Archives for category: Drinks

 

Happy spring! With its beautiful colors and come-out-and-play weather, spring awakens our awareness of sensual pleasures like no other season. For the Grog Dog, it’s time to run like the gate was left open and roll in the sweet new grass!

While drinking dogs generally limit themselves to basic hydration, Dog Drinking GIFpeople drink for many other reasons, and pure enjoyment is not the worst of them. Modern cocktails in particular offer an almost unlimited range of flavors and textures (thank you, molecular gastronomists!), and due to their intoxicating effect, are the perfect medium to deliver a sensational spring day… or evening.

The tongue and palate are the major organs of taste, naturally, and although they are highly sensitive, they can only “report” their data to the brain, which must catalog and record the information so you remember that warm hint of absinthe in your Inside Job, or the surprising spark of celery bitters in your Oxford Comma.

So next time you mix or order a cocktail, take a moment to really taste it. Taste the cocktail. First, inhale at the rim of the glass and notice its scent as you take in the first sip with just a bit of air. Let it roll over your tongue, slowly. Bathe your taste buds in viscous sips of deliciousness. (And then try to say that phrase three times fast.)

drinking martini-dailymailukAs you swallow, open your lips slightly to allow the alcohol vapors to rise into your palate. Breathe in slowly through your mouth and nose, and savor the flavor of each ingredient as it evaporates. Lick the remaining drops from your lips and warm to the final tingle on your tongue. Sigh, and sip again. Notice how the first sip is different from the next, and the next, and the last. Take in the astringency of the gin, or the heat of spicy bourbon, or the sweet complexity of the liqueurs.

That’s the physical process of drink-tasting. While the temperature, flavor, and texture are dancing down your throat, your brain still needs to keep a firm grip on its analytical faculties to learn and catalog those taste sensations – warm or cool; sweet, spicy, or fruity; thick, foamy, or frosty. Is it too tart? Too watery? Too cold, or not cold enough? What individual flavors do you detect? Give your brain time between tastes to record the flavors, the textures, temperatures of each sip.

It doesn’t matter whether there’s absinthe in your cocktail – if you taste anise, there must be some chemical cousin to it in your glass. That won’t be fun if you don’t like anise, but you’ll have learned to do a little more taste-testing to find out what exactly you do like about that particular drink. Make a different cocktail that includes – or excludes – the ingredient you’re not sure of. Compare and contrast. Have a tasting party, and try several varieties of the same base spirit to see how they affect the overall flavor of one of your favorite cocktails.AJ1180423

Spring is the perfect time to rejuvenate your palate with some fresh sensations. Drink up, slowly, and savor the season!

Image credits: reddit.com (dog drinking); dailymailuk.com (sipping); Eavisa.com (daffodil)
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The Grog Dog is not a sentimental type; even after lapping up one too many cocktails, I won’t be howling over texts from an ex. But everyone has their emotional weakness, and cheeky word-humor is one of mine: Post a sly pun on my Facebook feed and I’ll follow you anywhere.

It was over beers with a friend – of one of the many brands specializing in name-puns – that I was reminded of “the language of flowers”, or floriography: a means of sending silent messages to friends, enemies, and lovers using blossoms that had specific, well known meanings. While flowers had been a staple of romantic communication for centuries, their cryptographic use became wildly popular in England and the U.S. during the repressed Victorian era.

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Strict social mores precluded young sweethearts, for example, from writing or speaking their ardor. To transmit their feelings or indicate their preferences, they would give, hold, or arrange specific blooms in accordance with floral dictionaries, so their intended recipient would know their meaning. Even the scent of certain love flowers, discreetly daubed on a handkerchief, could speak volumes to a suitor.

After imbibing a few brews chosen for their clever names rather than their flavors (I can’t resist a good pun or a bad one), I wondered whether cocktails might also be used to subtly communicate certain sentiments – specifically, cocktail names. Like stringing together an entire story with emojis, cocktail messaging could become a new bar craze among literary types… Cocktail EmojiOr introverts, who may not wish to be approached by a boozed-up barfly, but could carry on a (very) quiet conversation with that other single who has a sophisticated drink and a Kindle, and understand each other perfectly.

Let me be clear: I am not talking about the cocktails that proliferated during what the Corpse Reviver of the American cocktail, David Wondrich, called the Dark Ages: the Sex on the Beach, the Slippery Nipple, the Slow Comfortable Screw, etc. (I refuse to provide links; if you must, look them up yourself.) As he noted in an Esquire column, “those drinks resist craft”. They also resist taste, subtlety, and class.

To make the cocktail-name-conversation thought experiment a little simpler, and classier, I went back to Victorian times – or at least pre-Prohibition – to imagine a more romantic scene.

1st round: Jack Rose, Margarita

2nd round: ManhattanBrooklyn

3rd round: Tuxedo, Champagne Cocktail

blueblazer.it4th round: Hot ToddyMaiden’s Blush

5th round: Hanky Panky, Morning Glory

6th round: Old FashionedBijou

7th round: Scofflaw, White Lady

8th round: South SideTom Collins

9th round: Blue BlazerLast Word

Final round: Turf ClubMerry Widow

While the game is obviously much more fun when your cocktail companion knows you’re playing, you can amuse yourself for hours (or until you hit your limit) using your drink order to comment on life and the world in the moment. mutt-ropolitan-opera-calendar_merry-widow_operatoonityA friend of mine shakes up a Merry Widow when she’s particularly annoyed with her husband… Which may not change his habits, but fortifies her for the next round.

 

 

 

Image credits: Red Rose – Wikicommons; Martini Emoji – emojipedia.org; Blue Blazer – Blueblazer.it; The Merry Widow – Operatoonity.com

As a writer, the Grog Dog has aspirations to literary greatness. This July 4, however, I dedicate my post to two all-American literary icons whose lasting fame and reputations are unmatched, and perhaps not coincidentally, are related by blood and name as well as writing prowess.

FSK-starspangled200-orgFrancis Scott Key, American lawyer, amateur poet, and coincidental observer of the Battle of Fort McHenry, authored the poem that would become the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner“. During the War of 1812 (the “second war for independence”), the British attempted to re-establish dominion over the American colonies – and very nearly succeeded.

Not surprisingly, given the colonists’ tendency to produce and consume huge quantities of spirits, ale, and wine, Key set his poem to the tune of an English drinking song: “To Anacreon in Heaven“.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

One hundred years later, Francis Scott Key’s second cousin three times removed and namesake, F. Scott Fitzgerald, would graduate from prep school and soon set out on a career as a writer – becoming famous for his talent and infamous for his dedication to a drinking lifestyle that rivaled his colonial ancestors’ in scope and frequency. By the time Fitzgerald had published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920, Prohibition had become law, and the post-World War I Jazz Age was blooming like the poppies in Flanders fields. Fitzgerald’s novel perfectly reflected – many say, influenced – the zeitgeist of the era and his own artistic (and hedonistic) circles. As a daring spokesmen for the Lost Generation, Fitzgerald enjoyed fame and fortune and squandered both in spectacular fashion. He was the first (1929) to conjugate “cocktail” as a verb (all the way through the preterit tense, whatever that is – the Princetonian smarty-pants).

fitzgerald-conguates-cocktail-openculture-comPresent: I cocktail, thou cocktail, we cocktail, you cocktail, they cocktail.

Imperfect: I was cocktailing.

Perfect or past definite: I cocktailed.

Past perfect: I have cocktailed.

Conditional: I might have cocktailed.

Pluperfect: I had cocktailed.

Subjunctive: I would have cocktailed.

Voluntary subjunctive: I should have cocktailed.

Preterit: I did cocktail.

So in honor of two American literary icons, whose very existence perfectly synthesized the foundational elements of the American character – drinking and a genius for pop culture that earned them long-lasting fame – I offer The Fitzgerald:

2 oz London dry gin

3/4 oz simple syrup

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice; strain into a cocktail glass. This bright, tart cocktail has a sweet, silky mouthfeel and a slightly bitter finish that makes this literature fan think sentimentally of the troubled author Fitzgerald’s life and times – so different from those of his ancestor but equally inherently American.

Black Dog Flag-Pinterest

The Grog Dog, being something of a lone, er, wolf, is not a parent and has never regretted it. But I respect and admire dog dad kneeparents in general and especially those who teach their children well – as in, teach them good things and teach those things in the right way. In the context of parent “holidays” like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, this means giving up an entire day of doing things they want to do and modeling gracious acceptance of items and activities they may not have chosen for themselves… pretty much like any other parenting day, but with cards and handmade gifts and questionably edible breakfast in bed.

If you and your dad (or mom, or the person who is like a parent to you) would like to quietly celebrate their importance and influence in your life, I recommend the Nocturnal. This deep, mellow, slightly bitter nightcap can accommodate a variety of brown bases, so just about any bourbon or rye you prefer will work. You can also adjust the bitterness by using Amaro instead of Fernet Branca, but with either variation this is going to go down better after dinner, as the sweet maraschino liqueur and Cointreau (triple sec) make it slightly syrupy.

The Nocturnal is 1.5 oz bourbon (or rye), 0.75 oz Fernet Branca (or Amaro), 0.5 oz maraschino liqueur, 0.5 oz triple sec (Cointreau), 1 dash Angostura bitters. Stir well in a mixing glass with lots of ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist. This drink opens up nicely as the ice melts, and the cold will cut the sweetness.dog dad 2

While most of the parents I know could use a day off, for the best of them, that’s just not an option. And they wouldn’t want it to be. So raise a glass to Dad, and give him the next best thing: a quiet night with a good drink.

Thanks to my drinking buddies at Kindred Cocktails for offering cocktail enthusiasts an excellent forum and cataloging tool!
Image credits Hanna-Barbera, LovePet

dog-drinking-water_safebeedotcom“Oh!” the Grog Dog’s companion exclaimed after taking a gulp and sputtering a bit, “I forgot we’re having cocktails; I thought we were having drinks!” I knew what he meant, but is it correct to make the distinction between a cocktail and a drink? Does it even matter?

Wikipedia tells us that, “Drinks, or beverages, are liquids intended for human consumption.” It helpfully adds that water is not generally considered a beverage; alcoholic beverages contain ethanol (though alcohol itself includes many other chemical compounds); and non-alcoholic beverages are made with (or are modified so as to contain) less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

So technically, we were having drinks – they were liquid and intended for human consumption. But we were consuming the top tier of the drink hierarchy, the cocktail, which deserves a more refined description.

The Wiki definition of a cocktail is, “[A] beverage that contains two or more ingredients if at least one of them contains alcohol.”

Even without a hangover, this explanation makes my head hurt, because it implies that a “non-alcoholic beverage” at 0.5 pct ABV can be the main ingredient in a cocktail as long as it’s mixed with a second ingredient – for example, a near-beer shandy. But no one – at least, no one I’ve ever met, heard of, or read about in the history of human civilization – really looks forward to kicking back with a concoction of cooked-down malt beverage with a splash of lemon-flavored high-fructose-corn-syrup that has zero capability to alter their mood or please their palate.

And for me and my drinking buddy, therein lies the distinction.

vintage-cocktail-party_thirtysomewheredotcomDrinks (the alcoholic kind) are what you consume at parties, where social lubrication is more important than the flavor profile. Surely you wouldn’t criticize your host for using bottled juices or middle-shelf spirits when serving a crowd; the important thing is that they encourage guests to have a good time together.

Cocktails, in the Grog Dog’s lexicon, are beverages containing a balanced combination of two or more flavorful ingredients and enough alcohol (technically, ethanol) to make their consumption a physical and emotional pleasure – an experience to savor. Cocktails can and do enhance a gathering, a meal, and other activities, but they mostly are crafted for the sheer joy of the tastes, textures, and effect they deliver. The higher the quality of your ingredients, the better the drinking experience, whether you’re alone or with a group.

Whatever you call them, delicious cocktails can be as simple as the Salty Dog, a slightly savory mixture of gin (or vodka, 1.5 oz), grapefruit juice (5 oz), and kosher salt (1/4 tsp) stirred with ice. This is a variation of the even-simpler Greyhound, which eliminates Dogstar_paws4clawsdotcomthe salt.

Having taken the first swig of a craft cocktail as if it were a mere drink, my remorseful friend thereafter sipped, enjoyed, and relaxed… as the cocktail gods intended.

Image credits: safebee.com (drinking pup); thirtysomewhere.com (party); paws4claws.com (dogstar)