Monday, October 20, 2008

From Screen To Glass

As part of my aforementioned book collecting habit, I have also amassed a reasonable stash of classic cocktail books to sit next to the Civil War stuff. They've all got that musty paper smell, hard-to-find ingredients, and a dearth of fruit. Basically think whiskies, gins, rums, egg whites, soda water, tonic, maraschino.
One of them is a diatribe about how drinking anything but whiskey at happy hour is un-American; a really funny essay, especially because the writer is dead-serious. There's also more contemporary titles that bring the bountiful harvest of both summer and winter into the glass to hang out with avant spirits like infused vodkas and lychee liquor. These texts are a blast to both collect and mine for ideas, but that's not the only place to find inspiration.
I've found a few resources with cocktail experts walking you through making any number of classic and unique recipes, so now, if you learn better by watching and listening instead of reading, you're all set. First off is "The Cocktail Spirit" from the Small Screen Network, hosted by Robert Hess. Mr. Hess is a bartender of great reputation and distinction within the cocktail community, as his various publications and references in books by others will attest. These short segments, each of which address a single drink in wondrous detail, will show you why his reputation is well-earned. Not only will you learn about the various ingredients for the drinks presented, but also about technique and equipment. I'm a huge fan of the Old Fashioned and of the Sidecar; the only versions I make now are the ones described by Mr. Hess, with his technique followed to the last detail. Believe me, the results are absolutely transcendent. The second viewing option is from (which is incredible and free! Movies, sitcoms, whatever) and is a show called "Great Cocktails" hosted by a bartender named Steven Phillips. Each episode is longer and more playful, but he covers each drink in far less detail and much, much faster. If you do want a text version and don't want to buy a cocktail book, may I refer you please to Webtender. This fantastic online resource is both comprehensive and versatile; I especially like the "In My Bar" feature, which allows you to dig up whatever's left on your shelf and still deliver a first-rate drink.

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