Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mad About Cocktails!...

As I type this, we are but 70 minutes away from the much anticipated return of Madmen after an 18-month hiatus. Not only am I looking forward to see what's in store this season, but also I cannot wait to have a cocktail (or two) while watching the wayward ways of Don Draper and is Madison Avenue cohorts. The show is brilliantly written and acted, but something can be said for product placement and inspiring one to have a drink.
With so much shmoozing and boozing in the offices and at home, the difficult decision lay in which cocktail to have. The word "cocktail" itself is believed to come from the French of New Orleans who would serve little drinks in egg cups, called coquetiers. However, the world's first true cocktail is widely regarded as the Mojito; a rum, lime, and mint drink used to fuel sailors that today is synonymous with everything Cuban and unlike any pre-mixed one you would find in major chain restaurants. Suffice to say, any and all cocktails served by me at home or elsewhere are all made from scratch, and I have the equipment to prove it!

This week at the shop, we featured sips of Mad Men-era cocktails made and served by yours truly, dressed as Don Draper as can be in pressed shirt and tie, hair slicked back. First up was the Tom Collins on Thursday. 2oz gin, 1/2 oz sweetened lemon juice, 2 dashes Bitters and a splash of soda, it was revealed at dinner that evening that a Tom Collins was in fact the first drink my mum ever ordered; as a 19-year old underager in the mid-60s, it was her attempt to seem 'grown-up' when dining with older cousins in Montreal. Now that's as authentic as the beehive hairdo and long white gloves she sported to the same dinner!

Next up for Friday, a Manhattan; an all too perfect cocktail for the Mad men of Madison Avenue.  Created at the Manhattan Club in the mid-19th century, 2oz Rye Whiskey (originally Bourbon, but a Prohibition America and a not-so Prohibition Canada changed that), 1 oz sweet vermouth, 4 dashes Bitters is all you need to transport yourself to a liquid lunch a la Don Draper - or in my case, what sits on my Queenstown coaster beside me, ice clinking away with each vibration as I type on my laptop. 

As for yesterday, a Negroni was on order - currently my most favouritest cocktail. Equal parts Gin, Red Vermouth, and Campari (I make my own version of this with rhubarb-infused vodka), this is what will be sitting in my martini glass in just 55 minutes as the classic image of an animated man falling from a skyscraper, ads inticing consumerism flashing behind, starts. In all fairness, it doesn't take much for me to have a negroni as it has for a few years been my go-to glass at any given gin-joint in Gastown.

I should also give a shout-out to the Mojito as well. Earlier today, a the father of to the mojito-making 10-year old of my previous blog (who, for the record, makes a better mojito than he does) and this being the first Sunday of Spring, a Mojito on the patio was on order. I thought about this as my official Mad Men cocktail for tonight, but then realised that it did not correspond well with the storyline; the Cuban Missle Crisis is still in recent memory for the plot, so I would imagine Cuban-inspired cocktails would render me among the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald as a Cuban Commie conspirator.

40 minutes left! Time to get the meatloaf in the oven and served up with the bland potatoes and over-cooked veg to complete my 60s-themed evening! (FYI - I would never do that to me or anyone else). Enjoy the show - and your cocktail of choice!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Raising Sommeliers...

Of the many jobs of my dynamic portfolio as CIR in Japan (that's "Co-ordinator for International Relations," otherwise known as "relatively well-paid salary to be and English-speaking white man"), one that I truly enjoyed was English teaching to children 10 and under. At this age, anything I said or did was considered fun and cool.  More important, I almost never met with snarky attitudes found in older children;  red wines develop notes of spice box and leather, pre-pubescents develop snarky attitude and body odour. I was the fun, bachelor uncle; the kids became someone else's problem after an hour. 
Moving back to Canada, the desire to share my experiences with kids remains. The problem with this is the Canadian education system requires something beyond just "hey i'm white" to become a bona fide teacher. Worse, the only subject I can legitimately teach on is the field of wine, spirits, and beer. I like to say I have a "European" approach to this subject, so there is no shame in trying as the below examples attest:

1) While in Sydney, my cousin's 9-year old daughter accompanied me on the classic bonding experience of shopping for beer.  Australia has great a great craft beer scene, and I started a lesson to Tiana on the differences between lagers and pale ales. In the case of Little Creatures, this would be refered to as "the yellow one" and "the green one." Staying away from the big name brands she's used to seeing in dad's fridge, I can accept the fact she called me "fussy" knowing very well I have at least shown her there is more to this world than VB or Toohey's;
2) The rural town of Warragul, 100km east of Melbourne, is home to a fantastic shop called "The Press Cellars." On my third visit in 24-hours, young Toby decided to come with me to the shop to see what it's all about. A brief lesson on the subtle differences between McLaren Vale and Barossa Shiraz (let alone a Crozes-Hermitage!), I think the 9-year old regretted his decision as evidenced by moping quietly by the front door for 20 minutes as the conversation with the proprieter moved on to the subject of Australian Muscats. Nonetheless, I'm sure somewhere down the line, Toby will remember to look for complex notes of mint, dark berries, and coffee in his red wines*;
3) Just today, the 9-year old daughter of a friend came by my shop with her grandmother. It's been 2 years since I last saw Brooklyn. Sure, she's much taller now (exactly four 6packs of Vancouver Island Beer tall - we measured as she stood next to the display), she was also able to repeat back to me a very valuable lesson I taught her at age 7: "a mojito contains fresh lime, sugar, and mint; muddle these in a glass before adding white rum and club soda." Bravo!

So there you have it. While young Japanese a decade ago learned how greet a gaijin, today an army of sommeliers is being raised by a still fun, bachelor "honourary" uncle.

* NB - Toby's mum will no doubt like to mention that it is she who first introduced inebriation to me, so it is only fair I return the favour to her children.