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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The Greenback

Proposed by: DavidGreenback

Reviewed by: Jonathan

The Greenback is the rarest of cocktails for this blog—it has no provenance I can find, no noted inventor, no disputatious history or colorful but apocryphal naming myth. It is, in short, just a drink.

That’s not so bad, as it allows me to invent:

One, British import-export agents developed the Greenback in a remote South American tropical outpost because they admired the local sloths whose inactivity invited the growth of green stuff in the fur on their backs.

Two, some guy named Sid (later famous for inventing butterscotch schnaps) came up with it in the Dekuyper research and development lab during the late 60’s when Sid’s boss yelled daily for more uses for crème de menthe.

Three, the Greenback was invented by those giant-eyed space aliens in honor of the feature of their mates they love most.

Here’s the origin myth I’ve decided to launch into cyberspace. It involves some nameless home bartender bemoaning an imbalance of ingredients in his liquor cabinet, stuff he’s not quite sure what to do with. There’s lemon and gin in this drink, and they’re common enough, but crème de menthe is one of those bottles he wants to hide when company comes over. My recipe also includes absinthe, which, even if you like it (I do) just doesn’t come up all that often.

So, anyway, this imaginary beleaguered bartender combines these ingredients to devise a lovely emerald concoction which he dubs The Greenback because it reminded him of the Civil War monetary policy continuing into the latter half of the 19th century that introduced unsecured green paper money backed—supposedly—by federal deposits of gold that—supposedly, but probably not—became the basis for the emerald city in The Wizard of Oz, according to dubious allegorical readings of the novels.

None of these stories are true or likely, but that’s all I’ve got. That and the recipe (which I doctored a bit from online sources and the Anvil cocktail list:

20140622_160951_resized-1Here’s the recipe:

½ oz. absinthe

1 oz. lemon (or lime)

1 oz. crème de menthe

1 and ½ oz. gin

Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake and serve in martini glasses.

And here’s Jonathan’s review:

It is fairly common that David and I communicate during the week (e-mails because, face it, who calls anymore) about the cocktail of the week, the exact recipe and what we plan for future weeks. We occasionally even sneak in a few comments about the rest of our lives. That is, in the end, the real purpose of our virtual cocktail club – that we talk more than we have in the past. Not so much because we aren’t close, but because we are both bad communicators especially for two people who rely on, and manage well, that skill on a daily basis.

This week communication was difficult, David was busy and I had a professionally challenging week, but most of the conversation was about the recipe. Specifically, where do you see Absinthe in this drink? I should have asked the more challenging question about why on earth we were using Crème de Menthe again. Ever.

The drink is almost lost in my picture, but as much as you can, look at the color. If we eat with our eyes first, we also drink with them first and no drink should be that color. The Crème de Menthe is as forward in this drink as the color would suggest. I had tried this week to find what type of gin worked best (our previous drinks would suggest that every gin drink calls for some specific type) but could not find a single recipe that did that. That is for good reason, in that the gin is completely lost. And the lemon, or lime in some cases, in the recipe? It adds just enough astringency to the Crème to make you feel as though you just flossed and are enjoying your Listerine rinse.

The funny thing, as I tried it a few more times before tossing the rest, is that I was sure David would like this drink. I don’t know why or how, but there was something so peculiar that I was confident he would taste a redeeming quality. Not me.

Jonathan’s take: This is our second drink with Crème de Menthe (Irish Eyes was the first). I have a bottle available for whoever wants it.

David’s take: Oddly, I liked this drink. Crème de Menthe is awful stuff to be sure, but—to me—this drink found a suitable disguise.

Next week (proposed by Jonathan):

My thought was that this is the time of year when so many publications, print and on-line, list their drinks of summer. I asked my wife for suggestions, and one Pinterest page later, we settled on a cocktail with watermelon and basil. It’s a basil watermelon cooler and it hardly qualifies as a hard core. But it sure looks like a good way to use all of that basil I have growing, and with this heat any excuse for watermelon is a good one.

 

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.