Drinking


Vinegared Gin SlingAt the instigation of a friend of mine I recently tried making something called posca (or, perhaps more accurately, something similar to something called posca). Posca was a traditional Roman drink composed mostly of watered down sour wine, often flavored with herbs or spices and sweetened. It was, in effect, the equivalent of lemonade only with vinegar instead of lemon juice. At this point I imagine whoever is reading this may have a slightly skeptical look on his or her face, but this look is not entirely warranted. In fact, having made something roughly equivalent I can assure you this is very tasty.

The real trick here is to track down as nice a vinegar as possible. After all, you’ll be drinking it. I used Sadaf brand vinegar which I purchased at the local middle eastern grocery store mostly because it’s the normal brand that I use in cooking. You can use any brand and probably any sort of vinegar in doing this, though I prefer cider or red wine vinegar. What is essential is that it is not distilled or quickly brewed: you want the subtle complex sourness that the longer process creates rather than the overpowering smell of acetic acid that you get otherwise. Neither of the vinegars that I used in trying out variations on this smelled the slightest bit like distilled vinegar.

The easiest thing to do is to make a concentrate of sweetened vinegar. Unlike lemon juice vinegar doesn’t lose flavor over time so you can do this in large quantity ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge. I like a ratio of around three cups of vinegar to one cup of sugar – in the pictured version I’ve mixed brown and white sugar which is why it’s darker, but this was only because of necessity and not taste. Heat the vinegar and dissolve the sugar in it as if you were making a simple syrup. Then add whatever spices you want. Coriander is especially nice (essential, really, for what I’m going to suggest), but I’ve also put anise seed and a little bit of fresh nutmeg in as well to good effect. Then bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two before turning off the heat and letting it steep for a bit. When it is cool enough to handle strain it and pour into a jar or bottle for safekeeping.

At this point if you want to make posca all you need to do is pour an ounce or two of the vinegar mixture into a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with water. You can use cold water, and add ice if you like. I find that unlike lemonade and most other drinks I actually find posca more refreshing when it’s sitting around room temperature, though, so it’s as least worth trying this.

This is a little boring, though, and as suggested in the title my first instinct was to go ahead and add gin to the drink. Luckily this works out pretty well: remember, one of the main flavors in the mixture is coriander, which is also a common botanical used in gins. It could probably be made more complex with the addition of a bitters (I have a bitters made with Rue that complements the fruitiness of the vinegar nicely, as it turns out). But honestly it’s pretty tasty as it is and adding a recipe for bitters to this post would be recommending and unreasonable amount of work when it comes to trying things out. Since the effect overall of adding gin is to make the drink a watered down and mildly sweetened gin with some vinegar mixed in there I’ve called it a vinegared sling. (It was easier than inventing a fancy name, at any rate.)

This is as much of a recipe as it makes sense to give for something as simple as this. But don’t be fooled: it really is delicious. As a side note I’ll add that the proportions here are entirely speculative. What actually tastes best will depend pretty substantially on what sort of vinegar you use, and how strong it is. So start with roughly equal quantities and then just experiment around until you get a nice balance.

Recipe

1 1/2 oz Posca concentrate
1 1/2 oz Gin

Pour into tall glass, fill with flat water.

Posca Concentrate

3 Cups high quality vinegar
1 Cup white sugar
– or –
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
– or –
equivalent quantity of honey

Add sugar to vinegar and heat to dissolve. Add

Coriander seed, other spices to taste.

Bring to a boil until everything is neatly dissolved and smells fragrant. Take off heat and let cool. Strain and bottle.

Mixology MondayMixlogy Monday this week is over at the Scofflaw’s Den, and it’s bourbon. Bless their booze soaked hearts.

In the rich heritage of American drinking, bourbon stands tall. While many a modern man goes to bars and does shots of vodka, our cultural heroes drink whisky, and when most Americans think of whisky, it is bourbon they are thinking of. “Brownest of the brown liquors,” says Lionel Hutz. Rye may have dominated the northern palate, but when it failed to bounce back after prohibition, bourbon was ready to step in with its rich vanilla and oak flavors. So powerful is its image that when politicians need to show they’ve got the stones to lead, their handlers stick them with a shot of the stuff, tell them to drink it down and smile for the cameras.

Q: What could possibly make bourbon more manly?

A: Raw egg.

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Limit OneThis Mixology Monday’s theme was Limit One over at Kaiser Penguin, cocktails so large that to have two would be excess. On Saturday night causabon and I met to have a drink, and go over what we would post about. We were models of Shandian restraint. Now that the fog has lifted, lets have a look at the damage, shall we?

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Alright everyone. It’s Friday night—time to get your groove on. I bit the bullet this week and finally purchased Amy Winehouse’s US debut album “Back to Black.” It’s damn good. Really good. Nothing to lose your mind over, but definitely something to consider. (more…)

Over the holidays I spent almost two weeks in New Jersey, the land of my birth. Whenever I return to the east coast, I feel as if I have reached civilization. Although I pride myself on not being one of those uppity mofo’s from the east coast who believe nothing can exist outside the Northeastern bubble, I do feel as if I’ve returned to civilization when I see glitz and glamour of the Northeast corridor from my plane window. When my plane is descending into Newark and I peer out my window, I sigh a breath of relief upon seeing the lights of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. (more…)

Our rental car is covered in dust and I’m savoring the inertia of sitting still after spending the day bouncing down washboard roads. The folks and I have been meandering around the scruffy bum of North America, Baja California, for the last week. My guidebook for the trip is John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, which dazzles, like most of Steinbeck’s books they don’t make you read in school. No matter which direction we head, Steinbeck went there first, and his honest, accurate prose doesn’t suffer for the near seventy years that separate his trip from ours.

It isn’t surprising that The Log from the Sea of Cortez is still insightful; Steinbeck was a good writer and places change slowly. But where I expected a travelogue, Steinbeck delivers a bawdy philosophy of science. Steinbeck is unimpressed with a bundle of results tied up neatly with explanations—“a world wrinkled with formaldehyde.” He writes science: exploration, dissection, discovery. Of course, lab scientists such as me always envy field workers. Unless I start synthesizing psychedelics, I won’t be taking any trips into unknown country anytime soon. But, when I publish, I will cling to The Log as my antidote to the desiccated style of “proper science.” Steinbeck had another hypothesis, that found favor with me: that the water at Cabo San Lucas was bad, and the crew should drink beer and coffee instead. In honour of that remark, I present the following recipe:

New Year’s Mojitos

Prepare a simple syrup by combining equal parts white sugar and water with several sprigs of mint, and heating gently while stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool immediately. Chill a highball or other glass. While it chills, prepare a solution of 60 mL white rum and 30 mL of fresh lime juice. Add simple syrup until the mixture tastes neither sour nor sweet, about 15 mL. Add several sprigs of mint to the glass, followed by the solution. Muddle the mint. Add a slice of lime, then fill the glass with ice. Top off with soda water and stir a couple of times, but not too much or the mint will float to the top. Imbibe.

Sometimes I consider how my life would be different if I had chosen another major or interest in life to pursue. I am very happy with my choice, but occasionally my mind drifts toward other occupations that could be interesting for short periods of time. Below, I list some jobs I’d try out (ignoring consequences to career or life) if I had to choose something besides science. (more…)

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