Tuesday, June 28

Baron Cocktail

Two in a row! Alright.

Baron Cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. French (dry) vermouth
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. orange curacao
Stir with cracked ice and strain into 3 oz. cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Here we have a rather delightful twist on the Martini. Actually, it's more than delightful. I've had probably a hundred Martini's over the last few years, with probably twenty different variants, and it's not much of a stretch to say that this might be my favorite. The good thing about a Martini (I mean a real one, not one with chocolate liqueur or passion fruit syrup or UV Vodka) is that it's familiar. Comforting, even. I've had a lot of bad cocktails in a lot of bars, but as long as you watch the bartender and let them know that a Martini is a cocktail with an appreciable amount of vermouth in it, you're going to get more or less what you had in mind.

And that's what's so delightful about a slight twist on an old favorite. Because sometimes the simple gin/vermouth/olive combination gets a bit....tired. Always good, always strong, always welcome, but sometimes I'm not looking for that. This twist reminds me (for good reason) very much of my previous favorite twist, which was a Martini made with half gin, half vermouth, a few dashes of orange bitters and a twist. In a drink as simple and subtle as the Martini, you really discover just how much flavor the lemon twist imparts on the drink. This, in turn, opens your eyes to how much of an effect any ingredient can have, no matter how small. This drink is huge, because a few dashes of orange curacao and a dash of sweet vermouth, and you get a drink that's exceedingly familiar, yet where the Martini has the dry botanicals of the gin and a hint of brine off of the olives, this one sings with fruity flavors from the orange and lemon peel, and the splash of sweet vermouth gives you something a bit more complex. Rather than dry and brisk, you get a drink that is flavorful and refreshing, all while still being, at it's heart, a Martini.

I can't recommend this one highly enough, though I suppose one caveat is that I do, in fact, love a good Martini. If you're not really into them, then I guess it might not be for you, but this is far and away the best Martini I've ever had.

Monday, June 27

Barbary Coast Cocktail

Having gone exceptionally long (almost all of June....) without a post, I thought I'd start drinking again. I know, twist my arm, right?

Barbary Coast Cocktail:
  • 1/2 oz. rum
  • 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. scotch
  • 1/2 oz. Creme de Cacao
  • 1/2 oz. cream
Shake and strain into 4(ish) oz. Cocktail glass.

You can see my generic, "well" brands in the picture up there, though there shouldn't be anything there that surprises you, at least not if you've been reading for any amount of time. Once again, a cocktail calls for a decent amount of creme de cacao, and once again, the Marie Brizard disappoints with it's awful nose and chemically aftertaste. I really, really need to find a drink that will mask that ingredient and then drink it all down in that fashion, and move on to another brand, because I feel like this has been a lot of cocktails that could have been passable with another cacao.

As far as the drink itself, it's sort of an everything-Alexander, which is interesting. Sidenote: it is a brave barkeep who decided to pair scotch with creme de cacao. It kinda works, though. Man, I need another creme de cacao.....any volunteers?

Friday, June 3

New Gear: Gretsch 5129

This one has been a long time coming, since I've actually had this guitar since March, but that extra time has also given me the chance to evaluate it in a lot of legitimate, gig-type settings. I saw it hanging on the wall in the used section of a music store that I rarely go to, and it called to me. I plugged it in to a few amps, turned some knobs, and fell in love. Behold!

If you've never owned or played a Gretsch, you're missing out. There is a difference between the bottom line (Electromatic) and top line Gretschs, but I think it's only the difference between solid wood and laminate, and some fanciness in terms of binding. The electronics, the build quality, everything else is on-par, and I think made in the same factory in the good old USA. What that means is that the tonal difference between a $2000 Gretsch and the $700 Electromatic version is there, but it's really subtle. I much prefer that to the Gibson business model, where an Epiphone Les Paul, we'll say, sounds just awful compared to it's big brother, and isn't even manufactured in the same country, let alone the same plant.

This particular one doesn't seem to be a part of their standard line anymore, but it seems to be in the same line as the White Falcon. It's got single-coil pickups, a Bigsby tremolo and a hollow body. Let me just say, this thing is awesome. I absolutely love hollow-body guitars for the extra grit and feedback that you can get at normal volumes. And something about all that extra space inside of the guitar really rounds everything out, controlling the highs and the upper-mids so that it becomes really difficult to get a harsh sound out of this guitar. Sure, you can go countryesque chicken-picking with it, but even those tones won't tear your head off like a Tele can. It's just a more mellow, smoother tone. Hard to explain.

I got turned on to Gretsch guitars by (who else?) Hillsong United. They use them. A lot. I saw them live a few times in the last year and it seems like everyone was using some kind of Gretsch with a Tele or Strat as a backup.

Also, I used this guitar with my Blues Jr. to record the clip of the Westbury overdrive from just a few days ago, so give it a listen and you can hear some of it's tones. This is probably my favorite guitar, and I've had it for the least amount of time. I try to play it every chance I get!

Wednesday, June 1

New Gear: Westbury W20 "The Tube" Overdrive

So the last few weeks have been a bit crazy; sorry! As promised though, here's a quick demo of a pedal that I got in a trade on Craigslist. I like it, but I can't justify keeping it so it's out on the Gearpage as we speak, with perhaps a stop on eBay in it's future. So if you like it and you're interested, shoot me an e-mail!

I present, the Westbury W20 "The Tube" Overdrive:

Here we've got a Gretsch hollowbody going into the tube, into my Blues Jr. And some less-than-spectacular playing, combined with some in-demo tuning. Recorded on the iPhone. All the makings of a rock star, I tell you....

It's an interesting pedal. Clearly, it's not transparent. The closest comparison I can make is that it's similar to a Tubescreamer, except that there's a 12ax7 tube in it so it's much warmer. From all of the information I can gather, it was made in Japan in the 1980's, then re-released by Nady once they bought Westbury. There are some people who really, really love it and seek it out since it's super rare. It does have some pretty nice drive at lower gain levels, but it's just got way more than I think I'll ever need. Maybe not though. I'm kind of on the fence, but I'm not in love with it.