Saturday, October 31, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
This month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Cocktailians, challenges us to post a tasty vermouth cocktail recipe. Vidiot says we can use any aromatic, fortified wine. So being the rebel she is, Leah created a cocktail, um, without vermouth.
Since Leah is in the midst of a three-week root canal with complications, she gets to be a beast and not follow the rules. You've got a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, I tell her. I don't argue with a woman who has a wild look in her eye, who is pacing the hallway like a panther, and who says it feels like someone is splitting her jaw open with a hacksaw. Vicoden is child's play, she tells me, downing a shot of whiskey and popping open a bottle of Brute. That's right, Brute with an "e."
We became acquainted with Ithaca Beer's Brute last week at a lovely beer-tasting dinner at Cornell hosted by Hotel School students and Ithaca Beer's brilliant master distiller, Jeff O'Neil. The Brute proved to be the life of the party: a citrusy sour ale the color of champagne, served in a flute, and paired with some biting cheese.
Okay, it's not even close to fortified wine, but Brute IS brewed with champagne yeast. And with a bouquet reminiscent of a barnyard, Brute certainly could be deemed "aromatic." One taste, and Leah decided Brute would make a great vermouth substitute.
The result? You can call it an Ithaca Negroni. I call it a Brutoni. Leah calls it a Bitchtooth: equal parts gin (we used Plymouth), Campari and Brute. The sour and bitter and gin blend together perfectly, and the cocktail has a tad of sparkle to it, not unlike a Sparkling Negroni that I saw on Rachel Ray's website a few minutes ago. It was an accident. I really don't hang out on Rachel Ray's site. Unless I need to find a good thirty minute meal. Leah says stop talking about Rachel Ray.
Not in Ithaca? You lose. Brute is a beer that goes beyond beer and into the realm of the extraordinary. Get yourself to the Ithaca Beer brewery to try some, or have a friend send you some. Either is a worthwhile endeavor.
1 ounce Plymouth gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Ithaca Beer's Brute
Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We opened the Zaya at the Lounge and taste-tested it with the staff on hand, both those who were working hard and those who had stopped in to laze about and sip drinks, as so many of our staff are wont to do. Some of our staff gave this dark, Trinidad-bottled rum a thumbs up (sweet - caramelly - rich - full of flavor) and others weren't so excited about it for the same reasons. I made it into a mojito, with similar results. Love the flavor, too much flavor. Zaya is not your standard wimpy rum.
Then we forgot about it. The bottle sat on my desk with a sticky note that read "do not drink" which if there was space would have read "do not drink until I write a blog about it which I will soon and it's the least I can do since it was a freebie."
Fast forward to this week. Leah has a toothache. She's up every night at 3am or 4am to take Advil and while she's up she reads blogs, obsesses about whether or not the pulp in her tooth is dying permanently or if her nerve is just having a nervous breakdown, and she actually answers some emails so perhaps it's good use of her time though not the best timing. During the day she seeks out nips of hard liquor to dull the pain when she thinks no one is looking. I know, I know, she should see the dentist. She did. Twice. And it traumatized her and left her wondering if the poking, prodding and drilling further irritated the pulp (i.e. tooth innards), so now she is waiting, hoping to wake up one morning and find the pain simply missing.
Today, she found my bottle of Zaya Rum, stuck the "do not drink" sticky note to the bar, and pronounced the bottle her salvation. "Where did this stuff come from?" she asked me, sipping it straight, clearly not remembering our previous tasting in August. "This is good shit. Mmmm. Sweet explosion in my mouth. Kind of smoky, peaty, and full of molasses. I swear my tooth is feeling better."
So there you have it, folks. Zaya tastes great, and it cures toothaches (at least for a few hours).
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In honor of Felicia's Atomic Lounge's fifth birthday, here's an excerpt from my upcoming bar memoir book (still looking for a publisher), which should probably have the title, What the Hell Were We Thinking?
Fortunately, the stars were on our side. Here's to you, Felicia, and to Leah for talking me into doing one of the craziest things I've ever done in my life:
“I have an idea.” Leah’s face was pressed up against the empty tavern window, hands cupping her eyes. “We should open a bar.”
Leah always had ideas. I heard the line come out of her mouth daily. “I have an idea….”, followed by an elaborate plan to start her own business and become rich. Hand-painted t-shirts. Designer cat litter boxes. Carved wooden yoga blocks. A thing that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and statically draws all the floating dog fur into its jaws.
“You said you never wanted to open a restaurant,” I said, peering in the window beside her.
The tavern was dark and filthy. Floor tiles were missing, and the ceiling had a hole in it where someone had fallen through from the attic. On the front of the bar where your feet would kick, wavy lines of glue were all that remained to inform us that tiles or plywood had been torn down. On top of the dusty bar, a number of gray glasses stood and others lay on their sides. The walls were covered with an almost-black wood paneling. Bob’s Tavern had stood empty for years. Until the trendy coffee shop opened next door, we had no reason to visit this rundown neighborhood.
“A bar is different,” Leah said, sipping her iced latte through the straw. “Less work, higher profit margins. And we’d have our days to ourselves.”
I was not convinced; I was never convinced. Leah told me once that if she was a kite, flying high in the sky, kept aloft by her ideas as if they were the wind, then I was the string, yanking her back to the ground.
“A bar could work,” Leah said again. We walked side-by-side to our car which was packed to the gills with camping gear, gripping our coffees that would fuel us on our eleven hour trip to Maine.
Leah would have ten days in the wilderness with me to convince me, an uptight social worker who didn’t know how to make a gin and tonic, to open a bar.
copyright Amelia Sauter 2009
Photo note: I'm the one with the little boobs. The ones you can't see. Even if Leah wasn't standing in front of me.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Coincidentally, I also have a small bottle of Pama Liqueur on the shelf, which I bought before I realized one could successfully grovel for free samples. Dang.
First the Pom. The company sent a bunch of tea flavors as well as some 100% juices. I must admit I am biased. Hands down, I am a 100% juice girl. When something has flavoring and corn syrup added, I’m probably not going to like it. I owned Strawberry Shortcake, Peach Blush and Apple Dumplin’ dolls in 1980 and they maxed out my tolerance for fake fruit flavors, especially peach. Let sleeping dolls lie, I say.
So I found myself pleasantly surprised when I liked the sweetened Pomegranate Lychee Green Tea. I wouldn’t mind drinking it if I was on a road trip and it’s all they sold at the Quik Fill. My first choice of the new flavors, however, is the 100% Kiwi Pomegranate juice. Good stuff. As a purist, I also like plain old Pom.
Pama Liqueur rode the coattails of the “pomegranate is good for you” movement. Though I doubt it has the health benefits of pomegranate juice, heck, it’s got my other favorite vitamin, alcohol. Pama is a great addition to a gin and tonic or to a vodka collins, and because it is more concentrated in flavor than juice, there’s more room for alcohol in the glass. Works for me.
Which do I prefer in a cocktail, Pom or Pama? Both. I think juice tastes better in a cosmo, but I like liqueur added to a mixed drink. A recent taste test of a Countrypolitan proved that both Pom or Pama complement bourbon nicely, so you can confidently use whichever one you happen to have in the house (bar). And they are both more convenient than dealing with those slimy crunchy fresh pomegranate seeds.
1 ½ ounce Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve bourbon
½ ounce sweetened lime juice
½ ounce Cointreau
½ ounce Pama or 1 ounce Pom 100% juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with lime wheel.