5 November 2013, Chicago, IL

Dear Overlords at Munster Taverns:

Let me preface this email by saying that Lady Gregory's is one of my favorite places in the world.

This afternoon I ordered a Daisy Cutter with my burger. When my beer was close to the bottom, my server Jose offered to bring me another. I gladly accepted.

When he arrived with my second Daisy Cutter, I still had about a quarter-inch of beer in my first glass. He tried to grab my old glass, but I put a hand up to stop him. "Leave it." I said.

"Oh, I was just going to do this," Jose said, and he POURED THE DREGS OF MY FIRST BEER INTO MY SECOND BEER.

Well, I was stunned. I didn't say anything, but please, NEVER LET HIM OR ANYONE ELSE DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN YOUR RESTAURANT AGAIN. True, I would have finished what was in the first glass anyway, but you don't pour old, warm, backwashy beer into a new beer. It is DISGUSTING.

Christ. Kids today, uncivilized.

Bill Shunn

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Subtle peppery undertone

Crisp pine
Grapefruit aroma

Mellow hops
Rich toffee notes
Freshly baked biscuits

Clean desert aroma
Citrus weed
Tangy cactus spine
Horse blanket

Slight nuttiness
Hints of bourbon
Smoked rubber
Magnesium flare

Coconut oil
Disintegrated cork
Essence of latex and sand
Porcelain overtones

Back alley rainwater
Wisps of mousetrap wood
Gunpowder residue

Battery copper
Flop sweat

Rocket fuel
Interplanetary dust
Venusian methane
Tears of loneliness

Half Acre

The topic of this poem was suggested by Kevin Swallow.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
Whether you'd like to join today's Unofficial Worldcon Pub Crawl in Chicago from the start, or want to meet up with us somewhere along the route, here's the revised itinerary I've come up. It involves three train rides and only two cab rides, and gets us all over the North Side to some great brewpubs and beer bars:

11:00 am: Group meets at front entrance of Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Dr.

Transit: Walk to CTA Blue Line at Clark/Lake, ride (in direction of O'Hare) to California stop

11:30 am: Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Transit: Cabs to 4300 N. Lincoln Ave. (Lincoln & Cullom)

1:00 pm (approx): The Bad Apple, 4300 N. Lincoln Ave. (main lunch destination, excellent burgers and beer)

Transit: Cabs to 5148 N. Clark St. (Clark & Foster)

2:30 pm (approx): Andersonville beer bars (all of which have very good food)
        Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St.
        Lady Gregory's, 5260 N. Clark St.
        Acre, 5308 N. Clark St.

Transit: Walk to CTA Red Line at Berwyn/Broadway, ride (in the direction of 95th/Dan Ryan) to Belmont stop, transfer to Brown Line, ride (in the direction of the Loop) to Diversey stop

5:30 pm (approx): Atlas Brewing Company, 2747 N. Lincoln Ave.

Transit: Walk to CTA Brown Line at Diversey/Sheffield, ride (in the direction of the Loop) to State/Lake stop, walk back to Hyatt

7:00 pm (approx): Arrive back at the Hyatt Regency Chicago

CAVEAT: This itinerary is subject to change, so watch the hashtag #ChiconPubCrawl on Twitter if you want to meet up with us along the route. I'll be posting our locations all day.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jeff Lang sent me a link to Studio 360's listener cocktail challenge—create a cocktail inspired by and named after a classic work of literature.

I wanted to give it a try, but I wasn't able to work on it before the August 12th deadline. Last night I had some spare time, though, so I cobbled together a drink I'm calling the Quiet American. I combined 1.5 oz. of Laird's Applejack, 0.75 oz. of Créole Shrubb liqueur, and 1.5 oz. of blood orange martini mix (blood orange, key lime and cane sugar), stirred with ice, and strained.

The result was not bad—sweet and orange-y with a slightly bitter undertaste. It gets that name because of the distinctly American spirit (the applejack) getting all into the poor tropical country's business (in this case, Martinique). Of course, it was Vietnam in the novel, so my cocktail inhabits the entirely wrong part of the world, but hey, it was the best I could do.

Laura thought it needed more of something tart, like lime juice or a twist. I'll keep meddling with it, like a good American.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
[ continued from yesterday ]

Laura loves my Manhattans. I make them in the proper, original fashion, with rye and not bourbon. I always keep a bottle of Templeton rye on hand (though Bulleit rye is a fine choice too), along with Dolin sweet vermouth, Peychaud's bitters and Luxardo cherries. I make a damn fine Manhattan, if I do say so.

Hmm, what could we possibly make tonight...? Laura wasn't always a fan of the brown-liquor cocktail. I'd been drinking Manhattans and old-fashioneds for a few years but never managed to infect her with a taste for them. But then our friend Scott Smith foisted one of his Manhattans on her, and it was all over. The primacy of the Templeton Manhattan was cemented when we attended a documentary about the distillery's history at Mayne Stage in Chicago.

Like I say, I always keep these ingredients on hand. Always. So when Laura texted me last Thursday afternoon to ask Will you make me a manhattan tonight?, my response was an automatic Hell yes.

I picked up Laura from her train late that evening, went to the liquor cabinet, and pawed my way through the bottles. Puzzled. Where was the Templeton Rye? Where was the good vermouth? What on earth was going on? And how would I ever recover from the wounded, damaged look my wife gave me when I broke the confounding news that I couldn't deliver on my promise?

What on earth does this have to do with RAGBRAI, you may be asking yourself. Well, it dawned on me then that when our New York friends rolled back through Chicago on their way home from Iowa, I had made Manhattans for the whole gang. #RAGBRAI turned @fablam and @jplang into the living dead. #jimnasty I'd used up all the rye and all the vermouth. In the meantime I'd failed to make a run for replenishments, and now it was too late to make it out to a good liquor store.

Laura was on the verge of never speaking to me again when memory offered me a sudden RAGBRAI-related glimmer of hope. "Wait!" I exclaimed. "My Target bottle!"

On our original drive west across Iowa to the start of RAGBRAI, Colin had picked up a bottle of Old Overholt rye for round-the-campfire consumption. That night he poured half the contents into an aluminum water bottle for safer transport as we rode. I had an extra aluminum water bottle too (Target-branded), so I volunteered to stash the rest of the rye in mine. When Laura and I left RAGBRAI early on Day 3, I offered my bottle to Colin. "You guys take it," he said. "You may need it." And indeed, Laura and I consumed much of it in our hotel rooms over the next two nights on the way back to Chicago. It wasn't Templeton, but at least it was handy.

Frantically I grabbed for the aluminum bottle, which after two weeks was still sitting out on the kitchen counter. "I think there's enough," I said, hefting the bottle. From the liquor cabinet I managed to dig out an older bottle of Martini & Rossi vermouth. Like the rye, it wasn't outstanding, but it would do, particularly when mixed with a little extra cherry juice from the Luxardo jar. The evening was saved. Thanks, RAGBRAI. At least you did one thing for me.

Oh, and happy birthday to me. What's that? Why, yes, I would like a nice Manhattan tonight, thanks. It's so thoughtful of you to offer.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill


Nov. 12th, 2010 09:16 pm
I make it my general practice
not to drink and write.
At least, I try not to drink
when writing fiction,
where the prose should be clear
and lucid as water,
even as it refracts the light.

But poetry's a different matter.
A little whisky never
hurt a poem. Not much, anyway.
Certainly not this
glass of it, distilled from smoke
that might have
scribbled words like these in
the air as it
jittered away, leaving only this
amber residue,
not so transparent as it appears.

While Laura and I were in New York City about a month ago, we were introduced to a drink called the "pickle back"—a shot of Irish whiskey followed by a pickle-brine chaser. Yes, I was dubious too, but it was the best new drink I'd tasted in ages. Of course, the pickle juice needs to be of high quality. You can't just use the liquid from a bottle of Vlasic dill chips.

We first experienced the pickle back at Sweet Afton in Queens ([livejournal.com profile] ecmyers was there!), so imagine our surprise when at Whiskey Tavern in Chinatown the next evening we found two varieties of pickle back on the menu! It's apparently a growing trend in bars in the know, as detailed in this New York Post article:

Give Pickle Juice a Shot

Time to invest in cucumber futures?

(To my Blue Heaven peeps, don't lump this tasty treat in with the horror that is Gherkinbräu. Here, of course, the pickle taste is deliberate.)
According to Whisky Connosr: "Some ideas are so brilliantly simple you wonder why no-one has thought of them before."

Now, I love me some gimmicky new ways to quaff my favorite hoity-toity single-malt scotches, but seriously? No one's ever thought of "drinks by the dram" before? Maybe I'm revealing myself for the old fart I am, but in my day they called those "minibottles." And they were perfect for sneaking into a laser show at the Hayden Planetarium.

Okay, so that was only a few short years ago. My point stands.
Yesterday Laura and I met her parents in Lake Forest to wander around the Deer Path Art League's 56th Annual Art Fair on the Square. This is one of those affairs where artists and artisans from all over set up booths in the town square to hawk their wares. To make it more fun for ourselves, Laura and I decided in advance to turn the afternoon into a drinking game.

Here's how it worked. We didn't bring any alcohol to the fair itself, but we agreed on four categories of subject matter. If we found art depicting any of these subjects, we'd have one drink for each category once we got back home. The categories were:
  1. Clowns
  2. Flamenco dancers or bullfighters
  3. Dogs in unnatural situations
  4. Naked boobs
As it turned out, Lake Forest was a lovely little town with a lovely little town square. The art was of a generally higher caliber than we had anticipated, and we had a good time with Laura's parents at the fair. We only managed to score in two of our categories: #3 and #4. Several times Laura asked if we could add new categories, but I'm afraid as judge I had to disallow anything we hadn't agreed upon from the start.

So, two drinks apiece that evening at home. But next year, I foresee new categories including celebrities, abstract metal wall hangings, and still lifes with wineglasses.

Happy Labor Day! Bottoms up.
I had intended to tweet live from WhiskyFest Chicago last week but was thwarted in my efforts because I couldn't get a signal in the underground ballroom at the Hyatt Regency. I did, however, faithfully take notes as I went. As I transcribe them, we'll be able to see together 1) how poor my whisky-tasting vocabulary is, and 2) how far downhill that vocabulary rolled as the evening progressed. Ready?

WhiskyFest Chicago, 4/1/09
TOMATIN 18yo sherry finish
delicious, light, a bit caramelly, bright bright finish on front of palate
ARDBEG Airigh Nam Beist
more refined than Uigeadail
peaty but a bit lighter
ARDBEG Supernova
Holy peat, Batman! It's like a scouring pad made of peat! I loved it!
bursts in your mouth like a buckyball unfolding, nutty, strong flavor
SPRINGBANK 11yo madeira wood finish
very purple flavor, strong, delicious
is that a winey taste?
very subtle sherry-ish flavor. Yum! Not fireworks-y. Caramel.
Peaty but tastes more watery than I like—no competition for the 27yo
Fantastic ryes
interesting vodkas, peach vodka
CHARITY POUR—BALVENIE 1976 single cask
bright, in your face, caramel explosion
EADES blends—
Islay—Bowmore 60%, Caol Ila 40%
Highland—Ben Nevis 85%, Clynelish 15%
Speyside—Longmorn 50%, Glen Moray 50%

MICHAEL COLLINS Irish (peated)
BULLEIT bourbon
reg (10yo)
By my count, that was a grand total of twenty pours. The biggest surprise of the evening to me was High West Distillery, whose booth I had to visit when I saw they were from Park City, Utah. Their Rendezvous blend was simply the best rye I've ever tasted. All in all, theirs was my most-sampled booth, with five pours. I wanted to try everything they make, even the vodkas, which were startlingly good and unvodkalike.

Another high point of the evening came early, at the Ardbeg booth. When I professed my adoration of their Uigeadail, they insisted I sneak back for a sample of their rare Supernova, of which they had only brought 500 ml. So peaty it just about knocked me flat, but fantastic.

I started off the evening on the wrong foot, confusing Tomatin and Tomintoul at the Tomatin booth. Now, come on, I know the difference, and I'm a fan of both the Tomatin 12yo and the Tomintoul 27yo. But for some reason I tried to impress the Tomatin folks by professing my love of their 27, which earned me a gentle yet still embarrassing correction.

Charity tickets benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository were available for $20 a pop, entitling you to half an ounce of one of several rare donated whiskies. I went with a Balvenie 1976 single cask that was more than worth the money.

At some point in the second half of the evening, I stopped recording my impressions and wrote down only the names of what I tasted. I tried every Eades blend, but realized after two of the Arrans that I was probably approaching my limit. Free coffee, Fiji water, and a nice cabbie in a Scion helped me get home quickly and in one piece.

Next year I need company!
Laura and I had dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants this evening, Hopleaf. It's a Belgian place, with a bar out front specializing in Belgian and Belgian-style beers. It's always packed, and if you don't show up early you can wait an hour and a half for a table.

Hopleaf menu: entrees We showed up early and were rewarded with a quiet, secluded table on the balcony overlooking the main dining room. Laura had a bottle of Chimay Red and I a pint of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale while we perused the menu. Laura was there for the moules frites, Hopleaf's speciality. I ordered the duck reuben. It was amazing.

This is not a story about our wonderful evening, or our wonderful meal. This is the story of the poor rich kids in their twenties (three girls and a boy) who were seated at the table next to ours shortly after we ordered, and how we winced at every loud interaction they had with our rather curt mutual waitress.

"Can I start you off with some drinks?"

"Do you have Michelob Ultra?"

"Uh, no. We have a wide variety of Belgian ales and other fine beers. Can I offer you some suggestions?"

"What do you have that's light?"

"We have several good India pale ales, wheats, and weisses."

"No, I mean light beer."

"What do you like?"

"How about a vanilla vodka?"

"We don't have vanilla vodka."

"Do you have berry vodka?"

"We have six hundred beers. And vodka."

Most of them ended up drinking what looked like Diet Coke. I didn't actually hear them order because I had crawled so far under the table. Unfortunately, I had emerged again by the time one woman's Belgian steak frites arrived and she asked for A1 Sauce.

I'm sure we were all that young and inexperienced at one time, but ouch. I fear the only lesson learned tonight was never to come back to Hopleaf because the beer selection sucks and the steak tastes like steak.
Half the bars you see are polling places today.
BEER: Now Less Expensive Than Gas

I have defeated the Bourbon County Brand Stout, but I fear it is a Pyrrhic victory at best.
We may be sitting directly in the path of a typhoon, but at least we're living it up at Icebar Tokyo.

We hit it with Craig Engler and Brooks Peck. All the drinks are made with Absolut vodka, your glass is made of ice, and you're only allowed to be inside for forty-five minutes. You have to make the time count.

Ice Station Tokyo

We did.
A delightful Times article about New York City's speakeasies:

One person who probably did not patronize the place was William M. Bennett, who in 1929 ran in the Republican mayoral primary as a dry candidate. One of his campaign promises was that he would close a speakeasy that sat "in the shadow of Police Headquarters"—very possibly Onieal's predecessor—along with what he estimated were 100,000 speakeasies in the city.

His threat did not go over well. He lost the nomination to a wet candidate named Fiorello H. La Guardia, 62,894 to 17,100. Which might explain why your flight to New York will not be landing in Bennett Airport, and why you can have a drink at the bar upon arrival.  [full article]
Why are we moving again? Oh, yeah, Prohibition is over.
So, as threatened, Paul (of [livejournal.com profile] theinferior4 fame) and Colin and I went down to the Brandy Library yesterday evening to attend a Spirit School class in rare & precious scotches at the feet of Ethan Kelley (hereinafter referred to as my hero).

I'm hoping Paul will post more about the evening's de-scotch-ery, along with the photo our estimable server Raj took of us, but for now I will simply post the evening's menu:

Before class at the bar
  • 1 Godfather (scotch and amaretto) [me]
  • 2 Old Fashioneds (rye, muddled orange, and cherry) [Colin and Paul]
  • 1 Imperial 16yo(?) (calvados cask finish) [me]
Class curriculum
  • Buchanan's blended scotch over ice (warmup spirit)
  • Glenlivet 31yo (bottled by Glen Master)
  • Tomintoul 27yo (100% sherry cask) (this one just keeps turning up)
  • Macallan 1876 replica (no age statement)
  • Dallas Dhu 27yo cask strength (rum cask finish) (bottling by Dun Bheagan)
  • Glen Grant 1973 cask strength (2003 bottling by Scott's)
  • Bunnahabhain 25yo (bourbon cask finish)
  • Highland Park 30yo (sherry cask finish)
  • Springbank 1969 (bottle #391 of 519, "second fill" sherry cask finish)
  • Edradour 30yo (100% bourbon cask) (bonus spirit)
That's as best we can jointly piece together from our notes, the taking of which deteriorated somewhat over the course of the evening. There may be corrections to post later.

Next up: rum class?

Update:  I have made some refinements to the details in the list, based on further notes from Colin Poellot.
Hey, New Yorkers! Like scotch? Have a $120 burning a hole in your pocket? Free tomorrow night?

The Brandy Library's weekly Spirit School features a tasting of precious and rare scotches Tuesday at 6:30 pm. I'll be there along with a couple of friends. Why not give the Brandy Library a call and see if there are any other spots free in the class?

I plan to arrive at 5:30 and enjoy a leisurely cocktail before class. That's what Laura and I did two weeks ago for the calvados class, and it definitely gave us a chance to soak up the ambience of the place. The class itself was a small, informal affair in a tasting room in the basement. We started with a Jack Rose cocktail (calvados, lime juice, and grenadine), then were regaled with the Story of Calvados while tasting 8 progressively more aged calvadoses (sp? calvadi?). Hors d'oeuvres were served between each tasting. At the end, we each were served a large snifter of a super-mega-fabbo calvados as a bonus spirit. That was 10 drinks over the course of the tasting, albeit not full glasses, plus the earlier cocktail in the lounge. We felt awfully good on the way home.

"Spirit sommelier" Ethan Kelley is a great teacher and raconteur, and he told me that the rare scotches class would be a somewhat looser affair than the normal classes, and would focus on learning how to get the best value when purchasing expensive scotch. To that end, we would taste some phenomenal scotches and maybe a couple of awful ones. But he promised it would be fun. I don't doubt it!

The Brandy Library is in Tribeca at 25 N. Moore St. You don't need a reservation to drop by for a drink, but it's not a bad idea to have one.
Here are a couple of fun little squibs from page 8 of this week's The Week:

Bad week for...
Mitt Romney, after the presidential candidate alienated an audience of Cuban Americans in Miami by quoting, in stumbling Spanish, the Communist slogan "Fatherland or death. We shall overcome!" Romney apparently didn't realize that the slogan has been used for decades by Fidel Castro to salute Cuba's revolution.
Only in America
Utah state officials have ordered motorist Glenn Eurick to remove the vanity license plate "merlot" from his car, after discovering that Merlot is a type of wine. State law prohibits the names of "intoxicants" on license plates, but Eurick, who has had the plate for 10 years, said most people in the largely Mormon state were puzzled, not offended, by it. "People usually ask us what the words means," he said.
Utah, I drink to your health.

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