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The Dinner Party

hosted by Christine Potter   //   Thursday at 4p est

"I'm just a gal who likes to mix things up: music, strange cocktail ingredients, and a swanky Nick & Nora ambiance with old school free form rock and roll radio.  It's no secret that I'm a little obsessive about all things Robyn Hitchcock, but my husband's OK with it.  Besides, I end every Cocktails with Chris by standing next to one of the world's great pipe organs for a few minutes and subjecting my listeners to the sometimes-deafening results.  I promise you a tasty cocktail recipe every week, along with music that starts with The Comedian Harmonists, careens through psych and prog rock, and often smashes into the shoals of roots and jazz.  Not to mention a sprinkling of indie pop, and Brit folk. Join me high atop the Potter building, in a swanky neighborhood near you." - cp


Manhattans ARE Necessary

...at least I think so.

Now I realize that's a controversial stance.  The crystal-clear Martini is certainly more glamorous, and public opinion around last week's show weighed in very much in favor of that drink.  Especially if made properly with gin, Martinis are an "up" cocktail, more energizing than soothing.  The noted cocktail historian and writer Paul Harrington once noted of an Aviation (another gin drink) that it seemed to make those who imbibed it smarter, and he had a point.  It's the gin.  It gets you going.

But as I blogged last week, the zero to sixty MPH in three sips one gets with a Martini is a bit too much for even this cocktail-preoccupied gal.  Makes me a little--um--clumsy.  That's why when I want a cocktail that is pure (or almost pure) rocket fuel, I go for a Manhattan.  Since I quoted Harrington before, I'll offer his proportions on the drink: 2 oz whiskey (I like bourbon, some like rye) to 1/2 oz sweet vermouth.  You also need a couple of good shakes of the Angostura bottle and a decent cocktail cherry for garnish--although the supermarket variety will do in a pinch. Stir or shake with ice until chilled, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  

Here's why I like this drink better than Martinis: you can sip it more slowly, and it does not become unpleasant as it warms a bit before you finish it.  It's very strong, but not quiiiiiiite so much as a Martini.  Its golden brown color is easy on the eyes.  The cherry tastes good after its whiskey bath.  And it's soothing.  If you've had a rotten day and you just need to calm down, a Manhattan will do the trick.  It's a drink for a long conversation with someone, not for going out dancing.  Manhattans are especially good in winter or an rainy nights, but I enjoyed one at a swanky yacht party once.  On a really steamy summer evening, it's probably not what you want.  But then again, it might be...I've always found there to be something cozy about an air conditioned room on a truly brutal night.  

And here's the number one reason I'm a Manhattan fan: they're hard to screw up.  Your neighborhood bar, even if it's not a cocktail-ista hangout, can make a passable one.  Plus, they're a good traveling drink: a bottle of bourbon, a little bottle of red vermouth, and a smaller-yet jar or plastic container of cocktail cherries is easy to pack into your luggage for motel-room entertaining.  Unlike a Martini, a Manhattan can be good over the rocks on a hotel balcony.

Although I stir them when I'm on the road, at home I shake my Manhattans, because I like a cocktail to at least start out as cold as it can be.  The slight cloudiness goes away as soon as the drink stands for half a second.  And I use my own brandied cherries: a semi-simple matter of buying frozen, pitted cherries, cooking them briefly (just till they defrost) in a little not-too-heavy simple syrup, and packing them into a clean jar with a cinnamon stick or two, covered in half cheap brandy/half the syrup they cooked in.  A little grated lemon rind is nice in there too.  They hold pretty indefinitely in the fridge.

I'll be sharing the response to the Martini show on the air today, talking Manhattans, and broadcasting the last Cocktails with Chris (if all goes well during the Great Move tomorrow) from the old studio 2B!  Studio Q is almost ready to go!!  See you at 4 on Area 24 today!!




Are Martinis Necessary?

...I don't know.  Maybe.  Sometimes.  But they sure are dangerous!  Wikipedia defines the drink as a cocktail made of gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive.  NOTE: that is GIN and vermouth, not vodka and vermouth.  And they suggest a four parts gin to one part white vermouth recipe, a reasonable formula.

Here are some things a Martini is NOT: something with banana liqueur in it, or Sour Apple Pucker.  And although my brother-in-law made me a vodka Martini with Crop Cucumber Vodka last night--which I have to admit was really, really tasty--a Martini is a gin drink.

As for the shaken vs. stirred controversy: there is a school of thought that says ANY clear (without fruit juice therein) cocktail should be chilled by being stirred in a stainless mixing tin with ice.  One does get a sparkling clear result that way, and there are those who dislike the slightly (and temporarily) cloudy result of shaking gin and vermouth together.  I'm not one of these people.  To me, the main thrill of a Martini is how cold it is--hence I'm with James Bond: shaken, not stirred.  You can get a cocktail colder in a shaker.

And this is my problem with Martinis, in a nutshell.  Since the thrill of the drink is its icy bite, it's easy to drink a Martini too fast.  Sip too slowly and the last bit of the drink simply doesn't taste as good.  Unfortunately, you can become pretty blotto that way pretty easily, even if you are careful to use your smallest cocktail glasses to serve Martinis.  Further, more than one Martini is almost NEVER a good idea: another reason that unless you are someone with a will of steel even when a bit intoxicated, a Martini should be a not-too-often prepared cocktail, despite its many delights.  And these words are being written by a woman who enjoys a Manhattan, another drink of the rocket-fuel variety.  A Manhattan, a winter or rainy night drink, is something that slows you down more and doesn't taste scary a little tepid towards the last few sips.  

So: Are Martinis Necessary?  Not if there's Campari and red vermouth around and you can have a Negroni.  Or not if you've got the patience to squeeze some citrus for a sour.  Maybe if you're planning on eating some raw oysters--gotta admit that's a fabulous combination. They may well be for you.  But, Bond-like though my preferred method of chilling that venerable cocktail may be, I'm thinking I might just be not quite cool enough for Martinis--and that's fine with me.



What IS a whiskey sour, anyway?

You might think you know the answer to this question.  But it's not the thing you used to get back in 1969 at the old-man bar down the street, the joint that was loosey-goosey about checking ID's.  Well, actually, it kinda is, because that's what you remember it as.  Probably, unless you're as obsessive about mixing drinks as we are high atop the Potter building, your taste memory is for something halfway in between Tang (powdered orange drink of the astronauts!) and witch hazel.  That would be because of a nasty substance called sour mix, which is to be avoided at all costs.  But yes, my own grandfather taught me to absorb cocktails when I was a mere (wildly lucky) teenager with his two favorite drinks: bourbon and ginger ale (no sour mix there) and daiquiris (plenty o' boxed sour mix, and quite revoltingly delicious it was). 

So we're having whole foods whiskey sours today.  The classic recipe is another easy-to-memorize one: 3 parts whiskey (I like bourbon, some prefer rye, don't use scotch), 2 parts FRESH lemon juice, 1 part simple syrup or bar sugar.  Some folks throw in a little raw egg white for foam on the top.  Shake hard and serve up in a cocktail glass, or over the rocks in a sour or old-fashioned glass, with a cherry and an orange slice for garnish.  I like a tart drink, so I'd probably fiddle with the citrus balance, adding a bit more lemon or a bit less sugar.  And don't be afraid of the egg white--seriously, it will not kill you.  Even Rachel Maddow says so.  For realsies.


Ted Haigh over at the Internet Cocktail Database has an interesting take:  

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain:

1 oz fresh lemon juice (3 cl, 1/4 gills)

1/2 tsp sugar (2 dashes)

1 1/2 oz rye or Bourbon whiskey (4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)

1/2 orange juice (optional) (1 1/2 oz, 4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)

Add lemon wedge, cherry as a garnish.


The OJ makes it closer to a Ward 8 (which is this drink, made with rye and with grenadine for the sweetener).  But it smoothes things out very nicely indeed.


Either way, you won't be using the dreaded sour mix, and you will have a very easy-to-like cocktail, totally appropriate for memorializing those who have fought for our rights, and indeed our pleasures.  Happy Memorial Day, and I'll see you on Area 24 radio at 4 today!!





Imbibe Magazine's Top 25 Cocktails

Now, I'm not going to be the one to tell you to do ANYTHING else except listen to Area 24 Radio while shaking up something cold and delicious...but Drinkupny.com (a good online source for the more obscure ingredients a cocktail-ista might need for her evening creations) always sends a copy of Imbibe Magazine along with its orders.  And I needed some more Creme de Violette the other day.  By the way, they've got Creme Yvette (even better) on pre-order, but that's another blog entry for another day.

So I got my very-interesting-as-always copy of Imbibe, which I can't quite bring myself to subscribe to because I usually run out of something I can only find at Drinkupny about every eight weeks-- around the time each new issue comes out.  They had a good article about the 25 essential cocktails of the past 100 years.  The list was what you'd expect, in large part: Margaritas, Manhattans, Long Island Iced Tea (hey, it represented a decade of sodden stupidity).  But there were a couple of drinks that took even nerdly me by surprise, and one I'm trying tonight, high atop the Potter building.   

It's Called The Last Word, and it's one of those drinks that is equal quantities of a bunch of different bottles, and it sounds mad interesting.  So, class, follow along with me:

The Last Word

3/4 oz dry gin

3/4 oz maraschino

3/4 oz green Chartreuse

3/4 oz fresh lime juice


Shake over ice for 10 seconds; strain into cocktail glass


The mag sources a 1949 book called Bottoms Up! by Ted Saucier for the recipe. And claims that it dates from The Detroit Athletic Club in 1921 (I want to go to a gym that offers COCKTAILS!!) It doesn't offer a garnish, but I'm thinking I might play with a lime twist or  maybe half a lime slice.  My only concern is that it might be a tad sweet (anyone who's followed my show or blog knows I'm not nuts about sweet), but you could fool with the lime.  And I'll bet it's balanced. I'm going to trust the recipe. Chartreuse is an interesting flavor in a drink--lots going on there.  

Tell me what you think about it!  And listen in to the show today.  I'm finally getting to that long-promised Tim Buckley, and I found an old gem from Van Dyke Parks.  Cheers!


The First Sangria of Summer

Cocktails with Chris is planning a special four-hour edition on May 14th, starting from 4 to 6 PM (Eastern Daylight Time), with the after-party running from 6 to 8.  And that demands punch!  I'm thinking wine punch--sangria--because I haven't made any in a long time, it being something I think of as a summer thing.  Also because the recipes for such things are so amazingly flexible.  The main rule is the main rule to all drink-mixing: the better the ingredients, the better the end result.

Here's my basic recipe, with red and white variations

One bottle of dry, gutsy, red or white wine.  Obviously,  you won't be using the best bottle in the house for this, but it should be something you'd drink unmixed without shame or apology.

About a half a cup (or a bit more if you're daring) of brandy, a mix of brandy and cointreau, or applejack and peach or apricot brandy.  The applejack is especially good if you're making white sangria.  I've seen rum mentioned in some recipes and I can't see why not.  

A spoon or two of bar sugar to taste--or less if  you're using cointreau

Whatever fruit you'd like to add: Citrus (not grapefruit) is good in red wine, pears, apples, green grapes and kiwis are good in white.  I've seen really pretty and tasty white sangria with melon balls therein.

Mix.  Make sure it's got enough guts in the brandy department, and put in the fridge for at least a few hours or as long as overnight.  To serve, strain the tired fruit out of it, and garnish with fresh.  Serve, mixed about half and half with sparkling water.  You can mix by the glass, or for a party, serve in a bowl with ice and go a bit heavier on the brandy and a bit lighter on the seltzer as the ice will dilute it over time.

Happy Summer!  Happy New Radio Station! 

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