How Absinthe Can Improve Just About Any Cocktail

Forget about the hallucinations; one needs to dish this thing out in drops.

6th Oct 2011

I'm not sure if there is a better drink to write about for the launch of an improved website design than my favorite cocktail of the moment — a drink so good it's literally called an "Improved Cocktail." (If only modern drinks had enough courage to pronounce their worth.) Think of it as a relaunched product's "new and improved" guarantee, except that this one was made back in 1876 and is alcoh...

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Tristan Coulter of Chicago's Metropolis Coffee Explains the Pour-Over Technique

16th Aug 2011

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I discovered the first inklings of my obsessive nature while making coffee in college. So many things can go wrong. So many ways to go right off the cliff. What should be routine and pleasurable becomes stressful, maddening, disappointing. The beans, the water, the tools, the process, and the thin line between greatness and mediocrity. None are exempt from mistakes.  And of course, no one has i...

How to Enjoy Hotel Bars and the Seelbach Cocktail

Nick enjoys the comforts of a 100 year old recipe.

12th Jul 2011

I have a thing for hotel bars. It helps if they are opulent old ones, designed to comfort the wealthy traveler from a 100 years ago. Sure, the drinks aren't necessarily the best, and the service can be uninspired and overly corporate, but I feel immediately relieved when I walk into some grand old space like Chicago's exquisite Palmer House in the Loop. Plus, I'm just not sure there is a bet...

Homemade Ginger Beer and the Dark ''n'' Stormy

Ginger, Lemon, Sugar, Yeast...and 24 hours.

8th Jun 2011

Ginger Beer

File this one under projects that seem a lot harder than they actually are.

A week or two ago, my wife tore out a couple pages in the New York Times Style magazine about a shop in Melbourne, Australia that combines style, bespoke fashion, and great food under one roof called Captains of Industry ( here it is as an interactive online feature ).  Besides all the cool ideas and wavelengths...

Homemade Rhubarb Syrup and the Rhubarb Daisy

For those who don't particularly like rhubarb.

24th May 2011

"I hate rhubarb." That was the first sentence uttered by my local butcher after I described this sauce I wanted to make to pair with some pork chops. To be fair, rhubarb is a much-maligned spring vegetable. I was just convinced that I had to love it, and that I’d instantly find all kind of amazing uses for it.

Though rhubarb and I don’t have much history to contend with, in cooking more tha...

Philadelphia Fish House Punch

Or how to restore punch to its former glory

28th Mar 2011

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Until recently, my first thought upon hearing the word "punch" was a frat party, something electric red, and indiscriminate drinking--a concoction spiked with a slew of spirits that might be laying around and then covered in Koolaid. That seems to be the reputation punch has gotten—but if cocktail writer Dave Wondrich has anything to say about it , we are all missing the point. Punch is not...

The Winter Gimlet | Province Restaurant, Chicago

A Variation on a Classic That Goes Down a Little Easier

10th Feb 2011

Winter Gimlet with Old Tom Gin

Ah, gimlets. I've always been too much of a wuss to enjoy them. The gimlet is all harsh lime and bracing alcohol, befitting to manlier men like the British seaman who invented it, at some point in the 19th century, halfway across the Atlantic. They were looking for their allotment of vitamin C (scurvy sucks), had Rose's lime juice , and they were drinking a lot of gin. How's that for a cockt...

Two Cocktails to Celebrate New Years Eve in Style

With one secret ingredient

31st Dec 2010
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For the third year in a row, Nick and I will be spending our New Years Eve with friends eating tacos and drinking cocktails. It's become something of a tradition, fondly known as Cocktails and Carnitas , and I can hardly wait.

It's a given that the food is good. But we also believe in drinking very, very good cocktails. Cocktail. Rather than conjuring up images of sugary vodka-laced conco...

Brewing with Graham Elliot at Goose Island Brewery

An afternoon learning about "Grahampagne"

29th Jul 2010

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Through a heavy, metal door with "Brewery Employees Only" slapped on the front, I was led into a warm, steamy room where Goose Island beer is made. I side-stepped hoses and puddles of water and found a capacious space filled with slanted light; up above, at the top of a skinny ladder, great tanks of beer were lined up at various stages of aging and fermentation on a platform, were Goose Island...

The Silver Fizz: The Perfect Chicago Summer Cocktail

Gin, lemon juice, and egg white make for a drink designed to cool you down

25th May 2010

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I'm not sure if the Silver Fizz was developed in Chicago, or if it was just popular for a time around 1883. But I have to believe that there is a correlation between cocktails and the cities that embrace them. Wine has a tie to the land, and cuisines are based around what's local and fresh. So it's my humble opinion that the Silver Fizz was built to cool the heads and stomachs of men without a...

Birth of the Martini: The Turf Club

The Turf Club is an ancestor to the martini: less shockingly dry, and a little more vivacious

12th May 2010

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Do you remember your first Martini? Mine came while I was still working as a waiter. After a long, hard shift, all of us would sit around a table and get one free drink before heading home. Usually I went for the coldest beer I could fine, but that day I held my head high and ordered a Martini. It felt good to say it out loud, and it arrived all handsome and clean with a single olive in it. It...

The Rum Sidecar

Substituting brandy in this variation on a classic cocktail.

9th Apr 2010

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Making cocktails is a tricky business. The balance--between sour and sweet, harsh and smooth--can easily be lost if one isn't careful; most recipes are so expertly calibrated that making any kind of substitution is a bad idea. A cocktail is often a significant investment that goes down the drain if you screw it up (or in my case, gulped down with a wince because I am incapable of admitting...

The Strange Appeal of Vinegar in a Cocktail

Taking the balance in a whole new direction

18th Mar 2010

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Do they belong together?

Most cocktails have too much sugar in them. I'm not sure when the barrage of overly sweet cocktails began (not to mention the tradition of putting mini umbrellas in the glass), but it leaves me with a stomach ache. Unlike the bracing experience of an Old Fashioned, possibly the first cocktail to be invented in a dusty bar in the 19th century, a succinct, aromatic si...

Homemade Compound Gin (No Bathtub Required)

What we did with an unwanted bottle of vodka

25th Feb 2010

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I cannot be fooled. If a bartender accidentally swaps vodka for some gin in my drink, I can tell. I'm not trying to be difficult, but I will send it back. Why?

Because I hate vodka. Hate hate hate hate it. I hate the way it smells, and how it makes me feel. While I can talk your ear off about every other spirit you throw at me (Gin, Rum, Tequila, and especially Bourbon), I don't really have...

Idea Lab: What To Do With An Unwanted Bottle of Vodka?

Other uses for the unloved spirit.

2nd Feb 2010

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I have this large bottle of vodka and I don't know what to do with it. It was lugged over by a friend (Blake) during a party as some kind of gift for the festivities, but I could see through his evil plan. He was trying to pawn this half finished bottle off on me because he didn't want to drink it. Sure enough, while the whiskey and gin were manhandled during the party, stirred and shaken into...

Year in Review: The Allure of Alcohol

Our favorite drinks of 2009.

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Obviously, this site is mostly devoted to cooking, and always has been. But watchful readers may have noticed over the years the occasional post slipped in about drinking. We've thankfully improved our recipes since the very first drinking post on this site, which involved mixing dark beer from New York's oldest pub, McSorley's, and some cheap vanilla ice cream. The result was the beer shake...

My Perfect Daisy with Homemade Grenadine

It's pink, but manly

9th Dec 2009

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To stretch the metaphor, the essential DNA of the Daisy involves adding a little soda water to a Sour (spirit, citrus, sweetener). Beyond that, though, you can take some liberties .
- Imbibe Magazine

If you're not too careful, cocktails can swallow you into an alternative universe of reason where there are no right answers. The perfectly proportioned Negroni , which I wrote a...

The Negroni

Perhaps the most perfect cocktail.

13th Nov 2009

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"A proper Negroni is as perfectly and tripodically balanced as, say, a water molecule. "
- Jonathan Miles

The Negroni is an incorruptible drink. While the martini can be perverted by nefarious substances like apple pucker and vodka and many places make Margaritas by simply drizzling a little tequila in a cup of sugary mix, a Negroni is a Negroni. It has three ingredients (gin, sw...

The Final Word (for now) on Homemade Hard Cider

Thoughts about our first batch of cider.

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There is no feeling in the world like popping open a batch of cider and realizing what you have created alcohol. It's really hard to describe. We've made all kinds of recipes before, including some meals that have taken days to prepare. But alcohol always seemed a little unreal, and dangerous. Making alcohol always felt too technical and lab-like. And if you're brewing beer, that's sort of tru...

How to Make Hard Apple Cider

Our guide to turning apple juice into booze.

29th Oct 2009

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As we realized on our last post , it was time to stop talking emphatically about the cultural significance of cider, and start getting to the business of making it. Though we had read more websites, emails, and books than we could know what to do with, we were still confused, and more importantly, l didn't have a solid recipe. It was beginning to be a problem.

At its simplest, hard appl...

The Case for Hard Cider

Why every American should drink more cider.

22nd Oct 2009

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Currently Blake and I have four gallons of apple cider fermenting in the back of his bedroom closet. The hope is that in a few days, thanks to some hungry yeast, we'll have something that might resemble hard apple cider. We're honestly nervous. We've undertaken ridiculous experiments before, but nothing that could potentially get us hammered. If it works, then we'll have made an alcoholic drin...

The Tombstone Whiskey Cocktail

Whisky and sugar combine to make an unforgettable cocktail.

2nd Oct 2009

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Recently Nick and I were in the gritty West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, after a long, pork-ridden meal at The Publican , where we fed on cracklins, rillettes, belly, shoulder, and all manner of sausages. We slipped out of the restaurant happy and stuffed into the long fluorescent shadows, in search of a good bar to aid all the oncoming digesting to be done.

We ended up at Matchbox ...

Benedictine Spread and a Mint Julep or Two

Nick throws a perfect Derby party.

30th Apr 2009

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The authentic Julep is a drink from the Heroic Age of American Tippling, and as such is not for novices. That's perhaps the chief reason it's fallen out of favor in these weak-livered times.
- David Wondrich

I'll get to the julep soon enough.  But first I want to talk about the Kentucky Derby.  Though I grew up on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, I don't care much about the Indy 5...

The Young Man and the Cocktail

The perfection introduction to mixed drinks.

23rd May 2008

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Over the past year or so, Nick and I have developed a kind of unhealthy obsession with cocktails -- some could argue literally.  We've quietly stocked our cabinets with liquers, liquors, bitters; our fridge doors are weighed down with vermouths (yes, they should be refrigerated ) and simple syrups; a regular supply of rye whiskey, bourbon and gin comes and goes, mixed with a recurring stoc...

Bourbon Tour 2: Wild Turkey and Maker''s Mark

16th May 2008

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It's a tale of the old and the new.  Of the high and the low.  It's Wild Turkey and Maker's Mark , two bourbons I love, but couldn't be more different from each other.  The Turkey is a high rye bourbon made to grip your taste buds and warm your insides, while smooth and seductive Maker's Mark is the gentleman's choice, somewhat conservative and much more expensive.  Feeling guilty th...

Bourbon Tour 1: Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve

26th Feb 2008

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I took a little break from food this past weekend, turning my back on all the pieces of meat curing in my stairwell (I’ll get to those later in the week), and set off for the rolling hills of Kentucky to sip the best bourbon I could.  I’d been blabbering on and on to my brother-in-law about the stuff for well over six months now and it was about time to actually see where it all came from...

Mexican Hot Chocolate

15th Feb 2007

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The other night, when everyone was hunkered down in their apartments waiting for the snowstorm to envelop us, I made hot chocolate.  Cold weather and snow are among the best excuses to indulge in this gastronomic excess (I'm talking about the stuff made from scratch).  It is sometimes acceptable in the instance of rainy weather, or thunderstorms.  Otherwise, it's simply gluttony.

There are...

Handmade Eggnog: Creates Arm Pain, Soothes Arm Pain

20th Dec 2006

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Let's say you're just not feeling the joy you need to properly celebrate a festive party.  It's the holiday season, and you need a slightly alcoholic milk product to help you reach that next level of cheer.  The store-bought stuff?  Gluey and tasting of artificial thickeners.  You need some true, homemade eggnog--that's been established.  Perhaps you prepared for this situation and made t...