MxMo XCVII, May 18, 2015: I’ll Take Manhattan!

With April’s “Drink of Shame” theme just past, maybe its time to do a 180° and go with something more elegant and proud. Perhaps focus in on previous themes of the Old Fashioned and the Martini that have stood the test of time and do not garner you a look of scorn at a good cocktail Mecca. And maybe bringing back a touch of MxMo “Tom Waits” to the party could not hurt. Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, myself — Frederic of the CocktailVirgin blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for May 18th is one that will get you considering late 19th century-rooted drinks and their variations with “I’ll Take Manhattan!” Please read my full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

Turning to David Wondrich’s Imbibe! for some historical reference, he bandied back and forth about possible creators and locales for this classic’s creation. Perhaps it was created many places and many times, for sweet vermouth was the new hot ingredient of the 1870s and 1880s as St. Germain was in 2007 and 2008 (and arguably even to today). Wondrich quoted from the anonymously penned 1898 Cocktails: How To Make Them, “The addition of Vermouth was the first move toward the blending of cocktails.” In my mind, the Manhattan takes the Old Fashioned one step further. Not only does it replace the sugar with sweet vermouth, but this sweetener ties its herbal notes to those of the bitters and its spice notes to the barrel-aged whiskey (especially rye whiskey) as well as the bitters again. Furthermore, the addition of a hint of fruit and caramel flavoring is a welcome addition to the mix (I will not directly draw any link to the vermouth’s fruit and the cherry garnish though). While there have been a variety of Manhattan variations through the years such as the Preakness and the Brooklyn, most of the twentieth century saw this drink unchanged, in theory that is… However, the last decade or so has seen a renewal in the drink begin made correctly. Moreover, I would point to New York City cerca 2005 as the re-birth of the Manhattan variation with drinks like the Red Hook being born. For this theme, actuate it any way you’d like as long as the drink resembles a Manhattan. Want to take 19th century Manhattan recipes or variations to the test? …Or perhaps subbing out the whiskey or vermouth for another ingredient or adding in a liqueur or other modifier or so to the mix? Awesome, you’re right on track! There are plenty of Manhattan and Manhattan variations out there in the literature, and there’s plenty of room to explore and tinker if that’s your thing, too.

The theme has its merit for at a minimalist idea, you could just make your best Manhattan, sit back in a leather chair, and espouse on its merits both philosophically and flavorwise. Or you could delve into the cocktail book library and find some gems of what Manhattans were interpreted as and what riffs came to be. Or you could turn to your liquor cabinets and figure out what combination has yet to be tried! Spirit, herbal sweetener, and bitters can all be varied and new play pals can be added. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that is Manhattan in feel and form, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post plus links back to the Mixology Monday and CocktailVirgin sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let Fred know about your post by Monday night, March 18th by posting a link to your post in the comment section on his post, writing him at yarm-at-verizon-dot-net with “MxMo” in the subject, or by tweeting at him via @cocktailvirgin.

That gives you about two weeks to start contemplating where this drink came from and where this drink is going. And by going, I mean by variation or merely into your belly. I can’t wait to see what classy libations the blogosphere can conjure up!

 

MxMo XCVI, April 20, 2015: Drink of Shame

With February and March’s themes based off of highly esteemed drinks such as the Martini and Old Fashioned, respectively, maybe we need to see the cocktail world in another light. Perhaps some of us were lucky to have had our first mixed drinks as well-made Manhattans or Chartreuse Swizzles, but most of us started elsewhere whether in high school basements, sketchy dance club bars, or college bars, dorms, and frat parties. And perhaps you look back on some of those with nostalgia, like the Mind Eraser at a certain dance club for me, but would be too ashamed to request one as is. Could this be fixed? introducing our host for MxMo this month, Whitney of the Tipicular Fixin’s blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for April 20th is one that will get you rethinking those questionable nostalgic libations for the theme is “Drink of Shame.” Please read Whitney’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

So, you’re a certified, mixologist, craft-tender, bar chef, or fine spirit enthusiast…now. But, there was a time when you only ordered Long Island Iced Tea. Or, maybe you always made the Jello shots for your frat? Perhaps you’re the reason that your local had an Island Oasis machine for so long? Rye & Ginger? Vodka Seven? Someone was ordering these things. Your street cred would be ruined if you ordered or (gasp) served one now, but don’t you miss it, just a little? Wouldn’t you love to have one more Jolly Rancher? A chance to drink a mudslide without shame? We all made questionable drink choices in our past, the popular drinks from 1970 to the year 2000 were a cheap, sugary mess. Now is the time to resurrect your favourite drink from the time before modern Mixology. Give a new life to the drink… maybe you need to use fresh ingredients, or you can try elevating the spirits. Make everything from scratch or remove an offending ingredient. Do whatever you can to bring back and legitimize a drink you used to love.
The theme is an interesting one that falls between a few previous events, the ingredient-focused “From Crass to Craft” (MxMo LXXI), the historical era-themed “Retro Redemption!” (MxMo LXIII), and the near and dear “Guilty Pleasures” (MxMo XXXII). Sure, there is some overlap, but in re-reading Whitney’s proposal, it fell in somewhat new ground. And gosh darn it, any theme that makes you think of a post-drinking “Walk of Shame” is enough to make you chuckle, set up a shaker tin, and get to work! The concept allows for Vodka Redbulls to be reinvisioned as gin with a SweetTart candy shrub. Or perhaps that sketchy Red Death at the dance club could be reconfigured as a Tiki drink? I could go on but I might feel too ashamed to reveal some hidden gems from my past. Briefly, here’s how to participate:
  1. Find or create a recipe that fixes the reason you no longer drink the old version, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  2. Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Tipicular Fixin’s sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  3. Submit a link one of three ways by the end of April 20th: leave a comment on Whitney’s announcement post, write her at whit.tipicularfixins (at) gmail (dot) com with MxMo in the subject,or tweet her at @tipicularfixin with the hash tag #MxMo.

That gives us two weeks to delve back into our drinking pasts  and convert that trashcan soup into a delightful punch served in an elegant vintage bowl. Or perhaps convert that soda gun monstrosity into a Collins worthy of Manhattan’s finest. I can’t wait to see what you come up with and learn more about the blogosphere’s dirty secrets of their bygone drinking days.

MxMo XCV, March 16, 2015: Call Me Old Fashioned!

February brought us to reflect on one of the classic cocktails, the Martini. If made properly with a dash of bitters, it has all of the hallmarks of the simple cocktail — spirit, sweetener (dry vermouth does have 4% sugar), and bitters. What if we were to take things back even further with the concept of the concept? What if we contemplated a time before vermouths were regularly mixed into cocktails? Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Laura of the Sass and Gin blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for March 16th is one that will get you considering the basics for the theme is “Call Me Old Fashioned!” Please read Laura’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

The Old Fashioned is the original “cock tail,” dating to the early 1800′s. In this humble bartender’s opinion, it is the pater familias of all other drinks, and it has taken its place as such in the recent cocktail revival. We have seen many variations of the Old Fashioned (i.e. Mayahuel’s Oaxaca Old Fashioned, PDT’s Benton’s Old Fashioned) and the resurgence of similar cocktails (i.e. the Sazerac). The bitters market has exploded over the last decade, with more flavor profiles than ever before, and with a more health-conscious public, your local grocery store is likely to carry a selection of sugars to play with (agave, coconut sugar, turbinado, etc). So, here’s the challenge: We will be sticking to the traditional ratios of spirit, bitters and sugar, but I’m challenging you to step outside the box with your selections. In addition, how will it be chilled or garnished? Do you want to add a secondary spirit or rinse? Go to town!
The theme is an interesting one since it forces you to take a step back and consider the basics. Besides which spirit or split spirits to use, how about sweetener? Besides so much variation in sugar including dark ones like muscovado and jaggery, there are syrups like maple, molasses, and honey. Not sure if orgeat is too far of a stretch, but the Japanese Cocktail in Jerry Thomas’ 1860s tome has a similar Old Fashioned structure. The explosion in bitters, both potable and nonpotable, on the market is immense as well. Could a dash of Fernet Branca or absinthe do just as well as the bittering agent (or as the optional glass rinse that Laura allowed) as Angostura Bitters would? So many simple but thoughtful options that few will not have a liquor cabinet ready to take on this adventure. Briefly, here’s how to participate:
  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that is Old Fashioned in form, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Sass and Gin sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let Laura know about your post by Monday night, March 16th by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her post or by tweeting at her via @sassandgin with the hashtag  #MxMo.

That gives you about two weeks to start contemplating the 1806 definition of the Old Fashioned and adjust accordingly to modern sensibilities or to screw it all and feel turn of the 19th century. I can’t wait to see what basic but elegant libations the blogosphere can conjure up!

MxMo XCIV, February 16, 2015: That’s Not A Martini!

Did January’s Mixology Monday just come and go so quickly? It just seems like two weeks ago that I wrote the last announcement post. MxMo “Blue” brought out a lot of fun and frivolity in the realm of drinks with Tiki and other cocktails that look like Windex. But perhaps we should take an opposite direction for February by looking at variations of an old standguard. Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Dagreb of the NihilUtopia blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for February 16th is one that will get you looking at all things gin and perhaps vermouthy for the theme is “That’s Not A Martini!” Please read Dagreb’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

A Telecaster’s not an Esquire. A Melody Maker’s not a Les Paul Jr. A Marauder ain’t a Crown Vic. A Blue Moon is no Martini… well, almost. Take away the dash to a quarter ounce of Creme Yvette and we’re left with gin (a must!), dry vermouth, and orange bitters. That’s a Martini! It’s at least one canonical Martini anyway. This month’s Mixology Monday theme is that which is almost, but not quite, a Martini. Perhaps there are dashes (or more) of a liqueur (or two) added to the basic structure. Perhaps a Fino Sherry (or other fortified/aromatized wine) is standing in for vermouth. Maybe there’s Oxygene instead of bitters? Gin, certainly! Use your imagination! Use your library! Make a Martini, that’s wearing a hat!

The theme excites me for I went on a Martini-variation craze late last year. One of my guests at the bar was an Ambassador from India who came in for lunch and a Martini. I began chatting with him about the drink and its history, and soon I was discussing my favorite variations. The mini Martinez I made him won him over, and he later sent me an email letter of thanks that started up a conversation. The next time he showed, it was a Hanky Panky as my choice which garnered another email of thanks. And I had an arsenal of next go-tos including Puritans and Poet’s Dreams, but alas, he has not showed again to date (although his two visits were well spaced, so he could appear any time business brings him my way). Therefore, we should all do some research about Martini variations, or perhaps create a new one? What about a gin, vermouth, and Ancho Reyes spicy-savory one? Utilize that blue curaçao still on the counter from January and make a Blue Fancy Martini? So many options! Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  1. Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that is “almost, but more than, a Martini” (while heeding Dagreb’s need for gin), then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  2. Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and NihilUtopia sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  3. Submit a link one of two ways by the end of February 16th-ish — leave a comment on Dagreb’s announcement post, or tweet him at @dagreb with the hash tag #MxMo.

That gives us all 2 weeks or so to figure out which gin to use and how close to stick to the original Martini structure. The pre-Prohibition cocktail literature was a scatter of Martini variations and the dirty gin Martini still with dry vermouth appeared mid-20th century, I believe. Oh so many ways to go about this! I am definitely curious to see what crisp and dignified (or lack thereof) libations you and your curiosity can come up with…

MxMo XCIII, January 26, 2015: Blue

With December’s theme of Apples still wafting through the blogosphere like freshly baked pie, we should move on to January’s Mixology Monday before that pleasant aroma dissipates. And if it does decrease, will we get sad? And can we embrace that sadness? Perhaps introducing our host for MxMo this month, Andrea of the Ginhound blog, might make this idea better understood.

This month’s theme slated for January 26th is one that will get you considering a certain area of the cocktail rainbow for the theme is “Blue.” Please read Andrea’s full announcement post, but here is a brief description:

January needs a bit of color – or perhaps the month after all the holiday mania makes you feel…blue? Either way this month’s Mixology Monday is a chance to live those emotions out. You can dazzle us with a brilliant blue drink or you can share that blue feeling with a melancholic drink.

Blue has been predicted as a new cocktail trend several times in recent years… But any mixer of blue drinks is faced with a bit of a dilemma as there is nothing “natural” about E133 – the most common of blue food colors: Do I really want to mix chemicals into my prefect mixture of fresh juices and good booze? Feel free to interpret blue as freely as you wish – if natural is the way you want to go blueberries, violets, cornflower or red cabbage could be good ingredients to work with.

This theme is rather cool because it allows the Tiki-philes to break out the blue curaçao and get all funky and festive with the drinks. Moreover, the fans of garden-to-glass can break out this past summer’s blueberry shrub or syrup (or use this past season’s glory via the frozen food aisle of the supermarket as I have done in the off-season). Have a bottle of Hpnotiq and not afraid to admit it? I bet there are some tasty uses for it. Don’t feel like buying a bottle of blue spirit? Well, blue food coloring can save the day! With all those options and more, there is something for everyone to join in on the fun. Briefly, here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a recipe for a cocktail that demonstrates your take on the theme of blue, then post the recipe, and include a photo and your remarks, on your blog, tumblr, or website. If you lack one of those, feel free to post on eGullet’s Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post — either the old school original or the funky blue one Andrea designed, plus links back to the Mixology Monday and Ginhound sites. Once the roundup post is put up, updating your post to include a link to that one as well would be appreciated.
  • Let Andrea know about your post before midnight on Monday night, January 26th (Denmark time) by posting a link to your post in the comment section on her post, emailing her at andreadoria56-at-gmail.com, or by tweeting at her via @husejer.

That gives us all two weeks to start thinking of cocktails on the short end of the visible wavelength spectrum or on the short end of joyousness. I am definitely curious to see what refreshing libations you, your curiosity, and your colorful liquor cabinet shelves can come up with!