Monday, August 30, 2010

MxMo Brown, Bitter and Stirred: The Dandelion and the Katana, plus Thierry's Cognac Old Fashioned

Well, nothing like a Mixology Monday to give me the kick in the pants I need to put up a post.  This month's eponymous theme is “Brown, Bitter and Stirred” over at the blog of the same name, hosted by Lindsey Johnson. Now this is a theme that is near and dear to my heart.  Nothing beats the pleasant ritual of stirring a scant few ingredients, perhaps some silent contemplation during a short pause to let the mixture "cook" for a moment, then straining the silken nectar into a glass of perfectly balanced heft. Thirsty now aren't you?

Falling under the umbrella of this theme are many timeless classics, the Manhattan, the Sazerac, the Vieux Carré; these cocktails are also at the top of my list of favorites. But today I want to talk about an even more simple classic and how easy it is to tweak it to create satisfying and excellent variations. That drink? The Old Fashioned.

Aged spirit, sugar, water, bitters, ice; done. Or simply spirit, bitters, simple syrup and melted ice; skip the added water. Beautiful. Perfect in fact.

This simple formula naturally lends itself to tinkering, but it is easy to maintain the integrity of the base. You can swap the traditional whiskey for a rum, say, or a brandy. Or you can use a different sweetener. Or just opt for a change of bitters. (Check out Cocktail Kingdom or The Boston Shaker for some great ones.) Or any combination thereof. It's almost hard to go wrong. You want tequila?  Try this Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Superb. Want to try maple syrup and a hint of Bacon? There's PDT's Benton's Old Fashioned. A revelation, but still eminently relatable. Here's a variation I recently came up with; the name is a shout out to last week's Mad Men episode The Chrysanthemum and the Sword:
The Dandelion and the Katana
  • 2 oz Hibiki 12 Year Blended Japanese Whisky
  • ¼ oz green tea simple syrup (or slightly more to taste)
  • 2 dashes Dandelion and Burdock bitters
  • lemon twist to garnish
Stir and strain into chilled DOF, I prefer neat but over a rock or two if you insist
For the green tea simple, just drop a couple green tea bags in for a few minutes as the syrup you make is cooling. The Hibiki has a floral quality to it, which I think is complemented by the tea notes and are nicely echoed by the floral component of the bitters, making for a nicely elegant drink.

This next one I had at Le Bar du Plaza Athénée (before supping at the sublime Taillevent). Listed on the drink menu was "Thierry's Mind: whatever the head barman decides", which I asked for, noting I was a whiskey fan. This being Paris, he suggested Cognac, I agreed, and the drink that appeared has become a staple, never failing to remind me of my trip:
Thierry's Cognac Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz Cognac
  • ¼ oz demerara simple syrup (or slightly more to taste)
  • 1 or 2 dashes angostura orange bitters
  • 1 dash angostura bitters (optional, my addition) 
  • flamed orange twist to garnish
Stir and strain into chilled DOF, I prefer neat but over a rock or two if you insist
Hope these give you some ideas to play with, remember, it's hard to go wrong, and enjoy.

ps...speaking of katanas, here are some gratuitous pics of the new toy I brought back with me from Tokyo, forged and signed circa 1381 by Bishu Osafune Morimoto. I'd meant to post this before, but I'm still way behind on finishing Japan posts.

UPDATE: The roundup post is up.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fighter Pilot for a Day, or the Most Awesome Thing you didn't even know existed

The fighter pilot for a day program at Air Combat USA is unbelievably exhilarating, I highly recommend everyone give it a try if you can.  My wife got it for me as a gift at a charity auction, so a buddy and I went up on Friday.  (Incidentally, she went to the auction while I was away in Amsterdam for a bachelor party and I came home to this gift; how awesome is my wife?)
Here's the deal, they take you up in a SIAI Marchetti SF-260 and you engage in simulated dogfights.  But you are not just a passenger, except for takeoff and landing, you control the plane basically the entire time yourself!  They take care of the throttle and other details, and they coach you, but the stick is yours to control.  And I'm not talking about just turning left or right now and then, we did both real combat maneuvers and acrobatics, including formations, yo yo's, barrel rolls, and pull-the-stick-all-the-way-back complete loop the loops.  We pulled over 5 g's at times!  And these little birds just swim through the air, smooth as silk.  Commercial puddle jumper flights are more rough.
As they say, everything's real except the bullets.  They even have it set up so that when you have a simulated hit the bandit spews smoke!  The first two dogfights vs your opponent are scripted, one of you is the bandit and the other gets to win.  The other three fights (or 4, we got a bonus 6th) are set up when you zoom past each other and once you pass it's fight on, and you have to turn and evade quickly to try to get your sights on the opponent.  (You can do a package for one and some other party will be your opponent, but I liked the idea of going against someone I know.)  

My buddy and I split the 4 unscripted dogfights, but I think I won overall because I didn't need to use the puke bags.  I got him cleanly twice, he got me cleanly once, and on one of the fights he simulated chasing me into the ground because I hit the 3,000 ft hard deck.  The was the longest scrap because I had some trouble executing the maneuver at the beginning, pulling too hard on the stick and causing buffetting, thus losing some time and allowing him to get the advantage.  I cleaned it up though, but it was too late for me to make up the ground I had lost, but I was able to hold him off and not get his sights on me for a long time.  But while desperately maneuvering to keep him from getting a bead on me, I ran out of room and "crashed."  It was awesome.
Oh yeah, the planes are outfitted with several cameras that the instructor switches between and records your flight; some face you in the cockpit, one records the gun sights, etc, so I'll eventually post some video once I get the data off the mini DV tape.