Monday, May 13, 2013

Sacrilege! (But it's Still a Good Idea...)

As you know, I bartend in Wisconsin. To my local readers, what I'm about to write may initially seem like sacrilege. Even if you don't live here, I bet you're familiar with my State's reputation. We lead the nation... in binge drinking. We never quit drinking, we just switch to beer. As distasteful as it is to consider, we may be the inventors of the Puke-n-Rally. 

Blame  it on our ancestors: the State was settled by the Germans and the Irish, both cultures clearly associated with drinking. We drink to celebrate, we drink to commiserate. We drink in remembrance, and we drink to forget. When I launched the Great Sconnie Sip-Off last year, I wanted a cocktail competition that would focus on the flavors of our locally produced spirits and other ingredients -- not just a Race to Get Wasted.

I have long been a proponent of the subtle effects of alcohol, having seen (and experienced) the deleterious effects of overindulgence. So when I was contacted last week by Alcohol Professor to write an article on Low-ABV cocktails, it seemed like the perfect synergy of my message and their platform. 

As I was creating recipes with a lighter alcohol-to-total volume ratio, I was necessarily trying them out as I went along. The thing I noticed and enjoyed the most was how easy it was to stay clear-headed. There are lots of good health-and-safety reasons to give this a try, but the reason I liked the best was how it kept me in control of my buzz, instead of rushing me toward intoxication. 

Here are a few recipes to try, and there will be more on Wednesday over at Alcohol Professor for you to see and share. Here's to long afternoons of safe summer drinking!

Spicy Melon Cooler (3.46 ABV)
1.5 oz. Martini Bianco Vermouth
3 oz. Watermelon Juice
1 oz. Lime Juice
4 Cucumber Wheels
                                    .25" Habanero Slice
Salt half the rim of a Coupe or Cocktail glass. Muddle the Cucumber Wheels (and Habanero, if desired). Add all other ingredients and shake vigorously for a slow count of ten. Double strain into prepared glass and serve.

Ginger Bombshell (4.6% Total ABV)
1 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
.5 oz. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
3 oz. Orange Juice
.02 oz. Amerique 1912 Absinthe Verte
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Rinse a Coupe or Cocktail glass with Absinthe and discard any excess. Combine Ginger and Orange Liqueurs and Bitters and shake vigorously for a slow count of ten. Strain into prepared glass and top with Orange Juice.

Pie for Dessert (3.31 Total ABV)
1 oz. Travis Hasse's Apple Pie Liqueur
.5 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
3 oz. Apple Juice
1 oz. Lemon Juice

Combine Apple Pie and Ginger Liqueurs with Bitters and Lemon Juice.  Shake vigorously for a slow count of ten. Add Apple Juice and roll. Strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Lemon twist garnish, if desired.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Drinking Field Trip

"You've got to try the Rombauer Cab,"he said, "It's really good." Based on looks alone, he would never be mistaken for a wine aficionado - protein shakes, sure. But wine?     He was telling me about a tap wine (vini alla Spina) bar in Wauwatosa that he and his fiancee went to the night before in such glowing terms that when I learned the venue was having an upcoming tasting event, I slipped her the details.

If you drink with me, you already know I am not a wine drinker. I don't even really like beer. I like spirit. Wine and Beer don't go through the distillation process, so they seem somehow undercooked to me.  I've lately decided to try to branch out a little.  I work in a brewhaus so I'm trying every beer that comes my way and I am learning. For example I know I like an Imperial Pale Ale more than an India Pale Ale, and a Porter more than an Amber. Wine seems no less complex, no more accessible.  Lucky for me, so many people know so much more than me that knowledge comes from all over.  Case in point: the musclebound oenophile who directed me to Wisconsin's vini alla spina bar: the Ruby Tap.

At the Ruby Tap, you choose from 70 bottles for home use or pay for corkage and enjoy the bottle in their open-concept, cozy space. The magic of the spot, though, is the wall of wine. The family that owns the Ruby tap has had a wine-on-tap system installed that lets you try 1, 1.5, 3 or 6 ounces of 32 different wines. 

Traditional wine bars are nothing new, but they do have their limits. They are not the ideal distribution medium for wine. Wine routinely goes bad if it's sold by the glass, and if it's not it can be a crapshoot for the guest. You may not care for the wine, but you are now stuck with the bottle. The system at Ruby Tap is a problem-solver for many of the traditional problems. 

There are other benefits to this system. You know I like a small environmental footprint and it can hardly get smaller than this (unless your family owns a vineyard, and if it does then call me!). Wines on tap are stored in refillable stainless kegs.  The average bottle holds 4 glasses; the average keg holds 130. Fewer glass bottles cuts the weight of the wine being shipped, less fuel gets burned and the world stays cleaner.

The issue of freshness also is improved by a wine-on-tap system. The wine gets pushed out of the keg by nitrogen or argon, which provides a blanket against oxidation. 

The Ruby Tap is more than just self-serve wine in a casual atmosphere. Find Wisconsin beers and cheeses, desserts and charcuterie. It is a warm, friendly little bar with nightly specials and the two sisters you may already have met will soon be three. The night I popped in, the Ruby Tap family was hosting a wine tasting including cheese pairing. I'd like to give a special shout out to the excellent hospitality, the Carr Valley bleu cheese... and the Rombauer cabernet.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Put Me on Your Calendar!

I'm the type of girl... who loves to have something on the calendar to look forward to, something fun on the horizon. I've got two things coming up that are going to be great fun, and I'd love you to join me.

Now, you know how it is: you hear something tragic, you think, "Somebody should..." and then you get on about the business of being you and before you know it, the tragedy is out of your consciousness and you are dealing with your own problems. Or, you hear about somebody doing something about that tragedy and it inspires you to get involved.  That's just how it happened.

Clean water AND an ice ball
The "somebody" is Doc Hendley and the "something" is Wine to Water. According to CNN, countless families worldwide, and me, he's a Hero. CNN named him a Hero of the Year, about six years after he started working on the problem of water-borne illness. Back in 2003, his consciousness was awakened to the problem and by August of the following year, he was living in Darfur, Sudan, helping the locals get clean water.

Seriously? Darfur? I wouldn't even want to visit. To demonstrate my amazing power over understatement, I will say that it is dangerous. How dangerous? His team was there for a year and two of them got killed. Instead of abandoning the project, he continues to this day, to travel to underdeveloped, war-ravaged countries. 

Why? You're probably better off asking me than him. He could tell you things that would break your heart. I can tell you that every 20 seconds, a child dies from water-borne disease. There are 7 billion people living on Earth, and 1 billion of us lack access to clean water. His 501(c)(3) charity, Wine to Water, currently has projects in Haiti, India, Peru, Cambodia, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, South Africa and Sudan. There are lots of ways to get involvedand no amount of money is too small to give. 

But if you know me at all, you know I've got something in mind. Next Monday, April 8, I'll be working at the Delafield Brewhaus. I'll be mixing drinks and tapping beer and running food just like always, but here's what's different: I'll be giving all my tips to Doc Hendley's Wine to Water. Every dollar. We're going to save lives together. If even one less family watches their little one die, we will have done something great. Please come out; I'll do my best to show you a good time!

I'm reading it right now...
The other fun thing on my calendar is a book signing at another job, the Great Lakes Distillery. I am not normally so stoked about a book signing, but this particular book is so interesting; I can't turn a page without learning something strange and new and wonderful that opens my mind to the miracles of life all around us. The book is called The Drunken Botanist, and its subject matter is the flora that go into beverage alcohol. I have so far learned which organism was the first to be domesticated by humans, the gift we gave France that ended up wiping out its wine industry (and the resultant impact that decimation had on brandy and absinthe), where Belgian lambic brewers think the best yeast comes from and I could go on and on and on. The author, Amy Stewart, will be at the Distillery on April 10th. The rest of the tour's schedule is here, in case you won't be in Milwaukee on the 10th. If you're anywhere near as geeky as me, you will not be disappointed. 

I love to see you in person, so put me on your calendar and we can change the world or learn new stuff (or both!); you choose. See you soon!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tip Of The Week: Well Done! Oh NO!!!!!!!

State of Eat MKE 3 (wow 3 years... )

Hey Friends of Eat MKE!

I know Dy Mixes has been posting on this blog since I went MIA, and all I can say is THANKS DY!

Where have I been? Ok well one I got married. Yup I met the perfect girl and I put a ring on it. So that happened. And then... I stopped posting. Why? Part I was lazy, and two well this blog doesn't exactly make me money.

Please bear with me. If I go to a restaurant and pay to eat there and then pull out a camera and take pictures of the food, that costs me money and pretty much makes going out to eat with my wife a job. Which would be fine if we got paid... but we do not sadly....

If I spend time contacting restaurants and getting to hang out with their chef and take photos that costs me a night at work and some restaurants don't really understand what I'm doing ( giving them fucking free fucking advertising Fuck!) so that kind of sucks.

I'm trying to figure out a way that this blog doesn't cost me money so I can get back at it. Which is why I stopped paying for Which is why my website is gone. Which is fine, the website only ever pointed web traffic to this blog so... no big deal.

I originally wanted to use this blog as a way for restaurants in and around Milwaukee to showcase what they do well. I am still going to try to make that happen.

I now wait tables at a well-known steakhouse. It's been great and I've been able to leave my job at the French bistro I have worked at for the past 5 years. So I have more time on my hands... so of course this leads to a semi drunk blog update... and a promise of more Eat MKE updates.

So if you read this blog please shoot me an email at let me know what’s on your mind. Ideas people?

Otherwise enjoy this video.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Just One Shift

Everybody loves drinking... especially thirsty people. Right now, in the 21st century, nearly one billion people of Earth's people lack access to clean water. They are families all over the globe. Just about every 20 seconds, like a grim metronome, a child dies from a water-borne illness. Every 20 seconds, a family watches helplessly while a little one struggles for one last breath... the last breath.

Enter a hero. In 2009, CNN selected Doc Hendley as one of its Heroes of the Year for his work to solve this crisis. His charity, Wine to Water, has been raising funds since 2004 to dig wells where clean water can be had, and to distribute filteration systems where it cannot. Doc is one man, but he does not work alone.  He is getting assistance from Gary "Gaz" Regan, who is well-known in mixology circles.

Hendley and Regan are calling on us all to help save the lives of people whose only crime was being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are asking us to do a simple thing, a small thing -- for some of you, he is asking only that you go about your business as you normally would with no deviation at all. They are asking bartenders to donate Just One Shift, and I am asking you to join me in answering the call.

Just One Shift is a program where bartenders donate their tips from one night's work to the Wine to Water, a 501(c)(3) organization. The program runs during the second week of April, and I have chosen to donate the first night of the event. Please come to the Delafield Brewhaus after 5p.m. and give generously; 100% of my tips will go to this worthy cause, and 100% of all money donated to Wine to Water will be used to provide clean water worldwide, wherever it is needed most.

If you cannot attend, consider making a donation here. Any amount is welcome, and as little as $30 can provide clean water for a family of ten for up to five years. If you are a bartender and would like to get involved or host an event, click here. People cannot go without water to drink, and we are all so blessed by comparison. Thank your lucky stars that you are on the giving end of this proposition, and please do what you can.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Valentine Gift for the Spirit Lover

For the longest time, the Glencairn glass was the gold standard for tasting spirit. Comfortable in the hand, its small pedestal gave way to a voluptuous tulip shape that concentrated the aroma of (originally) whisky. This aromatic prelude seduced the nose and eyes, preparing the palate for its own experience. The Glencairn company owns the intellectual property rights to the shape of the glass and for many years, that was the end of the story. Their company's name is laser-etched onto the bottom of the glass and in before your eyes as you drain the last drop onto your waiting tongue..

Arsilica, Inc.'s design claims to improve on this time-honoroed design, basing its glass on the science of nosing. Nosing Science has to do with the specific weight of different molecules, which is certainly salient to our work because it is the magic behind distillation. There is a long explanation here, but the short version goes something like this: ethanol is lighter than many molecules and so is first to go up the chimney of the Glencairn glass. This concentration of ethanol produces a burning sensation in the sinuses, making it difficult for the body to process the heavier molecules as they lift off the surface of the liquid in the glass.

The flavors you're really trying to nose, the smoke and grass, lavender and honey, leather and grain -- these go largely unappreciated. There are a few low-tech ways to game this problem. One is to cover the glass for a few minutes and wait for something called evaporation equilibrium, where as many molecules evaporate as re-enter the liquid. This will help you smell everything in the glass.  Alternatively, you can add a dash of water to increase the overall surface tension of the liquid, decreasing the percentage of ethanol that gets into your face as you nose the liquid.

But if you want to bypass the ethanol, and you want a glass to do the work, you need a short vessel with a wide mouth that will let the alcohol lift off quickly.  Then you can better detect the subtle aromas that everybody is talking about, and move yourself along the path to your own enjoyment.

On a slightly-unrelated note, the jury has returned on the question of the advisability of Whiskey Stones. (You know, those stone cubes you keep in the freezer until you put them in the glass?) I have long been suspicious of them for fear of damaging the teeth, but as it turns out, they have other flaws that relegate them to the realm of novelty, and far from being a necessity.