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  1. Istiklal Caddesi a MxMo Smoke Recipe

    September 22, 2013 by Elyn

    Istiklal Cadessi


    Since we are a brand new blog, it is pretty intimidating to try out our first Mixology Monday. Nonetheless, we were inspired by this month’s smoke theme.

    They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire– it isn’t necessarily true if we’re down to the smoldering embers, but, well, they say it anyway. In our case, where there was fire, now there’s smoke, and it’s time to stoke your enthusiasm for the next challenge.

    Elana gave us the lovely challenge of a cocktail with smoke and we have two to share with you. The first is one I’m calling Istiklal Caddesi after the street that forms the cultural hub of Istanbul.

    What does Istanbul have to do with smoke? Well, I was lucky to spend several weeks traveling in Turkey during the cold winter of 2005. On a backpacker budget, I stayed in lots of cheap hotels that were drafty and had inconsistent warm water. The place my travel companion and I would often go to warm up was one of the many tea shops scattered around any urban area in Turkey. Inside you could escape the cold, have a cup of strong and sweet tea, play backgammon, and rent a hookah to pass the time.

    Istiklal Cadessi

    This drink is an homage to those memories and also designed to be sipped as an accompaniment to enjoying a hookah. The recipe is functionally an apple brandy sour with some Turkish flavors tossed in to make it a little more special. My favorite shisha flavor has always been apple or cardamom so both of those flavors go into the drink via the apple brandy and cardamom syrup. Sumac is a tart berry that is a common cooking ingredient in Turkish food so the sumac tincture is there to blend the lemon and brandy harmoniously. Finally, the lapsang souchong syrup stands in for that strong, sweet, hot tea that I drank so many glasses of. Plus, it brings in the smoke flavor for the drink. This drink, like a hookah, is only subtly smokey but the flavor is definitely there. Enjoy!

    Istiklal Cadessi

    Istiklal Caddesi
    Apple brandy, cardamom, lapsang souchong, and sumac evoke the hookah smoke-filled tea shops of Istanbul.
    Recipe type: Cocktail
    • 2 oz. Laird's 7-Year Apple Brandy
    • 1 oz. lemon juice
    • 1 barspoon sumac tincture*
    • ¼ oz. cardamom syrup**
    • ½ oz. lapsang souchong syrup***
    • 3 dashes Fee Brother's Barrel-Aged bitters
    1. Combine all ingredients. Stir with ice. Strain into a glass with a single large ice cube.
    2. * Sumac tincture: Combine 3 tablespoons dried sumac with a ¼ cup vodka. Allow to steep covered for 24 hours. Strain through cheesecloth until sediment is removed.
    3. ** Cardamom syrup: Bring 1 cup of water and ¼ cup cardamom pods to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup sugar. Allow cardamom to steep in syrup for 3 days. Strain to remove cardamom pods. Store in an old salsa jar.
    4. *** Lapsang Souchong syrup: Prepare lapsang souchong tea at normal strength. Stir in equal amount of sugar. Half-heartedly attempt to remove label from IKEA lingonberry syrup bottle. Give up. Store in the bottle anyway.

  2. FYI, Cabinet is up!

    September 16, 2013 by Russ

    In case you’d checked earlier than last week, I’ve filled our Cabinet (pun totally intended) here on the site, so you curious cats can see what lurks therein.  I haven’t gotten to the Bar of Eagerness yet… since I am less proud of what’s in it… but soon!

    UPDATE: Make that ‘now.’  The Cabinet is fully up to speed, warts and all.

  3. Books are magical

    September 13, 2013 by Russ

    Need a reason, or yet another reason, to read David Wondrich’s awesome book, Imbibe?  Here’s an excerpt from early in the opening chapter that really highlights the approachable, yet professorial, writing style and the clarity of the message:

    [On mixed drinks] They are easily abused; they can degrade lives and even destroy them.  Even if appreciated in moderation, they are appreciated in surrounding that rarely lead to detached meditation on truth and beauty (if those are not the same thing) or constructive engagement with the great moral and social questions of the age.

    And yet neither are they contemptible.  A proper drink at the right time – one mixed with care and skill and served in a  true spirit of hospitality – is better than any other made thing at giving us the illusion, at least, that we’re getting what we want from life.  A cat can gaze upon a king, as the proverb goes, and after a Dry Martini or a Sazerac Cocktail or two, we’re all cats.

    Well said, good sir.  That second half really speaks to me, and sets a bar for the kind of drinking that I would eagerly wish upon anyone and everyone.

  4. The Root: Where it all began

    September 11, 2013 by Russ

    Especially that one on the right.

    I feel that the name of this fancy thing bears some explanation.  It also seems like a good place to start filling up all this empty space!  First, some history:

    My lovely wife, Elyn, and I began our amateur explorations into cocktails when we were just dating.  It was about 4 years ago,  and we were eager to explore this boozy world together.  We would wander into liquor stores and get things that looked pretty or interesting or both.  I’d been thinking of cocktails in terms of what I’d had thus far (simple highballs, White Russians, and a few unnaturally colored mixtures at local bars), and shopped accordingly.

    Pama, anyone?

    I considered surrounding this set with mini-bottles, but a shot glass required less dusting.

    We armed ourselves with a few mass-market cocktail recipe books and tried to make due with what we could find.  We learned our way with a few decent liqueurs, a few affordable base spirits, but not a lot of citrus or bitters and even less sense of where to go next.  Then the holidays rolled around and Elyn picked up a book for me that changed everything: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.

    I pored over every recipe and each story on our winter vacation, swept along by the sudden avalanche of perspective.  I’d been thinking of liquor, as well as cocktails, in very shallow terms.  Here, there was history!  There were stories behind every drink!  There was humor and levity right alongside a very tangible sense of… what?  Importance?  Substance?  The word I came to realize was written into each page and explanation was significance.  Reading that book made me feel the significance of these drinks.

    From there, we read Imbibe by the excellent David Wondrich, and our understanding grew and deepened.  I can’t speak for Elyn, but personally I felt like I’d found a period of history that resonated with my tastes; namely, from the days of punch through Prohibition is where I think my palate belongs.

    Especially that one on the right.

    A formidable trio of resources.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still completely enjoy creations more recent than 1933.  But there is a simplicity and elegance to those old recipes.  Just as I like learning the roots of words and watching How It’s Made, I really think you can taste the origins of modern drinks in those old recipes.  In this fellow’s opinion, that is the right kind of significant drinkin’.

  5. Famously hot? Have a G&T

    September 10, 2013 by Elyn

    Aviation and Tonic

    This afternoon I stopped by my favorite liquor store to wander aimlessly. The gentlemen at Morganelli’s are lovely and always offer to help. I’m always, “Just looking.” Yet, I somehow never manage to leave the store without a purchase. Today I stopped in to buy a surprise for my husband but couldn’t resist getting another gin. What can I say, I’m a gin fiend. And while I certainly have some favorites (I’m looking at you Nolet’s silver) it is hard to resist the temptation of adding something new to the collection. Hence, while we’re likely to have 6-7 gins on the bar at any given time, the only stand-by that is always there is Beefeater.

    Aviation and Tonic

    So, my browsing today led me to procure a gin I’ve always admired in cocktails but never had a bottle of for home, Aviation. You see, it is sweltering in “famously hot” Columbia, SC today and I was browsing the liquor store thirsty. Gin and tonic, being the most refreshing drink known to humankind, of course crossed my mind. So, I snatched up that bottle of Aviation and rushed home to turn it into a sweaty glass of pure refreshment.

    By the time I got home, I realized we had no limes but I persevered and sipped my lime-free drink on the balcony while cracking into a book (about gin, naturally.) I’ll be honest, the balcony bit only lasted a few minutes. Not even a gin and tonic can chill down this day that much. Skipping the lime allowed me to catch the subtle citrus that Aviation carries as well as the floral notes. I also am picking up a very pleasant “green” flavor and something subtly peppery. But who am I kidding? This isn’t a tasting session, it is pure refreshment and relaxation. . . just as a gin and tonic was intended to be.