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The Big Crunch's Profile

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Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

If you're going 2:1 in the Martini then I can see a free pour being accurate a decent amount of the time, but for more unusual (and IMO, better) ratios, I don't trust it. Free pouring .75 ounces is not something most bartenders can do.

about 2 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I don't find much artistry in free pouring a bunch of drinks in rapid succession. That was the sort of thing I did when I bartended in a high volume dance club with a low premium on the taste of what was being poured and a high premium on getting drunk off of it. It's an assembly line mentality, trying to get booze to people as fast as possible so they don't have to wait...because the longer they wait, the more impatient they become, and the more impatient they become, the higher the likelihood of receiving little to no tip money.

If someone is using a jigger for exact pours, then they are often trying to dial in a specific flavor in a drink, which is far more artistic than slopping booze in a glass as fast as possible so that you can get a minute or two when you're out of the weeds and able to catch your breath.

about 2 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

Twentieth Century Cocktail

The 21st Century cocktail (featuring tequila) is also excellent.

about 18 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Twentieth Century Cocktail

Been a while since I made one but I agree abut the creme de cacao - just a bit too much and it tastes like a citrusy tootsie roll.

about 18 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Twentieth Century Cocktail

I'll second that - I can tolerate it a wee bit, but I am very sensitive to anything anise and can immediately detect it. For my CR#2 I use a rinse of Pernod and make sure to REALLY shake the glass free of as much of the stuff as possible.

about 18 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits

What brand of cachaca do you recommend?

I know very little about Cachaca, but the bottle of Cuca Fresca I have has been good, IMO, and makes tasty Caipirinhas.

about 18 hours ago
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

And then there are folks like me who just find all tonic water to be terribly unpleasant ;)

Jul 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I'd charge no less than $100,000....with another $100,000 as a retainer :)

I haven't been to Norfolk in over a decade and all I really recall about the place is that there were a lot of very big ships. Funny thing about it is that I have no idea why I was going through there. Maybe it was on the way to Virginia Beach?

Jul 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I think the Vinoraga could work. In theory, I'd leave out the simple syrup and make a wine syrup out of something really fruity like a Beaujolais. Maybe sub in soda water over the tonic and garnish with fresh berries and it might be a nice warm weather riff on a Tom Collins.

Jul 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I will say this about the cocktail list - they sure are cheap! As awful as most of those drinks look, that same list wouldn't have a drink priced less than $10 in DC. A few are somewhat promising. Ginger might work well in a Manhattan, though I don't think I'd use ginger puree; perhaps ginger-infused orange bitters, or a rinse of Domaine de Canton? The Sacca Sour also might be promising - basically a rye fizz with quinquina. The Ashrama could be saved by getting rid of the sriracha and spicy pepper rim, using a better tequila, and adding a dash of orange bitters, maybe something more sweet and fruit forward like Fee Brothers. That said, the amount of drinks specifically citing Bacardi is disturbing, as are many other aspects.

Jul 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I know this is sort've beating a dead thread, but...

I'm not really sure how to judge a drink by how buzzed I get. I judge drinks by how they taste, and to a large degree about how they showcase or recast the ingredients. The "jigger method" really only works if the bartender knows how to make a good martini. If they're pouring you 1.5 oz. of gin, no bitters, and no vermouth, then...yeah...I'll agree that in that case the "jigger method" fails. Furthermore, since it sounds like most of the bartenders in your area don't really know much about cocktails, they they are likely just guesstimating what a martini should be in the hopes it simply doesn't get sent back. And, to be fair, a high volume shots and beer place is almost certainly going to be free pouring due to the need for speed. I bartended in a dance club in the '90s where it was the same scene - granted, it was the '90s and very few places had seen a jigger in decades, but still...fruit flavored shooters and Bud Light bottles are not terribly exacting and the main thing people wanted was to be buzzed and not have to wait around very long for drinks.

The thing is, if I'm at a bar like that, I just don't order cocktails. In general, at most any bar, I don't order cocktails, and to some degree, making my own at home is the reason for this because it's been through making my own drinks using the right ratios, good recipes, and good ingredients that I've sort've stumbled into being a bit of as cocktail snob. I just don't trust most bartenders to be able to make good drinks, nor do I feel like I'm getting my money's worth when a three ingredient cocktail in DC can easily run $15. If I want a nice buzz, I can always pour a large glass of whiskey on ice, but in general, I enjoy cocktails for the timelessness of many of the classic recipes, and for the interesting ways they can use familiar ingredients to come up with new, and hopefully interesting and exciting flavors.

FWIW, my perfect Martini is:

2.5 oz. gin (preferably Boodles, Plymouth, or Brokers)
.75 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
2 dashes of orange bitters

Stir for about 40 seconds, strain into a chilled coupe, express a lemon peel over top, toss the peel and serve. It takes me a couple of minutes tops to put one together at home which, despite the drink's sophisticated image, actually makes it a supremely simple and easy drink to make. Also, my stir time is based on ice cubes from ice trays - smaller and less dense ice would require less stirring. One of those will likely not give you a buzz, but it will taste great and fully exemplify the sort of cool, sophisticated, pleasurable, and refreshing sensations a Martini should possess.

Jul 21, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

So, you want a Martini, shaken, with no vermouth...but...you want it double strained to get rid of any ice crystals? I'm trying to picture the bars you're talking about, and I just can't imagine any of them have fine mesh strainers to double strain.

I think Hendrick's can be quite tasty in some drinks, but not a Martini. The thing about Hendrick's is not so much that it is "the best" as much as it is a gin with a particular flavor profile. Many classic cocktails were based on London Dry gin and the newer, sweeter, less dry, more floral and/or citrus-forward gins flooding the market today (like Hendricks) simply make those cocktails taste different. A classic example would be a Tom Collins. I use Gaz Reagan's recipe for a Tom Collins with a London Dry, but for Hendricks, I'd knock the simple syrup down by half. I actually think it works nicely in a Tom Collins if made correctly, but you need to compensate for the new flavor profile.

The thing about tasting competitions is that to some degree (often a large degree) they're basically just marketing gimmicks to get you to think more of a product, and thus shell out more money to buy the product. If you talk to enough experienced bartenders with solid mixology knowledge and experience, you may be surprised to find how many of them repeatedly fall back on classic London Dry gins like Beefeater that aren't as pricey or viewed as being as trendy, but for people in the know, are nonetheless often viewed as some of the best gins out there. Price can also be deceiving. Plymouth is one of my favorite gins, and is widely considered one of the best gins in the world, and yet, for quite a while, it was very cheap. However, after a change in the marketing plan, its' price was nearly doubled due to an effort to rebrand it as a high-end spirit. Did the product change? No...just the price. At its' heart, gin is a relatively cheap liquor to make, much like vodka, and as such, a good deal of the pricing is somewhat arbitrary and reflects how the product is being marketed versus the quality of what's in the bottle.

Jul 21, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

Agreed for me as well. Smooth, juniper-forward, but I do think it's has a somewhat oily and heavy mouthfeel, which isn't so much a complaint as it is an observation that may not appeal to some folks. I think it makes an excellent Martini though I prefer my go-to, Boodles, or Plymouth, thought the price of the latter has basically made it something I used only in specific things and not for a regular occasion Martini.

Jul 21, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

It's also about more than seeing how quickly and cheaply one can get a buzz on.

Jul 21, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

1. A Martini is one of the cheapest and easiest drinks to make at home. Why in the world would you make a rule that you have to walk to a bar get such a simple drink? Besides, most bars never use orange bitters in a Martini, they're just as likely to ruin the thing by shaking it instead of stirring, they skimp on the vermouth, and even then, the vermouth is almost never properly stored, all of which result in a mediocre to downright bad Martini. At least at home you can measure properly, store your vermouth correctly, keep some orange bitters, always have your choice of gin, and be assured of fresh lemons for garnishing.

2. A Martini with no vermouth is not a Martini. It's cold gin. You're basically saying you like to get drunk on cold Hendricks with a slice of cucumber floating in there. Again, why would you make a rule that you have to walk to a bar in order to do that?

3. A Martini is all alcohol with some water dilution...by it's very nature it's a strong drink. If you're just looking for a cheap way to get drunk on clear liquor then shoot some vodka. As for me, I'll be enjoying my drink for something other than a quick means to getting a buzz.

4. Particularly with a Martini, balance is key in providing a smooth and refreshing drink. I would not trust anyone to free pour to the exact standards that requires, so you either use a jigger or I'm ordering a beer.

5. So your town boasts a lot of alcoholics...are you proud of that?

Jul 21, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Tequila

Yes, they have many hundreds of them.

Also, a Margarita is nothing more than tequila, lime juice, and a sweetener of some sort...so by definition, any tequila that works in a tequila sour (tequila and juice) should work in a Margarita (a tequila sour with some sweetener tossed in).

Jul 01, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Milagro tequila

FWIW, Espolon is in the same price range (a bit cheaper actually) and makes a better blanco than Milagro IMO. I was at a party a month ago and got to try some of the MIlagro Anejo and quite enjoyed it.

Jun 29, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

What classic cocktail would you suggest?

The thing that drives me nuts is that around here it's common to find a Dark ;n Stormy on the cocktail menu alongside other $10-$12 drinks. A Dark and Storny is essentially just a highball of relatively cheap rum (around $15 a bottle) and ginger beer, which is far more common than it used to be. To me, seeing a Dark 'n Stormy costing the same as a Manhattan in some places is the same as someone charging $12 for a Jack and Coke. I love a good Dark and Stormy, but I rarely want to pay restaurant prices for something I can make at home for the equivalent of a couple of bucks.

Jun 29, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

Weekend DC Trip! Foodie advice?

I second Red Apron - it's close to the Archives metro stop and only about a fifteen minute walk from the National Gallery. They turn out some terrific sandwiches, particularly the porkstrami and the meatball sub.

The sad truth is that there aren't really any great hole-in-the-wall places near the Mall where locals eat. Plenty of DC residents enjoy the Mall, but we eat elsewhere before visiting a museum or exhibition.

I'd suggest Pizzeria Paradiso in Old Town. The Dupont Circle location was one of the first places to introduce Neapolitan style pizza to DC a decade or so back. I've never eaten at the Old Town location, but I've enjoyed many a good pizza at the Dupont location, plus, they have a great beer selection.

Jun 24, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore

Red Apron Penn Quarter - quick take

Gotta agree. It's a tasty sandwich, but in terms of classic muffuleta, it's a bit of a fail. I had one on Sunday and don't recall any kalamata olives.

I love the breakfast sanwiches - the tigele bread is wonderful. I also like the porkstrami, but the best thing on the menu may be the meatball sub. Excellent meatballs, good sauce, and perfect bread with a nice, tiny drizzle of pesto. Damn that's a good sandwich.

Jun 24, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore

What does 1.75 liter bottle of Markers Mark cost in your City/State

I think in your case it's a bit different - most folks who are well travelled in the world of online spirits commentary know your blog, and even if they disagree with you, no one with any sense would call you a poseur. Full disclosure, I've read and enjoyed your blog for quite a while, even though I know I'll probably never get around to trying half he things you discuss.

My point is more towards the anonymous commentators or newbie bloggers out there who, I believe, often focus on having exceptionally negative or very strong favorable opinions, with little in between, on spirits that often have far more in common than they do epic differences. It could be completely wrong speculation on my part, but the spirits writers I tend to find the most reliable, knowledgeable, and trustworthy are the ones who speak about kindred spirits in terms of gradations, rather than, "this absolutely sucks and tastes like ass, but this very similar product is the nectar of the gods." I honestly chalk it up to the trendiness of whiskey, and to a large degree, other spirits at this point in time, the fact that it's become very "cool" to talk about booze in a critical way, and the assumption from some people that extreme opinions are the best way to sound authoritative.

Jun 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

What does 1.75 liter bottle of Markers Mark cost in your City/State

I also agree with all of that as well. Oh, and BTW, a 1.75 of Maker's is currently going for $44.95 in Bethesda, Maryland.

A few things... A contest comparing bourbon and coke is ludicrous IMO. It's going to taste like bourbon and coke. The similarities in flavor between bourbons are far more numerous than their differences, and when you add coke to the equation, well, there just isn't going to be much difference. The drink will taste like Coca-Cola with some bourbon, and that's going to be about the same no matter what bourbon you use.

Also, I love Beam. I think their standard bottle is a terrific deal and it is without a doubt one of my favorite bourbons to drink on ice. Sometimes I want to ponder a whiskey neat in a glencairn, but sometimes on a hot summer day when hanging out in a backyard with some friends, I just want an easy drinking bourbon on ice and based on cost and flavor, I haven't found anything better than Beam white label for that purpose. Also worth noting is that noted whiskey critic F. Paul Pacult has written favorably of all the Beam products, so it's not as if the rarefied world of bourbon connoisseurs collectively sneers and gags at Beam. To be perfectly honest, I've always felt the online reaction by a lot of so-called whiskey geeks towards Beam is more an attempt to look like some vaguely held idea of a "real" connoisseur simply by talking about how revolting you find the world's best selling bourbon and because...you know...it's not as good as the dozens of bottles of Pappy that that most of those folks claim to own. In many cases, when I see someone claim to despise Beam but, for example, love lower-end Evan Williams for it's quality and value, all I can think of is that person is a total poseur.

Also worth noting is that in this day and age, there is some new spirits competition nearly every week. Whether it's an industry sponsored event to draw attention to brands, or done by some media source as clickbait for the afternoon, or just by some blogger, spirits competitions need to be taken with a healthy grain of salt.

Finally, I am 100% in favor of trying at a bar, if you can, over buying an expensive bottle you've never tasted. There's a whiskey bar a block over from my apartment in DC that specializes, to a degree, in American craft whiskey. I've goe through at least a dozen different drams there and it's allowed me to experience a number of buzzed about whiskeys without ever having to buy a bottle...which is good because most of them are pretty pricey and IMO, have been somewhat underwhelming. I'd take Beam Black over many of them. It also allows me to support a cool local bar :)

Jun 22, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

VA BBQ that isn't Rocklands or Dixie Bones

It is indeed a hike depending where you live (especially from DC) but I LOVED Carolina Brothers. Hill Country was a disappointment last time I went - the brisket was insanely salty. I know this is a bit off topic, but Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights is turning out amazing pulled pork these days.

Jun 17, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore

what do you mix hennesey with?

Good point! This Slate article goes into even greater detail:
http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dr...

Jun 17, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

what do you mix hennesey with?

Cognac is just a type of brandy, and in the world of classic cocktails, brandy is one of the most common base spirits, so in that regard, there are hundreds of drinks in which you can mix Hennessy, or any other cognac for that matter.

Hennessy is an interesting brand because it enjoyed a resurgence by marketing itself as the bling-y drink of the rap world. Of course no one ever said "how" to drink it, so they just made it as unchallenging as possible, and the result is that for many years, one of the most called-for highballs among certain demographics of the drinking populace was "Hennessy and coke". I'm not sure if it's still as trendy, but it's interesting that a liquor which for most of the 20th century was most likely to be associated with old white men in stuffy private clubs became the trendy drink among young black men in dance clubs. Another interesting case of shifting the demographics, and very the identity of an alcoholic drink, was when jagermeister started to market to market itself to the hard partying, American, college-age frat-boy crowd, whereas for most of the 20th century it was drunk almost entirely by old German men as a digestif and viewed by younger Germans as both foul-tasting and terminally uncool.

Booze is big bucks and brand managers and marketers are always trying to find ways to sell more. If it means taking a cheap cognac and telling an untapped buying segment that it's cool to drink it with Coke, then it should simply be viewed as part of the business.

Jun 16, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

What Craft Spirits Have Disappointed You?

According to the American Distillery Institute, "Craft Spirits are the product of an independently owned distillery with maximum annual sales of 52,500 cases where the product is PHYSICALLY distilled and bottled on site."

Historically, I suppose it could refer to any distillery that fit that definition. The thing to understand though is that post-Prohibition, there really haven't been that many small, artisanal distilleries due, in part, to industry concentration and the cataclysmic effects of prohibition on American distilling, plus, it's a high-risk, high-cost investment. As far as the American mainstream media, I don't think they give a hoot about craft spirits. It is a hip enough trend that it does come up in stories here and there, but as a whole, it's not a topic that is really lighting up the talk shows, high-circulation magazines, and evening news programs. As far as advertising, it's virtually non-existent compared to the big industry players. The media in which craft distilling is really obsessed over is online, in the world of blogs and social media, or in niche publications like Whiskey Advocate and Imbibe.

I haven't had St. James, but I have enjoyed Corsair's Triple Smoke which is a nice take on the peatier malts most people associate with Islay.

Jun 13, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Estadio Recommendations?

The blistered shishito peppers are a must. I also love both their baby octopus and calamari. The open-faced sandwiches can be skipped but get one of the pork belly bocadillos. The hangar steak and duck breast have also been really good in the past, as are the baby chorizos.

Jun 11, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore

What Craft Spirits Have Disappointed You?

I agree with the OP - I've tried three of the Balcones whiskeys at my local whiskey bar and none of them were very good. The Campfire was downright awful. Thankfully I've never bought a bottle because the price sure suggests they make extremely good booze. Wigle Whiskey's Ginever is also pretty bad. Too malty to use as a gin and too gin-like to work well in recipes that call for actual genever. Luckily I was given the bottle by a friend who received it as a promo and didn't care for it either. I also second the critique of Catoctin. I wish them the best since they're local and seem to be really nice folks, but their booze is pretty rough and pretty pricey.

Not sure if it would be considered "craft", and it's definitely not American, but Brokers Gin is wonderful stuff. All in all though, it's hard to think of a "craft" liquor that I've REALLY enjoyed, or which I found better than a well-established non-craft alternative.

May 27, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

ethiopian in dc?

That's how i feel about just about every Ethiopian place in general. Granted, I'm not Ethiopian and have never been to Ethiopia, but I don't feel there is much of a difference between one Ethiopian place and another. I do enjoy them all, but I can't say any of them really stand out for having radically different menus or dynamically different takes on the standard dishes. I do prefer to cook my own Doro Wat for the simple fact that I can do just as good a job and I refuse to pay $12-$14 for a leg or two of chicken. Plus, Doro Wat tastes even better over rice where you can use a nice pilaf to catch more of the sauce.

It just seems to me that if you like one Ethiopian place, you'll like them all...or maybe my standards are just too low and my palate not refined and sophisticated enough in things Ethiopian. I do look forward to checking out Eyo in the near future as it does seem to get a lot of love on Chowhound. Any recommendations for my first meal there?

May 19, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore

ethiopian in dc?

Why didn't you like Lalibella? Off the top of my head I've been to Ettete, Ethiopic, Madjet (now closed), Dukem, Lagano, and Adis Abbaba, and for most dishes, I don't taste much of a difference. I've been to Dukem at least a dozen times in the last 7-8 years and Lalilbella 4-5 times in the last two years and I really can't say they were all that different in terms of the things I've had at both places. The tibs and Yebag wat are about the same as everywhere else I've been, and the beer is dirt cheap :)

Ettete is my favorite of all of them with Ethiopic a close second, though I've only been to Ethiopic once (and Ettete at least 7-8 ties) so I've got a bit of an Ettete bias. I love Ettete's raw kitfo and I think they do the best job of all the places I've been in terms of cooking lamb.

I have heard in multiple places that several of the places down in NOVA are turning out excellent stuff, so I really should check them out, however, it always feels odd to live in Logan Circle and drive down to NOVA for Ethiopian.

May 19, 2014
The Big Crunch in Washington DC & Baltimore