Monthly Archives: May 2006

I weep for the future

Today’s New York Post describes 25 Things Every New Yorker Should Know, and I certainly can’t argue with most of them. You should know how to swipe a MetroCard, make an egg cream, work a room, or befriend your bodega guy. But item 16…oh my.

Look, just–

Look. Every New Yorker should know how to make a perfect Manhattan. I don’t care if you’re only 10 years old, you should know how to make a Manhattan. Why did mommy and daddy bring you into this world except to stir them up a cold drink? But don’t take your cues from the Post, fergodsake:

16 How to make a perfect Manhattan

One Little West 12′s beverage director Bernie Bernstein says you can make a Manhattan the normal way or the perfect way. “The key difference,” he says, “is the regular uses sweet vermouth and the perfect uses both sweet and dry. To me the perfect is the greatest Manhattan there is; it just makes the bourbon that much smoother.”

Step one: Fill the shaker three-quarters full with ice.

Step two: Pour in 2 ounces bourbon – preferably Woodford Reserve.

Step three: Pour in three-quarters of an ounce of sweet vermouth. Then pour in same amount of dry vermouth.

Step four: Add 3 dashes of bitters, then a dash of maraschino cherry juice.

Step five: Put a pint glass on the top and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until the shaker is cold with a slight frost.

Step Six: Strain the drink into a martini glass and garnish with a pristine cherry.

So right, and yet still somehow so wrong. Use rye, stir it, and skip the fuckin’ cherry juice. What is this, a Slurpee?

Charbay Vodka

Who cares about vodka? If it’s not the most boring spirit on earth, it’s damn close anyway. Since most of them are designed to be clean and flavorless, I’ve never honestly seen much point to drinking it, except maybe in a bloody mary, or straight from the freezer, in a shot glass and downed quickly.

My wife, Jen, used to be primarily a vodka girl, especially on the rocks with tonic water, which I think is probably the dullest drink around. After we hooked up, I started coaxing her in gin’s direction, and she’s pretty much thrown over vodka for good.

But the wife and I are hosting a cocktail party next month, and we know we’ll have vodka drinkers, so we need to stock up. During our regular trip to LeNell’s, we asked LeNell for vodka recommendations, explaining that although we weren’t vodkaholics ourselves, we knew there were more flavorful versions available now, and could she recommend some?

I mentioned in my MixMo post that we tried the pastis from Domaine Charbay, in California. Susan Karakasevic, a cofounder of Charbay, posted a kind and thoughtful comment, thanking us for sampling her family’s pastis.

With her warm words in mind, Jen and I were inclined to pick up a bottle of Charbay’s clear vodka, thinking it might be a good introduction to the brand. LeNell agreed, telling us it’s a tasty vodka–viscous and not overly refined, so that it retains sweetness, character, and flavor.

We took a bottle home and sampled it in a vodka martini. Now, I usually hate vodka martinis–I might as well drink icewater for all the flavor I taste–so I was a little hesitant. But I wanted to do right by the Charbay, so I mixed up two martinis with a splash of dry vermouth, stirred over ice. I wanted to get the pure flavor of the drink without the dilution that shaking brings. Jen wanted a lemon twist, and I wanted an olive, so I garnished accordingly and took the drinks out back.

I have to say, these were delicious drinks. LeNell’s description was right on target–a hint of sweetness and viscosity, a slight burn, and a clean finish. Although Jen preferred her twist and I, my olive, we both sampled the other’s drink and agreed that either one works well. And as we learned this morning, it’s good in a bloody mary, too.

We’ve definitely found our vodka for the party.

New mag for drinks nerds!

logo for Imbibe magazineHaving seen a number of bloggers discussing the new magazine Imbibe, I dispatched my lovely wife last week to track down a copy, to read during our flight to Alabama. She found the first issue for sale at Borders and brought it home for me. I’m still working my way through it, but so far, I’m really enjoying it.

Imbibe is a drinks magazine, and as such, it covers a range of beverages—coffees, teas, beers, spirits, and wines. (I’d love to see features on specialty colas, root and ginger beers, and other soft drinks.) The first issue contains articles on hotel bars, the drinks culture of Oaxaca, Ted Haigh, Trappist ales, and organic wines. It’s a fun magazine that fills a heretofore open niche.

A lot of magazines have come and gone in the last couple of years—Radar (twice) and Chow are the ones I most lament. This seems to be a hard time to keep a new magazine afloat, but then perhaps it was ever thus. It’s hard to say how long Imbibe will succeed. Nevertheless, I’ve voted with my credit card and purchased a subscription. (Actually, due to incompetent use of a web browser, I seem to have purchased two subscriptions. I’ve been on the web for a decade; I have no excuse.)

As I mentioned earlier, the premiere highlights twelve hotel bars. Among the bars featured is Bistro Moderne in Houston’s Hotel Derek. The write-up discusses a Moderne specialty cocktail, the Texan, providing only the ingredients (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Sauza Conmemorativo tequila, and lime juice) and not the proportions.

I was intrigued but nervous about the bourbon/tequila mix, but since we have both ingredients at home, as well as plenty of limes, I wanted to try it. I had no idea what proportions to use, so I winged it. In a mixing glass, I poured three ounces Very Old Barton bourbon, two ounces Herradura Añejo, and one ounce lime juice (for two cocktails). I sampled just a bit of that and found it a little harsh, so I added half an ounce of simple syrup. I shook that over ice and strained it into two cocktail glasses.

Jen and I both liked it, but we felt it was lacking complexity. The sweetness was fine—any more than half an ounce of simple syrup would have been too sweet. I started thinking about bitters, and since triple sec is a common companion for tequila, I thought about Gary Regan and his orange bitters.

Good thought. Our second batch went as follows, and it was, we felt, a better mix:

The Texan

  • 1½ oz. Very Old Barton bourbon
  • 1 oz. Herradura Añejo tequila
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

I’ll happily entertain suggestions for garnishes. I left the drink naked. Salted rim? Lime twist?

Meanwhile, let’s all raise a toast to Imbibe’s long life.