Taking up part-time residence in New York City last month, I was delighted to meet a downstairs neighbor, Tobin Ludwig, who makes the lovely Hella Bitters. What good karma for our new old building! “What is your favorite use of bitters?” I asked. For someone who makes bitters, he struggled. I pushed. He relented and said, “A rum old fashioned.” What a splendid idea, I thought. Last night a tweet asked me for a cocktail with a good rum. And so there it was. The rum old-fashioned called. The weather has cooled, I have some most excellent rum, and the sweetness and the bitters combine for a great summer rum cocktail. But lo—there was more, karma-wise. I returned to my original old-fashioned post and noticed that I’d used Hella bitters, long before I’d met Tobin! Read On »

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We are now in the full throes of summer, and there is no better cocktail to conclude a summer’s day than a gin and tonic. It is simplicity itself. It can be made extra-special if you use an excellent gin and, more importantly, an excellent tonic. But an inexpensive gin and some diet Schweppes will do the trick if that and a lime is all you have or want. This is a seasonal drink. The bitter and bubbles refresh, the gin eases, and the citrus brightens. I like to use both lime and lemon, because lemon makes just about anything better and the bright color makes the glass more inviting. If you want to simply enjoy a cooling cocktail at the end of a hot day, then I encourage economy over quality. But if you Read On »

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We’ve been on the road visiting our son at camp and have returned to the usual sea of email and backlog of work. So forgive me for reposting this classic, the Mojito. I’m not sure if everyone has seen the nightly news, but there are reports of a widespread heat wave. Just wanted to make sure you all knew. So if you’re in just about any place in the Lower 48, I definitely recommend preparing this cocktail in its traditional manner, in a highball glass, topped with soda water, plenty of it if temps are in the high nineties where you are. Originally posted June 8, 2012 I’ve loved seeing the mutability of cocktails simply by changing the spirit during these Friday Cocktail Hour posts. This cocktail is in effect a mint julep made with Read On »

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When I returned to the CIA in the fall of 1999, two years after the publication of Making of a Chef wherein I described the humiliating service experience on my first day at St. Andrew’s restaurant, and Chef Czack lofted an overly generous tip onto my table with a look of withering disdain for my shoddy performance, he himself hosted me at the Danny Kaye Theater for an interview. I had been provided a pink beverage, strangely, as one almost always is given water. Chef Czack held out his hand to the drink. “Can you tell us what this is?” he asked me. I looked blankly at it, took a sip, looked out at the audience as a deer into headlights. I had not been expecting a sucker punch and confessed ignorance. “A Sea Breeze,” said Chef Czack, Read On »

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The first table I ever waited on would comprise two serious chefs, Richard Czack and CIA prez Ferdinand Metz, and the parents of a seminal American chef. It was in the St. Andrew’s restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America and it is forever linked in my mind with two similar drinks, the Sea Breeze and the Madras. The following is from the book that forever altered my course: Chef Czack did not look like a chef—balding, glasses, slight of frame; I didn’t know his age but he seemed elderly. His voice was nasal, fussy. He looked and sounded more like an accountant’s clerk. But Chef Czack was in fact a certified master chef and I was excited to be serving him and his guests, Mr. and Mrs. Forgione, parents of celebrity chef Larry, and Read On »

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