Friday, October 29, 2010

The Return of the Rusty Nail

Paul hearkens back to yesteryear in praise of this simple drink.

Back in the Eighties, when big hair and shoulder pads ruled supreme, as did Ronald Reagan in all his numbingly myopic splendor, I tried my first Rusty Nail. My friend Kristen waitressed at The Annex, a local basement haunt that fed and kept mirthful the hoards of Princetonians and townsfolk who hankered for a cheap drink and some cheap eats. Steak Diane was on their menu and it was the best bet, along with your typical strains of Manhattans, Martinis, and Whiskey Sours. I knew I liked bourbon—I got very drunk one night with a few friends, taking shots of Jim Beam—and Whiskey Sours were my go-to cocktail. They were sweet and sour, and they suited my taste buds just fine. Or so I thought. Kristen suggested I try a Rusty Nail when I asked for some cocktail advice one night when she was off-duty and I should have been off writing another boring lit-crit paper. “What’s in it?” “Scotch and Drambuie.” At this point on my spirituous journey, I knew that scotch tasted different than bourbon. I didn’t know what gave them their unique tastes, but I knew I liked bourbon more. “What the hell is Drambuie?” “Sweet scotch.” “Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

I remember the first sip like it was yesterday. The scotch was fine—like I’ve said, I’ve sipped on scotch before and liked it just up to a point. If that’s all there is, I’ll drink it. But this time it was different. I really took a shine to Drambuie. I found out later what it actually is: a Scottish honey- and herb-flavored liqueur made from aged malt whisky, heather honey, and naturally, a secret blend of herbs and spices. I noted while sipping how it played with the scotch, smoothing out its rough edges.

Twenty years or so later, I find myself sipping on Rusty Nails when I’m in the mood for something potent, peaty-sweet, and old-school. There’s nothing like one on a cool fall evening, perhaps in front of the first fire of the season, capping the night off with some friends with whom you’ve just shared a hearty meal.

Rusty Nail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Scotch whisky
1/2 to 1 ounce Drambuie (the peatier the scotch, the more Drambuie)

Stir in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Drambuie has changed its bottle! Middle photo shows the new, sleeker design, which fits better on the bar shelf. The old design (bottom), though, is a classic, and will always be, for me, the quintessential.

Photo of Rusty Nail © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Friday, October 8, 2010

An East-Meets-Midwestern Barbecue Inspires Sumptuous Delights

Grilled Dry-Rubbed Pork Steaks with Sides, Apps, and Cocktails (and don’t forget the dessert!)

Basil Caesar Salad, All-American Potato Salad, and Grilled Dry-Rubbed Pork Steaks. A perfect farewell to summer.

Every so often along comes a cut of meat that has heretofore escaped your grill’s searing clutches. Sometimes even escaping your grillmaster’s lexicon. For us, the new cut on the block calls itself Pork Steak. If you have heard of pork steak, you’re probably from the South or Midwest where pork steaks are grilled regularly. They’re sliced from a Boston Butt, that rich part of the pig that’s also called pork shoulder. Steve’s dad visited us recently from the land of Table Rock, Missouri, and he brought with him his Midwestern recipe so you can make the tastiest grilled pork ever to grace your picnic table. And besides being fall-apart tender, you can grill it all even before your guests arrive. The spice rub Steve’s Dad came up with really gives the meat an authentic Midwestern flavor of smoke and sweet heat.

What to serve our Brooklyn guests before dinner was an easy choice; even though we could feel the cool fall air descend upon us, we decided to leave summer behind with a bang:

{ For recipes, and to read more about and see photos from our amazing barbecue, click here. }

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hooray for the Everyday: The Champagne Cocktail Is for Any Occasion

The Champagne Cocktail in all of its simple splendor

Nothing says “Cocktail Party” quite like a Champagne Cocktail. The sound of the bubbles rippling to the top of the glass, breaking the surface in gentle, aromatic huffs entices you instantly. Draw it to your lips and you can smell the slightly sweet brandy mingle with the spicy redolence of the Angostura bitters. Take one sip and let the giddiness ensue.

The Champagne Cocktail seems to have first appeared in print in Robert Tomes’s 1855 chronicle of the Panama Railroad, and he describes it as “the most delicious thing in the world.” After he carefully watches his friend craft this seemingly magical elixir, the two immediately take sips, and our illustrious author remarks how “the Champagne cock-tail . . . went whirring, roaring, foaming, and flowing down mine and the friendly concocter's thirsty throats.” Already we understand the power of this fizzy delight when in the company of another. It begs to be shared. Just hand one to your guests as they walk through the door and watch their reactions. You will have created an instant frisson of celebration as you welcome these eager, thirsty souls into your home.

The beauty of the Champagne Cocktail not only lies in its simplicity, it pairs will with so much party food. Oysters and clams on the half shell, spiced nuts, canapes, and mini quiches come to mind instantly. But don’t stop there; next time you whip up an hors d’oeuvre, make sure you have some bubbly handy and pour yourself a Champagne Cocktail. How do they taste together? We hope the answer is “Perfect.”

Remember, champagne doesn’t have to be just for a party. A hard day at work is reason enough to pop the cork and start pouring. You deserve it.

Champagne Cocktail
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce brandy (we like Asbach) or cognac (Hennessy will do you fine)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3-4 ounces champagne
sugar cube

Drop a sugar cube in a champagne flute and douse with bitters. Add chilled champagne. Float brandy on top by inverting a spoon over the flute and gently pouring the brandy onto the back of the spoon so that it cascades into the flute.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz