Archive for the ‘Bartending’ Category
Whiskey — or whisky, if you prefer — is a distilled spirit that’s usually made from corn, rye, barley, wheat, or, very often, a cross combination of some or all those.
Whiskey is almost always aged in wooden casks which almost always consist of charred white oak.
The word “whiskey” is an anglicized version of the Gaelic uisce beatha (in Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha) which means “living water,” or “water of life.”
Irish whiskey, Scottish whiskey (i.e. scotch), Canadian whiskey, and American whiskey (i.e. bourbon) are by far the most popular whiskeys in the world. But these days virtually every country produces some sort of whiskey.
In bartending, whiskey is the new vodka. It has never been more popular.
So I made the following video:
In hell, said Randal Jarell, Americans tell each other how to make a martini.
A martini — “the elixir of quietude” as E.B. White described it — consists of gin and vermouth. The ingredients are chilled and then strained into a cocktail glass. That, at any rate, is the original martini, though vodka is now, somewhat grudgingly, accepted in the place of gin.
Gin is a strange and fascinating spirit, with a long and diverse history. It is in essence an admixture of grain alcohol and juniper-berry oil and was invented by a 17th Century Dutch medical professor named Francois de Boe Sylvius, who created it to relieve kidney disorders and, he said, “to purify the blood.”
Sylvius called his confection “Genever,” which is the Dutch word for juniper.
Gin is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, and, in large part for this reason, it took England by complete storm.
Vermouth today — whether sweet or dry — is an entirely different deal from the vermouth that existed back in the days of Francois de Boe Sylvius. Back then, you see, Vermouth was a sweet(ish) digestif made from a myriad of things, such as: orange peels and flowers, juniper and nutmeg, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, marjoram, brandy, white wine, tree bark, and that’s not even the half of it. Today, however, vermouth is mediocre wine, usually white, with herbal-and-spice infusions and alcohol fortification. Sugar is often added.
The true origins of the gin martini are murky, though many stories do exist. Some, for example, say that back in 1912, a legendary New York bartender by the name of Martini invented the drink. Others believe it was first concocted much earlier and in prototypical fashion, back in 1850, in San Francisco, by Professor Jerry Thomas, who purportedly made it for a miner on the way to Martinez, California. The result: the Martinez cocktail, which is a gin-vermouth-maraschino drink, slightly different from the martini, but a venerable drink nevertheless, which still exists to this day. Yet the citizens of Martinez, California say that the martini originated right there, in 1870, and the bartender who first built it was a man named Julio Richelieu.
One thing that’s known for certain: The Martinez cocktail first appeared in The Bartenders Guide in 1887.
The Oxford English Dictionary, a usually impeccable source, tells us — incorrectly — that the martini was invented in 1871, but this was a full twenty years after Jerry Thomas’s drink came into existence.
The English, on the other hand, say that because of its kick, the martini comes from a strong British rifle called a Martini & Henry.
Many New Yorker’s would have us believe that a bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel — one Martini di Arma di Taggia — invented the drink in 1911 for John David Rockefeller, who, by the way, took his martini with London Dry Gin, dry vermouth, bitters, lemon peel and a single olive.
About the shape of the glass there is little dispute.
The ritual is really the thing,
holding the stem of the chalice to the light,
somewhat to bless the dying day.
But ever you are ready to begin,
Be extra careful not to bruise the gin.
Or putting the cock back in cocktail? (You decide.)
The following footage (which is glitchy in spots) was sent to me by a thirsty artist:
It’s always a little unnerving to see yourself at work, but I thank you for watching.
The following questions were submitted to me some time ago by the magnanimous and most excellent Kristin Mastre, owner and originator of Feasting Fort Collins, who has very graciously permitted me to reprint this interview here:
Name: Ray Harvey
1. What brought you to Fort Collins?
The big blue highway. Nothing more specific than that, I’m afraid.
2. What do you love about living in Fort Collins?
The pines and the pipistrelles.
3. What inspired your career choice?
Ultimately, my love of literature, which I felt bartending would best facilitate. I was not wrong. Just incidentally, did you know that the poet John Masefield, off a ship at 18, worked for a while in a Greenwich Village saloon?
4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten here?
To be very honest, I find the concept of eating slightly preposterous, if you really want to know. I mean, when you think about it. Our bodies totally dependent on this stuff that just turns to dross anyway. I mean, human existence reduced to THAT. Well, it lacks class, in my opinion. Having said that, the two-pound T-Bone, with chanterelle mushrooms, followed by strawberries Romanoff and coal-black coffee at Nico’s Catacombs haunts me in a most peculiar way.
5. What’s your drink?
Coffee. I’m really not much of an alcohol drinker, I regret to say — disappointing to many, I know, but upon the other hand, we can all I think agree that I must keep my wits about me, such as they are.
6. How often do you prepare your own meals?
Infrequently. The fact is, I do not eat every single day. It keeps me alert and gives me that lean and hungry look — or so I like to believe.
7. What would we find in your refrigerator?
Raw meat and roses.
8. What do you do to relax?
Well, I drink a lot of coffee. I go for long runs. I read a lot. In general, I find myself most relaxed when I’m alone with my books.
9. Favorite meal on the go?
A bloody slab of beef.
10. Craziest, funniest, or most embarrassing story from the business?
Undoubtedly, the time I got Janeane Garofalo so drunk on Jack Daniels that by the end of it, she was trying to light up the filter end of her Marlboros, the mere memory of which still causes that sudden erection of hairs on the back of my neck. All of this was when you could still smoke in bars, of course.
11. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Lapping honey from the sharpened blade.
12. What are your hopes for the Fort Collins food scene?
Let us keep on keeping on.
13. What album are you currently wearing out on your ipod?
The Darling Thieves, Race to Red. That song “Unspoken” makes me bang my head.
14. Where do you go for a date night?
Ace Gillett’s. Is there anywhere else?
15. What’s for breakfast?
Books, black coffee, the breathing bell above.
16. What do you do after work?
French toast at IHOP, around 4:00 am. Next, I scrub my chompers and hit the deck.
17. What’s your death row meal?
My goodness, you ARE morbid. Answer: a quart of cookie dough.
18. What’s the best ice cream flavor?
19. What do you have on your DVR?
After Dark, My Sweet.
20. What’s your favorite thing to do in Fort Collins?
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.
Please be sure to read the slightly more no-holds-barred interview here.
Bartending, which, for better or worse, consumes a great deal of my time, is a subject that evidently intrigues people to no end — judging, at least, from the sheer number of questions I get on the matter — and often I’m asked: Ray, why bartending?
The answer is my love of literature, which I felt bartending would best facilitate.
Years ago, when I resolved to be a writer, I very consciously chose bartending as my occupation. There have been other jobs, of course, many, many other jobs, but bartending is the one I’ve always come back to — in part because the money is good, in part also because bartending does, I think, lend itself to the literary lifestyle.
Still, many people out there, who only know me through my books, apparently don’t believe that I actually am a bartender. This question, in fact, refuses to die, I’m not sure why.
Here’s some real-life footage (taken by Levi Thornton) of me at the jazz lounge where I work (music actual, amateur video-editing my own, thanks for watching):