Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Athletic Prowess

A couple of weeks ago B. James had an unfortunate incident with combining drinking and moderate exercise.

...He ralphed.

So it led me to wonder. Can alcohol coexist with sports and exercise?

True, sporting events have always had beer available for the fans, but you don't see the offensive line tapping a keg on the sidelines instead of a bright orange Gatorade container. I've run races where there have been picnics afterwords and beer is provided. I've always thoroughly enjoyed a nice cold one after a race. Hell, even when running the Great Race through Pittsburgh, I've always remembered to hit the race keg the college kids have setup along the course as it passed through Pitt's Campus. I like to throw one back and grab a second to dump on my head. Ahh! ...Refreshing!

So I guess from my personal experience, I'll say "yes, the two can coexist in moderation." But that's my opinion. A gentleman by the name of Tim Crytser had the same question I did. Check out what he had to say on the subject.

Monday, March 30, 2009

... every time!

So you start off with this:

...and some how, later on down the line, you end up with this:

... but really, no amount of dissappearing women under satin sheets or barking dogs could be trippier than where they were coming from:

But all that being said, I must say the one with the horses and barking dogs and beer can buildings is my favorite and most makes me want to go buy some Colt 45. For me, that's the one that works.

...every time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fermentation Friday: Fire, boobs, and beer

Standing around a turkey fryer in the driveway after sundown really gives you a feeling for the mystical side of brewing beer. The stars twinkling in the crisp, cool spring air. An owl hoots in a nearby tree, the breeze picks up and chills you just a bit. It's such an ancient process, and creates such a historically important item that it almost feels holy somehow. Standing there next to the licking flames and hollow whoosh of the propane burner, you can almost picture hooded monks standing around wood-fired kettles. Scantily-clad pagans smeared with paint praying to some since forgotten deity that their brew yields fermented goodness. Ancient Greeks making some form of offering to Bacchus. Hell, the oldest written recipe on record was for making beer! Alcohol in one form or another has been vital and sacred to so many societies over the years... but no more.

Now it's frowned upon. Decried and denounced as the work of the devil, not holy men. Hatchet in one hand, bible in the other, alcohol has been inextricably linked with the evil some men do under its influence. Needless. Senseless. Wrong.

We've lost that holy connection. That mystical feeling that comes with practicing the arcane alchemy of producing alcohol. And on a crisp spring night, the season of pagan rites of rebirth and fertility, the absence of mysticism from the beer making process seems even more obvious. Empty.

Well, let's bring it back, damnit! Let's take booze back to being something magical. Get our your hooded robes and body paint, we're gonna make some fucking beer!

Hey, there's a thought! Fucking beer... yeah.... that could work! Some kind of pagan rite during the brewing process. Once the boil is going, everyone strips off their hooded robes to reveal nude bodies covered in crude body paintings. Then the ritual sex will begin. And by ritual, I mean free-for-all. It'll be epic! And in the middle, the brew in the turkey fryer will be bubbling away.

Maybe take a break for some kind of neo-pagan events like fire-breathing and... fire breathing. Maybe take care of some little brewing details like sparging. Then back to the orgy! There'll be penises and breasts flopping all over the place (note to self: get some girls to participate). Old school mysticism. The spectacle will be awesome to behold!

No, not like that...

That's what I'm talking about!

It'll be so wild, we'll have to be careful not to forget to take the starting specific gravity. Then we dump it in the primary, pitch the yeast, and put the airlock on, passing around the bottle of cheap vodka so everyone can take a swig before we pour it in the airlock. You know, for good luck. Then, if our randomly chosen divinities smile on us, the beer should be ready to drink by the time the summer solstice comes along, and another batch can be brewed in a similar ceremony while the old batch is consumed! It'll represent... something.

So that's my goal for brewing this spring: turn it into a pseudo-religious orgy festival with fire.

Or maybe I'll make a lager. That'd be cool.

Fermentation Friday-- Hops, Hoarding and Hessians

Spring is edging its way into Chicago. The ice is off the lake and we're down to what the weaker parts of the country consider winter coats and our frost-back northern neighbors consider summer frivolities. In this spirit, Byron asks about how spring fever will affect our brewing. I haven't caught the fever yet, but am ready to put out some tentative roots for when warmness is sprung. This spring its all about hops, hoarding and Hessians. Our first task is to put up some hops, though this may or may not happen. I can't do it at mine, but my brewing partner has a fire-escape balcony we can grow on in tubs.

Spring is also our family time to horde like squirrels. I just got a keggerator, with the agreement that the missus can have the freezer. After the quarterly Costco-run, I'm going to invest in brewing and lay some more roots. First off, a barley crusher then some sacks of grain. I only need to go through 4 sacks of grain to negate the cost of the crusher. Buckets will be filled- a sack of 2-row and another of Pils. I'm also trying to find the cheapest way to buy 2-5# of all the specialty grains I like to use. This spring will be dedicated to lighter American, Belgians and Alt-biers. As mentioned previously, I have some candi-sugar to go through, and we're making beer for my brew-partner's (not) wedding, so this will also be a practice run of that.

Finally, it is spring training and I'm still training my pallete in advance of this June's local BJCP exam. Good times, but surprisingly hard, especailly the multitude of German lager styles which I am entirely unprepared for. Still, I'll soldier along in the name of science.

A Matter of Taste?

Just about everybody has a staple beer that they like to drink. Note that I didn't say favorite beer. A staple beer is what you drink when you just need something cold to drink. You probably consume it in more mass quantity than other beers. Not because you love it, but because it's generally a beer your willing to buy no matter what your money situation is.

Staple beers can vary from region to region. After all, drinking is a social activity, so you probably drink a lot of the same stuff as your friends. Here in Pittsburgh, Yuengling is a very popular staple beer and of course you gotta include the 'Arn'. But the staple beer of the people also varies between urban and rural America. Doesn't matter where you are, you can tell just by the billboards. In and around the city you see advertisements for the big three: Coors, Miller, & Bud, and usually some more higher priced beers like Heineken. But once you get about 30 miles out of any city, the billboards start changing. That's when you start seeing such wonderful brews like Busch, Natty Light, or Genesee Cream Ale. Hmmm... cream ale.

But no matter where you live, there will always be a market for the Jacob Bests of the world. Maybe some American or how about some Schlitz. My dad used to always pick up a case of Schlitz. Then he got pissed when they raised the price to $6.99 a case.

So what's your staple beer? See how it stacks up against other beers in alcohol content and other categories. Do you pussy out and drink ultra-light piss water, or do you pound back real beer, like a man?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thirty 4 Eleven

If you watch TV, and I know at least some of you do, if only sporadically while feverishly pressing F5 repeatedly waiting for our newest post; you may have seen the latest (first I've ever seen) Natural Light commercial. That's right: Natural Light television commercial.

But advertising is a big part of business these days. All the cool kids do it, so I'm not entirely shocked to see it. But what I was shocked by was... well, here. Lets see if you notice what I did:

Did your jaw hit the floor like mine? Yes? No? Not sure what the hell I'm talking about? Ok. They refer to it as "Natty". No big deal, I refer to it as Natty and I'm sure you do too. But stop and think about that for a second... they're essentially embracing an insult to their product. The nickname isn't just a shortening of the word "Natural", it's meant to imply that the liquid contained within the cans is fucking putrid. "Natty"; like how a little kid might mispronounce "nasty".

At first I thought some suited executive might have missed the joke and decreed that all advertising would now embrace their funky fresh nickname the underage drinkers- I mean... younger customers came up with, but then I realized the rest of the commercial seemed to acknowledge their beer's poor college student swill status.

The commercial shows a broke college dude who finally saved ten dollars and borrowed one more to pick up a 30-pack of Natty. He's shoving it roughly into his microfridge, which he most assuredly commandeered from some trash pile by the curb and toted home on the bus (note the bike in the background; his only wheels). His broke but hot college chick friend comes over with a $5 pizza to watch some possibly stolen cable programming on his large but 15 year old TV. The place is tidy, but still a fucking disgrace; and the furniture looks like it spent one too many days on the front porch. They crack open the first of 30 cans they'll drink that morning and settle in for the only golden rays of sunshine in their financially depressed and stress-filled lives: cardboard pizza, piss-warm beer (it's only been in the fridge for 30 seconds), and regrettable sex.

Let's check out another one:

Now we see a party on the back patio of a run-down college apartment. Fancy, huh? A patio for college kids? Well, slum lords like to pave over back yards because their college student tenants never mow the lawn. They have a $10 WalMart cooler, a shelf stereo hooked up to unmatched 35 year old speakers salvaged from someones trash, and a rusted out grill the last tenants left. As the commercial points out, they are lacking in horizontal surfaces to park your ass on, implication being they are all too broke to buy the plastic patio furniture that matches the cooler. Too bad they haven't seen the first commercial, they'd realize you can just bring your sofa outside and it'll dry out eventually. Still, not too bad for an afternoon. Except that after they bought enough store brand hot dogs to feed everyone, they're strapped for cash. So with their last $11 of quarters for the laundromat, they pick up a case of Natty. (They'll just have to turn their underwear inside-out for a few weeks.)

Anyway, there's nowhere to sit, so random college dude plops his butt down on the WalMart cooler. He then realizes he gets to meet all the girls at the party when they go to get another beer. In fact, if he positions himself correctly, he'll force them to reach between his legs to get a beer, mere inches away from his aching, disused member. (For those of you still in college, this type of behavior is frowned upon in post-college society.) Then another dude comes up to get a beer, and our cooler-sitter quickly stands up. Did he want the beer-seeker to touch his cock but feared rejection? Or does he just not roll that way? The makers of Natty aren't telling. However, the commercial doesn't show any more favorable results with his female party guests. Implication? Gifts of Natty won't get you pussy or cock. Truth in advertising.

So in both commercials, they completely recognize that Natural Light is beer consumed exclusively by college students who can't afford anything better. And if they recognize they know where the nickname comes from, they probably know why it nickname was chosen. And if they recognize all this in their commercials, they are essentially saying that they too agree their beer tastes like watered down cat piss. But they are pointing out that even watered down cat piss has its place in the beer market. Not everyone can afford $45 cases of Mad Elf for Christmas, not everyone can stock their party cooler with huge bottles of Arrogant Bastard. But that's ok! You can just buy Natty and you'll still get laid and eat pizza, unless you're a creeper sitting on the cooler in an attempt to get people to accidentally touch your penis. But honestly, what's wrong with patio parties and pizza sex? Nothing! That's what!

But that being said...

I know I frequently defend cheaper brands of beer and booze, but I'm not going to go that far this time. I'll defend Amber Bock and Pabst Blue Ribbon because they're honestly good beers, they just don't cost much. I'll defend Jim Beam and Captain Morgan because they're genuinely well made and tasty liquors, they just happen to be reasonably priced. I despise snobbery that puts down anything not expensive. Just because a particular brand of alcohol is cheap doesn't mean it isn't delicious and worth your time. Natural Light, however, isn't one of these. It's awful. There's worse, but not much. In fact, I'd argue that $11 for 30 cans might be a little over-priced.

But as I said, these situations still appeal to me. I like TV, parties, pizza, and sex. But I would not pair these activities with a case of Natty. So what beer would I choose for such everyday activities that don't necessarily call for an expensive beer? What would I buy?

Monday, March 23, 2009

This Day In Booze: The Cullen-Harrison Act

The year was 1933. Prohibition had raged on for over 13 years. Between the effects of organized crime and an overall distain for the law by just about everybody, this great melting pot had finally reached it's boiling point. Alcohol was gaining increased social acceptance and public outcry over prohibition could no longer be ignored by the US Government.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was just getting his feet wet as the 32nd President of the United States. Early that year, during a dinner at the White House, he famously remarked, "I think this would be a good time for a beer." That very night he would go on the write a letter to Congress asking them to draft a bill allowing the sale of beer. What came out of it was an amendment to the Volstead Act known as the Cullen-Harrison act.

The Volstead Act, passed in late 1919, was one of the driving forces leading up to prohibition. The Act specified that "no person shall manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, or furnish any intoxicating liquor except as authorized by this act". However, It did not specifically prohibit the use of intoxicating liquors. The 18th Amendment would take care of that and seal the deal on nearly 14 years of sobriety. The proposed act would allow the manufacture and sale of beer containing no more than 3.2% alcohol by weight, as well as light wines. On March 23, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Cullen-Harrison act, officially making him one of the most kick-ass presidents in my book (despite his heavy socialist leanings). This was the first big blow to prohibition and would ultimately lead to the 21st Amendment later that year.

On April 7th, two weeks after the passing of the act, the first legal beer in over 13 years was opened in this country. And everybody got laid. The end.

Pass that bottle to me!

The Killer himself!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't choke on vomit!

If you can honestly say you've never been on either end of this situation, well... you're a better person than anyone writing for this blog. Or more boring. Or both. But even so, just click on that picture down there and read it.

I write this for many reasons. One is the fear that in the course of writing, we may have come off as flippant towards or even encouraging of irresponsible and/or dangerous behavior with alcohol. We do not endorse such behavior... though sometimes we exhibit it ourselves. But that doesn't mean we don't strive to be safe and responsible while being wild and borderline out-of-control. Seems a contradiction? Well... maybe it is. But that doesn't mean its something we can't aspire to.

So please...

Remember: Drowning in vomit isn't cool, in spite of what all the celebrities might say. So in the event that you or a friend has stopped and dropped, please remember to roll. Thankyou.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Training Results

B. James and I found some time this past week and took to the grueling task of having to sample and critique the booze obtained from Spring Training. It was a hard job, but we were up to the task.

Pusser's British Navy Rum is the real deal. When I think of rum of old, and how it must have tasted, this is the stuff I envision. I truly believe that this rum stays true to it's 350 year old recipe. Pusser's grabs you by the collar, throws you against the wall and says "I'm rum, god damn it!" This rum is very bold and flavorful. The blending of various different rums has given it quite a distinct taste, and I like it. It's potent, but not harsh, at a very respectable 84 proof. If I was a sailor and needed something to keep me going through those long hard months at sea, I could see how this stuff would do the trick.

Moving off the subject of sea men, for some reason my face hurts. Why? Because I've just been smacked across it by a hard ruthless cock. Fighting Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon pulls no punches. It tasks like Wild Turkey, but is even a little more peppery. At 103 proof, the Cock burns going down your throat, from the first sip to the last sip. It takes a strong man to take the Cock more that a few times in one night, lest you begin to gag.

Ron Diaz Gran Reserve Spiced Rum is very close to what I expected. It's Captain Morgan light, with a much more palatable texture to suit the college crowd. On the very first sip, the only word that came to mind was "silky." This rum caresses your tongue. It has a pleasant aroma and a sweet taste (perhaps too sweet) with vanilla notes. The smoothness of Ron Diaz gives it a week start, but it has a warm finish. This rum pushes it's worth at $14 a bottle, but I think I'll stick with my Captain Morgan. It's the same price, and the Ron Diaz is just too sweet for my taste. Not to come off as high and mighty with my refined pallet, but this rum has one purpose only, and that is to get the college girls shit faced. * editor's note from B James: should "shit faced" be "naked"? *

Wiser's Very Old 18 Year Blended Canadian Whisky (they need to pick a shorter name) was exactly as I had hoped. It is a real nice, smooth, mellow, aged whisky. It goes down smooth, but still is alcohol through and through. There seems to be a ruminess to it, if that's a word. It has a very light rum flavor or we'll say rum essence (not to be confused with sweetness). It is possible that they may age the stuff in old rum casks. There really isn't much more that needs to be said about Wiser's 18 except that it's damn fine whisky.

If I had to pick one bottle out of the four that I am truly glad I bought, it would have to be the Pusser's. Wiser's would come in a close second, but it just didn't have quite the affect on me as the rum. I sipped it and thought "hmm, that is a damn fine whiskey." But the Pusser's was "wow! I wasn't ready for that, but I like it." It's unique bold taste stands out from any other rum I've ever tried, and the history behind the rum just add to its mystique.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Saint Patty's Day

Yes, it's that time of year to don those tacky shamrock glasses, your favorite drinking shirt, and pound back 37 bottles of cheap green beer. Though the holiday was already celebrated this past Saturday in most cities in the U.S., that doesn't mean today shouldn't still be celebrated as well. There's only one problem. You have work in the morning. OK, I know some of you don't have jobs to worry about, but for the rest of us that attempt to contribute to society, this puts us in a bit of a predicament. Well hopefully you've gotten the binge out of the way over the weekend. After all, that's what weekend is are for. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to enjoy the good Irish spirit without getting totally shit faced, allowing you to function the next day at your normal capacity (about 23%).

Instead of hitting the club scene where overweight frat boys run around drunk in "Kiss Me I'm an Asshole" T-shirts and girls who should be wearing this on there belt buckle, try to do something a little low key. There are plenty of alternatives that let you enjoy the spirit of the Eire without losing your job the next day, or catching chlamydia.

I like to find a nice hole-in-the-wall bar or a traditional Irish pub. Or better yet, pickup some booze and host a little St. Patrick's Day celebration of own. Pickup some nice Irish stouts or a good porter. Guinness is the best known and is the stout by which all others are judged. It is definitely is fine brew, and I like to think of it as "liquid bread", but why not try something else this season. Grab yourself some Murphy's or Beamish. Murphy's Irish Stout is heavy in it's maltiness and has a chocolate finish that goes down smooth. Personally, I've never tried Beamish, but I hear it has a more roasted flavor than Guinness. Up until recent years, these three were about all you could get this side of the Atlantic. Fortunately, in the wave of new upstart micro brews here in the States, the American pallet has been primed and ready for some quality imports. Don't know what to look for? Find yourself a bar with a wide selection of bottles and more obscure brews on tap. Chances are the barkeep will be able to point you in the right direction.

Stouts too heavy for you? Then try your hand at an Irish red ale. Immediately when those words are uttered, people think of Killian's, but George Killian's Irish Red is NOT a red ale. It is in fact a lager style beer. It also happens to be an American brew produced by Coors. So if your trying to earn brownie points with the leprechauns, so they'll show you where their pot o' gold is, find something else to drink (if this has actually happened to you, you have gone and smoked yourself retarded). Some good Irish red ales include Smithwick's, Moling's Traditional Red Ale, or Galway Hooker.

Whatever you chose to drink this Saint Patrick's Day, don't forget to chase it down with a nice shot of Irish whiskey.
Hmmm, that's the good stuff.

Here's to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold pint- and another one!

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Victory is Mine

Haha! For once the tables have turned. B James is the one whose probably nursing a huge hangover this morning while I was up bright and early. Survived the evening and no Hard Choice for me this morning. B. James, I feel your pain.

Richard Dicks

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today was a good day

Alright- so I went a judgin' today. Good times. I did English Bitters and Strong Ales. I got to judge with a master judge (I'm but an apprentice) for the Bitters, and it was a good lesson in how to judge. The Bitters were ok, but they tended to being overly astringent. The strong beers were all over the place and we didn't agree much in the judging. This was in part due to the lack of hierarchy, I think, as we had no master or otherwise highly ranked judge to defer to. Overall, I was surprised the range of quality in the homebrew at the event. Most either had technical flaws or were clearly out of style. In most of our sessions, it was hard to find many more than three beers that were ok on both ends. Still, my beer didn't place in the IPA category- so I'm curious to see what the feedback is.

I got into the raffle, after not winning last time (though I got a t-shirt from a dude I met there). This time, I made out. I got to go up three time, landing some pint glasses, some shirts and a copy of Beer Smith, which I tried to pay for unsuccesfully on Friday. I also got to win a beer sign, which the lovely young woman across from me wanted. I had been judging with her fiance and was extolling the virtues of marriage, so I was more than glad to pass it along to her. Next round up, she won and I got some dark Belgian candy sugar. Later, I gave my ride some Isodaphor, and got light candy sugar. The gift economy of brewing is fascinating.

So, fun to judge, fun to enter and fun to be in the raffle. Good times. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rube Goldbeer

Yeah, if you thought you had way too much free time on your hands, you haven't met these guys.

Think of this as setting the bar for St. Patty's weekend. It'll give you something to shoot for.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Training

So I just got back from a mini vacation to escape the winter blues. The wife and I went down to Bradenton, FL for Pirates Spring Training. It was a nice extended weekend. I managed to get sunburned on the very first day. Anyways, in my previous post Sui Generis, I talked about how I like to pick up spirits unavailable in PA whenever I go out of town. Well, we ended up checking a bag on our return flight specifically for the booze we picked up, and I thought I might share with you what we got.

Fighting Cock Straight Kentucky Bourbon: This 103 proof whiskey is aged a minimum of 6 years. I am thoroughly expecting it to be anything but high class, but when you have a name like that and a crazed rooster on the bottle, it's hard not to say "oh, I gotta get me some of that."

Pusser's British Navy Rum is the original Navy Rum. The recipe was purchased from the Royal Navy by an American Entrepreneur after the Navy officially ended a long tradition of issuing daily rum rations to sailors. The back of the bottle touts a fanciful story of how the rum has been traditionally made in wooden pot stills over the past two hundred years, and how this process somehow imbues the rum with it's unique characteristics. A pleasant tail, but not exactly 100% accurate. The truth is that Pusser's doesn't distill their own rum at all. The original recipe, dating back over 350 years, is actually a blend of five other rums from various West Indian Islands; a process that today's modern Navy rum still follows. I plan to write a more in depth article about the Royal Navy's rum at a later date. I've been reading a very good book about rum's influence on the New World. It's because of this fascination that I told myself I had to buy a bottle of Pusser's if I ever came across it.

Wiser's Very Old 18 Year Blended Canadian Whisky: I am Actually quite surprised that the PLCB does not carry any of the Wiser's line. It happens to be a fairly well known and established brand. Even Thorogood refers to his good buddy Wiser in his song "I drink Alone" (and you thought he was just singing about beer). As the name implies, this is a very old Canadian whisky. It's been aged 18 years and I am looking forward to cracking this one open.

Ron Diaz Spiced Rum is a 3 year old rum out of Barbados. I didn't know a thing about this rum when I bought it. After some research, I found out that it's actually is a pretty cheap rum popular with the college crowd. I found this picture of what the bottle used to look like.I was definitely drawn in by a very well done makeover. But it may not be just cosmetic. I also noticed that they upped the alcohol content from what used to be 60 proof to 70. But I never knock anything till I try it. I truly hope it turns out good. After all, back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Barbados was where all the best rum came from. Of course back then you're basically comparing one distillery to another by who threw more dead rats into the mix to kick-start the fermentation, or how many chamber pots were emptied in to keep the slaves from steeling it. Hmm tasty.

So that's what I brought back from Florida. I will be sure to give a follow up on how things turn out once I get around to trying them all. Until then, keep on drink'n.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

King of the Zombies

Last weekend, I had a drink called an Electric Long Island. The bartender had suggested it as a drink he makes well, and it was indeed very delicious and inebriating. He had described it as "a Long Island Ice Tea with Bols instead of Coke." Unlike the Blue Hurricane , it had just the right amount of Bols. It was a very well balanced drink that delivered quite a punch, but his description hadn't sat quite right with me. "A Long Island Ice Tea with Bols instead of Coke." He seemed like a fairly knowledgeable bartender, and I didn't want to be a dick, so I bit my tongue. But what I wanted to do was launch into a lecture about a seldom mentioned classification of drink that everyone's had but no one knows the name of. I wanted to correct him and say "Oh, you mean a Zombie with Bols?"

The Zombie. One of the most appropriate names for a drink I know of, since it does quite handily suppress your higher brain functions; leading to flat-footed shuffling, unintelligible groaning, and often a bit of drooling. The best way to tell you what a Zombie is, is to say that a Long Island Ice Tea is a Zombie with Coke. Get it now? Or do you not know how to make a Long Island? Lots of folks don't, and often I've gotten strange looks from people when I make one for them. I often get "Oh, you don't put ice tea in it?" or "Ew... why do you put Coke in it?" (The answers to those, respectively, are "No, you don't" and "Yes, otherwise it wouldn't look like ice tea.") So let's start there.

Long Island Ice Tea
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz light or gold rum
1/2 oz tequila
2 oz sour mix
Shake, pour over ice, top with Coca Cola, then stir.

That, in spite of what anyone else may tell you, is how you make a Long Island Ice Tea. I often skew the ingredients a bit, putting less gin and tequila in it, and more vodka and rum; but that is non-standard.

Now, if you take away the Coke you have the base for a Zombie. It's kind of just mixing all your booze together with some sours over ice. It's a fantastic base for making other drinks; all you have to do is mix in whatever liqueur you have on hand, possibly some Sprite to make it fizzy, and you've got a great cocktail!

Gila Monster
1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Rum
2 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
Splash of Orange Juice (optional, I feel)
Splash of Triple Sec or Cointreau
Shake, pour over ice.
1/2 oz Melon Liqueur
Stir, serve.

Midori works well, but DeKyuper gives you a great, glowing, neon green color. Sweet, pretty, and balls-out strong. A really fun drink.

Greatful Dead
1/2 oz Tequila
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz Light Rum
1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur
Shake, pour over ice, top off with Sprite.

Good one for someone who says they're not big on the flavor of alcohol. The Chambord is a bit burny and covers up the liquor very well.

Electric Long Island
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz white (or light) rum
1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz Bols
Shake, pour over ice. Top off with Sprite.
Garnish with 1 lemon wedge (or give it a squirt of lemon juice)
This was quite yummy, and I highly recommend giving one a try. Sweet, but not too sweet. Citrusy and and blue. Who doesn't like blue stuff?

Acapulco Zombie
1.5 oz Vodka
1.5 oz Tequila
1.5 oz Rum
Orange juice
Shake, pour over ice (into a large glass)
1 dash White Creme de Menthe
Splash of grapefruit juice
Stir, enjoy.

This is a bad night in a glass. Three shots of liquor, then mint and two kinds of citrus for flavoring. Just take a moment to really think about how that will taste... in both directions.

But don't stop there! There's no need to stick to those recipes, this is a very forgiving base to start with. Stick some strawberry liqueur in it and call it Pink Underwear, or some cherry liqueur and call it a Transfusion. Let your creativity run wild! Just remember, depending on how you're mixing them, you might be serving everyone triples. Might be a good way to end up with carpet dyed various colors.

So next time you're having a party... one of those kind of parties... bust out some Zombie drinks! They're colorful, everyone likes the taste, and they'll get you completely demolished in a hurry. What's not to like about that?

"Watchmen" Inspired Cocktails

Guy walks into a bar, asks the bartender for a "Rorschach."
Bartender says he's never heard of that drink.
Guy breaks bartender's right index finger.

Funny joke. Everyone laughs.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The High Life - Part 1

As I have let it be known before, I recently got back from 2 months overseas in Abu Dhabi for work. Actually it was more like 3 months, but I came home for the Holidays. During my time over there I lived in the lap of luxury. I was wined and dined, waited on hand and food, and probably could have gotten somebody to wipe my ass for me if I really wanted it. This is the first installment in a series of posts I'm calling "The High Life". And how is this related to booze you ask? Well my experience involved plenty free booze, expensive booze, high-end booze, and excessive consumption of booze.

In this first installment I wanted to tell you a little bit about International Business Class and why it's the shiznatz. But I first should lay some ground work. I flew Etihad Airways (the official carrier of the United Arab Emirates). Now there is something called hospitality, which we seem to have lost here in the U.S. The UAE takes hospitality and class to a level you simply will not find in the States. Everyone serving you is always dressed in the most elegant attire; they are always smiling, and are at your bidding no matter what you want. To sum it up Etihad business class makes business/first class on United, Delta, USAir, etc seem like a Southwest flight between Cleveland and Detroit. And their premium lounge makes even the nicest airline lounge in the States look like a Holiday Inn Express.

I spend my final day overseas at a conference in Dubai, standing around in a suit, getting all sweaty and my feet are killing me. I've been at it for the past four day and I just want to relax. I make the drive back from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and drop off the company vehicle at the office. The airport is just out of town, so I catch a cab. By the time I get to the airport, I am worn out and feel absolutely disgusting. But luckily for me, relaxation is just a few minutes away.

I walk up to the check-in counter for my flight and because I am a Silver member with a business class ticket, I get to bypass the line and go straight to the front. My bags are checked in just a few minutes and I proceed to security. Once again I get to bypass all the lines and go straight through. Not to be disrespectful to other cultures, but American hold a higher standard in personal hygiene than many other parts of the world. Needless to say, avoiding the lines is relief from more than just your typical airport hassle. I proceed to the Premiere Lounge, where I am greeted by a lovely Indonesian woman with a flower in her hair and big smile. She has a gentleman take my bags for me, which he puts in a private lock box, as she welcomes to the lounge. I ask her if I can take a shower, and she replies "The shower is in use at this moment, but we will come find you when it is ready. In the meantime, why don't you go inside and get something to drink." Ahh, the magic words I love to hear… "free booze". Well she didn't say free booze, but the little guy inside my head was bouncing up and down with glee screaming "Free booze! Free booze! Gimme gimme! I want it now. Whoopee!" So as I am usually inclined to do, I listen to my little friend and go straight to the bar and order a Blue Sapphire and tonic.

While waiting, I grab a bite to eat from the free buffet of exotic fair. After about 10 minutes the shower is ready, where I step into a beautiful oasis of blue marble. In the shower, the water cascades down from a grate in the ceiling while 4 other faucets massage my back and legs. The smell of lavender and jasmine fill the air from the high-end artisan bath products. I step out refreshed and with new life. I’m ready to take on the world, or at least a few more glasses of bourbon. Once I'm all cleaned up and have a fresh pair of comfy clothes on, I proceed down the hall to the spa. Yes, you heard me correct…the spa. There I find myself lying in a big, comfortable chair with a hot towel over my face. The lights are dim and soft music in playing as incense burns in the corner. A pretty, young woman gives me the second best foot massage I’ve ever had (My wife gives the best; of whom I was think about the entire time). When I am all finished being pampered, I return to the main lounge where I proceed to relax for the next hour with cold drink in hand at all times. Eventually I have to leave this utopia and get on that plane for my 15 hour flight back to New York. But with the little bit food I got in my belly, the fresh shower and the light buzz I've got going on, I can handle anything.

I make a quick stop off at the duty free before I head to my gate. This is where I picked up that bottle of Havana Club Añejo 3 Años I mentioned in a previous post. It was very good by the way. Unlike Bacardi Superior, this tasted the way white rum should taste. With that and a few other souvenirs, I head to the gate. At boarding time I once again I go straight to the front of the line. Once at my seat, a pretty stewardess in a classic 1960s uniform, silk scarf and flower in her hair greets me (Yes, I’m sorry honey, but everyone over there is absolutely beautiful. They pick only those pleasing to the eye for service jobs. Everyone else gets forced into manual labor). Anyways, she asks me if I'd like some champagne while we wait for the rest of the passengers to board. I reply "No, but I'll take a scotch." She smiles and returns a few moments later with a rock glass filler to the brim with Glenlivet 18 year. I sit back, prop my feet up, relax and sip my scotch till we take off. Once in the air and we are allowed the get really comfy, I lay back in my comfy seat that not only reclined to a flat bed, but also vibrates. I had picked the best seat in business class. It is a window seat in the back corner all by itself. It is in a little cubbyhole that separates me from everyone else. About three-and-a-half scotches in and I am out. I sleep for a good 8 hours or so. When I wake up, I call one of the stewardess' and order myself another drink and something to eat for dinner. I spend the next 6-7 hours relaxing, drinking, reading a book. I watch several movies on my private TV. There is no set time for the meals and drinks like back in coach. In coach, if I sleep through a meal it means I missed the meal. No, I can get whatever I wanted whenever I want it, and I most certainly take advantage of this.

When we finally touched down I am almost disappointed to leave, but I think it is the knowledge that I have a 5 hour layover in JFK. God damn, do I hate JFK. Out of curiosity, I head over to the Etihad counter. I tell them about my situation and show my business ticket from the previous flight. They woman smiles and hands me a pass to one of the business lounges there in New York. So I head over to that lounge. There I’m able to relax for about 3 more hours before venturing on. The lounge is nice, but I know right away that I’m not part of the “high life” anymore. I am greeted by some college girl wearing black stretch pants and a logo'd polo shirt. The kind of outfit your waitress would wear at Eat’ N Park. She looks anything but pleased to be up and working at 8AM. No smile. Once again I get a shower and change my clothes. I don't care who you are, lying around on a plane for 15 hours is gonna make you want a shower. The shower is just normal shower stall. No fancy jets or aromatic bath soaps. The towel is I get is a little bit bigger than a kitchen towel for drying dishes, but I guess I can’t complain. This is the first trip I’ve ever taken a shower at an airport on. My breakfast on the plane was a fancy omelet, with fruits and cheese, and a warm croissant. Here my bounty is nothing but a basket of fruit, some breakfast bars, and those single serving cereal boxes. I am able to get a bagel, but it takes the oh-so-cheerful college girl about half-an-hour to toast it and bring it to me. It may be 8AM, but that doesn’t stop me from grabbing a beer outta the big standup fridge. The girl looks over at me with a confused grimace. I tell her "it's 11PM by my clock. This is a night cap." I enjoy my breakfast beer, but eventually I have to leave.

It is time to go back and join the peasants, but I know that is where I truly belonged anyways. The fantasy is over. No more free booze, no more fine cuisine and certainly no more free foot rubs. I knew it couldn't last forever. So there I am, waiting in line with everyone else to get on the little puddle jumper. I do get a window see though. I have a great view all the way home, but maybe that's because my face is smashed up against the window thanks to the behemoth sitting next to me who smells like old cheese. I step off the plane in Pittsburgh.

The weary traveler has returned home. 17 hours in the air and 8 hours at the airport or traveling in a car will drain the life out of you. The weather is actually quite pleasant; however it isn’t enough to lift my spirits. I trudge along to the baggage claim and there she is. I grab hold of my wife and give her a big hug. I kiss her, look her in the eyes and say "I need a drink."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Guinea Pigs

This is an article that was published just today about a research study on alcohol.


Now, before I even finished reading the title, “TV drinking affects viewer consumption: study”, I was already feeling sick to my stomach. I have this little pet peeve. It manifests itself when I read an article or hear about some research study that either links one obvious thing to another or I simply feel is a complete waste of time and money. And I think that’s the reason; the money. These researchers are usually associated with a University and get their money from one of two sources; government grants and tuition. Now even though this study wasn’t done in the US, the principal is the same. We, the people, pay for this sh*t, either through taxes or the outrageous sum of money we fork out for higher education these days.

With that out of the way, I wanted to dig a little deeper into this wonderful study. First of all, the notion that what we see on TV or on screen is imitatable doesn’t exactly require a study. From the very first cigarette or beer ad on TV, they have been trying to suck us in with the idea that “if you smoke our cigarette or drink one of our beers, you’re going to get laid. Oh, and you’ll have a good time and have lots of friends.” It really doesn’t require a team of so called experts to figure that one out.

Now why is this study a complete waste of time? Well, let’s see….FREE BOOZE.
The study involved 80 male university students, aged 18 to 29, who were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Participants watched films and commercials in a comfortable "home cinema" set up in a laboratory, with access to a fridge containing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Hmm, if you take 80 male college students and stick them in a confined space with a fridge full of free booze, I wonder what they’re going to do. Drink soda pop and play grab ass? Probably not.
“Engels said the sight may act as an "alcohol cue" that creates a craving for booze in people who already drink.”

Does that PhD. make you feel smarter? If I’m watching a movie and someone pours a rum and coke, I’m going to think about rum and coke. Why? Because it’s in the guy’s hand and that is what my eyes are telling my brain to process at that moment. If he was eating a slice of pizza, I’d probably starting thinking about a nice greasy slice of Vincent’s.
For the first time, researchers have shown that watching characters knock back a beer or quaff another alcoholic beverage in films, TV shows or advertisements can have an immediate effect on how much viewers imbibe themselves.

That’s bull. My friends and I have been studying the affects for the past ten years, and haven’t come to consensus yet. It might be because we keep losing our notes. Either I vomited on them, McPaddy set them on fire, or B. James needed something to clean the blood off his forehead. I really think they could have saved a bunch if money if they had ditched the study and just watched “Beerfest” instead. Seriously, instead of spending $50,000 on the study, all they had to do was chip in 5 bucks each and get a case or two of beer; Maybe a bag of pretzels.

I guess the biggest problem with this study is that they didn’t follow the Scientific Method we all learned in 7th grade.

They only ran the study once; they never isolated their key variables, and didn’t take into account all the criteria. Every one of those 80 college boys knew they were being part of an experiment where they got to watch a movie and drink as much free booze as they wanted. That means the test subjects were self aware. How do the researchers not know that maybe a couple of the guys in Group-A decide to screw with their study and drink as much as possible in that hour? Both of the movies viewed were about sex, or more specifically, the lack there of. Maybe Group-C drank more because they weren’t getting any and need something to drown their sorrow in. Their results are entirely based on speculation and conjecture from only one test. But that doesn’t matter, because they got the correct answer. How do I know? Because I just do; me any everyone else in the world with at least half a brain.

I understand that there is no way to ever stop the frivolous wasting of our money on these kinds of studies. So the next time these researchers decide to waste a bunch of money studying the affects of alcohol consumption under different variables, there is only one question I have to ask.

Where do I sign up?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I can has a flavor?

So the "ultra-premium" vodka thing was big a few years back, and it still continues to some degree. I kind of appreciated it as a trend, and I kind of didn't. I'd mostly been a drinker of Nikolai, because it usually gets chucked in with strong-tasting mixers. But when people would see what I'm putting in their drink, they'd start bitching. (I eventually had to upgrade my well vodka to Smirnoff to quell this tidal wave of dissatisfaction.) But I still prefer the Nikolai, because it stands up to mixers and lets you know there's vodka in your beverage.

During the ultra-premium vodka craze, lack of flavor was the goal. Distilleries used the "choicest" grains for their mash, then brutally ran it through high-efficiency, industrial-grade column stills until most of the flavor was gone, then filtered out what was left. This achieved a neutral spirit that would be nearly indistinguishable to completely transparent when mixed into a cocktail.

Thing is, something like that had already existed for quite some time:

Wait... not fancy enough...

There we go.

It's not that I don't appreciate the ultra-premium vodkas. Grey Goose and Belvedere are fantastic spirits. I've had them many times, and I've even requested them when drinking out and purchased them for home consumption. But if you categorize them by flavor, they belong on the shelf above Le Everclear, not the shelf above Nikolai.

Does that mean I think Nikolai is better than Grey Goose? Well... catch me when I'm drunk and I might say yes just to start an argument, but the real answer is no. Grey Goose is a far better spirit than Nikolai. But in a way, I feel that Nikolai has more right to call itself vodka. It tastes like vodka, whereas Grey Goose tastes like Everclear cut with expensive bottled water. Becuase that's what it is. But that's good in its own way! In fact, I'm getting kind of thirsty for an ice cold shot of Grey Goose to sip on just thinking about it.

So I guess the real argument here is: is absence of flavor a flavor? And if the answer is yes, then does that mean Belvedere is also the world's finest bourbon? Or even the world's finest flank steak? If you close your eyes and think about it, Absolut vodka has the complete absence of Chicken Kiev flavor in it. Mmmmmm.... herbed butter....

But I digress. The trend in vodka continued on into "flavored vodkas", which again seems like a misnomer to me. When you take a neutral spirit and infuse it with some non-alcoholic flavor, I always called it a liqueur. So is De Kuyper the finest producer of flavored vodkas? Furthermore, does that mean gin is really juniper vodka? It's a slippery slope, to be sure.

So what is vodka to me? Well, the flavor you get when you drink some Nikolai or Smirnoff. But that doesn't mean that I think vodka has to be cheap. There's some top-shelf stuff that didn't jump on the no-flavor bandwagon. Pick up a bottle of Frïs, Iceberg, or Tito's Handmade Vodka and you'll get a nice, solid vodka flavor that is finely crafted but still well defined. Or if you want a real treat in the flavorful world of ultra-premium-real-vodka, go get a bottle of Ciroc.

Ciroc was the primary ingredient in what is hands-down the best vodka martini I have ever had. A tiny piece of lemon rind in the bottom, shaken over ice so well that the top of the beverage began to freeze over, and perhaps someone sat a bottle of dry vermouth next to it. It was called a "Ciroc Perfect Martini" on the menu, and I must say I haven't had a better vodka martini before or since. And as good as they are, I can't imagine a flavorless vodka standing up to even the tiniest hint of lemon and vermouth with a pleasing result. You need a vodka with a little backbone to pull of a good martini, and Ciroc definitely fits the bill.

So I'm not saying go throw out your Grey Goose, that would be a terrible shame. It has its place of honor in my bar at home, and it should in yours as well. But when someone asks for something made with a top-shelf vodka, try reaching for something like Frïs or Ciroc. You'll be doing them a favor.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


OK, I know today is my day to post, but I got real busy at work. Here is some filler for the time being, until I know what my penance must be.

bleh, Keystone Light

Draft Dodgers

Someone posted this to Tasty Brew, and I thought I'd share with the blog. A great post about homebrewing as the start of craft brewing and part of the libretarian agenda: http://www.reason.com/news/show/131411.html.