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Booze review: High West 36th Vote

12 Sep

Bottled Manhattans

Bottles like this used to sell snake oil.

So the Gin Savant and I were browsing the wares of one of our fave booze pimps when the proprietor pulled us aside excitedly to show us the limited number of bottles of High West’s 36th Vote bottled Manhattans in stock. The name comes from the deciding vote to end Prohibition cast by–wait for it–Utah. Yeah. Osmondromneyville*. Go figure.

Here’s the basic gist of bottled or casked cocktails. You take all the ingredients of a cocktail–in this case, vermouth, whiskey and bitters–throw them in a cask, let it age, bottle it, and voila, sell it to the market for an exorbitant price: $55. Yeah, you read that right.

Proponents of this fad say it creates a maturing effect like wine: things mellow out like a fine Bordeaux. It’s easy to sip, more refined, and some other blather that I’m not buying. Yeah, well, Bordeaux often comes out of the cask kicking and screaming in all its tannic glory, and it’s the bottle-aging that calms it down.

Mnahattans are not supposed to go down your gullet as smooth as Hawaiian Punch or Hi-C. You are not supposed to chug them. It’s supposed to be a melange of flavors and intensities. It’s supposed to go down harsh and bitter on you, like a bored housewife in a Cheever story giving a blowjob with teeth as the protagonist ruminates on the existential hell of the suburbs and wishes he were Joe DiMaggio or something. There was no edge to this. There was nothing grabbing us, because this thing was too smooth and bland. All the elements tasted the same. Like liquid wood. And what, I ask, is the point of that?

We ended up throwing in more bitters, three-week-old past-its-prime red vermouth, and a shot of some other whiskey to make it taste better. If you need training wheels on your cocktails, this stuff is for you.

But for $55–yep, you still read that right–you can damn well buy your own Old Overholt ($12), Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth ($6), bitters of choice ($18) and maraschino cherries ($4 at the packie) to make big-boy-and-girl Manhattans and still have a crap ton of money left over, unless you are a total cocktail prick connoisseur and get Luxardo maraschino cherries. The only thing you don’t get is the awesome old-school apothecary bottle, which was the only thing we saved. The Gin Savant’s got it in his head to make bathtub gin and he wants something pretty to put it in.
*I’m going to digress a sec. Utah and booze: let me tell you a story–10+ years ago, I drove cross-country with an acquaintance moving to San Francisco. We stopped for the evening in Wendover, which is this casino town split on the Nevada/Utah border. My friend and I were toodling around the casino and she wanted a picture of herself pretending to play the twenty-five foot tall slot machine. Before the flash even faded away, we were set upon by a fat goon squad. Long epic shitstorm story short, we got questioned and carded and questioned some more before they let us go, film still intact. Why? Because the Mormon faithful don’t want to be photographed drinking and, Moroni forbid, gambling. They get kinda touchy that way.


Recipe: Turkish Chocolate Martini #2 for a Wednesday Night

11 Aug

[I usually call this a Moroccan martini because I’ve never been to Turkey, and I really want to go back to Morocco someday. I think a true Moroccan martini has preserved lemon in it. I will need to investigate this firsthand. But I digress.]

The Gin Savant and I visited my BFF over the weekend. She lives in the hinterlands with an herb garden. She gave me free rein to harvest basil; he got the run of the chocolate mint plant. The silly boy forgot his bounty at my house, so sucks to be him!

The useful thing is that this is a pretty forgiving recipe if you don’t like to measure. Or if you like your tipple drier, just substitute plain vodka for the vanilla; up the creme de cacao if you want it sweeter and more voluptuous. The key is to keep this as icy as possible, though it is also quite delicious closer to room temperature as well.

Making it a Turkish martini

The label is so Victorian-fab

2 oz Stoli Vanil vodka
3 tsp creme de cacao
heavy dash orange water (mine came from Dean & Deluca). Rose water works very well, too.
4 chocolate mint leaves

Shake ingredients. Pour into a chilled martini glass or coupé. Crush one of the mint leaves and run it around the glass’s rim. Crush the remaining three to release the mint oil over the drink and use for garnish.

Stoli Vanil, creme de cacao, orange water.

Forgiving, flexible and fairly idiot-proof recipe

Recipe: White Trash Yuppie Sangria

11 Apr

So, I finally started my taxes today. Unfortunately, the IRS won’t let me claim the 120 bottles in my wine collection as dependents so I can be a welfare queen and get my own reality show parading my utter lack of remorse and accountability around.

Instead, I’m scrabbling around the local packie for cast-off scratch tickets to claim as gambling losses my files to find scads of deductibles to get that 1099 income liability under control (I have a side copywriting business doing both sassy catalog descriptions for some Big Brand Names and really staid by-the-book financial writing on Your Retirement and Why It’s The Most Expensive and Important Purchase You’ll Ever Make. Hey, versatility!). Oh, and then I helped the Gin Savant do his taxes, and he’s getting a shitload of cash back. Which means he’s now on the hook to take me to Menton this time.

So to cope with the sticker shock of being a freeborn resident of these United States of ‘Merica, I scavenged around chez moi to help take the edge off:

• 4-5 oz (Who knows, I didn’t measure) of whatever red wine you’ve got near at hand or open (pictured: Albino Armani Foja Tonda Casetta, Urban Grape, $26)
• 6.5 oz cheap-ass strawberry soda
about half a shot of Trimbach Kirsch because that’s all that was left in the bottle (Blanchard’s Jamaica Plain, about $28)
• A squeeze of pre-fab lime juice (you’re poor. You can’t afford fresh)
• A medium-handed pour of Trader Joe’s simple syrup
• A heavy hand of Luxardo cherries and syrup (I yielded two cherries)

Stir with chopstick.

Measurements? Proportions? Hell, I’m not good with numbers; I’m a writer. Do what feels right. Add Dole canned fruit cocktail if you got it. Just make sure you have some spirits in with the wine.

I suppose if “white trash” is offensive to some, they can call it “Thrifty Girl Sangria” or “Cheapskate Calimotxo” or “Uncle Sam Hates Me.”

Knock, knock, knocking on Death’s Door (it’s here!)

8 Apr

As a few of you know, the Gin Savant and I are huge huge fans of Death’s Door gin out of Wisconsin, which wasn’t available in Massachusetts. For a couple of years, we were using, uh, alternative means of procuring it, such as bringing duct tape and bubble wrap with me when I flew to Omaha to visit family (yes, there is something terribly wrong when I can purchase craft gin in western Iowa at a local grocery store-owned packie instead of Boston, home to Drink, Eastern Standard, Trina’s, et al) and then we’d cherish and ration each drop carefully once it was in our clutches.

Why all the fuss? Instead of a potpourri of botanicals which can get metallic or, yeesh, taste like your great-auntie’s potpourri she made with a heavy hand, Death’s Door uses only three of ’em: wild juniper they harvest themselves, coriander and fennel. They distill it three times. If you’re into gin, it’s a really clean taste, but it’s not some walk in the park. It’s got a little bite, a little stretch, and it’s a challenge to use in a martini. It’s kinda like a wild little mustang pony you have to break with just the right vermouth.

And, happy of happiest, it’s coming to the 617. Through the power of social media, we were lucky enough to get an invite to an industry-night party last night at Toro in the South End to enjoy all three of Death’s Door’s (boy, that’s weird to punctuate) offerings: the gin, their white whiskey, and their vodka.

Death's Door vodka in, ahem, chewy vitamin form

First up was Honey Badger punch with the whiskey, which was being served in a choice of glass or poured down the ice luge. A little pink, but drinkable. Apparently the whiskey also makes a good white Manhattan, if you use Dolin vermouth. See the pic for how we tested the vodka.

The Gin Savant approves.

And finally, our first “licit” Death’s Door gin drinks in the bay State, which were Toro menu items: Fresita, with strawberry and rhubarb; and the Contessa II, with aperol. The fresita was sweet and aromatic, and a great reminder that despite the April weather here lately, that spring (or better yet, summer) is coming. And the Gin Savant was very excited with the amaro-like overtones of the Contessa.

I’ll be posting a list of retail outlets of where to get the DD goods; I know of at least one for next week, but want to stock up before everyone else visual confirmation so I don’t send anyone on a wild goose chase. In the meantime, check the Ken Oringer empire (especially Coppa, Toro), Deep Ellum, and the higher-end haunts around the Back Bay. Special thanks to J.C., Death’s Door’s Duchess of the East Coast (and about whom I overheard someone say was lovely enough to make Uma Thurman nervous–I concur) for the permission to party crash.
UPDATE August 2011: The CHEAPEST place to find Death’s Door (all three) in Boston that I’ve found so far is Macy’s Liquors, West Roxbury, next to Roche Bros.–$29!

UPDATE: Find Death’s Door Gin at Liquor Land and Brookline Liquor Mart, $34. You can also find the vodka and white whiskey at BLM.