Donna asked to shoot a cocktail. I said, “Go ahead.” She said, “I want to do a Sidecar.” I said, “It’s summertime and hot, how about something refreshing?” She remembered a bottle of limoncello that she’d bought in a moment of nostalgia, recalling a time when she’d enjoyed drinking it with my mom. “I want to shoot ice-cold shots of it,” she said. But then she tasted it straight. She found it cloyingly sweet and knew she’d never drink it like this (and wondered how she could have such fond memories of it). She did a little research and found a limoncello cocktail using gin. She tried it. The gin clashed with the limoncello. She found one calling for grilled thyme. I told her I didn’t like thyme in beverages, grilled or otherwise (grilled?!). She 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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What else with the fried chicken for a graduation lunch? Any special beverages for graduation? “Kathy likes Cosmos,” our soon-to-graduate daughter offered. We considered. But this was lunch, so we decided to keep it to wine and beer, and a champagne toast for the three graduates we were to celebrate (gosh, they are so much more responsible than I was, praise the Lord). But that Cosmo idea. It stuck. Because Kathy Mustee, wife and mom of four including newly graduated twins, is a pleasure to be with, smart, and, significantly, she is not to be trifled with. Even my daughter fears the Wrath of Kathy, the only person I know her openly to fear (I’d have paid Kathy for lessons had I known). And she likes Cosmos. Clearly, the Cosmopolitan, a pink vodka-based drink needed Read On »

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It’s a celebratory week here in the Ruhlman household. Two significant graduations and the 18th birthday of my daughter. So bubbly is on hand, and it led me to this thoroughly refreshing and restorative cocktail, the French 75, which I was first introduced to at the Velvet Tango Room. The concoction was apparently named after a French field gun, owing to its kick, at Harry’s Bar in Paris, and I love its French name best, Soixante Quinze. It couldn’t be simpler: a gin sour (lemon juice and simple syrup), topped with dry sparkling wine, finished with a twist. Best wishes to all on this first Friday of June, but especially to the parents out there with kids who are graduating. The French 75 2 ounces gin 1/2 ounce lemon juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup Bubbly as Read On »

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