I never went to Milk & Honey, but I’d heard much about it, and its creator, Sasha Petraske. I bought this book in November, and while I haven’t made every cocktail in it (that will take a few more years), the ones I have made have been delicious. I wasn’t able to attend my family’s Thanksgiving bash this year, but Sasha’s Petraske’s recipe for The Bizness and The Bee’s Knees did, and were apparently a great hit.
But perhaps it’s best to end this year on a quieter, more reflective note, and there’s actually a cocktail book for that—Sasha Petraske’s understated and impressive “Regarding Cocktails” (Phaidon, 251 pages, $29.95). It’s a book Petraske, the founder of the pioneering Manhattan cocktail bar Milk & Honey, was compiling when he died suddenly last year at the age of 42. The gaps have been filled in by his widow, Georgette Moger-Petraske, and a community of like-minded bartender friends.
The book is filled with a low-key joy and embraces a no-nonsense, non-splashy approach to drink-making, focusing chiefly on adaptations of classic cocktails with few ingredients, such as the martini, daiquiri and sour. Each featured drink is paired with an austere graphic on the opposite page, composed of a pattern of glyphs representing the ratio of various ingredients. The key printed on the accompanying bookmark contains some 120 wee symbols, from absinthe and Demerara rum to ginger beer and white peach purée. I suppose with enough memorization, one might know at a glance what the drink would taste like, much like a trained musician can hear a melody by glancing at sheet music. In any event, it’s calming to just contemplate the graphic.
The book concludes with brief, introspective essays about Petraske. He was famous—and sometimes mocked—for the rules he cast in bronze on the bathroom doors at his bar. These included “No name dropping” and, for women, “If a man you don’t know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.” He also subscribed to more general rules of living, which invariably revolved around civility. On the subway: “No man should ever sit before every woman who wishes to rest has been offered a seat.” “Regarding Cocktails” is as much about human connection as it is about jiggers and bitters. And Petraske’s sort of civility seems something we all could use more of in the new year. Well, that and a stiff drink.
but as I said, I lowered the amount of lime this time, and like it better. (I keep notes on cocktails, b/c I’m weird like that).
Also, I’ve yet to ever attend a horse race, but maybe this will be the year!
It turns out that this cocktail is perfect for a hot, muggy day. My notes indicate I made this first in January, using the recipe just as described, and that I was underwhelmed. Reducing the lime, substituting rye for bourbon, and drinking on a hot day transforms this libation into something quite delicious.
This drink was invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, and is named after the French term for what we call “The French Quarter” … le Vieux Carré (“Old Square”).
The Monteleone is one of the Quarter’s grand old hotels, and now features the marvelous Carousel Lounge, which is an actual revolving carousel — you sit, and it revolves around the bartenders (just slowly enough so that you only get dizzy from drinks, not the ride).
Organic botanical gin, at that. Hadn’t heard of this before yesterday’s sojourn to Whole Foods, but I like it.
Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Ina’s 1935
in this age of everything artisanal and organic, you now have Farmer’s Gin. It’s a small-batch production from the people who make Crop Harvest Earth organic vodkas, based on grains from organic farms in the upper Midwest and infused with classy herbs like elderflower, lemon grass and angelica, besides the required juniper.
It’s fragrant, a bit floral and not as bone-dry and piney as a typical London gin. You might spike lemonade with it, and appreciate the 93.4 proof. I like it neat, on the rocks, with a generous squirt of lime
Actually, in the last couple of years have expanded my cocktail palate to include good vermouth, and explore the plethora of vermouth options besides just Martini and Rossi or Gallo. Simultaneously, I’ve gotten over my teenaged aversion to bourbon1, especially in variants of Manhattans.
The truth about vermouth is that it predates the manhattan, and every other cocktail in which it’s featured. Born in Turin, Italy, in the late 1700s as an aperitif, vermouth is a fortified wine whose flavor has been enhanced (or “aromatized”) with herbs and spices — notably wormwood, from which “vermouth” borrows its name. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a cocktail ingredient capable of making or breaking a drink, depending on what kind is used and how much, and some of the better blends are still enjoyed by traditionalists as an aperitif on the rocks with a twist of orange.
Summer is as good a time as any to examine the variety of vermouths, which go way beyond mixers for manhattans and martinis. Find one you like, splash it with soda and a few ice cubes, and your aperitif regime is a set for the season.
R.J. Cutler: What I Learned From Anna Wintour – Lesson 1: Keep Meetings ShortI work in the film business, where schmoozing is an art form, lunch hour lasts from 12:30 until 3, and every meeting takes an hour whether there’s an hour’s worth of business or not. Not so at Vogue, where meetings are long if they go more than seven minutes and everyone knows to show up on time, prepared and ready to dive in. In Anna’s world, meetings often start a few minutes before they’re scheduled. If you arrive five minutes late, chances are you’ll have missed it entirely. Imagine the hours of time that are saved every day by not wasting so much of it in meetings. It’s not by accident that during the final scene of The September Issue, Anna Wintour is in her office alone, waiting for a meeting to begin, and we hear her voice call out, “Is anyone coming to this run-through except for me?”
Spirits: Long-lost Gin Buck gets most bang from ginger beer – The gin buck? Three ingredients, no matter the variation. You can try the “modern” version: gin, lemon juice and ginger ale, which gives the drink a mellow lemon-lime flavor. Or, substitute the lemon with a half-lime squeeze, rimming the glass with the pulp to make it extra tart. Either way, it’s fizzier than a gin gimlet, and sweeter that a straight gin and tonic.
But to really do it right, you’ll want to go retro and spice it up with ginger beer, which, unlike today’s ginger ale, actually tastes of ginger. That’s how they made it in the old days: gin, authentic ginger ale (that actually tasted like ginger, so to get that flavor today, we’d use ginger beer) and lime juice, over ice cubes. The ginger and juniper flavors interact intensely.
A few interesting links collected November 18th through November 19th:
North Branch Railroad Bridge Chicago and North Western Railroad Northwestern Historic Bascule Bridge – Sitting south of the Kinzie Street Bridge, this railroad bridge is always in the up position and is no longer used by trains. …On aesthetic terms, this strange movable bridge is one of only a few bascule bridges in Chicago where the counterweight is above the ground. Like the Lakeshore Drive Bridge, this bascule set records when it was built. At the time of its completion, it was the heaviest as well as the longest bascule leaf in the world! The bridge was built in 1907, with its design being provided by Joseph Strauss, who was an important person who worked to develop the bascule bridge designs, and would often be angry at Chicago since he felt the designs the city was using were to close to his patented designs. The steel superstructure was fabricated by the Toledo-Massillon Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio. This rail-line was owned by the Chicago and North Western Railway until Union Pacific bought them out in 1995
Senators’ Statements — National Geographic Magazine – “To help kick off Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places. Here’s the gallery of maps from the brave Senators who took the challenge. The maps reveal home-state pride, personal history, and even some geographic humor.” Some Senators link everything to their own history, some link to the history of the state itself.
Foodie Rant – Properly Sauced? Try Properly Ripped Off. – Chicagoist – Sometimes, one expects to be overcharged. If you’re having a drink at the Signature Room, you’re renting space at the top of the world. If you order a martini at Charlie Trotters, you probably don’t care about the price. On the other hand, when I walk into an average 2-star restaurant and get charged $14 for a martini, I want to go beat the bartender over the head with a bottle. If the martini is bad, as it often is, the situation deteriorates. A decent $14 cocktail is a mild insult; a bad $14 cocktail is a slap in the face.
The story of the government cracking down on smokestack emissions at a city factory … even though the residents LIKE the emissions. We hear from Jorge Just, who explains the one, magical, special secret about Chicago no one outside Chicago ever believes is true, from Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for the American Lung Association in Chicago; and from Julie Armitage, Manager of Compliance and Enforcement for the Bureau of Air at the Illinois State EPA. (9 minutes)