“Treme” Explained, Episode 8: “All on a Mardi Gras Day”

I know, I’m late again. Busy week. We were out yesterday so I’m even an episode behind, eek! But let’s just dive right in … ’cause it’s Mardi Gras! (Well, in the timeline of “Treme” it was last week; in real life Mardi Gras was almost four months ago.)

Here’s last week’s installment of Dave Walker’s “Treme” Explained column for Episode 8, “All on a Mardi Gras Day.” Some excerpts, and my annotations:

The episode’s title is “All on a Mardi Gras Day,” a song that describes music and Mardi Gras Indian pageantry on Fat Tuesday.

“All on a Mardi Gras Day” is also the title of two works of interest to “Treme” fans who want to learn more about New Orleans Carnival traditions. One is a 1995 book by Reid Mitchell tracing Mardi Gras history and traditions (its subtitle: “Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival”). The other is a 2003 documentary by Royce Osborn focusing on black Carnival traditions.



Delmond checks into the Loews New Orleans Hotel on Poydras Street. Hotel rooms were hard to come by for Mardi Gras 2006: Almost half of the available hotel rooms during that time were occupied by public safety and recovery workers, as well as residents who’d lost homes and apartments.

The Loews Hotel also houses one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans, Café Adelaide, and one of the city’s better bars, The Swizzle Stick.

Whole Fried Trout with Corn and Crawfish Hash and Watermelon Caipirinha Sauce

Whole Fried Trout with Corn and Crawfish Hash and Watermelon Caipirinha Sauce

 

The Twentieth Century Cocktail

The Twentieth Century Cocktail at Café Adelaide's Swizzle Stick Bar, containing gin, lemon juice, white creme de cacao and Lillet blanc.

You should go there soon.

Antoine’s gig is at the Howlin’ Wolf nightclub in the downtown Warehouse District. The band he joins is Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. Guitarist Ian Neville is the son of Art Neville of the Neville Brothers. Keyboardist Ivan is the son of Neville Brother Aaron.



Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is a holiday in New Orleans. Most schools are off all week, hence Sofia Bernette’s availability to take a drive to the lakefront with her father on Lundi Gras, the Monday before Mardi Gras.

When I first moved to L.A., I had hardly ever been outside New Orleans — family vacations in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, a brief stop at Rock City in Tennessee, and a weekend trip to Carbondale, IL to check out a school. Getting to L.A. and finding out that for starters you couldn’t drink on the street was a major culture shock. Then finding out that we don’t get Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday off from school and work … what kind of heathen land had I moved to?! My SceniCruiser had taken me beyond Baton Rouge and truly into the heart of darkness.

Creighton Bernette displays symptoms of depression, a chronic condition in New Orleans post-Katrina even among residents who were comparatively lucky in the storm.

Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wrote about his own battle with post-K depression in October 2006.

“My hands shook,” he wrote. “I had to look down when I walked down the steps, holding the banister to keep steady. I was at risk every time I got behind the wheel of a car; I couldn’t pay attention.

“I lost 15 pounds and it’s safe to say I didn’t have a lot to give. I stopped talking to Kelly, my wife. She loathed me, my silences, my distance, my inertia.

“I stopped walking my dog, so she hated me, too. The grass and weeds in my yard just grew and grew.

“I stopped talking to my family and my friends. I stopped answering phone calls and e-mails. I maintained limited communication with my editors to keep my job but I started missing deadlines anyway.

“I tried to keep an open line of communication with my kids to keep my sanity, but it was still slipping away. My two oldest, 7 and 5, began asking: ‘What are you looking at, Daddy?’

“The thousand-yard stare. I couldn’t shake it. Boring holes into the house behind my back yard. Daddy is a zombie. That was my movie: Night of the Living Dead. Followed by Morning of the Living Dead, followed by Afternoon …”



By the way, don’t ever call the streetcar a “trolley” in New Orleans; it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not from there. I’ll cut him some slack as he did say “streetcar line” first.

Chris Rose’s book 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina is a must-get.

Antoine gigs again at Donna’s, a Rampart Street landmark of traditional New Orleans music. That’s oft-irascible bandleader (and WWOZ FM-90.7 DJ) Bob French on drums.

Antoine greets Al Johnson at the bar. Johnson recorded the Mardi Gras classic “Carnival Time,” the lyrics of which describe Fat Tuesday activities in the Faubourg Treme neighborhood, in 1960. He was 2005 King of Krewe du Vieux. “Carnival Time” plays under the later scene in which Janette and Jacques cook for parade-goers on the traditional St. Charles Ave. parade route.

“Milenberg Joys” was recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, New Orleans musicians living and working in Chicago, in 1923, with its composer, Jelly Roll Morton, on piano. The Milneburg entertainment district in New Orleans, located approximately where Elysian Fields Avenue once met Lake Pontchartrain, was a popular entertainment destination for New Orleanians from the 1870s until the 1930s. Many visitors, drawn by the outpost’s dance halls, arrived by a train known as the Smokey Mary. The area was reclaimed and redeveloped, and a lighthouse is the only remnant of the district today. The Pontchartrain Beach amusement park operated near the site through the middle decades of the 20th century. The University of New Orleans now occupies part of the original Milneburg site.

For this and much more, see the rest of Dave Walker’s column in the T-P.

 

Lillet Tomlin – Reformulating an old cocktail

The CSOWG‘s Thursday Drink Night (hosted in that wretched hive of scum and villainy delightful online chat room called The Mixoloseum Bar) on May 27, 2010 featured a sponsored product that may have escaped your attention — Mandarine Napoléon.

According to its producers, this French liqueur was originally created by Antoine-François de Fourcroy (1755-1809), Napoléon Bonaparte’s personal physician. Mandarines grew well on the isle of Corsica, the Emperor’s birthplace, and supposedly it was de Fourcroy who first macerated mandarine peels in strong alcohol, distilled the maceration and blended it with aged Cognac. The Emperor was so taken with the product that he often invited his physician to share a glass with him. Mandarine Napoléon was first bottled in 1892, and until very recently was still owned by the de Fourcroy family. De Kuyper, the Dutch producer of liqueurs and genevers, bought the product from the de Fourcroys about 9 months ago. However, according to a recent article in CLASS magazine, the Belgian distillery that’s produced the spirit base for the product since 1998 continues to do so, distilling the mandarine peels and botanicals, all of which is “sent to De Kuyper’s production facility for blending and bottling.”

The process is more or less the same as it’s always been– maceration of mandarine peels from Sicily and Spain in grain alcohol, distillation of the result, resting in vats for two years, sweetening and blending with various Cognacs with at least 6 years of age. The result is a deep, delicious liqueur at 77 proof, sweet but not cloying, and a strong mandarine flavor. It’s one of the best citrus liqueurs out there, and deserves some of the attention given to Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

Mandarine Napoléon’s public relations folks kindly sponsored a TDN and encouraged us to experiment, resulting in a number of really tasty cocktails. I, of course, lazy bastard that I am, decided to fall back on an existing cocktail of mine, because it so happened that I had already created a cocktail containing this liqueur. I had to stick with it, because it’s probably the best cocktail name I’ve ever come up with. (C’mon, a pun that doesn’t make you groan? That actually makes you laugh! Such a rarity!)

I hadn’t had one in a while, though I remember it being well-received by folks I had made it for at the time. Perhaps the most memorable fan is a friend of mine who might not be who you’d typically picture when you think of someone quaffing a cocktail made of Belgian liqueur and French apéritif wine — a country & Western bandleader, songwriter and guitar player (and a damned good one too). He came over with some friends one night, fell in love with this drink and quaffed them all evening long. Still, I thought it needed another look, just in case; I whipped one up to revisit and evaluate before submission.

Hmm.

Sure, still tasty. But it was sweet. Definitely sweeter than is our taste in cocktails these days (although perhaps not so much 10 years ago, when I came up with it.) Not quite balanced. Needed a little rejiggering.

Here’s the old post I wrote way back in September of 2000, talking about how I came up with the drink (and, as I recall, it’s the first cocktail I came up with on my own, albeit one that sprang from another):

Consider the Lillets…

(Stop groaning. It’s only going to get worse from here.)

Wes and I were browsing yesterday at a nifty antique shop and, naturally, stopped to peruse the barware section. They had a book on vintage barware, and in it was a recipe for a cocktail that sounded fascinating, and not only because I loved the name — the Tiger Lillet.

Lillet Blanc is, of course, the French aperitif white wine with hints of citrus and spice, and I’m quite fond of it. The recipe they printed didn’t quite add up, though — it called for 1/3 Lillet, 1/3 Van der Hum (a South African tangerine liqueur based on brandy) and 1/6 “Maraschino syrup”. Hmm. That’s only 5/6 of a drink. And what do they mean by Maraschino syrup? Do they mean Maraschino liqueur, or the thin sweet “juice” that the maraschino cherries come in? Was there a cocktail flavoring product back then that was a low- or no-alcohol cherry syrup? Despite this hole in the recipe, I thought the drink sounded very promising.

The web to the rescue! I found a site that had a more complete recipe which stated, as did the book, that the drink was the winner of the World Cocktail Championship in London in 1952, and was created by a barman named Mr. J. Jones (now that’s an unusual name). Here’s the actual recipe:

Tiger Lillet

1/3 Lillet.
1/3 Van der Hum.
1/6 Dry Vermouth.
1/6 Maraschino.

Shake and Strain. Serve with small piece of Orange Peel.

BZZZZZT! The dry vermouth just killed it for me. I do not like vermouth of any kind. I do not like it in a bar, I do not like it in a car. I do not like it in my drink; tastes quite nasty, that I think.

(Good gods … can you believe I actually said that. I used to hate vermouth. Well, in 2000 I was a toddler as far as fine and historic cocktails were concerned, and I think that at the time I was suffering from the same thing most people who think they hate vermouth suffer from — they’re drinking vermouth that has gotten old and gone bad. Ah, the things that change in ten years … in fact, fortunately for me, only a couple of years later I was quaffing vermouth-bearing cocktails with glee.) Now, back to the past:

So … how to go about changing this drink to suit my taste? Well, for starters, in all my digging through the two finest wine and spirits shops in Los Angeles, I’d never once seen Van der Hum liqueur. Fortunately, right there in my bar cabinet is a bottle of Mandarine Napoléon, another tangerine liqueur that’s based on brandy, which I thought would make an excellent substitute.

Another aside — it turned out that there is a “Maraschino syrup” product out there, the most widely-available of which is made by the Reese company, who’ve made some of the viler jarred products I’ve been unfortunately enough to buy in the supermarket. It’s artificially colored bright red, presumably a thicker version of the syrup in the horried neon red “maraschino” supermarket cherries — the use of which we’ve eschewed for years — and therefore vile. It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Jones used maraschino liqueur and not a syrup. Continuing with the old post:

We’re also fine for the maraschino — I love Liquore de Maraschino, and I have a bottle of Luxardo’s fine product right there in my bar.

Now, to replace the vermouth. For a 3-ounce drink, I’m really only substituting one tablespoon’s worth of liquor. I think the 1/3 Lillet content takes care of the aperitif wine flavor without adding more from vermouth, so I thought a bit about what might complement the flavor of both the Lillet and the Mandarine Napoléon. Cointreau and Grand Marnier were out, because I thought we had the citrus flavor covered. How ’bout … Cognac? Hmmmmm. Complimentary flavor, keeps it all French (“IT IS BELGIAN!” shrieks Poirot predictably, while sipping a cordial glass of Mandarine Napoléon) and gives it a slight extra kick. I like it. I liked it even better when I mixed one up and drank it last night.

Now, to name the drink. I can’t call it a Tiger Lillet anymore, since one ingredient has changed. That’s one of the cardinal laws of cooking — if you steal a recipe, you can get away with it by changing an ingredient or two, and then changing the name of the dish.

What’s Up, Tiger Lillet? I like Woody Allen, but that’s too close to the original. Calla Lillet? Kate Hepburn might like it, but I dunno… Gilded Lillet? Hrmm. Lillet Munster? Too silly! Lillet of the Valley? Lillet of the Field? Bleuchh. I really didn’t consider Consider The Lillet, either.

Finally, it struck me. I named the drink for someone I’ve really liked for a very long time and whose work has given me a great deal of enjoyment over the years. And that’s the truthhhhhh.

That old recipe called for an ounce each of Lillet and Mandarine Napoléon, and half-ounce each of Cognac and maraschino.

Okay. On the right track. But tooooo sweet.

A little thought, a little rebalancing. We still want to keep the Lillet as a base, but we want to up the Cognac to give it more backbone. Mandarine Napoléon is good, but a whole ounce of it was too much and lets a candylike sweetness creep forward. Back that off by a quarter of an ounce, and back off the maraschino too. That should be there to help the fruit and Cognac flavors blend and round out, not to add any more sweetness. I decided to switch to the drier Croatian Maraska brand rather than the more powerful (and sweeter) Italian brand Luxardo. Finally, a dash of bitters for spice, edge and brightness.

Y’know, the flavor profile is pretty much the same, but this is a far superior drink. Consider the Lillet … reformulated.

LILLET TOMLIN

1 ounce Lillet.
1 ounce Cognac.
3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoléon.
1/4 ounce Maraska maraschino liqueur.
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6.

Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a strip of orange peel, expressed over the glass and rubbed upon the rim. Garnish additionally with two ringy-dingys and serve to the party to whom you are speaking.

 

“Treme” Explained, Episode 7: “Smoke My Peace Pipe”

Eek! This post is very late. Thanks to the “Lost” finale we didn’t get a chance to watch “Treme” last Sunday, and thanks to various cocktailing events we didn’t even see it until Wednesday (and Thursday was busy). Without further ado … the annotated Dave Walker’s “‘Treme’ Explained’ column for last Sunday’s presentation, episode 7. Here are a few excerpts to get you going, with a few of my additions and annotations:

Smoke My Peace Pipe

The episode title is “Smoke My Peace Pipe,” a song that appeared on a self-titled 1974 LP by The Wild Magnolias. Full title: “Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke it Right).” [listen]

The wonders of Trout Baquet are known to thousands via the dish’s availability on the grounds of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell. In a video on this page, Lil’ Dizzy’s proprietor and New Orleans culinary royalty Wayne Baquet talks the late Chappy Hardy through the recipe.

Here’s that recipe, from the man himself (i.e., Wayne Baquet).

TROUT BAQUET

“Okay … You take … um, you chop some garlic and onion, and you get some lemon, and some lump white crabmeat, and some butter or margarine, depending on how healthy you want this thing to be.* You take a skillet, a small skillet, and you do this to order, you know. You put a little bit of your butter in there, say, a teaspoon of garlic, a nice handful of onion, and you sauté that, until they’re tender. They don’t need to be clear, just ’til they start getting tender. Sprinkle a little lemon in. Add a little bit more butter, so now you have a butter sauce. Take a pound of lump white crabmeat, and toss it in — don’t break it up, toss it in. All right. That’s your sauce.

“Take your skillet. Put just a little bit of vegetable oil in it. Take your two filets of trout — one trout cut in two nice filets, about 4 ounces each. Salt and pepper. Put it in your skillet. No breading. Put lemon on top of it, and grill it in the frying pan. You can use a Teflon frying pan that works real well, or you can have a treated pan … you have a seasoned iron pan and it won’t stick. Now you put it on the side that you fileted down, ’cause the part that’s not going to break up. You gonna cook 90% of it on that side, you know that. You’re gonna flip it for a second, just to get it, flip it for just a second, then you flip it back. Because the fish is going to cook through, you know how fish cooks. Then you take those two nice filets, plate ‘em up, take that sauce, put it over the top of it … unbelievable.

“Unbelievable. You’ll love it.”

Boy, is he right. This is one of the simplest, and one of the best, New Orleans dishes ever.

* – By the way, don’t use margarine. Use butter. It’s healthier and tastier. (Seriously, butterfat is not nearly as bad for you as the hydrogenated trans-fat in margarine.)

Janette Desautel meets with chef John Besh in his flagship Restaurant August. Besh stars in “Inedible to Incredible,” a TLC cable network series scheduled to debut June 14. He’s also been prepping a cooking show to air nationally on PBS in 2011. His other restaurants included Luke, Best Steak, La Provence, Domenica and The American Sector in the National World War II Museum. Besh sent the visiting celebrity chefs to Desautel’s in episode five.

Here’s Chef Besh talking about his fantastic new cookbook (and makes a pot of quick gumbo), and about his five restaurants:


 

Janette and Davis set up her mobile rig at Bacchanal, a wine and spirits shop, live-music venue and deli at 600 Poland Ave. in the Bywater. Its patio and backyard were a setting for post-Katrina feasts prepared by restaurantless or moonlighting chefs. The tradition continues.

I love Bacchanal. It’s on Poland and Chartres, 3 blocks down and 1 block over from my grandparents’ old house and corner grocery, so I really feel at home in that neighborhood. I wish I could get there more often, and if I lived back home I’d be there all the time. Reading about the dinners that Chef Pete of the late, lamented Marisol used to make there, and not being able to be there, nearly drove me insane.

Bacchanal Wine and Spirits, in the Bywater, New Orleans

Bacchanal Wine and Spirits, in the Bywater, New Orleans

The patio at Bacchanal

The patio at Bacchanal

For more about Bacchanal Sundays (featuring live music, guest chefs and a great time for the whole family), the food and music featured in the show, the occupations of the housing projects, the longstanding tensions between the Mardi Gras Indians and the NOPD, the morgue situation post-K and much more, make sure you read the whole column.

I should have the next “Treme” post up on Monday. That will mean only two episodes to go this season. It’ll be ending soon, and no more ’til next year!

:-(

Port Cocktails: The Chocolate Cocktail No. 1

That bottle of ruby Port still isn’t empty, and we’re going to keep making cocktails with it until it is. When thinking of what to do next this one immediately came to mind, especially because it’s one of those wondrous tidbits of cocktail alchemy where ingredients go together and end up tasting entirely like … something else.

That something else in this case is chocolate. Kinda. ("Well, it certainly doesn’t not taste like chocolate," as Wesly put it.) No, it’s nothing like the so-called “Chocolate Martini” (of which I maintain there is no such thing, because a Martini contains gin and vermouth and sometimes orange bitters and never, ever chocolate), nor even like the several legitimately tasty chocolate-based cocktails, since this cocktail contains no chocolate at all, with the possible, optional exception of a slight dusting of cocoa on its surface as garnish, and to provide a tidbit of aroma. Even without that … it looks like chocolate and (kinda) tastes something like chocolate too. It’s really fun.

This one’s a relative of another port-and-egg cocktail that we’ll do a bit later on, and both of them fall into the category of what Maks Pazuniak called “mindfuck cocktails” in his and Kirk Estopinal’s now sadly out-of-print book Rogue Cocktails (which will be back in print in a revised edition and under another title soon, we hope). That’s another technical term for “cocktail alchemy,” of course.

Maks and Kirk listed this one as the “Chocolate Cocktail No. 2,” adapted from Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual, which was first published in 1934. Duffy lists two Chocolate Cocktails, with No. 2 being “3/4 Port, 1/4 yellow Chartreuse, 1 egg yolk and a teaspoon of crushed chocolate.” Duffy’s No. 2 version is a jigger each of yellow Chartreuse and maraschino, with an egg yolk and a teaspoon of superfine sugar. I don’t see how the second one is going to taste much like chocolate, and didn’t particularly feel like spending a jigger of that rather expensive Chartreuse to find out (maybe one day). Their version, which brings the proportion down from 3:1 to 2:1, seemed to work very well, but to increase decrease confusion I think I’ll crank its number back to one.

The Chocolate Cocktail No. 2

THE CHOCOLATE COCKTAIL No. 1

2 ounces ruby Port
1 ounce yellow Chartreuse
1 egg yolk

Combine with ice and shake hard for 20 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and dust the surface of the drink with a bit of cocoa as garnish.

Who would’ve thought that port, Chartreuse and an egg yolk tastes kinda like chocolate. Nifty and very tasty.

Speaking of Patrick Gavin Duffy, my copy of his book came to me secondhand, as do many of my books. My dad had an extremely brittle and crumbly paperback edition from the early 1960s that up until five years ago was still around, although held together with a rubber band (the glue holding the spine together had long since dried out and crumbled away). Unfortunately, the Federal Flood resulting from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge being channeled right up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and into my parents’ part of the city drowned that book, along with everything else in the house.

My own copy is a hardback reprint from 1975 (revised and enlarged by Robert Jay Misch) which came with a gift inscription:

For Peg and Jim –

who don’t need much
of my help as “mixers”
(Careful of the cocktail on p. 48)

All the best,

Bob M.

8/4/76
S.F.

Presumably the “S.F.” is San Francisco, which also makes sense when you turn to page 48 to look up the cocktail he warned them about. To my delight, it’s Ada Coleman’s wonderful Hanky Panky, featuring that favorite bitter of the City by the Bay, Fernet Branca. After 34 years I don’t know if Peg and Jim and their friend Bob are still with us — I certainly hope they are — but I sure wouldn’t mind knocking back a few Hanky Pankys and Chocolate Cocktails with them. Your old book has a good home.

 

Drago Centro’s Cocktail Contest, Week 1

Chef Celestino Drago’s latest Los Angeles restaurant Drago Centro has looked and sounded so good for so long (a whole year and a half!) that it was almost criminal that we hadn’t been there yet. We finally made reservations for this past Saturday night, which promised to be an evening full of WIN. (And it was, in a couple of ways. Dinner was fantastico, bellissimo! I’ll have some food porn up from that later.)

We’ve been big fans of Chef Drago’s other restaurants around town (and I still miss his late, lamented Sicilian restaurant L’Arancino in West Hollywood). In addition to the enticing menu they’ve got a very good cocktail program (regularly spoken of with enthusiasm by our friend Mark, who’s a bartender there) that’s headed up by sommelier and beverage director Michael Shearin and head bartender Jaymee Mandeville.

Michael and Jaymee have been up to something interesting. They’ve organized something called the People’s Cocktail Contest, and it’s primarily happening via Twitter. Yes, I’ve been dragged screaming and kicking into the Twitter thing (I still refuse to use the word “tweet” as a verb), and despite having had problems with certain Twitter+food combinations in the past, I found myself inexorably drawn into this one (especially since it involves making cocktails and doesn’t involve anyone sending hundreds of the Teeming Masses into my neighborhood to wait 90 minutes in line for an expensive taco). Here’s how it works:

The contest lasts for four weeks. Each week on Monday, a “secret ingredient” will be announced via Twitter. (“Kyo no tema … KORE DESU!”) Participants will create an original cocktail featuring that ingredient. Cocktails are judged on appearance, aroma, taste, creativity, name, and its compatibility with the existing Drago Centro cocktail list. You post your recipe on Twitter, directing it to Drago Centro’s account (@DragoCentro) with the hashtag #pplscocktail to identify it. Include all instructions, muddle, shake, stir, whatever, and use 2-3 posts if you have to. The secret ingredient will be different each week, and each weekly round will end on Friday at noon. After 4 weeks the winners will battle it out live for a panel of judges. The winner will have his or her cocktail featured on Drago Centro’s list.

Week 1 was this past week, and last Monday the secret ingredient was announced, something “seasonal and appearing at all of our local farmer’s markets … BLUEBERRIES.

Well! That sounded fun. I gave it some thought, then decided to work with flavors that I knew worked well together, to use an Italian amaro and to keep it simple. I’ve enjoyed berry-infused whiskeys before, both Bourbon and rye, and decided to go with a higher-proof Bourbon. I probably would have preferred to steep the berries in the spirit for a couple of weeks, but there wasn’t enough time, so vigorous muddling was called for.

The first tries yielded not enough blueberry flavor, so I upped the number of berries until it seemed right. 12-16 was definitely too few, and about 20 seemed right. Taste your blueberries for tartness and flavor to determine how many you’ll need. The amaro was Ramazzotti, one of my favorites, not too bitter and with a nice flavor from Sicilian orange peels, along with rhubarb and a touch of cinnamon. I love the flavor of blueberries and cinnamon together — I recalled a fantastic risotto I had at Trattoria Tre Venezie in Pasadena with wild blueberries and cinnamon — and wanted to accentuate that cinnamon flavor while bumping up the sweetness just a bit. My friend Blair’s excellent new product did the trick, but you can make your own cinnamon syrup by steeping cinnamon sticks in hot simple syrup, or adding a cinnamon tincture to simple syrup if you’ve got it.

I wanted to name the drink after Violet Beauregarde, who was turned into a gigantic blueberry in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but “beau regarde” (literally “beautiful look,” in French) didn’t sound like something that’d fit into the cocktail menu of an Italian restaurant where all the drink names are in Italian. A quick (and bad) Google translation of “beau regarde” into Italian yielded “bello sguardo,” the grammatical and idiomiatic correctness of which got a “Nope” from Italian speaker and general manager Matteo Fernandini at the restaurant. He said he’d give it some thought, but I didn’t think to ask him later (and he was somewhat busy with that whole running-a-restaurant thing). Anita came to the rescue yesterday, saying that if we’re trying to be literal with “beau regard(e),” a better rendition would be “bell’aspetto,” an Italian expression for “handsome.” Bingo. Thanks, Anita. (I should really start learning some Italian.)

BELL’ASPETTO

2 ounces Woodford Reserve Bourbon whiskey
About 20-24 blueberries
1/2 ounce Amaro Ramazzotti
1 barspoon (tsp) Trader Tiki’s Cinnamon Syrup
Lemon peel

In a mixing glass, muddle the blueberries thoroughly in the whiskey. Add the Amaro and syrup, ice and shake for 15 seconds. Double-strain over ice into a large Old Fashioned glass, and garnish with a large swath of lemon peel.

We tried another one last night using Knob Creek Bourbon, at a higher proof of 100. We really liked it. We may even have liked it better. (Bonkers Wesly wants to try it with Stagg now.) Play around with your own favorite higher-proof Bourbon, but the “official” version still uses Woodford.

Oh, by the way, yesterday afternoon they sent out a Twitter post that out of fifteen entries — including one described as tasting “just like pot” (?!) — this past week’s winning cocktail was … this one. Hoo!

:D

A new theme ingredient goes up this afternoon. Check the @DragoCentro Twitter feed to find out what it is.

 

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