Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Prolonged Absence Requires An Old-School Resurgence: Crushed Ice Cocktails

I owe you all an apology for my unexpected, prolonged absence. I wish that I could tell you that I have been traveling the world or that I watched the Singapore Grand Prix from a VIP box. While I did win the Woodford Reserve Home Mixologist Manhattan Contest (with a recipe featured in an earlier post), the truth is that I simply have been derelict in my duties of writing about the great cocktails I have been discovering. But during this respite, I have come to admire the simple fact that sometimes, doing something “old school” not only is more fun, but also makes life (and cocktails) better.

For example, shaving like your grandpa did—with a double edged safety razor—not only saves you a lot of money, but also results in a closer, more even shave (and is better for your skin). First, shaving with a safety razor can save you more than $300 a year, just on cartridges alone. The price of Fusion blades, for instance, is around $30+ for a pack of 8, or around $4.00 per blade. In comparison, a package of high quality double-edge blades is around $1.50 for a pack of 10, or 15¢ a blade (which will last you about a week per blade). And, once you invest in a quality razor—a Merkur or Edwin Jagger are both great choices for around $40—you will have it for life. Plus, you feel like a badass every morning taking part in a ritual that great men like your grandfather, John Wayne, and John F. Kennedy all took part in.

As the Art of Manliness put it, switching from a disposable razor to a double-edged safety razor “is like upgrading from a Pinto to a Mercedes.” A safety razor is a machine. Which means that you need to let the machine do the work for you.

The most common mistake in using a safety razor is applying too much pressure. A quality, well-made razor will have sufficient weight on its own to exert the proper amount of pressure. Thus, bearing down on the razor will not result in a closer shave, but it may remove the top layer of skin, at best, if it doesn’t gouge you first (remember, you are holding a very sharp blade directly on your skin). Therefore, to make sure that you don’t use too much pressure, grasp the razor at the bottom of the handle, which will force you to use less pressure on the blade.

Strive to maintain a 30° blade angle relative to the skin as much as possible. You can achieve this angle by raising or lowering the razor handle. This is particularly important when following contours such as around the chin or jaw line. Since most nicks or cuts happen when the blade first makes contact with the skin, make sure that the safety bar contacts the skin first, and then lift the razor handle until you achieve the desired angle before beginning your stroke. And use short, slow, strokes with a safety razor. Precision, not speed, is the name of the game when holding a sharp, metal object against your face.

The razor glides more easily over taut skin. You can often tighten the skin simply by flexing your facial muscles or using your free hand to pull the skin in the opposite direction of razor travel. Stretching your skin opens the hair follicle and exposes more of the hair, which allows it to be cut shorter. 

Finally, as I discussed in an earlier post, a proper pre-shave ritual is key, especially with this machine. So if you want to avoid skin irritation, use pre-shave oil, and lather on a good shaving cream or soap with a badger brush. Your face will thank you!

Old school also translates better with cocktails. Unless you have a Scottsman Nugget Ice Maker or a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine from the 80’s, the best crushed ice for highball and swizzle cocktails is made by hand in a Lewis Bag. A Lewis Bag is basically a canvas sack (even an old bank bag would work) in which you put ice cubes to crush them. After filling the bag with ice, fold over the open end and lay the bag flat on a hard surface. Use a wooden mallet (or other hard, flat object) to pound the ice, starting from the rolled side down toward the end of the bag and then back in the opposite direction. Continue until you achieve the desired consistency of crushed ice. (Hint: using a higher-volume of strikes of lower force gives a much finer consistency of ice.) When you are done, scoop out the crushed ice, and make some extremely potent drinks, including these five (I’m making up for my absence):

Queen’s Park Swizzle
2 oz. Zacappa 23 Rum (or if you are feeling adventurous, Smith & Cross Navy Strength)
1 oz. Lime juice
¾ oz. Simple Syrup (demerarra syrup made with a 2:1 ratio is my choice)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
Fresh Mint

***Muddle a few mint leaves with the simple syrup. Fill glass 2/3 with crushed ice and pour in remainder of ingredients, except bitters. Swizzle. Add bitters on top and fill remainder of glass to top with crushed iced. Garnish with mint.

Navy Grog 
1 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
1 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum
1 oz. El Dorado 15-year rum
.75 oz. Lime Juice
.75 oz Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Honey Syrup

***Swizzle all ingredients over crushed ice. Fill glass with more crushed ice and garnish with a lime wedge and mint. Sip slowly!

St. Regis Julep
2 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
½ oz. Jamaican-style rum
1 barspoon Grenadine (anything but Rose’s)
1 sugar cube

***Muddle mint and sugar cube in a julep cup. Fill cup 2/3 with crushed ice and add remainder of ingredients. Swizzle and fill cup to the top with ice. Garnish with mint.

Death in the Gulf Stream
2 oz. Bols Genever
1 oz. Lime juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters

***To make this favorite of Hemingway, add all ingredients to glass. Fill 2/3 with crushed ice and swizzle. Fill remainder of glass with ice and garnish with mint and a lime twist.

Rye Swizzle
2 oz. Sazerac Rye
¾ oz. Lemon Juice
¾ oz. CuraƧao
3 oz. of fresh berries (black, blue, or raspberries)
2 dashes Angostura

***Muddle the berries at the bottom of a glass and then remove leaving the juice). Add remainder of ingredients and fill 2/3 with crushed ice. Swizzle and fill to top with crushed ice. Garnish with some berries.

I hope that after you have sampled each of these drinks you can forgive my furlough and will keep reading. After all, my New Year’s resolution is to make up for lost time….