Shanghai

Posted on 6 September 2009 | 1 response

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This post goes out to my intrepid friend Neil, who has very recently taken up residence in China’s largest city. Best of luck over there across the pond. This is one of those cocktails where the name doesn’t really match the drink.  I usually don’t think of China with a drink containing rum or anisette, but that’s just me. Upon trying one out, I found it to be a nice summer drink, if a tad tart for my taste. Anyone know of any cocktails unique to China?

Shanghai Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Jamaican Rum
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine (homemade if ya got it)
1/4 oz anisette

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Smokey!

Posted on 31 August 2009 | 1 response

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, we here in Los Angeles have been dealing with one hell of a fire as of late.  As I write this the air is looking more and more like Beijing around here.  It’s keeping me from venturing outside and as a consequence, closer to my home bar.  I decided to whip something up to clear my head, if not the air I’m breathing.

Before I go any further…support you local Fire Department!  The people are behind you, LAFD!  I was originally going to go with a punch or something to cool off with, but decided to go with more of a sipper.  Ah, the Smokey Maritini.  It will take the jitters out of any SoCal homeowner viewing the flames from (hopefully) afar.  But you will need smoke…and in this case it is provided by the smoke/peat freight train that is Laphroaig scotch.  If you don’t know Laphroaig, it’s one of the smokiest scotches out there.  I love it.  I tempered the smoke dragon with a few drops of Pernod,  but you can only hope to contain the Laphroaig, not control it. I actually really like this cocktail.  The scotch adding more depth to the martini as the pernod evens out the edge of the Laphroaig. Good for an evening by the fire…or watching one in the distance.

Easy to drink…hard to breathe…ah, summers in L.A.

Smokey Martini
21/4 oz London Dry Gin
splash of Laphroaig scotch whisky
3-4 drops Pernod

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Aviation

Posted on 22 August 2009 | 1 response

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Because it’s a really good cocktail.

Because I’ve been craving one lately.

Because I needed one (or more) after a hellish week of work.

The Aviation
2 1/4oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lemon juice
Shake all ingredients together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Papa Doble

Posted on 21 July 2009 | No responses

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Happy birthday, Mr. Hemingway. Aside from an unfortunate shotgun incident, today would be Ernest’s 110th birthday…although I doubt his liver would have lasted this long. If you haven’t finished your summer reading list, now is your chance to catch up on a hero of American literature.  As I suffer through an endless heat wave here in southern California, the thought of wrestling a fish for a few days in a boat on the cool ocean actually sounds pretty inviting. But, I am not Santiago and this isn’t a Hemingway story.  It is a Hemingway drink, mind you.  Made famous at the El Floridita Bar in Havana, Cuba.  One of “papa’s” favorites…or so the story goes.  Cool and refreshing, I was more than happy to cool off with one of these beauties.  The maraschino and grapefruit adding a sweet complexity that makes this drink quite nice.

Papa Doble
11/2 oz white rum
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Arm wrestle or hunt big game as needed.

Happy Birthday.

AWOL: Iberia

Posted on 14 July 2009 | No responses

Apologies for not posting in a while.  We here at TDI had the last-second opportunity for a much needed vacation and decided to jump on it.  The Iberian peninsula…Spain and Portugal for a couple weeks.  We had a fabulous trip filled with great food, wonderful drinks, late nights and great times.

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Huge thanks and love to our wonderful hosts C & G in Lisbon.  That’s definitely the place I miss the most, thanks to you.  But don’t get me wrong…we loved it all.  The list is long and distinguished, but I will try to briefly mention some of the highlights.  The perfect weather and more perfect tapas in Barcelona.  Tasting vintage port near the river in Porto, Portugal.  The stunning museums and artwork in Madrid.  Watching the sun set into the Atlantic at the westernmost point in Europe.  Castle visits in Sintra, Portugal.  A night filled with wine and Fado music in Lisbon.  The Boqueria Market in Barcelona (the best open-air market I have ever seen…a foodies dream).  The coffee…everywhere.  Celebrating Leila’s birthday with an outstanding dinner followed by us drinking absinthe in a 200+ year old bar in Barcelona until 3am. Good times.  I can’t list everything, but TDI highly recommends that you all take a trip over there at some point.

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I guess I owe a few words about the food and booze…as that is the main focus of this here blog.  I was able to try a few things I wanted to mention.  First up, I got to sample ginjinha for the first time.  Ginjinha is a Portuguese liqueur that is made from ginja berries infused with alcohol and sugar.  Since the ginja is a kind of sour cherry, it has a flavor leaning that way, but also tastes lightly of cinnamon.  It might take some getting used to for newbies, but the locals love it.  There are small stands all over where for about 1€ you get a small plastic cup of the stuff.  Around lunchtime, you should see the crowds of old men in the squares happily sipping from said cups.  Alas, I wasn’t able to bring a bottle back with me…maybe next time.

One bottle I do hope to get my hands on soon is that of some handmade grappa we had at a restaurant in Lisbon.  Our hosts are regulars and the owners of the place insisted on giving us free glasses after our meals (even at lunch).  One glass led to two glasses which led to…let’s just say we all loved it.  They get it in extremely small batches in unlabled bottles and damn is it tasty.  My sources have assured me that one is on it’s way.  Yum.

If you are ever in Barcelona, please stop by the above mentioned Boquereia Market.  A complete sensory experience.  Whatever you want, they have it.  Aside from the amazing seafood we had, the most exciting meal was definitely the “porco preto”.  It means “black pig” in Portuguese and is specific to only one type of pig.  Black in color, these pigs live in the Alentejo region of Portugal and are allowed to roam free across the countryside.  Thier diets consist of mainly acorns and some chestnuts which gives their meat an amazing taste.  Without question, this was the best pork I have ever had.  I think I ordered it at least three or four times.  I’m getting hungry just typing about it.  Time to move on.

We were able to visit a few of the port wineries in Porto, Portugal.  If it’s not made in Porto, it can’t be called port.  We took a tour and I know my knowledge of the process is much better.  Did you know that all port grapes are grown only in one region of Portugal and that most are still crushed by human feet?  We sampled both dry (white) and sweet (ruby) port as well as a few of the older vintages…nice.  The bottles we picked up didn’t even last until the end of the trip.  Sigh.  At least now I know what I want to try next.

Last, but not least I was able to procure a bottle of aged Cuban rum in Spain.  Screw you, embargo.  Oh so good.  If you’re still reading, I hope to get back to posting more often.  Once the jet-lag monkey gets off my back I’ll get back in the groove.  As always after a vacation, and all too quickly, the real world is now calling.  I must reluctantly answer.

Last Rites

Posted on 22 June 2009 | 1 response

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Ah yes, it has arrived. I am, of course, talking about the summer solstice. The end of spring…the start of summer. Death and birth. All you pagans and wiccans are probably shuddering with delight. Not only does the solstice oddly fall on father’s day this year, but my friends Kari and Nick are getting married today as well. Talk about the end of one season and the start of another. Let the celebration begin.

Speaking of seasons, summer is officially here and as we enjoy this, the day with the most daylight of the year, my thoughts hedge slightly towards things like oh…tiki drinks. ‘Tis the season to delve into all the complicated wonderful recipes from the likes of the Beachbum. The days are long and sunny, fruit is plentiful at the farmer’s markets and the rum keeps eyeballing me from my collection of bottles.

In honor of the passing of spring as well as the death of my friends’ single status, I pulled this drink from Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari. The Last Rites. Seems appropriate enough and a good way to start the summer. So if you’re not one of the huddled masses converging on Stonehenge, I suggest you make a drink, gather ’round the maypole and raise your glass high.

Last Rites
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz passion fruit syrup
1/4 oz falernum
3 oz aged Martinique rum
3/4 cup crushed ice

Put everything into a blender and blend for exactly 5 seconds.  Pour into a tall glass and add ice to fill.  Garnish with three incredibly fresh cherries.

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AWOL: NOLA

Posted on 20 June 2009 | No responses

I know there has been a lack of posts, but I’ve been tending to some family things here in the outskirts of New Orleans for the past week or so.  Alas, I won’t be able to stick around for Tales of the Cocktail…as I’m sure some of you are attending.  I guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through your future blogs from the Tales.  *Note to those few:  It’s HOT in NOLA right now.  Stupid hot.  It seems the dog days of late August decided to move forward and has parked its sweaty ass over the city in late June.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  On the upside…you’ll be thirsty for at least 23 hours out of every day.  Cheers!

Coconut-Curry Halibut

Posted on 8 June 2009 | No responses

First things first.  I just want you to know that this dish is so simple and sooooo good that we’ve had it two nights in a row.  We were craving some seafood and Leila spotted this tasty recipe.  We can’t get enough.  Seriously.  I could eat this again.  Right now.

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Oh, how I love curry!  Sweet sweet curry.  If you make this and don’t like it…well, you’ve got problems I can’t help you with.  Don’t skimp on some cheap fish either…a good quality Halibut fillet is absolutely wonderful.  Do yourself a favor and make the brown rice beforehand so that it’s ready to go when the fish is.  You don’t want to be waiting.  I suggest the more sauce, the merrier…go ahead and make it practically a soup.  You will be pleased.

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Halibut a cookin'

Coconut-Curry Halibut
2 tsp canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 tsp salt
4 (four) 4oz Halibut fillets
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 limes
fresh ground black pepper

Cook the brown rice.  In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes.  Add the curry powder and cook, stirring at least 30 seconds.  Add the broth, coconut milk, 1/2 tsp. of salt and simmer until reduced to approx. 2 cups (about 5 minutes).

Season the halibut with the remaining 1/4 tsp. of salt.  Place fish in pan, spooning some of the sauce over the fish.  Cover and cook about 7 minutes or until halibut flakes easily.  Place the spinach in a steamer basket or other such thing and steam over the sauce until done.

In a soup bowl, place 1/2 cup of the brown rice at the bottom, then layer a pile of the cooked spinach.  Top with the fish fillets and ladle some of the coconut-curry sauce over all of it.  Squeeze half of a lime into the bowl.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Serve.  Serves 4.
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger. (no relation to the author of this blog).

Blood and Sand

Posted on 2 June 2009 | 2 responses

Oh yes, there will be blood.  I decided to see what all the hullabaloo was about for the HBO series “True Blood”.  I put in the first episode and began…and lasted about halfway through before the mangling of the southern accents had me thirsting for a drink. (*Note to the General Public:  Contrary to what you see on film/tv…everybody in Louisiana does NOT talk like that.  I swear.)  Needing balance, I pondered some drink recipes.  I decided to make a drink that might tie in to the vampire motif of the show…therefore the “Blood and Sand”.  Named after the 1922 film of the same name (starring Rudolph Valentino…who, by the way owned a speakeasy in L.A. during prohibition—but that is for another post), this drink is an interesting combination of ingredients.

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I still have a bunch of blood oranges around, so I decided to make my drink extra bloody.  The blood orange juice added a deeper shade of red…its ruby beauty coming to light.  I found it enhanced the cocktail just enough…sweet, but playing well with the smokiness of the scotch.

Blood and Sand
1 oz blended scotch
1 oz blood orange juice (fresh squeezed!)
3/4 oz Cherry Heering
3/4 oz sweet Vermouth

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice.  Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a brandied/maraschino cherry.

Vieux Carre

Posted on 31 May 2009 | No responses

A classic New Orleans cocktail.  It was invented in 1938 at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter by its then head bartender, Walter Bergeron.  If you haven’t been to the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone, well, you are missing out.  Get to it.  The name “Vieux Carre” means “old square” and while the French Quarter is usually referenced as said square there is another square within this that I would like to discuss.  A little New Orleans urban legend, perhaps.

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At the center of the French Quarter lies Jackson Square, named after general Andrew Jackson, who commanded the victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814 (and later became our 7th president).  At one end of the square stands the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral (you have probably seen pictures as it’s one of New Orleans’ most famous photo ops).  What you may not know is that on the two sides of Jackson Square flanking the cathedral are the Pontalba buildings.  They are matching 4-story red brick buildings (with that famous New Orleans wrought iron) that house both businesses and apartments.  They were built in the 1840’s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, then one of the wealthiest people in New Orleans.

Here’s where the legend kicks in.  At the center of Jackson Square is a monument to general Andrew Jackson.  It is a statue showing the general on his horse, tipping his hat.  Legend has it that the Baroness, with her wealth and connections, persuaded the city to position the statue so that it faced one of her Pontalba buildings…the one in which she lived.  She wanted to be able to see, when she awoke and drew back her curtains every day, the “Hero of New Orleans” doffing his hat to her.  I can imagine that would be quite nice.  While there is no actual proof of this fact, we do know that she did contribute quite a bit financially to the creation and placement of the monument.  I believe it…because I like a good story.  Oh, and I like the drink.

Vieux Carre
3/4 oz Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Cognac
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Benedictine
dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
dash of Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice filled mixing glass.  Stir.  Strain into an old fashioned glass with ice.  Garnish with a lemon twist.
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