Category Archives: Cocktail Hour

Pass the Sarajishvili: A Dyke’s Guide to Cognac and Brandy

Guess what I’m doing right now, dykes. Bet you can’t.

I’m wearing a fuzzy yellow bathrobe and drinking brandy, i.e. living the dream.

Once a gin drinker, now more of a bourbon drinker, I have only recently come to appreciate brandy. Two summers ago, Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide introduced me to brandy by way of the Sidecar, one of my favorite cocktails with easily my favorite name. Trader’s Vic’s recipe includes an ounce of brandy, half an ounce of triple sec (orange liqueur), and the juice of half a lime, stirred with ice cubes and strained into a cocktail glass. I mixed the drink a few times, borrowing Courvoisier and Cointreau from my father’s liquor cabinet, and the results were consistently delicious. But I didn’t give much thought to brandy after that, and I hadn’t had a sip of it since, until my recent visit to a cafe in Seattle, where I ordered a glass of brandy and became infatuated all over again.

What is Brandy?

Brandy is a spirit made by distilling wine. It is usually made from grapes, but can also be distilled from other fruits, and it tends to be about 35-60% alcohol by volume. Traditionally, it is consumed as a digestif, or after-dinner drink. Once the drink of choice of old British men, more recently the much sung about drink of hip hop artists, brandy is strong, classy, and delicious. The most famous type of brandy is cognac.

What is Cognac?

All cognacs are brandies, but not all brandies are cognacs–much in the same way that all champagnes are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are champagnes, or that all dykes are women, but not all women, unfortunately, are dykes.

A cognac is a brandy that is produced in the region of France surrounding the town of Cognac, it must be distilled at least twice in copper pot stills, it must be made from certain types of grapes, and it must have been aged in oak casks for at least two years. Courvoisier and Hennessy, for example, are two well-known cognacs.

V.S., V.S.O.P., and X.O.

Brandies from different regions, of different ages, are blended together to make one cognac or brandy. This gives the brandy complexity. Most cognacs are blended, but a few are not.

The V.S., V.S.O.P., or X.O. you find on the label of the bottle refers to how long the youngest spirit in the blend has been aged.

V.S. Stands for Very Special. The youngest spirit in the bottle has been aged for at least two years.

V.S.O.P. Stands for Very Superior Old Pale. The youngest spirit in the bottle has been aged for at least four years.

X.O. Stands for Extra Old. The youngest spirit in the bottle has been aged for at least six years.

Price varies according to how long the brandy has aged in oak casks. Once it is bottled, brandy does not age anymore.

Recommendations

-Courvoisier is a good and popular cognac, rumored to have been the favorite cognac of Napoleon Bonaparte. This is what my parents keep in the liquor cabinet. Because it’s well known, you should be able to find a bottle of it in any liquor store, but it’s also on the pricey side. At my local liquor store, a 750 mL bottle was priced at around $40-50.

-Chalfonte is my favorite cognac, and it’s the cognac that rekindled my interest in brandy. I ordered a glass of Chalfonte Cognac at a small cafe in Seattle because it was the cheapest cognac on the menu, and I loved it. The only problem is that, because it’s a small batch cognac, I’ve had trouble finding a bottle of it on the East Coast. If you find it, you should be able to pick up a bottle for $20-30.

-Sarajishvili V.S.O.P. is a grape brandy produced in Georgia (the European country, not the U.S. state) using French techniques. I bought a bottle of it on the recommendation of a dude at my local wine shop, and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a little feistier than Courvoisier and Chalfonte, in my opinion, but it’s good. I picked up a 750 mL bottle for $30.

How Do You Drink Brandy?

Traditionally, you drink brandy neat (no ice) from a brandy snifter as a digestif. The wide bottom and narrow rim of the glass help contain the aromas of the liquor and allow you to warm the brandy in the palm of your hand as you hold the glass. I don’t have a brandy snifter, so I’ve been drinking it out of a wine glass. Bear in mind, though, that the alcohol content of brandy is usually around 40%, so you should pour yourself a shot of it, not a whole wine glass of it, lest you become very drunk indeed.

Cocktails

Some people also drink brandy on the rocks or in cocktails. I rely on good ole Trader Vic for my cocktail recipes.

1. Sidecar

This is the classic brandy-based cocktail. It’s delicious, and it doesn’t call for any obscure ingredients.

1 oz brandy

1/2 oz triple sec

Juice of 1/2 lime

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Most other recipes I’ve come across call for lemon, rather than lime. It’s good either way. Also, if you’re feeling show-offy, you can, instead of stirring it with ice, shake it with ice in a cocktail shaker.

2. Brandy Alexander

Another classic drink, though you’re less likely to have a bottle of creme de cacao than a bottle of triple sec lying around the house, I guess.

1 oz brandy

1/2 oz white or dark creme de cacao

1 oz fresh cream

Shake with ice cubes and strain into chilled champagne glass. Dust with grated nutmeg.

Though Trader Vic calls for cream, not all recipes do. I think this is the drink that turns Lee Remick’s character into an alcoholic in The Days of Wine and Roses, but let’s not focus on that, dykes, that’s not why I’m recommending it.

3. Brandy Old-Fashioned

Apparently, the Brandy Old-Fashioned is a thing. In Wisconsin. It’s pretty good. It’s what it sounds like: an Old Fashioned in which brandy is substituted for bourbon.

I did not, however, find this one in Trader Vic’s book. I found it online here. Personally, I like my Old Fashioneds better without club soda, and so I made mine without it. My Old Fashioned recipe, adapted from good old Trader Vic’s and with brandy substituted for bourbon, is:

1/4 tsp of sugar

2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters (enough to soak the sugar)

1/4 oz of water

Stir to dissolve sugar

Fill the glass with ice cubes (usually 3 will do it, as the Old Fashioned is served in a short tumbler glass)

Pour 1 and 1/2 oz. (a jigger) of brandy over the ice

Add twist of lemon, thin slice of orange, and a maraschino cherry

I usually rinse the cherry before I put it in the drink, as the juice is a little too sweet for my taste. I also tend to run the lemon twist and the orange slice around the rim of the glass before dropping them in the cocktail.

Sounds like the perfect treat to top off a day at the Call to Action conference, amirite?

Anybody have recommendations for brandies or cognacs? Any cocktail ideas?

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Bartending and the Timeless Art of Seduction

Being an expert on everything, I am widely sought-after by dykes desirous of wisdom.

I am flattered and wooed; I am respectfully approached; and, more often than not, I am asked: “How do I score with the pixie-haired/faux-hawked/artsy-mulleted ladygay(s) in my social circle?”

Respectful Approach

One answer: bartending.

This, of course, is not entirely helpful when the object of your lust/affection is a non-drinker.

But even if that is the case, as it very well may be, I hope the broader points from today’s lesson will be of use to you.

Before I begin, I must make one thing clear: we are all about the consent here at Good Catholic Dykes. Using the fine art of bartending to mack on the ladies is not about plying women with liquor so you can creep on them. So take no offense, dyke feminists one and all! This is about empowerment.

Onward, hos!

Lady Bartenders

To anyone who foolishly doubts the connection between bartending and seduction, I say: consider the lady bartender.

Lady Bartender

Short hair or a sharp ponytail, dressed all in black, making change with one hand and opening bottles with the other, the lady bartender is highly competent, mysterious, and silently capable of kicking ass and taking names should the bar get out of hand.

Maybe she acts unimpressed with you and your stupid friends. Maybe she flirts with you and your charming friends. It hardly matters. Either way, you are putty in her hand.

via dorrys.com

I first witnessed the power of the lady bartender several years ago in Montreal. A good Catholic straight friend of mine sat across the table from me in a loud, crowded bar watching the dark-ponytailed lady bartender. After a long pause, she said:

“She knows everything.”

I doubted this. But my friend insisted, “No. That bartender knows everything. She knows those guys over there are d-bags. She knows I just ordered a gin and tonic because it’s the only mixed drink I’ve even heard of. She knows everything. She knows.”

My friend followed this observation a few short moments later with, “She’s hot.”

I could not disagree.

Become a Lady Bartender

I am not a professional lady bartender. No, dykes, I am but an amateur. But hear ye this: what would barely have passed for drink-mixing competence in our grandparents’ generation looks pretty badass in 2011.

Why shouldn’t we, too, benefit from the low standards of our day?

via cbsnews.com

Mixing a few basic cocktails is easy peasy lemon squeezy, as we have discussed before. Get you a bartending book, a jigger, a bottle of liquor, and something to mix it with, and you are in business. Also, wear a vest. It helps.


Mixology and the GCD: An Introduction

What are the essential skills of the good Catholic dyke? There are a lot of answers to that question. Driving a stick shift. Tying a Windsor knot. Mixing a decent cocktail.

Like many popular dyke activities and Catholicism itself, mixology is a generally male-dominated activity with its own community, traditions, controversies, and dapper style, and there is exactly no reason for today’s ladies not to be on board. I’ll tell you right now, dykes–your straight/closeted grandmother was on board. She could mix an excellent Old Fashioned, a Martini, a Manhattan, and a Gimlet for herself and her chain-smoking bridge club with one hand tied behind her back and look good doing it.

Getting Started

First, I recommend that you invest in a bartending book of some kind. I have my grandfather’s old copy of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, Revised (originally published in 1947, revised in 1972). It’s a well-regarded, traditional bartender’s guide, which means not only that it has all the classic recipes, but also that cheap used copies are easy to find. In addition to drink recipes, Trader Vic’s book includes advice, anecdotes, history, and general information on bartending and mixology. You can learn the basics from this book: the difference between bourbon and other American whiskeys, bartending etiquette, techniques, appropriate glassware, and more. Another classic mid-century style bartender’s guide is The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, by David A. Embury, which is known for its engaging style and witty tone.

Basic Ingredients

A cocktail contains liquor and at least one other ingredient. According to Embury, it contains a base liquor, modifying agent, and special flavoring and coloring agents. So the most important thing you’ll need, of course, is liquor.

Liquor

If you’re living on a budget, I wouldn’t recommend that you go out and spend a lot on a wide array of liquors. I would recommend you start by considering what drinks you like or would like to try, and shop accordingly. I prefer traditional bourbon or gin-based cocktails, so I tend to keep a bottle of either or both stocked in my kitchen.

Usually, I keep bourbon in the house. Bourbon is a distinctive American liquor that came out of Kentucky originally; to this day, most bourbons are still distilled in the bluegrass state. You can expect future posts dedicated to bourbon and bourbon brands. For now, I’ll just let you know that traditional bourbon-based cocktails include: the Old Fashioned (believed to be the original mixed drink), Manhattan, Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour, and Bourbon and Coke–all bona fide old man favorites.

I also like gin. Not everyone does. Moreover, some people are, I’m told, allergic to the juniper berries from which gin is made and will feel horribly hungover from one or two gin-based drinks. If you haven’t tried gin before, I would try it at a bar before investing in a bottle of it. Classic gin-based cocktails include: the Martini, Gin and Tonic, Gibson, Tom Collins, and Gimlet.

There are, of course, cocktails made with tequila, vodka, rum, and other liquors, but bourbon and gin feature most prominently in the basic drinks.

Modifying Agent

A cocktail tends to include some modifying agent, which smoothes and enhances the flavor of the base liquor. For many cocktails, including Manhattans and Martinis, vermouth is a popular modifying agent. Bitters, sugar, eggs, cream, and fruit juices are also used. I would recommend keeping a bottle of vermouth and a bottle of Angostura bitters handy.

Special Flavoring/Coloring Agents

These can include liqueurs like Cointreau or Triple Sec, cordials, or syrups, like Grenadine. You’ll need these for the Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, and Sidecar, for example.

Paraphernalia

Don’t be intimidated by the paraphernalia. For many drinks, all you really need is a glass to pour it in and a spoon to stir it with. When you’re first starting out, don’t worry too much about getting all the toys.

But if you want to get some basic supplies, I would suggest you start with a jigger and a cocktail shaker.

A jigger is used for measurement and usually made from stainless steel. It’s shaped like you glued the base of a 1.5 oz shot glass to the base of a smaller 1 oz or 0.75 oz shot glass, and that’s pretty much what it is. If you don’t have a jigger and can’t get one, then just know that when a recipe calls for a jigger of liquor, it means an ounce and a half.

Jigger

Jigger

A cocktail shaker, also traditionally stainless steel, looks sort of like a tall, thin metal urn (yes, it’s creepy, but you’re a good Catholic dyke–drinking and dead bodies are already coupled in your psyche) and is used for shaking drinks to get them really, really cold. Not all drinks should be shaken (for example, you are not to shake a Martini–I don’t care what James Bond says–it just waters it down and bruises the juniper fruit). The most common type of shaker, and the type I would recommend, is the Cobbler shaker. It includes a cap and a strainer, so you won’t have to find another strainer to use when you pour your cocktail from the shaker into your glass. I also recommend that you invest in a decent shaker if you’re going to buy one. I picked up a small shaker for about $10, and it was a piece of crap. Temperature changes made it swell or shrink or something after I used it about twice, to the point that I can no longer open the damn thing. And by its very nature, its temperature changes–I mean, that’s the whole point of the shaker. So don’t be as cheap as I was. Get a good one.

Shaker

Shaker

Well, dykes, that’s my first overview of mixing cocktails. It’s pretty general, but there’s more to come.