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Weekend cocktail blogging: bittersweet

with one comment

With the rainy weather in San Diego and all, something stiff is in order. Hence, a slight variation of Old Pal, which I had tried earlier with Jack Daniels. But comes out much better with actual Rye whiskey. The bitterness of the campari balances very nicely with the sweet vermouth (which I supplemented with Lillet).

  • 2 parts Old Overholt
  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part Sweet Vermouth (or equal parts vermouth and Lillet)

Stir in the glass part of the Boston shaker, and then strain into a pre-chilled martini glass. Squeeze the lemon peel slightly over the drink and drop into it.

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Friday Cocktail Blogging: Back to bitters and 300th

with 12 comments

After last weeks flirtation with a sweet cokctail, we are back to bitters. I am gradually growing to love the taste of bitters in my cocktail. So I tried this drink which is similar to the Negroni but uses whiskey instead of gin.

Its a small variation on the Old Pal, which calls for Canadian rye whiskey, whereas I used Jack Daniels. I guess you could call this ‘Ole Pal Jack‘, or something.

  • 2 parts Jack Daniels
  • 1 part Campari
  • 1 part Dry Vermouth

DSCN3126

Add ingredients to cracked ice in a mixing glass – stir gently and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of orange. The original recipe also uses equal parts of whiskey, Campari and Vermouth – but I toned down the bitter a bit.

Incidentally, this is my 300th post. Its mere piffle,both quality and quantity-wise, with respect to most blogging giants (like this dude), but certain amount of personal satisfaction comes when I think back on how this blog has grown. And I will drink to that. Cheers !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 20, 2007 at 11:59 am

Posted in Blog, Martinis, Personal

Weekend Cocktail Blogging: Saturday Quickie…

with 6 comments

A fine, crisp and sunny weekend evening in San Diego inspires this Hendrick’s Gin-based cocktail. Let’s call it…ummm….. say Carte Blanche (not my own idea – flicked the name off the box the Hendrick’s came in)
  • 3 parts Hendrick’s Gin
  • 1.5 part lime juice
  • 1 part sugar syrup/teaspoon of sugar.
  • Few dashes of Paychaud’s Bitters

Shake all ingredients except the bitters with ice and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass. Add a few dashes of the bitter on top. Enjoy with mozzarella-rolled prosciutto with basil, and salami with Parmesan.

[Or, just drink a Shiraz-Cabernet-Viognier blend, as the better -half was doing]

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 10, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Food, Martinis, Personal

Tagged with , ,

Friday Cocktail Blogging: New Orleans on mah mind

with 9 comments

The SuperBowl to be played between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday, will have at least a few certain winners from the city of New Orleans. If the Saints win – the connection is obvious, and the French Quarters will erupt. But even if Indy wins, Peyton Manning happens to hail from NOLA, as does his father – who spent a long career playing with the home team (back in the dark days when the team was mocked as the ‘Aints).

So anyhoo, all this is a long lead up to say that I’ve always had a sort of romantic longing for NO, especially after reading ‘A Confederacy of the Dunces‘ (easily one of the more underrated gems). A city with a laid back attitude, rich musical heritage, spicy food, and a number of classic cocktails does absolutely fine by me.

Of course, being a lazy ass has meant I’ve kept putting off the trip down there (In fact –  totally useless piece of personal trivia –  we we had almost made bookings for the weekend that Katrina stuck NO, and some work  made us cancel it). Oh well.

But in the spirit of celebrating Orleans, here’s the most famous cocktail from the city – and apparently, the very first cocktail to be ever invented. There are several versions of the drink , but I really liked how this one was written, so I pretty much followed the directions:

1/2 teaspoon absinthe, or Herbsaint (a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur)
1 teaspoon of simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar)
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 small dash, a scant drop, of Angostura bitters (extremely optional; some feel it helps open the flavors, but traditionalists may leave it out).
2 ounces rye whiskey. (I used Old Overholt Rye)
Strip of lemon peel

And I followed the traditional method outline there, using the Herbsaint, which I was lucky to find at the local BevMo:

The traditional method: Pack a 3-1/2 ounce Old Fashioned (rocks) glass with ice. In another Old Fashioned glass, moisten the sugar cube with just enough water to saturate it, then crush. Blend with the whiskey and bitters. Add a few cubes of ice and stir to chill. Discard the ice from the first glass and pour in the Herbsaint. Coat the inside of the entire glass, pouring out the excess. Strain the whiskey into the Herbsaint coated glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that the lemon oil cascades into the drink, then rub the peel over the rim of the glass; do not put the twist in the drink. Or, as Stanley Clisby Arthur says, “Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the drink.”

It takes while to make this drink, but the effort is quite well worth it.

Edited on the morning after: I made about 6 of these last night, and seems like a good idea to go easy on the sugar. For me, about half teaspoon of sugar hit the spot.

So here to the Saints (or the Colts) and the weekend in general. Cheers.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 5, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Food, Fun, Personal

Tagged with , ,

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Manhattan

with one comment

I blogged about the Manhattan before, but lately I have developed a renewed affection for this drink.  (Also, in that earlier blog, the drink was more of an after-thought – wanted to expand on it a bit).

This renewal of affection came about  possibly during the trip to Boston earlier this year, when fellow connoisseur BH led me to this wonderful watering-hole in a Cambridge alleyway. Over the stretch of a Friday evening, the extremely sympathetic barman treated us [1] to an array of Manhattan variations, the names of which I fail to recollect, but various other New York city subdivisions were involved.The variations mostly involved using different kinds of whiskey, bitters and vermouth (well duh!).

The other reason is the discovery of Gentleman Jack, a double charcoal filtered, extremely mellow Tennesee whiskey that seems ideally suited for this drink .

Note that the kind of Manhattan you prefer, like Martinis, is a personal choice: the type of whiskey, on the rocks or straight up, dry or sweet and cherry or not. etc are some of the options one is faced with.  Couple of ground rules though. First, the obvious – never use expensive whiskey like single barrel bournbons, or single malt scotch. Second,  even if you partake a cherry – don’t add the syrup – the drink will be too sweet. For the rest, go by your own taste.

The Manhattan hasn’t yet replaced the dry Martini as the pre-dinner drink of choice, but it is running close. This is the way I prefer it now, especially on summer evening after work:

  • 2 parts Gentleman Jack
  • 1/2 part Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 part Lillet
  • Dash of Blood Orange Bitters (or Angostura)

Shake in a cocktail mixer with lots of ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Optional cherry garnishing (best way to do this: add the cherry – sans the syrup – to the bottom of the glass and pour the drink over it).

As you can see, I prefer straight up. Unlike the Martini, where on the rocks is a definite no, a Manhattan is okay over ice. However, I recommend that you use ice a bit more fine than usual for this.

Cheers.

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[1]: No, we paid for the drink, but the barman possessed that ideal quality so severely lacking in many of the profession: anticipating our next drink -both in terms of when we needed one next, and what we would enjoy. In a Friday-evening crowd, that is a fine

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm

FCB: The cocktails and I – Random Eight.

with 8 comments

In spite of the CTBT proclamation, Patrix tagged me with the random facts meme. Now, it is truly not quite possible to do this tag accurately since for the eight facts to be random, I should ideally make a list of all facts about me, number them and then use a random number generator to choose the eight. Pedantry aside, and considering that Sakshi decided to go her own way in modifying the tag, I am sure Pat won’t mind if I take liberties with the tag (and his moniker!). So here goes in the spirit of killing two birds with a stone, eight somewhat random facts about me – but related to alcohol.

(new cocktail recipe at the end)

1. I have been totally pissed out drunk on numerous occasions; but usually I remember all that happens and the embarrassing stuff I say and do in that phase. Only once (2005-2006 New Years Party) was I so drunk that I have little or no recollection of events. The person in the know tells me that I eventually went to sleep clutching to my bosom – a trash-can (with a paper bag inside) – for the fear of puking in the night. It was a weird feeling the next day, not being
able to remember. And yes, I have puked on several occasions after too much drinking – not particularly proud moments.

2. I respect people who are teetotalers, if it is simply a life-style choice; but it pisses me off when someone gets preachy and condescending about their choice or when they try to explain that they don’t drink because it is ‘addictive’. Alcohol is not addictive – learn your limits.

3. The Martini is my usual pre-dinner cocktail of choice, but lately I have fallen in love with the Negroni‘s bitter appetite-inducing taste. My other favorite alcohols can range from beer to margaritas to a fine wine or whiskey – depends totally on the mood or the food I am consuming.

4. I tend to be quite loquacious after my first cocktail, glass of wine or (three bottles of) beers; otherwise I am quite a reserved person, especially if in company of people I don’t know well enough. But get me to drink something, I’ll be the chummiest person in the room.

And yeah, I can’t do the macho thing of ‘holding my drink’ – I feel tipsy quite readily and actually think that is a good thing. Keeps me from consuming too much alcohol.

5. My first ever alcoholic drink was when I was only 9 ! It was a small sip of champagne from my dad’s glass – this was at a celebration party for India winning the Benson and Hedges Cup ’85 (we were abroad then). I felt proud of my achievement for many years and kept boasting to my friends till I realized how stupid it sounded.

6. I started drinking very late – perhaps three or four occasions during college. Regular drinking started only after arriving in the US and the fascination with cocktails only in the last two years or so. I had some sort of an idealistic notion of not spending my pocket money (ie my dad’s hard earned paise) on alcohol. The occasions in college were mostly off others and once on my scholarship award money !

7. Apart from sipping a well-made cocktail, what provides great satisfaction to me is serving up a good cocktail for others . The drinks I love to mix for others include my own versions of vodka-cointreau-lime-and-other-liqueur (e.g Cosmo) cocktails, margaritas and caipirinhas; I can also make a mean Sangria for parties.

8. What I am sipping right now: a mojito based concoction with vodka replacing the rum, and cointreau to add some sweetness. How about calling it the Comrade ?

What you need:

  • Vodka 3 part (or more depending on how strong you want it)
  • Cointreau 1 part
  • Lime/Lemon juice (2tbp)
  • Brown Sugar (1tsp)
  • Mint leaves (fresher the better)
  • Soda/Tonic Water

Take a few sprigs of mint leaves, the brown sugar and the lemon-lime juice and muddle them in a highball glass. More you can bruise the mint leaves, more flavorful your drink will be. Add ice cubes to the top, fill in with Vodka and Cointreau (the latter is to adjust the sweetness and should be about a third of the portion of Vodka). Stir a bit. Top off with soda or tonic water if you want. For garnish, take a sprig of mint on the palm of your hands, slap it with the other palm and drop into the drink. Place a straw, sip and enjoy – its highly refreshing! An interesting variation to this drink is to use either basil leaves in place of or in combination with mint.

I am supposed to tag eight others; but as usual, those who I can force into responding to a tag have mostly been tagged already; so I randomly choose Curiouscat and Dipanjan as the next victims !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 29, 2007 at 6:33 am

Posted in Martinis, Personal

Friday Cocktail Blogging: Back with a Bundy

with 5 comments

I have complained earlier about the high cost of liquor in Australia, which is party due to high duties. But, if as the wise man said, death and taxes are the two certainties of life, then surely alcohol is its lubricant. Therefore undaunted, we shall continue with our quest of featuring refreshing alcohols for your weekend pleasure with the return of Friday Cocktail Blogging.

I am usually not a big fan of rum (although I have enjoyed the Brazilian rum, cachaca) as I find it coarse and hard on my taste buds. But since I am in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, home of the famous Bundaberg Rum (Bundy to locals) and I happened to like its smooth flavor (not to mention I got it cheap at the duty-free), a few drinks based on this rum will be featured today and the coming weeks.

Today’s cocktail is basically a simple variation of generic Highball/Moscow Mule type drinks. You need:

  • 3 parts Tonic Water
  • 1 part Bundaberg Rum
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Bit of Sugar Syrup (use finely granulated sugar if you don’t have the syrup handy)

As usual, make sure you are using fresh lime and good quality ice. In a highball glass, add ice to the top and then the rum, lime juice and sugar syrup. Stir a bit (especially if you are using sugar – stir enough to dissolve it). Top off with the tonic water and add a dash of the bitters. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Once again, nominations are welcome for naming the drink. My choice is (unimaginatively) the Brisbane Zinger.

I happened to use Schweppes Indian Tonic water (so called because it contains a small amount of quinine and was made popular via the old British Raj habit of using quinine with their drink to ward off malaria) for this – which is supposedly bitter by itself – but I needed the added bitterness of Angostura. If you are using regular soda water – remember to compensate with sugar and bitters. You can use lemon in place of lime as well. Btw, if you make a virgin drink without the rum, basically it will be a Bitter Lemon.

As the locals would say, ‘no wrorries, mate – ‘cheers’. Enjoy the weekend

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

June 15, 2007 at 4:36 am

Posted in Martinis

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Martini Debate

with 19 comments

A cold one....

“I like to have a martini

Two at the very most —

After three I’m under the table,

After four, I’m under my host.”

— Dorothy Parker

Till a couple of years ago, when I was a poor graduate student, alcohol (the drinkable variety) was just alcohol – didn’t really matter what variety it came in: cheap, or preferably free with the fewest strings attached, and simply getting drunk was all that counted.

Martinis belonged to a separate planet. It was something James Bond sipped while impressing all those sexy women, and cost near about a dinner meal to order. I remember the first experience trying to order a Martini in the snappy Bond-ish style, but messing up as the bartender kept asking me all these questions about what brand of liquor etc till I was reduced to a blabbering slob. And then I didn’t even really like the drink that much !

Thanks to a better pay-check, strong personal interest in the art of mixology, and experimentation with many bottles of gin and vermouth, I am in a much better position today to appreciate the drink. Not only can I order without making a fool of myself, but I can fix Martinis (and quite a few cocktails) at home much better than many professional bartenders. Note that in enjoying your Martini, and I will stress this again later, ‘better’ often depends on your taste. Still, some bartenders mix the drink in manners that are Not Done. But I digress.

This sophistication has also meant that I now need to have a Position in the Martini Debate, namely what constitutes Martini ingredients, ‘vodka or gin’, how ‘dry’ and ‘shaken or stirred’ ? I have touched on this briefly before, but here is a more detailed analysis.

Ingredients: I am a purist (or, depending on which way you look at it, a snob) and insist that anything outside of gin, vermouth, perhaps bitters and garnishing, cannot constitute a martini. All those colorful drinks with fruit-juices and tropical rain forests hanging out that are part of a ‘martini menu’ just because they are served in Martini glasses, are simply cocktails, not Martinis. Period.

Vodka or gin: Gin – see above. Vodka martinis, supposedly popularized by Ian Fleming through James Bond, should be called vodkatinis. Case closed.

Dryness: This is where there is flexibility depending on personal taste. Dryness, which depends on the amount of vermouth used with less corresponding to dryer, is a slightly misleading term. Vermouth is an aromatic wine, and as such adds sweetness to the drink. So a dryer Martini will have less sweetness imparted from the vermouth.

The quest for dryness in Martini is stuff of legends and apocryphal stories. Sir Winston Churchill, perhaps the most famous of Martini-lovers apparently simply looked at France (or across the room, depending on the version of the story) – the birthplace of vermouth while mixing his martini.

‘Hawkeye’ Pierce, the sardonic surgeon from M.A.S.H, while not brewing the stuff in his tent was always in the quest for the driest of all Martinis: “I’d like a dry martini, Mr. Quoc, a very dry martini. A very dry, arid, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini. I want a martini that could be declared a disaster area. Mix me just such a martini.” he said.

The way I prefer it, I fill up roughly quarter of the vermouth bottle cap, add it to the glass portion of a shaker filled with ice. Swirl a bit so that the vermouth mixes with the ice and coats the inner surface of the glass and drain away the rest.

Shaken vs Stirred: Another one that can be debated endlessly and as one web-site calls it, a question on the theological level. Shaking the gin/vermouth mix with ice obviously cools it much faster than gentle stirring. Proponents of stirring however (the ‘Bond got it all wrong’ camp) are fond of saying that shaking causes the gin to ‘bruise’. What that means is anyone’s guess – because I am not sure the gin’s feelings are being hurt either way. Somerset Maugham, another famous Martini-lover, apparently made this intriguing statement on the topic: “Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other”. Maugham’s way with words is unparalleled, but I am not sure how sound this statement was chemically. However, shaking does introduce fine chips of ice and tiny air bubbles into the drink. The ice-chips cause dilution of the drink with water which affects taste. The bubbles make the drink look cloudy, not an aesthetically pleasing outcome and according to some, screws the taste as well.

Personally, I prefer stirred. Its not a big difference, but overall seems to provide a more pleasing sensory experience.

Garnishing: They can range from one to three olives to onions to lemon twists. Some people also prefer a splash of olive juice (making it a dirty Martini) to make the drink saltier. I personally frown on the practice, and prefer two olives.

Lost in these debates is the most important factor, and I have noticed it is often missed even at regular bars, that is to make sure that the drink is cold, cold and cold. Warmth kills the taste of the martini. I really get irritated when they forget this basic principle at bars (happened just this week at a fairly classy restaurant). While some people actually keep their gin in the freezer, it is not necessary as long as you pre-chill your glass (by keeping it in a freezer or filling with ice and soda) and properly mix the drink in ice. Speaking of ice, always use good quality – not the ice that has been lying in your freezer for the last few years under the fish and the pile of steaks you forgot to cook. If possible fresh ice made with filtered water. You could go overboard and use bottled water for making ice – but unnecessary.

Hopefully, armed with these tools, you will be able to pass yourself as a snobbish sophisticated man/woman about the town while ordering a Martini, or making one for your guests. Not to mention enjoying the cold one at the end of the week at home.

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Also of interest, a New York Times article on Martini tasting – they talk of similar gin-snobbery, and this helpful FAQ on Martinis.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Martinis

Tagged with , , , ,

Friday Cocktail Blogging: A Bitter Drink and DC

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I know, a day early (but it is Friday already somewhere in the world – so there you are). I will be off to Washington DC tomorrow for the weekend, doing touristy things like taking in the Cherry Blossom blooms, gaping at the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and such like. Also hoping to to enjoy any nightlife offered by the city, especially in the Georgetown area [1].

Anyhow, don’t have time for any lengthy discussion and will quickly come to the cocktail. Recently, I have been experimenting with bitters in my cocktails (e.g the Manhattan and what I called The Bitter Rose in previous editions of FCB). In the really old days, bitters – which are usually some extracts from various plants and herbs – were employed as medical potions. They are supposed to aid in digestion and therefore form the ingredients for many aperitifs and digestifs. On those lines, this week’s recommendation is a classic cocktail, The Negroni, a gin based concoction that is great as a pre-dinner cocktail (cleans the palate, wets the appetite etc).

You will need:

  • 2 parts Gin
  • 1 part Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 part Campari
  • Lemon twist for garnish

Pre-chill a martini glass with ice and soda water. Add all the liquor ingredients to a tall glass (or the glass section of a Boston shaker) filled with crushed ice. Stir gently a few times and strain into the pre-chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. If you want you can also squeeze the oil of a small orange peel over the drink. If you do not like the bitter taste that much – I would reduce the Campari to 0.5 parts.

 This recipe is copied almost verbatim from the following video that shows how the drink is made. It tells the story of the origin of the drink (which I suspect, like most cocktail stories, is apocryphal) and also demonstrates many important bar techniques such as chilling a martini glass, making a lemon twist garnish, proper stirring etc.

Cheers, have a good weekend and drink responsibly.

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[1] – Recommendations are welcome for a good place to get kebabs in the area (most probably for a take-out). And anyone in the DC area wanting to meet up pliss to e-mail.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 29, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Martinis

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Culture of drinking …..

with 17 comments

………. according to this (slightly old) article, appears to be as ancient as the Egyptians:

(via)

Today, it sounds like a spring-break splurge on the order of "Girls Gone Wild": Drink huge quantities of beer, get wasted, indulge in gratuitous sex and pass out — then wake up the next morning with the music blaring and your friends praying that everything will turn out all right.

But back in 1470 B.C., this was the agenda for one of ancient Egypt’s most raucous rituals, the "festival of drunkenness," which celebrated nothing less than the salvation of humanity.

……

"We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk," she said. "Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk."

Cool !

On a somewhat related note, I have wondered about the strongly negative cultural connotations that drinking carries in India society. I do not necessarily mean getting into drunken orgies or sloshing yourself silly, and I understand that in many areas of India there is a severe problem of chronic alcoholism with the side effects of wife beating and all. However, considering that a host of gods in the pantheon of Hindu religion indulge in alcohol (Somras – the nectar of god and all that), it is strange that even moderate social drinking never evolved into a social custom in India.

Japan has its sake, Russia has vodka and most countries in the world drink wine or variants and have traditional toasts etc for most social occasions. Not in India. Even when you try to buy alcohol legitimately, you need to talk to this person behind heavy metal bars, making you feel as if you are indulging in the worst kind of sin. Moreover, even if men can drink, the consumption of alcohol by women is highly frowned on (it is supposedly contrary to the sati-savitri image of Indian women)! While Hindi films are not the exact mirrors of society, they do depict this twisted morality – the villain and vamps drink unabashedly, hero does so only in response to unrequited love or rebelling against society and at best the drunk is a comic caricature (Keshto Mukherjee made a living out of it).

Our ancient practices of sexuality were supposedly put in wraps by Victorian prudishness. Considering the English penchant for downing a few pints, you can’t blame our abstention on them (although it could be that drinking was considered a British/Western practice and hence not adopted). Post-independence, the government has played a role by pandering to Gandhian prohibitionism and taxing the hell out of liquors, especially foreign ones. This has ensured that drinking good quality alcohol remained the rich elite’s preserve, leaving the poor to consume cheap, unregulated stuff (often with tragic consequences). By making alcohol a forbidden fruit aura, it has also ensured that when people do get their hands on the stuff, the worst kind of excesses are indulged in.

Of course, among the current generation with its disposable income and mushrooming of bars and pubs around the country, drinking is not just socially accepted, but possibly considered cool as well.

Of course, I might be just talking through my hat here. More erudite comments welcome.

[Coming up in future editions: Do drinks have genders ? ]

Finally, today’s drink recommendation – nothing fancy or new, but the old and dependable Manhattan. It is a good drink to make when you have cheap whiskey (never use good quality scotch/bourbon to make this drink). As usual, there are variations all over the place. The way like it, is closer to what is called the ‘Perfect Manhattan’.

  • 2.5 parts Whiskey (Canadian Rye/Bourbon/Jack Daniels etc)
  • 0.5 part sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 part dry vermouth
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • A Maraschino cherry

Add the whiskey, vermouths and the bitters to a glass shaker with crushed ice. Lightly stir the mixture (best way it to gently rotate the shaker itself rather than using a stirring spoon) and strain into a chilled tumbler glass. Add a piece of cherry (not the syrup). Some recipes call for squeezing a slice of orange peel over the drink and around the sides of the glass.

Update: For those Indian fans who are emotionally (and perhaps $-wise too) invested in the team’s fortune in the World Cup, let go of formalities, and gulp down the whiskey neat. Yeah – that might help.

Enjoy and drink responsibly.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 23, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Life, Martinis, Personal, Trivia

Weekend Sipping

with 5 comments

Seems like there isn’t much happening around the world worth getting excited enough to blog about. Well, not absolutely true – there is this story about crazies in Mumbai getting excited about drinking ‘sweet sea-water‘ ! As I mentioned in a comment on Patrix’s blog, this event may actually qualify as the first ever presentation of Darwin Awards to a whole mass of people!

But ’tis a weekend, so thoughts of drinking must switch to much more pleasant and palatable liquids. Of course, talking about the alchoholic stuff here. Don’t want to meet the fate of Buffy Struggles – friend of Galahad Threepwood don’t you know (non Wodehouse fans step aside for a moment) ! So here goes some unsolicited advice 1.

(These recommendations are with an eye towards the pocket as well – as a graduate student or a post-doc, I have to be careful with budgets and such)

As regular readers might know, I am pretty fond of a martini in the evening. I would be understating it if I said there is a bit of controversy over what consitutes a ‘martini’. Purists insist that a martini should consist only of gin, vermouth, perhaps bitters, along with granishings such as olives, onions and/or twist of lemon peel. A mixed drink made with vodka and other ingredients – often described in lengthy menus (and IMO often going to ridiculous extents in terms of ingredients) at various bars – should technically be called ‘vodkatini’ or simply a cocktail. However, we shall tackle that in another post.

For now, here is how I personally enjoy my pre-dinner martini, made preferably with Bombay Sapphire Gin. For perfect enjoyment, both the gin and the martini glass should be pre-chilled (an easy way to chill your glass is by putting crushed ice and soda in it while preparing the drink). The ‘dryness’ of the martini is a matter of personal taste and depends on how much vermouth you add. As the story goes, Winston Churchill, one of the famous martini lovers liked his so dry that he simply glanced at the bottle of vermouth from across the room (other versions of such apocryphal stories has him glancing in the direction of France – birthplace of vermouth), while pouring the drink. Other mere mortals often use a perfume mister to spray a dash of vermouth over the drink.

As for myself, I usually pour a quarter-cap worth measure of the vermouth – throw it into a glass mixer filled with ice. Swirl around a bit so that the vermouth mixes with the ice and coats the inner glass wall – then quickly strain it away. Add the gin – stir a bit with a bar-stirrer 2, drain into that pre-chilled glass. Add two olives. Enjoy.

Now if vodka is your choice of poison and/or you want to be more adventerous and/or feel the need for a more colorful drink – here is a cocktail that I concoted – it isn’t absolutely original – but I have tweaked around a bit. As with gin, both the vodka and the glass should be absolutely chilled. Take about 4-5 parts of vodka (Ketel-one, Friz and Ciroc are the ones I have tried), 1-2 parts Cointreau, 1/2 part Hpnotiq liqueur (or some brandy in a pinch), 1/2 part Rose’s Sweet Lime juice, dash of Blue curacao and plenty of ice in a shaker. Shake – give it a nice wristy motion – strain into pre-chilled glass. Add one or two marchiano cherrys and a bit of the cherry syrup for a good measure (especially if you like it sweet). The red color of the syrup will settle at the bottom providing a red and blue drink – pleasing both to the visual and taste sensors.

A martini does not really cut it as an after-dinner drink. If you are having sweet deserts, best to grab a bottle of 10 year old Vintage Tawny Port (Sandeman should be good) . Or try freshly brewed coffee with dollops of Kahlua or Irish Cream liqueur (chocolate shavings and/or whipped cream on top will make it extra decadent 😉 ).

If you find yourself at a bar after dinner or without deserts, single-malt scotch is the way to go. Unfortunately, the real good quality scotch does not come cheap – I keep a small (read cheapest) bottle of 12-year old Glenlivet at home for when the mood strikes. Last year I got a bottle of 12-year Glenfiddich as a gift – so that helps. But lately, I have been getting into Bourbons. Some really good quality bourbon whiskey is available at moderate prices – particularly the Woodford Reserve. Since it is getting to be time for me to mix that first martini of the evening, I shall come back to the subject of bourbons another day. Till then – cheers and of course drink responsibly. And do share your favorite drinks.

1. Now remember, I am not an expert in either mixing drinks or on wines and ports and stuff. Everything mentioned here is from my experience of trying various alchohols. Dictates of economics and some concern for the size of my liver means that the experience was not limitless. Still I believe I have had a wide enough variety in the last eight to ten years to form some opinions. Comments on
other drinks worth sipping are most welcome !

2. Stir v/s shaken is obviously the other controversial element in the making of the martini. Some people insist that shaking bruises the gin, especially if it happens to be a high quality one. I haven’t found too much of a difference in taste other than more shards of ice in my shaken drink – but I stir anyway.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 19, 2006 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Food, Fun, Martinis, Personal, Trivia