Housekeeping and Updates

Some tidying up I've been wanting to do for some time has been finally done, and a few bits of news:

*Updated the blog log. On the left sidebar I've dramatically updated the list of blogs. Sites I've been reading that I haven't gotten a chance to add on to this site, along with some great sites I've only recently discovered. This is in advance of a post I'm planning on contributing to AOL about the wonderful amounts of spirits and cocktail information being generated these days on blog sites, along with a sampling of links. I won't be able to write about everyone as that post would be far too long, but I will be recommend that readers scroll through the blogs listed here and hopefully everyone will get a small spike in traffic and many minds will be illuminated.

*Updated the cocktail menu from Union. Jeffrey Morgenthaler used to have a PDF which highlighted the cocktail menu at his old bar, and I'm hoping at some point he'll do the same for his new bar. I would love to see current cocktail menus listed on the blog sites of bartenders as a permanent feature on their sites. I'm always intrigued by how other bars construct and diversify their offerings for their guests. On that note, I'll probably also put up a list of links to notable bars from around the world where their menus are listed, just to get everyone's mouths watering. . .

*As soon as the paperwork is processed, I will be moving from the AOL food and drink blog site to Slashfood, part of AOL Food Network and a great site I encourage everyone to check out, and not just because I'll be there eventually. They've got a host of talented writers over there and the entries come in fast and furious, so there's always something fresh to read.

*Okay, I have a question for everyone. There is one "drink" not listed on the Union menu printed on the bottom of the left sidebar which I'm thinking of adding on. I wanted to put on something called the Dealer's Choice. It'll be worded something like "you pick the booze, we'll do the rest, concentrating on utilizing seasonal fruits..." or something like that (not sure yet on the verbiage). Could putting something like this on a menu be considered a cop-out? I've considered having this as a permanent feature on the menu, just so it frees me up to use fresh fruit in season or whatever else I want to do. . .I do this anyway, as most bartenders do, suggesting to my guests that they just let us do something we're excited about, but spelling it out may liberate our guests from having to make any decisions (I'd say 75% just order what they know rather than branch out, maybe higher for Union since we get so many tourists who just walk in). Any and all comments on this would be very welcome.

*I need/want to re-design this site, moving away from the simple template. Does anybody out there have any suggestions for someone who is completely illiterate when it comes to website design and coding? I'm bored with my current layout and want to spiff the place up.

I think that's it. I've spent the better part of the last 24 hours reading through cocktail and spirit blogs and loving it. So much great stuff being put out there and I gotta say my guests are going to be bombarded this weekend with new offerings. Thank you in advance.

Ooooh, my aching liver

It's been a rough week, let me tell you, so rough it's taken me two weeks to write this post. A heavy night of boozing it up at Vessel's Fat Tuesday party, a spectacluar dinner at Union and horrible bowling at the Garage (along with some ill-advised Jagermeister forced upon me) made for an epic, Bunyan-esque hangover. But we're not going to get into that night....

You see, before she had to leave Vessel, Christine, my beautiful fiancee, managed to finagle a promise from me which I, in my Hurricane-induced glory, accepted. I promptly forgot, of course. The next day, wounded and battered, though, I had to make good on my promise to go with her to the Can-Can to see Zach.

Zach McCaffree is one of Seattle's best bartenders. He's built a spectacular bar from the ground-up, and the secret most in Seattle don't know is how great a drink you'll get from the man behind the bar in between cabaret performances (or, heck, even during). You want hooch? Zach's got it, with a selection second only to the Zig Zag. Cocktails? Zach knows them. He introduced me to this gem, which I enjoyed so much I've made a half-dozen for my customers in the week that followed. The cocktail in the picture above is a cellphone capture of it. . .
The Fort Washington Flip
1 1/2 oz applejack
3/4 oz Benedictine
1/2 oz maple syrup
1 fresh egg

Shake the mother-effin' crap out of it, pour into a chilled cocktail glass then grate nutmeg on top.

Now, how did this recipe slip past my radar? It was published on drinkboston, a site I usually read, plus Imbibe Magazine , which I also regularly read. The recipe comes from Misty Kalkofen from Green Street Grill, a bar I'm now inspired to fly across country to visit. Christine and I had several drinks, among them his own Ringmaster involving Averna, apricot-infused rye and something else (forgot/too hungover to ask, natch). If any of you from Seattle have not been to Can-Can, get there now and say hi to Zach for me (Erik, a bartender at Zig Zag, also slings drinks one night a week, another reason to get down there).

Speaking of Zig Zag (nice new site guys, btw), I can't be that close and boozing it up and not go there!!! So Christine and I stopped by, missing Robert Hess and Paul Clarke by mere minutes, apparently. Ben, Erik and Murray were all behind the bar, much to our delight. Murray had the chocolate bitters Paul raved about and Murray whipped up an unnamed drink using the bitters.

2 oz Mt Gay Xtra Old rum
¼ oz Grand Marnier
1/8 oz Cointreau
5 dashes Xococatl mole bitters

The next drink, though, really struck me. It's an odd one, which is usually enough to get my attention, but it also be danged tasty, enough so that I'm going to have to try this one out.

Friar's Pint
1 ¾ oz Plymouth gin
1 oz cardamon-infused Guinness (!)
¾ oz E. India Lustau sherrry (not sure if it's a fino or not)
dash Angostura bitters
dash simple syrup
1 egg white

Okay, now I just copied the recipe from Murray's notes off the back of a coaster (how many of us in Seattle have coasters at home with Murray's handwriting). I imagine you shake the bejeezus out of everything save the Guinness, dump it into a champagne flute (which is how he served it), then pour the world's most venerable stout over the top. I don't know. Perhaps Murray, who has been known to sometimes peek over at this space, can enlighten us. All I can tell you is that this drink cannot be just a one night stand. . . more research is needed (it always is, isn't it?). An absolutely inspired cocktail, and believe me, it didn't stand a chance as I got all Kimbo on the thing and knocked that sucker out within seconds.

I have to thank Christine for dragging my sorry ass around town, and thanks to Zach at Can-Can and Ben, Erik and Murray for another memorable evening.

Muh-Muh-Muh My Negroni

First, my apologies to the Knack for badly appropriating their one and only hit...

But anyway, the Negroni . . .venerable, iconic, on the rocks, served up, loved and worshipped, hated and contortion-inducing. . . there's just no coming down the middle on this one. So allow me, on this Mixology Monday, to add another layer of division.

Proportions are law for the Negroni. So says none other than one of our best and most beloved drinks writers, Gary Regan who, in the Joy of Mixology, says something to the effect that the proportions should be beyond tinkering. I'm going to go ahead and point out that the Negroni itself is a variation on the Americano.... ptttttttt. So let's go ahead and mess with this poor old venerable bastard.

I like Campari, and given that my taste buds are dead, I need to be hit on the head with flavor in my drinks. I like 'em rich and heavy, so delicate nuances are lost on me. Here's what I do. . .

Keith's Negroni Variation
1 ½ oz Campari (yup, that's right)
¾ oz Beefeater Gin
¾ oz Vya Italian Vermouth (I'm currently toying with Punt é Mes also. Verdict is still out)
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters (gotta make it up to Gary somehow)

I figured if you ordered a Negroni, you've got a taste for Campari like I do, adding a little orange bitters just adds even more to the party. Vya is nice and rich. That's the Negroni I like to drink.

Turns out I'm not alone. Murray Stenson at Zig Zag makes his pretty much the same way, which is a nice little rubber stamp. And guess who else? Well, in his book New Classic Cocktails, Gary Regan (!) himself shows what an adaptable man he is by including The Cinnabar Negroni, which I have recently discovered is pretty much the same variation Murray and I do, among the chosen few in that book. And I have to add that of all the cocktails we make at Union, and I make quite a few, I get more compliments on this Negroni than any other drink we make. I don't know what that means, but there you have it....

Jimmy, great idea for a MM event. Cheers everyone, see at the party...