The Bee’s Knees Cocktail

12/10/2015 § Leave a comment

Quite Continental: Bee's Knees

A honey of a cocktail if there ever was one, the Bee’s Knees cocktail is a relatively simple gin tipple that I frequently make at home.  All you’ll need are a few fresh ingredients, a bottle of your favorite gin, and a shaker.

The Bee’s Knees
2 oz. Brooklyn Gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (1:1)

Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail coupe, garnish with a fresh slice of lemon.

But wait, what the heck is honey syrup (1:1)?!
Don’t you worry girl, I got you.

Grab a small mason jar and your honey container.  Put equal parts honey to warm water in the jar.  You won’t need much to make one cocktail, but having a bit on reserve in the fridge is a classy move, so let’s do 2 ounces each of honey and water.  Screw on the lid and shake it up until it is thoroughly mixed.  Voila, you just made honey syrup!  Refrigerate any unused portion and throw it away after two weeks.

Cheers!

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The Art of the Home Bar (or, Low Grade Hoarding of the Spirited Kind)

01/07/2015 § Leave a comment

Quite Continental: The Art of the Home Bar

While I have yet to use the oven in the apartment I’ve lived in for over two years, one area of my kitchen that gets a fair amount of attention is my home bar.  What started out as a few bottles of my favorite spirits — no obscure liqueurs, no tools, no doo-dads — has gradually evolved into one of my favorite places in my apartment.  Its remarkable growth can be explained partially by the fact that I currently work in the spirits industry, but it’s also true that few things bring me more pleasure than collecting.

For spirits, my first look is Astor Wines.  They’re humongous.  But it’s definitely worth exploring your neighborhood to find a local shop you like.  They’ll be able to order you pretty much anything — as long as you ask them nicely.

For tools and glassware, check out Cocktail Kingdom.

For how to bring it all together, refer to the Death & Company Book.  Written by the folks behind one of New York’s preeminent cocktail bars, this tome is no joke.  Be prepared for indulgent discussions about the bar itself and the folks who work and drink there, and on how to make over 500 cocktails.  Mind you, “indulgent” in the best possible sort of way.

And if history is more your thing, David Wondrich just re-released his classic IMBIBE!, which traces the beginnings of the great American invention: the cocktail as we know it today.

Where to keep it all?  If you’re like me and have no space (hello teensy Soho apartment life), make due with the best surface available.  In my case, as shown above on Instagram, the bar is perched atop my midcentury modern dresser…which is technically in the kitchen.  I told you my apartment was small!  If you’ve got a little room to work with, I love bar carts like this one, this one and ESPECIALLY this one.

Lastly, I’m personally a big fan of straws and vintage swizzle sticks.  Add something personal or original to the mix to truly make it your bar.

Did I miss anything??

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Rabbit Hole || Dinner de Luxe at The World Famous Cotton Club, 1938

04/04/2015 § 5 Comments

Cotton Club 1 - 1938 Cotton Club 2 Cotton Club 3 Cotton Club 4 Cotton Club 5

I’ve recently been spending quite a bit of time in the NewYork Public Library’s digital collection of menus.  An incredible collection of documents from around the world, dating from the 1850s through the 2000s, it is fascinating to observe trends in cuisine and cocktails – and prices!

I am always the most excited to find menus from storied New York establishments, those still standing like the New York Athletic Club and Tavern on the Green, and others that have since shuttered, like this one, from The Cotton Club in 1938, when it occupied its theatre district location at 48th Street and Broadway.  The Cotton Club was a nightclub that featured and launched the careers of some of the most notable black musicians and entertainers of the era, but served an all-white clientele.  At the time of the menu, Cab Calloway and his band headlined a twice nightly musical review that frequently included overtly racist themes similar to the images on the menu cover — as you can readily observe from the show program. **Be sure to click to enlarge the images.

Also interesting is the expansive cocktail menu.  Most other menus in the archive from this era mention only a few classic drinks and possibly a wine list, but because its primary function was as a nightclub and not merely a restaurant, The Cotton Club’s menu features all sorts of cocktails — separated from “Fancy Mixed Drinks,” mind you.  Nestled among the classics I already recognize, I was happy to find more obscure cocktails like the “Horse’s Neck,” the “Bronx,” the “Pink Lady,” and the “Jack Rose.”  All of which prompted a quick search and mental note to try out in the near future.  You’ll also notice a drink called the “Tall, Tan, & Terrific.”  A signature cocktail if ever there was one, the phrase is a nod to the Club’s chorus girls, all of whom were required to be taller than 5’6,” light-skinned and under twenty-one years of age.

To get a sense of the sort of performance patrons viewed on the nights this menu was in use, I’ve found a great short film made by Paramount in 1934 of Cab Calloway, featuring some of his most famous hits.  Nicknamed the “Hi-De-Ho Man” after his success with his song “Minnie the Moocher,” you get to view a bit of Calloway’s distinctive singing style, his call and response technique with the orchestra, his inspired dance moves.  Love it.  I mean, his hair alone!

As an added bonus, a very famous clip from Stormy Weather (1943), featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra as well as an amazing routine by the Nicholas Brothers, another act that called the Cotton Club home.

Images via NYPL.

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 15 – Brew Your Own Bitters

13/03/2013 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: DIY BittersGreta Garbo, Beatrice Lillie and patrons at a New York City speakeasy, 1933.
Photo by Margaret Bourke-White for Life Magazine.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce today’s guest speaker!  Please meet Lani Zervas, the exceedingly fabulous and fashionable lady behind the blog Mon Petit Chou Chou.  While she’s a Boston native, I had the pleasure of meeting Lani in New York two years ago and we’ve been fast friends ever since.  She’s been such an amazing partner in crime at Brimfield and New York Fashion Week, that I am more than a little upset with myself that it has taken me this long to feature her brilliance!  Her charming blog encompasses her interests in fashion, interior design, art, cooking, two very lovely dogs and all things Boston — but wait, there’s more!  She’s also getting ready to be the most fabulous mommy the world has ever seen!  I’m sure that you will find her to be as lovely and as funny as I do.  If you are not yet familiar with Lani or Mon Petit Chou Chou, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Lani’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 15: Brew Your Own Bitters
A proper lady knows when she has had too much, and likewise should know how to speed the road there when the occasion calls for it, with an arsenal of tried and true recipes to mix it up, at the bar and in life.

To that end, embrace your inner mixologist and commit to memory the recipes for some basic tipplers. I would suggest you have the classic Manhattan, Aviation, Martini, and Daiquiri in your repertoire and ready for the mixing at your home bar. Practice makes perfect and you’ll find your friends willing participants in your ‘research’ for cocktail perfection. When you have mastered these basics, time to take on more advanced studies, in home brewed simple syrups and bitters.

Simple syrup is, as the name would lead you to believe. painfully simple to make. It is a one to one ratio of sugar, water, and what ever you decide to steep. I personally like ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, and a turbinado, or raw, sugar syrup. These also make easy and chic gifts, appreciated by all hosts, and often immediately employed at social get-togethers (recipes and more on simple syrup here). Ahh, but the bitters, now these are more involved, take a bit more time, and are worth every ounce of effort. Not sure what bitters are? Or how they fit into the equation?

“People say bitters are the salt and pepper of the bar, but really, they’re like the spice rack,” (per Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all).

QC Charm School: DIY Bitters

Bitters are a type of infused high-proof alcohol, with flavors derived from plants, barks and herbs. Originally brewed for medicinal purposes they evolved into flavorful additions to cocktails, via the classic brands Peychauds and Angostura, both of which rely heavily on gentian (a bitter herb for flavoring). You don’t need these store bought staples though, not when you can wow people with your home brewed batches.

It will take some initial effort to gather the more exotic ingredients — if you count ordering from Amazon effort — but once your pantry is stocked, you will have more than enough to make batch after batch of the home brew. The recipe below for Cranberry Anise bitters from Food & Wine is a personal favourite, and makes use of gentian root, an ingredient that usually repeats in all bitters recipes and which is a good foundation to start experimenting with your own creations.

QC Charm School: DIY Bitters

Cranberry Anise Bitters

2 cups high-proof vodka (like Stolichnaya Blue 100 Proof)
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries, each one pierced with a toothpick
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
2 star anise pods
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon gentian root
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
2 tablespoons simple syrup
  1. In a 1-quart glass jar, combine all of the ingredients except the syrup. Cover and shake well. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks, shaking the jar daily.
  2. Strain the infused alcohol into a clean 1-quart glass jar through a cheesecloth-lined funnel. Squeeze any infused alcohol from the cheesecloth into the jar; reserve the solids. Strain the infused alcohol again through new cheesecloth into another clean jar to remove any remaining sediment. Cover the jar and set aside for 1 week.
  3. Meanwhile, transfer the solids to a small saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes; let cool completely. Pour the liquid and solids into a clean 1-quart glass jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 week, shaking the jar once daily.
  4. Strain the water mixture through a cheesecloth-lined funnel set over a clean 1-quart glass jar; discard the solids. If necessary, strain again to remove any remaining sediment. Add the infused alcohol and the syrup. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 3 days. Pour the bitters through a cheesecloth-lined funnel or strainer and transfer to glass dasher bottles. Cover and keep in a cool, dark place.
Bitters can be stored at room temperature indefinitely. For best flavor, use within 1 year.
QC Charm School: DIY Bitters QC Charm School: DIY Bitters QC Charm School: DIY Bitters QC Charm School: DIY Bitters QC Charm School: DIY Bitters
In short, stir up high proof vodka, cranberry’s, anise, gentian, along with cinnamon sticks, anise and white peppercorns.  Allow to sit in a cool dark space for a few weeks. Then strain, boil, strain again, add simple syrup, and allow to sit some more. Finally, once everything has melded to perfection in this mysterious cool dark space, you have a rich, deep, aromatic elixir to bottle, and share (or hoard, I won’t tell).
I often keep a bottle in my purse — one never knows when cocktails will be needed and best to be prepared! As every proper lady and fledgling mixologist should be.

For more ideas and recipes, check out the full Food and Wine article here, and the aforementioned bible on bitters, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-all.

Sante!

By Lani Zervas, of Mon Petit Chou Chou.

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Tending Bar: The Seven Year Itch

28/05/2012 § 2 Comments

While I may not be much of a cook, I do quite enjoy tending bar.  With an exceptionally warm Memorial Day Weekend (what thunderstorms?!?) and friends visiting from out of town, I took the opportunity to make my first pitcher cocktail of the season.  A bit bubbly, a bit tart, and completely refreshing, I’m calling this gin-based concoction of mine The Seven Year Itch.  To make it, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cup of gin. I used Brooklyn Gin.
  • 1/2 cup elderflower liqueur.  I used St. Germain.
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 1 large handful of fresh raspberries
  • 1 handful of fresh mint, additional sprigs for garnish
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemon
  • ice
  • large pitcher, wooden spoon or muddler, cocktail glasses

First, take all of the fresh ingredients and add them to your pitcher.
Take care to wash everything and slice up the lime and lemon.

Muddle, muddle, muddle.

Next, add a good amount of ice to the pitcher, and then pour the liquors and the club soda over the ice.  Serve immediately to avoid the club soda going flat and the ice melting.

Voila! Garnish with a raspberry and a mint sprig.

So, what’s with the name?

One of the most iconic Marilyn Monroe movies — yep, the white dress/subway grate one — The Seven Year Itch was directed and co-written by Billy Wilder and was released in 1955.  Featuring an exceptionally hot summer in New York (ahem), the story details the overactive imagination of publishing executive Richard Sherman (a role that Tom Ewell originated on Broadway), who has been left to his own devices in the city while his wife (yep, of seven years) heads off to Maine for the summer with their son.  Settling in for a long, hot few months, Mr. Sherman is surprised to find his upstairs neighbors have sublet their apartment for the summer to a model (Monroe).  Proper Wilder-esque hijinks then ensue. It’s a lovely little film and one of my very favorites.  And when I thought about what I wanted to call my cocktail, I immediately thought of Marilyn’s dress, crisp and fresh in the hot city night.  Perfectly fitting, no?

Cheers!

QC Prêt-à-Porter || Tangerine Dream

18/05/2012 § Leave a comment

A springy New York weekend calls for refreshing hues & sparkling cocktails:

Paul & Joe Sister chambray blazer
Equipment signature sleeveless washed-silk shirt
Mulberry braided belt
Levi’s Made & Crafted mid-rise skinny jean
Illesteva Leonard sunglasses
Sam Edelman Sophie mid-heel wedge
Mulberry Alexa bag
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
Pimm’s Cup No. 1

This week has been something of a grind, with jury duty (ugh!) and rainy days.  However, with a whole lot of sunshine on the docket for the weekend, my spirits are already lifting — so this pretty shade of tangerine seems completely apropos.  I’m loving it paired with crisp white denim and leather that’s a rich golden tan.

Sherbet shades aside, did you notice I’m in a distinctly “mid” kind of mood (e.g., the mid-rise jean and the mid-heel wedge)?  Indeed, I’ve gradually come to favor a higher rise, initially for its somewhat retro feel, but primarily because of the realization that its actually much more flattering for my body type.  But don’t get me wrong, I definitely was a hipbone-baring, low rise-wearing, blue jean baby a few years ago when I lived in Los Angeles.  I’m not sure what has changed my inclinations.  Age, perhaps?  Locality?  Comfort?  Confidence?  Some combination of them all?  The New York Times recently wrote about the personal process of breaking up with your formerly beloved fashion brands (you can read it here), and I couldn’t help but also think about the evolution of my personal style in the same context.  My 23 year-old midriff was practically an accessory, while today, despite being practically unchanged, rarely sees the light of day.  Perhaps I’ll break it out this weekend.  Please don’t hold your breath.

This weekend I will brunch in honor of friends running the Brooklyn Half, attend a performance of the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce, and repeatedly check the mailbox for the arrival of my new Owens from Warby Parker.  My aspirational goals include starting The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (I’ve something of an obsession with Northern Africa these days, more on that later) and making a Pimm’s Cup or two.  You can find a great Pimm’s Cup recipe here via NPR, as well as a short discussion of the very civilized and very British origins of the drink on All Things Considered.

Here’s to a grand weekend!
xoxo. M.

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QC Recommends || Silver Lining {and the Brown Derby cocktail}

03/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Just a quick note to recommend Tribeca cocktail and jazz bar Silver Lining.  Located in the basement of the gorgeous Bogardus Mansion, which was built in 1850 and named for its builder James Bogardus, the originator of cast-iron architecture, Silver Lining offers serious cocktails and a menu of small plates that are so good they could stand on their own, alongside nightly live jazz music, served up in a speakeasy atmosphere.  This somewhat still-hidden gem — bustling, roomy, but never ridiculously crowded — is the product of the Joseph Schwartz/Sasha Petraske partnership (Little Branch), was recently named the best cocktail bar of 2012 by New York Magazine and is on the shortlist to become my new local. 

Personally, I’m quite partial to their Brown Derby cocktail, probably at least partially due to its Los Angeles roots (like me).  The cocktail takes its name from The Brown Derby, an iconic chain of Los Angeles eateries, founded in the 1920s.  Their most recognizable location, on Wilshire Boulevard, was actually hat-shaped (it’s since been demolished, today its dome sits atop a mini-mall in Korea Town — so sad!), while their more storied location in Hollywood was where the entertainment set went to see and be seen, with their illustrated portraits lining the walls in the dining room.

Can’t make it to Silver Lining to order your own Brown Derby? Try it at home:

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce grapefruit juice
½ ounce clover-honey syrup (1 part water, 1 part clover honey)

In tin-on-tin shaker, add freshly squeezed grapefruit, then honey and bourbon; shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass (ideally, a 5 ½-ounce Champagne coupe).

Recipe via the Los Angeles Times, where you can watch a video of it being made by bartender Marcos Tello.

Silver Lining
75 Murray Street, Tribeca || 212.513.1234
Closed Sundays

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 21 — Drink More Gin

21/02/2012 § 9 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Women in a New York City bar, 1941. Taken by Nina Leen for Life Magazine.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Marisa Zupan is a journalist, writer and the founder of the excellent men’s style blog The Significant Other, where she provides a thoughtful and studied female opinion on issues, brands and individuals important to the well-dressed man.  If your boyfriend/father/boss/anyone! is in need of a bit of a sartorial upgrade, please forward him to Marisa posthaste.

After I learned of our shared love of wearing beautiful neckties, I guessed we would get along famously, and I was right.  Marisa is one of the most grounded and supportive individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and I’m also quite pleased she chose to write about gin, one of my favorite libations.  If you are not yet familiar with Marisa, or The Significant Other, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Marisa’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 21: Drink More Gin
Let’s face it ladies, you’ve been drinking mostly vodka your whole life. In high school it was vodka and crystal light (everyone did that right?), college it was vodka and whatever the hell juice your roommate had in the fridge, and in your young adult life it’s been some vodka martinis with the occasional ironic whiskey on the rocks to switch things up. Through all of this, gin has really gotten the short end of the stick.  I’ll admit, in my younger less classy days, I thought gin tasted like licking the underside of a moss covered rock, but those days are over and this year will be the one when I educate my much more mature palate.

Like its flavor profile, Gin’s history is varied and complex. It was discovered by Italian monks, used as medicine during the bubonic plague and, because it was cheap and (too) readily available, gin became associated with people and places of disrepute in London. Despite its sordid past, gin made a come back in the British colonies and has since then been the spirit of choice in some of the classiest and most popular cocktails. In my efforts to become more gin-knowledgeable, I discovered Brooklyn Gin, a company based right in my backyard. The ingredients, fresh citrus and juniper berries, are bought at a market only a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and distilled 30 minutes out side of the city. Local and delicious, what more could a lady ask for? A cocktail recipe. Below is just that, I hope you enjoy, here’s to kicking the vodka habit and getting more sophisticated in 2012.

Olive Rosemary Martini (via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

2 ounces gin
2 teaspoons dry vermouth
1 rosemary sprig
Pitted olives

To Make: 

Shake 2 ounces gin and 2 teaspoons dry vermouth with crushed ice; strain into a stemmed glass. Strip leaves from bottom 2 inches of a rosemary sprig, skewer through pitted olives, and add to the drink.

by Marisa Zupan, of The Significant Other.

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

The Aviation Cocktail

19/08/2011 § 4 Comments

One of my favorite drinks is the Aviation, a classic, pre-prohibition era, gin-based cocktail.  I’d say it is a perfect summer cocktail, owing to its sky blue color and crisp tartness…but I enjoy the hell out of it the other three seasons of the year as well.  To make the Aviation, you’ll need:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce of crème de violette
  • 2 dashes of maraschino liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake well and then strain into a cocktail glass.  Some bartenders will garnish the drink with a twist or a cherry, but I prefer mine without.

The crème de violette, a violet flower based-liqueur, will be the ingredient hardest to find.  It’s not exactly rare, but it did take me a few tries to find a shop in Manhattan that had it.  Also, make sure you’re purchasing actual crème de violette.  Rothman’s is the standard.  There are other “violet” liqueurs, like Parfait d’Amour, but they have an entirely different taste.  (Sidenote: There is some debate about the inclusion of Crème de Violette, as the recipe that appeared in the first edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) mistakenly omitted it, and decades of bartenders have poured the drink without it.  I prefer mine pre-prohibition style.)

I use Brooklyn Gin for my Aviations, due to its smoothness and how its citrus notes compliment the liqueurs, but also because the gents behind the tiny distillery are personal friends.  The handsome bottle also pretties up a bar quite nicely, no?  Look for Brooklyn Gin at select bars and liquor stores around New York.

Brooklyn Gin: Website // Facebook // Twitter

QC Recommends: Orient Express

29/07/2011 § 2 Comments

On a bit of a lark, I found myself at Orient Express last night.  Have you been?  It was my first time and as someone who enjoys her cocktails with a bit of class and nostalgia, I found myself right at home.  Open for almost a year in the West Village, this teeny tiny bar gives you the distinct impression that you’ve somehow slipped down a rabbit hole to a bar car on the famed Orient Express, complete with ceiling-high luggage racks and a curved ceiling, as you might be able to see from my picture above.

The drinks are what you would expect from a high-end, old school mixologist: lots of interesting concoctions with a knowledgeable bar staff ready to make a recommendation based on your inclinations.  I had the Agatha II: gin, lemon juice, homemade raspberry soda water — perfect for a warm summer evening.  The ambiance was bustling, but not overloud for a Thursday, perfect for a small gathering of friends or a lively date.  As I sipped my cocktail listening to Chet Baker, I knew that this was a place I had to share with you.

To get into the mood, revisit the photos I posted
ages ago of this mighty train line in 1950.

Orient Express
325 West 11th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-8845

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