Every great experience has a moment that stands out beyond the general background noise of the memory of contentment.  The semi-sweet chocolate morsel that somehow, half-melted, stretches from the tollhouse cookie and scribbles its warm flavor on your lips during a bite.  The cool mist from where a bright rainbow emanates, mysterious and daunting.

An experience in fine dining is no different.  A gustatory experience’s rating may climb from ‘excellent’ to ‘memorable’ based on a momentary swagger from the waitstaff or a friendly hand on the shoulder from a Robuchon.  A pre-dining cocktail fizz that teasingly dances on your tongue may be a valid catalyst for un événement gastronomique par excellence.

Synergy is what makes those moments hit the heights of greatness.  Those small nuances building into an Everest of experience.

Time for some cocktails. Most of us have the tools and the knowhow to whip up a decent martini or manhattan at home.  It is the hope of that synergistic experience, however, that gets us out of the house and into the watering hole, elegant or otherwise.

The bartender lends an ear, cracks a joke, makes a connection- and proceeds to present (with a clickety clack clickety clack) a shaken martini chilled and aerated. Poured and strained, you watch the fine fog of bubbles dissipate.  You. Are. Here.

Birthday Boy (9/24) F. Scott Fitzgerald was aware (perhaps too aware) of the synergy of a great cocktail.

“Open the whiskey,Tom,” Daisy demands in The Great Gatsby. “…and I’ll make you a mint julep.  Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself… Look at the mint!”  

Tom Brennan brings over four gin rickeys that “clicked full of ice.”

Gatsby took up his drink.
“They certainly look cool,” he said, with visible tension.
We drank in long, greedy swallows.

Muddling, Stirring, Straining and, especially, Shaking are the bartender’s equivalent of the crescendo of Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away.”  “Many times I’ve wondered how much there is to know,” indeed.  Every bartender has their shaking method.  Their rhythm. Their groove.  It’s part of the show and functional to boot.

That rhythm goes back to Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age.  Syncopation with a stainless maraca. The Boston Shaker.

The Boston Shaker is the workhorse of the American bartender. Half steel, half glass, the tool permits viewing of the contents while the glint of the polished steel flashes to the beat. Legend states that the Boston was invented on a transatlantic liner in the 1880s- but the first Boston Shaker produced in Europe dates to 1979.  Designed by Ettore Sottsass with Alberto Gozzi for Alessi it is the standard for the International Bartenders’ Association and the Associazione Italiana Barmen e Sostenitori.

Amusespot, in conjunction with Alessi, presents the gold plated version of the classic Italian Boston Shaker.  A flash of gold for the neo-Golden Age of Cocktails. 

Happy 120th Birthday, Scott.

Find your own rhythm.  Now available at Amusespot.

Gin Rickey
Gin Rickey (Fitzgerald's Favorite)

2 oz. Old Tom Gin*
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Club Soda
*Old Tom is a slightly sweet gin and, while traditionally used in a Gin Rickey, basically disappeared mid-century. New interest in cocktails has brought this spirit back. There is a lot of variation (and confusion) in the 'new' Old Toms, so ask for assistance. In a pinch use a London dry and a bit of sugar or simple syrup. Just a touch.
Mint Julep
Mint Julep
2 oz. Bourbon
4 sprigs Fresh Mint
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
Use a tall glass or silver mug filled with shaved ice. Add some mint and the rest of ingredients. Mix until the outside of the glass is coated with frost. Top with more shaved ice. Garnish with mint, a slice of orange, and a cherry.  Serve with short straws (so that the bouquet of mint with be appreciated while sipping).
Taken from Brennan's, a classic New Orleans restaurant.  Some variations include muddling the mint or bruising the mint via rubbing.  I'm a puritan with regard to this beverage with the belief that the mint is an accent, rather than a full addition to the bourbon's flavor. I rub the leaves in the glass, which releases some of the oils. I would use a wheated bourbon like Weller (or Old Weller) or Maker's Mark. For a stronger flavor I would go with Woodford- which is, I believe, also the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.  Those crazy horses.
Martini. Image by Kin Lui
The pre-prohibition version of this cocktail has a 50:50 ratio Old Tom Gin to White Italian Vermouth with a dash of Orange Bitters. (from Ted Saucier's book Bottoms Up)
There are so many variations. Experiment.
2.5 oz Gin (or vodka)
Add gin to ice, stir.
Strain into chilled glass coated with vermouth.
Add olive or lemon twist.
Many people shake martinis or use vodka.  I believe this dilutes the spirit and that a good martini is really about the botanicals. Your taste is your taste, however. Enjoy!
all cocktail & shaker images by kin lui

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