DC Drinks

Reviews, rantlets and ribald on all things alcoholic.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rum and Coke: Drink of the Shiftless, Idle and Indolent

It was mid-day at a resort just south of Castries in St. Lucia and a round, pink-faced British kid was tugging at my leg for a rematch. I'd just mercilessly beat him in a game of giant-sized chess (the pieces themselves were bigger than the youth) and the teary-eyed tyke sought revenge. I obliged. What's better than beating a suckling youth once in a game of skill? Doing it twice.

By luck he'd escaped capture in the first three moves, but shortly thereafter I decimated his scattered defenses like they were the Iraqi Republican Guard. I lept and howled as I captured his queen and stared down his king. His sister ran off, presumably to get his parents. But defeat is defeat and I told him to ante up. He'd have to give me the shells he collected along the beach earlier that day.

When his parents arrived I told them I was only joking. They dragged him off after some intercontinental banter and a few uncomfortable laughs, and decided no police involvement was necessary.

What could have proceeded this misadventure? Two words:

Rum and Coke.

Or rather twelve words:

Rum and Coke,
Rum and Coke,
Rum and Coke,
Rum and Coke,
Rum and Coke
Rum and Coke.

For breakfast, I'd decided to take advantage of the resort's free bar and started drinking Rum and Cokes at 10 A.M. A few hours later, I challenged a fat kid to a game of chess.

You see, Rum and Cokes are the drink of leisure. Born of struggle (during the Spanish American War not Fidel's) Cuba Libres, another name for rum, Coke and lime, were destined to be the drink of the next generation, the one that didn't have to fight. The lazy one.

Rum and cokes are easy to drink, easy to make and easy to get the ingredients almost anywhere in the world. The recipe is in the name (unless you call it a Cuba Libre); Coca-Cola's cheaper and less complicated than lime juice (see Lonnie's post); and almost any proportion works. Try it. Coke is a magical mixer, it seems to almost always balance out as opposed to tonic, which requires skilled mixing.

With that kind of ease, Rum and Cokes are downed quicker and with less thought than cocktails that require patience and precision. Damn the "nothing-better-to-do" persona of the sweet devil! Idle hands are Rum and Coke's playground.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New York's Oldest Bartender is a God Damn Teetotaler

I have mixed feelings about 90-year-old Hoy Wong, the oldest barman in the best drinking town in the United States of America. While he has served drinkers from John Lennon to Joe Di Maggio to Marilyn Monroe, he himself quit drinking 30 years ago.

To be sure, our inspiring 90 year-old Hong Kongian immigrant is still working and loving his craft of mixology, but having not tasted a single drink he's shaken or stirred since Isaac and I were three years old (!), he loses serious credibility.

What if Colin Field or Dale DeGroff hadn't actually tasted their own concoctions since 1976?

Better yet, what if Anthony Bourdain's face twisted with repugnance at the sight of Chinese pan-seared sheep's stomach or if Emeril Lagase was truly nauseated every time he shelled a craw-dad?

Mr. Wong's 90th birthday raises important questions for the mixology community. Can we accept teetotalers into our fold? Or are they posers, through and through?

Perhaps this just further proves that New York isn't the scroungy-old drinking town that exists in modern mixologists' minds; it's just another stop on the highway where the oldest drink-slinger can be a teetotaling Christian (cringe) or anything else he wants ...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Seeing Red: Craft Grenadines

If you were reading along in a bar recipe book and as a third and fourth ingredient it read, "Three drops Red Dye #40, 1/2 oz. of Corn Syrup" you'd close the book and wing it from the balcony like a foam boommerang faster than I can say polypropylene.

Making good drinks requires chemistry, but not chemistry alone. Craft products and natural ingredients are reemerging at the forefront of an "ingredients matter" philosophy of bartending.

Chief among the mixers to take a death blow is none other than the chemical syrup itself, grenadine. The reason why is simple: Corn syrup and dye just don't belong in well crafted libations, even if it's the cornerstone of the number one selling children's "cocktail."

Let's start with the shocker for those of you who have yet to explore the outerdepths of the speed rail, past the peach brandy and green creme de menthe: grenadine is made from pomegranates. Or I should say, is supposed to be made from pomegranates. (The mass produced stuff rarely is.) In fact, "granada" is the Spanish word for pomegranate.

Fortunately, alternatives to the mass produced Bols and Dekuypers Grenadine exist and they actually contain pomegranates or pomegranate extract. Even better, I've drank them with such enduring cocktails as the Jack Rose and they're delicious.

For instance, there's Fee Brothers' American Beauty Grenadine. Fee Brothers also make several flavors of bitters, so it's no surprise to find them selling craft bar mixers. Presumably named after the cocktail of the same name, American Beauty is a little medicinal with a rich character.

Then there's my personal favorite, Stirrings Authentic Grenadine. It's the real deal. With a deep red color and satisfying sweetness, Stirrings Grenadine is so delicious you could have a Grenadine over ice with soda water.

So don't toss the recipe book yet. There's still hope for Grenadine.