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Alcohol and masochism
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saxifrage00
With many things I have adopted the philosophy that if it's hard to acquire a taste for it, then it must be worth the effort. I never drank coffee until I was 21, but since then I have developed quite an appreciation for the flavour. I'm still not keen on the bitterness un-cut, such as in a straight espresso, but I'm awfully fond of lattes...

Anyway, in the same way that I've acquired a taste for coffee, I've acquired a taste for spirits. Me mum taught me to drink whiskey and I picked up scotch on my own after that. Gin has become my favourite and I've learned how to drink martinis and actually enjoy them. Recently I discovered the Old Fashioned at the excellent Drink Boy.com. I made a scotch old-fashioned for myself yesterday and was startled by how tasty it was—without sacrificing the flavour and kick of the scotch.

There's a great essay on the development of the Old Fashioned at drinkboy.com: Renewing An Old Fashion. At its most basic an old-fashioned cocktail is a shot or two of a spirit, a lump of sugar, a bit of water to dissolve the sugar, bitters, and a twist of orange. Using scotch (since I didn't have any whisky on hand) I found that it makes it much smoother, so much so that Glenfiddich is actually pleasant to drink. In a gin old-fashioned (a tasty example of which I have near at hand right now), the sugar takes much of the acridness of the gin out but leaves the sharpness and the flavour intact. The optional maraschino cherry adds a bit of colour and—as the juice from it disperses into the surrounding drink—adds an occasional bit of sweetness and cherry note.

Don't get me wrong—I like wine and beer (at least, good beer), foofy pre-mixed-and-bottled drinks, and several modern cocktails. I do think tradition has a lot to teach us though, and so many of the drinks that went before are ignored. Most drinks today ignore the alcohol except as a method of intoxication, which to me was always the wrong reason to drink alcohol. (Well, the wrong primary reason.) What fascinates me by these old drinks is that they concentrate on the flavour of the alcohol itself, trying to highlight different aspects of it and pairing it with others so that they complement each other. I drink coffee for the flavour now, and I'm learning to do that with alcohol. Having uncovered these now-neglected drink recipes, I'm finding that it's a taste much easier to acquire than I expected.

I got the gin today, finally after a year where I kept saying I was out and needed to get more. I forgot the sweet vermouth though—all the gin/Campari drinks call for it since the latter is so bitter by itself. Despite that minor setback, I'm going to keep a stock of the necessary ingredients for more interesting drinks now. If you're over and want something a little different, I can mix up something new that's old.

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I think I'm becoming a tequila-and-lime person. And a salt snob.

A salt snob? As in, being particular about all the different varieties out there?

I remember Doug and Barbara brought home a Hawai'ian salt once that was pink from the impurities. It was tasty.

My weird salt is pink. I like it, although it's no good for baking.

Many chefs prefer kosher salt for some cooking, as it has a coarse texture, no additives, and a different flavour.

So, yeah, they're not all the same.

Unsolicited recommendation: save up and invest in a bottle of *really8 good scotch like Lagavulin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagavulin_Single_Malt).

I have a $60 bottle of cherry-casked Glenmorangie that's quite nice. But yeah, it would be nice to have a really good bottle around. I've heard Oban is very good at $100 a bottle.

Strong peat and iodine overtones? I think I might have to try a few sips of it to find out whether I'm in the "love it" or "hate it" category before I commit to a whole bottle. :-)

If you make it to my place for a BBQ feel free to ask for a taste. :)

Oh, and thanks for the reminder for me to buy gin. :)

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