.........Home | cv | bio | What Was Esquire's Cocktail of the Week? ........... ... ...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

California Wild & Wilder

It’s the pixie mandarin tangerine! a fresh face at my local liquor purveyor enthused as I acquired from the store my third bottle (in six months?) of Wilder Gin, an herbivore’s delight out of Ventura Spirits in Ventura County, California. The pixie I might note has a pixie impact on the palate. No, I taste Ventura County in all its natural flora. I have tasted that taste a hundred times on 101, 33, PCH, in Ojai, in Camarillo, and along the rows of tucked away farms outside of Oxnard. In fact, never have I tasted a California spirit that picked up the flavor of the very air under which it distills as much as Wilder Gin does.

Not a lot of juniper here. I am a fan of juniper laden gins, enough to consider it one of the two primary gin axes (the other is sugar, and of that I am no fan), but in this case I know that Ventura terroir well enough after sixty SoCal years to appreciate the sagebrush et al. herein. I even have a few friends on that terroir who may thrill to the thought of an Oxnard Old Fashioned, as I might when I get around to thinking about one.

For my money, though, and money is always precious when I spend it, I don’t find a drink on the Ventura Spirits cocktail page that exceeds the good feel of Strawberry Fields Forever, made with their blithe spirit vodka: California Vodka. In fact, the next time my California Surfliner is wheezing up the coast, I might have a Thermos of Strawberry Fields Forevers (sic) at the ready, as I watch the strawberry fields of Ventura County unfurl forever and an hour.

But as for sturdier drinks, here is what I recommend: stir some Wilder with rocks as a vermouth free martini, as I have done above, but drop a few drops of orange bitters into the glass or shaker first, to bump that pixie mandarin taste to the max. This will call to mind to fans of Graham Greene (or me) a fabled concoction called pink gin. But this gin is still colorless because orange bitters couldnt tint your best shirt. Then add a wide cut lemon peel twist AND a wide cut tangerine peel twist. In my backyard, all citrus grows well EXCEPT tangerine. So with the double barrelled twists and the shout of orange bitters, I am squeezing whatever pixie citrus I can out of this wild and Wilder gin.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Broker's Labor

Labor Day used to mean margaritas for me. And indeed I had my fill at Beverly's last night.

The reason I have long associated Labor Day with margaritas is because it's around the first day of the late summer that I can safely harvest a juicy lime from the backyard dwarf Bearss. Many more will come to full fruition between now and Easter, but the first are ripe for clipping now.

But these days, with the cabana undergoing a slow hand remodel, I'm more content with a gimlet–a kind of washed-out classic, tart and barely sweet, such a wonder for Chinese restaurants in the '30's. Broker's is a slightly hot (94 proof, and tastes it), low juniper London dry gin, a fine complement to the first lime of the season. It's not an herb bomb either. Pretty orange bitters make for an inviting watercolor of a drink, and a lime wheel or slice brings more vividness to the wisp of carnation in the color. Remember to give the shaker a shake for every year of age – that way, you can grow old together, handling the heat with just a little more bruised ice each passing year.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Umbrella season

Summer. Time for the best and worst part of it; the blazing days of August. An article from 1999 notes that the cocktail umbrella actually has a function: to shade a drink from the sun.
"What better way to prevent the ice cubes in a poolside mai tai from melting? What better way to keep that blended chi chi refreshingly slushy? Just as a good Panama hat, which is nothing but intelligently woven straw, can make the hottest tropical day seem pleasant, the cocktail umbrella, a little bit of split bamboo and pretty Japanese-print paper, can fight off solar radiation for a time, ensuring that the icy integrity of a good mixologist's creation remains intact. And look: it actually opens and closes like a real umbrella!--a transcendental feat which places the cocktail umbrella beyond the realm of mere appropriate technology (however brilliant) and into the realm of art alongside Frank Lloyd Wright's louvered window panels."
Which may be why they've seemed so kitsch when presented indoors.

By the way, that particular mai tai in the photo is at Kimo's in Maui. If you want to call it the best mai tai in the world, you'd be in good company, as many others have. But I don't lavish lavish praise so lavishly. Nonetheless, I'm going to admit – that's a boat drink and a half.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tequila Day Quandary

It's National Tequila Day and I am in a Quandary: I am reading a wintry title in the middle of summer.  John Le Carre's first novel, "Call for the Dead," is a vurrrry wintry, replete with coldcockings. There are no tequila drinks in the narrative, and indeed damn little tequila in Old Merry itself in 1961, the year of the novel.  So what to drink whilst parking proximate to The Tree You Can Walk Through in my backyard and parsing this barely-beyond-novella? Settling on a margarita, and here's how I make one: two parts tequila, one part lime, just less than one part Triple Sec or, if you are fussy, Cointreau. And...I shake it all with rocks in a cocktail shaker and pour it into a frosted cocktail glass rather than a tumbler.  I often use kosher salt for the rim, not that you can tell anymore, as there have been a few sips. 

Limes are not as prevalent in this neighborhood as lemons are, but there are neighbors in a pinch.  I have a seedless Beards dwarf, and can neither call it a disappointment or a delight: it produces, after a nearly decade in the ground, a scant seven limes a year.  But I always remain hopeful that one year it will take off.  It has great shape, and that is a consolation.

Friday, July 14, 2017

After Hell: Fernet-Branca and coffee

This is one of the easiest drinks of all; you drink it at that time in later (but not late) spring when it is 2:30 p.m. and you are about to nap but still would like to do some work and you are not of the energy drink cult.  It works best if you have an espresso machine at home.  You make a short Americano – but before you do pour a shot of Fernet-Branca into your favorite coffee cup.  (It will sip better if you don't put it into a mug, and you need a little more room than a demi-tasse affords).  Make the espresso on top of the Fernet-Branca and add shot of scalding water.  That is all.  Now go to the backyard and read any translation of the Purgatorio – this one is the Hollanders' translation, which has copious notes, which I am looking for these days, as my own present writing project involves the Divina Commedia.  I was ready to fall asleep but now I am ready to work.  Of course, there is some considerable simpatico here for yours truly, as Fernet-Branca was first made in Milan the same year my own family emigrated to the United States, and my last name is German for "one from Milano."  Similarly, there is always a connection between myself and the Purgatorio, because I believe this earth is one, and anyway, it is my favorite of the three books of Dante. About as long to prepare as your N/espresso takes to make.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Palm Beach Special

Bloomsday, and I am an iconoclast on this day, always.  On the 100th anniversary a few years back I staged a reading of you-know-what on my own balcony.  The truth is that I always let Ulysses float through and over my head, gladly--a guy I knew once told me something about Joyce, how he's so obscure that you can't help but love him because you need to study him for years to know him, and who turns on someone you've known and even studied for years--and I rather agree.  Rather, but...I also like Don Gifford's and Robert J. Seidman's Ulysses Annotated--in fact, I may even prefer it to the work itself--it's the work of a lifetime and resplendent with maps of Dublin, and to me it even anticipates wikipedia by about a dozen years.  More than that: the first effort was put "out there" in 1974, and they just kept on working it.  Now, about a Palm Beach Special, which is my Bloomsday cocktail of choice.  This is the perfect prelude to summer drink; not only beautiful but exceptionally tasty, and you only realize that it is over half gin after it's too late.  Here's what you do: get a shaker, put in some rocks, and pour in about half an ounce of sweet vermouth, three-quarters of an ounce of grapefruit juice, and about two or three ounces of gin.  I like to err on the grapefruit juice side--you will calibrate the sweet and sour to your own taste, and when in doubt, consult the Cocktail DB.  No, Joyce didn't drink Palm Beach Specials--which is actually a New York cocktail from the post-prohibition era of exuberance.  But he would have.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Jumper Cable

COME NOW the binge drinkers known as America’s Youth, long on consumption, short on contrition, but ever resourceful and even inventive when called to duty.
Give them a can of Jolt Cola and you know they’re going to do something useful with it.
Consider it done!

The Jumper Cable

1.0 can Jolt Cola Cola
5.0 cubes Ice
1.0 shot Bacardi Rum
Noted: You must use Jolt. That is, if you want it to be a Jumper Cable. Otherwise, you’ll have a Rum and Coke! Maybe even a Cuba Libre!
Depending on whether or not you feel like flirting with sex (6-1), money (10-1), publicity (2-1) or drunkenness (4-1), we recommend flirting with the rum/Jolt ratio. And squeeze some lime in to pretend you’re approaching civility and to honor the Caribbean’s contribution.
Ah youth. Wasted on the young, again! Do remember to drink less, but better.