Sunday, April 13, 2008

Return Home: A Little Shaken, But Not Stirred

So, as you have heard, I was off at a conference last week. Before that, I spent the week preparing for the conference. Blogging, I am afraid, fell well into the background. But I arrived home on Friday and had a wonderful time meeting with some of Neen's family in the area and talking with her parents. (I assume it can be taken for granted that I enjoyed the simple act of being close to Neen all weekend. I haven't been willing to let her get out of arms reach all weekend.)

It is always a pleasure to see Neen's parents, and they are always unbelievably kind as guests. As Neen has mentioned, when we host them in our apartment, it often feels like they are doing the hosting! And, they have a habit of bringing fabulous "hosting" gifts with them on top of it. Over the summer one of their presents was a great shaker. It was originally intended for Neen because she had started to make Martinis. I will admit, it has been rather abandoned since we first received it. I don't drink Martinis and since the drinks for the night tend to be my responsibility, it just didn't get used.

That, I am glad to report, has changed. Over the last couple weeks I have gained a keen interest in learning how to mix drinks. I have always associated mixed drinks with going out - it is just never something I have ever seen anyone do in their own house. Of course, as students, Neen and I can't really afford the price-tag associated with going out for drinks as often as I might like. So, we decided it was time to investigate the art of mixology.

I have picked up two books: New American Bartender's Handbook, and Maran Illustrated Bartending. The Illustrated book has a more thorough introduction to the finer points of technique, but does not have a particularly comprehensive drink list. I find that, even as a beginner, I really use the Handbook much more often. It has a discussion of all of the different kinds of alcohols, their origins, and their characteristics. It is also has a very comprehensive list of drinks, which is useful since we don't have a very extensive collection of alcohols I am willing to use for mixed drinks.

The Chancellor
The first drink I tried actually came from an article in Food and Wine. The drink is called the Chancellor and is the invention of Sam Ross.
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces single-malt Scotch
  • 1/2 ounce ruby port
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
(Mix all of the ingredients into a pint glass, and stir well. Strain into a chilled cup.)

I was excited about the idea of combining port and whiskey, though the idea of using single-malt scotch put me on edge. But, since it was my first drink, I figured I would follow the recipe. Big Mistake. The single-malt scotch was ruined, and did not blend well with any of the other flavors. I am just glad I didn't make a full portion.

I, of course, tried an immediate adaptation by simply substituting American bourbon for single-malt scotch. This was a nice change, though the drink was still very stiff. The sweetness of the bourbon melded nicely with the flavors of a young port. I thought about it for a little while, and decided it would make a very nice aperitif if the you wanted to prepare your palate for wine with dinner. Sweeter drinks sometimes make it hard to enjoy a more subtle wine. I have not yet tried it before wine, so I am not sure it will work. But it is certainly worth testing.

Tequila Sunrise

The next drink I made for us was a Tequila Sunrise. Neen and I were making dinner over the weekend, and we decided we would have a drink while we cooked. Usually, I would open a bottle of wine, but this time we decided to try a mixed drink. I flipped through my books and landed on a Tequila Sunrise because it is so simple. I, unfortunately, don't have Tequila, but I do have another Mezcal (in the same family, but from a different portion of Mexico). So I replaced the tequila. It worked well, but the Mezcal I used had a slightly smoky flavor that was a little out of place in the drink. We added a little sugar, though, and it was perfect.

- 2 oz tequila
- 4 oz orange juice
- 1 oz gre

(Add the tequila and orange juice to a glass with ice. Stir. Then add the grenadine slowly. Let it settle to the bottom of the glass. Serve.)

Maiden's Prayer

This is a drink I made for Neen, this weekend. It is a very light drink. It put me in mind of the summer, which for warm day was perfect. I don't think it would be a good companion even for light food (such as chips) because the flavors are so gentle it would be overpowered. On the other hand, for drinkers who don't want heavy flavors (and don't want to taste the alcohol) it is well balanced.

1 oz gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 oz Orange Juice
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

(Mix all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a chilled glass. )

Note: For those looking closely, you will notice that something is written on the Martini glasses we are using. As graduates of the class of 2007, our class decided on the rather unimaginative theme of James Bond (007). The Martini glass has a picture of James Bond with the favorite quote, "Shaken not Stirred." Have no fear, we didn't actually buy these. The University gave them to us and, until recently, they were as neglected as the shaker.

This is another nice, light drink. The cranberry juice was a nice touch. It gives it a little bit of a tart flavor that balances the sweetness of the Orange Juice. I don't have any vodka in my liquor cabinet, so I replaced it with grappa. I thought it worked well.

1.5 oz vodka
4 oz cranberry juice
1 oz Orange Juice

(Mix all of the ingredients into a large glass over ice.)


Krysta said...

That Maidens Prayer looks good. Can't wait to try it this summer!

giz said...

How very special to see parents' gifts not only appreciated but put to good use.

At least they weren't baking pans :)