Wednesday, March 30

Drink Spotlight: Le Matin

Looking for a nice update for the Old Fashioned? This, like the Sazerac, is a fancy update.

Le Matin:
  • 2 1/2 oz. Rye whisky
  • 1/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur
  • 3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Build in rocks glass full of ice, and stir.

Good. Just good. Takes a little bit of time for the ice to mellow things out, but it's just great. The Maraschino and Benedictine add few complex, but still well-blended, flavors that really define the drink. It's still very rye-centric, and since my stock rye is Rittenhouse 100 proof, it's got some kick to it, so you definitely have to enjoy cocktails like the Old Fashioned, or even just be a fan of whiskey in general, to appreciate this cocktail, as otherwise you might not be able to get over the burn of the alcohol. But then, what were you expecting from a drink composed of just over 3 oz. of alcohol and some ice cubes?

I'm a little surprised that there's no garnish; a Maraschino cherry seems like a no-brainer, given the Maraschino liqueur within. It would definitely help overcome the extreme rye-ness of the whole drink. It's quite good, but then, I love whiskey....

Babbie's Special Cocktail

Babbie's Special Cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz. Apricot brandy
  • 1/2 oz. sweet cream
  • 1/4 tsp. gin
Shake and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass.

I think I'm finding that I'm not a huge fan of cream in cocktails. Not that it's bad, or doesn't serve an important purpose; it definitely does! Cream adds a huge textural element that would just not be present without it. It's just so...heavy.

That said, in this drink, it kind of least as well as the rest of the cocktail works. The gin probably might as well not even be there. It probably would work with a slightly less assertive Apricot brandy, where the little hint of gin would actually add something, but it's pretty lost here. This cocktail isn't awful, I just think it could be improved with a bit more gin.

Monday, March 28

B & B

B & B:
  • 1/2 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/2 oz. Cognac or Brandy
Layer the brandy on top of the Benedictine in a Cordial or shot glass.

That one warms the cockles....and saying things like that makes me feel fifty. Oh well. This is a classic drink that was apparently popular enough that you can buy B & B in a bottle, which I believe is mixed 50/50. But then it's possible to change it up and fix the ratios to something you prefer, though this is fine.

I think I really like Benedictine. It's sweet and spiced and wonderful, and when mixed with a little bit of brandy, it mellows it out. I will say that I'd probably prefer this drink on the rocks or something like that, but that's mostly because I just don't really like shots.

Atty Cocktail

Here we go, last "A" cocktail! Hooray!

Atty Cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. french vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Creme Yvette
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

Once again, I don't have Creme Yvette, but I do have Creme de Violette, which is, theoretically, the same. What we get is a cocktail that's got the botanicals of the gin mixed with the smooth, sweet, floral character of the Creme de Violette, and that's rounded out with the vermouth. I like it, though I'm not sure I love it. Not because it's not good; it's actually rather exquisite, which isn't a word I use often. I'm just still getting used to the Creme de Violette. But it's a really well balanced and put-together cocktail. It's on the list.

What does not show up is the really pretty, jewel-like violet color.

Friday, March 25

Drink Spotlight: Singapore Sling, take 2

So having discovered some discrepencies between what I thought was a Singapore Sling and what Wikipedia believes to be a Singapore Sling, I thought I'd do the honest thing and try out both. It should be noted that the changes are minor and all of the ingredients seem to be accounted for, it's just the ratios that are slightly different. All that said, here's what I came up with.

Singapore Sling (IBA version):
  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 1 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 1/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 1/2 oz. Grenadine
  • 4 oz. Pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
Shake very, very well and strain into some sort of very large glass (mine is 15oz.). Garnish with whatever you have lying around, but probably a pineapple chunk and a Maraschino cherry.

This version is actually very, very tasty. Wikipedia suggests using a blender to get the frothiness that you so desire, but I just shook the bejeezus out of it and got a fairly good amount of foam. Since the drink doesn't have any ice in the glass, you could probably fit it almost perfectly into a pint glass, but I decided to go on the larger side just to be safe. I did garnish with a cherry floating in an orange-peel boat, but it decided to sink. All for naught anyway, as the foam would have covered it up. Just jam something on the rim for color.

The only substantive difference between this version and the other version is Lemon vs. Lime juice. The other version is the one that you'll get if you go to the hotel that invented the drink, but the actual original recipe has been lost to the ages so even they will say that theirs is an approximation. The above recipe is the International Bartenders Association standard, though it should be noted that the IBA isn't exactly the end-all, be-all of mixed drinks.

I think I'd probably take the other version and shake it, and then it would be a game-time decision as to whether it's served up or on the rocks. But shaking it gives it a great, foamy pineapple head, which is just delightful and really added a nice texture to the drink. But the other version is definitely more complex since it's not being drowned out in lemon juice and the other ingredients are a bit more prominent. This one was dangerously easy to drink, though. Probably depends on the mood....

Thursday, March 24

Around The World Cocktail

Around The World Cocktail:
  • 1 oz. Pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. Creme de Menthe
  • 1/2 oz. gin
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

What an interesting combination of flavors. The mint makes everything super cool to the taste, and the sweetness of the pineapple combined with that coolness isn't something I've ever experienced before. The gin's botanicals round everything off. Maybe not my favorite drink in the world, but it is really good once you get past the odd combo. Definitely give this one a try.

Drink Spotlight: Bombshell McGee

I was looking for something to break up the monotony of continuous Apricot brandy, and boy, did I find it. I came across this little gem that actually manages to use Jagermeister, well, competently. That's quite a chore because most booze nerds shun the stuff as rocket fuel for frat parties, as well as being so potent of flavor (think of how difficult it is to mix with scotch...), but it's actually a legit liqueur that just happens to have some very, well, brash flavors. Well, here's a drink for you:

Bombshell McGee:
  • 1 oz. spiced rum
  • 1 oz. Kaluha
  • 3/4 oz. Jagermeister herbal liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Build in a rocks glass filled with ice, and top with splash of club soda. Garnish with orange twist.

This drink comes to us care of the great Dr. Bamboo, who is, quite sincerely, one of my favorite in a long line of people who mix alcohol and the internet. He spoke in great depth of his love for Jager, despite it's unpopularity, and finished it off with a drink that he deemed a "low-rent Negroni," which is fair. It's definitely got some rough edges, but that's rather the point. The Jagermeister fights with the coffee liqueur (which I've often thought overpowers any drink it's put in; case in point, put it in twice as much tequila and you get a great drink that is still dominated by the Kaluha....) and both kind of overwhelm the spiced rum, but that's okay. He used Sailor Jerry which I heartily endorse, though I didn't have any lying around so I went with the inimitable Kracken, which is a dark spiced rum. Delicious.

I really like this drink because it's complex and has layers of flavor. The Jagermeister is definitely there and adds a lot of interest to the drink, and the spiced rum basically just waters down the coffee liqueur and makes it palatable. The orange peel does it's job, too. Definitely a good cocktail if you're trying to figure out what all Jager can be, especially if you're not the typical Jager-bomb connoisseur.

Wednesday, March 23

Apricot Nectar Rickey

Apricot Nectar Rickey:
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 oz. Apricot Nectar
  • 1 cube of ice
Add ingredients to 8 oz. Highball glass and fill with club soda. Garnish with spent lime hull.

This one is interesting for two reasons: it's the first non-alcoholic drink I've encountered in the book, and despite that, it's extremely faithful to the "rickey" drink formula. In fact, it's a delightful rickey because of the natural sweetness of the apricot nectar.

And oh, apricot nectar. Let me just say up front that I have no idea what apricot nectar is. Is it juice? Is it juice-like? I mean, the drink was good and refreshing (and, being non-alcoholic, suitable for all ages), but it wasn't really anything to write home about. Especially when actually finding the key ingredient was a bit of a trick. Not like crossing the Indian Ocean on the spice route to procure spices for the seven richest kings of Europe, but it's not something that most grocery stores have just lying around. Pro tip: look in the Mexican section, or, failing that, go to a Mexican grocery.

Apricot Fizz

Apricot Fizz:
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp. sugar (2 tsp. simple syrup)
  • 2 oz. Apricot brandy
Shake well and strain into 7 oz. Highball glass and top with club soda.

This is really quite delightful. I think I just have a thing for Fizzes. Something about the light, persistent carbonation that just seems to cushion and soften all of the rough edges of the drink and give it a nice, interesting texture. I suppose if I hadn't been drinking nothing but drinks based upon apricot brandy for the last few days, I'd say "what a novel blend of apricot flavors and tart citrus fruit!" It's good, it's just I'm getting a little weary of apricot by now...

Tuesday, March 22

Apricot Cooler

The temperatures have been steadily in the 70's here in St. Louis, so it's with the summery weather that I'm experiencing this drink for the first time. Definitely made for the summer months.

Apricot Cooler:
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or 1 tsp simple syrup)
  • 2 oz. Apricot Brandy
  • Club soda
In a 12 oz. Collins glass, put sugar and 2 oz. club soda, and stir. Fill with crushed ice, add apricot brandy and top with club soda. Garnish with orange twist or lemon twist (or both).

The term "cooler" is definitely apt, as this is mostly ice and club soda. With a product as heavy and flavorful as the apricot brandy that I have, it's really, really nice to dilute it with 8-10 oz. of water (of either the really cold or really bubbly varieties). The citrus twists add just a little hint of other fruit flavors and really carry the drink. The sugar is probably necessary, but the apricot brandy really is quite sweet. I suppose with nothing to counteract the sweetness, it's just up to the club soda to dilute things, but it's fairly delightful. I may be making quite a few of these in July and August.

Thursday, March 17

It Might Get Loud

I love Netflix. Netflix + PS3 = streaming a lot of random things any hour of the day. Including "It Might Get Loud", a documentary starring The Edge of U2, Jimmy Page and Jack White. Just awesome.

Of course, being a worship leader, I'm intimately familiar with The Edge, so there wasn't much new I learned about him. But I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about Jimmy Page, who apparently spent a lot of time in England as a session guitarist before Led Zeppelin happened. And then there's Jack White who I knew absolutely nothing about and was 100% surprised by how amazing he is as an artist. So real and completely focused on music as expression. Amazing.

What's coolest about the documentary is that it brought together three artists who have very different styles and outlooks on how to make music, but they're all successful in being musical artists. Jimmy Page was easily the most technically skilled of the three, Jack White is a big fan of rawness and purity of tone, and The Edge uses tons of effects to completely define his sound. They talked about everything from how they got into music, struggles in their careers, writing, influences, their favorite guitars, all that. And at the end, they all jam out and you can definitely hear them coming through their playing. Amazing.

See it. It's great. It made me re-evaluate Jack White and want his sweet Kay guitar.

Monday, March 14

Upgrading my Musicmaster Amp: The Plan

I've discovered two things about making upgrades to an amp. Well, I've discovered a lot of things, but here are two points: 1) it's necessary, particularly with a vintage amp that has seen a lot of wear, and 2) it's not as much fun as buying a new pedal. I really like my Musicmaster Bass amp from the late 70's, and I've decided to take some good advice to, rather than buying new gear (since I'm happy with what I have), do some upgrades. So here's what's on the list. It is threefold.

1) A new speaker - While I really appreciate the sound of a well-broken in speaker, I feel like there's a lot that this amp is missing. With a 40+ year old speaker, it's not surprising that I'm probably not getting everything I can out of the amp, as speaker technology still revolves around a paper cone and a magnet, both of which can and do degrade over time, even with minimal or no use. The thing that sucks is that I'll have to take some time to break the speaker in, but it needs to happen, so better sooner rather than later.

2) New tubes - Or, perhaps more accurately, nicer tubes. The biggest problem here is that I have no idea what's going on with the current tubes. If they are in fact from the 70's (not likely, but possible. The guy I got the amp from said it spent most of it's time in his dad's closet), then they are probably better than the bargain tubes that Fender is putting in it's new amps today, and the fact that they've lasted this long means they've probably still got some life left in them. Or they could be new tubes that he put in right before he sold it to me. I need to research, but either way, this is one area I'll be really concentrating on. Some nice NOS tubes or something like that.

3) A good attenuator - I love this amp. I don't love that it has only one volume knob. Wait, let me rephrase. I love this amp. The sound guy, the bands I play with, and the little old ladies in the third row don't love that it has only one volume knob. My favorite way to play this thing is to turn it to 10 and use my volume pedal and playing dynamics to control the distortion, because that way, it doesn't get much louder or softer, just more or less distorted. But I can only do that in the privacy of my own home when no one's around. So to make this an amp I can actually enjoy playing out with, I need a good attenuator, one that will give me a Master Volume knob that doesn't suck.

The hidden fourth thing on the list, and the thing I should probably do before I do anything else, is take it to a good amp tech and have it serviced. It's got a lot of...peculiarities...that tend to come with a vintage amp. Lots of noise. Loose tube sockets. It's probably got leaking capacitors and all kinds of fun things like that. Just having it looked at and tuned up would put my mind at ease, and it would ensure that any other upgrades I do to it are actually necessary. But the key thing is to do them one at a time so I can actually appreciate what's happening and changing with each upgrade so I can decide what I like and what I don't. I definitely don't want a whole new amp; I like this one just fine!

Sunday, March 13

Drink Spotlight: Singapore Sling

So here we have an interesting but of drinking history. The original recipe was lost, and what follows has been pieced together from best guesses and reputable sources. That being said, it's recently come to my attention (as of Googling "Singapore Sling" just two moments ago,) that the Singapore Sling is shaken and served up, not on the rocks, which would result in a nice, foamy texture via the pineapple juice. But either way, the recipe seems to be fairly close.

Singapore Sling:
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 1/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz. Benedictine
  • 4 oz. Pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. Lime juice
  • 1/4 oz. Grenadine
Build in a highball (here, pint glass) filled with ice and stir. Float a drop of Aromatic bitters and garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Let's just say that this drink is intense. It's really, really good but just look at all of those ingredients! It tends to be the case that Tiki-styled drinks can really rack up the ingredients, and while this drink has no rum in it at all, the large number of fruit juices and such, especially the pineapple juice, place this thing firmly in the "Tiki" camp. It's also really, really good. Really complex, too. The combination of gin and Benedictine is a winner, and it's really well balanced between sweet and sour, bitter and fruity. And refreshing, too. A great drink, but the reason why I'm only just now putting it together is that it took me a while to acquire all of the ingredients.

Not that Cherry Heering and Benedictine are particularly difficult to find, but they are expensive and it took me a while to make it happen. Well worth the wait.

Saturday, March 12

Apricot Cocktail

Okay, just one more page of "A's". Time to get my game face on.

Apricot Cocktail:
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Juice of 1/4 orange
  • 1 1/2 oz. Apricot brandy
  • 1 tsp. gin
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

Lots of fruit juice in this one, combined with the apricot brandy, and you get a big, sweet glass of alcoholic goodness. I sometimes wonder if we modern cocktail enthusiasts (read: drunks) give the modern bartenders serving up Appletinis and Chocolate Martinis with a Chocolate-syrup rimmed cocktail glass too much crap for the overt sweetness in their drinks, covering up the alcoholic content with a sickening amount of sugar and fruit juices. But this one is making it happen, all the way from 1935. It's probably a very similar mechanism happening; there are just as many sweet drinks as dryer ones, but tastes weren't tilted towards these kinds of drinks in the early days of drinking. Or maybe they were and we all just try not to talk about it. James Bond just wouldn't have been the same character ordering up a chocolate Martini.

As it is, this drink is just way too sweet. Maybe the products were a bit different in the 30's, but it's awfully overwhelming. I'm still going to finish it, but it tastes like a lot of sugar. On a positive note, the color is dead-on for an apricot, so that's pretty awesome.

Friday, March 11

New Mass Parts

It's been a little while since I've posted anything even remotely musical, but a few years back I wrote some Mass parts for Lent. This was back in school, when I actually knew what terms like "Dorian Mode" meant, so they're, of course, a bit funky and I think I did a good job of capturing where I was at that particular Lent. Well, they've also been my go-to Mass parts during Lent for the last few years, so now that I'm leading more places than ever (and have had some other people ask to do them all over the place), I went ahead and YouTubed (which is totally a word, Firefox spell-checker!) some sketches of them so people could at least hear what they sound like.

So check them out! I'll probably start posting a lot of stuff up there just because it was way easier than I ever thought. And it's pretty surprisingly good quality, considering it's just my iPhone4's video app. Just think, even ten years ago, shooting a video and putting it on the internet took thousands of dollars of equipment and hours of editing and uploading, and now you can do it with a $200 iPhone and a few touch-screen touches. Technology is a b.

Tuesday, March 8

Drink Spotlight: Tequila Old Fashioned

I really like the "Old Fashioned" family of drinks, so much so that I decided to take a brief detour away from the Old Mr. Boston to look at this drink in particular. As with any particular foray, this one wasn't without cause; I've been in search of a good Passionfruit syrup as for some reason or other I've gotten it into my head that I needed to make a Hurricane for today, Mardi Gras. Which is, incidentally, an overly Catholic holiday representing one last chance to get all of your sin out before Lent begins. So it's a great day to be Catholic, so much so that the rest of the world took it upon itself to have a hell of a party for pretty much no good reason at all. But I guess everyone's Catholic on Mardi Gras....

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Passionfruit syrup is proving very difficult to find in St. Louis, MO in the middle of March, so my quest took me to all manner of hippie-style organic grocery stores, all to no avail. However, I did manage to pick up a few random things that I've been wanting to try out: coconut water, Q brand Tonic water (which I've heard great things about, and am scared that it's going to live up to the hype so I won't be able to buy the $0.99 stuff anymore) and Agave syrup. These are all odds and ends in various esoteric drinks, but I wanted to give at least one of them a shot before my drinking habits devolve slightly over the next 40 days. Not that that's my Lenten thing, just doesn't seem to be right to be boozing it up like crazy during some of the most solemn days of the year. So, to the point, the Tequila Old Fashioned.

The Old Fashioned is a venerable cocktail that I haven't gotten around to yet, so here's the brief rundown. Basically, it came about when someone would say "I'd like a whiskey cocktail, in the old-fashioned way" at a bar, the term "cocktail" originally meaning a drink consisting of some sugar, some spirit, and some bitters. That's all that you had to have to be a "cocktail", and yet it's amazing the number of "cocktails" in existence today that can't even satisfy those basic requirements... But regardless, the Old Fashioned Cocktail came to be known as a whiskey drink (or a brandy drink in some parts of the country), whereas the original Old Fashioned Cocktail was just any spirit with sugar and bitters. And I love whiskey, but this particular drink is a great way to explore other spirits and enjoy different tastes. Behold:

Tequila Old Fashioned: 
  • 1 tsp. agave syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz. tequila
Combine agave syrup and bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Add ice and stir to mix ingredients and start ice melting. Add tequila and stir some more. Garnish with lime peel, expressing oils over glass.

It's a really simple recipe that really lets you get creative. Note that the spirit in question is all-important in this drink, so use quality tequila. This is not the time nor the place for Montezuma. I used a reposada, 100% agave gold tequila, but anything that is 100% puro de agave will do. The agave syrup is a twist on the standard sugar cube, and it helps to keep tequila's flavor nice and forward as the drink dilutes. What I noticed immediately is that tequila is a surprisingly mild product. I've certainly had my share of bad tequila, and I would never call myself a "tequila" man, but I was expecting harsh, intense flavors. What I got was mild and complex, and it really let me discover what this particular tequila is really all about. I can see why some people compare great tequila to a great scotch. There's the smokiness at first, but also the depth of flavors. I could easily imagine premium, single-malt-style tequilas that have all kind of different flavors hiding beneath the agave notes. I wonder if that's a thing? The sad thing is, probably not, because the dominance of good old Jose Cuervo has ensured that any Americans that might be in the market for such a product were long ago turned off on tequila as a bad experience.

Monday, March 7

Approve Cocktail

Approve Cocktail: 
  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon or Rye
  • 2 dashes (Angostura) bitters
  • 1/2 tsp. orange curacao
Stir with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass. Garnish with orange and/or lemon twist.

So at first, I saw 1/2 tsp. and thought I saw 1/2 oz. So there's that. But in spite of that, this drink still turned out a lot like I expected: very non-dilute with a pretty strong alcohol burn. Which is, unexpectedly, the first drink out of the book that I'd say that about. The other ones have all managed to manage the alcohol with a good amount of water.

And yet in spite of that, still not a bad drink. Interesting play of flavors. I went with rye, my brand of which is 100 proof (which could very well be the root of the problem), and I opted for the orange twist. Not anything to write home about, but not bad either.

Tuesday, March 1

Apple Pie Cocktail

Apple Pie Cocktail:
  • 3/4 oz. rum (Bacardi Gold)
  • 3/4 oz. Italian (sweet) Vermouth
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Apricot brandy
  • 1/2 tsp. grenadine
Shake and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

This cocktail is a mystery. It immediately follows the "applejack" cocktails so I 100% expected some applejack, particularly because of the fact that it's supposed to taste, well, somewhat like apples. Instead, we get a rum and vermouth concoction with Apricot brandy and grenadine for flavoring and just a hint of lemon juice for tartness, and it comes out tasting, well, somewhat like an apple pie. Maybe it's the spices in the vermouth, the fruitiness of the grenadine and apricots, and the tartness of the lemon, all coming together to trick my taste-buds into "apple pie" mode. (Which is, by the way, different from "apple pie a la mode". Yeah, sorry about that joke.) But it's incredible. Not a hint of apple-ness anywhere.

This does explore some really interesting psychological space that I'm sure I learned sometime about taste being a super imprecise sense. Something about how tastes are made up of things like bitterness or sweetness, but there's not an "apple" neuron that lights up when we taste apple. Wait, not imprecise. Actually super precise and completely adaptable. Somehow the mix of these ingredients is perfect, and whomever invented this drink was a master. This one will definitely get repeated, if only for the really cool psychological lesson that it taught me.

Also, a quick note to make this and many other drinks much easier to make: the standard barspoon is about 1/2 of a teaspoon. It's rare that you get ingredients in less than 1/2 of a teaspoon's measurement, so when you're looking for the precision required from this recipe, it's pretty easy to do. And in a lot of cocktails, the "flavoring" ingredients are often in scant measurements. I still haven't figured out a good, repeatable "dash" for ingredients not in bottles with a tiny opening (like bitters) though...

Applejack Sour

Applejack Sour:
  • 2 oz. Applejack
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp. Simple Syrup (1/2 tsp powdered sugar)
Shake well and strain into 6 oz. Sour glass. Fill with club soda and garnish with a cherry and a lemon slice.

The Sour family is another one that we'll get way more into as we progress through the book. I'm sure this is indicative of how the Old Mr. Boston book handles this drink, and it's definitely "sour." The juice of 1/2 of a lemon works out to about 3/4 oz. of juice, which in today's world would balance out with about an ounce of simple syrup to adjust it to modern palates, though with all of the club soda watering things down, it really tamed the drink and made it potable. This one worked really, really well, as we once again have the combination of applejack and lemon juice working well together.