Frostbite

Frostbite2Proposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

There are so many drinks that have no backstory. With the cocktail resurgence, some have one but it is the classic drink on which it is based and not the drink itself. Others are new creations that follow basic formulas. The final category are tipples that seem more a mix of available ingredients or an odd mélange of things that don’t seem to go together. The drink this time is surely the former.

The whole idea was to find a drink that was not the Hangman’s Blood. I had hoped that it would be sweet, include David’s least favorite liqueur, crème de menthe, and that we could throw in a few other bottles that had been gathering dust in the cabinet.  The Frostbite does all that and how.

1.5 ounce blanco tequila
1 ounce cream
½ ounce blue curacao
1 ounce white/clear crème de cacao
½ ounce crème de menthe

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a coupe with or without ice (I chose without).

The closest I have to have any background was the book I was reading at the time this cocktail was proposed. Mark Horrell is a blogger, author and self-described hill walker. He writes a blog about trekking and hill climbing that became his account of preparing for and then climbing Mt. Everest – Seven Steps From Snowden to Everest. By his own account he is an average Joe who went from hiking hills and mountains to summiting the highest peak in the world. There is a tendency to read his story and think that means anyone, with the right help, can do it. The truth though is that he tediously took all the necessary steps (yes I intended that pun) to prepare himself. For a number of years he took increasingly difficult trips and made climbs that made his success at Everest possible. So the real answer is that maybe anyone can attempt the ultimate summit – if they prepare for years and learn all the right lessons.

What this has to do with the drink is frostbite. There are no tales of scaling the highest peaks without stories of experiencing and suffering from frostbite. The body reacts to extreme cold by slowing and then eliminating blood flow to extremities so that the core stays warm. Tissue in fingers, toes and then feet and hands gradually suffers more damage the longer that flow is impeded and the colder it gets. The initial stage is frostnip (a more appropriate name for this drink by the way) where the area loses circulation but there is no permanent damage. From there the damage gets more severe and can result in long term tissue damage with loss of feeling all the way to total loss of circulation, gangrene and amputation. All the more reason to stick with frostbite as a cocktail instead of an affliction.

Here’s David’s Review:

DmFrostbiteWhen we moved last spring, we carefully assessed every possession—is it worth moving a ceramic monkey my daughter gave me when she was seven, how about that sweatshirt I received as a coach two jobs ago, and what about that Monopoly game I bought at a garage sale in 1985?

Each bottle underwent the same examination, but what do you do with that bottle of Crème de Menthe or that Blue Curaçao? You can’t leave them by the trash can in the alley where anyone desirous of ethanol blindness might find them. You can’t give them to people whose late night revelries on their party deck tormented you for ten years, and you certainly can’t actually consume them. That is out of the question.

Enter the Frostbite. At first, I was sure Jonathan was paying me back for my last choice—Hangman’s Blood—which was, I freely admit, wretched. I figured, in asking me to go to the back of the cabinet to find the luridly colored bottles I couldn’t bear to toss, he meant vengeance. He even asked me to buy another bottle sure to hang on for a while Crème de Cacao. And then heavy cream and ice? Too cruel.

But, though the drink looked a lot like something invented by Dr. Seuss, it was actually not that bad… once you closed your eyes. The tequila kept it from being pure confection, and it made it exactly what it was advertised on the web, “an adult grasshopper.” I even tried one with Mezcal, and that I liked even more—smoky sweet and aromatic.

Well, Jonathan, revenge spoiled. I’m not so fond of luridly colored spirits, and this cocktail was a little too sweet to be consumed before dinner, but the Frostbite isn’t a Hangman’s Blood. You’re going to have to work a little harder to equal that.

David’s Take: A surprise. Not your everyday cocktail, but not bad in place of an after dinner mint.

Jonathan’s take: Drinks that use forgotten bottles of liqueur are welcome. Ones that actually taste good like this one are really welcome.

Next Time (Proposed by David):

A big part of the cocktail resurgence has been the rediscovery of “lost” cocktails, drinks described in some official mixer’s manual of the thirties and subsequently buried in everything new and unusual since. I found the Blinker in the PDT Cocktail Book published in 2011, but they attribute it to Patrick Gavin Duffy in 1935 (via Ted Haigh). A combination of Rye, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and raspberry, it promises to be a contest of flavors, but maybe those ancient bartenders were onto something. We’ll see.

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Hot Cider Nog

ACNogJMProposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

One could posit that the proposed drink is more a posset than an eggnog. That assumes, of course, that one knows the difference between a posset and a nog or even what a posset is.

The history of eggnog can be traced back to England and a hot drink that sometimes doubled as a dessert. Possets date back to at least the 15th century based on their appearance in historic documents. Samuel Pepys wrote of eating a sack posset in his diary and was referring to a warm milk drink that was curdled with sack (like a sherry), sweetened and spiced. The classic version included milk or cream, sugar, spices, an ale or wine for curdling, and some kind of thickening agent. Special pots, much like a fat separator for gravy only much fancier, were used to pour out the lighter liquid to drink while leaving the thicker part to eat like a custard (a syllabub if you want to be technical). Later versions added eggs although both eggs and dairy were available mostly to the upper class.

Shakespeare referenced possets in a number of plays. David is the Shakespeare scholar in our family so I am sure he immediately thought of Lady Macbeth in reading that word. She used a drugged posset to render Duncan’s guards immobile so that Macbeth could steal in and assassinate the king. It appears she even enjoyed a spirited version of the drink to fortify herself:

That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold
What hath quenched them hath given me fire

This beverage tradition of possets traveled to the colonies. Milk, cream and eggs were of much wider availability which could have led to greater popularity. The sack or sherry was replaced with the more common spirit, rum, in the colonial version. Speculation on the name relates to both the addition of rum and the type of cup in which the drink was traditionally served. Rum, or grog in common parlance, led to a drink called egg and grog. It was served in a small rounded wooden cup called a noggin (yes that is where the slang reference to the head probably started) and became egg and grog in a noggin. Finally, nog is slang for ale, which was of course one of the original ingredients in the posset.

Whatever the origin, what we call eggnog makes its regular appearance as the holidays approach and the weather, in theory, turns colder. The version that I proposed came from Southern Living and included an unusual addition unless you consider the evolution of the drink. This Hot Cider Nog adds apple cider which harkens back to the cider, ale or wine used in a posset:

2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
1 cup apple cider
2 large eggs
½ cup cider
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Whipped cream and cinnamon sticks for garnish

Mix the first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan and gradually warm while stirring occasionally. The recipe recommends cooking until the thickened liquid coats the back of a spoon. I whisked the liquid almost constantly until it reached a temperature of 160 degrees to ensure those pesky eggs were safe but the milk and cream not overly scalded. The bourbon goes in last and I did bump the amount up to ¾’s cup.

There are recipes that suggest the final product should be cooled and even aged in the refrigerator for periods up to or even beyond six months. Our eggnog did get cooled but it had little time to age in a house full of family and guests. The odd addition, cider, was really not distinctive in the drink and fortunately did not curdle the milk. It did make for a lighter eggnog that was much better than the usual store-bought versions.

Here’s David’s Review:

NogDMIt occurred to me (ever so briefly) that I might save myself all sorts of time and trouble by just buying eggnog at the grocery. Making eggnog yourself is a delicate process—too hot and you have bits of scrambled egg in your drink and too cool and you might as well be Rocky before a morning run. Plus, the commercial stuff is readily available, and as a child, I loved it. I always looked forward to the holiday season when that carton hung around in the back of the refrigerator. I wouldn’t think of adulterating it with alcohol.

But now I know how caloric commercial eggnog is. Its preternatural viscosity probably derives from the sap of a South American tree, and the only eggs that go near it must start as powder. I’m a grown-up now. Making my own eggnog can’t be that daunting.

Well, okay, it was. Jonathan suggested a thermometer to assure the mixture didn’t reach 180°, and I’m glad he did. It seemed to keep the curdling down to a minimum and the cocktail from being too viscous. The apple cider also made the nog a little thinner than usual, which fooled me into thinking it might not be thickening as it should be. I worried more than I should (not surprising news for anyone in my family) but the whole concoction came together suddenly… accompanied by a sigh of relief.

And the result was well worth it because the cider undercut the usual sweetness of eggnog with a pleasant acidity. The whip cream added too, as it melted almost immediately and made the drink creamier and richer. While the holidays offer no shortage of celebratory libations, this one seemed a particularly suitable nightcap.

Jonathan is more of a historian than I am—as he mentioned, I’ve taught Shakespeare for years, yet have always wondered what the heck a “posset” is—but I’m the sentimentalist. Tradition impresses me most. Eggnog hardly seems a 21st century drink, and I have a hard time believing millennials, with all their post-modern fixations, will keep it going. However, that groceries still stock eggnog, that Starbucks still makes it a prominent ingredient, that people still drink it (at least in all of those cheesy holiday movies), all that suggests some elements of the past are hard to erase. In this case, I’m glad.

Jonathan’s take: Homemade eggnogs really are better.

David’s take: My favorite version of eggnog yet… eradicates my Tom and Jerry nightmares, almost.

Next Time (Proposed By David):

My collection of cocktail books isn’t as extensive as my brother’s, but I have a few. I thought I’d pick one from a gift I received last Christmas called Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails. The authors, Eric Prum and Josh William, are from Brooklyn, where my son lives (in Bushwick), and I’ve been particularly intrigued by one of their winter cocktails called The Bushwick Spice Trade. It uses Gin, sugar cubes, lemon juice, and—for spice—basil, pink peppercorns, and fresh ginger. The authors say, “We like to pair this intriguing cocktail with spicy Asian take-out when frigid temperatures call for a night in.” After so much celebration, that sounds good to me.

Irish Eyes

Irish EyesProposed by: David

Reviewed by: Jonathan

I learned recently that, among major cities, Chicago ranks third in the percentage of people who identify themselves as “Of Irish descent.” Boston and Philadelphia are ahead of us, but I’d bet my Shillelagh that, the Saturday they dye the Chicago River green, people who report being Irish jumps 1000%.

It’s an odd day to be sober, and I generally stay indoors. Venturing out means weaving between bands of luridly green revelers—shouting, laughing, and pointing at nothing I see. Trolleys roll by with loudly babbling passengers hanging out windows like rag dolls. Every bar seems packed to the walls, and the cabbies just smile all day.

These celebrants aren’t drinking Irish whiskey—at least not until their judgment’s gone—they drink green beer. This cocktail, Irish Eyes, is a little more sophisticated, and I chose it because the recipe I found compared it to a White Russian, a drink I associate with genteel settings. Plus, none of our mixed drinks have used cream or crème de menthe, and I thought we might expand our palette.

The other ingredient, as I mentioned, is Irish Whiskey, a variety of whiskey distilled three times, making it smoother and less smoky than Scotch and very different from Canadian Whiskey, Bourbon, or Rye. Irish whiskey uses a mash of cereal grains rather than specializing and, after falling from being the most popular whiskey in the U.S., it’s made a resurgence of late, so that, since 1990, it’s the fastest growing spirit in the world.

I chose Powers, and here’s why. Bushmills is older (licensed by King James in 1708) and Jamisons more well-known, but I drank Powers when I visited Ireland in 1980 on a college trip, sitting at the same table with Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, two of my Irish poet heroes. I didn’t say much at that meeting, but I heard a lot. Though I can’t say I’ve had much Powers (or any Irish Whiskey) since then, but maybe that’s because I didn’t want to dilute such an important memory.

But enough whiskey-induced nostalgia, here’s the recipe:

Preparation:

  1. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into an old-fashioned glass.
  4. Garnish with the maraschino cherry.

Here’s Jonathan’s Review:

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure ’tis like a morn in spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing
When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay,
And When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.

The proposal this week was for a drink to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. It is certainly a much bigger celebration in Chicago than it is in Charlotte, but for that matter every city in America pales in comparison to Chicago on that front.

To help make up for that and as part of the celebration, I decided to brine (or corn in this case) a brisket to enjoy with boiled vegetables for a true holiday meal. That is a weeklong preparation that involves weaponizing pickling spices (heating and then crushing them in a sinus damaging way), and making a brine with water, salt, pink salt and sugar. All of that is mixed and the brisket soaked for the week in the solution. The vegetables are simpler since they are simply boiled in the liquid in which the brisket was simmered.

We have tried apertifs, digestifs, and drinks that go with meals. This drink was less after dinner than it is a dessert. It is also our first time using Irish whiskey. Both of those factors made it a nice follow up to the weighty, and salty, meal that preceded it. The crème de menthe was the interesting part, both in the pale green color it gives the drink and how just a small amount strongly flavors it. We did try a version with Kahlua instead of the crème de menthe and it might be my partiality to coffee, but it made an even better drink/dessert. Not for St. Patrick’s Day though, that is for the drinking of the green.

As for the chorus from Irish Eyes at the beginning? It has little to do with the review. I just thought since David had planted the tune in my brain all week, I would try to return the favor

Jonathan’s take: A nice little dessert beverage to celebrate the holiday.

David’s take: Tasted like melted mint ice cream with a kick to it… absolutely none of which was bad, actually.

Next Week (proposed by Jonathan):

Next Sunday is National Chip and Dip Day. It may not have the panache and acclaim of St. Patrick’s Day, nor be as important as the vernal equinox but how can we not celebrate? The day screams for a margarita and my proposal is Tyler Florence’s ultimate margarita.