub Creme de Violette for Creme Yvette. Both are flowery liqueurs that are purple in color, though Creme Yvette has more of a vanilla and citrus taste to it. Still, quite delicious. The flowery taste is really something that is foreign to the American palate; we don't eat flowers, by and large. I'm not sure if it's more appropriate in other countries, or if it's a hold-over from a time gone by, but the orange, pomegranate and violet flavors all meld together interestingly in this drink. Also, it's really, really girly (read, sweet).

Wednesday, January 19

American Grog, take II


That's better.

American Grog:
  • 1 lump (cube) of sugar
  • juice of 1/4 of a lemon
  • 1 1/2 oz. rum (The Kracken!)
(Put ingredients in a hot whiskey glass and) fill with hot water. Stir.

It might just be the lighting, but there's a very interesting color to this drink. Part of it is almost certainly the rum I used; in keeping with the pirate/sailor theme, I chose a hearty, nautical-themed rum: The Kracken. It's a black spiced rum that is delightful. Of course, spiced rum is very different from non-spiced rum, but when it comes to rum, there's such a vast difference from one to the next that picking the "right" rum for this drink is probably more art than science. If I wanted to be completely correct, Pusser's Navy Rum is probably the closest we could get, but I chose something overproof with a lot of flavor, because that's how pirates roll in my mind. Plus, there's a freaking kracken doing battle with a pirate ship on the bottle. Come on.

Again, an interesting drink. Not one I'd turn to, but then Grog was never meant to be the height of drinking culture. The rum is definitely more suited than whiskey to this kind of drink, and the dilution makes this very easy to get down. The heat was nice on a(nother) cold day. If you're a pirate, give it a try.

Tuesday, January 18

American Grog

Sorry about the vaguely fuzzy picture. I guess I was feeling...vaguely fuzzy...

American Grog:
  • 1 lump (cube) of sugar
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 1/2 oz rum
(Put ingredients in a hot whiskey glass, and) fill with hot water and stir.

Okay, so again going with the "vaguely fuzzy" feeling, for some reason I read "rum" and heard "whiskey". So pictured above is some sort of grog made with whiskey. I guess I was tired last night. Not 100% period-incorrect though, as both rum and whiskey (or, at least, the whiskey I used) are quintessentially American spirits. Oops. I'll try it again.

I'll just say this: it's not often that I get a hot drink. It was very...welcome? given the time of year and the blustery cold outside. Grog was originally invented to keep sailors from getting ridiculous in an era where sailors were issued half of a pint (umm, 8 oz.....) of rum a day because, apparently, umm, sailing just ain't the same when you're not tanked. Grog added a lot of water in an effort to get the sailors to drink the water that they so desperately needed, and to make sure that their daily rum-ration was spread out a bit. This drink isn't nearly so watered down as traditional grog would be (depending on the size of the glass, though that's something that needs a bit more research. A quick googling indicates that a whiskey glass is around 7 oz. full, so the one I used above is under-sized. Tonight, I'll rectify both those mistakes. Call it a do-over.

Saturday, January 15

Ever have a dream you were so sure was real?

(Caveat: I just watched Carlos' talk on disturbing and disrupting the local church. It's long, but it's good, and let's just say it might be on target. That may have been one of the wells that my subconscious was drawing from here. Or maybe it was God trying to tell me something profound. Or maybe I'm pompous and presumptuous, and have a huge head. It's sometimes really hard to tell with this kind of thing...)

Just woke up from a dream. I was leading worship at the biggest Catholic youth conference I've ever been to, and which I'm sure I've talked about on here before, Steubenville (Mid-America, in this case). We had Mass, followed by Adoration, which for my non-Catholic people is a lot to get into, but it's basically a time of worship where, because of our beliefs about the Eucharist, we believe that Christ is physically present for us to look at, be with, touch (in some cases), and worship. The God of the Universe comes down, sits on the altar, and deigns to let us worship him.

Anyway, point of the story. Instead of leading from here:

ST102 - Sunday Morning and Mass 063

I was leading from here:

ST102 - Friday Evening and Adoration 020

and it made all the difference in the world. I was literally sitting in a stadium seat with my Adam Bitter hat on, my guitar strapped around me with a mic in front of me, my bass player to my left and a drummer somewhere behind. Presumably also in the stadium seats. A little impractical, maybe, but it was a dream. It was also the most incredible feeling: I could lead, but completely be myself because no one except for the people sitting around me had any idea who was leading. I was completely free to worship when I'd lead everyone to the point where the didn't need me anymore. We got to the Adoration portion of the evening, and I could worship just like I have been at every Steubenville I'd ever been to, sitting amongst the crowd, except that I was in charge of where the evening went. I don't remember everything I sang, but I ended with "How Great is Our God" and it brought tears to my eyes to hear all of these people surrounding me, worshiping along with me, with a song that I barely use anymore because "it's so old man! like from 2004!", but that was almost surely huge in my formative years when I was coming to know (Conocer) God after so many years of knowing about God (Saber) (when I, in actuality, had no idea what I was doing).

Then, in my usual way, to bring home the fact that this was, in fact, me doing all of this, Adoration ended, the host speaker took back over, and the youth minister I've worked with the most, the one who's been with me as I've been learning how to be a music minister, Jen, tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I did a good job, to which I replied, "Kind of. Could have been better. I don't know." Which is probably what I've said at the end of pretty much every Mass, Adoration, time of worship, whatever, that I've ever led. I'm really bad at taking compliments. But then one of my teens, who I was also sitting next to, said "I liked the way that you put your guitar down and prayed."


Tuesday, January 11

American Beauty Cocktail

...I'm just way behind on my drinking. No matter, time to hit it, and hit it hard. One drink here, one drink there, and I'll be out of the "A"s.

American Beauty Cocktail:
  • 1/2 oz. Orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. French (dry) Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. brandy
  • 1/2 oz. Grenadine
  • 1/4 tsp. Creme de Menthe
Shake well and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass. Float port.

There's, to use the parlance of our times, a pant-load going on in this cocktail. Two different wines (very prominent on the nose), brandy (which is distilled from wine), then some orangey-grenadine notes, with just a hint of mint at the finish. Quite sweet, but not unpleasantly so. Everything plays well together, with the mint definitely featuring itself quite prominently, which just goes to show you how potent creme de menthe is. 1/4 tsp. is barely more than a dash, and especially in 3 oz. of other stuff, you'd expect a milder ingredient to get lost.

This also gave me a chance to try out my new grenadine. I made it using a pretty simple process, one I would think would be a "standard" of sorts; basically, I boiled the seeds from a pomegranate for about half an hour, strained them out, took the left over stuff and added twice as much sugar (I think there was about two cups of liquid, so I added four cups of sugar, also at a bit of a boil to get things to dissolve) and bottled it. In all honestly, I should have put in a bit of neutral alcohol (vodka), but the simple act of boiling everything, as well as that proportion of sugar or greater, act as a good enough preservative to keep things shelf-stable. I've got a Rose's bottle filled with stuff out, then another huge bottle in the fridge to refill from.

I'd done the same thing before, but I think this one turned out a bit better; the pomegranate I found was huge, so there's a lot of flavor going on. I didn't even need to add any food coloring to this one, which I did to my previous batch, because there was just a great color right out of the pot.

Anyway, back to the cocktail. It's good. I'm not sure it will make the rotation, but there's a lot of very interesting stuff going on here, and it stays interesting the entire drink through. It's surprising how well everything plays together, given the completely even proportions (which I find rarely works) and the plethora of ingredients, but yeah. Good drink.

Monday, January 3

New Gear: JHS Little Black Buffer

It's been quite a while, but if you are at all like me, you know that the Christmas season makes things busier, rather than more relaxing. Something about working for the Church seems to transform me into Bizarro-Superman, where I only work weekends and holidays mean I'm at work (church) for five Masses in 48 hours. Such is life.

Between Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, my normal Sunday that followed, and a week-long trip to Chicago for New Years (well deserved and well received), I've been much too busy to string two words together on the internet, but I assure you that the time spent in real life (hereafter referred to as RL) was well worth it. Time to refuel and relax, and spend time with the people I love. That is, after all, what the holidays are all about!

First, a bit of bad news. Yesterday, Sunday, directly following my noon Mass, I slipped on my awesome gold String Dog Cable. I love this cable. It sounds boss, and I've yet to hear guitar tone as nice as simply going guitar -> String Dog Cable -> amp, mostly because I think that the tone faeries that they've somehow managed to enslave and bind within the insulation of said cable are at their happiest when there are none of those tricksy pedals getting in their way. But beware if you get this cable, on a tile or otherwise smooth, hard surface, it is very slippery. Low coefficient of friction. I've almost bit it a couple of times in the past, but this Sunday I couldn't catch myself, and I landed on my guitar. Kind of.

Luckily for me, I was using my now-relegated-to-backup-status Breedlove. Lucky because the Breedlove is built really solidly, whereas my Taylor probably would have had some serious damage. There appears to be almost minimal damage to the guitar itself (though appearances can definitely be deceiving), but the electronics aren't quite unscathed. The guitar has developed an interesting grounding issue, to the point where I get a very off-putting hum that randomly flares up during moments of quiet contemplation, and which render the onboard tuner sometimes useless. When plugged in. Unplugged, it's just fine. But in my position, mostly useless. So my options, as I see them, are to either get it fixed, which probably won't be too bad, or use it as an excuse to catapult myself towards an premium guitar. I love excuses. To be continued...

I did get a bit of an early Christmas present to myself, in enough time to wire up my electric board and play for two Christmas Masses. Normally it makes me really nervous to go out and play some untested gear for the first time, but let's just say that I was completely in love with my tone. I give you, the JHS Little Black Buffer.

Since my latest incarnation of my electric board, where I have my old-school, tone-sucking Volume Pedal first in my guitar chain, I'd noticed, well, a lot of tone-sucking. Particularly when I'd engage a loop that had a pedal with a buffer in it (mostly my delays) and I'd get an extremely noticeable increase in highs simply because of the presence of a buffer, any buffer. The true-bypass strip was doing it's job, but it was doing it a bit too well. The problem being, I thought that all of my buffered pedals buffers sucked too much to move to an always-on position.

So I did what I always do when faced with a gear-related decision: I checked what some trusted sources had done to combat the problem, then copied them completely. For this one in particular, I noticed that James Duke had recently gotten a buffer from JHS and loved it. Some quick perusing of some sound clips of theirs and I was hooked. I also want a lot of their drives, but that's neither here nor there. $95 later, (free shipping, no less) and my order was on it's way to the factory.

(I should note a dissenting (kind of) opinion. Karl likes the Fryette Valvulator buffer, which has an honest-to-goodness tube in it, and can also serve as a regulated power supply for a few effects, which is really handy. As it is also like $240 + shipping, and the sound-clips on JHS' website were sufficiently impressive, I saved a little money. Still, tubes.)

Got it on the Monday before Christmas, and installed it thusly:

It's all secret, strapped to the bottom of the board. It's almost like it's not even there, just hanging out, making my tone insanely better without garnering any attention of it's own, just like a buffer should. The chain is guitar -> Pedalboard bypass -> buffer -> everything else, so that the first thing the guitar sees is, effectively, about an extra foot of cable and jacks, then the buffer.

Let me just say, wow. I've taken to plugging straight in lately because I really like tone, and this buffer gives it all back. Only I still get to play with my pedals and I get complete control over my volume/distortion level with my volume pedal. All the life, all the snap, all the feel, all the vibe, all the everything is there. Buffers are cool. Get one.

And it makes me laugh that every guitarist I talk to who has put a buffer on to his board says the same thing, that they can't believe what a difference a buffer makes. And yet most guitarists don't have one. Particularly for me (my style is very much rhythmic, as opposed to lead, which makes sense since I grew up leading worship from an acoustic and am not a "good" guitar player by any stretch), where clean tone is really important, having an actual clean tone that is, well, clean, is huge. Get one.