My first mint julep was made for me by a guy who remains one of my dearest friends and confidants. We were wayward, then, but he has gone on to be a talented and superlative writer, generally. Having at the time (1987) a Kentucky girlfriend and having recently spent four years at Tulane, he knew his juleps. The night ended badly. Blown speakers at my girlfriend’s apartment and roof tar all over her nice wood floors—she was pissed, and I staggered out into the early spring sunshine. On the subway home the next morning from 110th and Amsterdam to 39th and 1st—wouldn’t you know it—I heard, “Michael?!” An old high school girlfriend had spotted me, my first kiss actually, and still dear friend. She picked lint out of my unshaved face and, with concern and disappointment, Read On »

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I actually hadn’t heard of a Negroni until Bourdain ordered one after an event we did at the 92nd Street Y. It wasn’t like him to be order a girly drink, I thought, when the server arrived with a pinkish, on-the-rocks concoction, so I took note. It would become one of my favorite cocktails, and I like it both on the rocks and up. It’s a simple but complex elixir originally created in Italy, comprising equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin. I prefer Hendrick’s gin for this but am not sure why—probably because of the cool bottle. Any decent gin will do. The VTR likes to flame orange zest oil over the drink. I prefer an actual squeeze of orange, its citrusy sweetness offsetting the bitter Campari. Some people suggest some orange bitters. All to Read On »

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I’m old-fashioned, I admit, and this is another Friday cocktail post devoted to classic cocktails. It’s not because I’m nostalgic (though I am). It’s because classics are classics for a reason: they’re good. There’s a reason you don’t have a Swanson’s TV dinner in your freezer but will never tire of a well-made Martini. My dad was a Martini man. He was also an Ad Man (who actually looked a lot like Don Draper), a creative director at a Cleveland ad firm where I interned the summer after my freshman year of college. He was a gin drinker. I still remember my first revulsion at gin. I asked him what he had in that plastic cup of his. He told me it was a Martini. Go ahead, he said, taste it. I did. How on Read On »

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Harold Dieterle, of Top Chef shares memories of catching and preparing crabs with his mother, via WSJ.

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OK, it’s really gotten bad. I’d been ready to give up the fight. But I just can’t let this one go. I went up to the bar, I’m not even going say where, and asked for a martini. The bartender, I shit you not, said, “Any preference of vodka?” I left. I just left. Walked out. I’ve gotten used to the question, “Vodka or Gin?,” grudgingly and have been told outright by Jonathan Gold to simply give it up, losing battle, he said. But I can’t. I can’t. Names are important. H.L. Mencken, as the martini Wiki entrance notes, calls this drink “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” So true! And sonnets are not writ with Vodka, which is defined by tastelessness.  (The “vodka martini” should be referred to as a Kangaroo, Read On »

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