AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cocktails of NYC, Manhattan cocktail

image by Amber Sexton

When taking this photo I realized my table is slanted, but it’s the least of my problems in this apartment. Anyway I could have fixed it in photoshop but leaving it satisfies both a wee bit of authenticity and also laziness.

By now you might have guessed that when making each of these drinks named for a borough of NYC, I’m trying to use a spirit that was made in the city. For now I’ve failed to find a NYC made rye. The Shanty is making a rye, but it doesn’t appear to be ready. They are a few scant blocks from my house and I’ve yet to try out their gin, but I intend to soon. Kings County Distillery only makes a bourbon and moonshine, I’m interested to try the bourbon but it was a bit pricey, $22 for a small bottle at Eight and Driggs. Small enough to be behind the counter to prevent theft. Anyway to make a proper Manhattan, there’s no reason to rely on bourbon anymore now that rye is back in a big way.

Once you expand to NY State, which used to make a lot of rye in the heyday of the beverage you have a some choices. I really liked the Hudson 5 grain bourbon from Tuthilltown Spirits I was given for my birthday and I wanted to try their Manhattan rye. But again it’s a bit expensive at $30 for a small bottle. Then I saw McKenzie Rye, which I remembered reading a review of, and realized it was made in the Finger Lakes. I have soft spot for the Finger Lakes, and especially the Seneca Lake wine trail and knew I wanted to try what Finger Lakes Distilling was making. At $43 it wasn’t cheap, but it’s a reasonable price for a 750ml bottle. And I really do like it. They also seem to be using sustainable methods, grain that is grown locally and knowing the upstate economy I like that.

So…off to drinking. A Manhattan is quite simple to make it is:

2 oz Rye
1 oz Sweet vermouth
couple shakes of bitters. (I have Angostura, but the original way uses the once defunct Boker’s bitters, which is being made again but I haven’t tried any)

You may shake or stir this with ice, I stirred. Then I strained it in a chilled glass with a really fancy Luxardo cherry. It really is a delicious classic drink and totally lovely and flavorful with a smokey rye. I love bourbon but it’s a much sweeter spirit and it’s a different drink with it. I assume you all have had a Manhattan before, since it’s a classic and well known. But if you’ve not had rye, then do because it’s better and it’s what the drink is meant to be. Play around with different italian vermouths if you have them, I just have the standard Martini & Rossi myself but I plan to try Punt e Mes next. When I run out, which seems like it will be a year or two from now.

About the Luxardo cherry. It is the original maraschino cherry, from the producer who makes the best maraschino liqueur and the jar was so expensive I cough to wheeze out the price….$27…....ugh. On the other hand I knew I wanted to try them, I had one in a Rob Roy at a scotch tasting, and it was delicious. Everything about the electric neon bleached out supermarket cherry is not what you find in a Luxardo, which are very strongly cherry tasting, stemless and gothy black. One thing I like about the is the black color is that it takes the drink garnish from a slightly girly look to one that is very masculine and serious, besides the fact that it tastes fantastic. I’ve noticed that I’ve never seen a man order a drink which has a cherry garnish, I think this one can change all that. And certainly the cherry is a bit controversial in the Manhattan, as the olive is in the Martini. Both came later but I think it’s safe to say they are here to stay.

One drawback to the Luxardo cherry is there is no stem, and I have no cocktail skewers of any kind so it only something to look forward to at the end of a drink, rather than eating little morsels of along the way. Also they are breathtakingly expensive for what they are. But I plan to use them to add dark seriousness to other drinks that call for them, and maybe I will put them on a cupcake or two.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/23 at 04:05 PM
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rollei film backlog: processing my old 120 film

image by Amber Sexton
I’ve sort of been looking for a New Year’s Resolution, and trying to participate with friends on encouraging our creative output by sharing and setting goals. I rarely follow through on anything called a resolution, but I am trying to improve my space and get rid of things and clear my some of my resistance to making more art of all the kinds that interest me.

I had not been using my old Rollei camera, for a few reasons, but the biggest of which is that I’ve 60 rolls I’ve not been able to get around to processing in NYC labs for many years. And it’s seemed pointless to use the camera or invest in fixing it’s messed up shutter speeds, if I never even sent out more than a small fraction the film. I decided for a resolution of sorts, I would pick the cheapest lab possible and just send 4-5 rolls out for processing and scans only each payday until I get through over 60 rolls, some of which have been sitting here for 7 years or longer. I also realize the last groups I sent out, I dumped on my drive and didn’t really look hard at or do anything with. I’m letting go of the idea of using a “great” lab at this point because that’s pretty laughable to insist on after how I’ve treated this film. And I really can’t afford the full priced labs and nor do I want to go pick up and drop off film. So I got the order form online for Dwayne’s Photo and have sent a package off and received it back already. I’ve also decided, before looking at any of what comes back, I’m to put the next rolls for processing in the envelope, fill out a new form and seal it up with a check before I even look at what I have.

Today all the film was from my 2005 trip to Venice, but one roll had these eery pink light leaks from being in a drawer for over seven years. This has sort of charmed me, especially on the two frames I include here. These like most of the shots are more touristy, or fairly strict documents of what I saw without being that interesting, and these would be too except for their pink auras. This one in particular is a relatively dry shot, that has turned a bit interesting.

Anyway my goal is to not be judgmental of myself as an artist 7 years ago. To not be too critical of my skills and misdemeanors of bad technique, abandoning film in a drawer, using a camera where flaky shutter speeds blurred so many of the frames, and just try to enjoy looking at things as I used to see them. In furtherance of the goal of fixing and using this camera again.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/19 at 11:55 PM
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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

I love the term “ball peen” and I wish more things besides hammers could be it.

These words are those I would like to be able to use more often in the next year. I have to come up with appropriate conversations to work them into.

Ball peen
Tools of ignorance
Mellifluous—I’m waffling on this one, not sure it’s worth the work.

Some of these like “corpulent” I use at every opportunity. Others I’m going to have to create circumstances that allow me to use them. I love the term “ball peen” and I wish more things besides hammers could be it. I want there to be ball peen shoes, and ball peen cameras, and just other ball peen instruments. My mother was a jeweler and owned several ball peen hammers, but I saved a different hammer of hers, more of a mallet that I keep at home from her jewelry tools. Anyway I don’t use the phrase “Tools of Ignorance” other than to tell people what it means a couple times a baseball season, and I want to make more drinks with some quinquinas.

Anyway, this is my block, and this tree is deciduous
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/09 at 07:30 PM
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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Cocktails of NYC, Bronx Cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
This cocktail is well known, though of recent vintage to me. I’ve made a bunch of these now, and I’ve settled on blood orange and very accurate measuring as the way it comes out best. I am using Greenhook Gin which is made in Brooklyn, and it’s much more juniper and floral than the citrusy Breuekelen. I really like it and can’t wait to go through many of my other gin drinks using it. So a Bronx is basically a martini with orange juice, or rather a “perfect martini” with orange juice (a ‘perfect martini’ is one with both types of vermouth.) This is a bigger drink than many of the smaller cocktails I’ve been making and I’m using my 4.5 oz glasses with it.

2 oz Greenhook Gin
1 oz fresh blood orange juice (it’s about a whole small blood orange)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (Noilly Prat)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso)

shaken with ice and strained in a chilled glass.

The Bronx is supposedly the first cocktail with orange juice, or the first juice cocktail, though I don’t fully understand when that is said because lemon and lime juice abound in recipes. And certainly there were sweeter drinks, and shrubbs and smashes prior. But it makes sense that it’s early because you really don’t get a profound orange flavor from the drink, it’s not gin and juice at all. In these proportions the drink is neither sour, nor sweet, not orangy, nor strongly tasting of the vermouths. What is great about this drink when I’ve made it right is that everything is in balance. You taste the gin, you taste the vermouth, and the orange but it’s all hanging together nicely.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 01/06 at 05:43 AM
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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cocktails of NYC, Queens cocktail

image by Amber Sexton
I recently learned that four boroughs of the city had classic drinks named after them. I mean not like stuff the bartender throws together and calls a “Staten Island Ferry.” But in the classic cocktail era of the Manhattan. The least well known of these that i had to google around for is the Queens. And it’s a derivative of the Bronx cocktail which once enjoyed popularity but fell out of fashion to the extent that I hadn’t heard of it either. But it seems like the Queens was never a big thing.

I’ve now made this drink three times, with slight variations, and I really enjoy it but am a bit surprised at how it tastes. Basically the Queens and the Bronx, are like martinis with fruit, Or more properly they are like the martinez, which is the ancestor of the martini. The Bronx calls for fresh squeezed orange and the Queens calls for muddled fresh pineapple.

So, leaving the Bronx for another day, I’m using Breuckelen Glorious Gin, which is made in Brooklyn, and I’ve enjoyed before, it’s a citrusy gin and I thought that would go, also works with the NYC theme. First I used this recipe from Gourmet which is:

1.5 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
pineapple slice (recipe does not state the amount of pineapple, I settled on half of a round horizontal slice)

muddle the pineapple with gin in shaker or mixing glass, add vermouth and ice, shake (or stir) strain and serve in a chilled glass. It gets a bit frothy with shaking, which you may like but I wanted to see the color more so the next two attempts I stirred.

This is quite good, but surprisingly the pineapple is not super noticeable, it’s a balanced drink of flavors that is very yummy but you taste the vermouth for sure and the drink is not that sweet, obviously not dry at all but nor is it sweet in a pronounced way. It’s refreshing yet traditional tasting too.

I wanted to see if I could make it slightly more tangy, and more pinapplely while realizing this isn’t a tropical drink at all. So on my next try I substituted half the sweet vermouth for my home made lemon syrup. (Forgot to include the sweet vermouth in the photo)

image by Amber Sexton

Which was:
1/5 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz home made lemon syrup

All in all it was a fun substitution, but not super tangy and I wonder if I’m just over thinking it and should add a squirt of lemon juice. Anyway, all the ways I’ve had it were quite refreshing, and fun. There are no garnish instructions for this drink but I wanted to amuse myself so I made a sort of a crown of pineapple. I would love to get a crown cocktail pick and use that with a regular wedge of pineapple.

So I don’t know why you have pineapple Queens cocktail, because I don’t think Queens is known for it’s tropical climes. But I’m having fun visiting with you. Also Merry Christmas, remember it was not that long ago that people enjoyed getting fruit as a Christmas gift, a pineapple isn’t an X-Box or anything, but Merry Christmas.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/25 at 02:19 AM
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas parties are better than I remember them.

image by Amber Sexton
My dad and Andrewandrew

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/22 at 10:45 PM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning to make Tomato Pappu, or Toor Dal or Andhra Dal

Today I decided to look up toor dal recipes to try. I do a fair amount of Indian recipes at home and I have mostly used toor or tuvor beans to make sambar with. I’ve made sambar a few times and I’m getting better at it but it’s still not as good as I find it in a lot of restaurants I go to. Whereas when I make chana dal, or moong dal, or masoor dal it is more delicious made at home. Also when I make sambar, I often make it when making medu vada which are savory bean donuts that dip into it. Making both is very labor intensive and a big commitment. I wanted to just use up some of the beans, and my curry leaves which would go bad without needing to make two dishes that required a lot of utensils, pots and labor.

So I googled Toor dal. If you are not familiar with the different beans and pulses in Indian cuisine, I don’t blame you. I wasn’t really either and my first ever foray into making dal I used ordinary yellow split peas and a recipe from smitten kitchen here. That recipe is delicious, but even while eating I knew that it was not exactly what I was served in restaurants and so my delving into somewhat more authentic indian cooking began. Anyway Toor dal, unlike some of the other split beans that are used in Indian food may be more familar to you as pigeon peas or gandules. However the difference is that they are not whole, they are split with skins removed. When you look for them in a store that sells ingredients for indian cooking they may be labeled Toor, Tuwar, or Tuvor dal. They have a very specific taste that is mandatory in sambar, when cooked they have a honey-ish aroma, but still obviously a bean and skinless they cook up light yellow.

So what I found was a video on youtube which has audio instructions in Telugu, but written instructions in English, for Tomato Pappu. Then I poked around at other recipes, many of which included garlic and onion not in this recipe and also one or two included fresh ginger. Many indian recipes will omit onion and garlic, because certain Hindu castes do not consume it, and since I’m not in that number I often add them. Asafetida can be a substitute for onion or garlic in a recipe, but I always include a dash of it for it’s unique taste. I chose this original recipe as the base partially because I had the fenugreek seeds and black gram or urad dal which are used in the seasoning that is tempered while the dal is cooking. Urad dal is something I have around because it’s used to make medu vada mentioned above, and it’s intrigued me because just by soaking the split bean, you can grind it, mush it between two fingers, it’s kind of a unique bean that way. I believe it’s properly called a pulse and it is unique to Asia, and it’s often called black gram as in this recipe, because the skins are black, but like the toor dal, it’s mostly used in it’s split and skinned form as is the case here and the inside is white. Only a teaspoon and a half are used, toasted in the oil with fenugreek seeds as part of the seasoning so you could easily skip it you wish and not all recipes called for it at all. This recipe did not specify what type of oil to use. I have taken to using mustard oil in many of my indian dishes and it’s especially good in masoor dal, I’ve no idea if it’s authentic to use in this type of dal but it was delicious.

So I followed this recipe, pretty close, however I put the turmeric and chili powder in after the beans and tomatoes were cooked, the recipe didn’t say how much water to cook the beans in and I added two cups. I also only cooked it for 10 minutes rather than 15 at pressure. I reduced the red chili powder to just 1/4 teaspoon (btw this is mirch or cayenne powder not american chili powder, but you could use red pepper flakes also.) Most of the heat came from 4 dried red chilies that I added to the temper at the second step in seasoning part of the recipe. Some recipes I saw online called for this, and even fresh green chilies cooked with the beans and tomatoes, that would make for a much hotter dish. Anyway the chilies went in to the pan after the urad dal and fenugreek seeds were toasted, right when the cumin and black mustard seeds are added (it’s not specified that they are black mustard seeds but that’s really the only kind used whole in Indian cooking, you do need to get those when picking up your specialty dals at the indian food store.) After this I added 5 small cloves of grated garlic, about a teaspoon grated ginger and about a half a chopped onion, and the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much as indicated. It’s delicious and I will make it again and again, as it was quick and easy with my pressure cooker and I’ve a huge bag of dal to get through.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/18 at 02:52 AM
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Monday, December 10, 2012

I made a Jack Rose for the first time

So I’ve been trying out pre-depression era cocktails because they seem to gibe with my interest in from scratch cooking. Also the drinks are all about tasting the spirits, the liqueurs and vermouths with the notes of bitters. It’s not about making drinks into kool-aid so you can scarf down gallons of booze. I had recently read this recipe on how to make your own grenadine and made the grenadine and it was so delicious I immediately made a bunch of eggless, creamless pink ladies and pomegranate gin rickeys. And really it is delicious to the point where you do almost find it to be as drinkable as Hi-C. But then I wanted to do something more traditional with it, pre-depression drinks are not as dry as many modern ‘traditional’ cocktails anyway, which I still like. Anyway I decided to get some applejack and try a Jack Rose, and the proportions I used are a bit more modern because the older proportions are either much more sweet or much more sweet and sour. Also there’s a debate whether to use lemon or lime. Since I did a lot of lime drinks lately and I had to open a lemon for something I was cooking, I went with lemon. So I went with:
2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz grenadine that I had made as per the Jeffrey Morgenthaler recipe above.

Shaken over ice and served in a small stemmed cocktail glass that I just got for $3.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/10 at 12:02 AM
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