Archive for November 2011

What's In Your Home Bar: The Evergreen Lounge

We have been wanting to do a regular feature on people's home bars for some time now.  The funny thing we have realized about the home bar, is that understandably, it can be a difficult thing to keep stocked.  My friends Eric and Jamie are an exception to that rule.  They keep a stellar home bar A.K.A. the Evergreen Lounge, with an amazing liquor collection and were kind enough to share it with us.  We asked them a few questions about the inspiration behind their bar.

Eric Davis is a server at Nightwood restaurant where he is also one of the creators of the cocktail menu.  He infuses spirits, makes liqueurs, simple syrups and his own bitters which are featured in several of the drinks.  The Chicago Reader recently published an article about the Nocino he makes for the restaurant

Jaime Lynn Davis co-owns and manages a sustainable event venue in Chicago called the Greenhouse loft. She is also a photographer.

Eric, you have an amazing collection of spirits and bar pharaphernalia including an awesome Tiki bar which you mentioned you bought several years ago for $50.  What got you interested in making cocktails and collecting for your home bar?
We had a really big bar growing up. It started out in the corner of our family room and eventually occupied the whole room. It served entertaining purposes but mostly displayed my father's ever growing collection of spirits and liqueurs. When I was a kid we traveled a lot, so my father was always on the hunt for new additions to the shelves. So I guess I'm following in his footsteps.
Jamie and I live a few blocks away from the Violet Hour. When it first opened we were hooked right away, probably going at least once a week. Eventually we started making  drinks at home, buying cocktails books, and visiting Binny's on a regular basis.

Jamie, you two have thrown some pretty awesome cocktail parties at your home, I was lucky enough to attend one.  Any advice for preparing for a cocktail party?
Hosting a cocktail party is a lot of fun but it can be a lot of work and get expensive, so having a clear and concise menu planned and printed is a good idea.  We tend to go a little overboard, but are getting better!  We stick with certain liquors like gin, whiskey and rum, then develop a cocktail list.  This allows for people to try a little of each.  We also like to play the bartenders.  We practice the cocktails before the party, and make little cheat sheet recipes cards so we can make the drinks efficiently. 

Making sure the parties are smaller is also a good idea. You want to have the right glassware, so checking out thrift stores or ikea is a good way of stocking up on interesting stuff -- if you don't want a billion glasses after the party, maybe split the cost with another friend, then you both have a new collection of glasses after the party!  

We are usually the bartenders only up to a certain point in the evening- it's actually really fun and you get to visit with people and tell them about the drinks as you make them, and we don't mind doing the work.   After a couple hours though it's a good idea to join the party and mingle. 

For our NYE cocktail party, we stopped making drinks at midnight, and after that we had a pre-made punch and an absinthe drip out for everyone.  At that point everyone was fine with scooping up some rum punch or trying out the drip.

Food is also very important.  If you are hosting a cocktail party, we think it's fair to ask the guests to bring an horsto share.  Also, to make it extra special, we have sent out invites in the mail to our guests, with probation era themes - even a special password they must know for the door.  It's really fun, people really get into it - even dressing the part!

You guys have some pretty interesting bottles in your collection including bottled cocktails and spirits that are no longer available in the US.  What was one of your most exciting purchases?  
A few years ago we found a bottle of Wray & Nephew Pimento Liqueur. As far as I can tell, this pimento liqueur (also know as allspice dram) hasn't been imported into the US for around twenty years. Using recipes I found online and in Imbibe magazine, I've tried replicating my own version several times before finding the bottle. So it was interesting to finally taste the real deal and compare it to my own versions.

Where do you shop for your spirits?
Lush and Binny's here in Chicago. Whenever we are in Madison visiting Jamie's family, we stock up at Woodman's.  

Eric, are you working on any new liqueurs  or cocktails?
I started a green walnut liqueur (nocino) back in July. It's now ready to be strained and cut with simple syrup.  After that I would like to work on a Vin D'orange when winter citrus is in season.

Would you like to share a recipe?
This is the time of the year we like to make our version of an eggnog using Silk pumpkin soy milk, which is only available in Nov and Dec.

1 1/2 oz spice rum (try Old New Orleans Spiced Rum)
1/2 oz maple syrup
1/4 oz amaro (we've also tried allspice liqueur, walnut liqueur and sherry)
5 oz pumpkin soy milk
Fee's old fashion aromatic bitters and orange bitters grated nutmeg

Serve hot or cold.

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Glossary: Bonded

Bonded Whiskey Warehouse. Photo via PBS
During a recent visit to Barrelhouse Flat, we noticed something we had never seen on a cocktail menu before - 'bonded" bourbons and ryes. The bartender did a good job of explaining the distinction, and we wanted to pass it on to you.

"Remember the Maine" cocktail at Barrelhouse Flat
The term comes from the U.S. Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which was enacted to ensure patrons were getting the real deal liquor in their glass. There are a few distilleries still adhering to the practice - like Wild Turkey, Laird's Applejack and Evan Williams - so it's good to know a little provenance.

Here are the stipulations for an American spirit to be bottled in bond:

1. It must be the product of one distillation season.
2. It must come from one distiller and one distillery.
3. It must be stored in a federally bonded facility under government supervision for four years.
4. It must be 100 proof (the very reason to know the meaning of this term when ordering - that's a stiff cocktail!).
5. The bottled spirit's label must identify the distillery (as a number), where it was distilled and where it was bottled.

I encourage you to peruse Barrelhouse Flat's online cocktail menu, and if you get the chance, stop by and get a drink - you'll definitely enjoy the bygone aesthetic.

The cocktail this week is from the New York Times. Said to aid the digestion of a stuffed stomach, it's a good nightcap after a holiday meal. Remember though, at 100-proof, stick to just one.

Medicinal Bonded Whiskey, an exception during Prohibition. Photo via PBS
The Reanimator via the New York Times
1 1/2 ounces straight rye whiskey, like Rittenhouse Bonded Rye Whiskey
1 1/2 ounces lighter Italian amaro, like Nonino
Thin-cut lemon peel, for garnish.

Stir the rye and amaro together with plenty of cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with the lemon peel.

P.S. A wealth of information: Ken Burn's "Prohibition"

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Inspiration from the Forest

The cold is fast upon us and it is time to winterize those cocktails.  We tapped into the forest for some inspiration.  Whenever a recipe calls for simple syrup, why not switch it up with one of these sticky suggestions. 

Birch Syrup
Popular in Alaska and Canada, birch syrup is similar to maple syrup, but spicier and a little more concentrated in flavor.  We are thinking this would be delicious in your old fashioned or paired nicely with a sweet vermouth and rye.  We found a nice source for birch syrup here at Edible Canada.

Maple Syrup
Again, this would be great with bourbon.  We were thinking a whiskey smash with lemon and maple syrup would be a winning combination.  Try a barspoon or two in a hot toddy in place of honey.  Quality is key here, you want the good stuff!  Your local farmers market is a great source for maple syrup as is your local health food store. 

Cinnamon Syrup 
We have seen a lot of drinks made with cinnamon syrup lately.  Cinnamon is a very versatile spice and is a fun way to winterize some of those summery cocktails.   We are thinking this might be fun to try with tequila or rum.  Cinnamon margaritas and cinnamon mojitos anyone?  The Spice House in Chicago carries a wide assortment of cinnamon if you want to branch out from your local supermarket varieties.

Pine Syrup
Pine can be very potent, a little goes a long way.  But when used at the right proportion, it can add a nice refreshing spin on a cocktail.  We think pine compliments the juniper in gin and would be delicious in a tom collins.  We like Uncle Harry's for edible pine but have also discovered L'Epicerie.

Note:  When making simple syrup, we usually follow a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar/syrup simmered over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  The syrup should keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

When making cinnamon syrup we recommend breaking the cinnamon sticks into pieces and simmering them on low for about 30 min. with sugar and water mix.  When you reach your desired flavor, strain out cinnamon.

Pine will most likely come in a tincture.  You will want to add to sugar water mix literally, one drop at a time for desired flavor.

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Eskell 6th Anniversary Party: Next Saturday 11/12/11

Join us next Saturday! We'll be serving up some Fall punches at Eskell Boutique, 1509 North Milwaukee, from 5-8pm. We're super-excited cuz it's always a great mix of people and Martha from the awesome Bike Fancy blog is co-hosting/co-celebrating with Eskell. I was actually featured on the blog a few months ago with my Summer bike (that is sadly no more) here.

See you then!

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I have just started watching David Lynch's entire Twin Peaks series for the first time.  Relishing his aesthetic, seduced by the unraveling of a mystery, I have been savoring every minute...trying to make it last.  But, as I come closer to maybe never discovering who killed Laura Palmer, I can't help but notice that David Lynch is lurking near by.

David Lynch just debuted a new album Crazy Clown Time which I found surprisingly listenable.  It is soft, melodic, dreamy, as he whispers and sings through voice distortion, and collaborates on a song with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's.  I even thought I recognized a cameo from the theme song to Twin Peaks.  You might consider this album synth-pop, I would consider it the perfect soundtrack to a winter road trip.

Lynch also recently opened a members only bar in Paris called Silencio inspired by his fictitious club Silencio in Mulholland Drive.  There are some pictures of the space in press throughout the internet and he has published a few exclusive images for an article in Nowness, but he intends for the interior to remain shrouded in mystery.  The bar is nestled in a basement 6 floors underground, will serve original cocktails, has a stage for live shows, a cinema, a library with some of his exotic book collection and holds a smoking room disguised as an indoor forest.  It is a members only bar until midnight when it opens to the public.  I can only hope to one day have a drink at this bar, in the mean time, I will have to visit in my dreams.



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