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In the past, I've made the claim that there are only two types of vodka: cheap vodka, and not-cheap vodka. And that one bad vodka was basically indistinguishable from any other bad vodka. And that the differences between brands of good vodkas were . . . "subtle". That is to say, pretty darn close to nonexistent.

As part of a certification class I'm taking to hone my skills, I've been doing some side-by-side tastings of different brands, and, okay, when you're doing very careful side-by-side tastings, you CAN tell SOME differences. I mean, I can tell that Skyy has a little more body than Svedka, for instance -- when I'm comparing them side-by-side. If you handed me a shot of vodka blind and asked me to tell you which one it was, I really doubt I could. This is very different than, say, single-malt Scotch. A Macallan and a Talisker -- you'd have to have had your taste buds shot off in the War to be unable to tell them apart. (Hint: the one in which you can smell the smoke from across the room is the Talisker.) But vodka, the differences are small, and fundamentally, don't really make any practical difference. Once you throw something through a column still five times, and follow it up with a triple filtration process, it's gonna taste pretty much exactly like anything else that you throw through a column still five times and triple-filter.

That's what I'd have said across the board before yesterday. When I tasted, and then bought a bottle of, Karlsson's Gold vodka. Which is the first thing which I've had that says "vodka" on the label that actually TASTES like something. It's a potato vodka that smells like, and TASTES like, potatoes.

Obviously, you can't use it the way you would use other vodkas. I mean, sure, if you LIKE potato-orange-juice, feel free to make a Screwdriver with it. But, really . . . this actually has FLAVOR, so you have to think about that when you're making stuff with it.

The folks I bought it from said that they'd had a Bloody Mary made with the stuff, and that was good, but that the main thing they did with it was to drink it straight, or cut with water. But that you could also do infusions with it -- but basically, based around "potato". Apparently, infusing dill in it is great, black pepper goes well.

If I didn't keep kosher at home, I'd be tempted to do a bacon fat wash with it. I'm still tempted to try a sour cream fat wash.

Because it is a potato vodka that tastes like potato.
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You know, historically, punches and then cocktails were based on a balance of sweet and sour, with a bit of bitters. The idea was to create drinks that were sweet, but not cloying.

And today, again, we are in an era that loves our sweet cocktails. To which I say, "Yippee!", because I loves me a good girly drink. . . but that's not the only direction that cocktails can go. Throughout much of the 20th Century, cocktails went savory. And that's also an interesting way to go, and one which needs much thought, and in which much cool stuff can go.

Of course, we're all familiar with savory drinks like the Bloody Mary. But the king of the savory drinks, bar none, has GOT to be the martini. I mean, can anyone think of a savory drink that could even compete?

But what is the flavor that is predominant in savory cocktails? Sweet cocktails are based on a balance of sweet and sour, usually, often cut with some bitter. (And it doesn't have to be a lot -- simply squeezing the peel of a lemon over a drink releases enough bitter aromatic oils to change the character of a drink drastically.) Of course, they can add in some salt -- a margarita is usually about the interplay between sweet, sour, and salt, rather than sweet, sour, and bitter. But what's the interplay in a savory cocktail?

I'd argue that savory cocktails are about the interplay between salt and umami. The primary taste in a martini, of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami), is umami. White vermouth is basically umami; gin has a good smattering of it; green olives have a good chunk.

I think the reason people like "extra dry martinis" -- ones which limit, or even virtually eliminate, the vermouth -- is because they get overloaded with umami. It's an aggressive flavor, one which I quite like, but, like any flavor, "too much" is too much. It can start to strike one as "oily" or "greasy", even. I go heavy on the vermouth in my own martinis -- but that's because, remember, as sensitive as my NOSE is, I've got fewer taste-buds per inch than most of you, so, for me, I punch up those five basic tastes.

So what flavor goes with umami? I'd say that salt is the most complimentary flavor to umami, and I suspect people who drink "dirty martinis" would agree with me. Adding a bit of the brine the olives are stored in does add some olive flavor (again, mainly umami), but mainly adds salt.

So why not go directly for the salt? A pinch of salt actually does change the character of a martini quite a bit. I feel that it rounds out the edges, and I like it that way. Others may not, but it may be worth an experiment.

So, then we have sweet, sour, and bitter. Personally, I don't feel like playing with sweet and bitter with a martini -- I'm not saying it can't be done, just that I don't feel like doing it right now. But what about sour? Can anything be done with that?

I tried adding a drop of rice vinegar. And I quite liked the result.

So: here's an idea for a martini variation.

3 oz gin, say, Beefeater or Hendricks, for instance
1 oz white vermouth
1 dash of salt
1 dash of rice vinegar.
2 green olives stuffed with pimentos

Shake, or stir, as you see fit. Shaking will break up more ice, and slightly dilute the mix. That's not a bad thing. Stirring will leave less water in. That's also not a bad thing. You CAN taste the difference, but I'm going to commit a heresy here, and say that BOTH ways are good, even if they're different. Strain into a cocktail glass. Or whatever glass you have around.

I'd be interested to hear what other people think of the salt and/or rice vinegar ideas. I find them quite palatable myself, but I don't know if that would be universally true.
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I wasn't going to say anything until I filled out the W-4 and I-9 forms. (For non-US folks: the W-4 is the form that you fill out for your employer for tax purposes, so they can set up your paychecks with appropriate amounts of tax withheld; the I-9 certifies that you have the legal right to work in the United States -- i.e., you are a citizen or legal resident alien, and that you've presented appropriate documentation/identification to prove that.) It's not real until you've signed some paperwork of some sort.

Today was the second training class I took, the first being on Sunday.
Lemme tell you a little about it. . .  )
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Okay. Let me make this clear. I believe that making good drinks well is a vital part of tending bar.

Yet, for those of you who are interested in tending bar, but fear that you just may not have the skills, I offer the following video.

Watch it first, then I'll put some discussion points under the cut.
Read more... )
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My friend [livejournal.com profile] chanaleh is getting married next weekend, and so, this past weekend, she threw a bachelorette party. Well, [livejournal.com profile] ablock, aka Pup, threw it for her, and, as there was a sign on the door stating, "What happens at Pup's, STAYS at Pup's," I won't mention too many details. Except I'll reassure folks that nothing blackmail-able happened, even adjusting for the fact that a goodly number of the people there are leaders in the Boston progressive Jewish community.

Among the purposes of the party, however, was flirting, and [livejournal.com profile] gilana contacted me to design a theme drink for the party that would help this.

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, there exists a tradition called the "cloved orange". One takes an orange, and sticks cloves all in it. One then takes this orange and presents it to someone. The person may politely decline to take the orange, or may take the orange and remove a clove with their hand, in which case you kiss their hand, or may pull a clove out with their teeth, in which case you kiss them on the mouth.

So the cloved orange is a symbol of flirtatiousness, and I was assigned to create a drink based on this idea.
Read more... )
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Fruit flies like brandy, and can fly through the open part of a speed pourer.

Now I get why a) most places I've worked have a "take the speed-pourers out and re-cap the bottles at the end of the night" policy, and b) the few that didn't have those speed pourers with the mesh on the end.

Fortunately, it was a bottle of the CHEAP kind of brandy that you only use for mixing.
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Edited to Add: I realized that this post, made just a couple days ago, actually fits this month's Mixology Monday topic: Local Flavor. See, the Ward Eight was created in Boston's Ward Eight -- an election district containing Dorchester and part of the South End. It was for a victory party for a local politician from Ward Eight. It's significant to note that said victory party was being held on the night BEFORE the election . . . that's the kind of ward Ward Eight was at the time. So, since one topic for this month is a drink which was invented in my city, this actually fits right in. End of Explanatory Edit

Today being 08/08/08, there was a small party at my parents' house on that theme. I made up some Ward Eight cocktails for it.

Now, the Ward Eight is not one of the world's great cocktails. It's okay, but it's not spectacular. You make it right, and it's pleasant enough, but that's really all. Rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, and grenadine (which, remember, means "pomegranite juice and sugar", not "red food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavorings"). It's decent, but it's the sort of thing that you make because you're going to an eight-themed party, or something like that, more than because you want a Ward Eight cocktail. Now, there's nothing wrong with lemon juice, orange juice, pomegranite juice, sugar, and rye whiskey, and they actually go together fairly well. But "fairly well" is not the same thing as "fitting together in perfect singing harmony", the way that, say, gin and dry vermouth do, or Campari and sweet vermouth, or rum and pineapple juice. . . you get the idea.

I made some up, and they went over about as well as could be expected, especially since, of the crowd who was there, the only one who actually is a drinker by nature is my mother -- and she's allergic to alcohol. (Well, she's alergic to SOMETHING that goes ALONG with alcohol, anyway. We've found occasional things that don't make her break out in a rash, but we haven't nailed down exactly what. But she drank an entire Americano -- Campari and sweet vermouth -- the other night with no ill effects, then had a sip of Chartreuse and broke out in hives all over her face. And when we were in Italy last summer, she could drink wine as much as she wanted. So we seem to have discovered that she can drink Italian things but not French things.)

My niece Winter was there, too, and she wanted to help me make the drinks. I had her juice the lemons -- I cut them in half, she juiced them, and we both worked on peeling strips off the outside of the lemons for garnish.

Now, as she is ten, she is not allowed to drink whiskey yet, but she wanted to try the stuff, so she mixed herself up a Ward Eight sans alcohol -- lemon juice, orange juice, and grenadine.

I taught her how to do the three-count free pour, and she poured 'em, and shook 'em. I opened the shaker and strained it out for her, because her hands aren't large enough for it yet, but she did the rest. She took the glass, twisted the peel to release the oils, and garnished the drinks.

Her version was more popular around the table than mine.

By, like, a LOT.

Since her drink was a success, I told her that she gets to name it, and that I'd blog it. She decided to just go with "Kids' Ward Eight."

So, here it is:
Winter Rose's Kids' Ward Eight
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz homemade grenadine syrup

Shake well over ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel.

I'm so proud of her. She handles a shaker like a pro.
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I oversweetened my grenadine syrup.

I mention this mainly because it shows what a difference the art of bartending has undergone in just the past decade.

"Grenadine" is now an ingredient, something that you make at home, something that is supposed to have flavors in it other than "sweet".

Heck -- there are now even two main STYLES of grenadine -- hot-process, and cold-process. Basically, do you cook the pomegranite juice and sugar together to form a syrup, or do you take the juice and mix it with sugar cold?

Cold-process really only makes sense if you're squeezing your own juice, however. The stuff in the jar, at least the stuff I get, is "all natural pomegranite juice from concentrate" -- and the concentrate is already cooked somewhat, so there's no reason not to go ahead and continue to cook it. They're both good, but they're different. The cooked one tastes more like cooked fruit juice, and the cold one tastes more like fresh fruit juice.

And the stuff I made is fine. It's just too sweet for what I intend to use it for. So I'll either make a new batch, and use this for other drinks -- or maybe make grenadine ice cream or something -- or just get more pomegranite juice to balance it out.
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The Ramos Gin Fizz is a delicious and interesting drink. It involves cream, egg white, gin, sugar, and citrus juice (both lemon and lime). And also carbonated water. And optional orange flower water.

Now, you might think that including cream and citrus in the same drink would be stupid because it would lead to curdling, but the Ramos Gin Fizz deals with this by shaking the drink so hard and long that the sucker emulsifies, and, if there WAS any curdling, the stuff was beaten back into foam along with everything else. You end up with something along the lines of a gin creamsicle. But with a creamy, foamy, fizzy texture.

Traditionally, a Ramos Gin Fizz is shaken for, like, five minutes. And Henry Ramos himself, when he was at the Columbia Exposition or the World's Fair or someplace like that -- I can't remember exactly where -- had hired something like thirty strong young guys to shake the drinks for him. With them tossing the shaker to the next guy when they got tired.

But, when I was at the "Introduction to Molecular Mixology" panel -- which will be the next panel I write up -- Jamie Boudreau mixed one up using a little hand mixer, something like a Dremel, but smaller.

And why not? Wouldn't this be the kind of drink that would be better made in a blender than by shaking?

I made one up in my Blendtec, and it worked great. So is there any reason to make a Ramos Gin Fizz by shaking any more?

I think there are two reasons -- and they're both good reasons. "Tradition", and "the show".

Some people make Ramos Gin Fizzes the way that Ramos made them, because that's how Henry Ramos made them.. They've been made that way for 120 years, Huey Long brought bartenders from New Orleans to New York in order to teach New York bartenders the PROPER way to do it, and, if it was good enough for the Kingfish of Louisiana, that should be good enough for us. Changing the method is tantamount to sacrilege.

And I respect that. I think there is, and will always be, a place in mixology and bartending for tradition and drinking in a way that connects us to our history. After all, eating and drinking are some of the most basic ways to build community; alcohol is part of hospitality. And tying us to community and history is one of the purposes of hospitality. They're all interrelated, and making a drink in precisely the way it has always been made is important.

Another reason is "The Show". People don't come to bars to drink, only. They come to socialize -- and to be entertained. If you are sitting at the bar, you want, and are paying for, the ability to watch the bartender work. And if you're paying eight, ten, twelve, twenty dollars for a drink, you deserve something to watch. And the best bartenders are always worth watching. Watching a top bartender shaking a Ramos Gin Fizz is beautiful.

However, there is nonetheless a place for technology, as well. If the quality of the drink is better in a blender, or if it's the same quality but you can get it in one minute instead of five, isn't that an improvement?

The answer, of course, is that different bars have different auras and meanings. If you are at a bar whose purpose is tradition, you deserve the tradition. If you are at a bar who's purpose is innovation, then THAT'S what you deserve, because it's what you're paying for.

And I think that there are ways we can do both, too. What about getting a paint shaker, and modifying it slightly to accept cocktail shaker tins? We could have the tradition of shaking, in a format that would be fun to watch, yet with the benefits of shorter times and less arm strain of bartenders. It would only be good for certain types and styles of bars -- but I think that it could be great fun in those.
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After the "Creating the Right Cocktail Menu" panel, Lis went to a "Designing Smarter Bars" panel, which interested her from a user interface design perspective (among the takeaway messages she got: people fuck up architecture in pretty much every way that people fuck up computer programs, and for most of the same reasons -- and you don't have to get to a very high level of abstraction before the solutions start looking real similar, too). I didn't go to a panel, instead electing to go to a tasting that Plymouth Gin was holding. See, they're bringing a new product in the the United States in the next couple months: Plymouth Sloe Gin.

I'm cribbing this description from SOMEONE else at Tales, and I can't remember whom. It could have been one of the presenters at the tasting . . . "In the United States, sloe gin is a bottle you only find in dive bars -- and it's usually the scariest thing there. It's covered in dust somewhere in the back, and it tastes entirely artificial and like cough medicine only worse."

One step up from that, but still unbearably vile, is the stuff that the presenter's grandmother makes. She takes the cheapest gin in plastic gallon bottles that she can get from the supermarket, soaks sloe berries in it, and adds tons of sugar.

Then there's the stuff we had at the tasting.

I mentioned, on this blog sometime, what it was like when I first had the marasca sour cherries in syrup that Luxardo makes, didn't I? You know, the REAL Maraschino cherries?

It was the same experience, only more so. "Oh. NOW I see what the entirely artificial gross thing was attempting to be like, and entirely failing to do."

Imagine sloe gin. Except good.

Yeah, you can't do it, can you? I suspect that even you Brits will have trouble with this one, since most of you probably have the same kind of sloe gin that the presenter's grandmother makes.

For you, just know that the stuff in the States is even worse than that.

. . . .and that I kind of like it anyway. . . .
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After the "Researching Drink Recipes and Collecting Books" panel was over, and Lis and I chatted with the panelists for a bit, we grabbed food -- I forget where -- and then went off to our next panels. I was a little late for mine; I don't remember why. Lis went to the "How to Get Your City, Bar, Recipe, or Bartender More Media Coverage" panel, which she can write about if she wants -- but the takeaway message was, "Journalists are even lazier and farther behind in their deadlines than you are. If you can hand them most of a story all nicely packaged and tied up in a bow -- with photos -- they'll be your best friend. They NEED an extra twelve column inches by yesterday, and if you can give it to them with very little work on their part, they'll take it. Of course, you need a STORY -- and stories are about PEOPLE. People are interested in people. So write them a story about people that their readers will be interested in, and give it to them, and bingo."

There's more to it than that, of course, but that's a lot of it, and it's something all of you can use, too. I mean, is there anyone reading this who DOESN'T need occasional publicity? Oh, probably, but, let's fact it -- most of you are writers, photographers, academics, musicians, jewelers, sculptors, chefs, cartoonists, actors, jugglers, singers, clowns, dancers, brewers, essayists, religious celebrants, graphics designers, some combination of the above, all of the above, or have some other profession or hobby that would be advanced by getting some sort of press notice in some sort of press.

Me, I went to "How to Create the Right Cocktail Menu for your Bar or Restaurant." Which was also fascinating.
Read more... )
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A week ago, about, I posted my notes for the first panel I attended at Tales. Then the rest of Tales happened, and I had other things to do than be on the computer. So I'm now, finally, getting around to typing up my notes from the rest of Tales, and sharing it with you.

I'm also fighting off a mild cold, but, fortunately, as a bartender, I know what to do about that: whiskey, lemon juice, honey, ginger syrup, and boiling water. If it doesn't make you feel better (and, usually, it will), it will at least make you mind being sick less.

Come to think of it, why doesn't anyone actually make a cold medication that is based on that? The main problem that that style of drink tends to have is not enough bitters to balance out the other flavors. But acetaminophen, psudoephedrine, and the rest are all bitter. It should be possible to balance the active ingredients with those other ingredients and have a cold medication that's worth drinking.

'Course, there's the "moral hazard" argument: make the cold medicine tasty, and people will just go out and get sick. . .

Anyway, right, the panel.

The second panel I went to was called "Researching Cocktails and Collecting Cocktail Books." If you think there was ANY way you could keep Lis OR me away from a panel with that title, well, then you don't know us very well.<Onward to the notes I took! )
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One of the reasons I went to Tales of the Cocktail was to see if I could get my name out there in the wide world, connect with people, and increase my chances of getting the kind of job that I really want. I don't have any job offers directly from the conference, but I feel that I had some success.

I've got to credit Lis for most of it. She helped me work out how I'd go about promoting myself, and designed the materials to do it. Lis re-worked my resume into a tri-fold brochure, which I'll put up here soonish so you can all see it. And, well, if you want to print it out and hand it out, I'll not say no. We put stacks of this brochure on the literature table, as well as carrying them around personally -- and I think that we managed to distribute about 200 of them.

Think of that. 200 copies of my resume in the hands of people who, while almost all of them won't be in a position to hire me, may well know people who are.

Getting 200 resumes out in this sort of shotgun approach is not the same as getting it into the hands of 200 hiring managers, or even 20 hiring managers. But it's still worthwhile.

Lis pointed out that, in order to get people to take the brochures and, even more, to hold on to them, we had to give them a reason. So we (and by "we," I mean "Lis") put four recipes that I developed into the thing -- so people may well hold onto it.

Further, the brochure has photos of me in it. Which meant that, on the last day of Tales, someone came up to me and said, "Are you Ian Osmond?" He was a bar manager in New York, and recognized me from my photo. And decided to say "hi" based on that.

I wore a button which said,
Ian Osmond
Ask me about my resume!
Bartender Geek

It didn't get much direct response, but the fact that I had my name written on my chest did help -- the conference badges didn't have names, so someone came up and addressed me by name, and then, after I apologized for not remembering who they were, they laughed and said we'd never met, but I had my name on the button. And we talked.

Lis's button got a greater successful response -- hers said, "Hire my husband -- ask me how!" People saw that, laughed, and occasionally asked her how.

It's tricky learning how to shamelessly self-promote. It's, of course, easier if you've had the standard male socialization in this culture than the standard female socialization, but it's not that easy even for us.

The trick is, for me, to try to express, "Yup, I'm awesome," without expressing any sort of, ". . . and that makes you LESS awesome." I'm trying to project confidence without arrogance. I want people to know that I'm great, but without diminishing anyone else in the process.

The resume is, of course, only the first step. The point of the brochure, and of the buttons, is simply to start conversations. And if I can't demonstrate myself to be an interesting and attractive person in conversation, then I'm done for.

It's easy to be an asshole. And it's easy to be a doormat. But presenting yourself as someone people like, respect, and enjoy hanging around with? That's harder.

I think I did okay at it. People recognized me, people talked to me, people talked to me a second time after they talked to me a first time.

One of the best things about Tales of the Cocktail was the people. And my shameless self-promotion helped me meet many more of them than I would have without it. It was worth it for that alone. But I do hope I get an awesome job out of it, too.
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Current schwag count includes about twenty books, twenty nip bottles (50 ml) of alcohol, three bottles of bitters (more about that in a moment), three tee-shirts, a half-dozen cocktail shakers, a clock/tip jar, a couple jiggers and seven speed pourers, a vegetable peeler (from the "garnishes" panel), about a half dozen glasses of various sorts -- martini, shot, whatever, spices of all sorts, a jar of hibiscus flowers in syrup, and who knows what-all else.

We have to get this stuff home. Not entirely clear yet how that's going to happen, except that we're not flying back carry-on-only.

For decades, the only company making bitters on anything even approaching a wide scale was Angustora. Peychaud's was still, technically, making some, but it wasn't sold outside of New Orleans, and not that much in the city, either. Fee Brothers had an orange bitters, but almost nobody knew about it.

Now, of course, there are other companies -- Bitter Truth, Bittermans, and a few others, and they're much, much more available.

So, I was at a panel on bitters, and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. Turns out his name is Joe Fee. He's a youngish guy, really tall, and geeky-cute. He also has a company called Fee Brothers. Yeah, Fee Brothers, which has been around since 1864, is still owned by a Fee.

I really like him. And not just because he handed me a bottle of a product they don't have out yet -- rhubarb bitters. Also a bottle of their limited edition whiskey barrel bitters.

Anyway, before another panel, I was just chatting to the person next to me about that, and the person sitting behind me overheard, and she was a representative from Angustora. So she gave me a bottle of a new product THEY'RE rolling out -- they're finally coming out with an orange bitters of their own. So I got three bottles of bitters more than I used to.
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I'm going to type up some of the notes I took at various panels today, to help both me, and you.
What I did on my summer vacation, by Ian Osmond, age 34. )
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Lis and I are going to a professional conference for me. It's a chance for me to learn more bartending skills, learn about the new products coming on line, and, most importantly, network. She's re-formatted my resume into a brochure; I'll probably post a copy of the PDF when we get back.

The conference is called "Tales of the Cocktail", and is hosted by the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

Remember: This Are Serious Conference. I Are Serious Bartender. We are NOT doing this in order to hang out with cool geeky bartenders who are all into historical re-creation drinks, creative flavors, molecular mixology, and other cool things, while drinking yummy alcoholic drinks in one of North America's greatest cities.

Well, okay. We are not ONLY doing this to . . .

I'll tell you all about it when we get back.
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It's called the "Boba Libre".

See, the "Cuba Libre" is the official bartender name for a rum and coke. "Boba" are those tapioca pearls that you get in bubble tea.

And it's not quite working yet. I can't get the texture of the boba right. I may just need to practice with normal boba for a while.

So, you boil the tapioca pearls for, like, 25 minutes, then you let them cool for half an hour, and they'll supposedly stay appropriately chewy for several hours after that.

I've been doing the boiling in rum instead of water, and then putting the rum-soaked boba into a glass and pouring Coke over it.

It's almost working. But the texture is just a little off.

Any thoughts? The pot the boba boil in is sealed tightly to keep any alcohol vapors from escaping, and to keep oxygen out, so that the whole thing doesn't just catch on fire -- and it's a glass lid, so I can watch the alcohol condense on the top of the pot and drip back down in.

Should I be boiling the boba longer, assuming that the mixture is boiling at, say, 200 degrees F (93 C), instead of 212 F / 100 C? (Alcohol has a boiling point of 173 F/ 78.3 C, and distilled liquors are usually 40% alcohol, 60% water, so would that mean that it's boiling at about 200 degrees? Or would it mean that the alcohol is floating around as a vapor, and that then the water boils normally?)

Does anyone know anything about the specific chemistry of tapioca?
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It is illegal in the United States to operate a private still for the manufacture of distilled spirits. In order to operate a still, you need to have a permit, a bond, a separate building that is not a house in order to do it in, to pay excise tax (separate from any taxes on SELLING the stuff) and all sorts of other things.

The Department of the Treasury is responsible for the enforcement of this, which is why "revinooers" are the natural enemy of "moonshiners". The collection of taxes on the stuff is AMONG their duties. But the reasons it is illegal are not limited to simple taxation reasons. They also have to do with general safety.

See, when you are distilling, you produce ethyl alcohol, which is the stuff you drink. But you ALSO produce methyl alcohol, aka "wood alcohol," which is a poison which can cause eye damage. And you produce propanol, which can cause brain damage. It takes some know-how to know how to extract the ethyl alcohol without the other two.

(Actually, that's where the word "spirit" comes from. Methyl distills at a lower temperature. It's the "head" of the distillation, and comes off first. Propanol distills at a higher temperature, is the "tail" of the distillation, and comes off last. The "spirit," the ethyl, comes in the middle.)

So, given that improper manufacture of this stuff can cause health problems or even death, the government has a reason to want to restrict its manufacture to people who actually know how to do it.

And there's another reason, as well, a reason which police nowadays have to deal with in crystal meth manufacture, as well. The production of alcohol, like the production of crystal meth, involves the creation of large amounts of highly volatile gasses. By cracking down on the manufacture of these things, through things like tracking who buys Sudafed, the police have largely stopped the small-scale manufacture of crystal meth, in apartments in cities. The same amount of crystal meth is being made, but it's being made offshore, or, at least, in more deserted areas.

This is a good thing. The crystal meth can still kill people, but at least the meth lab exploding won't kill as many innocent bystanders, and won't leave as many people homeless.

The Treasury department does the same thing. If you're going to operate an illegal still, it's going to have to be somewhere farther away from people. And that means, if -- and when -- it blows up, it's not going to kill folks, or burn down houses.

Now, I do have a freedom-loving rebellious streak in me that wants to know why I CAN'T do these things if I want to. But, I have to admit, the answer, "Because you'll start fires that will harm not only you, but also other people," is a pretty good answer.

That's why distilling is illegal.

But there's another way to concentrate alcohol, one which ISN'T illegal, DOESN'T form compounds that cause brain damage and blindness, and WON'T blow up. It's called "jacking", and it almost certainly predates the invention of distilling.

Alcohol, of course, vaporizes at a lower temperature than water, which is the fact upon which distilling depends -- you can raise a mixture to a temperature that alcohol boils off, and collects somewhere else, but not so high that the water also boils.

But it also FREEZES at a lower temperature than water.

Which means that you can bring the temperature of a mixture containing water and alcohol to a LOWER temperature, such that the water freezes, but the alcohol doesn't. And then you can pull out chunks of water ice, concentrating the alcohol in the remaining mixture.

This is most likely how the earliest brandies were made -- wait for winter, and let the weather concentrate your booze for you. And this process is generally called "jacking".

"Applejack" was originally a cider which went through this process, but modern liquors which go by that name are distilled apple brandies.

I want to make some original-style applejack, and see how it differs.
xiphias: (Default)
Lis decided that she deserved a good mojito. She decided that she wanted Jackson Cannon to make one for her, because she figured he'd be able to do it right. So we went to Eastern Standard, and Jackson Cannon made her a mojito and he did it right. It totally wiped out the memory of the other one. It was even better than the other one was disappointing.

I had a drink that Tom, Jackson's apprentice, had developed, and it was amazing. It was the . . . um. . . something-or-other Bramble. It had . . . um . . . stuff in it. Like ginger beer. And, y'know, stuff.

Yeah. Like that.

Y'all want one.

I also bought lingonberry syrup, orange blossom water, and rose water at Cardullo's in Harvard Square, and Peychaud's bitters at a liquor store next door to Eastern Standard.
xiphias: (Default)
Instead, it ended up looking like, and having the exact texture of, lemon meringue pie. Except that it tastes like a margarita.

I just have to make sure that it's repeatable.

Okay. Here's what I did, partially for you, and partially for my own memory.

1 oz Jose Quervo Tradicianal
1/2 oz Cointreau
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1 oz raw blue agave syrup, dark. (That's a syrup made from agave nectar; it's a sweetener. You can get it at Whole Foods, next to the honey.)
1 egg white
1 pinch of powdered agar agar

Shake in cocktail shaker, hard, to foam the white.

Pour into large ramekin (your ramekin may vary -- we've got two ramekin sizes, and this is the larger one.)

When I did this, the foam stayed on top.

Put in microwave, and nuke for two minutes. (Your microwave may vary. You probably want to do it for a shorter period of time. Our microwave is low-powered.)

Take out, and let cool to room temperature.

Right now, after a couple hours of cooling, it's perfect. It may get too solid later, so, for the record, it's probably about 2 and a half hours after I nuked it, and it's really good.

June 2017

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