Friday, July 27, 2012

Time for a quickie: The Georgia Mule

As a weekend treat, and to tide yourself over to my next post (coming soon), enjoy a Georgia Mule.

2 oz. Ketel One Vodka
1/2 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 1/2 oz. Ginger Beer
2 dashes Peach Bitters
1 slice fresh peach

*** In a Collins glass, muddle a skinned peach slice.  Build the remainder of the drink over the peach and stir over ice. Serve with metal straw and garnish with peach slice.

Ya'll come back soon now, ya' hear!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Perfect House Guest: Thank You Cocktails

Over the past few weeks, I have been privy to horror stories (usually over a cocktail) about poor etiquette. Whether I’m having an Old Fashioned with the Financier, a glass of wine with the Hedge Fund, or a beer with the Music Mogul, the complaints are basically a riff on the theme that some guys have no couth.  Whether it is the story of someone wanting to itemize, rather than evenly split, the dinner bill when six guys are out to dinner (hint: Don’t Do That! It all comes out in the wash); the guy who gets too loud and causes a scene (hint: Don’t Do That! Keep your conversation amongst your group); or the guy who tries to one up everyone’s stories (hint: Don’t Do That! Conversations with friends are not a competitive sport), it seems that everyone has a story about a (now ex) friend who displays poor manners that negatively impacts others’ experiences. Being a modern gentleman not only means dressing the part, but—and even more important—acting the part. As they say, “you can put a pig in a suit, it’s still a pig.” Don’t be a pig; act cultured and sophisticated at all times.

The other night, I was having dinner with the Trust Fund, who told me a horror story about a recent houseguest.  Although the guest was provided free room and board at the Trust Fund’s beach house, he acted ungrateful, complained about the meals, left a mess, and acted entitled the entire time.  Even worse, he never thanked his host for the hospitality. 

As the heart of summer approaches, you will likely be invited to be a guest in a friend’s weekend country house, Hampton’s summer share, private island, or back yard dinner party. Whatever the invite may be, accept it immediately (pause or delay is simply not tolerable) and do not make your host regret his decision to extend the invitation. 

The main rule to remember is that you should contribute something positive to make the experience memorable for your host. Start off on the right foot by showing up with a thank-you present that shows you put thought into it (rather than something you picked up last minute while running to the airport). Try to personalize the gift. If your host is a culinarian, a gift basket of exotic spices, oils, and ingredients is nice.  If he is a mixoligist, try some obscure bitters, amargos, or interesting liquor. A recent guest of mine to a cocktail party brought me a bottle of High West’s 36th Vote Barrel Aged Manhattan, since he knew my penchant for the drink.  Similarly, when the Texan recently came to visit at my weekend house for an evening of bar-b-queuing, he brought a homemade dry rub for ribs and another one for beef brisket, which he had made earlier in the week.  His gift not only added to our experience (and was ridiculously amazing), but it also subtly let me know that he had been looking forward to the visit that week. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least $50 on a gift if you are spending a weekend or more in someone’s home ($20 is enough for a dinner party). Avoid a gift that imposes on your host, such as offering to take him out to dinner, since that may require deviating from the plans your host may have already had.

When you are at the house, pack only your necessities and don’t spread your things all over the house. Keep your clothes neatly stacked in your room and a few toiletries in your bathroom (if you are sharing a bathroom, pack your items in a nice toiletry bag so that they are not in the way). Keep your wet towels out of the way (either behind the bathroom door or in your room) and, on your last morning, ask your host what you should do with your dirty towels and sheets.  It goes without saying that, before you leave, clean your bedroom, bathroom, and even a few of the common areas to alleviate your host’s chores.

If you are going to be staying several days, offer to purchase groceries (or at least chip in) for the house.  And waking up early to make a nice breakfast for your host is an excellent way to make sure that you get invited back. While you can make food allergies or dietary restrictions known beforehand, eat whatever your host provides with compliments and praise; no complaints, no matter how bad the food.

Finally, make sure to send a handwritten thank you note —not an e-mail or text message—to let your hosts know exactly how gracious you are that they opened their home to you.

During your stay, impress your host by tending bar and concocting something that they may not have tried before. A Mary Pickford, an old 1920’s drink named for the silent-film-actress, is an excellent drink to sip during a hot summer afternoon.

2 oz. Denizen or Banks 5 Island Rum
¾ oz. Fresh pineapple juice
½ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
¼ oz. Grenadine (make a homemade grenadine [boil 2 ½ cups pomegranate juice and 1 cup simple syrup for 20 minutes.  When cooled, add ½ cup dark, Spanish brandy (such as Cardenal Mendoza)] or use a high-quality premade version such as Employee’s Only or Trader Vics. Anything but the bright red, Rose’s version).

***Shake with ice, strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with cherry (optional)

or a Bee’s Knees

2 oz. Old Raj gin
1 oz. Honey syrup or agave nectar
¼ oz. fresh lemon juice

*** Shake over ice, strain into cocktail glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with lemon twist. 
Note, you can also make a variation of this cocktail substituting a high-end clear rum, such a Flor de Caña, for the gin

If you really want to impress, try a Hemingway Daiquiri

1 ¾ oz. 10 Cane rum
¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz. simple syrup

*** shake vigorously over ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel and cherry.

or a Moscow Mule

2 oz. premium vodka
4 1/2 oz. spicy ginger beer (like Fentimans or Reed’s)
½ oz. fresh lime juice

***Pour vodka and lime juice into tall Collins glass filled with large ice cubes.  Fill with ginger beer and stir.  Garnish with lime wheel

Visits always give pleasure—if not the arrival, the departure.  Make your host regret your departure, not your invitation.  And return the favor by opening your home to him. After all, you never know what new cocktail he will thank you with in return.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Packed With Style: The Martini

50 years ago, James Bond first hit the big screen in “Dr. No,” and a style icon was born.  Over 22 movies, 007 has inspired millions of men with his dress (from his Anthony Sinclair suits to his latest Tom Ford tuxedo), his watches (Bond wore a Rolex and Bronson an Omega), his cars (he has wrecked almost every style of Aston Martin), his women (from Vesper Lynd to Pussy Galore), and, of course, his swagger.  But no matter whether Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig, two things remain consistent: Bond always arrives in style, and he always orders his signature drink—a martini.

To ensure that you will remain dapper while on your mission (or vacation, whichever the case), you need to pack your bag correctly in order to protect your clothes and keep them wrinkle-free when you arrive.  An under-packed suitcase leaves too much room for clothes to shift, which creates wrinkles, and an over-packed one also produces creases and wrinkles.  But when your contents are carefully folded and arranged, your clothes will arrive wrinkle-free and pressed, allowing you to continue to look your best away from home.

The first order of business is to choose a stylish piece of luggage.  While a ubiquitous black roller is fine for an extended vacation (they are practical and easy to travel with), a weekend trip requires a manly leather or canvas duffle bag.  This is an investment piece, so spend as much as comfortably fits your budget (Louis Vuitton and Tod’s make great high-end bags for those who can afford it, but Kenneth Cole and Banana Republic make some equally stylish, more affordable versions).

Next, prepare your clothes for packing.  Stuff socks and rolled boxers in your shoes, which will simulate the support of a shoe tree, and place the shoe in a felt shoe bag, which will protect the shoe and help maintain its polish.  Have your dress shirts professionally folded in a dry cleaner’s plastic bag.  Fold your jeans in half with one leg over the other, and roll them starting at the cuff.  Fold your jacket or blazer lengthwise in thirds, inside out, taking care to push the shoulders through while making sure the sleeves meet each other inside.

Start packing by placing your shoes around the sides of the bag, which will protect your clothes like a moat.  Next lay your dress pants in the bag, leaving them open with the legs out until everything else goes in (and then fold them on top to protect against wrinkles).  Place your heavier items (like your leak-proof dopp kit) on top of the pants, surrounded by your rolled jeans, rolled belts, rolled cashmere sweaters, bathing suit, and folded t-shirts.  On top of those go your dress shirts.  Now fold the dress pant leg on top.  Finally, on top of your bag, place your folded jacket/blazer on top.  That way, when you arrive at your destination, you can easily get to it and hang it up quickly without having to unpack your entire bag.  And don’t forget to pack an extra plastic bag in case you need to bring a wet article of clothing back with you.

When you arrive at your destination, you should order Bond’s signature cocktail, but not the way he orders it.  While Bond orders his martinis “shaken, not stirred,” you should not.  When a cocktail is shaken, the drink becomes aerated with tiny air bubbles and a thin layer of miniscule ice chips forms on top.  By stirring the drink, which should be done to all cocktails that contain predominantly alcohol, you ensure that no head of ice chips or bubbles will form, and the cocktail will feel silky-smooth in your mouth.  Thus, while the taste of a cocktail is not affected by shaking versus stirring, the feel of the cocktail is, and a martini should be heavy and silky on the tongue, not bubbly.

Additionally, over the last several years, the trend is to make a martini bone dry by using less and less vermouth, to the point where it is just a glass of cold gin with an olive floating in it.[1] While I agree that you want just a kiss of vermouth in a martini, the cocktail is not correct without this key ingredient.  Therefore, to make the perfect martini, with just the right amount of vermouth, follow this version:

3 oz. Plymouth Gin (save the Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire, which both have a lot of botanicals, for a different cocktail)
1 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 dash orange bitters (optional)
Lemon rind (or olives if you prefer)

***Place several large ice cubes in a mixing glass.  Pour in the vermouth and stir for at least 10 rotations, covering the ice cubes and the sides of the glass.  Strain out the vermouth, leaving only the vermouth-soaked cubes.

Pour the gin over the ice and shake in a dash of orange bitters.  Stir for at least 25 rotations, allowing enough time for the gin to soak in the vermouth and chill.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with the lemon twist or a skewer of olives. 

While you may not have a license to kill (or do you?), no one has to know that.  Keep them wondering by channeling your inner-Bond with these tips.  Happy Birthday, Commander Bond.

[1] This table evidences the point:
DRY:  4:1 ratio
VERY DRY:  8:1 ratio
EXTREMELY DRY:  Add one eyedrop of vermouth to the shaker.
VERY EXTREMELY DRY:  Squeeze an atomizer of vermouth once into shaker.
BONE DRY:  Run a vermouth-wetted finger around the rim of the glass.
SUPERLATIVELY DRY:  Open a bottle of vermouth, set it down on the windowsill, and mix the drink on the other side of the room.
MAXED-OUT DRY:  Physically remove vermouth bottle from the premises.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Taming the Flame: Grilled Cocktails

It is almost the Fourth of the July, and that can only mean one thing — time to man the grill!  A true bon vivant can light a stack of briquettes and flip a burger the same way he commands the boardroom, with ease. And while I will leave the choice of charcoal vs. gas to you (for me, the flavor of lump coal can’t be beat and, after all, isn’t that the entire point of grilling?), a few simple techniques will make you the master of the flame.

      - For meat, skip the marinades. A generous dry rub of pepper, sea salt, and sugar (which caramelizes when heated) brings out the flavors of the meat.

      -  Marinades are, however, great with chicken. But the simplest ones, such as Italian dressing or fresh lime juice, are best.  In order to ensure the marinade doesn’t burn off on the grill, use a fork to pierce the chicken in a few places before marinating.

-    - To get professional-looking grill marks, put the meat on a hot grill at a 45 degree angle.  After 3 minutes, turn the meat 90 degrees (but don’t flip the meat over), and continue grilling.  Flip the meat and repeat. 

-    - Cook burgers, boneless chicken breasts, and steaks under a ½-inch thick directly on the flame.  For anything thicker and whole chickens, use indirect heat (where the flame is on one side of the grill and your meat is on the other) with the lid closed.  This will ensure that the inside and outside of the meat cooks at the same temperature (otherwise, the inside may be medium-rare and the outside well done).

-    - After grilling, let the meat sit covered with foil (to keep in the heat) for 3 minutes to allow the natural juices to redistribute.

-    - Use a grill basket for vegetables to allow them to heat evenly and not fall through the grate.

-    - Watch your food while grilling.  Remember, you can always put it back on the flame to cook more, but you can never undo an overcooked piece.

But if you really want to impress your guests, grill them a cocktail.  Fire adds a great smoky flavor to your meat and chicken, so why not get that same delicious flavor in your drinks?  Try some of these soon-to-be summer classics:

Grilled Lemonade

16 lemons
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 rosemary sprigs
1 cup Four Roses Bourbon

1. Cut the lemons in half, and dip the cut half in the sugar. Set aside in a tray to be grilled.
2. Combine water, sugar, and honey in a saucepan or disposable aluminum foil tray. Add in a couple of rosemary sprigs.
3. Grill the lemons cut-side down until nice grill marks appear (about 5-7 minutes). Remove the lemons, and set aside to cool.
4. While grilling the lemons, place the saucepan with the honey, water, and sugar mix on the grill. Heat until the sugar and honey are fully dissolved and it becomes a syrup and the desired amount of rosemary flavor has been infused into the syrup.
6. When the lemons are cooled, squeeze the juice into a pitcher. Add syrup and water to taste, pour in the bourbon, and add ice. Stir well and serve.

Grilled-Pineapple Crush

3 wedges fresh pineapple
2 dashes pure vanilla extract
¾ ounces simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
2 oz. Bacardi or Denizen white rum
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Grill the pineapple wedges to achieve grill marks.
2. In a glass, muddle 2 wedges of the grilled pineapple with the vanilla bean and simple syrup. Pour the rum and lime juice into a shaker. Add ice and shake. Double-strain into a cocktail glass.
3. Dust the remaining pineapple wedge with black pepper and use to garnish the drink.

Smokey Southern Sangria

6 oranges
4 lemons
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups water
6 chipotle peppers, coarsely chopped
6 oz. Maker’s 46 Bourbon
12 oz. Red (not white) Zinfandel
12 oz. soda water

1. Cut lemons and oranges in half and grill.
2. After the fruit is cooled, squeeze them until you get 4 oz. of smoked orange juice and 2 oz. of smoked lemon juice.
3. Combine brown sugar and water in a medium pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add chipotle peppers, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Combine the Bourbon, zinfandel, 4 oz. smoked orange juice, 2 oz. smoked lemon juice and 3 oz. brown sugar-chipotle syrup in a pitcher and shake well over ice.
5. Add more ice until pitcher is full. Add soda water, stir, and serve.
6. Garnish with the remaining slices of smoked oranges and lemons.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen . . . and on to your grill.  Happy 4th!