Wow, we’ve done this seventeen times? Mixology Monday manages to grow with each incarnation, and it’s obvious by the number of new blogs that well-crafted cocktails are finding their way back into our culture. I was quite pleased to see Paul’s topic, because I knew it would give me the chance to put down on paper the things I’ll be talking about at Tales of the Cocktail. I had a lot of trouble selecting which blog to borrow a potion from for this post, but after many drinks I settled on Dr. Bamboo.
Dr. Bamboo is written and crafted by a fantastic artist and tantalizing writer named Craig, aka Dr. Bamboo. He has twisted his cocktail blog in an exciting way to include amusing artwork for each of his posts. In addition, he describes the mixtures that grace his lips in a way that builds a perfect picture in my mind of the joys I should expect. He is always fun to read and includes at least a few bits of history or an anecdote to fuel the mind as well as the palate.
Without giving too much away, Craig and I are going to be working on a joint recipe comparison and “something else” which will remain a secret for a bit longer. His post on the Rendezvous caught my eye due to two of its ingredients that will be featured in our upcoming, and quite epic, recipe comparison.
- 3oz gin
- 1oz cherry brandy
- 1/2oz Campari
Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with fresh cherry.
Source: The Martini Book, Sally Ann Berk
The Rendezvous is a fine drink, and I plan to add it to my regular rotation. The cherry brandy is rich like butter and adds a velvety texture to the cocktail. The bitterness of the Campari cuts the sweetness and mellows the gin. It’s a fine example of a complex cocktail that includes only a few ingredients.
Paul asked us to divulge the history of how we became part of the cocktail community and our motivations for starting a blog. I’m so excited to read what little twists and turns caused my fellow bloggers to go from mixing drinks to sharing their passion with others.
Why Did I Start Kaiser Penguin?
The answer is simple. I started Kaiser Penguin because of Paul Clarke. I was building my bar, had no idea what I was doing, and turned to Google. At that time, there were probably fewer than five cocktail blogs on the Internet, and I found Cocktail Chronicles. In seconds, I had the words of a master on my screen. He was talking about spirits and techniques that I had never heard of. And he was doing it with precise detail and clarity. At about the same time I found Darcy’s blog, The Art of the Drink. He was a full-fledged bar tender and had his own techniques and recommendations.
I read and absorbed so much information (and alcohol) from these two mixologists, and it was like the night before Christmas every time I came home from work to load up these two blogs. I always hoped for a new post, but didn’t mind going back and re-reading old ones if there wasn’t anything new. I knew the day would come, and I dreaded it. I finally exhausted all of their posts.
So I turned to cocktail books, all recommended by Paul and Darcy of course, starting with Dale DeGroff’s Craft of the Cocktail. There were so many drinks that my favorite blogs hadn’t covered. But at that time my real passion was food. My cookbooks were filled to the brim with lusty pictures of roast birds, butter-laden vegetables, and succulent desserts dripping with honey and scented with spice. But where were the cocktail photos? I wanted to see ice-crusted glasses filled with richly colored concoctions, garnishes that seemed to defy gravity, and tiki mugs so dark and mysterious that their contents remained a mystery until consumed. The cocktail books I had were either sparse with their photos or skipped them entirely. The developing cocktail blog scene hadn’t really even considered photos. This brings me to the first reason I started Kaiser Penguin. I’ll present them all here for those that are skimming this verbose post.
How I Thought KP.com Could Be Different
- Recipe comparisons
- Brand recommendations
- More regular posting schedule
I won’t discuss photography further, as I covered it recently in the still running (and submission date extended) Tiki Photo Contest. Let’s move on to recipe comparisons …
I had to find a way to wade through the plethora of recipes that filled my ever-expanding bookshelf. What better way than to make ten versions of the same recipe? After my Zombie Recipe Comparison (which needs to be updated with the advent of Sippin’ Safari), I was amazed at how an extra 1/4oz of an ingredient could so drastically change the taste of a cocktail. I have been gathering my armies and resources for several more comparisons, but I would love to hear your suggestions for recipe comparisons. Post them in the comments!
We will skip over my goal of a regular posting schedule, as that has been a complete failure. Photographs and recipe comparisons take a lot of time to develop, and I have often considered upping the posting frequency with ideas like “The Daily Potion,” “Featured Ingredient,” or other shorter posts. What do you think, faithful reader?
Brand recommendations are still something I have trouble finding on the interweb without sending emails to specific people. eGullet is a great source, but opinions are as diverse as the brands that exist. With products changing and availability always in question, once you find the perfect orange curacao, the company is gone or distributors forget it exists.
Evolution of the Penguin’s Palate
My drinks of choice just five years ago were Franziskaner Dunkel Hefeweizen and Captain and Coke. I had been drinking tasty and interesting beer for a while, but the lore of spirits was but a small drop of pastis in my mind. Captain was yummy, especially with Coke. And wine? That was some paint-flavored drink that pompous people drank to be snooty.
Then a bottle of scotch whisky was donated to our pathetic and small bar that functioned solely as a factory for Long Island Iced Teas and C&Cs (I just cringed typing that). I have no idea which whisky it was, nor do I remember where it came from. It tasted like burnt wood and salt. Like good burnt wood and salt. And what was better? None of my friends would even touch it.
After the bottle was emptied, I went to the premium state store to see what their wall of single malts held for me. After looking at the prices, I had two reactions. The first was to finger my wallet. The second was to pick up a bottle that cost way more than I could afford and to proceed to the register. It was a 15-year-old Laphroaig.
The Peaty Seed of Cocktail Love
I opened the bottle of Laphroaig, poured a glass, sat back and just smelled it. I didn’t even bring the glass to my lips for five minutes. Formaldehyde? An entire forest of burnt pine trees? Band-Aids? The death ward in a hospital? I closed my eyes and took a sip. I can remember the moment today. This sip of my future wasn’t when my love for cocktails began, but I think it was the seed. The coming months saw my whisky shelf grow and grow. I no longer downed Captain and Cokes one after another; a tulip-shaped glass of whisky was enough.
Move ahead a couple of years. I met the love of my life, Gretchen. We bought a small Gnome-village house with a pond, a jungle of flowers, and continued our habit entertaining 20 guests at a time, but now with a little more space. Everyone has a list of things they want to install when they buy a house: a pooltable, bar, vegetable garden, smoke house, chicken coop, fully equipped Antarctic basement for penguins … I started with the garden and bar. I approached the creation of the bar with a level of enthusiasm and research normally saved for buying a car or building a space shuttle, and I quickly realized that a three month quest wouldn’t do it. I needed years. No, I needed a lifetime.
A Nerdy Analogy
If you’re familiar with Final Fantasy, you know you can play the game in two ways. You can enjoy the story, leveling up and gaining new spells and items. You might have a little trouble, but you can probably progress and finally win. The other path, however, is a bit more treacherous. What, you want the most powerful item? Better collect the 450 Chocobo cards required to unlock the level that reveals 38 puzzles that require you to beat them five times each. Then maybe, just maybe will you achieve the perfection you desire. Well, this is how I approach cocktails.
I hope everyone has enjoyed Kaiser Penguin as much as I have. It wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for the wonderful cocktail community that it has grown up in. I wish I could thank every reader in person and pat every blogger on the back for adding to the rich and diverse world of cocktails. Cheers!