Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Polar Bear Alert

We knew our trip to Churchill, Manitoba was a holiday because polar bears don't drink. The trip involved a scenic 48-hour train journey from Winnipeg, then four days in various tundra vehicles checking out some very healthy looking bears. At this time of year they gather in Churchill (seasonal pop. 700 humans, 1300 bears). There they wait until Hudson Bay freezes over so that they can head out on the ice and spend the winter fattening up on seals. 
They actually get along with the eskimo dogs (as this rare breed--which are not huskies--is called). These two went opposite directions moments after I took this photo.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Happy Anniversary Boadas!

Our heartfelt congratulations to Las Boadas, on its 75th anniversary this month. Boadas is truly one of the world's great bars, and the only one to keep the old mixing tradition of "throwing" or "rolling" alive. If you're reading this blog, then you're familiar with the images of Jerry Thomas mixing a Blue Blazer. Actually, if you're reading this, you've probably been to Boadas off Las Ramblas, and you might have even been there with us, so I'll skip all the history here and simply ask you to raise your next cocktail toward Barcelona with cheers for the most famous couple in Spanish bartending: Don Josep and Doña Maria Dolores.

A toast of some excellent vintage rum photographed in their other bar, Caribbean Club, around the corner from Boadas:

Friday, 10 October 2008

Strangest cocktail book discovery I've ever made.

I can't recall why I looked at this postcard on eBay. I think it was listed as "postcard of woman with cocktail book" or something to that effect. I couldn't tell from the photo what the title was, though it was clear she was holding a cocktail book, so I ordered the card. 
Under a magnifying glass it read, "900 Recettes de Cocktails et Boissons Americaines par A. Torelli". I'd never heard of it, but I managed to find a copy. It's got some excellent recipes in it, and it must have been pretty popular as it was reprinted quite a few times from its 1929 debut. My favorite cover is the very deco 1949(?) edition with a shaker in the colors of the French flag. 

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Beefeater 24

Finally! We've been keeping this secret for over a year. Now we are allowed to talk about it. Beefeater is coming out with a new super-premium product: Beefeater 24.

Gin made with tea? That's about as London and Dry as gin could possibly be. 

Desmond Payne, Beefeater's Master Distiller (prior to his current work, he reformulated Plymouth Gin into the product we all know and love which means he's responsible for two of the world's best gins), has created a new masterpiece. After research trips to Asia in search of the right tea, he discovered a particular sencha that balanced perfectly in distillation with juniper, angelica root, corriander, cirtus peels, licorice root, and other botanicals. 

It was our great honor to show up at the distillery occasionally as part of a tasting panel, working through a series of blind tastings, then a series of classic cocktail tastings. After that, we finally got to start experimenting with it ourselves. 

One of my personal favorites was a variation on the Negroni that went something like this:

Black Cherry Negroni
1oz Beefeater 24
1oz Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
.5oz Campari
a splash of maraschino liqueur
5 fresh black cherries, split.

Shake hard and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. 

Funny, 24 seems to taste even better now that we're not pouring it from brown glass laboratory bottles. Perhaps it's time for a Pink Gin. A hint: we've been adding a touch of simple syrup to ours lately. 

The bar spoon

I was searching through for a bar spoon. I decided to try the French word for spoon cuillere. This turned up thousands of listings. Most were boring. Some were interesting (the cuillere glacons ice spoons that appear to predate Kentucky Fried Chicken's spork). And one was astonishing: the cuillere medicament. This 17th or 18th Century French apothecary spoon looked so much like a modern bar spoon I thought it was mis-listed at first.

Then in a reprint of the 1898 Farrow and Jackson catalogue (Thanks Jeff M.!), I found a page offering a choice of a regular bar spoon, or a French mazagran spoon. Mazagran normally refers to coffee-related sundries (cups, spoons) in French, and the name comes from a coffee town in Algeria. But this former apothecary spoon, in service as a coffee spoon according to its name, was being sold to British bartenders as a bar spoon. 

The origins of the bar spoon? Perhaps.

Compass Box does it again

John Glaser caused a bit of uproar among the whisky anoraks* when he made Orangerie, a combination of first rate whisky and orange. So we won't tell them that he's made another batch. And it is good. We've been drinking it with a splash of the water we brought back from Islay. Perhaps tonight we'll make some toddies with it.

Looking or an ideal Christmas gift for someone who enjoys whisky? This is it. Tumbler not included. Some assembly required. Recommended for adults 21+.

*Americans might not know this term. It comes from the lightweight beige jackets once favored by those who spend all their spare time trainspotting**.

** Americans may not know this term either. Trainspotters are people who spend all their spare time looking at trains -- some of which are pretty impressive. Yes, I still occasionally need a translator in England.

Oldest known shaker?

I thought about opening this blog with some explanation of its purpose. I wrote a lengthy welcome. But I got bored and deleted it in favor of this item I saw at London's Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibit titled The Art of Drinking last year.

It is two interlocking metal cups, made in the shape of an elongated barrel. However, it was made around 1595 according to the caption.

Could this be an early shaker??