Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ringling was Rye Man

The Wall Street Journal ran a cool piece on the personal rail cars of two prominent Floridians, Henry Morrison Flagler (railroad guy) and John Ringling (circus guy.) I liked the following bit.

Taylor Gordon, Mr. Ringling's valet and steward on the Wisconsin (he later became a singer and part of the Harlem Renaissance), recalled his days aboard the car in his memoir, "Born to Be." "[Ringling] gave me orders to get the car in shape . . . and stock up heavy with special things like Pilsner beer, Poland Water and White Rock; special foods like Virginia Hams and Summer Brothers' products that could not be brought on the road -- also liquors." (From a bill of lading for the Wisconsin's inaugural journey, we know that Ringling preferred rye whiskey.)

Me too folks, me too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Simon is Classy Again.

Mr. Simon Difford had a big 4th quarter this past year. The UK drinks writer launched his iPhone app and was able to buy back control of CLASS magazine. Well his relaunch is in full swing and I encourage all American drinkies to subscribe to the digital version while we await an avenue for subscriptions on our side of the pond.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

SF Cocktail Week

San Francisco Cocktail Week upon is...adjust yours lives accordingly.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Great Odin's Ravins! How Much is that Savoy?

The Savoy.

Many barmen refer to Harry Craddock's book this way which may seem diminutive when written, but is clearly reverential when one hears a practitioner utter it. It was first published in 1930 London, as American prohibition was coming to an end so it was positioned perfectly to be an authority when all hell broke loose 3 years later (presumably, I actually have no idea how quickly real cocktails got going again.) Bay Area cocktailian Erik Ellestad has made such a name for himself just by drinking his way through the book, that he has been referenced in the NY Times.
I found my 1st edition at a street sale in Richmond, Virginia about 10 years ago. I don't remember how much I paid for it, but it wouldn't have been more than $10. I have since bought a few more later printings so that I could read them without fear of degrading my original. Still, I like to look around the web every now and again to see what copies are going for.

This one popped up today.

$984.49! The worst part is that someone is actually going to pay for it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mexican Standoff and Hellfire Bitters

One of my coworkers, Matty Conway, came up with a tremendous (and does not lead to the other unfortunately) cocktail called the Mexican Standoff.

2oz. Chichicapa Mescal
1/2 oz. Averna
1/2 oz. Creme de Cacao
Hellfire Bitters

This is one of those lusty drinks composed of the bold flavors that stomp their feet more than they dance around the glass. I think it is well-named in that there is an inherent tension between two of the modifiers, Creme de Cacao and Hellfire bitters. A 'sweet chocolate staring down hot chilies across a smoky field,' kind of thing.

Anyhoo, the Hellfire Bitters used here have been a pretty hot topic of conversation recently (pun totally intended.) I first heard the name Hellfire in Baltimore at an ancient Fell's Point saloon called the Seafarer which closed a few years ago. The barman at the time was a huge white-haired, white-bearded slinger who had purportedly started working at the bar when he was a teenager, and never left (he was clearly in his 60's.) I was asking him about the trough down where the rail usually is on the patron side of the bar as I was freshly legal and had not seen such a thing before. Like any self-respecting young American male when faced with a vintage fire pole, car or pissoir, I asked if it still worked and that got us to talking. Or him to teaching really.

One of the few but incredible topics covered was a drinking tradition that was dying out when he was young. It involved men betting about how many hits of 'Hellfire' or 'Hot-Drops' they could handle in their beer. I had always assumed he meant some sort of pepper vinegar or hot sauce until I read Eric Ellestad of Underhill Lounge talk about Charles Baker's Hellfire Bitters. As I have never been, nor ever will be, good at following recipes, I started working on my own Hellfire three years ago.

The gist of the formula is coffee and jalapeno. I do add a couple of other things for depth, but will leave those up to your imagination. It usually takes a solid month for full extraction, but the Chronicle wanted a version that could be made at home in time for Cinco de Mayo as that was the reason behind the whole piece. After some experimentation both on my part and by Jon Bonné, a quick method has been discovered. I pronounce it...pretty good.

1 medium jalapeno pepper
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce (by volume) ground espresso or other coffee
1 ounce water
Instructions: Muddle the entire pepper, including flesh, seeds and pith, in a small saucepan. Add rum and continue to muddle until pulpy. Add ground espresso and water. Heat, covered, over very low heat for 10 minutes, minimizing the evaporation of the rum. Remove from heat, cover tightly and cool. Transfer the mixture to a small glass jar and cover tightly. Let sit at room temperature for at least six hours, preferably a day or longer. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavors will be. When ready, strain the mixture through a double-folded cheesecloth or coffee filter and pour into a small bottle.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Real Barman

I am a little bit of a news junkie and like to have CNN on while I go over my news bookmarks online. Today CNN flashed a brief piece on Doc Hendley, a barman in North Carolina who is appears to me, to be quite a guy.

His organization, Wine to Water, is righteous and I love the connection he is making. I encourage you to take a serious look at his program and consider supporting it.

Friday, May 01, 2009


This are the last ads I will post for awhile I promise.

I saw this and was kind of surprized the boys could get away with having Absolut's name on them. Then I read that the brand actually paid for it.

Very, very odd.