So how was the Season 6 Premiere of Mad Men? Was it good for you? More importantly, how were the fabulous Manhattans we spoke about last week? I am going to try and not be too spoiler-y with this blog post as I know that some of you do not have AMC (get mooching, people!) or who might not have had the opportunity to watch it yet.
Because the seasons are always so far apart, I inevitably forget just how fucked up the show can be sometimes. Not fucked-up in a bad way, but more in an unexpected, uneasy kind-of way. It’s not your typical linear plot sequence, which can be particularly disorienting to the epidemiologist who derives a certain comfort living in a linear world.
Anyway. In one of the best post-season premiere debriefs, Ashely Fetters (from the Atlantic) cited an article that I think, sums up my Mad Men ‘disorientation’ the best:
“Andy Greenwald at Grantland wrote a terrific piece this week asserting that what makes Mad Men great is its sense of dread, of tragic inevitability. Its drama doesn’t come from will-they-or-won’t-they arcs, he wrote, but rather from the agonizing wait for the other shoe to drop; in other words, Mad Men is a show about when, not a show about if.”
It’s that sense of dread that stuck with me for the entire premiere. It was all about character development, and that’s one thing about the show that I love. I find it particularly courageous how the show will go to the darkest and deepest depths of the characters’ psyches – that is…be willing to show how ‘the circumstances that drive a man to drink are inevitably more interesting than the drink itself’ (as the Grantland article reminded us).
My only criticism of the season premiere was that there wasn’t a whole lot of Joan. Unfortunately, we saw more ‘Joan’ in the Johnnie Walker Black Label commercials that aired during the premiere than we saw of her in the actual show itself. And while I know that we have a tremendous amount of ground to cover to get caught up with everyone (and their ex’s) at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, I’m hoping that this week’s episode will give Joan some more air time.
Unlike Mad Men, this blog is mostly about ‘the drink itself’. So let me fill you in on what we’re drinking this week as we’re mooching watching from Jackie and Tommy’s couch. You are going to have no problem drinking along since it’s….the Cuba Libre!
Everyone has made a Cuba Libre at some point in their cocktail career – likely because it’s so quick, easy and convenient. It is the go-to cocktail for the Jock and I when we’re making dinner (because it’s a cocktail we both like, and because it’s so… quick, easy, and convenient). And although many may brand this drink the ‘lazy-person’s cocktail’ (ya, so?), Jason Wilson in this article points out that the origins of the Cuba Libre were actually much more special than the stripped down rum and coke many people make today. Here’s the ‘special’ recipe:
The Mix: Cuba Libre (Source)1/2 to 1 lime Ice cubes 2 ounces rum, preferably gold or dark 1/2 ounce gin (optional) Coca-Cola, chilled 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Squeeze the lime half or halves into a Collins glass (to yield 1/2 ounce juice), then drop in the spent lime half. Add 3 or 4 ice cubes. Pour in the rum and gin, if desired, then fill with the chilled Coca-Cola. Add the bitters; stir briefly to incorporate.
Still easy to make (so was the Manhattan, you’ll recall), but the main reason we chose this drink was because of the beautiful bottle of Mount Gay rum (straight from the Barbados!) that Jackie pulled out of her liquor cabinet last week when we ran out of rye and went looking for some more (the Mad Men after party went long, okaaayyy?). Mount Gay Eclipse Black Rum was featured on the Hoarding Alert not so long ago… and if you read the article, you’ll get a sense of why it’s so special. While I don’t think there’s any of the Mount Gay Eclipse Black Rum left at the LCBO in Ottawa, you can definitely get the ‘everyday’ Mount Gay rum. The Jock and I spotted some on the shelves today!
In addition to the recipe above, I might try a variation on the Cuba Libre by making my rum and coke with a wee bit of Maraschino liqueur…maybe in the attempt to try and emulate a cherry coke…? I’ll let you know how that goes.
So you know you might be verging on the edge of cocktail geekery when the blonde walks into the bar, asks Don if he’s alone, and you think to yourself: ‘Hmmm, I wonder what she’s drinking?’. Most normal people of course are wondering if Megan’s recent foray into the advertising world on the other side of the camera (as a mod-elle/actress) has somehow made her less interesting (in a sell-out kind of way) to Don or if he’s just plain threatened by the prospect of Megan being an ’independent’ woman. Or, if the blonde is going to be another notch on Don’s promiscuous bed post. You can get caught up on Season Five here.
With Season 6 upon us, and a two hour season premiere, you’re going to need a few cocktails to get you through, especially if there’s anymore of that Zou Bisou Bisou business. Or some kind of horrifying Hary Crane sixties fashion crime that you’ll need to tolerate all episode (and potentially season) long. So let’s get started, shall we?
You’ll probably remember from Season 5 that the Jock and I do not get AMC which means we have to engage in some hard core mooching if we want to keep caught up week to week and participate in the Monday morning Mad Men debriefs. The mooching goes like this: you provide the couch and cable and we supply the cocktails – usually Mad Men inspired. This year, we’ve got our mooching situation all set for the premiere – thanks to Jackie and Tommy.
And the cocktail I’m going to serve for Season 6 is inspired by one of my fellow Wellboro neighbours, Jenn, who on Friday proclaimed via the Twitter:
In honour of #madmen returning this Sunday, I feel a weekend of Manhattans (and/or martinis) may be in order.
— Jenn Goldie (@goldiej7) April 5, 2013
(Jenn, please comment and let us know how the weekend’s going for you. And if you are needing more whisky at this point.)
Of course…the Manhattan is the perfectly reasonable, perfectly appropriate drink for Mad Men! After all, Manhattan is where Mad Men is set, and I’ve seen more than a couple of bottles of Canadian Club in the office bars*. (*Note: Why don’t I have an office bar?).
And in addition to the connection to the show, Jenn’s brilliant drink suggestion also corresponds with my own personal crusade as of late called: ‘How not to look like a total idiot in the Whisky aisle at the LCBO‘. Although I have a cocktail blog with a fancy name, I do consider myself to be an underqualified mixologist at the best of times (it’s right there in the bio, okaaayy?). As such, I am prepared to admit that I have hard time keeping Bourbon, Scotch and Rye straight and barely know what to use for what (don’t judge me).
I recently embarked on a whole bunch of reading up on the subject and found this handy dandy article over at (cough) Real Men Drink Whiskey. Here are my own (overly-simplified) crib notes from the article:
Scotch: Made of malted barley, must be 100% made in Scotland. It usually costs a million dollars, so you probably don’t want to dump it into a cocktail. Best to savour on its own.
Bourbon: Made of at least 51% corn. Must be made in the USA.
Rye: Usually thought of as Canadian whisky, made of rye mash. Due to some fucked up Canadian naming convention, there is a chance you could be buying rye without any actual rye in it! Read the article, get informed, and be careful. Beppi recently-ish suggested some real-deal ryes. These do not cost a million dollars, so use liberally in cocktails.
All of the above come of course with other high-maintenance manufacturing specifications (like aging) which I couldn’t be bothered to summarize here. The article also goes into Tennessee Whisky and Irish Whisky – so do check it out.
Now onto the cocktail. Pretty much everyone has written something about the Manhattan. Here I have linked to Wondrich’s Take on it, which includes what I think is the most important take home message which is: as a cocktail, the Manhattan can hold its own against the martini (slug it out, in fact), and is elegant in its simplicity. The main debate about the drink is whether to use rye (crisper) or bourbon (smoother, but too sweet for some). Tomorrow night, I’ll be serving ours up with real-deal Rye, using the recipe from the dependable PDT Cocktail Book:
The Mix – Manhattan2 oz Rye Whisky (or Bourbon) 1 oz Sweet Vermouth 2 dashes of Angostura bitters*
Stir and strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with brandied cherries.
(*Do not, under any circumstances, leave these out!)
You can see from the list, that there’s nothing fancy here, so you can get yourself out and to the LCBO in plenty of time for 9 pm.
Since I often have a negative affinity for trends or any soap-operish predictions, I will refrain from making any for Season 6 (besides, there are lots of people out there doing it better than me). But I do have one humble request:
More Joan, please!
This post is total redemption for all of those low brow posts that seem to focus in on the crap I have in my iPod. So if you’re slummin’ it on your reader today, you’re going to have to find another blog. This post is all high brow*. (*Note: Only for today. I’ll be back to the crappy pop song posts in a matter of no time!) Oh. And there’s pictures this time!
For the past couple of years our family has spent at least one day of the March Break in Montreal. And Montreal is indeed one of those cities that I long to get to know better. And as much as I try to diversify my visits (which average out to about once or twice a year) I always end up spending WAY too much time on rue Sainte Catherine when I should be exploring other neighbourhoods. But when it’s March Break, and a family of four with two teens, it’s important to hit a ‘hood that minimizes the whining has something for everyone.
Alas, there are two destinations on rue Sainte Catherine that have contributed to my redemption from low brow to high brow. Here they are:
I first discovered the Camper shoe store by complete and total accident after attending a meeting in Montreal in June that left me little shell-shocked, and a little PTSD-ish. Wandering aimlessly (I exaggerate not) along rue Sainte Catherine, I tried to pull myself together with a decaf skim latte. It wasn’t working (I know, right!). I was just about to call it quits and get to the train station when the Camper Shoe Store appeared out of nowhere, like some kind of a ‘shoe oasis’* (*Note: I totally made that up myself). The angels of heaven sang that ubiquitous song we all hear when the sky above opens, signalling that we have reached our own personal Mecca (this really happened!). I went in and bought some super cool yellow strappy sandals. I felt better immediately.
At the time I was buying the super cool strappy sandals, I also tried on another pair which I did not buy at the time (v. restrained, as Bridget Jones would say), but have been obsessing about ever since. During March Break, I went back to Camper and scooped them up. Here they are:
So what’s the big deal about the Campers? Besides being my most favourite shoes, they offer comfort, coolness and quality. They use real deal materials, and offer a look you’re just not going to find in a whole lot of places. The Camper shoe store on rue Sainte Catherine is the first (and only) such store in Canada, and before that, I had to scour ‘upscale’ shoe stores (such as Holt Renfrew) to find a pair. Even then, they might only stock a couple of styles (rather than like, everything).
I also managed to get the Jock into a pair:
So like ‘record’ stores as I call them will soon be a thing of the past. Indeed some of the big ‘record’ stores – like the HMV on Robson in Vancouver, and many smaller independently owned stores (anyone remember Shake Records in downtown Ottawa?) are already a thing of the past. So we always like to drop into a big ‘record’ store when we come across one (while they are still around). I bought the critically acclaimed David Bowie album The Next Day:
I have had the chance to listen to the album a few times now – and could best describe it as standard Bowie fare – meaning it’s exquisite. He teamed up with producer Tony Visconti with whom he worked on my most favourite Bowie album (ever) Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and a whole bunch of other stuff as well (like Heathen – another good 2000′s album). Although I haven’t had enough time to fully appreciate the new album, I can safely say that hard-core David Bowie fans will get a lot out of it as there is lots of reference to his earlier work from the cover (which is Heroes with a white square over it) to some of the rhythms you hear in the various tracks on the album. Totally high brow.
I did manage to get the family unit off rue Sainte Catherine and over to iconic Schwartz’s Deli on the Main. We did our obligatory line up and went in for some smoked meat. The Jock inhaled two sandwiches in record time. I on the other hand was obsessed with the pickle:
Guess the blog turned back to low-brow a little sooner than expected…
The good news is that my last post on vodka didn’t yield any hate mail. The bad news is that I am back with another post on vodka…but don’t despair. This one is shorter. And it has a cocktail recipe! So hang in…
When we last looked at vodka we were talking about how cocktail geeks have been slagging vodka and it’s…er…versatility for a few years now. And how traditional use of the spirit (in Russia) might suggest that vodka doesn’t even really belong in cocktails! But I was perhaps a bit hasty and not as well balanced as I could have been.
In my enthusiasm of getting that post out to you, I forgot to pass along two excellent articles on how vodka most definitely has a role to play in cocktails. In 2010, Imbibe Magazine published a well-balanced article on vodka and how the…er…versatility of the spirit could actually be used for the purpose of good (as opposed to evil) by tempering strong flavoured spirits such as bitter Italian amari or French herbal liqueurs such as Bénédictine and Chartreuse. That is, vodka tones things down a bit so that you can enjoy the original flavour that might get crowded out if you mixed it with something else.
One such cocktail is The Gypsy:
The Mix – The Gypsy (Source)
2 oz vodka
1 oz Bénédictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters (you can get ‘em at the grocery store)
Stir well with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
According to the (most excellent) Wondrich Take in Esquire magazine (do read it!), The Gypsy has been around since the mid 1930’s when vodka was being widely ignored and before the mass marketing of the spirit kicked in.
I know that you probably don’t have a bottle of Bénédictine lying around the house, but just in case you bought some to make a Singapore Sling; and it has long since migrated to the back of your liquor cabinet, pull it out and give this drink a try. Wondrich suggests that you can also drink Chartreuse in this manner (cutting it with vodka). If you don’t have Chartreuse, you can definitely get it at the LCBO…I saw some just the other day when I was in. I have a bottle of both, and opted to start with the Bénédictine (sipped away while writing this post.)
But – if you don’t have a bottle of either, and are reluctant to invest, walk away from this post knowing that you now have the 411 on exactly what to do when you confront Bénédictine or Chartreuse at your next high-brow cocktail party hosted by the friendly, neighbourhood cocktail geek. Order up a Gypsy and be all smug about your smart usage of vodka. Let me know if you are brave enough to try it!
Honestly, if you want some half decent advice on what to drink on St. Patty’s day, see my post from last year. Chock full of ideas, I pretty much gave you every single drink option (other than green beer) known to human kind that I could find. This, unfortunately, didn’t leave me any material for this year (or the year after. Or the year after that).
But then, the martinis for breakfast mail bag yielded what I think is an interesting idea for brave people to try. Consider the following email correspondence:
To: Jennifer From: Neil cc: Heather Subject: Important idea
I want to share a story with you; one which culminates with a brilliant idea!
I was on the bus this morning, and picked up a Metro. I don’t usually do this, but the cover of the paper featured the tantalising image of a lovely southern cocktail. Unfortunately, it was just an ad for the LCBO which featured the use of various tools to make interesting drinks.
However, when I got to work, I was chatting with Heather about the use of a ‘muddler’. We both agreed you probably had one, but I mentioned that I did not, but that I did have a ‘spurtle’ which could probably be used in a pinch.
This is where Heather and I really got to thinking. Consider this: if you started with a mojito, but used a spurtle instead of a muddler, then the drink would start to take on the features of an international (Irish/Carribean) collaboration. Taking it a step further, we realized that the collaboration would only be equal if you substituted the rum in the original mojito recipe with Irish whiskey.
The only thing lacking at this point was a name for our invention. With typical ‘Heather’ aplomb, she came up with the perfect moniker: The O’Jito.
I was thinking that you could use your vast influence in the drinking community to bring this idea to a wider audience, perhaps bringing us fame and fortune. Let’s meet to discuss sometime soon.
PS. We don’t know if this drink actually tastes good, which would be something to consider….
Does anyone reading this know what the fuck a spurtle is? Anyone….? Anyone….? I thought not. I looked it up, and it turns out that the ‘spurtle’ is a Scottish stir-stick used for making porridge, sauce or stew. Now, I know Neil said that it’s Irish, and maybe the exact origins are a little unclear, but let’s give these guys some poetic license because it’s so close to St. Patty’s Day.
The correspondence continues:
To: Neil From: Heather cc: Jennifer Subject: Re: Important idea
The whiskey and mint combo might be an acquired taste but I might try to acquire it this St. Patrick’s Day.
I was just about to recommend that they get on Dragon’s Den immediately with spurtle in hand (…and with me as their manager. Or agent. Or whomever gets a decent cut of the fame and fortune) when this happened:
To: Heather From: Neil cc: Jennifer Subject: Re: Important idea
Yup. Someone just copied Neil and Heather’s BRILLIANT idea.
I have no idea if this cocktail is good. It seems to me to be a relative of the Mint Julep (which many people enjoy), but I think that one thing we can ALL agree on is that the O’Jito is definitely a better name. Even if the goddamn spurtle is Scottish.
Happy St. Patty’s Day, everyone!
Wait! There’s more:
- I actually did find a few St. Patrick’s Day ’cocktail’ recipes for you in this Washington Post article. They seem a bit high-maintenance to me (there is a blender involved), but with the amount of fruits and vegetables in these recipes, the resultant drinks are practically bordering on health food…so if you are short a couple of vegetable servings…and you don’t want to drink green beer (I know you don’t…) try these babies out. Please note that the recommended number of daily fruit and vegetable servings is five to eight. I’m just saying.
- I know that I have already gushed ad nauseum about a nice review my blog got in the Ottawa Blogging Library, curated by Alejandro Bustos, a columnist with Apartment 613. But….don’t let my gushing stop you from checking out his blog. He has undertaken the ambitious task of creating the ultimate NCR Blog Roll – which shows the diversity and quality of the Ottawa blogosphere. Definitely worth a visit! Check and see if your favourites are there!
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