Much Ado About Aubergine

•April 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

April 19, 2010
Wembly Martini

Alas, I really only know of Wembley Stadium, with a different spelling.  Known for large concerts in London and fights between rabid soccer fanatics.  This cocktail involves none of those things.  6 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 1 teaspoon each of apricot brandy and Calvados, garnished with a lemon twist.

Now before I finish sipping this, you may well be asking, “Sue and Cathy, where the hell have you been?”  Good question.  Life has kind of gotten in the way of our blog and finances have gotten in the way of our drinking.  God, I hate when that happens.  I can’t entirely speak for Sue but I think I can safely say that we have both been adjusting to lifestyles of reduced expectations of late, thanks to paycuts, furloughs, lack of job security, upper management B.S., and various other upheavals.  It will take some time to get back to drinking in earnest, not that the desire isn’t there – if anything, doubly so.   Just not the finances or the free time or the unencumbered thought that allows for free-wheeling and entertaining blog posts, which we always try to compose.  We don’t always succeed 🙂 but we do try!

So what suddenly prompted me this evening to get off my sorry bottom and post something?  Guilt, for one, since I haven’t written here in ages.  Being home alone when my boyfriend has plans (he and a couple of business associates are at the ballgame tonight) is another reason, and House doesn’t come on TV until 9 pm.  Last but far from least, I got my Mother’s Day gift (to myself) early this year.  I had a coupon for Z Gallerie and they just came out with these martini glasses I’ve been coveting in a lovely shade of purple, or rather, aubergine (which actually means eggplant, but I guess color names must always be creative – I wonder how the paint people manage to come up with new ones all the time).

The ZGallerie Puccini Collection, in Aubergine. OMG, how pretty are these?

These are pretty enough I would get  a set of 4 of every variety if I could afford them.  As it is, I settled for just the martini glasses.  They are simply gorgeous, a reflective, slightly transparent silver on the inside, deep purple on the outside.  Even milk tastes better out of them.  Or it would, I suspect.  Okay, I haven’t gotten that weird with them yet.  They are hand-wash only, so I tend to refrain from using them for every single beverage I consume, not that it isn’t tempting.

So, perhaps all I needed to get me motivated to posting drinks again was new barware?  Perhaps.  I can’t say as the Wembly is very motivating, but it isn’t bad.  I recently tried some new gin, Blu Zephyr – it has a hint of elderflower to it which gives it a bit of flowery sweetness, just a touch, enough to soften the rough edges of a liquor I normally consider to be fairly rough anyway, namely, straight gin.  It’s pretty decent.  Plus it actually pours out with a blue tint – sort of like I’m always expecting Bombay Sapphire to look like, except it’s clear.  So I used Blu Zephyr, Vya dry vermouth, Calvados, and Potter’s Apricot Brandy.  I increased the latter two ingredients and cut back on the vermouth, but nonetheless this still needs a little tinkering.  The Vya seems like a strong dry vermouth to me, so I think if I mix this again, I’ll use the Noilly Prat instead and stick with less than 1/2 of a part.  I used 1/2 of a tablespoon each of the Calvados and Apricot Brandy.  It makes for a slightly sweet drink with a bit of a bite from the vermouth, but even at a reduced quantity, the Vya overpowers the other two ingredients – I really can’t taste apple (the Calvados) or apricot in here at all. 

All that being said, it isn’t a bad martini, either.  I’ll give this one a 3 star rating and try it again at a later date.  Until then, my aubergine glasses and I bid you adieu!

Cheers,
Cathy

The Golden Green Hills of Ughlandia

•March 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

February 27, 2010
Ulanda Martini

March 8, 2010
Green Martini

March 11, 2010
Golden Trailer Martini

Yet another weirdly-named drink, the Ulanda Martini, this sounds like a cross between the fictitious Ubangi tribe with the giant lip plates and some one of the names of the countries of the former Soviet Union.  I still don’t know all of them.  I think they make up new ones just to screw with me everytime the Olympics come around.  I think Uzbekistan is the one I’m thinking of at the moment. 

Goddammit, I know that olive pick fell out here somewhere ...

But don’t quote me on it.  Odds are probably good that Vladimir Putin will decide to take up some new shirtless, gun-toting sport and by the time the next Winter Olympics rolls around, we’ll have a few new countries over there. 

The Ulanda is 4 parts gin, 2 parts triple sec, and 1 tablespoon Pernod.  Wisely, I cut the Pernod by half and cut back the triple sec by about a third to try and maintain consistency.  And you know what?  This is actually a decent cocktail!  I was almost shocked that it was good, given my previous Pernod (more like Per … NO!!! NO!!) experiences.  It must be the triple sec that mellows the Pernod enough to allow it to give the drink a bite without overpowering it with licorice taste (and cutting back the quantity probably helps, admittedly).  I’d give this one a 3.75 rating and will definitely try it again, especially since I have a whole bottle of Pernod to use up …

The other drink I got to try was the Green Martini, previously skipped over many moons ago in our postings because neither Sue nor I wanted to spring for a $40 bottle of chartreuse, in the event it tasted like boiled cat pee, or worse, Pernod.  However, this past Monday evening I was up at a wine tasting at the Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido, CA, and since my friend Donna and I got there early, we scoped out the store. 

I remember the Holiday Wine Cellar fondly from my childhood – oddly enough, probably one of the few fond memories from then, and not just because I grew up to be a lush.  The place opened in 1965, when I was 2 years old.  As a small child, I was fascinated by the downstairs “cellar” area, which had this luscious red velvet carpeting, thickly padded, and a curving, wrought-iron staircase to get down there, very secretive looking, completely fascinating for a small child, naturally.  Down below was a nice selection of wines and where the store kept their premium bottles, occasionally in locked glass display cases. 

My parents lived in two homes in Escondido before they divorced, one on Aster Street, the other on Deodar Road, and yet I can recall the downstairs section of the Holiday Wine Cellar better than I can either of those homes.  Even though I maybe spent a total of 5 hours of my life in the former and a thousand times that in the latter.  Go figure.  And I remembered the way the Holiday Wine Cellar smelled, like pleasantly musty, aged oak and red wine.  Amazingly, 40 years later, it still smells the same.  The folks who work there are all friendly and apparently it’s still owned by the same owners/family, probably the reason it’s still such a cool place.  Hooray for mom-and-pop businesses, I say!  A dying breed in our ever-homogenized Wal-Mart world.  If you’re anywhere near San Diego’s inland North County area, head into Escondido and check it out.  Here’s the link: http://www.holidaywinecellar.com/

Indy! Buy me a Cosmo, goddammit!

Since we got there early for their wine tasting at 5:30 (for $5 on Mondays, a steal), we looked around the store, and there was quite a lot to look at.  An entire (short) aisle of vodka, at least a dozen of which I’d never seen before.  Snow Queen vodka, a Jimi Hendrix vodka, Absolut Boston and Absolut Los Angeles, Square One organic, a buffalo grass vodka in a cute outer blanket wrapper (like a coat) with a zipper and fur-trimmed collar, Crystal Head (that skull one, by Dan Ackroyd) vodka, Skyy Spiced, and a couple of intriguing 100 proof vodkas (probably the last thing I need).  Think I’m putting the Crystal Head one on my wish list just for the bottle alone, although the vodka actually sounds rather tasty, too.  Thankfully I didn’t start drooling, that would have been a rather bad example. 

And then the miniatures … a full double-sided rack of them, row after row after row.  After the wine tasting, which was quite tasty, including a generous platter of cheese cubes (4 kinds), crackers, dried fruits, and chocolate covered almonds, I picked up 5 mini bottles and two kinds of vermouth – one is Vya, which I’d sampled at a party (thank you, Maya!) and had been looking for ever since, and the other is  Punt E Mes, which Sue heard was a vital ingredient for making the best Manhattans, which she loves – it is a combined sweet and bitter vermouth (not sure how that works, I’ll have her tell you once I get the stuff to her when I see her in May).  Of the minis, I opted to try Aftershock cinnamon schnapps, B&B, Yamazaki single malt Japanese whiskey (who knew?), Snow Queen vodka, and, lo and behold, chartreuse liqueur.  Which brings us to the Green Martini.

The recipe for this one is nice and simple – 6 parts gin, 1 part chartreuse, and an almond-stuffed olive, which I already have.  Not having tasted chartreuse before, at least to my knowledge, I was expecting some dreadful herbal concoction like Campari or worse yet, Jagermeister.  But at least in these proportions, this was a really nice drink, quite quaffable, to steal a line from “Sideways”.  Smooth but with a kick to it, almost a frostiness that isn’t of a minty variety, if that makes any sense.  A solid four stars for this and I will definitely try it again.  Admittedly, I only have the mini bottle, but I could probably get two more martinis out of it at the very least … I do still need to try the Emerald Martini, which is a vodka-based one with a higher proportion of chartreuse.  Will let you know how that one goes.  Only disappointment on this one is that it isn’t actually green.  Chartreuse in the bottle is, well, chartreuse in color.  Kind of a greenish-yellow.  And diluted with 6 parts of gin, the drink is overall just a pale yellowish tint.  I can live with that.  It was still tasty.

Last of all, we have the oddly named Golden Trailer Martini.  I have no idea why it is called this, as the cocktail is a reddish pink in color.  And no, this one isn’t in The Martini Book.  I could swear there is a recipe in the book calling for cinnamon schnapps, which is why I bought the mini bottle of Aftershock.  However, by the time the evening rolled around after a rather long day, during which I realized I forgot to take my antidepressant medication (Effexor XR) in the morning and by the time I got home it was too late to take it, so of course I ended up being excessively emotional and in a fog all day (yes, this really does happen, the withdrawal from this stuff can be that nasty), I could not for the life of me find the #&^%!*#(%#!! recipe in the book anywhere.  Which led me into an internet search.  Which then led me to a rather fun distraction of a website, www.drinksmixer.com, which I must investigate further at a later date.  You can register on this site, and create your own “cabinet” with everything that you have on hand, drink-and-mixer-wise (at least from the choices it offers) and then you can have it search their database for recipes that use the ingredient you have.  That’s a little scary.  I plugged in everything I know I have from what they had listed (which isn’t actually everything I have, some mixers or liqueurs are missing) and when I ran the search, it comes up with over 1000 recipes.  Oy.  That’s a little scary.  Make sure you’re near my house during the 2nd Coming.  I’m not likely to be one of those people hauled off to Heaven sans clothing like in those “Left Behind” books because, well, I like life here just fine the way it is, thank you.  But if you’re still around I’d be happy to mix you up a cocktail.

Which reminds me (forgive the momentary diversion) – you ever see those bumper stickers that say, “In the event of Rapture, this car will be unmanned”.  Okay, GMAFB, will you?  Admittedly, I’m not a student of Bible studies, but I kind of thought part of the whole religious thing was an aspect of being humble.  Bragging about how you think you’re so special that God or Jesus will pick YOU to come upstairs and play volleyball in the everafter hardly sounds like humble.  Personally, I like the alternate version, which is, “In the event of Rapture, can I have your car?”  Works for me.  While I’m at it, I’m raiding your liquor cabinet and taking your big screen TV, too. It’s not like you’ll need it.

Okay, now that I’ve offended all the religious folks, let’s get back to drinking.  The Golden Trailer is what came out of my search for cocktails that included Aftershock in the ingredient list, and I picked vodka as a secondary choice.  The DrinksMixer website gave me a total of 82 cocktails with vodka and cinnamon schnapps (and other things, in many cases) in them.  Out of such charming concotions as “Mother Fucked Up” (don’t even ASK me for the ingredients, you don’t want to know), “The Bathroom Floor”, “Bleeding Snatch”, “Suck Bang and Blow” and “Sweating Columbian” (who comes up with these things?  Oh, wait – drunk people, that’s who!), I settled on the Golden Trailer Martini – a simple combo of 3/4 ounce of Aftershock and 2-1/2 ounces of vodka.  I belatedly realized that my mini bottle of Aftershock had settled and the cute little sugar crystals were all clustered on (and stuck to) the bottom, but I decided I could live with that. 

Verdict?  I’d give it a 3 stars.  A decent drink, I think I would try another one that was on that list that involved Bailey’s in the mix, this was a little harsh with just the two ingredients, and fortunately there’s enough in the mini bottle to mix up another one.  It tastes as you might have guessed it would taste, kind of like a diluted cinnamon red hot candy.  Not bad at all, really, just not something I’d pick over some of my other choices, and I do think it would be well served by something with a cream based to it, such as Bailey’s.  Of course now I’ll have to go back and scan the ingredients of those oh-so-charmingly-titled cocktails to figure out which one it was!  Until next time,

Cheers,
Cathy

The Royal House of Martinis

•March 5, 2010 • 1 Comment

February Martinis

Prince Edward Martini

Princess Elizabeth Martini

Quarterdeck Martini

Queen Elizabeth Martini

Racquet Club

Rolls Royce Martini

Ruby’s Red Grapefruit Martini

I have noticed certain themes in this book.  They are organized in alphabetical order, but also several sequential ones seem to share names, ingredients or themes in common.  In this case, there was a definite “royal” air about the names.   Having been a bit scattered this month, I’ve not noted the actual dates that I imbibed said libations.   I do apologize.   I could have just made up the dates, but that bit if subterfuge did not seem necessary or needed in this case.

The first drink was called the Prince Edward Martini:  6 parts gin, 1 part Drambuie, and a lemon twist.   Actually, I enjoyed this and thought it was quite tasty.   Drambuie is a liqueur made from scotch, along with some honey, herbs and nuts thrown in for extra flavor.   I do not like it by itself, but here combined with the gin and set off by the lemon twist it was quite nice.  I would actually make this one again—for pleasure not just as an obligation to the blog.   According to Wikipedia, after the battle of Culloden in 1746, the Drambuie recipe was given by Prince Charles Edward Stuart to Captian John MacKinnon.  Hence the name of the drink!  HAH!

The next royal beverage was not at all quaffable:  Princess Elizabeth Martini (6 parts sweet vermouth, 1 part dry vermouth. And 2 teaspoons Benedictine).  So much vermouth in one place, it was almost enough to send me screaming out into the streets.   Benedictine is yet another herbal liqueur, this time with no less than 27 plants and herbs, a closely guarded recipes known to only 3 people.  OK by itself, but not with 7 parts vermouth.   Heaven only knows why anyone, much less a Princess Elizabeth, would want her name associated with this.  I wonder if the Princess Elizabeth cited is the now THE Queen Elizabeth, or perhaps the original Queen Liz I—maybe all those early years of exile scrambled her taste buds.   I know not.

The Quarterdeck Martini was 6  parts berry vodka, 1 part maraschino liqueur, 1 part grapefruit juice and a fresh mint spring.  Alas, I was short one fresh mint sprig.  The royal connection for this one takes a bit of a stretch, so bear with me.   A quarterdeck is a part of the upper deck of a ship usually reserved for ship’s officers, guests and passengers or diplomatic guests.   So, I would guess this is where royal personages would hang out on their yachts and ships.   Heaven only knows WHY they would serve this drink though.  It was fairly awful, although not as awful as the previous one.   I think the berry vodka was too sweet, the maraschino exacerbated this, and it was not complimented or toned down by the grapefruit juice.   Perhaps the mint would have made a significant difference, but to me, it was like bilge water.  Or what I imagine bilge water would taste like.

The next drink, the Queen Elizabeth Martini was mixed with 6 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth and 2 teaspoons Benedictine.   I cut down the vermouth and Benedictine by half.  This was drinkable, the Benedictine offered a compliment to the vermouth.   The Racquet Club (where all good royals hang out when they are not riding the hounds and such or at Ascot) was 6 parts gin, 2 parts dry vermouth and 3-5 dashes of orange bitters.   Again, we cut the vermouth and bitters by half.  I liked this one, the orange bitters suited it very nicely.    Next time I have on my tennis togs and am courtside, I shall sip it slowly whilst enjoying the match.

Royals ride about in their Rolls Royce and could do worse than to have this tasty martini:  6 parts gin, 2 parts dry vermouth, 2 parts sweet vermouth and ¼ teaspoon Benedictine.   Again, I cut down the vermouths by half—everyone will be pleased to learn that I no longer have 6 different bottles of vermouth.  We have successfully whittled it down to 2 and a half, thank you very much.  The Benedictine added a nice little extra bit to the drink.

The last drink I had this month was Ruby’s Red Grapefruit Martini.   The book recipe was raw sugar (for the rim), 1 ½ ounces citrus flavored or regular vodka, ½ ounce triple sec, 3 ounces red grapefruit juice, 2 teaspoons raspberry liqueur, grapefruit slices.   I had to modify it due to lack of ingredients.   Instead of the citrus or regular vodka, I used Ruby Red Vodka (Absolut), regular grapefruit juice instead of ruby red grapefruit juice, and no grapefruit slices and no sugar rim (not necessary, the drink was sweet enough).   The vodka, triple sec and grapefruit juice are mixed in a shaker and poured into a martini glass.  The raspberry liqueur (I used framboise), is poured gently and slowly into the glass so it sits at the bottom of the glass, giving it a layered look.  It was a very jolly, pleasing looking drink, like a Tequila Sunrise.   It was a sweet drink, but not overly sweet. I enjoyed the Absolut Ruby Red Vodka, it has a light citrus, perfumey taste, almost delicate.

But Where Is Grasshopper?

•February 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

February 9, 2010
Wise Elderflower Martini 

February 8, 2010
Zippy Martini
 

February 3, 2010
Xena Martini
 

Zippy, Xena, and Wise Elderflower, now there’s a combo.  Sounds kind of like the Powerpuff Girls meet Kung Fu.  For this last stretch of the Martini Book, I guiltily admit to jumping hither and yon in the recipes when something strikes my fancy.  Sue and I have both been busy and dealing with personal shit (particularly Sue, with the recent passing of her dear friend Michelle) and really haven’t taken the time to go through and assign recipes to ourselves like we usually do, week by week.  So it’s been a bit of a free-for-all.  I’ve still been consuming martinis, I just haven’t been posting them.  Which gets problematic after a couple weeks of backlog because I can’t remember what they tasted like.  Duh.  Blonde … it’s not just a haircolor!  It’s a lifestyle! 

The Wise Elderflower is in Sue’s newer book, not in mine, but I opted to take it for my list of “drinks to do” because I have elderflower liqueur, St. Germaine, in my liquor cabinet.  I like the stuff.  I had it with a gin and cucumber-muddled concoction some time back and really enjoyed it, so I’m happy to try another recipe with this in it.  So refreshing from the usual harshness of the dreaded Pernod.  Plus I like the name.  Makes me think of some Karate Kid moniker or one of the dudes from Kung Fu.  The one with David Carradine, not the cartoon with the panda from last year. 

"Grasshopper, would you be so kind as to pass me the vermouth?"

I grew up with Kwai Chang Caine, it aired when I was 9-12, which I recall as being mostly dreadful years with my Mom and her dickhead boyfriend and one-time (for 6 weeks or so) husband, Vince.  Caine was always such a cool dude, except for that time he had to get those nasty-ass brands on his inner arms by pressing them against that big, burning hot cauldron.  That never looked like fun.  Given  his penchant for going barefoot, I always figured that his foot odor alone would have knocked out his enemies, not really sure he even needed the kung fu training.  In my latter years, I preferred to think of the characters of my youth as they were then, not as they were (or are) now.  Now let’s take Kwai Chang Caine, for instance.  I preferred to remember David Carradine as this white-robed, butt-kicking bald dude from Kung Fu.  Granted, I think this photo is actually Keith Carradine vs. David, but let’s go with the analogy anyway, shall we?  During the course of the show he occasionally (but rarely) got laid and always aspired to some higher calling.  Eventually he grew hair but he was still calm, cool, and collected.  

In general, I think all of us should be remembered in our better days, whether that happens to be when we were 5, 15, 45, or 90.  There are certain things I don’t NEED to know about celebrities when they die, nor do I need to have the visual images to go with them. 

Admit it, now you're picturing me starkers with a rope around my Johnson, aren't you? Bad scene, eh?

I never wanted to think of David Carradine looking like this old wrinkly geezer who smoked too much, for instance.  Nor did I need to know that he ended up dying in some hotel room in Thailand with a rope around his dick and another around his neck.  No.  That’s just WAY too much information for me.  Whatever happened to death with dignity?  Or at least death being a private matter?  Michael Jackson is another prime example of this.  I really didn’t need to know what his bedroom was about 80 degrees and full of stuffed animals and that he called propofol “milk”.  That’s just creepy.  Back in the days when Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix died, the circumstances (on the crapper or choking on his own vomit) weren’t publicly known and weren’t really disclosed.  These were cool, rock-star caliber dudes.  They deserved to have cool deaths. 

Back to the cocktails.  The Wise Elderflower is 2 ounces gin, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, 1/2 ounce elderflower cordial (I used St. Germaine), a dash of simple syrup, a dash of orange bitters, and an orange twist for garnish.  Lacking any fresh oranges (or limes, for that matter – I should be wary of the dreaded scurvy) in the house, I used a bit more orange bitters and settled for the lime juice in the little plastic lime container.  I’m never sure if using that or Rose’s Lime Juice is closer to “fresh”.   I know Rose’s is sweetened and the other stuff isn’t.  I used the plastic one.  Verdict?  No offense to the Brits intended, but way too limey.  I dumped it back in the cocktail shaker, added more St. Germaine and more gin and a bit more simple syrup, and shook it up again.  Much better this time.  Perhaps using the Rose’s would have been a better call.  If I mix this up again (which I will, I really enjoyed it), I will probably do 1/2 ounce of Rose’s and 1/2 ounce of St. Germaine to start with and then adjust if needed.  As the recipe stands, I’d give it 3 stars.  With adjustments, definitely a 4 star cocktail.  The elderflower has a pleasant sweetness to it that is neither sugary nor tart – it sounds lame to say it is “flowery” but I guess it is.  It is a more subtle sweet, like, say, duche de leche vs. chocolate, for lack of a better option.  The lime juice does add a good balance but a full ounce of it was just overpowering. 

The Zippy Martini is a pretty simple recipe – 6 parts vodka, 1 part dry vermouth, 3-4 dashes of Tabasco sauce and a pickled jalapeno pepper for garnish.  I don’t have pickled jalapenos so I substituted a couple of olives stuffed with jalapenos.  I would be hard-pressed NOT to like this martini, given my penchant for the aforementioned olives and for putting Tabasco sauce in my dirty martinis.  I did scale back the vermouth a tad, maybe used 20% less.  It was still excellent, spicy-hot and simple.  4 stars.  Would be better (in my humble opinion, anyway,  not that I’m ever humble about my drinking tendencies) with some olive brine and less vermouth.  I would also try making it with a mix of pepper vodka and regular vodka, that would be good. 

When my life gets complicated, my drinking gets simple.  Which probably explains why I jumped ahead in the book all the way to the Zippy at the end.  I wanted to still be able to drink something that I could blog about, but really (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post) just haven’t been in the mood for complicated, fru-fru (or is it froo-froo?) cocktails.  And I’m never in the mood for ones with Pernod.

Don't rub cheese on this dude's neck.

I have to admit, I always used to wonder about Grasshopper and his Master.  When the Master would tell him, “When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper, then it is time for you to go …”  How come Grasshopper never just kicked the old dude in the nuts, grabbed the pebble, and ran?  Of course, given his life after he left the monastery, it was probably a pretty good gig he had going there for him, I would have stayed.  Except for the whole branding with the dragons part.  I’d just weasel and tell the Master I’d done it – after all, he’s blind, is he going to check?  I guess he could feel for the scars, but if you just wore long sleeves and always told him you were cold … yeah, that’s the ticket.  🙂  But then you don’t want the Master to get pissed off and go all Scarface on your ass, either.

“Grasshopper!  I think you lie to me!  I think you lie to me!”

Lastly, the Xena Martini, which I noticed near the Zippy and it sounded normal enough to be appealing.  Plus I had all the ingredients (sans the garnish, which I can live without), always a plus.  5 parts honey-flavored vodka, 1 part buffalo grass vodka, 1 teaspoon Lillet blanc, and a pickled asparagus spear for garnish.  I couldn’t care less about the pickled asparagus spear, so I skipped that.  I like asparagus grilled, served with butter, and in a restaurant with a steak, that’s about the only time I eat it.  Good stuff, although it always bugs me that it makes my pee smell funny.  I had an ex-boyfriend who vehemently disagreed with me on that theory, but pretty much everyone else I’ve ever voiced that comment to has the same thought:  eating asparagus makes your urine smell funny.  ‘Nuff said.  Anyway, back to the cocktail.  No idea why this was called “Xena”, I don’t think it had anything to do with the Warrior Princess.  But it is a good drink- slightly sweet, smooth, drinkable like cold water almost, but not that flavorless.  Potentially dangerous.  I will be having this one again, it was a solid 4-star martini.  Especially given I have plenty of honey vodka and buffalo grass vodka and haven’t been that crazy about the other drinks I’ve made with those ingredients, although I will need to back up and re-read some of my posts.  Dummy me didn’t have the foresight to actually mark my recipe book with my ratings for these drinks, they’re all here in the posts instead, so most of the time I can’t remember how well I liked a martini or not unless I wrote “ick” next to it in the book (which I do on occasion).  Not the most wordy of reviews but it suffices for my needs!  🙂

It’s taken me a few days to write this post in between the rest of my life, and I will note for the purists that it is VALENTINE’S DAY … and we have not yet finished drinking all of our required martinis!  Since this was our self-imposed deadline and Sue and I have both been dealing with a lot of personal crap, I’m not going to consider this an epic fail or anything.  We’ll just say that February 14th was our new “stretch goal” and we didn’t quite make it.  We’ll get there when we get there, probably a couple more weeks from now, I’ll have to think of a suitable holiday.  Maybe St. Paddy’s day?  We’ll need to find something green for that occasion but you can bet it won’t be that Nyquil martini (horrors).  ‘Til next time,

Cheers,
Cathy

Trailing Off

•February 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

January 25, 2010
Valencia Martini

January 24, 2010
Tequini

I’ll have to check with Sue how she’s feeling about this, but for me, the latter third of The Martini Book of recipes is just NOT inspiring me.  It could be just a conglomeration of drinks with more vermouth, Pernod, or Campari than I care for ended up clustered in the latter half of the alphabet.  Or it could be that I’ve consumed enough martinis by this point that I know whether I’m going to like something or not just by reading the ingredient list.  So forgive me for not posting these nearly as quickly as I should be, because I’m not consuming them as quickly as I should be!  🙂 

To complicate matters, I started a new job a couple of weeks ago.  Finally.  As you probably figured out from my previous posts, I’ve been unemployed for almost six months.  Which gave me plenty of time to update this blog and go hunting for obscure martini ingredients as well.  I’m working now as a contractor for the Navy, at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, CA.  Gorgeous location (for the base), although the building I work in is a squat, 1-story square box that sits in the middle of an enormous, end-of-Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark, two-story storage warehouse that has about a dozen forklifts being driven around at any given time during the day.  On my way to the restroom I can pass shipping inventory that is anything from aircraft engines to toilet paper.  We have these cool machines that actually MAKE bubble wrap on the spot from huge rolls of flat plastic sheets, I think that has to be one of the most fun things (I love bubble wrap).  We have these other machines that have a big round turntable on them, maybe 6 feet across, that you can set a pallet full of stuff on and then start wrapping the entire pallet in shrink wrap as it spins around, like a box on a record player – all you have to do is guide the plastic wrap, and it just spins before you.  Like making a Saran Wrap cocoon.  My kids would probably love to get in here and figure out some way to put each other on the same machine and end up as shrink wrap mummies.  Or do the same with one of the cats.  Best they stay away!

Out in the Navy warehouse I pass pallets full of supplies simply tagged “Haiti”.  It makes me wonder when, or even if, the flow of aid to earthquake-striken Haiti will end.  You think maybe a few hundred years ago, it would have been good if the Haitians got together and said, “You know, living here sucks.  Let’s move,” and just abandoned the whole country.  I don’t think some places are meant to be lived in by humans.  Haiti is probably one of those places.  Sadly, I’m well aware that the natives there could no more afford to relocate back then than they could now.  For all that people will bitch about the United States, we are lucky to live in a country full of natural resources, and relatively clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and safe places to build our homes.  Never take it for granted.  I think about a decade ago, I used to take job security somewhat for granted.  Not anymore.

For the better part of the last 13 years, I have worked in biotech/pharmaceuticals, with the exception of a couple of stints as a technical writer for Qualcomm, Ericsson, and an aerospace company, SpaceDev.  I’ve jumped around in pharma from being a clinical documents person to a forms designer to managing operations and data entry, and then into regulatory submissions.  I’m now on my 15th job since I got out of college.  What relation any of them has to a couple of bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology, I couldn’t tell you.  What relation any of them that has to my current job?  Absolutely nothing. 

(Perhaps this is why I drink … and yes, I promise to get back to martinis in a moment)

My college roommate from my freshman year of college, Dawn, recently found me on Facebook.  She emailed me and told me what she’s been up to since I last saw her in 1982 … a lot happens in 28 years, doesn’t it?  (I still need to write her back, so Dawn, if you read this, I’m working on that email 🙂 )  What surprised me is how similar the tone of her email was to my own feelings about my life since college.  Except it sounds as though Dawn has been a lot more focused than I have.  I started college as an aerospace engineering major and by the time I finished, I only wanted to be done with it.  And regrettably, that mindset has stayed with me ever since then – or maybe that’s always been the way I am.  How I have always envied anyone who knew what they wanted to do,  at some point in life, and pursued it, stuck with it, accomplished it, and now lives it.  Whether it be doctor, lawyer, welder, carpenter, teacher, or bartender.  Me?  Feels like all I’ve ever done is try to find a job.  And longed for the inspiration or the focus to want to do more. 

And in the meantime, I mix martinis. 

Sue and I often joke that we share one brain cell.  We’ve been best friends since 1984, usually finish each other’s sentences or come up with the same thought at the same time.  So I wasn’t too surprised when I went to mix up the Valencia Martini, and one of my first thoughts was to call Sue and ask her if she had the amontillado sherry or if I did.  I knew one of us had it and the other had the fino sherry.  Mind you, Sue would not have found this question strange in the least.  I knew I’d had a previous martini with sherry that I actually liked (Eat My Martini – I had to search for it), so I knew I had some in the kitchen, trouble was, I couldn’t remember where.  I just reorganized my liquor cupboard and my pantry and moved a bunch of bottles around, and could not picture seeing a bottle of sherry anywhere.   Granted, I have a total of some 75 bottles of alcohol and mixers scattered through my cupboard, pantry, fridge, and freezer, so it isn’t exactly a quick search.  After shaking my head and wondering where in the hell I’d put the sherry and which one I actually had, I remembered that the sherry needed to be refrigerated after opening … ahhhh.  That bottle lying on its side that I kept thinking was a bottle of wine I’d stuck in there to chill?  Viola!  Amontillado sherry!

The Valencia is 6 parts gin, 2 parts amontillado sherry, with an olive garnish.  Nice and simple – similar to the Eat My Martini (6 parts vodka, 1 part sherry). I think I liked the latter better.  The 1:3 ratio of sherry to gin was probably a little more sherry than I liked in this cocktail.  1:6 was just right with the vodka.  I’ll give the Valencia a good 3.5 stars for making the effort, but if you mix it up yourself, cut back on the sherry a bit.

I think I’ve had a few tequila-based martinis thus far, and they just don’t work for me.  Tequila is best consumed straight or in a margarita.  I know there are tequila fanatics out there who would vehemently disagree with me (or maybe not … I think the true tequila lovers prefer their tequilas as unblemished as possible, in a shot glass), and I don’t claim to be any expert.  On tequila, vodka, gin, or anything else!  The Tequini is 6 parts silver tequila, 1 part dry vermouth, 1 dash orange bitters, and a lemon twist for garnish, rubbed over the rim of the glass first. 

Alas, this tastes like it wants to be a margarita.  Probably the orange bitters that do it.  I just have Jose Cuervo Silver tequila, nothing really fancy in that regard.  If it were up to me, I’d prefer to have a bottle of Don Julio Anejo on hand.  For about 8 or 9 times the cost of the Cuervo Silver, of course.  And if I did, I wouldn’t waste it mixing it with anything other than the inside of a well-chilled shot glass.  But back to the Tequini – a martini, it isn’t.  A margarita-wanna-be, yes.  Give me some salt and a lime and we’re in business.  I’ll give it 3 stars because it is still a good drink.  Just not a martini.

Cheers,
Cathy

Not so PERFECT…

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sunday, January 10, 2010
Perfect Manhattan

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Persephone Martini

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Renaissance Martini

Thursday, January 14, 2010
Park Avenue Martini

Saturday, January 16, 2010
Pear Perfection

Sunday, January 17, 2010
Pretty Martini

Monday, January 18, 2010
Perfect Martini

I apologize for the being the Bearer of Bad News, but most of these cocktails were anything but PERFECT.  Rather grandiose and presumptuous titles for drinks which were mediocre at best.  I should be used to it by now, I always seem to be the one who people go to in my family to tell everyone else that something is wrong.   I had to tell my relatives in Italy (in Italian) that their favorite cousin who they had known for 50 years was dying of breast cancer. I had to tell my siblings that my mom has Alzheimers and that my dad has cancer.    Not that I am bitter or anything, I try to view it as a positive—that I am a good communicator and people trust me to be put things delicately and sensitively to others.  Or maybe I am the only one willing to step up to the plate and make sure that everyone is on the same page and can communicate with one another.    But sometimes it just plain sucks.

As you may have guessed, it was not a good week.   OK, the holidays are over with and I need to get back to my real life.   But it sure has been difficult this month.   I have decided January is NOT a good month for myself or my family.  Last year, my mother-in-law passed away at the end of January.  My dear friend Michelle  passed away this week after her fight with breast cancer and I feel numb and sad.   I miss her but I try to remember why I loved her and what she brought to my life.  Hard to believe but most people think I am aloof and tend not to want to scratch beneath that exterior, but she did, she always made me feel welcome and part of the group.   She also pushed me into putting my jewelry design up for sale (http://www.etsy.com/shop/lelapinivre, in case anyone is would like to stop by for a look.  And yes there is a story behind the name, but I will leave that for later).  I hadn’t been able to see her for over a month because my husband was sick over the holidays and then I picked up the cold.  When I found out she just had days left, I changed plans and went to the hospital and I was able to say goodbye and tell her what she meant to me.  It wasn’t a long conversation, she was so deeply on morphine that she may not have even known I was there but, for me, it  was a blessing which I will treasure my entire life.

If anyone out there is reading my meanderings, please just keep the people you love in your hearts and tell them what they mean to you.  Do it often.

Again, pardon me for being on a soapbox.   I shall step down.

There are three Manhattan recipes in this book.   This one (billed as the “Perfect Manhattan”) was 6 parts rye whiskey, 1 part dry vermouth, 1 part sweet vermouth and a maraschino cherry.  I think the others are better than this one and I found it too bitter.    My father, who is the Ultimate Old Man Drink Expert, says that this recipe was fine, but the way he makes it is to add a bit of the maraschino cherry juice.   Just a touch.  Much, much better.  And acceptable.   I hope there are no more Manhattan recipes in this book because my husband has drunk all the remaining rye (not at once, of course) and, although Manhattans are one of my favorite drinks, I do not wish to buy anymore at this time.

I know how the next one got its name!! Finally, my diverse educational background is good for something.  Hip hip hooray!   The Persephone Martini was 2 parts vodka, 1 part pomegranate juice, a splash of orange juice and an orange slice garnish.  The name is a nod to the addition of the pomegranate juice.  Now for a lesson in Greek mythology, I will try to be brief, but I really get into this stuff—do not get me started on the Cupid and Psyche myth.

Persephone was the beloved daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.   She unfortunately caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld.  He whisked her away to his realm and Demeter was devastated.  In her grief, she made the world barren (hence, the seasons were created).   Zeus got involved and made Hades return her to the upper world but before he did this, he tricked Persephone into eating food from the underworld.  This food was pomegranate seeds.  She had to return to his realm for a month for every seed she consumed.  So when she is down below, the world is cold and the crops do not grow, but when she is with her mother, the crops grow and the world is sunny and bright.

Almost forgot to give a review, I was so into the lesson.   Perchance I have missed my true calling.  Nah.  I would have made a horrid teacher, I have no patience and I lose my train of thought.   I had a similar conversation with someone yesterday.  We realized we were friends because we could follow each other’s rambling speech and non sequitors.   Back to the cocktail, it was drinkable.  Pomegranate juice is slightly bitter and generally needs some sweetening up, which the orange did.  The orange also added a freshness which was welcome.

The Renaissance Martini was a surprise:  6 parts gin, 1 part fino sherry and grated nutmeg.   I suppose the name comes from the fino sherry, which was perhaps popular in the Renaissance?  But I am not sure.  Or perhaps nutmeg came into vogue during this timeframe.  I thought I would gag at the addition of nutmeg, but I added it with a light touch so it just perfumed the brew and did not overpower it.   It was rather intriguing to have the spiciness.   Overall, it was a surprise, and not an unpleasant one, but I would likely not have it again.

Do you remember Green Acres?

Green acres is the place to be.
Farm livin’ is the life for me.
Land spreadin’ out so far and wide.
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

New York is where I’d rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore a penthouse view.
Dah-ling I love you but give me Park Avenue.

I would not come back to this drink or want anyone to give it to me, it was boring.   And of course there was too much sweet vermouth:  6 parts gin, 1 part sweet vermouth and 1 part pineapple juice.   I think it would have been better with vodka, frankly.   Gin has more of a taste than vodka and id did not pair well with the pineapple juice.

Here we go with the perfection theme again:  Pear Perfection.   This one had muddled lime, 1 shot vodka, 2 shots pear nectar, a sugar rim and a fresh pair slice as garnish.   Too sweet, there was sugar everywhere, in the nectar in the rim and the pear slice.  Just eat the pear and drink the nectar with some sparkling water, it is much better.   And you do not need to waste the vodka, you can use it for another drink.

The Pretty Martini was 4 parts vodka, 1 part Grand Marnier, 1 part amaretto, 1 part dry vermouth, with an orange twist.   I am not sure why this one was pretty and the other drinks were not, unless it was the lovely amber color lent by the amaretto.   Again, too much dry vermouth, add just a few drops.   I love amaretto, but I felt this was overpowered by the amaretto and I couldn’t taste much else.

My husband liked the Perfect Martini AFTER he adjusted the proportions.   The recipe in the book is as follows:  6 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, 1 part sweet vermouth with a cocktail olive.   WAY TOO MUCH sweet vermouth.   UGH.   He adjusted the dry vermouth by half and only added 1-2 drops of the sweet vermouth.   This is one we will have again (the adjusted version, of course!).

I think I have talked too much and need to post this.   I appreciate you all reading my rantings.   I will have some French rose tonight and no martini as I need to keep my wits about me.

Sue

Not Popping My Cherry

•January 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

January 19, 2010
Rendezvous Martini

Short and excessively sweet post on this one!  🙂  Okay, I admit right off the bat, I’m not a fan of cherries.  I know some people go nuts over cherries, especially when they’re in season.  I’m not one of them.  I like strawberries, but even those I could take or leave – I guess I wasn’t really raised to like fresh fruit, which is a shame.  I get the occasional pint of strawberries or some blueberries just for the sake of feeling less guilty about my dietary intake, but I’d almost always rather be eating chocolate. Or drinking a dirty martini!

The Rendezvous is 6 parts gin, 2 parts cherry brandy, 1 part Campari, fresh cherries for garnish.  Thankfully Campari isn’t as nasty to me as Pernod is, but it still has a slightly bitter taste that doesn’t work for me.  This is a lovely colored drink, a light reddish pink, sweet from the cherry but a bit of herbal from the Campari.  If I liked cherries more, I’d probably be all over this drink.  As it is, I have to just give it a 3 star rating.  I like sweet martinis but prefer more of the berry or vanilla/chocolate variety.

Cheers,
Cathy