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mbrowley

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Everything posted by mbrowley

  1. Hey all ~ I am looking for help, leads and suggestions. I am currently writing a book on home distillation for the utter novice, for the folks who have never even homebrewed so much as beer. Why? Because it’s become nearly cliché when writing about moonshining to say (1) it’s a dying or dead craft and (2) only clever, resourceful and proud mountain folks ever made it in the first place. Shine is alive and well in nearly every community in America and made by distillers who have never seen a mountain, much less the ould sod. Granted, some of that whiskey should go back in hiding, but occasionally some pretty good stuff comes out of stills from New Jersey to Oregon. Also, the few good distillation books on the market today are solid but intimidating for the beginner, so I’m leaving off where others pick up. The MS already has recipes (Beginner’s Corn Whiskey, Applejack - stilled and frozen varieties - and Baby Step Bourbon, for instance) and copper pot still plans. The hefty chapter underway now is on the history, status and future of home-distilled spirits in the US and includes interviews with home distillers and moonshiners. The historical/cultural angle of the book includes engravings, illustrations, photos, historical documents, manuscript recipes, lyrics about whiskey-making, etc. I hope that the eGullet folks can lend a hand in my hunt for additional distilling, moonshining and whiskey-making ephemera to illustrate the book. If you have, or know of sources for, materials such as photos (still raids, pour-outs, whiskey-making, etc.), news clippings, public health posters (“Moonshine Kills” - that sort of thing), cartoons, IRS publications, memoirs, scripts, penny arcade flickers, films, scrapbooks, substantial historical collections in museums, libraries or archives, sheriffs’ departments records, court cases involving illicit distillers, etc., please contact me at Mbrowley at aol.com What am I defining at moonshine? Any artisanal spirit – rum, brandy, whiskey, gin, applejack, etc – distilled without specific governmental permits. Aged texts – “The Acccomplisht Cook” or “Delightes for Ladies” for example – that discuss distillation are within scope as well. Matthew Rowley No matter what anyone tells you about the fine old drop of the mountain dew, it stands to sense that a few old men sitting up in the back of a haggard in the mountains with milk churns and all sorts of improvised apparatus cannot hope to make good spirits. ~ Irish author Brendan Behan (who should have known better)
  2. MxMo: Tiki

    Mahalo, Doug ~ Thanks for rustling us all together this month. I know how much you hate tiki and what a burden this must've been. I had every intention of not writing anything until I got back from my bourbonic Kentucky adventures next week, but you've prompted me to finally make those Bompas & Parr Mai Tai jellies that, to borrow a line from Richard E. Grant, has been squatting on my brain like an octopus for a fortnight. Along the way, I learned why my gin & tonics (and only my gin & tonics — not, say, my tiki drinks) glow in the dark of certain night clubs. Enjoy! The full post, including technique notes, and that glow-in-the dark deal, is here. The short version of the recipe: Mai Tai Jellies 8 oz medium Jamaican rum [i disregarded "medium" and used a mix of 5 oz Appleton Estate 12-year with 3 oz Smith & Cross] 5 Tbl orange curacao [Cointreau] 5 Tbl orgeat (see below) 2 oz 1:1 simple syrup 2 oz lime juice 2 packets (14g total) powdered gelatin [Knox] Mint leaves Combine the rum, curacao, orgeat syrup, sugar syrup, and lime juice in a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the liquid. Leave the gelatin to soften for 10 minutes. Gently, gently heat the liquid (do not bring it to a boil), stirring constantly, until the gelatin is melted. Once the gelatin has totally melted, pour the whole lot through a strainer and into a pitcher. Pour this mixture into a prepared mold or glasses (see above) and set it in the refrigerator at least four hours, but 12 will give it a stronger set. When you are ready to serve, unmold and garnish with the sprig of mint. ~ rowley
  3. Dakki ~ You're absolutely correct. There was such potential for this piece...to be split into about three separate articles; one on home distilling, one on craft distilling, and another on commercial spirits that evoke some of moonshine's white dog history. Instead, we got a sloppy, poorly thought-out writing conflating disparate concepts that was in parts just flat-out factually wrong. I was so angry at the flubbed chance to say something worthwhile when I read it that I wrote a response called A Writer's Guide to Moonshine here to get better information out. It was writing such as this that inspired me to write Moonshine! in the first place. Learned distillers and drinkers can disagree to some degree on what constitutes moonshine, but we can agree on what doesn't: the majority of Mr. Ozersky's article. The Time article was fumbled conceptually and, as a result, is a disaster of misinformation that readers who don't know any better will take as fact.
  4. MxMo XLII: Dizzy Dairy

    Chris ~ Thanks for hosting this month. I admit I was crestfallen when I heard of the topic—dairy cocktails are the entire focus of the book I've been working on this year and I was hoping to keep the topic under wraps. But I'm happy to join in with a recipe and a call for help. My full post about Mixology Monday and the book is here. For my contribution, I went with sweetened condensed milk in a Brazilian batida, inspired by a recent trip to Rum Bar in Philadelphia. More info's at the original post, but here's the recipe: ~ rowley
  5. Vintage Cocktail Books

    Erik ~ my assumption was that the "ladies' companion" was the single male reader of the book, not the book itself. Not a joke so much as a lame elbow in the ribs, boys'-club humor that hasn't aged well (note one companion to his multiple ladies, thus tomcatting about town).
  6. Bourbon vs. Rye

    I enjoy bourbon so much on its own that I confess I don't use it much in cocktails, though my grandfather made his Manhattans with bourbon, so that's the way I do. I don't get all fussy about it, though. Now, an old fashioned is a temperamental drink and rye just doesn't cut it for me (for the record, I prefer mine with bourbon and without that Carmen Miranda headsalad muddling up the mix—just an orange peel is fine). I'll use either in a sour, though I wouldn't use a bourbon for a Sazerac (and call it that). On receiving a bottle of Templeton Rye last week, I began playing with a cocktail and need to tweak proportions more, but it seems it could go either way: whiskey (rye or bourbon), Torani Amer, Cointreau, and Angostura orange bitters. Hmmm...maybe I'm going even more minimal than an orange peel in that old fashioned, after all. [edited for spelling]
  7. All About Bitters (Part 1)

    Been digging much into 19th century medical texts lately. Saw an 1845 reference just yesterday that suggested peach leaves could be used as medicine (half an ounce of dried leaves infused in a pint of boiling water for irritated bladder, "in sick stomach and hooping-cough"). I've only seen the water reference and no word whether peach leaves surrender their virtue (in the parlance of the day) to alcohol, which would be preferable when making tinctures for bitters. We may be heading down snakeroot territory here, but I've yet to research any modern survey on side effects, so take that as a matter of historical interest rather than a suggestion to run out and get dried peach leaves for tinctures. By the by ~ We have no peach trees, so, um, anyone have suggestions for where I can get dried peach leaves for tinctures?
  8. MxMo XXX--Local Flavor

    I'm with you, Chris ~ vodka's not my usual tipple, and bloodies aren't what jump to mind when I want to wrap my hand around something cold, but drinking whiskey by the pool invites stares. Besides, this is quite nice. Just...go easy on the Herbsaint. Tried the drink with an Herbsaint wash and it was too much. Mere drops.
  9. MxMo XXX--Local Flavor

    This one was a lot of fun. In the end, we settled on a Bloody Mary variant leveraging our proximity to Mexico, but with a nano-locale twist. The result? Clam Squeezin's, Absinthe, and the Bloody Fairy Cocktail I just poured another and am about to walk out the door to nurse it down under the blazing azure sky...
  10. I concur. Something about one of your recipes bothered me a little, Erik, though and it didn't take long for me to put my finger on it—I'm cheap. Er, that is, I'm always trying to squeeze as much value as I can from life and I saw some opportunity in the lemon slices that macerate in the rum and arrack for your Tales version of punsch. I've had luck with lemon pies and the old Shaker recipes that call for very thinly sliced lemons seemed a decent match for the lemon slices we'd otherwise just throw out after making a batch. So a pie was in order. Not a cocktail, of course, but lemons, rum, arrack, sugar, and a dose of finished punsch baked in a shell and inspired in part by this thread. Here's the recipe for lemon punsch pie. And, by the way, we're nearly halfway through the scaled-down one-liter batch. I should have made more, but want to play around with more tea varieties, especially a large dose of dragon eyes longan tea I have from In Pursuit of Tea. Authentic? Maybe not. Tasty? I'd lay money on it...At this rate, we'll need a new batch of punsch next week, so I'll let you know. This should be a magazine article! ←
  11. Cordial Campari

    On the way back from the airport yesterday, I got sidetracked and hit just about every mom n pop liquor store on the (admittedly meandering) route home on my perpetual quest for more Malacca and obscure bourbons. There were many bottles of old-formula Campari to be had but I also saw 6-7 bottles of the Cordial Campari. I was curious, but not terribly tempted: at about $20 a pop, that's more than Havana Club blanco (Cuban, not Bacardi) goes for in these parts. After once having had a liquor cabinet that sprawled over three rooms, I'm trying to keep the current incarnation to a reasonable level. Something about this spirit just seemed to say "dud." Am I wrong? Am I missing out by passing these over?
  12. Peychaud's Bitters

    In Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, Sara Roahen writes eloquently of so many aspects of eating and drinking in pre- and postdiluvian New Orleans that, it is, at some places, nearly heartbreaking. She writes in particular and at length of Pableaux Johnson and the coveted invitation to eat Monday red beans at his house around his grandmother's big old table. Now, I never did get a bowl of red beans at that table, but Pableaux did prepare something for me that I treasured almost as much. One hot, muggy-ass day, he poured me a glass of cold water with several hefty shots of Peychaud's and I immediately smiled as the swirling water took on an expanding spiral of pink. I'd been taking water with bitters for years and, little did Pableaux know, but that one gesture made me feel more at home than he could have realized. These days when it's hot and I'm in a group where several people are drinking bottled water, everyone knows which is mine: the pink one. Honest, now, what desk is living up to its potential without a bottle of Peychaud's in the drawer?
  13. Liquor Store Scavenging

    Scored three bottles of Laird's bonded in the clearance bin of a small store in Leucadia, California. Everything else was overpriced, but at $8.99 a bottle for the Laird's, I was walking on clouds. My mom's even gotten in on the act, playing the innocent old lady asking for Malacca in smaller stores, hoping they don't know what they had. No dice so far. Last place I saw a bottle was over at Doc's forming the spine of a pink gin. Best deal I ever saw on bourbon was the Costco in Kansas City. They had Booker's for $35 a bottle (it's $70 at the little corner markup near my house). Didn't have time to snag it, so I went back the next day intending to buy a case—maybe even their entire stock to have it shipped home. Gone. Gone! Asked at customer service. Apparently the distributors did not like to see it priced so low, so they called it back to their warehouse. The entire inventory had been packed up and shipped out the night before. Argh. I was that close to dropping a week's salary on as many cases as they had. Now, the best deals for me are down the road in Tijuana groceries where the Cointreau and old formula Campari are about half price they are in the US. Havana Club? Also quite cheap there. Oh ~ I also ask at garage and estate sales if there's liquor afoot. More often than not, the organizers don't think to sell the stuff lurking in cabinets, closets, and basement shelves. For every unopened bottle of ancient bourbon, you'll have to heft the creepy weight of ten open and room-temperature bottles of coagulated Bailey's Irish Cream, but there can be some gems.
  14. Irvin S. Cobb, that opinionated and well-spoken liquor industry mouthpiece, writes in re: mint... ~ Irvin S. Cobb's Own Recipe Book (1936), Frankfort Distilleries, Louisville. Hyperbole aside, I'm with Cobb on this; peppermint is fine for the garden, but spearmint is—in our house, anyway—the only fitting mint for a juelp or mint syrup.
  15. Falernum: The Topic

    Undoubtedly, the sublimity quotient would increase. But Herbsaint is a hard sell in the Rowley household; I'm the only one who drinks it. Once I snag some more mango, I'll opine on that delicious recommendation... I've also blown through almost all my falernum inventory. I can tell not only because there's more room in the fridge, but also because I'm hearing "What the hell is Falernum No. 4?" less often. Made a liter for a patio party of a watermelon-based drink we called the Mama Charlie that was heavy on the stuff. Our friend Mama Charlie herself is allergic to mango, so I juiced a watermelon for her, added the rum, falernum, bitters, etc. Another friend drank about half of the liter before anyone noticed. He still can't pronounce "falernum" but now we all know what kind of fancy underwear he sports. Time to get out the zester, toast the almonds, bruise the Penzey's cloves, and rustle up some overproof rum.
  16. Falernum: The Topic

    I've been playing around a bit over the last few months with recipes using various falernum formulations (the Latin geek in me wonders: would that be falerna?). This one is turning into the drink of the moment, probably because it's been so damn hot here in San Diego: The Smakatoa 4 oz Pyrat XO Reserve rum (Bacardi 8 or Appleton's are also nice) 4 oz Naked mango puree ½ oz falernum 3 dashes Angostura bitters 1 oz seltzer Mix the first four ingredients in a pint glass. Add ice cubes to within an inch of the brim, stir with a bar spoon, top with seltzer, give it a quick swirl with a spoon, and serve immediately. As I mention in the full write-up, I’m not a big fan of seltzer in cocktails, but this helps to lighten the thick mango puree admirably, making it better suited to leisurely summertime drinking. Note that it makes a big, tall drink. I like smaller-portioned cocktails when they are largely alcohol, but a half-sized version of this just leaves me wanting more. [if the image seems blurry, adjust your screen and/or squint your eyes] [edited to fix typo]
  17. Sounds really intriguing. I've got houseguests this weekend, so there will be flanken-cut sticky ribs which entail a trip to the local 99 Ranch Market, a huge pan-Asian grocer here in San Diego with a great selection of hard-to-find Japanese/Korean potables. Oh, and obscenely expensive Scotch and cognac. The technique of distilling, aging, then redistilling is unusual enough to make me want to snag a bottle (well, doing the steps intentionally, that is, rather than collecting beer feints from multiple runs as an incidental part of running a pot still or a cold-weather fractional distillation). Thanks for the lead...
  18. Oh, I'm not advocating running out to buy a bottle, and—being in advertising myself—I take a lot of ad copy with a box of salt. Just saying: there it is. Having brewed a fair amount of beer in my day of all different kinds, I'm also opposed to saying it's "easier" than whiskey—both may be flubbed easily, but truly delicious stuff either way may be made by fairly low-tech means with careful attention. In fact, given the number of micro- and contract-breweries around that occasionally make beers that don't quite hit their target flavor profiles, I'm surprised we're not seeing more whiskeys from small brewers: dumping those beers into stills seems a no-brainer, even if it means selling the wash to a third party with a license to distill (in fact, I'm wondering if that was the case with this whiskey—I don't know, just wondering). Plus, with distilling imperfect beer, you don't have to worry about seasonality of grapes, apples, or other produce which can mean long idle stretches for expensive copper stills that ought to be paying for themselves somehow... Making whiskey is easy enough, but making something you'd want to share can be a challenge in both cases (see David Wondrich's piece Dangerous Knowledge: Bootleggin'! wherein a case of Budweiser is reduced to 10 ounces of gin. He writes, in part: No, whiskey is not harder than beer. Whiskey is what beer wants to be when it grows up...
  19. You hit the nail on the head. Small batches of whiskey can be frighteningly expensive but craft brewers have been making whiskey for a good decade now, trying out recipes and techniques and not always with proper permits. Among the guys I've met, cost is a secondary concern: right now, it's all about learning how to make good whiskey. Making it profitable seems to be a "down the road" project. From what I hear and see, many of the same people who were brewing beer in the 1980's have transitioned to whiskeys (see, for example, Bill Owens of Pumpkin Ale fame, now publishing American Distiller). Expect to see a lot more of it in the next several years. Charbay, makers of those somewhat pricey flavored vodkas, entered the fray with their Charbay Whiskey, "a craft whiskey made from hand-distilling great-tasting bottle-ready beer." More here. At $350 a bottle, however, I haven't tried it and may wait a bit before stocking up. Also right on the bit about gin. For a new distillery that needs to see cash right away or go bust, producing vodka or gin is often the first step. Mike McCaw over at the Amphora Society consults with startup distilleries around the world and tells me that exactly where most of them begin.
  20. Drinks! (2007–2009)

    So that's...what? A tablespoon? You sure you don't mean a dime bag? Joking aside, that's a nice little trick. Pectic enzyme shows up pretty regularly among home distillers working with fruit as a way to get greater yield. Ian Smiley sells some here and Brewhaus America here.
  21. Bar snacks, like them?

    I'll see your Marcona almonds (delicious in their own right) and raise you a plate of boudin balls. Maybe throw in some boiled peanuts. Mmmmm....boiled peanuts. Perfect for having with beers or less fancy cocktails. Used to have no problem finding green peanuts for boiling back east where I'd make a gallon or more at a time, but here in California they seem to be all roasted already. Sigh...
  22. Aquavit Cocktails

    What timing. I'm headed to Los Angeles tomorrow for a crawfish boil (Tulane alumni invited me; apparently the third boil in as many weeks). Packed in my overnight kit is Danish Akvavit: How to Savour and How to Flavour it (Henning Kirkeby, 1975, Copenhagen, Høst & Søns Forlag). The guy who sold it to me assured me that "akvavit" meant "to your health" in Danish. I bit my tongue and paid the man. One of the things I like about the book (besides its extensive listing of brands, many now sadly gone) is a section on cold infusions: St. John' wort, corn mint, elder, woodruff, cranberry, a few bitters. The author dissuades readers from home distilling, but purchasing and personalizing spirits? That's another tale entirely... [edited for my usual typos]
  23. Bar snacks, like them?

    I visited with William Burroughs occasionally when we both lived in Lawrence, Kansas. He was a mischievous old man when I knew him—still stocked with guns, blackjacks, and a mysterious spray that kept cats off surfaces—but happy hour at his place always included vodka with (intentionally) flat Coke and often anchovies on Triscuits. Salty, fatty, crunchy ~ would have been perfect in any low-rent bar. Let's not forget pickled bar eggs...
  24. Bar snacks, like them?

    Man, I am with you on the bitterballen, Jeroen. In fact, I've got a batch in my freezer right now after pigging out on way too many earlier when I was indulging in some California jenever/genever. I know I'm a little late with a response, but if you're hankering for some I've posted the recipe here (Rowley's Bitterballen). Cheaper than a flight to Amsterdam, but not quite as fun... [edited for typos]
  25. Drinks! (2007–2009)

    No pics as yet because I hoovered the evidence almost as quickly as it was made (and the mobile phone camera blows in any event), but this turned out to be a tasty treat: The Dr. Noggin Cocktail Use a vegetable peeler to get a single, wide piece of orange peel (just the zest, mind you—no white pith or pulp). Because the St. Germain is sweetened, you might back off the sugar called for in [Ted] Haigh's old fashioned cocktail. 1 broad swath of orange peel ¼-½ tsp sugar 2 dashes of Angostura bitters 2 dashes of water 3 oz bourbon ½ oz St Germain elderflower liqueur Muddle the orange peel with the sugar, water, and bitters in a rocks glass. Put one or two large lumps of ice in the glass. Pour on the bourbon and give it a brief stir. Add the half-ounce of St. Germain to the top of the drink and enjoy. Repeat as necessary. Full post here.
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