Archive for December, 2008

Muji for the masses

muji-store

Racked NY

Muji, the Japanese lifestyle anti-brand (Mujirushi Ryohin translates roughly as “no brand, quality products”), has 200+ stores in Japan and continues to build its following while opening new stores in Europe and the United States.

In their bright shops you’ll find homewares, paper goods, linens and clothing. And everything adheres to the modern aesthetics of clean lines, simplicity, functionality. It’s kinda like IKEA, kinda like the Container Store. But more refined, more crisp. More Japanese. And the spare philosophy extends to Muji’s ecologically friendly packaging and manufacturing processes.

What is it that appeals most – Is it the clean functionality of the products? The “no logo” branding scheme which makes us believe we’re supporting a sort of populist design for the people? The low prices? I don’t know, but wouldn’t my place be super tidy with everything tucked neatly away in Muji organizers?

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Cardinal Virtue

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Ingredients:
Metaxa or a good quality brandy
Fresh blood orange juice
Fresh lemon juice
Housemade grenadine
Bitters
Ice

Tools:
Shaker
Strainer
Juicer

Steps:
Use your juicer to extract 3/4 oz blood orange juice and 3/4 oz lemon juice.
Add several ice cubes to a shaker, then add 2 oz brandy, the blood orange juice and lemon juice, 1/2 oz grenadine and a dash of bitters – I recommend Peychaud’s, but if you can’t find it, use Angostura.
Shake vigorously.
Strain into a chilled martini-shaped glass

This cocktail draws upon the all-time classic sidecar and adds the vibrant colors and flavors of blood orange juice and grenadine (housemade from pomegranate juice). Around here, we only see blood oranges from November to early spring, and their juice is terrific in this zingy winter cocktail. Bottled blood orange juice may also work, although I have not yet tried it. Or you can substitute with tangerines or satsumas.

True grenadine adds color and sweetness as well as a fairly intense pomegranate flavor. If the flavor is too tart, you can add a little simple syrup.

Variation:
Strain into a rocks glass, top with a few splashes of club soda and you have a delightful punch!

It is always a good idea to practice the cardinal virtue of moderation when consuming alcohol.

Miss Jane

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I’ve been making this for some of my cocktail-loving friends who are wary of gin. The response has been very positive.

Ingredients:
Quality gin*
Good vodka
Lillet blanc**
Lemon juice
Simple syrup
Ice

Tools:
Cocktail shaker
Strainer
Juicer
Citrus twister

Steps:
Squeeze one half lemon to yield 1 oz of juice.
Add several ice cubes to a shaker or mixing glass, then add 1 oz gin, 1 oz vodka, 1 oz Lillet, the lemon juice and 3/4 oz simple syrup.
Shake vigorously. Put some elbow into it.
Strain into a chilled martini-shaped glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

*It’s not just juniper anymore: If you’re not a lover of gin, you may be surprised at the range of flavors to be discovered in various brands of the spirit. In recent years, some small-batch distillers have entered the market with new offerings, like the velvety, iconoclastic Hendrick’s, from Ayrshire, Scotland, which adds cucumber and rose to the mix. I must say I think it’s a brilliant choice for this cocktail.

**Lillet, an apéritif wine from the Bordeaux region of France, is available in blanc (white) and rouge (red) varieties. Lillet blanc also features in the Vesper, the cocktail created by James Bond in Casino Royale.

Featured in Bohemian hellhole magazine | Fall 2008

Fellini

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Mimosas and Bellinis are fine choices for brunch time imbibing, but for a zippy change, try this fresh combination with Prosecco, lime and ginger.

Prosecco is a dry Italian sparkling wine, the original ingredient in the Bellini (made with peach puree). Prosecco is gaining popularity in the United States, and with good reason: It is delightful, crisp, low in alcohol – perfect for summer! And it’s affordable – a good wine merchant or supermarket may stock several bottles in the $12-15 range.

Ingredients:
Ginger juice
Crystallized ginger
Superfine sugar
Limes
Chilled Prosecco

Tools:
Sparkling wine glasses
Juicer
Your favorite knife and cutting board
A shallow dish

Steps:
Juice some fresh ginger root (put it through an electric juicer or grate it and press the gratings through some cheesecloth or a fine-meshed garlic press) or purchase bottled juice.

Chop some crystallized ginger, grind it together with an equal amount of sugar in a food processor (a couple tablespoons of each should be enough for 6 to 10 drinks, depending on the glass shape* you use), then spread it out in a shallow dish.

Juice some fresh limes, then sweeten the juice to taste (superfine sugar works best, but you could try another sweetener). Each lime will yield an ounce or two of juice.

Fresh juice is a must for quality cocktails. If you don’t have a juicer, a stainless steel or glass reamer is a great purchase, and not too expensive.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of each glass, keeping the glass upside down so the juice doesn’t run down the sides, then dip the glass into the ginger sugar. If your crystallized ginger is too fresh, it might not stick. You can pour a little simple syrup into a shallow dish, and dip the glasses into that instead of using the lime wedges.

For each drink, combine a half ounce (about a tablespoon) of the sweetened lime juice with a 1/4 teaspoon of the ginger juice*. Use a measuring cup or a glass and mix together the total amount for all the drinks you’ll be making.

Pour a half ounce or so of the lime-ginger juice into each glass. Then SLOWLY pour in Prosecco to not quite fill the glass.

*Small champagne glasses from the mid-20th century, like the one pictured, are lovely. But they hold less volume than the more common flute shape. If you use flutes, you won’t need as much ginger sugar for the rims, but you’ll need more of the lime-ginger juice for each glass – about an ounce.

Featured in Bohemian hellhole magazine | Summer 2008

Grenadine, for real

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One day when I was browsing some of the bygone cocktail recipes in my Savoy cocktail book I found one or two that I wanted to try, but was discouraged by a certain ingredient: grenadine. All the commercial versions of this syrup that I’ve ever tried are too high-fructose-corn-syrupy artificial and I could never bring myself to use them in cocktails for my friends or family.

Grenadine is, in theory, made from pomegranate. Well pomegranate is an unwieldy fruit – unless you have an industrial juicer, getting the good stuff out of that seedy globe would be overly daunting. Luckily pomegranate juice is now available in a bottle, which means that making your own grenadine at home is quite easy. POM is a good option; Odwalla offers one that is pomegranate with a little berry juice added.

I found a couple of helpful posts on this topic, such as this one at the Cocktail Chronicles. The recipe that worked best for me is as follows:

Pour 2 cups of pomegranate juice into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until reduced by half (about 20 minutes). Slowly stir in 1 cup of sugar. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate. Now this is true, deep-red grenadine syrup, and it makes a lovely clover club cocktail. You may choose to temper the flavor a bit by adding some simple syrup.

You can also try a cold process – simply combine equal parts juice and sugar. I found the syrup produced by this method to be too bright and assertive, but you may very well prefer it.

Simple syrup

Simple syrup is a bar staple – here’s how to make it.

Add one part sugar to one part boiling water, stir until it dissolves, remove from heat, let cool (it will thicken slightly), then transfer to a clean bottle with a lid and refrigerate.

You can store it in the refrigerator for a month or so. Some recipes say it can be stored indefinitely; others say it will only keep for a week. In my experience, it lasts at least a few weeks. I did discover mold growing in a bottle one time, but that was after several months.

If you use superfine or baker’s sugar, you can dissolve equal parts of sugar into water pretty quickly – without heat. Just stir it up! Please do use filtered water.