Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Joy of Drinking

Walking down the hall this evening, work clothes still on, drink in hand, I was suddenly struck by a sense of tradition. How many men had done what I just did? Came home from a long day at work, lovingly fixed themselves a drink, and retired to their study to read, relax, think, or create.

Now, as I sip an ice cold Brandy Old Fashioned, I realize the meaning behind the title of this blog – ironic, since I named it. At the time I thought it cute and succinct; now I realize that it hints to something deeper; that there is much more to drinking. It’s not just a way to lubricate otherwise awkward social situations, as my college friends assumed. Nor is it a way to warm yourself from reality’s biting chill. It can be these things and only these things, but for me, alcohol is inspiration.

A true artist takes things that have little or no beauty of their own and makes them beautiful. Red, on its own, is a wonderful color. So is blue, and so is green. When the right person lets them play around on a canvas together, the outcome is so much more than the sum of the parts. Brandy, on its own, is a deep, sweet and smoky drink. Simple syrup is sweet and grassy. Fee Brother’s orange bitters taste disturbingly similar to an actual orange, and Angostura bitters, own their own, are hardly pleasant at all. Somehow, when I put them together, the result is magic. The ritualistic preparation of the drink, the bartending tools, even the clothing, throws the drinker into timelessness.


Toby Maloney, chief Intoxicologist at the Violet Hour in Chicago, is the example of what I’m trying to convey. His style of dress is classy, dated yet somehow timeless, and clearly says, “I tend bar.” If this picture were in black and white, I would think it was straight from a Prohibition Era speakeasy. Instead, it’s from his modern speakeasy, the Violet Hour, which has the best cocktails – and the best drinking experience – I’ve ever had. What Toby does, and what I strive to do, is not to make something that tastes pleasing, eliminates awkwardness or clouds reality. Crafting, consuming, and serving cocktails is art, and that makes it an unspeakable joy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kitchen Concoctions: Rye Cocktail

Noelle once again proved her cocktail bad-assery tonight, by stopping me from adding Mathilde to a new concoction. I did a minor taste test of the drink in question...ehh... this Mathilde doesn't really mix very well. Each time I try it, I get really excited, and every time I'm disappointed (with one or two minor exceptions).

I somehow realized that I have yet to try rye whiskey and the honey liqueur, Barenjager, together. This struck me as odd, since I've tried Barenjager with just about everything in the liquor cabinet. These are the proportions I used:

1.5oz Rittenhouse Rye (100 proof, which is actually too high a proof for a moderate quality rye)
.5oz Barenjager
Dash of Regan's bitters
Dash of Fee Brother's Whiskey Bitters

Stir stir stir, serve up in a pre-chilled glass. Cut off a bit of lemon peel and squeeze the oils onto the top of the drink. Kiss the lip of the glass with the peel, but don't actually put the lemon peel into the drink, as that would be overpowering.

The result is a shocking success, in my own humble opinion, which was immediately verified by Noelle. This is a good boost to my cocktail confidence, since I haven't made a good drink in months. It's a deep, deep drink. Since the Rittenhouse Rye has such a richness to it and the Barenjager tastes like real honey, the flavor is wonderful! Not to toot my own horn... like I said, this is the first tasty drink in some time.