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Rock & Rye

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January 2010

The Liquor Store

So the other day I go into the liquor store, grab 2 bottles and head straight for the checkout.
The cashier looks at me, looks at my items, looks at me again with a puzzled face and the conversation goes something like this:

“That’s an interesting combination you got there.”
“Why yes it is”
“What are you going to do with those?”
“Oh, I am going through a classic cocktail book and making all the drinks, and I needed these
two ingredients.”
“You’re not mixing those together are you?!”
“Umm, no, they’re for different drinks.”
“I see. Well, good luck?”

Apparently, not many people buy these said ingredients, and fewer of them still look like they need to have their ID checked. Oh well, such is my misunderstood life of soon to be cocktail knowledge and snobbery.

Vintage Cocktails: #1 The Algonquin

Here commences the inaugural post of the Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails challenge.

If I may be permitted to already leave the alphabetical structure of the book, and move to the second drink listed.  The reason for this is quite simple actually.  I get home from work a little early and decide to make a drink while I do some work that needs to be done.  I open my book, but to my disappointment, drink #1 is a recipe for 3 drinks at once.  Doable I guess, but it calls for half an egg white, and as the author points out, it is extremely difficult to measure half of a little goopy egg white.  Also, 6 drinks is really far more than anyone should consume at one time, so off to number 2 we go.

The Algonquin
1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (I used Old Overholt)
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
3/4 oz Pineapple syrup
Shake in an iced shaker and strain.

Now, when I say an iced shaker I mean a boston tin packed to to top with ice!  I would probably also normally double strain my drink into my chilled cocktail glass, but sometimes I really enjoy that layer of ice shards floating on top, so I didn’t.

I actually really enjoyed this cocktail.  I was pleasantly surprised as I don’t really have a love for wines or fortified wines.  Also, Pineapple syrup? Weird.  What I found was that the vermouth complements the spiciness of the rye, and the pineapple provides the necessary sweetness, without distracting from the flavors.  I could find myself drinking this drink on a semi-regular basis.

MxMo: Tea

This month while I knew of the topic of mixology monday far in advance, I failed to allow the creativity to flow in the appropriate amount of time. Therefore, I shall be posting a little lame drink and following it up with some more original cocktails. The topic this month is Tea, chosen by the cocktail virgin.

First off, I would like to share the Irish Mist. This is an original creation and may be made two ways. We could go for the slightly alcoholic version, or the I am for sure a man but I also drink tea version. This drink is based on whiskey for the strong, and irish cream for the weak.

Irish Mist
2oz whiskey or irish cream
6oz Earl Grey Tea
1/2oz Vanilla Syrup

Steep your tea for a full 5 min. Add whiskey or irish cream to warmed mug, add Vanilla syrup, and fill with tea.
A favorite of mine, and I like both versions, although I favor the weaker one as I love the rich flavor and texture that the cream imparts.

Next up is the Earl Grey MarTEAni, created by Audrey Saunders of the Pegu Club in NYC. This drink is essentially a tea infused gin sour, but is an excellent example of tea in a cocktail, and also a drink that is balanced in such a way to taste all of the different “tastes” that should be in a good cocktail.

Earl Grey MarTEAni
1 1/2oz Earl Grey infused Gin
3/4oz lemon juice
1oz simple syrup
1 egg white

The Quest

It is the new year, and I am on a mission. A mission that may turn out to be a complete failure, or may turn into something great. As Julie Powell attempted to make all the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook in a year, so I shall attempt to make and enjoy every single cocktail in the reissued Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. For me this is no small task. For one, here in Washington State our lovely governing bodies get to decide which brands of alcohols and beers are allowed to be sold here. In addition, most companies will not ship product of a high proof nature into the state. Which leaves me a little annoyed as I can already see that several drinks are going to be a challenge. However, I shall go forth with vigor and conquer.

Wherever possible I will try to go through the book in alphabetical order to keep from a chaotic mess, although time and money will be the ultimate dictation when new or hard to acquire ingredients come into play. Cheers!

Tea

Tea is the agricultural product of the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the Camellia sinensis plant, prepared and cured by various methods. “Tea” also refers to the aromatic beverage prepared from the cured leaves by combination with hot or boiling water, and is the common name for the Camellia sinensis plant itself.

Tea.  It is the most popular drink in the world, and its consumption it equal to all other drinks in the world, including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol put together.  This to me is amazing in the fact that here in the US, tea is an often overlooked beverage.  We have it occasionally when we have colds, or if we are from certain ancestral backgrounds, but as a whole I think to the average citizen, tea is merely a simple beverage of a bygone era.  Let us however take a closer look.

There are six varieties of tea; white, yellow, green, oolong, black and pu-erh, of which the most commonly found on the market are white, green, oolong and black. All tea are made from the same bushes but processed differently, and, in the case of fine white tea, grown differently. Pu-erh tea, a post-fermented tea, is also often used medicinally, and I myself have never seen this tea available.

Herbal “tea’s” are not tea at all but rather an infusion or tisane of leaves, flowers, fruit, herbs or other plant material that contains no Camellia sinensis. The term “red tea” either refers to an infusion made from the South African rooibos plant, also containing no Camellia sinensis, or, in many Asian languages, refers to black tea.

The Camillia sinensis is an evergreen bush that is grown mainly in sub-tropical climates.  The plants require a minimum of 50 inches of rainfall a year, as well as a zone 8 climate and acidic soils.  There are 2 varieties of the tea plant, the large leafed Assam (C. sinensis assamica) which is predominantly processes into black and oolong teas, and the Chinese (C. sinensis sinensis) which is predominantly green, white, and yellow teas.  The tea plant can grow quite large, but is usually kept trimmed to waist lever to facilitate production.  During the tea producing season, the top 1-2 inches of the plant are picked.  This is called the flush.  A plant will flush every 7-10 days during this season.  Over three quarters of the tea in the world comes from the east half of the Asian continent; China, India, and Sri Lanka producing about 60 percent of the worlds tea.

Similarly to coffees that gain differing flavors from the region of growth and the roasting process, to tea is also classified according to processing techniques:

  • White tea:  wilted and unoxidized
  • Yellow tea:  unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow
  • Green tea:  unwilted and unoxodized
  • Oolong tea:  wilted, bruised, and partia;;y oxidized
  • Black tea:  wilted, often crushed, and fully oxidized
  • Post-fermented tea:  Green tea that has been fermented/composted

The proper preparation for tea is also one that is often overlooked in our culture.  Different teas require different brewing times and temperatures.  Many teas are brewed several times using the same leaves which is said to brew more complex flavors during the subsequent infusions.  Below is a graph depicting brewing temperature, time, and number of possible infusions.

Type Water Temp. Steep Time Infusions
White Tea 150 °F (66 °C) – 160 °F (71 °C) 1–2 minutes 3
Yellow Tea 160 °F (71 °C) – 170 °F (77 °C) 1–2 minutes 3
Green Tea 170 °F (77 °C) – 180 °F (82 °C) 1–2 minutes 4-6
Oolong Tea 180 °F (82 °C) – 190 °F (88 °C) 2–3 minutes 4-6
Black Tea 210 °F (99 °C) 2–3 minutes 2-3
Pu-erh Tea 200 °F (93 °C) – 210 °F (99 °C) Limitless Several
Herbal Tea 210 °F (99 °C) 3–6 minutes Varied

All of the teas above have differing flavor profiles, not only based upon the type of tea, but also where it is grown, how it is processed, if/how it was blended with other teas, and what additives where used (jasmine, bergamot, lemon, honey, mint, etc).  As you can see, tea can be either a very simple beverage or an epicurian delight.  With so many flavor profiles, tea can be paired expertly with a plethora of dishes.  Next time you are in the mood to try something new, reach for the tea leaves.

And stay tuned for the upcoming MxMo on January 25th, featuring Tea!

Food and Drink

Read it.

The Gastropub

Great read on Gastropubs.

The Gastropub « Pubology

The Gastropub
18 June 2009 ·

Unlike many of the previous topics, this one promises to be contentious, for it concerns the much discussed phenomenon of the gastropub. Everyone it seems has an opinion about them, roughly ranging from grudging acceptance to downright loathing. Given that even how to define such an establishment is itself debated, for me to discuss them I must start to offer some personal opinions, so I’m moving decisively to the first-person for this post. You may differ in your definition, but that’s to be expected. There’s no single defining element at work, though I’ve heard people trying to argue that things like serving handmade/hand-cut chips, or having a chalkboard with food specials, are the sole feature making a place a ‘gastropub’. Perhaps, though, they could feature on a checklist we might come up with, or a mathematical equation?

What It’s Not

Even the OED entry errs on the side of vagueness when grappling with the gastropub:

“gastropub, n. Brit. A public house which specializes in serving high-quality food.”

While one might quibble about how to define “high-quality” food, let’s start with what the gastropub is not. It’s not a restaurant. Which means that restaurants that happen to be located in former pub buildings, even really striking ones retaining their old signage and name — for example, Konstam at The Prince Albert (St Pancras WC1) — do not in any sense count.

The gastropub is, then, quite rightly, a pub.1 But how, after all, do we define a “pub” in the first place? We could say that if you can go in and just have a drink, it’s a pub for our purposes. You may not feel entirely comfortable just ordering a drink (these are gastro-pubs for a reason), but it should be possible without any undue attitude on behalf of the venue.

Then again, this doesn’t take account of the differences between a bar and a pub. One place which is local to me, where a person can happily just have a drink but which I don’t think of as a pub, is Masons (Ladywell SE13, fig. 50). It’s in a single-roomed former pub building; it even has a pub-like name (from its original name, The Freemasons’ Tavern). However, it’s fairly obviously a restaurant as well, and not a gastropub. There are many other places — whether housed in former pub buildings or not — that bill themselves as “bar/restaurant” or “restaurant/bar” which are, in essence, restaurants.

Masons (Ladywell SE13)
Figure 50. Masons (Ladywell SE13). Not a gastropub, but a bar/restaurant.

A pub doesn’t have to offer real ale (plenty of them lost their handpulls during the mid-20th century, as lager gained in popularity post-World War II), and then again there are places like the bar area at St John Restaurant (Clerkenwell EC1), which has several handpulls for ale. You could argue that pub decor is distinctive, perhaps emphasising wooden panelling, it might even be carpeted, but then there are plenty of places which shun these expectations and are no less pubs. Being able to sit at the bar doesn’t make it a pub (since you can do that at Masons), and if you are expected to stand while drinking it’s probably a bar, but some bars have seating and some cramped centrally-located pubs have a real dearth of it (The Coach and Horses in Covent Garden WC2, for example). It’s really a very subjective thing in the end.

In other words, you know a pub when you’re in it.2

More Food Than Drink

Taking the set of establishments we accept as pubs, then among those which could be called gastro, there are those which emphasise the food over the drink, and vice versa. It’s this first category which I would single out as the canonical gastropub and which have given rise to a certain characteristic style (which one can even see creeping into restaurant decor, just to further confuse matters).

They may not fully be restaurants but they certainly share characteristics, such as being laid out for service. Many fêted gastropubs will have a room, or several rooms, or another floor, laid out for service. Some may have only a few tables, or even just a bar stool area by a shelf, for drinking (especially during busy service periods, such as lunchtimes or dinner), which is I think fairly miserly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a pub. The Running Horse (Mayfair W1), to take one example, may be dominated by tables laid for service, but it’s still a pub.

The most famous — claimed, in fact, as the pioneers — are The Eagle (Clerkenwell EC1) and The Anchor and Hope (Southwark SE1, fig. 51), and fit into this category. The latter has a separate drinking area, but those crowding it are often waiting for a table in the coveted dining area next door (for which no bookings are taken). When I visited on my own, hungry, during a downpour, I was seated at the bar on the drinking side. The food was great, and there was quite a crush of people around me getting drinks in, but as a pub, it remains marginal.

The Anchor and Hope (Southwark SE1)
Figure 51. The Anchor and Hope (Southwark SE1).

The Eagle (Clerkenwell EC1) The Empress of India (South Hackney E9) The Horseshoe (Hampstead NW3) The Palmerston (East Dulwich SE22) The Running Horse (Mayfair W1) Somers Town Coffee House (Somers Town NW1) The Thomas Cubitt (Belgravia SW1) The Union Tavern (Finsbury WC1)

Even if not prominently laid for service, a gastropub will share other characteristics with restaurants, like offering a full multi-course menu, with daily specials (often to be found on that omnipresent chalkboard, just to emphasise the regular turnover of dishes). Your food might be preceded by some bread to nibble on; if you’re lucky, you may even get some olives gratis.3

The Beehive (Marylebone W1) The Coach and Horses (Clerkenwell EC1) The Fox (Dalston E8) The Garrison (Bermondsey SE1) The Norfolk Arms (St Pancras WC1) The Pig’s Ear (Chelsea SW3) The Prince (Stoke Newington N16)

More Drink Than Food

If most people consider the appellation “gastropub” to be a criticism — those people for whom a pub is the social heart of a community (a community perhaps primarily comprising beer drinkers) — then there must be a place for a good pub which happens to also care about serving food that matches the quality of its beer and wine. This post in fact was prompted by a conversation with my friend Kake4 about whether The Selkirk (Tooting SW17, fig. 52) was a gastropub. I disagreed: I don’t believe it is, at least not according to my definition in the section above. It’s simply a pub which happens to offer a good, regularly-changing menu. Thankfully, many such places exist, all striving to strike that ideal balance between serving their community, but also serving good food and well-kept drinks — and surely this should be part of that service. Thankfully, the time when the idea prevailed that pubs should just serve beer — and usually only to men, at that — has long since disappeared.

However, some will certainly consider these pubs (the ones which make just a little more effort with their food) to be gastropubs, and there’s little sense in arguing too strongly that they’re not. They may, after all, still have separate dining areas, or employ a trained chef with grand pretensions,5 and it’s admittedly a very fine distinction to make — that these places, unlike the ones in the section above, don’t force you to think about food when first you enter their doors.

The Selkirk (Tooting SW17)
Figure 52. The Selkirk (Tooting SW17).

The Albany (Fitzrovia W1) The Bald Faced Stag (East Finchley N2) The Montpelier (Peckham SE15) The Perry Hill (Catford SE6) The Rye (Peckham SE15)

This doesn’t mean that all pubs serving food succeed. All kinds of factors may adversely affect their attractiveness as a destination, but most often, they’re sunk by a lack of quality control. A lot of pubs have introduced menus in recent decades, more so again since the smoking ban was introduced to London (and England) in 2007, and that is to be welcomed, but not all of them really care enough not to just source their meals from a professional catering company.6 And if you’re doing that, I don’t think you can be called a gastropub. Young’s is an example of a PubCo (it’s also a brewer, of course) who have upgraded a lot of their pubs over recent years according to a template emphasising food and hospitality, but in so doing have at times removed the vitality from them (though by no means from all of them: they still have some fantastic pubs).

Gastropub Chains

Having dismissed Young’s as not being truly gastro, there are nevertheless several up-market chains which focus even more robustly on this end of the pub market. Perhaps most prominent among them are the increasing number of pubs owned by Gordon Ramsay Holdings, starting with The Narrow (Limehouse E14, fig. 53) back in 2004, and whose estate is increasingly extending over West London.7 One might expect these to actually be closer to restaurants, but my experience in The Narrow, at least, has been that the majority of the pub is given over to drinking (with a separate, shorter bar menu available to these areas), and that the ale has been well-kept (if rather unchanging).

The Narrow (Limehouse E14)
Figure 53. The Narrow (Limehouse E14).

Another currently-expanding chain of gastropubs is that owned by Ed & Tom Martin (under the sober business sobriquet of the ETM Group), often refitted Victorian-era boozers with an added food enticement — though at least one, The Botanist (Sloane Square SW1), qualifies more as a bar than a pub.

The Gun (Blackwall E14) The Hat and Tun (Clerkenwell EC1) The Prince Arthur (Hackney E8) The Well (Clerkenwell EC1) The White Swan (Holborn EC4)

So What Is the Gastropub?

You know a gastropub when you’re in it. Just don’t expect everyone to agree with you.

Washington Wheat Whiskey

As some know, Dry Fly Distilling is probably my favorite distillery brand.  Not only do they have excellent marketing, friendly staff, and a great love for distilling; they also have some amazing products coming out.  Check out Lance Mayhew’s review of their most recent release: Washington Wheat Whiskey.  And while your at it, check out Lance’s personal blog.

Liquor Review Washington Wheat Whiskey from Dry Fly Distilling – Distilled Spirit Review of Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey

Jan 8 2010

When Dry Fly Distilling began operations in 2007 in Spokane Washington, no one knew quite what to expect. Washington state had some of the toughest regulations in the country for craft distillers. Spokane was better known for Gonzaga basketball than the culinary charms of its more urbane neighbors Seattle and Portland and the decision to use only locally grown grains and botanicals in their products made some wonder whether Dry Fly could be priced competitively in the market. Now, entering its third year of production, and featuring award-winning vodka and gin, owners Kent Fleishmann and Don Poffenroth have begun releasing some of their wheat whiskey. Dry Fly whiskey is extremely hard to find and has very limited production so far, with just two batches being released to consumers. I recently had the opportunity to try Dry Fly’s 100% Washington wheat whiskey, and I highly recommend it. Distilled in a Christian Carl pot still to 120 proof (60% alcohol by volume), this whiskey then spent 18 months in new American oak casks. Both runs of approximately 1500 bottles were cut to 80 proof (40% abv) and hand bottled.

At first appearance, this whiskey shines bright like a freshly polished copper penny. On the nose, it was slightly spicy and a bit hotter than I expected a whiskey at 80 proof to be. After a bit of time, the nose revealed big caramel tones, with hints of butterscotch pudding, tangerines, almonds, tupelo honey and hay. On the palate, neat this whiskey was very soft, almost like a baby’s blanket caressing my tongue, with freshly baked orange scones, cinnamon toast, white pepper and peppermint notes. When I added a splash of water, this whiskey became even softer, with ripe peaches, spice cake, Juicy Fruit gum and grassy notes. The whiskey had a finish of 25 to 30 seconds, taken neat the finish was heavy on cinnamon, caramel and spice notes while with water this whiskey slowly disappeared with teasers of caramel, nectarines, peaches and mint. My only criticism of this whiskey is that I’m curious to see what this would taste like at a higher proof. I think that if this was 90 or 100 proof versus the current 80 proof it would probably get my top recommendation rating.

With this whiskey and their award-winning gin and vodka, Dry Fly has established itself as one of the premier American artisan distillers and established conclusively that great distilled spirits are here to stay in Spokane Washington.At $42 a bottle and only distributed in Washington state, this whiskey may take some time to find, but if you do, your patience will be richly rewarded when you taste Dry Fly’s wheat whiskey. Highly Recommended.

Visit Their Website

2010

It’s a new year, and as such I feel that in an effort to better myself,  I should make more of an effort to keep things going around here, so look forward to more frequent posting.

I have a couple of posts in the works, so stay tuned.

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