May 22nd, 2008


Beer, cachaca, and cigars.

(I was going to do one long post for all this but the first part got longer than I thought - so it's here, and I'll follow up with a post about New Heights in a minute or two.)

I've had some good beer this week.  Last night I had an Allagash ale aged in oak bourbon barrels.  I didn't care for it at first but it grew on me rapidly, though one may also blame the fact that it is 11% ABV and I decided to sip some Willett pot still bourbon with it.  I was also smoking an Oliva cigar; that was a nice smoke.  Needless to say, I was a bit schnockered when I walked back inside.

The night before I enjoyed a Brooklyn Brewing Co. Local #1.  That was REALLY good, and at 9% wasn't quite the punch that the Allagash was.  I followed it up with a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and a Stone Pale Ale.

Somebody had left some Fiddler's Green Pale Ale after the party.  I liked that one too.  We're on a big pale ale kick around my house.  I like IPAs more because I like hoppy beers.  Matt, my brother, doesn't care for them so much so we often compromise and get beers like Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale (which has been losing its appeal to me, admittedly).  Then again, with Stella Artois on tap right now, and it requiring the special coupler, we may stick with that again for the next keg or something using the same keg coupler.

Last night the plan had been to have a cigar with Marshall.  Unfortunately he got all tuckered out.  I happened to be over in Ballston Mall (across the street from where he lives) when he told me that because I was shopping for iPod headphones and considering getting a haircut at the barber shop there - usually I'd have gone to Tyson's for that, but I didn't feel like driving.  I got neither (all the headphones were too short and the haircut place had a line) so I wandered over to the ABC store near his house.

There they had a bottle of Leblon (and I hope I'm spelling that right) cachaca.  I'd looked at that bottle about a week ago plus the other two cachacas there.  The next day I'd gone online and found that the Leblon is considered one of the better cachacas available, but at usually 50% more than others ($30 versus $20 in Virginia) it's not worth the extra money.

However, VA ABC had it on sale for $24.95.  So last night I bought a bottle of it and took it home.  I haven't even cracked it yet but I've got some ideas for it especially thanks to the fact that I picked up Food & Wine magazine's Cocktails 2008 book.  More notes on that later, and the idea I've had FOR A PLAN FOR THE BOOK!

(no subject)

Back to gin...

When we went to New Heights Restaurant last week, I had a lot of fun.  Marshall wrote up his long post on it but I wanted to touch on some of the points of my visit.

Like I said, I had a great time.  Everyone was very friendly there.  I felt a bit bad for our bartender, Chris.  He was a pretty nice guy but was almost overwhelmingly slammed a good bit of the night.  Two different tables ordered brandy alexanders!  There were a lot of no-reservation walk-ins for both the dining room and the bar thanks to a convention and the article in the WaPo (I heard them say).

Marshall is s-m-r-t ... errr... smart.  When we first walked in it was fairly empty so we took seats right at the very end of the bar.  That kept us from getting surrounded when the large group came in.  I still got jostled a lot by one of the first guys in from that group.  I was convinced that they were going to be quite annoying but in fact they were very polite and when they realized they were running into me made it a point to be careful about it.  You know what?  Thanks!  Honestly, I appreciated their concern and effort to be conscientious bar-neighbors.

(Compare that to the other night at Bailey's when the guys next to me - even a few chairs down - seemed nice at first but quickly grew annoying, to the point of having my chair stolen when I was in the bathroom and smoke blown at me.)

For the most part that night I stuck with gin and tonics.  My reasoning - which seemed to be accurate - was two-fold.

First, that'd provide a consistent tasting amongst the different gins.  To be completely consistent I should've stuck with the same tonic all the time.  They had a list of tonics and how to pair gin with tonic so I stuck with those guidelines.  At home I tend to stick to one kind of tonic.

Second, it would be easier for the bartender.  That it was - I definitely got drinks faster.

It looks like I didn't manage to Twitter EVERYTHING...oh well.  I definitely had a gin and tonic to start, I just don't remember which one!  Andrew (our original bartender) made us an Aviation with Aviation gin.  I liked it more than previous ones I'd had, though Marshall does have that creme de violette fetish.

Next was the #24.  They had a couple of these "numbered" drinks and I neglected to ask what was up with that naming schema.  This one was, according to my Twitter, G-vine gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, Peychaud's bitters, simple syrup, kaffir lime leaf, lime juice, Schweppes tonic.  I'd never heard of G-vine gin before that night and they had sent the pastry chef out to buy some more of it.  It's a French gin and I actually found later in a gin and tonic that I liked it a lot.

Next up was another gin and tonic.  This time I tried the Old Raj, blue label, with the Fever-Tree tonic.  That was quite good.  There's another label (red, I believe) of Old Raj, but the blue is stronger and I wanted more of the taste to shine.

Around this time we got our food.  The ham & cheese croquettes were awesome, as were the truffle fries.  I also got the pickled herring (MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE) and I loved it.  Honestly - I think it was the best pickled herring I've had.  To be completely honest, I've only had it a couple of other times but I think it was better than it was at Aquavit.

I threw Chris a curveball for the next drink.  Let's avoid the gins and hit the classic - a Sazerac.  It's always interesting how other people make it.  He used St. George absinthe, for one.  Due to the expense of St. George, as he pointed out, he doesn't just toss it out as you're supposed to do with the pastis.  He just pours a little bit in.  Then there was a sugar cube, both Peychaud's and Regan's bitters, and Russell's Reserve rye.  That rye is one I use a lot in Sazeracs.  It was quite tasty, if not as sweet as I tend to prefer mine.

Next was back to the gin and tonic.  I knew I needed something big to cut through the remnants of taste in the Saz.  I went with the G-vine and Fever-Tree bitter lemon tonic.  That was a SPECTACULAR choice.  I'm really digging the G-vine.

Jake had been hanging out with us and had been waiting on a complimentary Aviation for a while but finally needed to leave.  Just after he left it came up so Marshall and I polished it off.  I'd had a Rogue Spruce gin and Schweppe's before that and needed to clear some of the taste out of my mouth; it wasn't that bad but it wasn't something I particularly go for.  Kind of like how a really peaty Scotch might not be everyone's cup of tea.

The final drink of the bar for me was a martini - I'm a huge martini fan, I've found.  And it was good.  Marshall had a champagne cocktail of some sort.

We went home after that.  Just as I got home some friends of Cathy's were coming in for the birthday of one of her really good friends.  Cathy wanted a drink and surprisingly enough, not a champagne drink like she usually has.  I ended up drinking the Kir Royale made with sparkling shiraz (not the best drink ever) while I thought up something.  I called it the Cathy Cocktail:
3/4 ounce Hendrick's gin
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
1/4 ounce simple syrup
dash of Regans bitters

Shake, pour over ice in a collins glass, top with Sprite.

Later her friends and I did an absinthe tasting between the Kubler and the Lucid.  While tasty, it was not what I needed at that point in the definitely led to a rough morning when I had to get up early to take care of the block party!