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looka, <lʊ´-kə> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look"; in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans, it is usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, cocktails as cuisine, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community ... and occasionally movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

Page last tweaked @ 1:10pm PDT, 6/26/2009

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Talesblog 2009

Tales of the Cocktail 2009

Buy my New Orleans music box set!

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores (such as the Louisiana Music Factory, because you should be supporting local New Orleans retailers) or via Amazon if you insist.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

2009:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun.

2008:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2007:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2006:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2005:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

My Photos on Flickr
My Darlin' New Orleans...

The Flag of The City of New Orleans

Shop New Orleans! Visit the stores linked here to do your virtual online shopping in New Orleans. The city needs your money!

Greater N.O. Community Data Center
New Orleans Wiki

Gambit Weekly & The Times-Picayune
Scat Magazine
WDSU-TV (Channel 6, NBC)
WGNO-TV (Channel 26, ABC)
WNOL-TV (Channel 38, WB)
WTUL-FM (91.5, Progressive radio)
WVUE-TV (Channel 8, FOX)
WWL-TV (Channel 4, CBS)
WWNO-FM (89.9, classical, jazz, NPR)
WWOZ-FM (90.7, Best Radio Station in the Universe)
WYES-TV (Channel 12, PBS)


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home.

2 Millionth Weblog
A Frolic of My Own
Ashley Morris (in memoriam)
Blogging New Orleans
Dispatches from Tanganyika
Home of the Groove
Humid City
Library Chronicles
Mellytawn Dreams
Metroblogging N.O.
People Get Ready
Da Po'Blog
Suspect Device Blog
The Third Battle of New Orleans
World Class New Orleans
The Yat Pundit
Your Right Hand Thief
Cocktail hour.

"We are still heartily of the opinion that decent libation supports as many million lives as it threatens; donates pleasure and sparkle to more lives than it shadows; inspires more brilliance in the world of art, music, letters, and common ordinary intelligent conversation, than it dims." -- Charles H. Baker, Jr.

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits in Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.
   (Their weblog.)

*     *     *

The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

*     *     *

Chuck & Wes' Liquor Cabinet
   (Frighteningly large, and would
   never fit in a cabinet)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Book Collection
   (Constantly growing)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

Peychaud's Bitters
   (Indispensible for Sazeracs
   and many other cocktails.
   Order them here.)

Angostura Bitters
   (The gold standard of bitters,
   fortunately available everywhere
   worldwide. Insist on it.)

Regans' Orange Bitters No. 6
   (Complex and spicy orange
   bitters for your Martinis,
   Old Fashioneds and many more.
   Order them here.)

Fee Brothers' Bitters
   (Classic orange bitters,
   peach bitters and a cinnamony
   "Old Fashion" aromatic bitters,
   plus new lemon & grapefruit bitters!)

The Bitter Truth
   (A new brand of bitters
   from Germany: orange, lemon,
   aromatic bitters and more!)

Bittermens Bitters
   (Fantastic new small-batch
   bitters company with forth-
   coming products including
   Xocolatl Mole Bitters,
   grapefruit, "tiki" spice,
   and sweet chocolate bitters, wow!    Due to launch 6/09)

*     *     *

   (Camper English)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Art of Drink:
   An exploration of Spirits & Mixology.
   (Darcy O'Neil)

Bar Mix Master
   (Brad Ellis, New Orleans)

Beachbum Berry:
   (Jeff Berry, world-class expert
   on tropical drinks)

   (Seamus Harris, N.Z. & China)

The Chanticleer Society
   (A worldwide organization of
   cocktail enthusiasts.)

Charming Cocktails
   (Cheryl Charming)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)
   (Group drinks blog by Vidiot,
   Mr. Bali Hai, Kosmonaut,
   Chico and me).

The Cocktail Circuit
   (Joseph Mailander)

Cocktail Nerd
   (Gabriel Szaszko)

Colonel Tiki's Drinks
   (Craig Hermann, Portland OR)

A Dash of Bitters
   (Michael Dietsch)

Dr. Bamboo
   (Craig Mrusek, bring art and
   alcohol together for a
   better tomorrow!)

Drink A Week
   (Alex and Ed)
   (Lauren Clark)

   (Robert Hess)

Drink Dogma
   (Bobby Heugel, Anvil Bar & Refuge,
   Houston, TX)

Drink Trader
   (Online magazine for the
   drink trade)

Esquire's Drinks Database
   (Dave Wondrich and
   his forbears)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

Imbibe Magazine
   (Celebrating the world in a glass.    All-new site with recipes and back issues!)

In the Land of Cocktails
   (Ti Adelaide Martin & Lally Brennan,
   "The Cocktail Chicks," of Café Adelaide
   & Commander's Palace, New Orleans)

Jeff Morgenthaler
   (Bartender & mixologist, Portland, OR)

Jimmy's Cocktail Hour
   (Jimmy Patrick)

Kaiser Penguin
    (Rick Stutz, bringing us cocktails
    and great photographs)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)

Liquid Architecture
   (Kim Haasarud)

The Liquid Muse
   (Natalie Bovis-Nelsen)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

The Ministry of Rum
   (Everything you always wanted to know)

Le Mixeur
   (The Munat Bros. host
   cocktail gatherings in
   Seattle, and write about them
   here. I'm jealous that I can't go.)

The Mixoloseum
   (Blog, cocktail chat online
   & Thursday Drink Night!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Moving at the Speed of Life
   (Keith Waldbauer, Barrio, Seattle WA)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Mr. Mixer
   (Hundreds of cocktail recipes ...
   in Hungarian. Well, why not?
   Sajnos, nem beszélek magyarul.)

The Munat Bros.
   (Seattle-based brothers and
   ardent proponents of fine drinking.)

Off the Presses
   (Robert Simonson)

Oh, Gosh!
   (Jay Hepburn, London)

Rowley's Whiskey Forge
   (Matt Rowley)
   (Matt Robold, The Rum Dood)

Save the Drinkers
   (Kevin Kelpe, Boise, Idaho!)

Scofflaw's Den
   (SeanMike Whipkey & Marshall Fawley)

   (Marleigh Riggins & Dan Miller)

Spirit Journal
   (F. Paul Pacult)

Spirits and Cocktails
   (Jamie Boudreau)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Thinking of Drinking
   (Sonja Kassebaum, Chicago)

Trader Tiki's Booze Blog
   (Blair Reynolds, Portland OR)

Two at the Most
   (Stevi Deter, Seattle)

The Wormwood Society
   (Dedicated to promoting accurate,
   current information about absinthe)

*     *     *

The Tiki-licious Luau Spirited Dinner, July 17, 2008
   (Eleven dishes of wonder by Chef
   Chris DeBarr, with fabulous
   tropical cocktails by Jeff "Beachbum"
   Berry and Wayne Curtis. Full review
   of the 11-dish, 4-course meal, with
   photos and recipes for all 5 drinks.)

Let's eat!

New Orleans:
Culinary Concierge (N.O. food & wine magazine)
Mr. Lake's Non-Pompous New Orleans Food Forum
The New Orleans Menu
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Chowhound (L.A.)
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
The Hungry Passport site and weblog)
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Practically Edible
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
Southern Food & Beverages Museum
Southern Foodways Alliance
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

Nat Decants (Natalie Maclean)
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wine Enthsiast
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine/spirits shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Mission Liquors, Pasadena
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Other wine/spirits shops we visit:
Beverage Warehouse, Mar Vista
Wally's Wine & Spirits, Westwood
The Wine House, West L.A.


Reading this month:

Lisey's Story, by Stephen King.

The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA

Talking furniture:

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream

Bob Walker's New Orleans Radio Shrine
   (A rich history of N.O. radio)
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Raidió Idirlíon
   (Irish language & music)
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

In the cinema:
Frost/Nixon (****)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Director's Cut (****)
Hellraiser: Bloodline (**)
Serenity (*****)
Third Man Out (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"Battlestar Galactica"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Top Chef"
"Father Ted"


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

My photographs at Flickr


The Abominable Charles Christopher
by Karl Kerschl

The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Suspect Device,
by Greg Peters

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
Think Progress
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
Jesus' General
Making Light
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Not Right About Anything
August J. Pollak
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Your Right Hand Thief

L.A. Blogs

Friends with pages:

mary & rick
mary katherine
michael p.

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple iMac 24" and a G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.5 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA! Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

Hot Sausage Seven Widow's Kisses Pete Fountain Tuba Fats' Jazz Funeral

 "Eating, drinking and carrying on..."  -- Adelaide Brennan

  Friday, June 26, 2009

Finally getting to Anvil!   Those of you who follow the Houston-based cocktail weblog Drink Dogma will have heard the good news that Bobby Heugel and his partners finally opened Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, a truly aptly-named refuge for cocktailians who for the most part have a difficult time finding a good drink in that city. I've been following their progress on their blog for months, and now that I'm in Houston for the next four days to visit family, a trip to Anvil is tops on my list (after playing with my nephew and niece, of course).

Here's a video report from Blockcast TV, who last month were making the rounds of Houston bars, and paid Bobby a visit at Anvil.

Anvil also got a nice mention in Gourmet magazine, too.

I'm due for my visit on Sunday -- with luck and a banishment of procrastination, I should have some great drink porn up by Monday.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, June 19, 2009

Doc's book to be revised and re-released!   Major huge big ol' cocktail book news, kids. The ever-amazing Ted Haigh, better known to the world of imbibing as Dr. Cocktail (cocktail historian, archaeologist, expert, teller of tales and epic drinker), wrote a book which was published in 2003 and quickly became indispensible. It is arguably responsible for the reappearance of a great number of truly forgotten (yet wonderful) cocktails in both homes and bars across our fair planet. Sadly, as great as it was, the book (as things happen) was not quite what Ted was hoping for. He didn't get to write as much history about each drink as he wished, due to short deadlines and huge projects in his day job as one of the best graphic designers in the moving picture biz. He had no control over the photography. Plus, it was a paperback that wouldn't lie flat on the bar (and you know how important that bit is). Then a couple of years ago the frakking publisher dropped it out of print! Very quickly copies started going on eBay for between $75 and $100 for what was once a $14 book.

Not long after he started talking about wanting to do a revised edition, and for that we were assured that we'd have to wait. Happily, the wait will soon be over. On July 1, 2009 (just in time for Tales of the Cocktail, coinkydinkally) we get the book back again, and then some. Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie, 100 Rediscovered Recipes and the Stories Behind Them will be better than ever.

Here's what Ted told us in email this week:

I agreed to do this new deluxe edition because I was assured a vast degree of creative control that many authors can only dream of. The result, as I said, is a book twice as long with lots more history and drink explanations (for both the original drinks and the many newly revealed ones as well) but that's only the tip of the Kold-Draft ice cube. This new book is hardcover. The cover is water resistant. The result of a clever binding trick, the book opens to any page and lies flat. The substantial historical research yielded photographs, discoveries, and insights, much of which will be newly revealed.

In the original book, I did not have complete control over the the drink photography, which was done thousands of miles away from me. The deluxe edition was photographed right here at Casa de Cocktail. I was the art director, stylist, bartender. I personally chose the photographer, the ultra-talented Claire Barrett. I think you'll see the difference; all of the images in the book are larger too.

Time moves on. Thus far, everything I've mentioned is a revision, an extension, and enhancement. The cocktail world has expanded and bloomed into full flower around the globe. The changes over the last critical five years have been extraordinary - and it's all chronicled in the deluxe edition. The resource appendix was entirely rewritten with expanded, up-to-date resources. Most importantly, there is a completely new section of the book looking at the Internet and the effect it has had on the cocktail renaissance we now enjoy. I name the twenty-five most influential online cocktail pioneers, interview them about it, and share their thoughts.

There you have it. This is the book I always wanted to do; the best Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails I am capable of.

To which I can only respond ... holy bejeebies!

Hold onto your hats, folks -- this will be made of pure, unadulterated awesome.

(And I add that I am honored and humbled that Ted saw fit to include me in that new section about cocktails and the Internetss, and for that I thank him from the bottom of my heart and liver.)

Preorder now at the above link if you like, and it'll be there in less than two weeks!

Rachel Maddow makes us a Jack Rose.   You may have heard that Rachel's one of us -- an inveterate cocktailian. She's serious and she (mostly) knows her stuff. She's spot-on about not using the applejack-branded product -- use Laird's bonded apple brandy or else Calvados. (She even uses our house brand!)

But for ghawd's sake, don't use that grenadine-stuff from the bottle. Make your own. It's easy, cheap and a thousand times better.

It was bound to happen.   My newest blog discovery ... as I note that the percentage of my close friends who are Jewish but who also love bacon and pork products of all kinds is one hundred. Ladies and gentlemen ... it's The Baconjew. It's a swine of the times! It's Treyf-o-rama!

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cocktails of the day: Minty Goodness.   A couple of weeks ago I got into a little online tête-à-têete with Chris Amirault of eGullet when he asked for suggestions for a mint cocktail he could have when he got home. "Don't say 'Mojito,' please," he added. I extended that to juleps too, since that's a bit obvious, and started mulling over the idea of a smash, a rum smash in particular. More on that in a moment.

I have a difficult history with mint in cocktails. I have come to love mint in its fresh form, yet continue to find most if not all mint-based liqueurs to be revolting. I even used to find mint juleps to be revolting, but that was because it was many, many years before I'd ever had a good one, and on a number of occasions I'd tried it I'd been served very poor imposters made with mint syrup (but, thank all the forces in the Cosmos, never an abomination like this).

All it takes, though is a good (or great) bartender to make you a proper mint julep, and the world of mint is your oyster. (Not only is this Cocktail of the Day, it's also Mixed Metaphor of the Day.)

Chris ended up settling on the Southside Cocktail, one that oddly enough I'd never had, and specifically the version made by Toby Maloney of The Violet Hour in Chicago. There are a number of various recipes for this drink, some calling for lemon (although most bartenders seem to use lime), and Dale DeGroff even calls for it to be topped with soda. I think I like Toby's version the best.

The Southside Cocktail
(version by Toby Maloney, The Violet Hour, Chicago)

2 ounces Beefeater gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
3/4 ounce simple syrup.
1 dash Angostura Bitters.

As shown above, place a sheaf of mint into the shaker and barely bruise it for a few seconds. (Do NOT muddle or grind it, as you'll end up getting the bitter, vegetal flavor of chlorophyll and ground leaves, and not the lovely aroma and flavor of the essential oils of the mint -- this is probably the biggest mistake people make when muddling mint to make Mojitos and other mint-bearing cocktails.)

Add the rest of the ingredients plus cracked ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Double-strain to remove any particles of mint, into a chilled cocktail glass. Spank a handful of mint over the glass to release more essential oils, and garnish with a single floated mint leaf.

Toby participated in an excellent eGullet thread on the Southside a while back, where he explained the evolution of how he came to make the cocktail the way it is (including the non-traditional addition of bitters, which he quite rightly says goes with gin "like ham and eggs"). It's still a good drink without bitters, but with ... it is the yum!

Some recipes call for it with a splash of soda to top it off in a cocktail glass, others call for making it into a long drink, like a Collins with mint. One person on eGullet suggested making it from a fizz into a royale by topping it with Champagne instead of soda. Toby adds that if you do you use Champagne, "don't forget to bump the simple about 1/2 ounce for every 2-3 ounces of Champers, as Champagne dries cocktails out."

One of the eGulleters noted that this drink is a perfect way to get the ginphobic vodka crowd to drink a gin-bearing cocktail. I agree, and so did Toby -- he noted that when he put it on The Violet Hour's menu, they sold it as a "gateway" gin cocktail (which is exatly the term I like to use). He added, "Many times, when requested to make it with vodka the bartender or server would recommend that it be made with 'this great botanical, citrus infused vodka we had.' It would then be made with Plymouth gin. Always a hit." (Hah! "Great botanical-and-citrus-infused vodka ... I am so stealing that.)

I got myself all distracted with this lovely cocktail and had forgotten completely about my own suggestion, which I tried the next night. It's a variation on the venerable Whiskey Smash, with rum as the base and Créole Shrubb instead of cura¸ao, and is kind of a riff on Max's Creole Julep, the official cocktail of Tales of the Cocktail this year.

St. Pierre Rum Smash
(just me messing around with rum and mint)

1-1/2 ounces Rhum Clément VSOP rhum agricole.
1/2 ounce Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum.
1/2 ounce Clément Créole Shrubb.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.
6 or 8 large mint leaves, no stems.

Bruise the mint gently in the shaker, then add the other ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds, then strain over ice into a large rocks glass. Garnish with a large sprig of mint.

Hmm, not bad!

The genius that is Michael Ruhlman (and his genius son James).   I'm really looking forward to Ruhlman's new book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking . I've enjoyed every single one of his books, and this one might just have the most practical uses yet. Ruhlman invokes one of his easy-to-remember ratios in describing the genius that runs through this family:

Last Sunday morning, my son James said, "Dad, what if you made a bowl out of cookie dough?"

(I love this kid already.)

I'm the first to admit that there are almost no truly new culinary innovations or ideas, only variations on what's come before us, and I also know that making a cookie to serve ice cream on, such as an ice cream sandwich, is a common one ... But when James said it, I said, "Very cool idea, James. Let's give it a shot." And so we did.

It's taken a few different methods to figure out the best way to bake them and how much to put in our bowl-in-a-bowl makeshift mold. But not too long. Very easy to bake, a little tricky to get out of the mold. But James's final verdict was emphatic: "Awesome!"

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Bowl!

I agree with James. My sister does too, apparently -- she said, "Feel free to recreate this when you come to visit next week!" I think I shall.

The best button in the world.   Speaks for itself.

Push Button, Receive Bacon

A friend of mine knew someone who took this image, had a bunch of stickers made up and put them on bathroom hand dryers everywhere he went. Brilliant (but inevitably leading to bitter disappointment of people who ... would eat bacon that was dispensed in a bathroom).

Geek Haiku of the Day.   As seen on Think Geek, one of my favorite places to order toys and fun stuff (even useful stuff!):

Use the Force, Malcolm
Gorram reavers on our tail!
Oops, wrong universe.


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  Monday, June 15, 2009

Mixology Monday XL: Ginger.   Good gawd, I cannot believe it's Mixology Monday again. Time is whooshing by so fast I'll be in the rest home before I know it. I'd better hurry up -- there's a lot of drinking to do before then.

The theme for this month's MxMo is ginger, and it's hosted by my good friend Matt, known to the drinking masses as The Rumdood. Matt specifies the theme and instructions thusly: "Find or concoct a cocktail recipe that uses ginger in one of its many forms as an ingredient. This can be muddled ginger, sliced ginger, ginger syrup, ginger beer (commercial or homemade), ginger liqueur, ginger candy, or pieces of a shredded photo of Ginger from Gilligan's Island."

I must apologize to my regular readers (all five of you!) for repeating a cocktail post a mere six months down the line, but I had one on hand -- an original, no less -- that fit right into the theme, and I was way too godsdamned busy lazy to invent another one this weekend. My rationalization -- this drink might get a bit more attention as part of MxMo, and get spread around a bit more. Yeah, that's it. I did managed to get this posted well before midnight, though (forty minutes to spare!), so Matt now won't get to taunt me for not participating. (<voice="Nelson"> HA ha! </voice>)

This was one that was created for the Los Angeles Downtown Sub-District Cocktail Contest, in which each of the 17 sub-districts of downtown Los Angeles was going to get its own cocktail. (I know, it's crazy, but we're a crazy bunch.) The Rules: A stirred cocktail using a base spirit, modifying vermouth, liqueur (i.e. Bénédictine, Curaçao, etc.) or sweetening agent, and some type of bitter. No citrus. (Citrus is plentiful in L.A. and it's too easy; we didn't want a whole bunch of sours either.) Also, ingredients had to be readily available, meaning no homemade ingredients or extremely, obscure hard to find ingredients. The idea was to be able to make these on a regular basis and promote making them around the city, or at least around the bigger downtown bars, so they should be somewhat approachable. Entrants were encouraged to do some research on the history of the district they were aiming for, to help the drink reflect both the past and present in that district

I decided to go for the Toy District, bordered by 3rd Street on the north and 5th Street on the south, Los Angeles Street on the west and San Pedro Street on the east. It's filled with myriad shops for inexpensive toys, trinkets, and you-name-it. It's also pretty bustling, at least during the day. For years one of my best friends lived in a loft in the Toy District, and there we did lots of eating, drinking and carrying on. (Good, good times.) Besides the personal inspiration, I did a bit of digging and found out some interesting things about the neighborhood.

Before the wave of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere in Asia arrived to make the Toy District into what we know it to be today, the neighborhood was "filled with the colorful sights and fragrant smells of old Greece", according to the Los Angeles Times, and was known as Greek Town. The city's first Greek restaurant was on 4th Street, with Kalamata olive oil importers a few doors down. There were 65 Greek businesses clustered in the area, although few remain today and all but two of the original buildings have been razed.

I chose one of my base spirits, Metaxa, to reflect the flavors of the community in old Greek Town, augmenting it with rye whiskey to give it balance, to help keep the very floral Metaxa from taking over (which it has a tendency to do), a sturdier backbone and to reflect my love of the downtown drinking scene (I like to drink whiskey in downtown bars). The bitter component is Amaro Ramazzotti, complementing the floral notes of the Metaxa with bitter orange and fragrant spice (plus, the Romans had pretty much all the same gods as the Greeks). Lillet is there to help bring the flavors together, and to reflect the presence of fabulous French dip sandwiches a few blocks away. A muddled slice of ginger, as well as the ginger garnish, reflects the current Asian population of the Toy District and gives the drink a bit of brightness and zing.

Okay, I'm being silly with some of the symbolism there, but I wanted a Greek spirit and thought it'd taste good with the Italian amaro (wonderful stuff -- I love amaro in cocktails, as you can probably tell), and the other ingredients were chosen for taste and balance. I worked on this for about three days, and Wes and I drank most of the not-quites. (Hence, we were fairly shitfaced on the Friday and Saturday of drink-testing weekend for the contest.) I'm pretty happy with the result.

The Toy District 

The Toy District Cocktail

1 ounce Metaxa 7 Star.
1 ounce bonded rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100).
3/4 ounce Amaro Ramazzotti.
1/2 ounce Lillet blanc.
2 1/4" thick slices of fresh ginger.
1 orange peel

Combine rye and Metaxa and 1 slice of ginger in a mixing glass. Muddle the ginger slice to extract flavor, crushing well to get some juice out (the spirits should look a little cloudy). Add remaining ingredients and ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Double-strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with additional ginger slice and orange peel.

I was wary of bringing in the Greek ingredient -- it seemed as if it'd have to be either ouzo (a bit too obvious, I thought) or Metaxa, and both of them can be too overpowering. I think this drink achieved what I was going for and managed a balance between some pretty strong flavors. Hope you enjoy!

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  Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eek.   Busy busy busy! Not what Bokononists whisper when they think about how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is, just me over the last couple of weeks. I have a backlog of stuff and I'll start trickling it out. I hope you haven't forgotten the blog exists. I know, 13 days is eons on the Internetss. Memes have come and gone during such relatively geological passages of time!

Bittermens Bitters are out!!   Just in time for my return to weblogging is the huge news that the long awaited The Bitter Truth / Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters Bittermens Bitters are now officially released! And here's the surprise ... well, not too surprising, given all the trouble Avery and Janet have had with regulation of production and whatnot (apparently it's a lot easier to be a winery or even a distillery, but the governmental regulators seem to have NO idea what to do with bitters). It's being produced as a co-branded product by Stephan Berg & Co. at The Bitter Truth in Germany. I'm not sure what this will mean for availability, as TBT bitters still aren't the easiest to find in the States just yet, but you can mail-order them from Germany and a number of retail outlets have been carrying them (Bar Keeper in Silver Lake for L.A. folks, at DeLaurenti at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Cask in San Francisco, The Boston Shaker in Boston and I think one place in New Orleans that's escaping me at the moment.

There was mention in the press release that in the coming months there'll be worldwide distribution so that we'll see both The Bitter Truth and Bittermens bitters in retail shops and bars more readily. Until then ordering from Germany is your only recourse, with steep shipping (the package I just ordered, four bottles and a t-shirt, ran me €23, eep). For bitters freaks like me, though, it's very much worth it. And we all need our The Bitter Truth/Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters to make our Eagle Rock cocktails at the very least! Can't wait to try that in a Manhattan too, mmmm.

Congratulations Avery & Janet! And thanks Stephan & Alex!

P.S. -- The NYT link above includes a recipe for Regans' Orange Bitters No. 5 (the commercial product is No. 6), if you want to take a whack at making bitters at home. If you haven't done so, give it a try. It's relatively easy and fun, and might just spark your creativity to whip up an original house bitters recipe.

Rock 'n rye baby, on the tree top ...   OK, that's not how it really goes, but in my household it kinda did. I suppose I'm only speaking to those of us of a certain age, but ... remember rock 'n rye? It was available bottled from a number of spirits companies, and in its simplest form is just rye whiskey mixed with rock candy for sweetener. Why not just use simple syrup? Well, as Eric Felten notes in his regular Wall Street Journal column, using rock candy as a sweetener keeps the proof high, as the water in simple syrup would reduce it. Why not just use granulated sugar? Well ... um, because it's messy, I guess.

Rock and rye was also hailed (perhaps someone dubiously) for its medicinal uses as a cough suppressant. I can't vouch for any kind of medical research, but I can say from personal experience that when I was a little kid, keeping my parents up at night with coughing, my dad would fetch a bottle of rock and rye, pour a tablespoon or so of it, administer it to me and BAM! Before you knew it, I was snoozing soundly and not coughing. Miracle drug, that. (When rock and rye became less and less available, Dad switched to Southern Comfort. That's when it started to creep into the territory of Nasty Medicine.)

LeNell Smothers offers us her own recipe for Rock and Rye, which even includes a horehound herbal tea bag for actual cough suppressant value. I'm gonna make a batch of this very soon, both to relive my childhood and expand the horizons of my adulthood.

And it's so tasty, too! Just like candy! (I will definitely be one of the happy peppy people who will not pop out at parties, nor will I be unpoopular.)

May Looka! entries have been permanently archived.

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