the other theo

There is no dark side of the moon really… as a matter of fact, it's all dark.

Category: Wine & Whisk(e)y

Hipsterism, Necromancy, and Other Halloween Fun

Autumn is a season where the Missus has jokingly accused me of hipsterism.   I have not grown a beard, or a man bun.   I have not turned lumbersexual.  I have embraced the American tradition of the cocktail, however.

The roots of this interest reach back several years.  I got an OXO cocktail shaker and some bar tools several years ago, perhaps as a house warming gift.  I also picked up a copy of Dale DeGroff’s The Essential Cocktail: The Art Of Mixing Perfect Drinks in the clearance rack at the back of a higher end grocery store.   I started making margaritas as soon as the first crop of lemons came in on the lemon tree in our back yard after we bought the house (and discovered a great recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, of all places.)  I also made homemade limoncello.  More recently, I saw several cocktail recipes on Serious Eats that looked tasty.   I tried one.  One became two, two became four, and well, here we are.

A couple factors have aided in this endeavor.   First, a few friends on the Blue and White Social Network are also cocktail aficionados.   So, it’s been nice to compare notes with some people.   A nearby liquor store also closed a few weeks ago.  The going out of business sale before the end meant that some drink ingredients became available at 40-60 percent off retail.

I’ve learned a couple things along the way.   I’ve made a few whiskey-based cocktails and discovered that the most expensive stuff isn’t necessarily the stuff that mixes the best in a cocktail.  That occasionally required a little re-tooling with the purchase of more inexpensive but still quite tasty blended Scotch and some medium price point bourbon.

The Gold Rush CocktailThe Gold Rush cocktail comes courtesy of Serious Eats.  It’s a marvelous concoction of honey, bourbon, and lemon juice.

The Apple ElixirThe Apple Elixir is another Serious Eats recipe that is like Autumn in a highball glass.  With a spiced cider reduction, apple brandy, hard cider, and lemon juice, it’s not something to throw together on a whim, but I wish mulled cider always tasted more like this.

The Rusty NailAs a long time single malt drinker, I’d heard about Drambuie for years but never tried it.    A Rusty Nail is a combination of blended Scotch, Drambuie, and bitters on the rocks.   On the rocks is where you’ll find yourself if you drink too many of these.  They hit and hit hard.

The Penicillin CocktailI have a favorite exchange from The West Wing that sums up this drink perfectly:

Lord Marbury : You know, there are some marvelous flu remedies known in the certain remote parts of the subcontinent. Licorice root, for instance, combined with bamboo sap and a strong shot of whiskey. Ginger root, also, mixed with, uh, citrus peel.
Bartlett : And a strong shot of whiskey?
Lord Marbury : Actually, you can leave everything out except the shot of whiskey.

The Penicillin Cocktail is a combination of honey, ginger root, blended Scotch, and Islay single malt.  As such, it’s sort of the Gold Rush on steroids.   It will cure what ails you.

The Bottled In Bond Rye ManhattanThe Manhattan is a cocktail I first read about around 2005-06 when my interest Single Malt Scotch expanded into an exploration of American rye whiskey.   One version of the story of its creation is that it was whipped up for Winston Churchill’s mother by a Manhattan bartender.  It’s a drink that’s evolved over the years, from rye to bourbon and sweet vermouth to dry.  This is in line with the rye and sweet vermouth original, courtesy of Dale DeGroff.

The Pink LadyThe Pink Lady also comes courtesy of Dale DeGroff as an excellent drink to use with Hendrick’s Gin.   DeGroff recommends making your own grenadine for this one.   It was difficult to get the seeds from five pomegranates, though YouTube now tells me there is a much easier and cleaner way.  The recipe calls for grenadine, gin, and heavy cream.  I had no heavy cream on hand when I made this, so I used whole milk.  It was still quite tasty.

The MargaritaThe America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook margarita… an old reliable favorite.  I’ve since learned that the juice mix created for the recipe out of lemon and lime juice, zest of the same fruits, and sugar makes a tasty general purpose sour mix.  Added to a reposado tequila and some orange liqueur, it is a royal cocktail.

The Corpse Reviver #2Finally, we come to a bit of possible necromancy.  I made a Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail on Halloween night, as the blend of Littet, absinthe, gin, and orange liqueur seemed a sensible thing to try.  I asked the author of the Necromancy Never Pays blog if this could be considered necromancy, since that never pays.  Her response: “oh, I think you’ll pay all right.”

The absinthe is a new wave absinthe from California, and the first made in the United States since the ban on its import and manufacture collapsed.   Checking reviews, it’s more herbal and less minty than old school absinthes made in the United States and Europe.   The flavor is somewhat large… and perhaps not what the recipe calls for.  Still, it was quite interesting.  I just may need to dispense the absinthe with a medicine dropper.


Culinary Experiments Late-July 2014 Edition

I managed to do two interesting bits of cooking in the last couple weeks:


First off, we have grilled double thick pork chops sous vide.  This was a combination of three different recipes, based largely on what I had on hand at the time:

  1. The sort of “master recipe” that gave the basic idea of what I wanted to do came courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. I liked using the dry brine with fresh herbs and little fat in the sous vide package.
  2. For the dry brine, I substituted salt, pepper, and a dry rub found on page 263 of The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.  I happened to have some of this leftover.
  3. For the herbs, I used some fresh herbs on hand (thyme, sage, and rosemary), along with some shallot much the a sous vide steak recipe from Serious Eats.

I think it fell together reasonably well.   The most important thing about the meat was how juicy it all was.  Grilled pork chops can often become dry, and a little tough.   Consistency varied some, but some parts of the meat practically melted in my mouth and the rest was more tender that I expected, all without a brine.


My second effort was a go-to recipe for skirt steak from Serious Eats.  The novel part of this recipe was the La Honda Cabernet Sauvignon I paired with the beef.   My recent venture into the Santa Cruz Mountains left me with lingering curiosity about how the pepper-y reds I tasted on that trip would be away from a marathon wine tasting and how they would pair with food.   The La Honda has some of the qualities I remembered in wines made nearby, but this was balanced with enough fruit to be interesting.   I also discovered that the temperatures on the warm day of the tasting were likely doing few favors — the wine likes to be a little cooler to help keep those acid-flavors in check.

In the end, it was not what I would usually think of in a Napa-style California Cab, but it went well with the spicy beef.

Happy National Scotch Day

Ah,  a wee dram… Happy National Scotch Day!


Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers Passport Day


A New Yorker wine cartoon at Loma Prieta Winery.

The Missus, the Peanut (my son,) and I hopped in the car and went on a road trip last weekend.  We hit the Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers Passport Day with some friends.   We ended up visiting five wineries:  Wright’s Station, Burrell School, Loma Prieta, Silver Mountain, and Alfaro Family.   It was a beautiful day for wine tasting, and we all had good time through much of the day.

My own experience with wine of late is rather mixed.  I seem content to explore, to understand, to sample, but not to satisfy.   Some wines are big, some are small, and some, sour.   Mostly, they just are.   That’s what happened a few weeks ago on a visit to another, more-celebrated wine making region of California.  It also happened here.   This was an exploration of a wine region I knew very little about, and a time to enjoy and connect with friends.

This is also my roundabout way of saying I didn’t keep extensive tasting notes.  *grin*

Here are my impressions of the five wineries we visited:

  • Wright’s Station – It’s brand new and only open about five weeks.   The facility is very modern and tastefully decorated with a friendly staff.   They have a nice patio area for picnicking with a view of the valley facing East (toward Silicon Valley.)  The wines tasted a little young, and a bit green with peppery notes.
  • Burrell School – This was a more rustic affair.  The winery is named for an old single room school house that served the residents on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains until the 1950’s.  I recall having some good red wines here, though our party disagreed somewhat about which was the best.  I recall particularly enjoying the “Spring Break” Syrah.  Maybe it was its location in the tasting sequence, but I just remember that it woke up my taste buds in a way that few other wines did that day.   We were poured two Zinfandels, the “Detention” and another Zinfandel that does not appear on their web site.   I thought both would go well with barbecue.  I do like their motto: “I promise to sip my wine.”
  • Loma Prieta – Perched atop one of the highest peaks in the immediate area, the view of Santa Cruz, the Monterrey Peninsula, and the Pacific Ocean from their patio is almost unparalleled:IMG_1425The wine I remember most here was the Viognier.   They were shucking fresh oysters on the patio (which I got,) and their only white wine was an excellent accompaniment.   The Missus did most of the driving on this trip, and our friends agreed to provide lunch — an excellent picnic of salads, snacks, and cold cuts.  They were quite taken with the Viognier and also purchased a bottle to enjoy with lunch.  I was talked into playing a very rusty game of chess.  I yielded in 15-20 moves.
  • Silver Mountain – My palate was beginning to tire at this point, and the wines began to run together.  My son was also starting to fade a little bit.  I do recall that it was starting to warm up, and they had a berry forward Pinot Noir Rosé.  The Tondré Pinot Noir was also quite pleasant.
  • Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery – My tongue was dead tired at this point.  I had high hopes for Alfaro.  I am reading John Barré’s book The New California Wine and this is one of the few wineries honoring the Passport Day that got a mention in his book.  All I could taste was sour.  I don’t know if it’s the regional style, or it’s what the maker intended, or it was just my tongue.

We had some intention of making a quick stop at another winery, but the Peanut had had enough.   Frankly, so had I.   We ended the day and parted.   I had some dinner, and suddenly felt tired and full to overflowing.   It was just food, wine, sun, and heat.  It took several hours and some re-hydration for that feeling to pass.

It was a great day, maybe not always for the wine, but for seeing something new and enjoying time with friends.