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Friday Musings: Now that’s a first!

Friday Musings: Now that’s a first!

icedteaWhen you’re a parent you experience lots of firsts with your children. There are the ones that you totally anticipate: first steps, first words, first day of school. These are wonderfully warm and fuzzy moments that fill your heart with joy and remind you why you wanted to have kids in the first place. You feel as those your heart will burst. Then there are those firsts that are a bit more unexpected: you open your eyes in the middle of the night and find a toddler staring at you, just inches from your nose. It takes everything you have not to scream out loud. You feel as though your heart may have stopped. Or how about the first time your teenager drives away alone in the car? You don’t know what your heart is doing because you can’t find it. It seems to have fallen down near your feet somewhere.

And then there are those firsts that just feel strange: you’re heading out to buy some obscure ingredient that Thirsty Camel told you about and your 22-year-old son says, “I’ll come too – I have to grab something for the party tonight.” Weird, right? This happened to me not long ago when I found myself driving to the liquor store with my youngest son all the while wondering what he could possibly be planning to buy. I know which of my cocktails he likes at home, but I doubted that Hendrick’s gin, St. Germain, and Fever Tree tonic were on his list. I’m thinking a middle of the road whiskey to make whiskey gingers, or maybe a rum for rum and cokes. Or maybe just a good craft beer. Knowing what a purist I am when it comes to alcohol, it’s impossible that he could be anything but the same. Or is it? When I get to the register he’s already checked out. “What’d you buy?” “Just something.” Oh boy. When I finally wrestle the bag away from him in the car, I discover some hideous concoction in a bottle that claims to be a Long Island Iced Tea. Oh the horror.

I will tell you that I haven’t missed an opportunity in the last couple of months to remind him how disappointed I was in his beverage choice that day. Truth be told, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it and it’s been quite entertaining. He gives it right back though by leaving empty bottles in the fridge to let me know that this transgression is still going on. Last week when I was doing my photo shoot for my Thursday Barlogue about Gorshin Trading Post, I was excited to discover that the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. makes a sweet tea syrup, an ingredient in their recipe for a Long Island Iced Tea found on their website! Now I could convince Connor that there was a truly superior cocktail he could try. I had it ready for him when he got home from work tonight. He took a few sips, looked at me and said, “Wow Mom, you were right.” Now that’s a first!

Seven Island Iced Tea (from Jeff Bell of the NYC speakeasy PDT)

1.5 ounces Mount Gay Barbadoes Rum*
.75 ounces Jack Rudy Sweet Tea Syrup**
.50 ounces fresh lemon juice
.50 ounces Cocchi Americano
5 drops Bittermen’s Elemakule Tiki Bitters***

Place all the ingredients in the bottom half of a shaker tin. Add your 1 large cube and 2 small and shake vigorously for about 15 seconds or until very cold. If you don’t have the large format cubes on hand, just fill the shaker 2/3 full with regular ice. Top with 1 ounce of a good quality club soda like Fever Tree or Q and garnish with a lemon twist.

*The Jack Rudy recipe calls for Banks Golden Age Rum.

**Purchased at Gorshin Trading Post.

***Found these on Amazon!

Have a great weekend everyone! See you on Monday when we’ll be talking about Vodka!!

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The Barlogue: Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth, Gloucester City, NJ

The Barlogue: Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth, Gloucester City, NJ

chubbys1It’s a Tuesday night and I find myself sitting at a gorgeous Art Deco bar from the 1930s complete with white glass lighting fixtures suspended from a beautifully restored tin ceiling, and a glowing neon bar sign, all from the same era. From the moment I walked through the front door and onto the black and white tiled floor, I felt as if I had stepped back into a time when all bars emanated this level of elegance and warmth. I take a glance at a few of the offerings on the cocktail menu and see a classic Manhatten, a Martinez, a Ward 8, and a Blood and Sand. Now I know I must have slipped through some kind of a wormhole! But no, I haven’t really. It’s still 2016 and I am in Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth on Monmouth Street in Gloucester City, NJ. But is there history here? Yes, indeed there is.

Anyone who grew up in South Jersey remembers the original Chubby’s Steakhouse on the border of Haddon Township and Camden. Famous for its top notch steaks, its elegant cocktails, and its 1 1/2 ounce shot pour, Chubby’s opened back in the 1930s and quickly became a hot spot. It eventually closed in 1995. The decor of the current bar (brought here from Chicago), as well as the cocktail list and signature steak dishes (including a Bone-in Prime Ribeye for 2) invoke the feel of a classic steakhouse of a bygone era. This is even more true if you also select the wedge salad and the baked potato or onion rings as accompaniments! There are also fish and pasta selections on the menu, as well as first courses with portion sizes hearty enough to satisfy you, especially if you order several and share. On this particular Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to try the Tuna Tartare, the Diver Sea Scallops, the Lollipop Lamb Chops, and the Grilled Polpette. All were truly excellent. When I stopped back this week to take some photos for this post, chef Vince Tancredi made me a Snow, Blue Dungeness Crabcake with Americana sauce and chive remoulade. The Americana sauce was a reduction of lobster stock, tomato, crab roe, shallots, and cognac. It was amazing!chubbys5Both the wine and beer lists at Chubby’s are very good and offer a wide range of choices. I loved the classic listings on the cocktail menu and had trouble deciding what I wanted to order. I finally opted for the Martinez and the Blood and Sand and my husband had the Manhatten.  All three were spot on. I can’t wait until my next visit when I can give the Silver Lemon Collins and the French Martini a try. There is also a broad selection of bourbon, rye, and Scotch available, as well as 10 Irish whiskies!

In addition to growing up knowing the original Chubby’s to be such a part of South Jersey history, there’s a personal story here for me as well. The two gentlemen who own the new Chubby’s, Tom Monahan and Tom Page, just happen to be fellow alumni of the grade school that my husband and I attended. Tom Monahan also owns Max’s Seafood Cafe on nearby Burlington Street, another restored building with a stunning bar, and a restaurant that my family and I have been frequenting since it opened 15 years ago. From the moment you walk into Chubby’s, the atmosphere is unmistakably inviting – you just feel good being there. I believe that this is largely due to the efforts its owners have made to pay homage to an iconic bar and restaurant that was well loved by so many people in this area, while returning a building to its original grandeur in a city that holds history for both of them. Call it karma, call it good energy… you’ll feel it the minute you come through the door, and it will make you want to stay, and talk, and reminisce, and enjoy.

Since we’ve been talking about gin all week on the blog, I’ll leave you with the recipe for Chubby’s Martinez, the cocktail that gave rise to the modern Martini.chubbys4

The Martinez

2 oz Beefeater gin
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes of orange bitters
1 lemon twist for garnishing*

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with regular ice. Stir for about 20 seconds with a long handled bar spoon. Strain into a chilled martini glass using a Julep strainer. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy!

*Take a strip of lemon peel (about 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long) and twist into a corkscrew.

Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth.  239 Monmouth St, Gloucester City, NJ.  (856) 456-CHUB (2482)

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The Unbonded Vesper Martini. Sorry, James.

The Unbonded Vesper Martini. Sorry, James.

vesper1We’re all familiar with how much James Bond loved his Martinis. His drink of preference is usually a vodka martini that is “shaken, not stirred,” and we find him ordering them throughout the Ian Fleming novels and their movie adaptations. The only exception is in the book and film, Casino Royale, where he asks for a Vesper Martini, specifically telling the bartender that he wants it with gin, vodka, Kina Lillet, and a large, thin lemon peel. The modern version of the drink uses Lillet Blanc instead of the Kina Lillet, which contained quinine and is no longer available. Since the quinine would have added bitterness to the cocktail, some mixologists believe that Cocchi Americano would be truer to the originally intended taste, and is therefore a better substitute. Cocchi Americano is an Italian apertif wine that contains something called cinchona bark, which is a source of quinine. I prefer to use the Lillet Blanc (a French apertif wine that is sweeter and very aromatic) simply because it’s one of my favorites. I also added 2 dashes of Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters, expressed a grapefruit peel over the drink before serving it, and substituted a long grapefruit strip for the lemon. I love serving this cocktail with oysters on Christmas Eve. One last note on the name: a Vesper is an evening prayer usually said at sunset, leading to the conclusion that this is the hour that James Bond would have started drinking martinis. Sounds very logical to me!

The Unbonded Vesper Martini

1 1/2 oz Plymouth gin
3/4 oz Crop vodka
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc*
2 dashes Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters
1 grapefruit peel to express over the drink
1 long thin grapefruit strip for garnishing

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with regular ice. Stir for about 20 seconds with a long handled bar spoon. Strain into a chilled martini glass using a Julep strainer. Express the grapefruit peel by holding it over the drink and squeezing it with the white side facing you. Garnish with the long grapefruit strip. Enjoy!

*Should be relatively easy to find in most liquor stores.

Feel free to make your own substitutions here for the gin and the vodka. Think about Monday’s post when making your gin choice. Switch back to the lemon if you think you’ll like it better. And definitely give the Cocchi Americano (also easy to find) a try!vesper2The glass that I use at home is made by Bormioli Rocco. It’s called the Ypsilon Martini Cordial Glass. I prefer it because its small (only 4 and a 1/4 oz). Martinis are meant to be served ice cold, but because so many restaurants and bars use very large stemware there is simply no way to drink them quickly enough. Inevitably they become too warm and the flavor of the drink gets compromised. Bottom line: go for a smaller glass at home!

Be sure to stop back tomorrow for the Thursday Barlogue. I’ll be featuring Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth in Gloucester City, NJ!

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The Aviation: You had me at hello. Well, almost.

The Aviation: You had me at hello. Well, almost.

aviationI made my first Aviation cocktail about a year ago. Even though I was struck by how beautiful it was, I’ve never been one who falls for looks alone. I knew I needed to find out more if there was going to be anything real between us. I learned that the Aviation was considered to be one of the classic gin cocktails, and that its color came from Crème de Violette, a not so easy to find liqueur. That part intrigued me right away. You all know by now how much I love to go searching for unusual ingredients! As far as the history of this cocktail goes, it was first seen in print in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, by Hugo R. Ensslin, bartender at the Hotel Wallick on Broadway and 43rd Street, in 1916. At that point the Crème de Violette was definitely listed as one of the ingredients along with gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. In 1930, the recipe was printed again in The Savoy Cocktail Book, written by barman Harry Craddock, and considered by many to be the definitive cocktail guide of that era. It is still available for purchase today. Craddock eliminated the Crème de Violette (which would have made the drink much more sour), possibly because it was becoming largely unavailable in both Europe and the United States. In fact, it disappeared altogether in the 1960s and was not available again in this country until Rothman & Winter brought it back on the market in 2007 when the cocktail renaissance was just beginning here. It’s both interesting and sad to me that this particular cocktail was made for many years without the one ingredient that gives it it’s signature color and unforgettable taste. So now there’s a tragic story behind the beautiful face, making this drink even more irresistible!

The recipe that I like best is from Death & Company Modern Classic Cocktails. I have tasted this drink side by side made with this preparation and other recipes that omit the simple syrup. This seems more balanced to me and I was happy for the opportunity to use the Plymouth Gin which I found to be considerably softer and smoother. I used Rothman & Winter for the Crème de Violette which I found in a liquor store in Chelsea Market in New York City. It’s also available locally from Benash Liquors and Total Wine and More, both in Cherry Hill. They’ll need a few days lead time to get it in the store for you, but you won’t pay any shipping costs. There are other Crème de Violettes available and I am on the hunt for them. I’ll report back as soon as I know more!

The Aviation

2 oz Plymouth gin
1/2 Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur*
1/2 teaspoon Crème de Violette**
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 brandied cherry for garnish

Place all the ingredients in the bottom of a shaker tin and add your 1 large cube and 2 small. If you don’t have the large format cubes, fill the shaker 2/3 with regular ice. Shake for at least 15 seconds or until very cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry and serve. Enjoy!

*Available at most liquor stores

**Death & Co calls for Crème de Yvette in their recipe but I wanted to stay as closely as possible to the original.

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Gin: The extrovert at the party.

Gin: The extrovert at the party.

gin2I have to confess: I arrived a little late to the gin party. It’s a spirit that is not shy and I initially had some difficulty understanding its strong botanical personality. But now I look at that beautiful bottle of Bluecoat gin in the picture above and the classic martini next to it, and I don’t know how I ever thought I could make cocktails without it. I’ve come to realize that although it troubled me at first, gin’s juniper/botanical essence is the very thing that makes it such an awesome base spirit for a drink. It’s the perfect complement for the floral flavors in liqueurs like St. Germain and Crème de Violette, yet equally at home with the herbal notes of green and yellow Chartreuse. It opens up a world of possibilities for using simple syrups infused with things like ginger and jalapeño, as well as for muddling ingredients like basil and cucumber. What started out for me as just an appreciation for gin has developed into so much more than that, and I now find myself gravitating towards cocktails made with gin more than those made with any other base spirit.

There are a number of types of gin and it helps a whole lot to have a basic understanding of the differences between them:

London Dry gin starts out a neutral base spirit (very much like vodka) that is then redistilled with juniper and other botanicals. It does not have to be made in London but it cannot have any additional ingredients added in after distillation. It’s flavor profile is predominantly juniper and citrus. Gins like Tanqueray and Beefeater fall into this category. Hendrick’s does not because it has cucumber and rose infused in after distillation.

Plymouth gin can only be made in Plymouth, England and is similar to London Dry except that its flavor is softer and has less botanical notes and more citrus. This makes it a great starting point for people who are trying to develop a taste for gin. There is also a version called Navy strength with an ABV of 57%, which is fairly high.

Genever is originally from Holland and is made from a malted mash rather than a neutral spirit. I find its flavor and aroma to be very similar to whiskey, just not nearly as strong.

Old Tom is a British style of gin that has been around for a long time, and is recently making a reappearance on the cocktail scene. It is still juniper forward, but sweeter.

American gin does not neatly fall into any of the categories above. They are always redistilled with juniper and often have a crazy number of additional botanicals which you will immediately pick up in both aroma and taste. Many are small batch and handcrafted. Bluecoat is an American gin, as is Death’s Door.

So this information is nice to know, but how does it help? One of the most important things you can do when you’re trying to learn about cocktails is to figure out what you like best. This is true whether you’re making cocktails at home or ordering them out in a bar or restaurant. For example, if you don’t consider yourself much of a gin drinker then maybe you want to give Plymouth gin a try and see if that begins to change your mind. Or if you’ve only had a gin like Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire (both very botanical and floral) and you found that those flavors and aromas did not appeal to you, then maybe you want to try Bluecoat or Tanqueray, both of which have more of a citrus/juniper element to them. If you’re making a cocktail from a recipe or coming up with your own, you’ll want to consider the other ingredients that are in the drink. Is there cucumber and basil? Then you probably want something like Hendrick’s or The Botanist to play up those flavors even more. Or is the recipe for a Negroni which calls for more of the classic London dry gin style like we find in Beefeater. A gin and tonic? Totally up to you here. Which way do you want to go? The point is to try to taste as much as possible. That’s the only real way to begin to learn what appeals to you the most. And it’s fun!

Check back tomorrow when we’ll be making the classic Aviation Cocktail.

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