Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” That may be true, he was a clever fellow who said lots of witty but true things, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. Experience is also about managing expectations. Sure, we all want to experiment and try new things, but we use our experiences to guide that exploration. For good or for ill, the things we have done help decide what we will do next. That’s a big part of why we learn or, more accurately, why we keep learning. One of the most interesting things about these last few months of daily cocktails, is how much I have learned along the way. Sometimes, it is a new technique or flavor or tool that I discover. There has been a cumulative effect that is way cooler than any eureka moment. My approach to drink making has evolved as I have learned more. I choose different tools now, as I upgrade from my basic kit, to things that fit me and my style better. Which couldn’t happen early on, because I did not have a style. I have noticed that my shaking style now is far different than it was when I started taking classes at Corsair, my pours are different, my attention to detail much more clear. This did not happen overnight and I am still learning and continuing to evolve, but I can see a real difference. That difference is experience and as we learned way back at the beginning of the paragraph, we get experience by making mistakes and I have made a lot of them. I am going to continue making mistakes, that is important. My grandpa always said that the only people who don’t make any mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything, so in that spirit I ask that you, please, join me once again as we stand and make the Donna Maria.
The world used to be a bigger place. There were lots of corners to hide in. Remember the days of regional delicacies? Stuff you could only get if you went to a particular area or place. Hatch Green Chiles in New Mexico, cheese curds in Wisconsin, scrapple in Pennsylvania or Jersey’s Taylor Ham. You could live a couple of hours away and have never heard of a loose burger, fry bread or chislic. I kind of miss those days of culinary exploration, even when it wasn’t remotely fancy. Twenty years ago, we always stopped at Culver’s when we were in Wisconsin, Five Guys when near DC or Jack in the Box in L.A. Today, we can visit any of those within a mile of each other in Franklin, Tennessee. We have more choices, but as these local flavors expand across the country, even in these standardized ways, we are getting a bit more homogenized, a bit more boring. So, in honor of a shrinking world, please join me now as we stand and make my version of a Texas classic, Smoke on the Ranch Water
This week at the farmer’s market we had a conversation with friends about cocktail alternatives, mostly looking for things that would be lower carb or keto friendly, which honestly, includes most pure spirits. Of course, there are lots of cocktails using spirits and bitters, maybe a bit of soda that would fall into that category. It’s really not that tricky, as long as you avoid syrups, colas and fruit juices, there’s nothing wrong with a vodka tonic and a twist of lime. The discussion did remind me of a spirit that I don’t use often enough. It is pretty tasty and may introduce you to something new. So, join me now as we stand and make, the Shochu-Jito.
We are going back to the basics today. There is a reason classics are classics. It’s like a blue blazer, oxford cloth shirt and khakis, it is never the height of fashion, but it is never really out of style. It is easy to overlook them. I know I am guilty of that. I see something shiny and suddenly I am down a rabbit hole of liqueurs I had never heard of a year ago and bitters crafted my monks atop a mystical mountain using techniques whispered to them by the raven when the world was young. Not today though, today I am making one that your grandpa might have ordered as he bellied up to the bar in his seersucker suit and straw boater. So, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the Amaretto Sour.
Like it or not, we are all products of our environment. A big part of that comes from family. As I sip this drink from my mom’s China, I am reminded of all the things handed down from previous generations. The good and the bad, our strengths and our weaknesses all start at home. We carry them with us and, if we are not careful, we pass them along to the next generation. So with an eye to the future, please join me now as we stand and make, the Mad Hatter.
It’s Saturday, so we’ve been to the farmers market and we have new goodies. I never know what I am going to make but Saturday’s make it easy, we are drinking whatever the fresh ingredients dictate. Today, we stocked up on purple Cherokee tomatoes to have in bacon sandwiches with fresh sourdough bread and some corn to make elote, which you will see in a drink soon. We also found some wonderful cucumbers for today’s drink. Won’t you join me now as we stand and make Horn of the Bulls.
Anyone else feeling a little lazy today? Maybe a bit tired of it all? Or, perhaps, overstimulated by the unending barrage of noise and trauma from all sides? There seems to be this sense of foreboding hanging over us. A collective state of “What next?” To be fair, there is a lot going on out there today. No matter what your poison, there is something for you. Want natural disasters? We’ve got hellish wildfires, tropical depressions in the gulf, snowstorms out west and if you’d prefer wildlife there’s a tiger loose in Knoxville. Political intrigue more your thing? How about voter suppression, interference from foreign powers in our election, nearly five hundred bills still stalled in the Senate, whistleblowers exposing DHS malfeasance, or a president who totally did not say those things he is on tape saying during interviews where he agreed to be recorded. Oh, you prefer social unrest? We’ve got protests over police brutality, we’ve got riots that devolve into looting being crashed by extremists looking for an opportunity to use deadly force to defend other peoples property, we’ve got fans booing at the first NFL game because the teams stood together with their arms linked in a moment of silence. That just barely scratches the surface of today’s news and all of this against the backdrop of a global pandemic with over 192,000 deaths in the US and nearly 1,000,000 deaths worldwide. So I’d say we deserve a drink here on the 19th anniversary of 9-11, a day when we are reminded not only of the terrible events, but of the unity that followed them. A unity that seems more like a dream now of a forgotten America than something we actually lived through and experienced. So, yes, I think a drink is in order. Won’t you please join me now as we stand and make, the Donn Day Afternoon.
We use milestones to measure time, that would otherwise slip past unremarkably. This is why we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and mourn past tragedies when the dates arise. We mark beginnings and endings, like the first day of school and the eventual graduation, and so many little milestones along the day. First steps, lost teeth, learning to ride a bike, these little accomplishments that remind us of just how much has changed while time was marching inexorably onward. It is funny, you don’t realize how quickly things change, if you aren’t keeping up. Today, the death toll from this virus that started me writing again crossed over 191,000. If there is a silver lining, it is that death’s have slowed recently, as case counts have continued to climb. Today also marks 150 cocktails from quarantine. Hard to believe, but I guess we better keep it going, so please, won’t you join me now as we stand and make, the Spicy 50.
I am a sucker for almost anything made with earl grey tea. Like Captain Picard, I’ll have my Earl Grey, hot…or iced or lukewarm for that matter, with a little lemon, please. Earl Grey marshmallows? Yep. Macarons? Absolutely. Chocolate? I said yes already, to all the things. You want to make some macaroni with earl grey tea and throw some cheese in? I’ll try it. So, when I saw this recipe I immediately moved it into the “have to try” file. So, pinkies up, as we stand and make The Grey Fizz.
Orwell said, “Who controls the past, controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.” With that in mind, I would like to remind you that Big Monkey is love and we have always been at war with Eurasia. Here at the Ministry of Truth we work hard everyday to make sure that you know only the best history, fresh off the press. Some of you may recall that we made this drink last week. This is simply not true. Any reference to this occurrence was malquoted. A quick search of the historical record will reveal that you have misremembered the facts. So, please join me now as we stand and make, for the first time ever, the Switchblade.