Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 Year in Review

On a bench

I didn't mean to have my blog fade away like it did. It's not that I had nothing to report on, in fact I had quite a bit going on. Scott and I got engaged this past summer, when my mother came to visit. I've already started making favors, worked on perfecting my Danish cake baking, and I spent a fair amount of time looking at venues.


We visited Portland  for a friend's wedding, went to Cedar Point to ride some of the biggest roller coasters in the world, made a new Ant Man costume and a Stature costume which we wore to Dragon Con. We hosted a space themed party for Halloween, where we dressed our two dogs as an astronaut and a Star Treck security officer. Did I ever even mention on the blog when we got our greyhound? Our pittador got lose while a friend was taking care of them, so we got back the morning after our friends in Lansing's wedding to spend the next day wandering the streets looking for her, eventually locating her 24 hours after she got out. After a stint with a carpet shampooer that did a bad job of sucking the water back up, we pulled up the carpet in the living and dining rooms to reveal the hardwood underneath. We hosted a whiskey tasting party using the large variety of brands we have on hand. We hosted Boxing Day dinner and roasted a goose, which neither of us had even tasted before. We finished the year celebrating by making a fancy dinner for a small group of friends, watching the ball drop from the comfort of our living room, and playing games late into the night.

I've also started doing more hours at work, which inevitably makes me more inclined to just chill out when I get home. I find myself inclined to play games that I then feel like I have wasted my time on. I certainly didn't accomplish my goal of posting daily.

My knitting and stashdown goals were unsuccessful as well. I rather lost my knitting mojo for a while, and I wasn't posting any of the things I was working on because they were gifts for people who read my blog.

I made a cowl from my handspun starting from Ysolda Teague's Snapdragon Tam pattern from Ashland Bay Merino top.

Snapdragon Cowl

Next, there was a shawlette made from my handspun in Miss Babs merino silk using the Yorkshire Prayer Shawl pattern from Judy Marples.

Yorkshire Prayer Shawl

Finally, after several tries with other patterns to make a hat using my handspun BFL from Sheepish Creations, I gave my friend Fatima Hinds's pattern Dealer's Choice Hat a go, and it tuned out beautifully.

Dealer's Choice Hat

2014 is set up to be quite eventful, first with Scott's brother and his wife having a baby, then Scott's sister's wedding, then our wedding. I look forward to a great year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cocktail Wednesdays: Alfonso (Special) Cocktail

Alfonso (special) cocktail

The posts have become few and far between, I know. A hard day - a hard week so far- and it's a good day for a cocktail. I opened Harry Craddock's Savoy Cocktail Book, and we settled on the Alfonso (Special) Cocktail.

Alfonso (Special) Cocktail
1 dash Angostura Bitters
4 dashes Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Dry Gin
1 oz French Vermouth
2 oz Orange Liqueur

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

The verdict: The main flavor is that of the orange liqueur, but it is tempered by the rest of the cocktail. Scott especially likes it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cocktail Wednesdays: The Grand Marntini

Grand Marintini

Tonight's cocktail was a bit of an experiment. Scott proclaimed it the Grand Marntini, though I am not sure that's the name I would choose.

When we made the Dry Martini using the older recipe that called for more vermouth and orange bitters, I liked it much better than your standard olive juice martini.  On the other hand, orange bitters is not a standard ingredient in most bars.  When I was out for a friend's birthday and wanted to order a martini, there was no chance I could get that version. Later when I mentioned it to Scott, he suggested that I could have ordered it with orange liqueur as the orange component, because Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and triple sec are all commonly found bar ingredients in less well-stocked bars. So tonight we tried it with the last of a bottle of Grand Marnier.

The Grand Marntini

Splash Orange Liqueur
2 oz Gin
1 oz Dry Vermouth

Chill a cocktail  glass and coat it with orange liqueur. Stir gin and vermouth over ice and strain into the glass.

The verdict: A passable option, preferable to the olive version, in our opinions. The citrus is muted. As always, be sure to use a quality vermouth that hasn't been open for long.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Coctail Wednesdays: Aviation Cocktail

Aviation Cocktail

I have been hearing about the Aviation cocktail for a while. The folks at 12 Bottle Bar talk about celebrated bar tenders Gary Regan and Erik Ellestad making the Aviation, about Harry Craddock erroneously leaving the Creme de Violette out in his famous Savoy Cocktail Book. David Wondrich’s talks about it in Imbibe! Aviation Gin even uses lavender in its botanical mix. There's even a movie named after it. Invented by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, and first published in his 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, the Aviation is a type of gin sour.  For reasons of Scott's susceptibility to heartburn with lemon juice, I picked one of the ratios with lower levels of it.

Aviation Cocktail

2 oz Gin (London Dry)
1/2 oz Lemon juice
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
2 tsp Crème de Violette

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The verdict: We both liked it. I thought it was a nice balance, with lovely floral notes complimenting the sour, and that the botanicals and maraschino blended well. Scott thought it was "a wonderful fruity-ish, but not too fruity drink", and would count among the top of that category for him.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cocktail...: Holland House

Holland House\

We're back with a new spirit added to the bar and a cocktail with a history that goes back to the turn of the century, the Holland House. We picked up a bottle of genever while we were out of town, since it is not sold in Michigan, and we ended up selecting this cocktail as the first concoction to try it in.

Genever is essentially the precursor to gin, originating in the Netherlands. Unlike gin, which is made purely from neutral spirit and botanicals including juniper, genever also contains a tripple-grain-based maltwine, which changes the flavor profile and feel of the spirit. In Jerry Thomas' famous cocktail book of 1862, genever appears as one of only four base spirits used, and many cocktails were originally made with genever.

Holland House

1 3⁄4 oz Genever
3⁄4 oz Dry vermouth
1⁄4 oz Lemon juice
1⁄4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
Lemon twist as garnish

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The verdict: I heard a number of positive reactions to this drink, and I liked it myself. People noted the similarities to The Last Word, but with floral notes in lieu of herbal notes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cocktail Tuesday: Michigan Mojito

Sorry for the long radio silence. Today, I bring you a drink that Scott invented tonight, the Michigan Mojito, which takes advantage of our lovely Michigan cherries.

As you can see, we had a good harvest of cherries today, and there may be an equal amount left on our little tree. A huge improvement over last year's harvest of 0 cherries.

Michigan Mojito
1 tbsp sugar
5-6 mint leaves
5 pitted tart cherries
1/2 lime
2 oz rum
Club soda

In a tall glass, muddle mint, cherries, and lime in sugar. Add rum and stir. Fill glass with ice, top with club soda, and stir.

The verdict: Tasty! Imagine a Mojito crossed with cherry limeaid.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cocktail Wednesday: Tennessee


This week's choice was another rye drink, Tennessee, this one featuring maraschino.


1 1⁄2 oz Rye
1⁄2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1⁄2 oz Lemon juice
1 Maraschino cherry (as garnish)

Shake over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The verdict: Some people apparently make it at a 1:1:1 ratio, but I think it was well-balanced with this amount, and the lemon wasn't enough to bother Scott's acid reflux. On the other hand, he felt that the rye wasn't a good match for the maraschino and lemon.  We are interested in trying this again with a different rye, to see whether it was this rye in particular or rye in general.  The rye we chose is unusual, as it i 100% rye, rather than simply majority rye grains used to make the whiskey.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cocktail Wednesdays: Armistice


We went to Frankenmouth this weekend for an event and while we were there, we picked up a bottle of Old George Double Barrel rye whiskey from the Grand Traverse Distillery tasting room.  The distillery itself is up at the top of Michigan's lower peninsula in Traverse City,but I suppose that they decided that since Frankenmouth is a touristy little fake-Bavarian town, they should have a presence there, and from our perspective, they were not wrong.  And unlike the cookoo clocks Scott was eyeing the whiskey was in our price range, though not as accessible as the fudge or cheese, and not really priced to be an every-day whiskey.  So we chose to feature rye in our cocktail this week, Armistice.

1 1⁄2 oz    Rye Whiskey
1⁄2 oz       Dry Vermouth
1⁄4 oz       Green Chartreuse
1⁄4 oz       Maraschino Liqueur
2 ds          Bitters, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged

Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass.

Although we don't have Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters, we felt that the regular Fee Bros. old-fashioned bitters was a decent substitute.

The verdict: We liked this one.  Unlike many other drinks with Chartreuse or maraschino, they don't hog center stage, because the rye also holds its own.  There is spice from the rye, herbs from the chartreuse and sweetness from the maraschino.  The smell reminds me of certain tisanes, with  light herbal, almost floral note, but the flavor is stronger.

Cocktail Wednesdays: Tom and Jerry

Tom and Jerry

It's been a long time since I posted, and I apologize for that. It has also been a while since we last had a drink night, thanks to both of us working extra hard, etc. During that time, the photos of the last drink we tried this winter have been lurking on the memory card of my camera, and the recipe I used has been sitting open.

I had read several sources on the Tom and Jerry, which is in many ways the father of today's common eggnog. Tom and Jerry are the principal characters of Pierce Egan's 1821 "Life in London...", an account of the rakish adventures of several English gentlemen from high society to the sort of situations that Robert Downey Junior's Sherlock Holmes uses to try to put Watson's fiancée off in the recent movie versions - boxing, gambling, etc.  This book was so popular that it inspired more than sixty-five imitations by the next year, as well as plays and fashion trends.  By 1823, Tom and Jerry's popularity had spread to New York. By 1831, the phenomenon was so well-known that there were references to Tom and Jerry Shops rather than beer shops.  In the years following, as we do here in the land of the cocktail, we invented a drink by that name. Over the course of the next hundred years, it became so popular that it was nearly ubiquitous. Journalist Damon Runyon wrote, “This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry…” Sets of punch bowls and mugs stamped with "Tom and Jerry" were common, until the drink fell out of favor in the last fifty years.

Assembling the drinks on an individual basis will assure that each drink is properly warm. The punch bowl can be used to hold the batter, just be sure to stir the mix up prior to each drink, as it will separate, and thoroughly stir the drink as you add spirits and water or milk.

Tom and Jerry
In a 6 oz Tom and Jerry mug, add:
3 oz Batter
1/2 oz Cognac
1/2 oz Rum
Boiling Water or Hot Milk to top

Add batter to a heated mug
Add spirits, stirring, then boiling water or milk, stirring
Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg

For Batter
Separate 4 eggs into white and yolks
Whip the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until stiff
Beat egg yolks until thin

Fold in 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar into egg yolks
Add a pinch of allspice, cinnamon, and cloves as desired
Fold in egg whites
Mix until light and frothy
Stir batter before each use

Makes enough for 8+ drinks

The verdict: This was a great hot winter drink with eggnog family flavors, but a light and fluffy feel.  I was surprised, but these cappuccino mugs were just the right size, and looked so festive too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cocktail Wednesdays: Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander

This week, while browsing though a list of classics to see what we hadn't tried yet, I settled on another creamy chocolatey drink  - the Brandy Alexander.  As I poured the drink, I discovered the danger of using the gradations on our new Boston shaker.  I poured the first two ingredients then proceeded to pour the cream far too fast, but since I was simply adding liquid to the same glass and had used up all of the crème de cacao, I was unable to go back and fix it to the correct proportions.

Brandy Alexander

1 oz Cognac
1 oz Crème de Cacao Dark
1 oz Double Cream
Garnish: Grated Nutmeg

Pour all ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice and shake. Double strain into a cocktail glass. Grate nutmeg on top.

The verdict: At the level of cream I accidentally poured in (nearly twice the amount called-for), this drink strongly resembles Bailey's on the rocks. We didn't find it much more chocolatey an irish cream, though that might have been more evident with less cream.