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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.

about 4 hours ago
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.

about 23 hours ago
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.

1 day ago
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

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I don't see the problem with serving a drink in mason jar. I've happily sipped on juleps in mason jars and they are nice for smashes as well. That said, you want to use the smaller mason jars - not the giant mason jars.

Aug 04, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

No idea about the cost - I've never been to PDT, but I've probably made about a third of third drinks in the PDT Cocktail Book. My guess is that most of the drinks on their menu go for $12-$14. Cocktails are expensive in NYC, as well as DC, which is one reason I started gradually building a massive home bar a few years ago. It doesn't hurt that Montgomery County (right across the DC line) has some of the cheapest liquor prices in the country.

The other thing about the ratios that you have to remember is that the cucumber needs to be fit in if you're going to increase the volume of liquor. So, if you're going to up the alcohol by .25 oz. you'd probably need to consider what that means in terms of adding more cucumber. I thought the drink was perfect as printed (I used 1/2 inch tick slices BTW) and thus didn't feel the need to tinker with it.

Aug 04, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

You could certainly try, but I tend to believe that when Jim Meehan settles on a recipe, it should be followed to the letter.

Aug 03, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

I can kind've see that, but it lacks any of the bitter bite of a Negroni, which is neither good nor bad IMO, just a different flavor profile they're going for, plus, without the vermouth, it has a lighter body. I made a few rounds of them for me and my GF a couple of weeks back before going out for dinner on a fairly humid summer night and it was the perfect light and refreshing drink for a warm summer night, which, thankfully, we haven't had too many of this summer in DC. Oh, and of all the people not to have a bottle of Aperol?!?! ;)

Aug 01, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

Yeah, cucumbers can do that - my mom hasn't been able to eat them for years because of this. The Archangel may be worth trying though because the cucumber flavor is very mild. It's sort've a magical drink in that it is far more than the sum of its parts. To put it another way, it doesn't actually taste like Aperol, gin, or cucumber, but a delicious new flavor.

I hate tomato juice, so Bloody Marys have always been something I dislike.

Aug 01, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

Just my personal taste, but I don't care for jalapeno, or any other hot pepper flavor in my drinks. I don't want to feel like I'm drinking something that is making me thirsty, or reminding me of hot sauce. Cucumber on the other hand can be great! One of my favorite drinks is The Archangel (from PDT) which makes great use of cucumber in a wonderful, refreshing, and very simple manner.

Archangel
2.25 oz. Plymouth Gin
0.75 oz. Aperol
2 slices cucumber
Lemon twist, as garnish

Muddle the cucumber along with the Aperol together in the mixing glass, then add the gin and ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a chilled coupe. Twist the lemon peel over the drink to release its oils and place as garnish.

This is one of those drinks where Plymouth makes a noticeable difference over a London Dry, even one as good as Boodles.

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

My bad. I thought you said she used both sides of a jigger, which in general (though not always) translates to 2.5 ounces. Clearly that bartender has no idea how to make a martini, which, I might add, has long been bemoaned in another Chowhound thread.

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

The number of people who write on Yelp is but a small subset of the guests that go to any bar or restaurant even on a single night, and people are far more likely to complain than to spend time writing to say they had their expectations met, which is one reason you see a lot of one star and five star reviews on Yelp but very few three stars. Again, if you did in fact receive a 2.5 oz. pour in your drink then that is not weak and would, most likely, produce a mild alcohol buzz in most guests. Remember, you are talking about the equivalent of two and a half glasses of wine in a cocktail glass.

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

No, getting a nice alcohol buzz isn't a bad thing at all. I'll be at a bachelor party all weekend and don't expect to be sober for a couple of days. I've played in bands off and on for years and when I hit the stage, it's nice to have a mild buzz to take the nerves off and relax. Most band practices start with at least a couple of beers to "warm up'. However, in none of those cases would I order (or make) a classic cocktail and then judge the drink solely by its ability to get me buzzed, which I think is sort've the issue in this whole thread. I do think it's great to know that you're starting to see cocktails as a diverse and fun thing to explore for the flavors rather than how buzzed they can get you in a single serving. I wouldn't say cocktails are at the top of life's pleasures, but they're definitely a fun world of flavors and pleasures to explore.

If I want a drink with flavor, I'll skip fruit juices and have a dram of good booze or a nice cocktail :)

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

Also worth noting is that these "weak" cocktails the OP bemoans may only be weak to him. Remember, restaurants and bars serve hundreds of people a night, thousands per week. Many (MOST) guests are looking for a good time and at best a minor buzz by THE END OF THE NIGHT. For example, my GF is under 5'5" and somewhat petite. If she drinks a 2.5 oz. martini in under twenty minutes she is buzzed. If you gave her a 5 oz. Martini and she finished it in under a half hour (at which point it has long become an unpleasant warm glass of gin) she would be well on her way to passing out early. Forget ordering dinner or staying for another drink, she would be calling a cab to take her home. My guess is that most bar patrons fall much closer to her end of the spectrum than the OP's, or for that matter, my tolerance. Why don't bars make drinks that get folks with high alcohol tolerances buzzed off of one serving? Because they'd have most of the rest of their clientele passed out or wasted within an hour of entering the establishment. This is bad for a number of reasons, not only in terms of possible legal ramifications and guest behavior, but in terms of being able to make more money by continuing to sell them drinks throughout the night, rather than losing a guest who needs to go home and puke or pass out after two drinks. Sure, there is a place for bars like that, but those kinds of places have no need whatsoever to worry about making a good cocktail - it wouldn't be something their target clientele cares about and it would be a waste of their staff's time to learn and prep the drinks, as well as the bar's resources to purchase the higher end and various alcohols needed to achieve that level of cocktail preparation.

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

At this point it's beating a dead horse, but you just have to understand, many, many, many people don't judge a cocktail by how drunk it makes them...and yes, I'm going with that term instead of the more polite "buzzed". Most of us are far more interested in the taste, balance, originality, or, proper execution of a classic drink. Believe it or not, but many cocktails drinkers (perhaps most of us) enjoy the drinks for the flavors, and often we actually don't want to get a buzz from the things since we have to do things like drive home, get up early for work the next day, or just not spend the evening heavily buzzed and drunk. Sounds like she gave you a 2.5 oz pour of gin, which is just fine in my book. You may be surprised to learn this, but one of the more popular trends in cocktails right now are what are known as "shims" meaning low alcohol, yet sophisticated cocktails, often making ample use of vermouths, amari, fresh juices, bitters, and sherry (and other fortified wines) over hard liquor. Again, I just don't understand why, if your main interest is getting buzzed for as little as possible, you just don't order five shots of well vodka over ice with some cranberry juice, or five shots of orange or raspberry flavored vodka over ice with some Sprite, or something like that. In any case, if you're main issue in judging whether a drink is any good is whether it gets you drunk for as little as possible, then I really can't say we have anything in common in terms of how we judge drinks, so I can't recommend anything else to you, other than Long Island Iced Teas. Sorry it didn't get you buzzed enough for you to be happy, but again, if your whole issue with drinking cocktails is how buzzed you get, then maybe you should consider why you're drinking in the first place.

Jul 31, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

Free Pour Vs. Jigger Method

That looks fantastic! I will be making that tonight, though I'll be subbing in Espolon for the the Dulce Vida tequila.

Jul 25, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits

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.

Jul 24, 2014
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.

Jul 24, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits
1

Twentieth Century Cocktail

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

Jul 23, 2014
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.

Jul 23, 2014
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.

Jul 23, 2014
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.

Jul 23, 2014
The Big Crunch in Spirits