Friday, August 31, 2012

Vintage Cocktails: the Bronx Cocktail

Ok, so I'm not doing the best job at this whole "blogging regularly" thing. I mean, I'm not awful or anything, but I'd hoped to be blogging at least once a week, which hasn't happened...yet. Still gonna plug away at that goal, though!

This week's cocktail is the Bronx Cocktail. I had a soft spot for this drink before I'd even tried it, mostly because both Robert and I work in the Bronx. We also nearly moved to the Bronx, but at the last minute the family from whom we'd arranged to rent a house changed their mind and decided to sell it instead. That was pretty frustrating at the time, but it's also what brought us to our current home, so it ended up being fantastic!

A few things I've learned about my taste in mixed drinks so far:

1. I really like brandy
2. I do not really like vermouth (dry or sweet)

And now, without further ado, I present: The Bronx Cocktail!

Robert styled the drink with the best Yankees gear we could come up with, which is to say: none.

Bronx Cocktail

1/2 dry gin
1/4 dry vermouth
1/4 sweet vermouth
1/2 orange juice

Shake well with cracked ice, strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Thoughts- I like this drink. I like it, but I don't love it. I think it's the vermouth (see above). It is quite strong, as you might guess from the ingredients list, and has a flavor that is kind of like a really alcoholic creamsicle or orange julius. In my mind the Bronx Cocktail is like a bridge between the old school drinks that should remain in the past (Fibber McGee, I'm lookin' at you!) and those that are so delightful they should be revived immediately. It's a curiosity drink. It's worth trying-- after all, you might really enjoy it! and even if you don't you probably won't regret it-- but won't be in my regular cocktail rotation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vintage Cocktails: Fibber McGee

This week's cocktail is the Fibber McGee! Robert and I decided to try it for two entirely grown up and well thought out reasons. Firstly, we had all of the ingredients on hand, and secondly the name was funny. Good enough reasons, right?

A quick bit of internet research revealed that there was a very popular radio show in the 1930's and 40s called "Fibber McGee and Molly", and although there doesn't seem to be an explicit connection between the drink and the show my guess is that the drink was inspired by the show in some way.

Interestingly, this drink is not well attested on the web, nor apparently in print. The primary source for it is the Internet Cocktail Database, and only two cocktail bloggers that I found had made it and blogged about it. Both of them say that they found the recipe on the ICD, and one, Sonja at Thinking of Drinking, says that as far as she's found, the drink was only mentioned in print twice- once in a NYTs article from 1990, and once in this edition of The Ultimate Little Martini Book.

So, rather surprisingly, I can contribute something! My cocktail writings are total newb stuff, but my little blue book can be considered an authority- it says so right inside! And I can report that the 1947 Professional Mixing Guide, put out by the Angostura Bitters Company, includes a recipe for a Fibber McGee cocktail. The era is right for the radio show, too.

The proportions for the drink in my book differ slightly from those given at the ICD- I've noted them below.

Fibber McGee cocktail

1.5 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 unsweetened canned grapefruit juice (internet recipes call for twice as much grapefruit juice. Also, the ICD does not specify the type of grapefruit juice. Thinking of Drinking calls for fresh (probably much tastier); we used some from a jar.)
generous dash of (Angostura) aromatic bitters (internet recipes call for 2 dashes of bitters)

Stir in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain into a cocktail glass, twist a lemon peel on top and serve. As you can see, I kept my ice in.

Thoughts: Meh. I might like this drink if it were made with loads of fresh grapefruit juice I suppose, but it was exciting enough that I feel inclined to try. It was herbal-y and kind of medicinal. Robert actually poured his out, marking the first time in 12 years I've ever seen him chuck perfectly good alcohol. I dig the murky past on this cocktail, but having tried it I can see why it has been more or less consigned to history.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vintage Cocktails: Sidecar

I had a rather exciting day yesterday, and um, forgot to blog. So let's just pretend it's still Monday, OK?

At any rate, we're on a brandy roll! The Sidecar was actually the cocktail that got me into this whole vintage drink schtick, which is funny because I'd never had one until a few days ago. But my dear chef friend, Rachel, mentioned them a while back and my ears pricked up. They sounded so classic and sophisticated. Cocktails. Sidecar. I was hooked without even taking a sip.

I know that some Sidecar recipes call for cognac. My Little Blue Book does not. So this Sidecar is made with brandy.

1/3 brandy
1/3 Cointreau
1/3 lemon juice

Shake over ice, strain and serve.

Verdict: delicious. I was right to fall in love with this drink! Definitely worth a spot in your regular rotation. Not too sweet, not too boozy- just right. I had thought of this drink as an autumn or winter cocktail (in the days of our imaginary courtship), but now I'm not so sure. This drink is wonderful in the summer, and I could see drinking it into the fall, but maybe not winter. Brandy is a more versatile spirit than I'd realized! I probably need to consider hot toddies for the winter editions.

And now I present you with: a knitted fish! Riding a motorcycle! With a Sidecar as her sidecar!

Pretty awesome, right?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I've been wanting to make my own fermented pickles for ages now, but I've been thwarted by a lack of equipment. I don't own a pickling crock, and had heard that fermenting without one was a hit-or-miss endeavor. 

But, we picked up a CSA box from our friends this week (they were out of town, so we got to keep the bounty), and it had a lot of cucumbers in it, along with a huge bunch of dill. And this only days after someone on Ravelry had posted her recipe for making fermented pickles at home without a pickling crock! I know there are tons of recipes like this out there, and I've read many of them, but someone having it come from someone in my internet community gave me courage. Clearly the Fates were speaking to me.

So, on Thursday morning I washed two pounds of cucumbers and sliced them into spears. I put them, along with the brine, in a glass bowl, and after tearing apart my kitchen looking for something I could use as a weight, finally topped them with a stainless steel bowl with a bag of rice in it. Elegant it was not, but I hoped it would do the trick.

And it did! Robert and I both tasted the pickles today and agreed they were delicious. R wishes they were crisper, but they're not mushy, so I'm pleased. About half the cucumbers I used were yellow cukes, hence the color you see here.

Here is the recipe I used (I included a raspberry leaf to help ward of mush-syndrome).

½ cup kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 lbs. small cucumbers, washed, and cut into halves or quarters
5 cloves or more garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large bunch dill with flowers OR 2 tablespoons dried dill and 1 teaspoon dill seeds OR a tablesoon of coriander seeds
  1. In a large bowl, combine the salt and boiling water; stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture, then add all remaining ingredients.
  2. Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to hold the cucumbers under the water. Keep at room temperature. (If you don’t have a/c and it is above 80 in your house, put them in the basement or somewhere cooler.)
  3. Begin sampling the cucumbers at 24 hours. It will probably take 48-72 hours for them to taste “pickly,” but it depends on the temperature conditions of your home. When they are to your liking, refrigerate them in the brine. The pickles will continue to ferment, but more slowly in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vintage cocktails: Brandy Daisy

This weekend we went to Delaware for the first time. One of my friends from college was getting married on Saturday, so we drove down on Friday, and met up with other college friends from St. Louis and Baltimore. Our friend getting married had a "rehearsal" dinner for the out of towners, which was lovely, and allowed my children to gorge on Shirley Temples and raspberry lemonades. It was actually the weekend writ small, as we spent pretty much all of our time eating, drinking, looking fabulous, and sometimes swimming. It was excellent (except for the drive there, when and 8 car pile up + Google's poor directions added a full hour to what should have been a 3 hour drive).

We did forget a number of things, however. Robert forgot his razor, so was slightly scruffy (which really just made him look more dangerous). We also forgot Zion's hair gel, for putting up his mohawk, and his tie. He hardly ever spikes his mohawk, so the omission of gel is understandable. His tie wasn't with his suit, however, and since we were packing right before we left I forgot to ask Robert if he knew where it was and we just left without it. As it turns out Robert had no idea where it was, but Zion actually knew, and was most unhappy that he didn't have it. He was quite mopey, and hoped fervently that no other little boys at the wedding would be wearing suits and ties, so that he wouldn't be out-dressed. Our assurances that the tie-less look was totally hip fell on deaf ears, but in the end he had to go the wedding in something, and he knew a tie-less suit was the best he had. And he did look fabulous!

But, getting back to my main point from the last paragraph, we forgot our camera. So almost no pictures, except for this one that Sara's guy took. L to R: Sara, me, Mira, Eleanor. We all lived in the same dorm our freshman year. Aren't we cute??

I also have a picture of today's vintage cocktail! It's all about improving by baby steps, right?

Here she is, the Brandy Daisy.

Brandy Daisy:
2 oz brandy
1/2 oz grenadine
juice of one lemon
Shake over ice. If you're hardcore you can strain out the ice, or you can drink it on ice, like me!

Thoughts: This drink is delicious, and very, very girly. Or, put in Robert's words, "This tastes kind of like alcoholic kool-ade." You can decide for yourself if that's a good thing or a bad thing. You can also adjust the proportions somewhat, adding less grenadine or more lemon for a less sweet drink. I'm not a big brandy drinker, but I think it gives this drink a rich, slightly caramel-y flavor.

A keeper!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Knees and other parts

I dislocated my knee today. This isn't a new thing for me, but it has been a few years since I last did it. It hurts (of course) but worse than that is the frustration of healing the injury. I want to be well now! I feel this particularly keenly at the moment because we're going to a wedding this weekend, and weddings are one of the few chances Robert and I have to dance together. But no dancing on this knee!

At any rate, I was thinking about bodies today, after injuring mine. My friend Madge, over at Be Less Crazy, encourages all of us to appreciate our bodies for how awesome they are, and to count the things they do well for us every day, rather than focusing on our perceived flaws. Like most of us, I tend to take the function of my body for granted, right up until something isn't working! And, as a tall, relatively slender woman, virtually all of the positive feedback I get from the general public about my body is about how it looks, rather than how it functions. And that's how I think about it too, more often than not. For instance, because of my history of dislocating my knees, I have stretch marks on both of them from times when my knee caps have suddenly and violently shot inches away from where they generally hang out. The older I get the more these stretch marks are visible, giving me a kind of fat knee look. Just days ago I was looking in the mirror and sighing (quietly, in my head) about my knees. Or rather, about how my knees look. But knees aren't really for looks, you know?

So today I'm trying, again, to learn to appreciate my function over form. I'll try to remember this when my knees are working perfectly again, bending, stretching and moving easily. I'll love my knees for carrying me around every day, and not sigh at them for bearing some of those scars.