Gearing Up for Cocktails
By RC Dean
Last week’s post on the Dark and Stormy dabbled in the equipment and supplies that can be put to good use by the home bartender. This week we will survey the Casa Dean’s loadout for cocktailing, which by its nature invites a plethora of tools and ingredients.
Casa Dean Gear
In addition to the cocktail measuring glass and soda syphon mentioned last week for the Dark and Stormy (ginger beer syrup edition), and the eyedropper the week before (to dose Pernod properly for a Monkey Gland), there’s also a few other items that we use:
• Shaker. There are some variations on this, and a lot of [real] bartenders use a Boston shaker (two stainless steel containers, the top of one fitting inside the top of the other) or a variation with a pint glass and a stainless container. These are tricky to pour out of and prone to accidents, so I use a pretty standard shaker, the kind with a cap that has a strainer.
Shaking your drink does a couple of things, in addition to mixing the ingredients: it chills the drink, and it dilutes the drink a little (remember: a proper shake is 10 – 15 seconds). Both of these are Good Things – water is one of the unacknowledged ingredients of many cocktails, which just taste better a little diluted. Hell, it’s acceptable, even expected, to add a splash of water to even the finest single malts.
• Spherical ice makers. This is a recent addition to our setup, and we’ve started using them almost exclusively for “rocks” drinks. Highballs still get the usual cubes from our icemaker. The spheres have a couple of advantages; they just look cool, and they melt more slowly, so your drink doesn’t get as watery. The 1 ½ inch size seems pretty standard. It does take them a little longer to cool the drink, if it started at room temperature.
I’ve been using this SVERES Jumbo Ice Ball Tray, which makes six at a time. A little more labor intensive than just pushing the lever on the front of the fridge, but worth it, IMO. I’ve also got a pair of these Tovolo Sphere Clear makers, but they’re kind of a pain in the ass to use. I think they make somewhat better spheres than the tray.
• Glasses. For highballs, we just use whatever. For rocks drinks, I’ve been using these Bodum double wall glasses. They slow the melting of the ice balls even more and look pretty cool. These used to be pretty fragile, but they’ve been beefed up enough we haven’t had any problems.
Casa Dean Supplies
Confession time: I don’t fresh squeeze my citrus juices; I get good lime, lemon, and orange juice in bottles and just use that. I also don’t generally garnish. When I’m thirsty, I get lazy, OK?
For liqueurs, we have the following:
• Pernod, for Monkey Glands. I haven’t found another use for it that I liked, so that’s about it. Its basically licorice concentrate, to my palate.
• Amaretto, mostly for Polar Vortexes (to be written up one of these weeks). It’s a sweetener, mainly, but even in small amounts it changes up the drink.
• Salerno, for margaritas, sangria, anything that calls for orange liqueur. I’ve got some Grand Marnier, but just don’t really use it much since I found Salerno, which isn’t as sweet and “heavy” as most orange liqueurs.
• Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. I pretty much just use this to make my own maraschino cherries, which are completely different than the dyed candied cherries passed off as such in the grocery store. Real maraschino cherries on chocolate ice cream is just divine, BTW, and justifies making your own all by itself.
• Drambuie. For the occasional Rusty Nail. Mrs. Dean also likes it sometimes just over ice.
• We also have Rivata sweet and dry vermouth. I mostly use the sweet to make Rob Roys and Manhattans. I’ve tried olde schoole martinis, but just don’t come back to them.
For bitters and mixers, there’s a few standards and a lot of interesting stuff to try. As mentioned last week, Pickett’s Ginger Beer Syrup is excellent. The Jack Rudy Classic Tonic syrup gets a real workout in hot weather, as well – it produces a vastly more flavorful gin and tonic than what you get in the store. You need a soda syphon to use these, or you can just crack open a soda water or club soda and pour in. But the soda syphon’s more fun.
I like the Bittermilk lineup, and use several of their mixers off and on (the Charred Grapefruit with light rum is way too easy to drink in hot weather). Others make their way in and out of the pantry from time to time as experiments (I have this Maple-Bacon Syrup going through testing right now), and it is remarkable how many smaller companies are putting out good stuff. These will get called out as needed in future recipes.
Derpetologist’s Spot the Not: Leonard Peikoff (a famous Randroid)
1. [Regarding the so-called Ground Zero Mosque] Any way possible permission should be refused and if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence, evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity.
2. Responsible parenthood involves decades devoted to the child’s proper nurture. To sentence a woman to bear a child against her will is an unspeakable violation of her rights: her right to liberty (to the functions of her body), her right to the pursuit of happiness, and, sometimes, her right to life itself, even as a serf.
3. Every argument for God and every attribute ascribed to Him rests on a false metaphysical premise. None can survive for a moment on a correct metaphysics.
4. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon facts.
5. Statism and the advocacy of reason are philosophical opposites. They cannot coexist—neither in a philosophic system nor in a nation.
6. What is is. Perceive It. Integrate it. Act on it. Idealize it.