Saturday, April 22, 2017

Drinking your meal -- an introduction to food in cocktails

Milestones dipped its hands into the "Caesar
with a whole lot of crap on it," market.
Sadly, it is already off the menu!
The "Caesar with a whole bunch of crap on it" trend is beginning to wane -- the novelty is wearing off, and the competition to pair a Caesar up with the most ridiculous garnishes is not as trendy as it once was. Nevertheless, Caesars are still Canada's staple cocktail (although, I have complained about that at length.) One of the takeaways from this trend could perhaps be novelty of solid food in cocktails. Without further ado, this article will be yet another vague response to novel trends!

Caesars are not the only drink to commonly feature solid food particles. There are of course, the two very obvious classics; the Martini and the Manhattan, both of which are commonly garnished with edible food. There is also a tendency to put intricate lemon, orange or lime twists on the rim, or directly into the glass. While not edible per se, they are still solid food particles which alter the quality of the drink. However, I won't discuss these zesty twists TOO much here, simply because I to focus more on edible solids in this article.
A dirty Martini. I gotta be real with you.
I'm not a fan of dirty Martinis. However,
I had a lot of fun making a little
asparagus raft on this one!

Being that I'm not really a fan of dirty Martinis, I would shy away from them in the first place. However, drinks of this quality that feature olive or pickle juice do give the opportunity to get a little bit creative in the same way that you would with a Caesar; ie. loading it up with pickled goodies. This is great for the type of people who drink dirty Martinis -- they generally aren't connoisseurs of spirit, which is why they want to mix it down with the olive juice in the first place. While they obviously do have a certain level of appreciation that falls somewhere closer to the "most interesting Man in the world" end of the spectrum, there is an indication that they would appreciate fancy garnishes.

Fruity cocktails also give a good opportunity to add edible foods; namely fruit! I've seen drinks garnished with almost any kind of fruit you can imagine. Seriously, even a lot of those esoteric ones (although, I've yet to see a durian or jackfruit cocktail....) Strawberries, lychee, and orange are all easy options to include in fruit flavored cocktails. But really, if you tend towards more exotic fruits like Dragonfruit, Starfruit, or Papaya, you can generally create a more unique cocktail, and also get practice pairing with more uncommon flavors.

Love the addition of Lychee, in this
Lychee '75.

There are quite a bit more things you can do with food in cocktails too. A common trend a few years ago was to mix foods into different syrups, which had quickly evolved into the infusion of solid foods in spirits. For the last year or so, using solid food directly in the cocktails has really taken off though. While I've only briefly touched on the topic in this article, there is really quite a bit to talk about on this subject, and there will be future articles about different ways to incorporate solid foods in your drinks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Learning From Asian Non-Alc Drinks and Mocktails

My Icy Berry Cocktail. Exploding with
a molecular Port foam.
It's no small secret that I'm somewhat of a sinophile -- everyone around me knows it, and most people familiar with my writing or online work know about it too. I'm always looking for ways to integrate what I like about Far Eastern cultures with what I like about the west. The countries of the Far East have a fairly broad non-alc beverage culture, which we simply don't experience to the same degree here in North America. With the exception of course, of Asian bubble tea cafes, or similar. While we do have a fairly strong coffee and tea culture, we simply do not experience the broadness of variety that Asian cafes do.

A pitcher of watermelon flavored cocktail, served
in at a Japanese Izakaya restaurant in Vancouver, called Suika.
Mocktails at most western restaurants are fairly limited as well -- virgin Caesars, virgin Mojitos, virgin Coladas, and Shirley Temples. My opinion about many of these drinks is already littered all over this blog, but perhaps I have been just a little bit too harsh. They are all attempting to emulate the experience of cocktailing, but just happen to mostly fail miserably at it. Of course, my point of contention has always partially been the over the top fruitiness or lack of depth created by alcohol -- that alcohol free drinks should not be created as just the same thing minus the booze. That last point is also why I've gone through quite a bit of trial and error to craft different types of alcohol free mojitos, that stand on their own, or have a distinct character separate from a real Mojito.
Some kind of 'Lattea' something or other, at the
Taiwanese Pearl Castle Cafe in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The foam layer is quite thick, and rich.

There are a few dimensions to these Asian drinks that I try to emulate from time to time:

  • The inclusion of solid ingredients, such as tapioca, grass jelly or barley.
  • The mixing of nonstandard ingredients, such as coffee and tea.
  • The coordination of bright or contrasting colours, with exploding garnishes.

As somewhat of a classicists, or prohibition cocktail snob, these points can be a bit of a hassle for me to wrap my head around. Nevertheless I have done quite a bit of experimenting in the realms of mixology and molecular gastronomy, with an eye toward Asian styles. What I've been having even more trouble with is trying to hybridize classic cocktail styles with the above principles.

Oolong Milk Tea with Grass Jelly, from Mr. Mustache in
Vancouver. In the words of Trump, "The Best!"

I would also like to take a step back from trying to emulate those points in proper cocktails, and return to mocktails. Mocktails are often boring, bland, or at best two dimensional. There is a lot to be learned from the multi-dimensionality of the bubble tea culture. Perhaps that last statement will make some laugh, however, I think it holds true.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

5 Drinks to Replace Caesars as Canada's Cocktail

It's no secret that I think Caesars are over rated. While I can appreciate Caesars during a certain time and place (read: hangovers), I believe that they should be relegated to one particular day of the week (Sundays). I've said it before and I'll say it again; Canadian cocktail culture needs an overhaul. Caesars are by and large the only cocktail that an average Canadian knows (you can guess my opinion about whether hi-balls  or Screwdrivers should be included as cocktails....) So I've put together a short list of cocktails to replace the Caesar as Canada's cocktail.

5. The Toronto

How many Toronto's does it take to run the country?
Just one.
Why it would work: If San Francisco can develop a hard on for Fernet, so can Canada. It's really the perfect cocktail for this list. It calls for rye, which is Canada's way of distilling whisky, and which once put Canada on the map for quality alcohol production. It's named after Canada's largest city, which many identify as the cultural hub of Canada. It would add a well needed level of class and worldliness to Canadian culture; we need to nix the country bumkin identity and move on up in the world.

Why it wouldn't work: To be honest, I would love to give this cocktail the number one spot. Sadly, most Canadians don't like to feel connected with Toronto. Canadians are jealous of Toronto. I know us non Torontonians hate to admit it, but Toronto is better than us, because they either don't know of don't care about everyone's extreme hatred of their city. It all stems from the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most popular hockey team in the NHL, and Canadians have nothing better to complain about than one way hockey rivalries.

 4. The Manhattan
You might recognize this cocktail from the old mustached
grandpa that comes customary with each order.
Why it would work: Canadians love the big apple almost as much as they don't love the big smoke. Seriously, this cocktail could do it for almost all the same reasons as the Toronto. It's made with rye, it's classy, and it's named after a city everyone loves. Better yet, it's not as esoteric as the Toronto, so whether the bartenders knows what it is or not, the ingredients should at least be available in most bars.

Why it wouldn't work: The most important thing to know about Canadian heritage is that our national identity is built around the concept of not being American. We may love New York, and love to drink Manhattans, but by default we hate to be thought of as Americans. And what's more American than America's largest city?! Well, I suppose the flag, or white house, but you can't drink those....

3. Dark 'N Stormy

Possibly the best thing you can do with alcohol free ginger beer,
is add rum to it!
Why it would work: Even though rye is our historical claim, there's a whole part of the country who drinks only rum and beer. Atlantic Canada is where I was born and raised, and it's a well known fact that Easterners like their rum. It also wouldn't be that hard to switch to, given the fact that hi-balls are already so prominent a thing in bars here.

Why it wouldn't work: Okay, so the point of the list is to add more sophistication to our drinking culture. The last thing Canadians need is another go to hi-ball. And aside from that, no one wants to be associated with quirky Easterners. The maritimes is the butt hole of Canada,and no Newfies are weird. Look at their rum! It's even got a weird name.... Screech!

2. Irish Coffee

Note: This is not a double double. It's all Irish baby!
Why it would work: Canadians love their coffee. Think about it. You can easily sneak some Irish whiskey into your double double from Tim Hortons each day, then go about your day with a light buzz and caffeine high. It would fuel a whole new generation of alcohol dependency, and at the same time stand in the face of the Anglo world's stupid ban of drinking alcohol in public.

Why it wouldn't work: Too many people use the drive through at Tim Hortons. Need I say more?

1. The Sidecar
(This drink is fantastic)
Why it would work: This one would be a huge play out of left field. First of all, it's fucking fantastic, just like Canada. Secondly, it has some shady French history behind it, just like Canada. And aside from all that, it has the class and pizzazz that I so desperately crave. I would have absolutely no problem with *people who opted for Sidecars all the time instead of Caesars.

Why it wouldn't work: Anglo Canadians by and large would never accept something so French. And that's pretty much what it comes down to.

Honorable Mention

Vanilla Porter and Canadian Rye makes a pretty damn good Boilermaker.
Over the years I've discovered that one of the ways to make terrible Canadian lagers and terrible Canadian whiskies work is to mix them together. It's simple, like so many Canadianisms,  and it doesn't fall victim to the cocktails above, which would never be accepted because of the intolerance of Anglo Canadians, to French Canadians. French Canadians to Anglo Canadians. Non Torontonians to Torontonians. And Canadians to Americans. Unfortunately, it's not a cocktail.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

13 Over Rated Cocktails

People seemed to enjoy my last article like this, where I dissed popuoar cocktails, and wrote in a cynical and pretentious voice. Not being one to disappoint the 'fans' (rather, being out of activity for awhile and needing to bolster my readership...) I present to you my newest article regarding popular drinks that are over rated!

There are a number of popular cocktails that pop up fairly often for those of us working the wood. Some of us have gotten a handle for making drinks we can't stand, or making drinks that we know just aren't that good; but boy howdy are they sure popular! This list is an examination of some of those cocktails.

13. Margarita

Mexican Bulldogs are kind of cool though...
I'm putting our favorite tequila cocktail at the bottom of this list because they actually aren't all THAT bad. At the same time, however, they also aren't all that good. I can't knock people who like them too badly because there aren't all that many tequila cocktails in the lime light (pun intended), and tequila is a pretty hard thing to get into. Considering how bad the low priced products are and how hard it is for a lot of people to get past their initial experience of taking shots and immediately washing the taste away with a bite of lime and a lick of salt, most people just don't know what to do with tequila. That said, in my opinion the only thing to do with a good tequila is to drink it straight and neat. As for a bad tequila... well, make margaritas I suppose.

12. Dirty Martini
A proper Martini. Black and White...
err, no olive juice.

For all of the known world, Martinis are a passion of pleasure. Except for those whom they aren't. For those dregs, there are Dirty Martinis. You may recognize this rare breed of slack jawed yokles by their familiar statement that "the olive juice is the best part!" Oh, how they couldn't be more mistaken. The olive juice is so not the best part of a good Martini, that it in fact is not part of a good Martini at all! Think about it. Do you consume anything else labeled as 'dirty'? Dirty cottage cheese, for example? Or perhaps you're more in the mood for a dirty Big Mac. Or maybe a dirty Bratwurst is more up your.... alley?

11. Frozen Bellini

That's me, apparently bowing at my adoring customers.
Here in Vancouver, where the frozen bellini was imagined years ago by a young Milestones restaurant, frozen bellinis are the only bellinis. During my tenure at Milestones, I had many a first time bellini consumer order their first bellini and say something along the lines of "This is great! It tastes like a Slurpee with alcohol!" That alone should be enough to persuade people of its cheesiness. Nevertheless it somehow became super popular and is now available at every casual fine dining experience in Canada (I don't know if that's true, but knowing the tastes of my countrymen it would not surprise me). Oh and don't forget the monkey toy that goes on top! Christ...

Hey! I have an idea! Let's add coke to everything!
10. Anything and Coke

I've ranted extensively about high balls in the past, and of course I'm doing it again! If you call them Cuba Libre or Fernet con Coca, you can probably get away with it, otherwise, high balls are just a crying shame. The moment you add that coke to the spirits, it is now a complete was of good alcohol. While I can appreciate that most people can't palate alcohol, adding an obscene amount of high calorie carbonated syrup water isn't the solution!

9. Screwdriver

The sane world calls them vodka and orange juice. Those of us who got left behind call it the Screwdriver. It's the de facto go to cocktail that people who don't know any cocktails always turn to. There's nothing special about them, and it basically just tastes like bad orange juice. I think we all need to ask ourselves, if it didn't get you drunk, would you put anything that tastes like that in your mouth? Maybe I'm crazy for thinking they taste as bad as they do, or maybe I'm biased for some other reason, but in my humble opinion.... Screwdrivers are garbage! Next!

This golden piece of awesome is the yuppiest drink
on the planet.
8. Old Fashioned

Being that I quite like the Old Fashioned, this will either come across as hypocritical, or show that I'm just as willing to criticize my own tastes. While quite delicious, the Old Fashioned has become the centerpiece of hipsters, or people trying to broadcast to the world how sophisticated and trendy they are. Yes, both sophisticated and trendy at the same time! Who'd have thunk? If you're friends with "The Old Fashioned Guy", then you've probably seen him push the classic on everybody and anybody he drinks with. As for "The Old Fashioned Lady", there's nothing wrong with her. Keep doing what you're doing Old Fashioned Lady.

Presentation is bang on, though.
7. Strawberry Daiquiri

Of course this drink is much more detestable in its blended form, although it does taste good, that is besides the point. Ultimately, and similarly to the Bellini, you can't tell that this is an adult drink. There are a number of virgin drinks out there for alcohol haters. Slurpees. Bubble teas. Even Shirley Temples. But leave the rum out of it for the love of all that is good and holy!

6. Caesar
Blegh... Boring. Find a new national drink, Canada!
One of the few "you have to know" cocktails in order to bartend in Canada. This is Canada's cocktail. I'll also admit, that despite being so high on the list, I do not find Caesars to be absolutely detestable. That being said, there is a proper time and place for a caesar, and that time or place is not any time, all the time. It's not a party drink, it's not a dinner drink, it's not any other type of drink than a refreshing hangover drink to have with your hangover meal. Okay okay, sometimes.... SOMETIMES they aren't too bad on a hot day, but this goes back to the point that they're not an any time drink, and if you have more than one you're going to smell like Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. And furthermore, it grinds my gears when people call it a bloody, or spicy caesar. They're all spicy, and they aren't the same as a Bloody Mary!

5. Pina Colada

A little bit of cinnamon can brighten up a Pina Colada.
I've got two Pina Cola.... no I don't! No Pina Coladas for you! Okay, so this should not come as a surprise to anyone who's been reading this list. Pina Coladas, and anything like a Pina Colada is not my cup of tea. Coconut syrup, really? I have two far better tiki drinks to steer you towards. Painkillers and Mai Tais. Seriously, you can still get your tiki on without the gross syrup. Painkillers are basically a Pina Colada's grown up brother. And neither drink ever makes sense blended. And by the way, if you hadn't noticed, blended drinks are not my thing.

Actually, this one isn't even that popular.
I strongly dislike it though!
4. Sex on the Beach

It basically tastes like candy, and aside from the vodka it basically is just candy. If drinking candy is
your thing, that's fine. The Tipsy Bartender has an audience of millions because of cocktails made out of candy, after all. Personally, I think it's gross. It's just another of those cocktails that scream "grooooow up!" And seriously, Sex on the Beach? What about the name fits the flavor profile? Almost any cocktail would be more fitting of the name. "Oh let's go to the beach and eat fuzzy peaches!" That's basically the closest thing I can imagine this drink being named to "Sex on the Beach".

3. Holy Water

Garbage. Just total garbage. The worst part about this is, I worked in a bar where this was literally the most popular chick drink. Now-a-days, I've noticed that girls generally have much more classier taste buds than boys, and the usual stereotypes of manly drinks and womanish drinks can actually be flip flopped, to more accurately reflect the genders. Come to think of it, a lot of guys used to order these too. Things sure are different bartending in the hinterland, where everyone is white trash and drinks Sex in the City drinks, regardless of gender. Red sour puss, blue curacao and 7 up. Sounds like purple drank to me.

2. Long Island Iced Tea

Who are we trying to kid? Long Islands look like shit.
Seriously, what is even the point? Four types of clear spirits and triple sec with lime and coke. Pretty sure you could substitute the spirits with anything at this point and not tell the difference. People are so particular about this crap drink too. And of course, it's just a gimmick to sell that cheap Long Island mix that comes in a plastic bottle. But it doesn't even taste good! Is that really what you're craving? An overpriced heinz 57 mixture of alcohol with lime juice and coke? What a waste of money!

1. Spiced Rum and Coke

My hate of high balls brings this drink to the top, despite that "anything and coke" is already an entry. One time while I was gig bartending, a double spiced rum and coke came up. I made it and the guest brought it back complaining it wasn't spiced rum so I gave the rum and coke separately when I sent it back out. Half an hour later, the same fucking thing happens with the same guy! What the hell! Sadly, this is just how spiced rum dorks are, all the time. This loser was just bent out of shape because we used Sailor Jerry's, which is 10 percent higher abv, meaning he could taste the alcohol. Since its a little bit stronger, he thought it tasted too much like real rum. Pussy.
Wouldn't you much rather have a drink like this, than a spiced rum and coke?

Honorable Mention

Hot Toddy

The only reason I don't list this is because I don't even consider this to be a thing. To my understanding, a hot toddy is a loose idea of mixing citrus, tea and spirits, which just happens to be a specific drink here in Vancouver (or wherever else). If you order one here, you'll likely get a blended Scotch, red rose tea and lemon. If you order one from me, I'll probably ask you very specifically how you want it prepared. What kind of tea, for starters. And well, I'll actually assume you want Scotch, but in a better world I would not have to assume! So I guess I'll only really ask you to specify the tea, but still!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Booker's Bourbon Review

A few things about Booker's

Booker's is the highest proof product in the Jim Beam line of "small batch bourbons". It's a cask strength bourbon, which is honestly, pretty damn awesome. Make sure to add water when you're drinking, because you'll likely go into shock or something if you drink this like you would drink any other whiskey. My bottle is 62.35%. Your bottle might not necessarily be the same. That's the beauty of a small batch cask strength bourbon!

So where does it get it's name? Well, Jim Beam's grandson is named Booker Noe, and this is his small batch bourbon. Pretty cool, eh?

Booker's Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Booker's Bourbon is a pretty awesome and manly bourbon. It has a lot of burn, being at cask strength, but right out of the bottle it has strong spice notes and hints of leather. As you pour water into the glass, bringing it down to roughly 40% abv, the burn backs off a lot, and the nose brightens with baking spices, including cloves, vanilla and all spice.

Tobacco and charcoal oak peak through a corn dominated body, while baking spices from the nose continue. There is a sweetness, that tastes of dried dates, or prunes, and maple syrup.

The finish brings back the spice notes that were there throughout the tasting, along with a scotch like smoke. Also dotting the finish are citrus notes and pepper. A lot of length and complexity in the finish.

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