Tag Archives: cocktails

Sipping Olympic History

Having had a fabulous trip to Vancouver, BC earlier this year, which included a cocktail or two (plus an amazing dinner) at Yew in the Four Seasons Hotel, it grabbed my attention to read about the Olympics-themed cocktails recently unveiled for the restaurant. The Games will be starting in 127 days, and yes, there are a lot of people counting down (not the least, official timekeeper Omega watches at this link). I found myself mentally doing so as we passed through US customs at Blaine a couple of weeks ago, noting the new expanded crossing gates that aren’t yet open.

But back to those cocktails. Yew’s master mixologist Justin Taylor put together three concoctions that celebrate Vancouver’s hosting of the Games, tipping his hat, too, to two past Canada host cities.

The Bronze cocktail is Montreal-inspired (1976 hosts), with Canadian rye whiskey that’s infused with Quebec maple syrup and Granny Smith apple.

The Silver honors Calgary’s 1988 hosting of the Games, with buffalo jerky-infused vodka, housemade Clamato juice, chile peppers and horseradish.*

And the Gold is saved, of course, for the 2010 host Vancouver. The  commemorative  cocktail melds cucumber- and dill-infused BC gin (wonder if it’s Victoria Gin?), fresh citrus and egg white, with a garnish of candied smoked salmon.

I had no intention of trying to slip back up to Vancouver before the Games begin, but now I’m thinking twice. With luck, Canada will not only capture some gold medals in the competitions, but perhaps Yew will consider holding the Gold cocktail on their menu for a while.

 

* The press release noted this cocktail as a twist on the Caesar. Nothing salad-related, the Caesar is a Canadian cocktail of note that one of my go-to cocktail resources said they think is more flavorful than the similar Bloody Mary. What they share is vodka, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt; where they differ is the Bloody Mary using classic tomato juice, the Caesar has always been made with clam liquor-enhanced tomato juice. According to Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century, the Caesar was first served a good two years before Clamato juice was developed down in California. I’ve never had a Caesar but will surely seek one out soon.

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A Great NYC Bar: Blue Ribbon Downing Street

Still making it through that too-big pile of papers that accumulated through last year….and found more New York notes that I haven’t yet dealt with from my summer trip.

I can’t recall what the ultimate destination was for the evening, but for starters we gathered at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar in the West Village for pre-dinner snacks and sips. We managed to snag a couple of the last stools at the tiny, simple space (this New York Magazine item has a few photos).

Not so much a cocktail bar–as are other favorites such as Employees Only, Flatiron Lounge, and Pegu Club–wines figure a little more prominently here. And even then, with such a small sliver of Manhattan real estate, there’s not a lot of room for an exhaustive list. A selective, engaging one, to be sure. The breadth is still pretty admirable, from a refreshing $24 bottle of Vinho Verde to some California cabernet sauvignon selections that require a more sizable $200-plus investment. Something for everyone.

Ever the gin nut, I asked about the gin options, and was told they only have Hendricks. Wow. I love Hendricks, but it has a distinct flavor that the uninitiated may not like, a real gin-lover’s gin. “We don’t have much room back there,” the bartender explained, gesturing toward the back bar. “And no real complaints so far” about not having other gins available. He certainly wasn’t going to hear one from me.

I had a cocktail with the Hendricks that echoes one of the gin’s signature botanical flavors: cucumber. The gin was shaken with fresh cucumber juice and garnished with a twist of lemon, served on the rocks. It was delicious, the perfect elixir on a 95-degree summer’s day.

The snacks we had were great as well. I especially swooned over the “egg shooters,” served up deviled-egg style, with different flavor combos. The eggs come from a farm in upstate New York, a particularly good starting point. Embellishments include pickled peppers with olive oil mayo, smoked trout with trout roe, Cajun shrimp with pickled peppers, or pure and simple caviar.

What I loved about this spot was the complete package it offered in terms of decor, ambiance, size, food, drink. As an only-occasional visitor to this great city, it seemed so very “New York” to me. Folks here squeeze an incredible quality of life into small spaces, whether it’s the cozy, personal environment of the tiny apartments or the inviting, bustling small neighborhood bars and restaurants that become community living-rooms, extensions of a native’s home base. Not grand, expansive, tricked-out or consciously thematic, instead Blue Ribbon Downing Street was a happy refuge with a low profile and delicious offerings that satisfied completely.

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One Favorite Ingredient: Vermouth

I really have a thing for vermouth. And it’s not ALL about the cocktails. I use it loads in cooking too — last night to deglaze a skillet after pan-frying steaks, sometimes splashed in a pan of braising greens, and I pour a swig or two into the roasting pan about halfway through roasting chicken. I go through so much dry vermouth, I’ve taken to buying two bottles at a time, and my husband and I are trying to figure out where we can start buying it by the case.

So this love of vermouth is nothing new, but was reinforced this morning when I finally decided to conquer the pile of clippings/notes/emails/etc. that has been living alongside my computer for too many months. (If I were the type to make resolutions, one this year would be to not let the piles win!) In that randomness I found not only one page pulled from Saveur magazine’s Jan/Feb 2008 issue, but also a page pulled from the same issue of 2007. The magazine starts off each year with “The  Saveur 100” list of notable, delicious, quirky, helpful, inspiring, etc. items of interest. The 2009 issue just landed as well, with a special focus on home-cook oriented items. I’ll digest that soon and pass along any favorite items of note.

In 2007, it’s item #30 that caught my attention, titled “the return of the thinking person’s cocktail.” “Instead of vodka, think gin,” the blurb mentions, “instead of Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw, think William Powell in The Thin Man.” Amen on both counts.

The item features a cocktail from Audrey Saunders, owner of New York City’s Pegu Club, who spoke on my panel about gin’s renaissance at a culinary conference a couple of years ago. A variation on the martini, this blend of gin and vermouth she calls the “Fitty-Fitty” as the two show up in equal proportion — a polar opposite from the common “dryer is better” approach that calls for a mere whisper, a drop or two of vermouth. She stirs the gin and vermouth on ice, with a dash of orange bitters (I am currently vermouth2enamored with the Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters, which I plan to try this with later tonight!), then strains into a glass and garnishes with a twist of lemon.

From the 2008 edition of The List, it was #52 I clipped, “the most versatile cooking wine,” featuring my longtime pal: a bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth. Dry vermouth has the acidic character you’re often looking for in a white wine to cook with, with added flavor, body and character from the herbs and spices that are infused into the wine base. The recipe they include here is a sort of oven-poached sole, with dry vermouth, minced shallot, dots of butter, a little clam juice and water, topped with buttered parchment before baking.

Back to cocktails, I’m not sure where I picked this up — but on occasion I’ll pour equal parts dry and sweet vermouth over ice, add a couple drops of orange bitters, a twist of orange zest and sip slowly at the end of a long day. Not as strong as a gin- or bourbon-based cocktail, this combo has a mellow, balanced flavor that hits just the right note for me on some evenings. Top-quality vermouth will make all the different. The mere thought is inspiring me to do more research into the artisan vermouths that are coming on radar, such as Vya.

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