Monday, June 9, 2008

Cheap Wines of the 50s

MD 50/50 (Mad Dog)

All of the above are wines known back in my father's day as super cheap wines. (The type of thing my aunt thinks I shouldn't know about, because you only know about it when you live in the gutter.) These days, however, Gallo makes more expensive wines.

These brands, and others, are known as low-end fortified wines and can be read about on Wikipedia ( Such wines aren't sold in the downtown and tenderloin areas of San Francisco, NYC, and Seattle, because the only thing they're good for is getting drunk, and thus contribute to vagrancy and public drunkeness of the homeless (Wikipedia).

People often made fun of wine connosiers when drinking these wines, which is why they came to be called Wino Wine. They may also be called Rotgut Wine, Bum Wine, and a number of other things.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Traditionally made with tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, the margarita is a refreshingly sour aperitif. Chose from silver or gold tequila, gold being slightly more expensive since it was aged in casks to attain the golden tinge and a slightly different flavor. At high end bars, you'll find your margarita floated with Cointreau rather than triple sec, both of which are actually curacao. The difference being that Cointreau may be drank alone, and other curacao are best for mixing. Some also choose to use lemon rather than lime. Fresh lime has a slightly sharper taste, and is what is traditionally served with any tequila drink.

When serving a traditional margarita over the rocks, use tequila, lime juice, and triple sec or other curacao. When making a more modern (and less traditional and classy) blended drink, feel free to use a margarita mix instead of the lime and triple sec. (Using just a dash of triple sec will give it a little something extra however.)

On the rocks recipe, from The Bartender's Guide to Mixing 600 Cocktails & Drinks:
Juice of a lime
1.5 measures silver tequila
0.5 measure Cointreau
Serves 1. Rub rimof cocktail glass with lime wedge, then dip in salt. Shake ingredients and strain. (In all reality I don't know why one would strain it over more ice...Perhaps this recipe assumes you don't need your margarita to stay chilled. I recommend you serve it over the rocks, since I believe margaritas taste best cold.)

The proportions I was taught for a blended margarita are:
Slightly over 3 cups ice cubes in blender
6 servings margarita mix
Dash of triple sec (optional)
2.5 servings tequila
Sliced lime
Makes 2 servings, in a salt rimmed margarita glass.

At least an hour before your party, dip your margarita glasses in water and chill in the freezer. When you remove the glasses, hold them by the stem, not by the top as you'll ruin the chilled look of the glass, and never by the lip, for sanitary reasons.

This recipe was used at a family gathering as an actual aperitif, and so the aim was perhaps to get slightly tipsy. You can increase the amount of tequila if you want to get drunk. I accidentally used 3 shots in the mix for my uncle and I, so I was slightly red for 20 minutes.

Place the ice in the blender. Hold shot glass over blender and pour in each of the three liquids. As soon as the liquid nears the top of the shot glass, quickly turn it over into the blender, temporarily pausing your pouring. Quickness is key, as pouring it slowly will create an opportunity for the liquid to trickle down the side of the shot glass, and inevitably outside your blender. Cover the blender and pulse on the highest (ice crusher) setting until you feel/hear the large chunks dissapate. Then blend (second lowest setting) for 20 seconds.

This is the way I was taught to garnish, but is not perhaps the best way:
Slice a lime from one end to the other, rather than through the middle. This gives you more appetizing slices, without the triangular pattern characteristic of orange slices cut in the other direction. Rub one slice over the lips of your glasses, then dip glasses in margarita salt (or any salt with a larger grain). Some recipes recommend rubbing the outside of the peel on the glass (for the oil) instead. But as far as I can guess, that wouldn't really make the salt stick. Float the other lime slices in the glasses or cut partially through the center of the slice and balance on the rim of each glass. This tends to look a bit awkward, however, since the slices are so shallow.

For a better looking garnish (although not nearly as good for squeezing and eating), there are many options. Try scoring the lime around the center (the opposite way from before), then slicing through that line. Slice again next to the end, to create a perfectly round slice. Cut along the radius of the slice and balance on the cup. Or, cut the slice in half for two half slice garnishes and similarly cut them and balance them.

My uncle :)
Walton, Stuart. Bartender's Guide to Mixing 600 Cocktails & Drinks. United Kingdom: London, 2008.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Aperitif & Digestif

An aperitif is an alcoholic drink served before a meal, sometimes as an appetizer, or accompanied with an appetizer. The drink is usually somewhat bitter, sweet or light, and serves as a warm-up or opener to a meal. Aperitif comes from the Latin aperire a verb meaning “to open.” In France, one might receive an aperitif before a meal, usually dinner, and sometimes lunch. In Italy, one would be offered an aperitivo. The former term is more commonly used in the US and in other English speaking countries.

Ina Garten, known for her cooking show on the Food Network, The Barefoot Contessa, frequently plans elaborate meals that include an aperitif, and she is quite creative. Instead of martinis, she might serve appletinis, cosmopolitans, or other inspired drinks, frequently combining fruit juices with various alcohols. She also usually includes a non-alcoholic version for younger guests, or those who do not drink.

The origins of serving an aperitif are difficult to specifically identify. There is some speculation that serving an aperitif may have been common in Ancient Egypt, but little corroborating evidence exists to give this theory backing. More likely the invention of vermouth in Italy was cause to begin serving an aperitif in the late 18th century. By the late 19th century, the tradition of serving cocktails prior to dinner was both a European and American custom. Drinks like the martini, sherry, or even dry white wine or champagne sufficed as a palate warmer.

Most countries have popular aperitifs. For example, martinis before dinner are quite common in meals of several courses in the US. The French tend to drink anise-based liquors, like Pastis and Pernod. Kir, a mixture of white wine and cassis is also popular, and for those who wish to be fancy, Kir Royale, a mix of champagne and cassis might be substituted.

The Greeks may also serve an aperitif before dinner, and one most common to them is ouzo, another drink with an anise flavor. The Italians may favor cinzano or campari, which are both bitter. Vermouth might also be served.

In company with the aperitif is the digestif, a drink served after the meal that is said to aid in digestion. Digestifs tend to be a little heavier, for example port or cognac. Serving a digestif may be frowned upon however, particularly if one plans to drive home.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Attend Bartending School for free! (well, 30 hrs of work)

So Bartending Schools are generally official-sounding rip offs. You don't even necessarily need a liscence or certificate to bartend. That being said, schools are still a great shortcut to being the center of your social circle and learning some valuable skills. If you have 6-10 hours per week to dedicate to making phone calls, and you're at least 18, I recommend you try out as a Bartending School Job Lead Collector. 30 hours of calls for a free 2 week course at the San Francisco School of Bartending in the financial district. (Normally they charge $400-600!) There are also 5 week plans (same number of classes) available, but whether those are being offered in exchange for phone calls, I know not.


(This is an exchange for services. There is no monetary compensation)

Please read the entire post carefully before replying.

The San Francisco School of Bartending needs your help reaching out to potential employers of our graduates. In exchange for your phone calls we will provide you with our two-week bartending course.

We are currently looking for people who have the time and motivation to commit 30 hours (6–10 hours per week) of their time making calls in exchange for a two week bartending course. Your mission is to investigate job leads for our grads from bars, restaurants and nightclubs by telephone. These are not sales calls, but merely inquiries as to the availability of bartending positions. The job consists of using Internet search engines to find establishments with bars, calling them to inquire about their hiring status and then entering it into our job database. The days and hours may be flexible but we do require a weekly update of your hours logged in. You must be able to use your phone and internet connection simultaneously for this position.

Hours must be completed prior to taking the course; therefore, it will be at least 3 weeks before you may attend.


Please email your name and phone number along with first and second date/time preference and we will confirm. We will be holding interviews:

Tuesday, May 27 at 4:00pm

Wednesday, May 28 at 4:00pm

Thursday, May 29 at 4:00pm

Thursday, May 30 at 4:00pm

The interview will last 30-45 minutes; attire is casual.

Please plan ahead so that you are punctual. Interviews will start at the appointed time and late-comers will not be considered.

There are several positions available. No phone calls if you can help it, please.
  • Compensation: Free Bartending School with job placement assistance for your 30 hours of phone calls
  • Telecommuting is ok.
  • This is a part-time job.
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pairing drinks with food

Serve an apéritif, a vermouth spritzer with salad, wine with the entrée and a straight spirit or sweet cocktail with dessert.

  • Use common sense. If you think about it, pairing is about using your head (nose, mouth, brain). If you are eating something very rich and fatty, you will want something slightly acidic to "cut" it. If you are eating something with a strong flavor, try a heartier, stronger drink (dark tea, unsweetened or lightly sweet deep red juices, balsamic spritzer).

  • If you are a fan of drinking with dessert, remember the cardinal rule: the beverage should be as sweet as or sweeter than the dessert being served. Otherwise, the drink will attack the palate and come across as too acidic.

  • If you want to "carry" the flavor of a dish – meaning prolong the taste on your buds – sip on something creamy.

  • Mix, don’t just match. There are times when drinks "match" the food, meaning they have similar flavor and aroma notes. But they should also enhance and complement the flavor of something. It takes a very skilled nose and tongue to figure out what makes a good mix, but your kitchen is a laboratory, so start experimenting!

  •,,FOOD_10018_3733366,00.html (Useful alcoholic and virgin pairings),1975,FOOD_10017,00.html (Wine Pairing guide)

    Gin and Tonic

    Type: Cocktail
    Primary alcohol by volume:
    Served: "On the rocks"; poured over ice
    Standard garnish: citrus fruit, usually lime
    Standard drinkware: highball glass
    Commonly used ingredients:
    Preparation: Mix and serve-stirred, not shaken.

    Because there’s so little that goes into this iconic drink — gin, tonic water, ice and perhaps a bit of lime — what really matters are good ingredients.

    For this particular cocktail, we have the British to thank, namely, Brits in 19th-century India, who were searching for ways to get their loyal subjects to ingest quinine, which is used to treat malaria and has at times been thought to repel mosquitos, which carry the disease. The amount of quinine in modern tonic water is a fraction of what’s needed for treatment (you’d need about 7 quarts of tonic water to even come close), but the drink’s popularity was established.

    Yet even gin and tonic lovers face an uphill battle to find a good one. Even when done right, it’s not an easy drink to love — tonic’s slightly bitter quinine taste is a turnoff to sweet-drink lovers.

    Atop the list of potential pitfalls is the tonic, a misunderstood beverage if ever there was one, and a potentially devastating blow to a perfect G&T.

    “The sad part is, it’s screwed up at 90 percent of the bars in America, and you know the reason?” asks Dale DeGroff, one of the nation’s leading mixology consultants and author of “The Craft of the Cocktail.” “Ninety percent of bars in America use soda out of a gun that in no way, shape or form resembles quinine water.”

    The better bet is tonic from a bottle — preferably one of those single-serving jobs, which preserves freshness. Request it that way if you’re ordering in a bar; the best bars will at least stock club soda and tonic in bottles. Brands are a matter of preference, though DeGroff is partial to Schweppes. (Me too, and I spent the better part of my childhood becoming a tonic water connoisseur — without gin.)

    Gin vs. gin
    The secret to the gin is the choice of botanicals. All gins have juniper as a flavor base in their distillation, which is what provides those foresty scents. But most use additional flavorings of citrus and spices. Bombay Sapphire has made its reputation on its use of 10 botanicals, from lemon peel to cubeb berries, a Javanese pepper. The mix makes Sapphire’s taste profile spicier than most — though Walker insists it’s the balance of flavors, not the number of them, that is key to its appeal.

    DeGroff prefers a more straightforward gin — any London dry such as Beefeater or regular Bombay — to the more aromatic options, which also include Dutch and Plymouth gins, and new options like Tanqueray Ten. John Gertsen, principal bartender at Boston’s No. 9 Park, opts for “something snappy” like the original Tanqueray.

    The key to the drink’s classic taste, DeGroff says, is to balance the bitterness of the tonic against the juniper and other flavors in the gin. “But always the juniper on top,” he adds.

    As for the rest, choose a tall, slim, chilled highball glass, the freshest limes possible and — no matter how hot the day — solid cubes of the coldest ice you can get. Ratios for tonic to gin vary widely, from equal parts to 2:1. It’s really a matter of taste.

    Variations abound, and none are beyond the pale: a sprig of mint, or a dash of Angostura bitters only add additional layers of flavor. But the humble gin and tonic is a hot-weather drink, best not to be overthought.

    “Keep it simple,” Gertsen says. “A gentle stir and a big ol' hunk of lime and head for the hammock.”


    1) Chill the glass. You may want to fill it with ice, then empty it and refill, as some bartenders do with a martini glass.

    2) Fill the glass with whole ice cubes. If you wish, take a wedge of lime and moisten the rim the glass with it.

    3) Pour the gin over the ice, which should be cold enough that it crackles when the liquor hits it.

    4) Fill glass almost to the top with tonic.

    5) Squeeze one wedge of lime into the glass. Drop the squeezed lime into the drink as a garnish if you like; it’s not necessary, but can add a bit of extra flavor. (If you do, notes Dale DeGroff, make sure the peel has been washed.) Serve.

    Cordial & Liqueur

    Liqueurs, or cordials, are just as important as the base liquors in the bar, some more than others. A liqueur is a sweet distilled spirit with sugar contents starting at 2.5 percent, with the sweetest (ie. crèmes) going far beyond that. These spirits begin with a base liquor, which could be anything from a neutral grain alcohol to a brandy or whiskey. To this sugar is added along with a mix of herbs, fruits or spices depending on the desired result. You will often see liqueurs with a main ingredient, such as curacao (orange) or herbsaint (anise), while other liqueurs are more of a blend of flavor, like Campari, Drambuie and Tuaca.

    There are distinct classes of liqueurs, such as absinthe, amaretto, curacao, Irish cream, and triple sec, for which a variety of brands are available.

    Then, there are proprietary blends protected by specific brands and known only by the brand's name. The recipes of some of these liqueurs, like Averna, Benedictine, Chartreuse and Frangelico, date back centuries and are as popular as ever. And yet, others (like Hpnotiq, PAMA, TY KU and X-Rated) are new on the scene and are just as distinct from other spirits.

    Learn more about individual Liqueurs.