Some people define a year by the people they met. By the books they read. By the places they visited. And while all of those are lovely, I must say that I can sum up my year best by a few drinks that epitomized key moments and people from the past 12 months. These drinks have become part of my life ritual with my husband – imbibing them triggers memories and landmarks in our year, and carries those moments into the future with us.
The best part is, they’re pretty incredible drinks on their own, apart from all the emotional depth behind the name. So, I pass them on to all of you, readers. Behold, and enjoy!
The Martinez rings in as the most special cocktail of 2013, although its presence weaves all the way back to 2011, when we first met bartender Mindy Kucan (then bartender at Beaker & Flask, now bar manager at Hale Pele). On that fateful evening almost three years ago, Mindy patiently stood across the bar and gently welcomed us into the world of gin, stirring and pouring us one of our first classic cocktails (read more about the Martinez’s history here). Fast forward to 2013, as my now-hubz and I began planning our wedding and determining what our signature cocktail should be. The Martinez, obviously. It represented our entree into the world of craft cocktails, and was tied at the same time to the first meeting of our now-dear friend, Mindy. How could it get any more sybolic?
The Airplane Old-Fashioned
2013 has been a year of travel for me. Intense, gut-wrenching travel, to and from all the corners of this fine country. But at that moment when I realized I could BMOB (bring my own bitters) on a flight and whip up an easy old-fashioned while at 37,000 feet, the reality of the shifting time zones became a little less painful. It’s easy! First, ask the flight attendant for their in-flight bourbon, along with a cup of ice, an empty cup, and a packet of sugar. Next, pour the packet of sugar into the empty cup. Add a couple dashes of bitters from your travel-sized bitters bottle, a capful of water from your water bottle, and muddle with the top of the bitters bottle. Finally, dump the ice in, stir, and voila!
This was also the year when the hubz and I discovered our obsession with Scotch cocktails. Our very favorite Scotch cocktail, Firelight, is the creation of the wonderful Brian Adee, a New Orleans bartender and great friend who’s also working on a cocktail book. It will melt your face and your brain (in the best way possible). Try it yourself if you think you have the cojones: 1.5 oz Ardberg 10, 3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse, 1/3 oz Benedictine, and a barspoon of Branca Menta. Stir briskly in ice, pour, and garnish with a flamed orange. Because… fire.
The NOLET’S Old-Fashioned
Back when Food Riot was just getting started, I had the pleasure of writing a series of posts about the delectable NOLET’S Silver Dry Gin. Out of this exercise, I ended up creating what has become one of our favorite household drinks, the NOLET’S Old-Fashioned. The drink combines 2 oz NOLET’S Silver Dry Gin, 1/4 oz demerara syrup, 2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s pimento bitters, and an overload of garnishes (1 lemon peel, 1 orange peel, 2 brandied cherries). It’s a new go-to concoction, and don’t be fooled by its simplicity – the flavor combination is damned sexy, with notes of rose, peach, raspberry, and allspice. Welcome to the new age of gin, world.
Perhaps the biggest trend that’s taken place in our liquor cabinet has been around amaro. You can read about my love affair with this Italian digestif here, but if I had to identify one single “drink” that has epitomized this movement, it’s the single pour of Amaro CioCiaro that the hubz and I partake in, along with a piece of dark chocolate, as dessert each night. This most perfect of amari was introduced to us by our friend Brandon Wise, bar manager at Imperial PDX, and we’ll never be able to thank him enough for introducing us to one of our most cherished traditions.
All in all, 2013 has been a pretty delicious year. But 2014, I have faith in you. Bring it on!
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