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The Big Crunch's Profile

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The Vesper Cocktail

That's not a bad idea. I've always stuck with the lemon peel, basically out of habit and tradition, and perhaps out of some allegiance to the Martini. But the Vesper really is a different cocktail altogether and the Lillet is at the heart of that difference, and orange and Lillet are really a better pairing than lemon and Lillet. I'm not an expert in the "new" gins, but my guess is that at least one of them must be pushing an orange forward citrus profile - I wonder how if using such a gin and adding the orange peel would be too much orange or would push it forward even further in an interesting and tasty direction.

Oct 11, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

best quality tequila for mixing

Yeah, I'll boo you for that. Cuervo tastes awful, and the Gold is a particularly bad concoction The color is a marketing gimic - they add caramel to give it the impression of being nicely aged, which it's not. Doing a few shots of Cuervo every now and then in college convinced me tequila was awful stuff that was only meant to b drunk under peer pressure. Discovering decent tequila in my early thirties completely changed my impression of the spirit.

As far as purity, I'm not sure what you mean. My lime juice for a margarita is pure because I squeeze it myself. Cointreau is not a distillate so I'm not sure how "purity" figures in, but I do know it's not adulterated with anything that is not Cointreau. The tiny "dash" of simple syrup I add is also "pure" sugar and purified water because I made that myself. So, yeah, my other ingredients are pure.

Lastly, I use tequila for a lot of drinks other than Margaritas, and as a result, I like having a good tequila that will not ruin those drinks but will instead have a fresh and dynamic agave flavor, rather than a cheap "frat party tequila shots" flavor.

Oct 11, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

The Vesper Cocktail

Your feelings are somewhat similar to mine in regards to the gin and vodka. It's not that I haven't enjoyed the handful of Vespers I've made, but the vodka seems unnecessary and I'd rather just have a Martini. That said, I do enjoy enjoy the Lillet in there. Funny, I've never thought of subbing in Lillet in a Martini - I think I'll try it tonight. FWIW, one of my favorite low-alcohol warm weather drinks is Lillet, on ice, in a rocks glass, topped with a splash of soda water with a large swath of orange peel. Low alcohol, light, and seriously refreshing. My mom is not a big drinker and prefers wine to spirits and cocktails, but a few years back when she visited my GF and I in DC I made her a Lillet cocktail and ever since she always requests one when she visits.

The Meehan book came out a few years ago, and I wonder what the availability of Cochi Americano was like back then. According to many, Cochi is a more accurate representation of Lillet before (supposedly) they changed their formula in the '80s. Perhaps Meehan didn't have easy enough access to it at the time to call for it in the PDT book, or perhaps he simply prefers Lillet. I also prefer Meehan's ratios in his version of the Vesper.

FWIW, the other great, and well known, Lillet cocktail out there is the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

Oct 07, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Proper martini glasses

Water dilution alone will be close to, or more than, 2 oz. I totally agree about smaller glasses.

Oct 03, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Proper martini glasses

A real Martini is not supposed to be 2 oz. That's just insanely incorrect. I've got at least a dozen cocktail books on my shelves, including Lowell Edmund's classic history of the Martini, and NONE of them suggest a recipe that would come to 2 oz. If she's teaching that at her school, then I don't have a particularly high opinion of it :(

Oct 03, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

best quality tequila for mixing

Agreed on both counts. I don't use a lot of silver tequila, but Espolon has been my go-to for my home bar for the last year.

Sep 17, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

The Boulevardier

I too prefer rye, or at least a rye heavy bourbon. The biggest trick I've found to making a Boulavardier shine is using Carpano for the vermouth. As a whole, I'm less enamored of the stuff than many folks on these boards. I think Carpano can both unpleasantly overtake and radically change the flavor of a drink far too easily for it to be a recommended "go-to" Italian vermouth. However, in the right drink it can really transform and elevate a drink and the Boulavardier is probably the best example I can think of where that happens.

Sep 17, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

The Boulevardier

Gonna have to agree with EvergreenDan. Negroni served over a single large ice cube is the way to IMO. I think the slow dilution helps, plus, a Negroni is best when cold. Served up it can warm too easily, but over a large ice cube the dilution is slow and the drink stays cold.

Sep 17, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

I'll try with my ice, but I am still sure that there will be a lot more water in a two minute stir than a 35-40 second stir. As has also been mentioned, it also depends on the ice. The thin stuff from an ice machine that sits in most bartenders' bins melts faster than the large pieces of long frozen, hard ice cubes in most home refrigerators.

Also, I do use a pretty thin tin. I find it's easier get on and off the mixing glass. Besides, it's got sentimental value - I've had it since the '90s and used it in three different bars. I had two others like it at the time but they have been lost and scattered over the years :(

Sep 11, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

Hah! Yet another reason to dislike Cook's Illustrated, I subscribed for about three years and tried at least a dozen of their recipes. None were terribly outstanding. Furthermore, all of them basically began by saying, "Here's a recipe. It's ALWAYS done wrong. We found the perfect way to cook it." In most cases I had cooked better versions of the same recipe in the past. Two minutes of stirring? Yeah, that would be very "smooth"....because it would be mostly melted ice! Eliminating bitter gin flavors? How about eliminating the flavor of the gin entirely?

I also agree about shaking. It overly dilutes.

Sep 10, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

It might be fine for a Martini but woe be unto the soul of the person who stirs a Remember The Maine counter-clockwise :(

Sep 08, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

This is one of several reasons why I almost never order a Martini in a bar.

Sep 07, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Chilling A Martini Glass

Honestly, you won't find many places that use glass chillers. Even at many of the better cocktail bars in the DC area they still stick with the ice and water thing to chill a glass. Chillers take up space and aren't cheap, and often the cost-benefit analysis comes down on the side of it not being worth it for most places, even places with very good bar programs.

Sep 07, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

What types of restaurants does DC need now?

Yeah, I suppose I should have been more specific. Gaithersburg is out there, and seems a bit of a food desert. I was thinking more along the lines of Arlington/Falls church, Rockville, Wheaton, and to some degree, Alexandria. Those places all have many options for good, well priced food.

I really do miss being so close to Wheaton - delicious and cheap Chinese food at several places, some of the best and most affordable Thai food in the area, delicious and cheap Korean soups and stews at H Mart, Max's Kosher, Pollo Rico, bahn mis at Saigonese, Seoul Food's bibimbap bowls, Peruvian food at Asi Es Mi Tierra, excellent Ramen at Ren's Ramen, etc...

What types of restaurants does DC need now?

I'm not so sure I buy that analogy. There are things I miss in terms of food that I greatly enjoyed when living in Silver Spring, while there are things that I also greatly enjoy living in DC that I didn't have such easy access to while in Silver Spring.

What types of restaurants does DC need now?

Good, affordable Indian places. Several outlets of Pollo Rico (there can never be enough opportunities to eat Pollo Rico). Good, affordable Vietnamese places. Granted the suburbs nicely cover these areas, but we're lacking them in DC proper.

I usually grouse about BBQ, but honestly, Kangaroo Boxing Club, DCity Smokehouse, and (surprisingly) Fat Pete's have all really impressed me in the last couple of months. Mr. P's serves excellent ribs on the weekend from his truck in Bloomingdale and when they aren't being shut down for vermin infestation, Hill Country makes decent (albeit inconsistent and over-priced) BBQ. I wouldn't call us a BBQ town, but I think we can finally say we have more than a couple of really good places for tender, flavorful, smoked meats.

A Question About Chilling A Martini Glass

The water chills it faster. Similarly, if you have a cooler filled with a couple of bags of ice and a case or two of warm beer, the beer will become colder if you add a few pitchers of water to that ice and slush it around a bit.

That said, it's a bit more show than science. Yes, most well-trained bartenders are told to do the ice and water thing to chill the glass, but science doesn't do much to back up the idea that in the time it takes to make a drink that a cocktail glass with ice and water will be all that cold. Will it be colder than room temp? Yes. Will it be colder than if you just added ice? Yes. Will it be REALLY chilled? No, not really. A REALLY high-end place has a glass chiller where they can sometimes store over a hundred glasses at freezing temps. If you read the PDT Cocktail book then you'll see in the section where they give a layout to the bar that Meehan and company use just such a device, so, odds are you wouldn't see him or his staff using this trick at PDT. However, sans dedicated glass chiller, the ice and water trick is your best option, so your bartender go it right.

Also worth noting, NEVER keep glasses in the ice well in order to chill them. Yes, it's a somewhat common sense "no no" but I've seen it done.

A Question About Stirring Martinis

He doesn't include them in his Martini recipe in the PDT book (it's just a 3:1 Martini). That said, I love how they work in a Martini, and historically, there is a perfectly legit argument for including them.

Aug 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Looking For A Good Beginner's Cocktail Kit

Those Oxo peelers can peel the hell out of potatoes and cucumbers as well. Unlike a lot of cheap vegetable peelers, the blades are pretty damn sharp!

Here we also get into the issue of whether you want a "twist" or an actual strip of fruit peel that has been coiled into a twisty, pig-tailed, curly-Q shape. The latter are indeed prettier, but they are a pain in the butt to make for many reasons. First, you need a channel knife, which is a fairly specialized thing, though fairly cheap and easy to order. You also need a piece of fruit with skin that is elastic enough not to break when you twist it into a twisty shape. In general, when you're talking about a twist, you're talking about a large enough strip of peel (usually lemon or orange) that you can effectively pinch over a glass before serving in order to express the citrus oils from the skin onto the drink and imbue a subtle, but definitely noticeable, flavor on the drink. At that point you can rim the glass, float the strip in the drink, or toss it, all depending on what you or your guest desire. The Martini, in its classic non-olive form, is wide open as to what kind of lemon twist you wish to use. Personally I express the oils over top, rim the glass, and toss the "twist", but some folks keep the "twist" while some prefer a real, fancy looking curly-Q twist hanging off the glass. This debate can occur in other classic drinks as well. For example, toss or keep in a Sazerac? Toss or keep in an Old Fashioned? Compared to countless other issues in the world such decisions don't amount to a hill of beans, but they're nonetheless a pleasantly contentious part of the cocktail world, which if nothing else provides some well needed relief from larger issues of debate in society and the world at large.

In both cases, whether using a channel knife to cut off a slender strip for twisting, or using a peeler to cut off a large strip to twist over the glass, remember to do the cutting over the glass in order for any expressed oils to fall over the drink and not be wasted. Also, try to avoid getting any white pith on your twist as it can imbue a bitter flavor.

Aug 28, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Looking For A Good Beginner's Cocktail Kit

If you have a vegetable peeler then you'll rarely use a pairing knife. Oxo makes an excellent vegetable peeler.

Aug 27, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

In general, a bartender should be using an ice scoup and not their hands to put ice into a mixing tin. Furthermore, when shaking, if you put ingredients in a weighted tin, ice into the mixing glass, then dump the ice into the tin when affixing the glass to the top before shaking you'll generally avoid splashing the booze from the tin.

Aug 27, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

The idea of cocktails in mason jars doesn't make everyone cringe :)

http://www.theonion.com/articles/were...

Aug 26, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Looking For A Good Beginner's Cocktail Kit

Check out www.thebostonshaker.com for equipment. I'd suggest picking up a mixing tin and a couple of mixing glasses as well as a Hawthorne strainer, a muddler, and a simple barspoon. I've never owned a Julep strainer and never found myself honestly needing one...even when making Juleps. I love Oxo's jiggers, which you can buy at Target. They actually have the measurements engraved into the metal which is very, very helpful. While you're there, you can also buy a simple juicer - I prefer the basic cheap plastic models with a reamer that sits on top of a bowl. Oh, also get a hand held mesh strainer, both for straining juice and for double straining cocktails with muddled ingredients. I'm sure your ice trays are fine - mine work great and cost about a buck each at Target.

As far as glasses, you can find a lot of variety, often very cheap, at large antique stores. For chilling glasses, the best move is to just always have a few in your freezer. I always have a couple of coupes and Old Fashioned glasses in my freezer. The old trick of putting ice and water in a glass on the bar is almost all show - it takes colder temps and far longer than a minute to chill a glass, but you can get a haze on it in under a minute which makes customer s feel like you really chilled it for them.

As far as books, I like Robert Hess's The Essential Bartender's Guide as a good place to start exploring classic drinks. Sometimes his ratios are off, such as in his version of The Jasmine, sometimes his versions are over-simplified to the point of screwing the drink up (his awful Mai Tai) and sometimes the drink itself may be fine but you may just not care for it (I personally hate anything with a lot of absinthe) but overall it's a very good resource. I recently glanced through Jeffrey Morgenthaller's new book, and unsurprisingly, it is excellent for both the long time cocktailian and for someone just getting into mixing drinks. A bit more advanced but also very, very, very good is the PDT Cocktail Book, which is quite frankly just a lovely book.

Also, for basic examples of the way to seperate a Boston Shaker and some general best practices in making drinks, check out the videos at http://www.smallscreennetwork.com/

Aug 26, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

It depends on the ice. The cheap stuff you get from most bar and restaurant ice machines, the stuff you generally have in your well, melts faster than the cubes you usually get from a home fridge's ice maker, or from traditional ice cube trays. There is no concrete, magic number of stirs. You're not trying to crush the ice so much as bring the drink up, over, and down on the ice, over and over...if that makes any sense. You don't want to be so violent as to slosh the drink everywhere or break the ice up into shards and chunks. I stir for about 35-40 seconds when making Martinis at home with ice from the ice cube trays, which are pretty large and solid cubes.

Aug 26, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

A Question About Stirring Martinis

I don't think it matters very much with a Martini. What DOES matter is the order in which you pour. The general rule in bartending is to always start with the cheapest ingredients first. The logic is that if you screw up the ratio of, say, simple syrup and lemon juice in a Vieux Mott, you don't have to toss out some St. Germaine and gin along with the fruit juice and sugar water. When mixing a Martini, I'd go with two dashes of orange bitters, dry vermouth, then gin. I add the ice last, mostly out of habit, but I don't think it would make a big difference in a Martini since it's such a simple drink and so easy to prepare quickly. Depending on your bar's layout, what ingredients are called for, and how long it might take to get them, it might make more sense to add the ice last. Let's say someone wants a Last Word and your Chartreuse happens to be on a high shelf mostly for display purposes. Maybe it might take you a minute to get it down, so you should probably add the ice last. Another example might be if you find out you're out of a key bottle and have to actually run to the back of the building, open a booze storage locker, fetch the bottle, open it, bring it back to the bar, and then complete the drink. If it's a busy night and you left the incomplete drink sitting around in a glass of ice you might not know what level of dilution you're reached, so, again, best to just add the ice last. I honestly can't think of a good reason to add ice first, but I can think of a few plausible scenarios in which adding it last is the most practical course of action.

Aug 26, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

VA BBQ that isn't Rocklands or Dixie Bones

I went to Pork Barrel last week. They served me some of the most mediocre pulled pork I've ever had - flavorless, somewhat dry, and a bit tough. The collards must have been simmering in simple syrup because they were disgustingly sweet.

VA BBQ that isn't Rocklands or Dixie Bones

I love Black Hog. I was there last summer and I was shocked and amazed to see that they serve cole slaw that is almost identical to what we have in eastern NC. Uusally you can' find that stuff anywhere outside of NC. For some reason, the rest of the world is under the impression that NC cole slaw is just shredded cabbage doused with a bunch of vinegar. I'd never even heard of something like that in 21 years spent living in Greenville, NC and Winston-Salem, NC.

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

That guy's observations seem about 5-6 years behind the time. Also, I've never heard of a place called CarPool on the outskirts of DC. As far as being an expert bartender, I've never heard of him.

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I know it goes against repeated wisdom which frequently suggests tossing the bottles after a month, but I've found that vermouth can keep for many months when stored in a fridge and vacu-vined. FWIW, here's my notes on a six month old bottle of Dolin Dry stored in the fridge and always vacu-vined compared to a freshly opened bottle.

Appearance is the same, completely clear, and a swirl produces the same results, basically no ring and a lot of tiny clinging droplets. The new vermouth has a crisp, sweet, floral and herbal nose with hints of light thyme, curry, a touch of allspice, some lavender, honeysuckle and muscat wine. Taste is light, crisp and very clean. The best description would be a somewhat light, white dessert wine, sweetened, more herbal, with a noticeably boozier kick to the flavor profile. Finish is short, clean, and mildly dry with lingering sweet honeysuckle, pear, fresh thyme, and general floral notes. Greats stuff that would be excellent served chilled over ice, or on the rocks with a bit of soda and twist of orange or lemon.

The six month old has a noticeably weaker nose, with some slightly stale and musty odors and perhaps just a slight metallic note suggesting a hint of oxidation. That said, there is a strong underlying similarity in terms of the basic wine flavor and the overall herbal impression. Furthermore, there are no strongly “off” odors suggesting excessive oxidation screaming out from the glass, and it’s not an unpleasant aroma; really, it’s basically just weaker, less dynamic, slightly stale, and as such, a tad less good. The taste is somewhat similar - there are no off notes of vinegar suggesting excessive oxidation nor anything truly repulsive. The biggest difference is that there is no real depth of flavor, the sweetness is stronger and more generalized, and the whole thing feels a bit flabby. The finish is not as dry, the alcohol notes rougher, and the sweetness stronger and less complex and refined. All that said, it’s not bad, and IMO it could certainly be used in a cocktail without any serious damage. Would the fresher Dolin be a step up? Sure, certainly for some cocktails. I made a round of martinis (2.5 oz of Boodles to .75 oz vermouth) a few weeks back using the old Dolin and they were fine. I do think the more pronounced and unrefined sweetness made a slight difference, and I think the generally weaker body resulted in a more gin forward flavor than that recipe normally produces, but the difference was in a measure of degrees, and overall, they were still fine martinis that got very good reviews from my guest whose favorite drink, it’s worth noting, is a martini.

Aug 05, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

Maine? MY GF and I are going to be up there on vacation next week near Kennebunkport. Any advice on places to get some good drinks, decent liquor stores, or any worthwhile brewery tours? I'm planning on stopping at Smuttynose on the way up from Boston and a friend told me that the Gritty McDuff brewery is worth checking out. Shipyard is up there, but I've been unimpressed with everything I've had from them.

Aug 04, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits