Dizzy Gifts 2011

‘Tis the season for spreading holiday cheer–and no, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending money–but if you’re in the market for some last-minute gifts for your favorite cocktailians, check out this Dizzy-approved shopping guide:


Do you have a tiki drinker on your list? Hook them up with the B.G. Reynolds Sampler Pack, featuring 5 oz. bottles of passion fruit syrup, orgeat, falernum and Don’s Mix, as well as a recipe booklet and swizzle sticks, all for$18. And if you want to add tiki mugs, B.G.’s got those too.


Royal Rose Syrups make perfect gifts for imbibers and teetotalers alike–add them to your next cocktail, homemade soda, or drizzle on top of your favorite dessert. Make locally in small batches, flavors include rose, lavender-lemon, raspberry, three chiles or tamarind, while cardamom-clove is especially useful for holiday drink-making. Purchase 8-oz. bottles for $11 each or go for a four-pack sampler for $44.


Cocktail geeks and history buffs alike will be thrilled to unwrap their own copy of “Prohibition” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick ($30), a documentary aired on PBS earlier this year chronicling America’s noble-yet-disastrous experiment. Captivating, educational, and at times, sobering, the film digs deep to reveal America’s political and moral struggle with its own alcoholic tendencies.


Mr. Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide: 75th Anniversary Edition, edited by Jonathan Pogash, aka the Cocktail Guru, is a classic drink-mixing guide featuring more than 1,500 recipes including nearly 200 new recipes from today’s best bartenders. Order yours for $10 on Amazon.com or get a signed copy for $20 here.


Nothing classes up a home bar quite like a Mad Men-style ice bucket, and this Crate & Barrel version delivers ($50). Of course, you’ll want to toss in a pair of tongs ($9) too.


Although on back-order until late January, The PDT Cocktail Book ($17) is a must-have for any serious bartender. Jim Meehan, head bartender at the infamous hot dog shop/speakeasy, spills his secrets of the trade along with more than 300 recipes, all charmingly illustrated by Chris Gall. Note that many of the recipes call for ingredients that are hard to find outside of NYC and other major cities, but the culinary prowess behind them should keep readers inspired to try their own variations.


Hand-cracked ice is not only an impressive start to any cocktail (such as juleps, swizzles and shrubs), it also dilutes the acidity. This handsome ice pick from Williams-Sonoma ($60) should satisfy any ice geek’s desire to crush it.


For the cocktailian who has everything, this stag head pourer ($26) from Pottery Barn should turn heads. Toss the standard plastic pourers and easily measure drinks by the ounce with this charming reindeer version.

Dizzy Gifts 2010

‘Tis the season to show your loved ones some good cheer with food, drinks, acts of kindness, and of course, presents! Ok, so we don’t have to let Retail America control our holiday celebrations — there’s plenty of ways to show that you care without spending money (check out my round-up of DIY cocktailian gifts from last year), but chances are, you’ll get some joy out of giving and receiving gifts this season. Need ideas for your favorite imbiber? Feast your eyes on this Dizzy-approved shopping list:

Know a cocktail fan who does a lot of frequent flying? The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set ($18.99) is designed to pass TSA standards and includes 20ml bottles of celery, orange, creole, old time, and Jerry Thomas bitters.

Every cocktail lover needs a good flask — how else are we supposed to enjoy Negronis in broad daylight or during office hours? This leather-covered vessel from J. Crew ($34.95) will separate the debonair from the debaucher.


Flip through more than 80 elegant recipes of Prohibition-inspired tipples in “Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined” ($24.99) by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. The West Village master mixologists break down variations on the classics and creations of their own.

Krystina Castella was smart enough to write “Booze Cakes” ($12 ) a cookbook combining everyone’s two favorite loves — booze and baked goods. She might not have the recipe for my infamous whiskey old fashioned cake in there, but you will find knockout photos and recipes of confections such as Pina Colada Cake, White Russian Cupcakes and Honey Spice Beer Cake.


Know someone who’s just getting started in bartending or could use a refresher? “The Big Bartending Book” by and Jeff Masson and Greg Boehm ($9.95) offers clear instructions on how to whip up 1,000 top cocktails and plenty of advice to give newbies confidence behind the stick.

 

This is a great idea for wine lovers — A Date With Wine bottle stopper ($45) makes it easy to remember when you last opened that delicious bottle of vino. You’ll never drink musty, overexposed wine again.


And how gangsta are these shot glasses? Mug Shots ($16.95) is a set of six shot glasses featuring the mugs of the most notorious gangsters in history, from Al Capone to Bugsy Siegel.

There are plenty of funky-shaped bottle openers out there, but this iron set of Nambu Tekki Tool Bottle Openers ($20 each) look cool hanging in your kitchen and have versatility — such as for smashing up some ice.


If you were at the Holiday Spirits Bazaar (recap to come), then hopefully you got a chance to try SkimKim’s Blooody Kim Jong-Il Mix ($10), a tantalizing blended kimchee bloody mary mix. Beyond vodka, I would pour this on just about everything, from tacos to meatloaf, or just eat it straight from the jar — it’s that good.

Give your home bar an instant soda fountain with the SodaStream Red Crystal Soda Maker ($179.95), which turns ordinary water into sparkling water or soda. Easy to transport, no electricity required, and if you buy it at Sur La Table, they will recycle the spent carbonation canisters for you and give you a discount on new ones.

You can search flea markets far and wide for a decent punch bowl, but if you are looking to give a punch serving set as a last-minute gift, look no further than Crate & Barrel’s Virginia Punch Bowl Set ($136.95). The elegant footed bowl and cups made of handblown and molded glass will turn any house party into a dignified soiree.

Dizzy Recap: Spice & Ice at Casa Dizzy Fizz

 

Kara Newman's Spicy Cucumber Margarita, made with Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, Tequila Ocho Anejo, and Partida Blanco. Photos by Lush Life Productions.

 What’s cool, hot, and a total crowd-pleaser? [If you answered "I am," props to you for being so confident. But no, sweetie, I'm not talking about you.] I’m talking about none other than the spicy cucumber margarita, a drink that I’ve enjoyed variations of for several years at bars in NYC like Los Dados. Any fresh-ingredient bar should be offering this cocktail for this time of year–cool, fresh muddled cucumber paired with a slice of jalapeno, your sweetener of choice, lime juice, and your favorite agave spirit–it’s a simple-yet-invigorating drink that you can have all night.

So when Kara Newman asked me last month to participate in her virtual cocktail party celebrating her spicy cocktail book, Spice & Ice, choosing to make Kara’s Spicy Cucumber Margarita was a no-brainer. Cocktail bloggers from all over joined in making recipes from the book, altering them as desired, and then posting pictures and recipes for all to enjoy, at least virtually. And seeing that I love hosting parties anyway, I quickly decided to have a small group of friends over to my Brooklyn crib for an impromptu cocktail jam featuring Ilegal Mezcal Reposado, Partida Blanco, and Tequila Ocho Anejo.

I changed Kara’s recipe slightly by using agave nectar instead of Gran Marnier or Cointreau. Although orange liqueur is lovely in this drink, agave nectar allows the essence of the agave spirit to play a strong note–and I was playing with some amazing agave spirits. My friends and I shook up spicy cucumber margaritas using both jalapeno and habanero chiles, and variations using the mezcal and the tequilas. Needless to say, the shakers were rattling all night–my friends, whether cocktail buffs or newbies, couldn’t get enough of the pale green rascals. I offered quick and easy quesadillas stuffed with vegetarian chili and cheese, and the margaritas paired perfectly. It all made for a lovely night, I didn’t have to spend that much, and they were nice enough not to wreck the place.

Here’s my take on the spicy cucumber margarita:

1/2 small cucumber, peeled and minced into chunks
1 slice jalapeno pepper, seeds intact
2 ounces Ilegal Mezcal Reposado/Tequila Ocho Anejo/Partida Blanco
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar
cucumber wheel for garnish

Muddle cucumber and jalapeno slice in a shaker. Add liquids and ice, shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, double-strain into a chilled glass, and garnish.

The Sartorialist in Print

Photo via Joanna Goddard

Photo via Joanna Goddard

Fashion might not seem correlated to cocktails, but when you appreciate refinery, a tailored look seems appropriate when you’re holding a polished glass filled with aged spirits. Trends will come and go, but those who are truly style-savvy know that looking good is more instinctive than anything. If you have been to some of NYC’s better-known cocktail bars you’ve surely seen a few mixologists sporting vests, suspenders, bespoke hats, and such, and whether or not you are a fan of the look, vintage wear is having a renaissance and has added an interesting note into the oeuvre of modern fashion. So it’s exciting to see fashion photographer Scott Schuman, best known for his photoblog The Sartorialist, release his photos in print today. Available from Penguin in paperback ($25), or a special hardcover edition ($175, really?), the book will appeal to anyone who appreciates real-life style as captured on the streets of cities such as New York, Paris, Milan, and Bejing. Schuman is credited with turning photoblogging into an art form, and his keen eye for genuine good taste should be inspiring to anyone with an eye for the nuances of everyday handsomeness. If you don’t care to buy the book, you should still check out Schuman’s blog if you haven’t already. If anything, his photos prove that New York is indeed not the most fashionable city in the world!

sartorialist3

sartorialist2

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

 

gary-regan

  • Mixology icon and salty storyteller Gaz (aka Gary) Regan dishes wisdom on all things gin in his new 354-page book, The Bartender’s Gin Compendium, available for online purchase now.
  • Bearded James Beard Foundation award-winner David Wondrich poured Pre-Prohibition cocktails for Stephen Colbert and invented the Colbert Bump.
  • Jonathan Pogash is reportedly working on the cocktail menu for the Empire Room, a new cocktail lounge set to open on the ground floor of the Empire State Building this fall.
  • As of July 29, NYC has its own chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails). Lynnette Marrero of cocktail consulting and catering firm Drinks at 6, Eryn Reece of Louis 649, Meaghan Dorman of Raines Law Room, and Katie Darling of White Star are among the founding members.
  • And if you are in the NYC area, the Fine Living Network is currently shooting a new reality series, “Bartender Wars,” at a bar on the Lower East Side throughout the month. Want to be an extra and drink for free during the tapings? Email patroncasting@gmail.com with your name, age, number, recent photo, and desired meeting time.

Literati Libations

 

There’s a great article on NPR’s website right now detailing Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartender’s Guide, which covers famous writers and their favorite drinks. Not only does the book by Mark Bailey feature charming caricatures by Edward Hemingway, but there’s also cocktail recipes, excerpts of writing material, and best of all, anecdotes from the literati on drinking, like:

 

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”–F. Scott Fitzgerald, who fancied himself some gin.

Fitzgerald’s Gin Rickey:

Illustration by Edward Hemingway.

Illustration by Edward Hemingway.

2 oz. gin

3/4 oz. lime juice

club soda

lime wheel

 

Pour gin and lime juice into a chilled highball glass filled with cracked ice. Top with club soda and gently stir; garnish with lime wheel.