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The Big Question: Sophie’s Choice Edition

Why, dear children, is this day different from all other days?

Because 78 glorious years ago today, the great and good people of this great nation ratified the lovely, lovely 21st Amendment which repealed the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad 18th Amendment, thus putting an end to Prohibition.

There’s a funny familial story about Prohibition that’s been floating around the Plumcake Family Mythology for nearly 80 years.

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of Yonkers, New York a young Salvation Army officer by the name of Miss Plumcake’s Nana discovered her fun-loving and all-around less stick-in-the-mud younger sister had snuck off to some speakeasy in the city and was dancing the night away. My Nana, who could out-damp even the soggiest of bed coverings, was outraged and her anger was not lessened when she discovered her one good dress –her Confirmation gown– was missing.

Grim but not stupid, Nana did the math, deduced her wicked sister and her heavenly dress were sharing the same airspace.

Nana marched right down to the speakeasy and proceeded to RIP the dress right off of her shameless sister, thus fulfilling her lifelong legacy of ruining everyone’s good time –well, except for the men at the speakeasy I suppose– and adding another chapter to the legend of Miss Plumcake’s family.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t anger a Plumcake woman. Also, if the last words you say to your devoted teenage great-granddaughter are “Have you always been that fat?”, you thereby give up your rights NOT to be talked about publicly and at great length.

Remember, an elephant never forgets.

In honor of the end of Prohibition, and the fact I’m going to have to whittle down my Scotch collection to 3 liters so I can take it across the Mexican border, I thought I’d ask a little booze-themed Big Question.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What one alcoholic beverage would you be unwilling to go the rest of your life without?

After much thoughtful deliberation, I’ve decided upon the humble yet sublime Talisker 18 year-old single malt Scotch. Talisker is the only Scotch made on the Isle of Skye and has in its golden soul the best of both the smokey peat of the Islay malts and the honeyed heather of a Speyside.

It’s not the most expensive or rarest Scotch I own, a bottle of Talisker 18 will set you back less than a hundred dollars, and there are other Scotches I prefer as specimens of one breed or another, but for pure overarching perfection, the Talisker is hard to beat, and, incidentally, is ridiculous (in the good way) on a hot buttered waffle.

Fab Four: Cocktail Finds


I am in LOVE with that porto set.

‘Tis the Season for the Professional Dipsomaniac


Stainless Steel Boston Cocktail Shaker
Lead Crystal Single Malt Whisky Glass Set by Riedel(a must have)
Peugot Aromium Decanter w/ Aerator
OXO Complete Bar Set

Be sure to check back at the main ‘Tis the Season page to look back on profiles you’ve missed and look forward to ones that are soon to come!

Plumcake’s 12 Months of Cocktails pt 3

Good afternoon lambkins! How’s every little thing? Are my Virginia people doing okay in the Snowpocalypse? I love Virginia with all my cold little heart, but people, listen to me when I say IT IS THE END TIMES and if armageddon really IS near, I suggest you all go to the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond and practice ascending that staircase with grace, because there’s nothing more embarrassing than looking tacky when you’re getting all raptured up by the Lord.

Sorry I was gone last week, but I’m trying to do my damn taxes.

Surprisingly, I’m not a last minute tax gal.  Starting the last week of January I pretty much stand outside the mailbox of stately Château Gâteau and give my letter carrier the stinkeye until all my sundry forms and things have arrived. I think he’s avoiding me now, which FINE see if I make him any more fudge for Christmas.

Anyway, now I have all but one of my necessary forms so I feel I owe it to you, myself and my country to put in the next installment of 12 Months of Cocktails

Also, I feel like I should add that I have been given an inordinate level of crap from my friends, the owners of The Good Knight here in Austin, WHO SO WRONGLY CLAIM I’ve  stolen their cocktail menu and used it for my 12 months of cocktails.

I will say these are very nice people who have, without a doubt, the best bar for classic cocktails in town and BECAUSE they’re honestly two of the dearest people in the world (and I will die if they cut off my supply of pâté) I will kindly overlook the fact that THEY ARE CLEARLY ON THE GOOFBALLS.

July: French 75

Celebrate Bastille Day on July 14th by mixing up a fun little party drink using two of France’s great exports: Cognac and Champagne. There’s a little fuss over whether to use gin or Cognac in a French 75 and I suppose it goes back to who you believe invented it. If the frogs came up with it, odds are they used Cognac since it was easier to find. However, if the Brits are the original authors, you can bet your stiff upper lip they used gin. It’s delicious either way, so why not have two?

1 oz lemon juice
2 oz Cognac or gin
1 sugar cube (alternately, a teaspoon of simple syrup)
Champagne to top
lemon peel

In a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake together lemon juice, cognac/gin and simple syrup if you’re using it. Strain into a champagne flute, drop in a sugar cube and top off with champagne. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel. C’est si bon, but gardez-vous: these go down easy but too many and you’ll regret it in the morning.

Plumcake’s variation: French 79

Bastille Day 1979 is my birthday, so of course I have a preferred variation of this classic:
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Domain de Canton ginger liqueur (this French stuff is aces, and made from Cognac)
1 oz Hendrick’s gin
Champagne to top
fresh ginger

Prepare as above, but omit sugar and drop a medallion of ginger in the glass instead. It’s easier if double the recipe and make two cocktails. You’ll drink ’em both.

August: Caipirinha

KI as in kite, PURR as in the thing kittens do, REE as in Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 smash hit Don’t Fear the Reaper, and NYAH, as in “nyah nyah nyah-nyah nyah, I have a better cocktail than you do”

The Caipirinha is to Brazil what the Mojito is to Cuba. Except it’s better, and doesn’t smack of Booze Cruise Pregnancy Scare 2002. Refreshing but deadly in quantity, a proper Caipirinha is made with cachaça, which is a sugar-cane spirit that’s similar to a flavorful white rum but with a tequila kick. If you absolutely must, you can make it with white rum, but do yourself a favor and invest in a bottle of cachaça. It’s cheap, delicious and is an interesting alternative to white rum.

In a heavy-based rocks glass, muddle a half a juicy lime (or a whole lime if your fruit isn’t great) with a tablespoon or two of simple syrup or sugar. Fill glass with crushed ice and top off with cachaça. Stir. Drink. Repeat at your peril.

September: Negroni

The perfect summer-to-fall cocktail, although delicious at any time, the Negroni is about as close to a novelty drink as I have in my repertoire. You will need a bottle of Campari, which you might not have around, but buy a bottle and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll go through it. I add a splash to soda for a pert little summer toddy and it features heavily in almost every tomato-based dish coming out of the kitchen at Château Gâteau.

1 oz gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet (red) Vermouth
1 clean strip of orange peel

Shake in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, serve on the rocks.

Novelty time: with the peel in your left hand and a lit match over the cocktail glass in your right, squeeze the peel quickly. The oils should catch fire. Drop it into the glass. I can’t always manage to do it, but when it works it smells lovely and adds a wonderful caramel citrus note.

Twelve Months of Cocktails pt 2

Ready for some more cocktails? Lord knows I am.

I was ready at about 8:30 this morning when I discovered Château Gâteau had been bodily lifted in the night and set down somewhere in the frozen and dreary north.

Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it IS cold and rainy and miserable and as I have a well-established bais against anything coming out of the sky, trying to hit me (rain, frogs, fuselage, whatever) I’ve been giving the stink eye to every single person who has told me “we need the rain.”

And yeah, I know we do, I think the Plumcake Familial Holdings include a half a ranch somewhere in Texas (No, I don’t know where. Frankly –and this goes for keys, phones and lipglosses too– if I can’t fit it discreetly into my bra, I’m not going to remember where I put it) but that doesn’t mean I have to like the stuff.

Let’s get ready to pour!

***

April – Sazerac

I’ve written somewhere only –uh, well I can’t say what since it’s a family blog, but trust me when I say everyone’s got one and it’s NOT an opinion– drink absinthe, and I maintain this is true. HOWEVER.  It’s still tasty when combined with rye, bitters and sugar to form the official cocktail of New Orleans: The Sazerac.

The Sazerac

3 oz rye whiskey (ideally Sazerac, of course)
1 oz absinthe or Pernod
2 sugar cubes or a tablespoon simple syrup
several dashes bitters (you want Peychaud’s for historical accuracy)

If using sugar cubes, douse the cubes with bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle until sloppy, add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled rocks glass. The Sazerac is served neat with a twist of lemon on the edge. If you want to impress your friends, learn how to pare a horse’s neck. It’s an entire peel in one spiral.the beginnings of a horse's neck

***

May – Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby is run the first Saturday in May and Mint Juleps are served all around. As with all the best southern things, one really must stand on tradition with the Mint Julep. Ideally you want to drink this in a sterling silver julep cup (I travel with my own) but an extra-cold rocks glass will do. Be sure to snip off the straw close to the rim of the glass. You want to smell the mint as you drink. Be warned: this is pretty much booze and sugar so take it easy.

mint julep

In a silver cup full of crushed ice, pour in one tablespoon of mint-infused simple syrup. If you don’t have mint simple syrup, muddle a few leaves of mint in the bottom of the glass with plain simple syrup. Stir. Fill the cup with bourbon, stir again and garnish with a sprig of mint and a short-clipped straw.

You may dust some powdered sugar on top –and a red rose petal if you’re being precious on race day– but it’s really not necessary. Be careful.

***

June – Bee’s Knees

A silly little cocktail, but very refreshing.

2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 tbs honey
splash hot water

Pour honey and hot water into cocktail shaker and shake until dissolved. Add lemon juice and gin, fill with ice, shake and strain into anything that holds liquid. Garnish with an orange or lemon wedge. Simplicity itself.

bees_knees