May 31, 2008

Cocktail Philosophies

The Wife and I went over to our friends' house yesterday for burgers and cocktails. Our friends have kind of different ways of approaching the preparation of food and drink than I do.

None of this is to say that our friends do things wrong. They just do them differently. Quite a bit differently.

I use the materials at hand, guesstimate portions and spices. I dig in with my bare hands and knead raw ground beef, and prefer to use lots of fire for my meat. I kind of like the carbony taste of those burnt ends of meat that form on the bottom of the burger. So I need a propane barbeque -- it gets hotter faster and spreads the flame out more. A charcoal barbeque, with the briquettes arranged in a geometrically perfect pyramid, is simply not the same thing as the raging fires of petroleum gas savagely mating with its self-destructive girlfriend, fire. Even if the briquettes are already heated to an appropriately ashen amber glow of the coals reaching the perfect temperature gradient.

If I must use charcoal, I dump three-quarters of the briquettes in, let them fall out where they may, enjoy liberal use of lighter fluid, and create a heat source powerful enough to fire ceramics. Now you're talking.

So too with cocktails. Our friends possess every kind of liquor known to man. They have a cocktail book with recipes for a huge variety of cocktails and they buy the really obscure liqueurs and take great pleasure in measuring out exact-to-the-mililiter levels of the shot glasses and contents. Only fresh fruits and the exact booze called for in the bartender's guidebook will do. Do not stir when the recipe calls for a shake.

Me, I have some difficulty tasting the difference between the forty-seven different kinds of clear anise-flavored liqueurs imported from the Mediterranean countries of Europe. If the book calls for Sambucca and all I have is Ouzo, you know what, that's pretty damn close. Yes, I know Sambucca and Ouzo are not the same thing. I know Campari is red and Galleano is yellow. But if you close your eyes, could you really taste the difference? So when it's time to make drinks, I'll gather the materials at hand and do the best I can. No vermouth around? Okay, that means no martinis, but we'll find something!

Example: I wanted a drink tonight, and The Wife said she'd enjoy one, too, and that confined my spectrum to something sweet. Okay, we've got about a glassful of pomegranate juice, so we can use that as a base. What mixes with a strong fruit juice? Vodka, of course. But vodka and pom juice isn't very interesting. And kind of heavy. So let's lighten it up with some 7-Up. And to finish off the fruit cocktail with some orange taste, so I floated some Grand Mariner on it. The result was a cold, sweet, pink thing with enough kick to get the job done and still sweet enough to allow The Wife to enjoy it.

It's sweet and fruity. Maybe I should call it the "Elton John." No, no, I'm just kidding, Sir Elton. All in good fun, right, Gov'ner? Now, the Sweet-and-Fruity Drink With No Name may or may not be found in my friend's bartender's guidebook. But it's getting the job done and leaving me a little loopy. In case you couldn't tell.

I'm not suggesting that our friends couldn't improvise. That's just not the style they've adopted these days. And they play poker and enjoy good food, so vive l'difference! It's fun to hang out with them.

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