Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fire and Ice: Taking the Juno to Extremes

It’s been a while. The writing has been sporadic, but the search has been on-going, spanning continents and states of matter. To wit:

While on a business trip to London, I ordered a cosmo at the bar in the Sanderson, a swanky 5-star hotel, and was surprised when the bartender set it on fire. Actually, it wasn’t the cosmo per se that he lit up, but the orange-zest garnish. Before putting it in the drink, he squeezed the peel and ignited the oils as they burst forth.

The reason to light the zest before putting it in the cosmo is to add caramelized oils to the surface of the cocktail, which I know because I just watched a video about it at http://bit.ly/clUUN.

But I would have to think that whenever something is flambĂ©ed in a bar or restaurant, it’s also for dramatic effect. Yet the only reason I saw this dramatic flourish was because there was a mirror behind the bartender, whose back was toward me as he squeezed and lit. Why bother to light something on fire if the customer can’t even see it? The cosmo was pretty good, though.

On the opposite end of the thermodynamic spectrum, this summer Barbara experimented with frozen cosmo/junos, or frosmos. The inspiration was the purchase of a Magic Bullet Blender, a handy kitchen device that she swears by, as opposed to my old-fashioned home blender that I just swear at because it’s annoyingly inconvenient to use and it leaks. The thinking was that if a frozen margarita works, why wouldn’t a frozen juno?

We don’t know, but so far it has not. The resulting drink it just a very cold, watery juno. Also, the Magic Bullet isn’t quite powerful enough to make a true slush; probably we need a professional blender or something for that. But we’re also wondering if the proportions of alcohol to ice need to be different? I just looked at a frozen margarita recipe versus one on the rocks, and the alcohol content seems to be the same. Or maybe if we froze the lime juice and cranberry juice before making, that would help?

If anyone has any thoughts or experience with juno fire or juno ice, let us know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Name That Cocktail

“As every man has his genius, every woman has her juno.”
Bulfinch's Mythology

Several months back, this blog announced a scheme to rename our favorite drink, and we pledged that 2011 would be “The Year of the [New Name for a Cosmo Made with Gin].”

We’re ready to fill in those brackets.

Next time you’re out, shake up the bartender and order a Juno.

Perfect, right?

I can say that because Barbara came up with the name Juno. She thought it paid tribute to juniper (the berries of which give gin its distinctive flavor) while echoing the sassy sound of Cosmo’s final syllable.

She didn’t pick Juno for any connection to the Roman goddess by the same name, but that is a fitting connection. From the exhaustive reading I’ve done (in the last ten minutes), Juno is a complicated goddess, often called “Optima Maxima,” meaning best and greatest of the goddesses. She is the goddess of women, kind of a female guardian angel. Roman women called their souls or guardian spirits “juno” (corresponding to the “genius” of a man) in her honor. So is there a better name for what we think is the best and greatest of cocktail, one that is (with apologies to the men we love who enjoy it), a woman’s drink?

Barbara and I recently attended a mixology class sponsored by Cointreau. The lesson plan included Cosmos, and of course Barbara and I had to tell the class that we make ours with gin. The bartender/instructor wanted to know if we had a name for it, and we told him Juno. Barbara had made up some cards with the recipe for a Juno on the back.

The class introduced us to some very tasty drinks, recipes for which we’ll be sharing in the coming days. But the most exciting part of the evening was introducing Juno into the world. Interestingly, when the very lovely Cointreau representative, who was fascinated by the idea of making a Cosmo with gin, emailed the recipes a few days later, “The Original Cosmopolitan” recipe called for 2 oz. Vodka (or Gin for some). Emphasis mine.

Now we have to start spreading the word. Readers, go out and order a Juno. Express surprise when the bartender doesn’t know how to make it. “Really? You’ve never heard of it? It’s like a Cosmopolitan, but it’s made with gin. And it must be made with Cointreau, not triple sec.” Let us know what happens.

The Year of the Juno has begun. Long live the Juno.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What’s Shaking in the Cosmos/What the Cosmos Are Shaking In

As previously discussed, the allure of cocktails in general but cosmos in particular is largely about the accoutrements (a cosmo quaffed out of a sippy cup instead of a martini glass is just not the same), one of which is the cocktail shaker. The ones Barbara and I use most frequently are slightly different versions of the classic stainless steel shakers, which look great but have faults. Like, after you shake them, there is no way to remove the top cap without losing some of what’s inside. We try tilting the shakers, shaking the shakers so that the contents of the top falls back into the body of the shaker, but it’s virtually impossible to not lose half an ounce or so before we even pour.

So Barbara got me a flip-top shaker, thinking that would solve the problem. If it had solved the problem, I would have enjoyed using it even though the visual aesthetics don’t quite measure up to the classic. But no, it leaks too. So we were thinking of getting a vintage shaker where you pour the drink out of a spout on the side, but many of the ones I see are made out of a material I don’t care for (some look like they’re aluminum, with wooden handles. Plus they look like they would be hard to clean.

Looking at cocktailshaker.com, I found a lot of shakers that look great, but I don’t know how they pour. I love the way the zeppelins look, and even though I thought I didn’t like glass shakers, I found myself really liking the pink elephant shakers. They have a pour top, but in the cap not the body and so easier to clean; might be just what we need. If anyone has thoughts on shakers (or a pink elephant shaker they want to get rid of), let us know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gin Rummies?

I saw my brother-in-law this past weekend. “I love your blog,” he said, “but it really makes you two seem like lushes!” I laughed, because we really aren’t, which he knows; it’s just that whenever Barbara and I do have a cocktail, I write about it.

I laughed even harder when I saw the photo Barbara sent me to illustrate this week’s blog.


We are NOT a couple of lushes. What we are is a couple of dedicated taste testers. In addition to the tests we’ve already conducted – fresh lime juice versus Rose’s, Rose’s versus Key Lime, Cointreau versus Triple Sec, to name just a few, we will be testing crushed ice versus cubes, wide-flange shallow glasses over more narrow ones and the merits of a glass cocktail shaker over stainless steel. We're practically scientists, when you think about it.

So when Barbara wound up with six different gins in her cupboard, we went to work.

Beefeaters, Bombay, Tanqueray, Miller’s, Q and Highgate were each used to make one cosmo per brand. We then took sips from each glass, cleansing our palates in between with crackers and water. We only finished the ones we liked best, which for me was Bombay (which I don’t think I’ve ever had before and never thought I’d ever try, after a bad experience with its Sapphire variation) and for Barbara was Tanqueray (not a surprise, since we know we liked that). But we agreed the differences between Beefeaters, Bombay, Tanqueray and Highgate were so minor that any one of them would be more than acceptable.

Q had a very different taste that we liked, though it would not be our first choice (nor second, third nor fourth). But Miller’s has a definite taste that we definitely do not like. I know it’s not cheap (like Highgate is) and has some good reviews on line. But it’s way too floral for either of our tastes.

Before all the discerning gin drinkers get up in arms about the travesty of including Highgate on that list, let me say that Barbara and I are not discerning gin drinkers, apparently. And I think the difference that might be apparent in a martini or a gin and tonic are less obvious when you start adding the other three cosmo ingredients. And then it wouldn’t be a cosmo. Or a [new name here]; still debating how to rebrand our drink of choice. As I’ve said, I think we have a winner….

Correction: The original version of this article erroneously reported that Barbara's favorite was Tanqueray; in fact, it was Highgate. Which means Mary is a bad reporter and Barbara is a cheap date.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fat Cosmo

Barbara hosted a belated Mardi Gras party a few days after Ash Wednesday. Of course she wanted to have an on-theme cosmo; I was invited over on Thursday night before the party for a taste test of her new concoction.

I should have guessed what the secret ingredient was from the first pour, because the drink looked exactly like V-8 Splash. It tasted like V-8 Splash too, and as soon as I made that connection I could stop yelling out random guesses (“Crayfish broth!”) and just say, “Tomato juice! How clever!” Though the cosmo was good in a bloody-maryish kind of way, we decided it wasn’t really a success and dumped it.

Barbara wound up serving Cajun Cosmos made with fruit punch instead of cranberry juice, to give it a Hurricane-type flavor. For a garnish, she used the plastic babies I had leftover from a bag of them I bought for my king cake. Some sank to the bottom, some floated bottoms up, which was much more appropriate. Oddly, the baby I put in the king cake did not appear to be in anyone’s slice of cake. Since I definitely did put a baby in the cake before it was baked, there are only a few explanations for what happened: either someone unknowingly ate it (unlikely), or someone saw it in their slice but didn’t want to admit it (also unlikely), or it was thrown out when the plates were scraped of unfinished cake. That is of course the most likely explanation, but Barbara refused to do garbage forensics, so we’ll never know. Next year, I will make a cake big enough to hide a Barbie in to avoid a reoccurrance of this mystery.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Age Quod Agis, Abe

Do what you are doing, even if what you’re doing is drinking. Barbara and I recently discovered, separately and then together, that having a cosmo while we’re doing anything else but having a cosmo is a waste of gin. To have one while preparing dinner for a crowd is to drink it in distracted sips until, before you know it, the drink is gone, and you didn’t even enjoy it.

I bet Abraham Lincoln would have practiced mindful drinking, if he drank. And the reason I mention it is because Barbara asked me to write something about Abraham Lincoln so she could do an illustration of him. From what I've read, Lincoln was a teetotaler, and in fact spoke against it at a Washington Temperance Society gathering early in his career. But that did not stop him from saying, when informed that General Grant drank whiskey while leading his troops, "Find out the name of the brand so I can give it to my other generals." He also said, according to a magnet I saw in a bookstore, "It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues." Which is why when Barbara and I get together on his birthday to have a quiet cosmo in his honor, I'll know he'd have approved.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Museum of the American Cocktail

If there can be a Museum of Sex (and there is, a few block north of my office in the Flatiron District), why can't there be a Museum of the Great American Cocktail? It's in New Orleans, and I believe it was the first stop Barbara and her husband made when the went to New Orleans last week. They're still there (in New Orleans, not the museum) (although maybe the museum too). Some pictures from their visit:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Our 2011 Initiative

Happy New Year. I’ve already broken one resolution, which was to write at least once a week. Perhaps we’ll post twice this week to make up for it.

Readers of this blog are familiar with these two facts:

1. Barbara and I are gin snobs. That is, we think gin is the superior spirit, and we turn our noses up at martinis made any other way. Not that we drink martinis; we’re just against the vodka revisionism on principle. What principle, we don’t really know. But we very firmly stand by it. Except when…
2. ...we clearly violate it every time we make a drink that calls for vodka and, without compunction, we swap out the vodka for gin. Then we celebrate our hypocrisy on a blog!

Barbara’s solution: rename the drink. Stop calling it “a cosmo made with gin” and call it something else, as if it were a different drink, which it is.

She off the top of her head came up with a Metropolitan, or Metro for short, which would have been perfect if there weren’t already several drinks by that name; most involve brandy, sweet vermouth, bitters and simple syrup, but I found a few that were cosmo knock-offs – orange vodka, lime juice and cranberry juice, for example. So we couldn’t use that.

Then just as fast she came up with a Gizmo. It’s very clever, but to me it had an electronic tech-y connotation. I also felt the name lacked sophistication. “So do we,” she replied. But at least we can pretend, can’t we?

I suggested the Pierpont, after the Brooklyn family who had the one of the first gin factories in New York City, but that was quickly shot down (not by Barbara; in fact, this may be the first she’s hearing of it) by my husband, who thought it sounded too masculine and self-consciously arcane.

We have not given up. In fact, we’ve made a pledge that 2011 will be the "Year of the [Insert New Name for a Cosmo Made with Gin Here]." Readers, if you have any thoughts on the matter – even if not a name itself, then perhaps a direction we should go in – we would love to hear them.