April cocktail club: How to be a bartender Wednesday, Apr 18 2012 

The Central Park Cocktail Club did something a little different for April’s meeting: we tended bar. (Well, at least I did. For about five minutes. I made a Sazerac, and the customer seemed pleased enough.)

Untitled cocktail featuring Marie Brizard raspberry, as fashioned by Alex Huebner (background).

Thanks to Girls Rock! Chicago’s fabulous Autumn Auction (full disclosure: it’s an annual event that I plan for a charity on whose board I sit), I won the rights to a crash-course in bartending at Weegee’s Lounge as taught by its fabulous proprietor, Alex “Arthur Fellig” Huebner.

Several rounds in & still drinking in the knowledge. (Get it?)

Under the premise “I could teach a monkey how to bartend,” Alex walked us through the bar’s history (which I learned initially carried one of the oldest liquor licenses in Chicago — amazing!), the bar itself (vintage ice boxes! original Brunswick bar!), his rules of proportionality and how he derives his recipes, and finally, we got a lesson in free-pouring. For the record, I pour a slightly heavy-handed shot. ALSO, and this was the most fascinating lesson ever: Did you know that shaking a shot with ice results in triple the amount of (watered-down) booze? Pretty neat.

Glassware galore!

Thanks, Alex, for all the learnings. Anyone who can get me tipsy enough to pretend to know how to bartend at an establishment for which I have utmost respect is obviously a demigod in my book.


Cocktail Club catch-up: Liqueurs Friday, Apr 13 2012 

vintage St. Benoit liqueur label

CPCC member Linsey recently posted to her Facebook wall a fascinating photo of a giant vat of violette liqueur that she made herself…which reminded me that we never posted her related presentation here.

Last April, Linsey walked us through how to make liqueurs the speedy, scientific way: via pressurized nitrogen dioxide in a whipped-cream canister. In a matter of minutes, she produced some of the best tasting orange liqueur I’ve ever tasted, simply by combining vodka, orange peel and a few other delicious herbal and citrus ingredients in her canister, compounding the flavors and forcing them to marry. Voila! DIY Cointreau.

We enjoyed Linsey’s DIY orange liqueur in a Sidecar, using a variation on the following recipes she dug up:

French School
1 part parts cognac
1 part orange liqueur
1 part lemon juice

English School
2 parts cognac
1 part orange liqueur
1 part lemon juice

David Embury’s 1948 recipe (via The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks)
8 parts brandy or cognac
2 parts orange liqueur
1 part lemon juice

For all recipes, ingredients are combined in a mixing glass with ice, stirred until chilled, and served up in a cocktail glass or coupe.

Paris & Prohibition Monday, Mar 19 2012 

In lieu of this month’s cocktail club, I took my show on the road…to the suburbs.

Yesterday afternoon at the massive, bunker-like Downers Grover Public Library, I delivered a talk on Paris & Prohibition tied to Chicago’s Big Read program, whose featured book, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, is a work of historical fiction told from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. I had started reading it forever ago — and then had to cram to finish before Sunday because I forgot I was reading it — and while I can’t say I loved it, it was chock-full of (possibly fabricated) little tidbits on drinking in Paris in the early 1920s.

Which, essentially, boils down to one thing: Absinthe.

Best I can tell, absinthe was to 1920s Paris what the cosmopolitan was to 1990s New York City.

Meanwhile, I found these fantastic little drawings via Pernod’s website:

Brandon Antczak, Pernod Absinthe art competition, 2011

Apparently the 200-year-old absinthe brand, long known as “the artist’s drink” (Hemingway among them), held an art contest last year. This one depicts the sugar-water ritual affiliated with drinking the stuff. I think it’s cute.

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