This week is a bit rare, in that there is very, very, very little drinking featured of any kind. So, I’m going to spend just a minute, giving you some guidelines that I think are important when I’m stocking my own home bar...which might be more extensive than it should be. But first thing I’d like to say, is if you’re interested in making more drinks at home and if you’d like to expand your liquor cabinet a bit, I have a few rules that I think are important.
- Every time you go to the liquor store to replace an empty bottle, buy what you were going for, and also buy a bottle that you’ve never had before. This can be anything from a kind of whisk(e)y you haven’t seen, or what I recommend, which is to get a bottle from a spirit category that you know very little about. If you drink mostly rum, whiskey, vodka, tequila, then when you go to the store, buy some grappa, or old tom gin, or calvados, or fernet, or amaro, or cognac, or rhum agricole, or mezcal, or cachaca, or chartreuse, or absinthe, or sherry. You get the point. Grab something that you don’t know what to do with, go home, and try it.
- I’d like to use some quoted material from The Alton Browncast. This was an interview with a bartender in New York named Sother Teague. Sother runs a bar named Amor y Amargo, in the lower east side. The name translates to “Love & Bitters”. He’s giving Alton a taste of several of the various potable bitters from behind his bar and the following exchange occurred:
ALTON: So, what do you do with this? Besides just drink it. Ok. Now I would just drink this, but I want to talk for, while we still have time, about what you would actually do with these.
SOTHER: First of all, I will say this, Yeaaah! I drink it!. I drink em all. Umm, and people ask me that all the time, mockingly dumb voice “duuuh, what do you do with this?”
SOTHER: It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask, because we’re where? We’re here in America, where we invented the cocktail. We have some crazy idea in our head that we have to mix stuff. The rest of the world, by the way, thinks we’re crazy.
ALTON: That’s true.
SOTHER: They open bottles and pour it into a glass just like we’ve done today, maybe or maybe not over ice. It’s done, right? Somebody made this. It’s done. So, first and foremost, I have a rule actually, at Amor y Amargo, with myself and all my bartenders. Whenever we get our hands on something new, that we’ve never had before, we drink two bottles. Just drink it. Cause we’ve got to get to know it. How can I build a soup, with an ingredient that I have never had?
ALTON: Yeah, if I haven’t had tomatoes, I can’t make tomato soup.
Obviously, the point is, when you bring that obscure bottle home, taste it. Pour it over ice. Mix it with club soda. Shake it with some citrus juice and maybe some sugar. Just play with it and get to know it. If you don’t like it. Keep it on the shelf and come back to it later. Maybe the scotch you bought is too smoky for you now, but it will become your favorite later.
You don’t need to look at a bottle of calvados and say, “I don’t want to get this because I don’t know what to do with it.” At the very least, you drink it. Every single bottle of liquor ever pretty much says the same shit on the back, “Can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or used in many classic mixed drinks.” Don’t be intimidated by trying something new, simply because you don’t know what you’ll mix it with. If worst comes to worst, google has your back, and you will likely find a recipe that features that one bottle you bought, plus one or two other things and you can have a “grappa party” to get rid of the stuff. (hint: grappa goes well in coffee)
This week, no cocktails, just some brown booze out of Malory’s decanter.
WHISKEY on the ROCKS
Anything pickled. Eggs. Pigs feet. Whatever.