April 6th, 2014
This issue of DRiNK I cover the Mizuwari, the minimalist whisky drink from Japan. This was one of the drinks that first got me interested in cocktails. . .
In Constellation one night Kin San suggested I try a Mizuwari. I was not keen. Whisky, water, and ice did not sound appealing. Kin San was fairly insistent though. He proposed making two glasses, with identical measures of whisky but mixed differently. I would taste them both, choose the best, and he would drink the other. That sounded intriguing, so I said I was up for it. The two glasses were duly made. Just Kin San had promised, one tasted delicious and the other was very average. The difference was temperature and dilution. The delicious glass had been thoroughly chilled without too much dilution by stirring ice in the glass then tipping out the melt. In the average glass none of the ice melt was discarded. It really taught me the importance of dilution, ice temperature, and the small details involved in putting a drink together.
February 11th, 2014
I have another couple of articles in the latest issue of DRiNK. This time it’s a sort of exotic mish-mash of Mexican and Taiwanese. First up, representing Mexico, is an article on the Paloma cocktail. Then Taiwan gets covered with a couple of profiles of Taipei bars.
I had particular fun writing up this one, as a happy coincidence saw me end up in Mexico. Even more fortuitously, the airline managed to lose my bags somewhere in the US. This left me more-or-less forced to lounge around sipping tequila and wracking my brains for a way out of my predicament. Unfortunately I did not actually make it to Tequila. The trip being work related I was in Monterrey, better known for drug violence than delicious agave spirits. But it was still a great chance to check out the Paloma on its home turf. The tequila selection in duty free also wasn’t bad. From what I saw, Mexicans get through far more Palomas than Margaritas, and who can blame them? If grapefruit soda was easier to track down in China I’d also be having Palomas all the time – at least in the warmer months. Anyway, read about the Paloma here.
I also got to Taipei over Christmas, which allowed me to profile a couple of it’s better bars. One was an old favorite I mentioned before, namely Speakeasy - the consummate shrine to Guinness and Irish Whiskey. The second, Alchemy, was new to me, but well worth discovering. Some excellent cocktails to be had here, with a nice balance of creativity and attention to detail. Manager Angus Zou is also most friendly, maybe even charismatic. Another spot I visited but didn’t cover for the magazine was Little London, a basement drinking den with a focus on real ale. Amazing selection of English beers, including Hen’s Tooth from Morland Brewery, and even a couple on cask. Well worth a look.
December 9th, 2013
Another article just appeared in DRiNK. Since this issue looks at brandy, I wrote about the Corpse Reviver. The Corpse Reviver is more like a semi-forgotten category than a single cocktail. The famous Corpse Reviver #2 is based on gin, but most of the other Corpse Reviver recipes use brandy. Oddly, despite being a diverse bunch, Corpse Revivers never seem to call for American spirits like bourbon, rye, etc. I figure they were a specifically English thing. Read the rest of this entry »
October 13th, 2013
Another issue of DRiNK is out, and I wrote a story on the Pink Lady. This one gets unjustly neglected, and I am as guilty as anyone. Much as I really like the Pink Lady, I only rarely get around to mixing it. A White Lady just seems ‘easier’ when that way inclined. And out in a bar? I’m not sure I have ever ordered a Pink Lady for myself, though I’ve ordered it for friends a few times. This is clearly color prejudice at work. But color prejudice aside it is also easy to forget how mixable calvados is. The gin and calvados combo in the Pink Lady (original version) is just excellent, and well worth trying if you never have. This cocktail is probably the single best reason (Chicken Normandy aside) for keeping a bottle of calvados handy.
September 3rd, 2013
“But I like to think how nice it’s gonna be, maybe, in California. Never cold. An’ fruite ever’place, an’ people just bein’ in the nicest places, little white houses in among the orange trees. I wonder – that is, if we all get jobs an’ all work – maybe we can get one of them little white houses. An’ the little fellas go out an’ pick oranges right off the tree.” (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath)
I’m rather late saying this but another issue of DRiNK is out, which means more articles. This time time it’s all about the orange, a fruit so ubiquitous in cocktails we easily forget how lost we would be without it. My first article takes a look at orange liqueurs, and the second turns to the Burnt Fuselage and the Kamikaze. Both articles, but particularly the first, got a little edited
The Burnt Fuselage had an odd run of popularity in Shanghai some years back. I found the recipe on Paul Clarke’s Cocktail Chronicles, introduced it to a bar or two, and before long, not only were friends and strangers drinking it, but I was getting late night phone calls from bartenders I had never met asking me how to make the thing. This odd phenomenon didn’t last, and Shanghai soon went back to drinking whatever it normally drinks. Truth be told, it was probably easier to start a cocktail trend back when Shanghai only had 2.5 cocktail bars.
I just learned that Elwyn Richardson died late last year. It must be a couple of decades since I last saw Elwyn, but without him I doubt people would be paying me to drink cocktails and write about it. Although Elwyn was a teacher, the word does not fit. Certainly in his writing classes he didn’t exactly teach. He just drew people’s attention to common sense.
It is a pity I never told Elwyn I was writing for a drink industry magazine. He would have liked the idea.
RIP Elwyn. The orange-themed Steinbeck is for you.
June 9th, 2013
Just a quick post to note that a new issue of DRiNK is out. This issue looks at the wonderful world of amari, and I have a couple of articles. The first story looks at the origins of amari. The second looks at amari cocktails, namely the ever-popular Black Manhattan, and the obscure but tasty Brooklyn Heights.
Not much else to say except to note that it’s nice to see Amaro Montenegro is now available in China- check out the Tasting Room article. If you ever come across this stuff I recommend trying it on the rocks with Bacardi 8 (equal parts) and an orange slice. Simple and delicious.
April 26th, 2013
My latest article for DRiNK is on cocktails with Irish whiskey – check it out. Irish whiskey has a habit of getting overlooked. Researching this article was the perfect opportunity to remind myself of how excellent the stuff is. Unlikely to ever become the world’s favorite mixer, Irish still deserves to be used in cocktails more often. Mind you, it is so pleasant straight that it hardly needs messing with.
Since writing the article I got to make a couple of visits to beautiful Taipei, where I happily stumbled across – and out of - Speakeasy. Read the rest of this entry »
February 16th, 2013
I recently did some experimenting with amontillado sherry and Dominican Republic rum. While I do not drink it nearly often enough, sherry might be my favorite wine – it has amazing complex flavors. Rum of course is something I ingest rather more than my fair share of. It seemed efficient to try to combine my rum and sherry drinking, hopefully to the benefit of both liquids.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 15th, 2013
My latest story for DRiNK was on the Bamboo Cocktail. Follow the link to check it out. I like the Bamboo for a couple of reasons. First, it is one of a relatively small number of cocktails that use sherry. Sherry seems underrated both as a wine to drink straight and as a mixer. Second, it is sometimes nice to drink cocktails that contain no spirits.
Around the time I was putting that story together I also did some experiments with amontillado sherry and Dominican Republic rum. I think I got at least one winning drink out of it, maybe two. More on that a little later.
December 12th, 2012
A new issue of DRiNK just came out. This issue looks at single malts, and so I wrote an article on the Rusty Nail. It’s an excellent drink for the northern winter so mix one up.
Much as I like peated whiskys, I think this drink works better with something lighter. Incidentally, if going that route, the recently released Drambuie 15 might be fun to experiment with. It is dryer than the regular Drambuie, and contains a higher ratio of single malt and older whiskys. I have not yet played with it, but am sure it would make a good Rusty Nail.
While writing this article I decided I rather liked Rusty Nails with a grapefruit twist instead of the standard lemon. A very simple way to take this cocktail in new directions.
No experiments for me right now though. I am headed to tropical Burma where I will no doubt imbibe a Pegu Club or two.