Best Budget Irish Whiskeys

With St. Patrick’s Day coming, I thought this would be a great time to look at a few good value brands of Irish whiskey. These bottles have character but won’t set you back more than $25.

Irish whiskey is one of the fastest-growing liquor categories in the United States right now, especially among younger people who are looking to develop a taste for whiskies. It’s easy to see why: Irish whiskey is smooth and sweet, but still tastes like a rich brown spirit. It’s a good transitional drink for people who are beginning to explore the world beyond vodka-sodas and tequila shots.

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Passport Hell

In early January, my editor at Serious Eats contacted me about a press trip to Jalisco, to visit a tequila distillery. She had been invited, but the timing wasn’t going to work for her, so she wanted to pass along the opportunity to me.

Only problem was, the last time I was able to travel internationally was in December 2001, and I had let my passport expire since that trip. Oh, and I’ve lost it somewhere along the way, too. Well, that’s understandable. Since December 2001, I’ve moved — hm, let’s see — six times. You lose shit when you move.

Jen had a day off, and so I went to the Brooklyn Public Library’s passport office. This alone turned into a comedy of stupid because I forgot my checkbook. So I had to go to a bank to withdraw some cash and then to a pharmacy to buy two money orders, and then go back to the passport office.

I had to fill out the form twice, unfortunately. I was having the packaged addressed to my wife at work because mail delivery at our place is unreliable, and an active passport is not a thing you want to lose. But because I had Jen’s name listed as the c/o, and her firm’s name and floor number in the address, everything on the address lines got way complicated, and the workers in the passport office needed everything spelled out exactly in a certain way.

In the midst of all this hustle and shuffle, though, I managed to fill in the wrong address on the passport form. Not that I realized that, in that moment. So thinking everything was hunky AND dory, I came home.

And waited.

The passport office sent me an update at the end of January, telling me that my passport application had been processed. Then I got another email with a tracking number, telling me it was en route. It reached New York, NY, on February 8, and then nothing.

Went out for delivery on the following Saturday, and then it disappeared. No new tracking information on the website. After a week of no updates, I called USPS customer service. This was how I learned the passport had been misaddressed. It should have gone through the FDR Post Office on Third Avenue, but because the street address was incorrect (a 4 in place of a 6), it went to the Grand Central Terminal Post Office instead.

We had phone numbers for people at both post offices. One person called Jen to tell her FDR didn’t have it. No one ever contacted us from GCT.

Then the morning of February 26, I got a call from Charlotte, South Carolina. A woman left a voicemail saying she was from the passport office and my birth certificate had been returned to them, because it was also misaddressed. (That pesky 4, again.)

So the birth certificate went out after the passport but was returned to sender before the passport was. When I called back, she was very helpful. She readdressed the birth certificate, which I received a week later.

Then she said, okay, you still have five weeks before travel. That’s plenty of time for us to cancel the old passport and issue a new one, if we need to. So just wait a few days to see if it finally reaches you.

I called the main line for the passport office on Friday, February 28. I spoke to a different person who said, try going to the post offices to ask for a trace on the package.

I spent the better part of a Saturday morning bouncing between post offices while Jen stayed home with the kids. No luck.

The following Monday was March 3, one week ago. I called the passport office again, told them I had had no luck with USPS. The woman said, “Okay, wait a few days and then fill out a Statement of Non-Receipt of Passport and mail it to this address.”

Not even an hour later, a woman called from Charlotte again, asking for the latest on my passport. When I told her, she laughed and said, “Don’t worry about USPS or going to our site to download the form. I’ll email it to you, and you can email it back, or fax it. That’ll be much faster.”

Wednesday, I sent the form back to her via email, fax, belt, and suspenders. She called a couple of hours later to say, “We’re issuing you a new passport. It’ll go Express Mail. You should have it Friday or Monday.”

Passport arrived today, at Jen’s office, at the correct address. (Fuck you, 4.)

Oh, and someone apparently eventually found the old one at GCT, because it finally got returned to the passport office. Yesterday. Who knows how long it will take to get there?

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Bitter Drinks

This one was fun, one of the times when the words started flowing and didn’t stop until I was finished writing.

Following up on last week’s discussion of the Negroni, I thought I’d take a bit of time and explore the world of bitter liqueurs. As I said then, “You hate Campari until that one moment when you love it, and then when you love it you never want your bottle to run dry.” But how does one go about learning to love Campari and, for that matter, other bitter liqueurs?

[Read more!!!]

Re-Announcing “Shrubs,” Coming October 2014 from Countryman Press

So a few months ago, I announced my first book and shared the cover. Here’s the cover I shared.

shrubs-cover-v3

Well, hey, that looks great, doesn’t it? But it’s not the final cover. This is:

SHRUBS_CVR_r4

You’ll notice a few differences here, I think, some subtle and some not so much. First, check out the format differences. The first cover is square, the second one is rectangular. Why? The book was originally going to be a paperback original, in a 7 X 7 size. Now, it’s hardcover — the type of hardcover where there’s no slipcover, just the art printed directly on the cover.

You’ll note that the image is different. Instead of peaches and raspberries, we have apples and cranberries. Why? The release date has changed: October instead of July. The format, the cover, and the release date all changed for an important reason: we’re targeting the holiday-shopping season, which is exciting because it means we all think this book could be something.

Well, I know it’s something anyway. I’ve written it and I’m proud of it. I’ve seen Jen’s beautiful photos, and she and I are both proud of those, too.

SHRUBS is available for pre-order on various internet outlets: Amazon, Powell’s, and even directly from the publisher. Pre-orders are important, because they help the publisher gauge demand for the book and determine how many to print, so if you can pre-order, you’ll be helping me out quite a bit.

The Best Gin for Negronis

I am on the prowl now to find the best version of a Negroni that I can devise at home. I’m going to start by examining the gin. As we know, gin is a blend of neutral spirit and a mix of juniper and other aromatic herbs and spices. Some gin distillers push the juniper to the front, whereas others craft a spirit that’s more floral or citrusy. Which style of gin works best for a Negroni? I wanted to find out.

Read more, at Serious Eats.

Her apartment was in a large modern elevator building with central air conditioning. Her windows overlooked no view at all, but were large anyway. The living room was expensively and tastefully decorated, but with the sterility and lack of individuality of a display model.

“Bar over there,” she said, pointing. “Just let me get this film started. You could make me a martini, if you would.”

“Sure.”

“Very very dry.”

She went through the archway on the far side of the room, and Parker went over to the bar, a compact and expensive-looking piece of furniture in walnut. It included a miniature refrigerator containing mixers and an ice cube compartment, and up above a wide assortment of bottles and glasses.

Parker made the martini with the maximum of gin and the minimum of vermouth, and added an olive from a jar of them in the refrigerator. For himself he splashed some I. W. Harper over ice.

– The Handle, Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)

5 More Great Cocktail Blogs to Follow

I know I’m in a vanishing minority, but I still believe in blogging, and especially cocktail blogging. When I started my own blog eight years ago, I used it to report on cocktail trends, share recipes, talk about bartenders and techniques and ingredients, and—most importantly—connect with other people who had the same passion for cocktails that I have. Though there are many other venues now in which to share these stories, I still think blogs have a place for the kinds of longer-form writing that you won’t usually see on Facebook or even Tumblr.

Six months ago, I highlighted some of the newer cocktail blogs on the scene, but today I have a few more new and/or under-the-radar blogs to recommend.

[read on!]

Kickstart this cool bar spoon!

Just trying to get the word out, there’s a Kickstarter campaign in its final days now, for a couple of cool new bar spoon designs.

Check out the Kickstarter page here, and you’ll see the full prototyping process as well as the final designs for both spoons. I think these spoons look great, so check it out.

One is a classic barspoon, but with a straight, elegant shaft. The shaft and bowl will be made from one single molded piece of metal, so that the head isn’t welded on, which sets it apart from other spoons with a similar design.

The other spoon spins freely while you stir, removing a lot of the effort from stirring. If you’ve ever worked a full shift behind the bar, you’ll know that even stirring drinks can work up some repetitive stress issues in your arm and wrist.

Finally, the spoons are lovely and will make a great addition to your home or professional bar.

With 8 days left, they’re just over halfway to their goal, so help out if you can!