Friday, April 11, 2014

Pretzel Necklaces

Tomorrow is the first beer tasting event of the year (here at least) and I'm excited to wear some pretzels around my neck.

"What!?" you exclaim, doing a spit-take I imagine.

Yes, pretzel necklaces are what I'm talking about. I remember seeing them at my very first beer event and thought it was kinda weird but original of my friends. Once inside, I saw quite a few other people sporting them. It's apparently somewhat common. Hell, the concession stand sold a kit for them. By the way, those kits are terribad. Usually it's a bunch of regular pretzels and a string, but just super overpriced. All assembly required. Might as well make it yourself and get to customize it.

I use shoelaces, as the aglet (that hard end-piece that allows you to lace your shoes) makes threading the pretzels go much quicker. You can pick up a pair of laces for around a buck and then you'll have two necklaces waiting to happen.

The best part of making your own necklace is you get to pick what goes on it. I made a sweet giant pretzel necklace last year. I've seen Funyun necklaces, which I'm planning to do this year. Hell, one guy strung up some bagels, but that seems a bit much to me. If you're willing to possibly stab yourself with a needle, you could thread floss through Cheez-its or peanuts in their shells. Maybe I'll try that next year.

So wear your food. Eat your clothing. Enjoy many small glasses of beer.

And about those tasters: it's hard to keep track of all the beers in the day. I like to take pictures of the labels/signs/whatever for beers I really like. It's too much work for me to pull out a pen and pad of paper after the sixth taster. It's much easier to pull out my phone, snap a picture, and move on.

And if you're going to a beer festival or the like, be sure to wear sunscreen, drink water, and eat definitely before, probably during, and maybe after. Also, cab it or have a DD.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bacon Bourbon

Do you like bacon? Of course you do. This is the internet. How about bourbon? Hopefully. And even if you don't, maybe you'll be intrigued enough to try this anyway.

What you'll need: Bacon, 750 mL bourbon, another container that will hold 750 mL (might I suggest a second, empty bourbon bottle), a glass measuring cup with spout.

Cook up the bacon. Save the fat; you'll need 2-3 ounces (1/4-3/8 of a cup). Let the fat cool a bit and then add it to the second bourbon bottle. Add as much of the first bottle as will comfortably fit into the second bottle. Make yourself a cocktail or something with the remaining bourbon before tomorrow, and save the bottle. Cap the bourbon/fat mixture and leave at room temperature for 4 hours. Place the bottle in the freezer on its side, freeze overnight. The bacon fat will harden into a slab on top of the bourbon, and the spout will remain useable. The next day, transfer the contents of frozen bottle to the empty bottle. You can strain it if you'd like, but I don't bother.

You can drink it neat, at room temperature (but you should store it in the fridge when you're not drinking it, just in case). It's also quite nice mixed with root beer.

My impetus to first making this was a vodka and grilled cheese party a couple of years ago. The idea was that everyone bring an infused vodka and there would be bread and cheese provided as well as many pans so we could eat grilled cheese sandwiches. I heartily endorse such ideas.

I made a jalapeño, lime, and mint infused vodka (wash and cut jalapeño lengthwise, put it in for a week; bruise the mint, put it in for last 24 hours; squeeze the juice of a lime into bottle and give a good shake before serving) but wanted to try bacon. My friend Nate was already going to make bacon vodka (sub vodka for the bourbon, otherwise it's the same; makes a great Bloody Mary) so I decided to try infusing bourbon instead. I'd read about it, but was still a little wary. So glad I pushed through.

Other meat fats could be used, I'm sure. I've seen a venison whisky recipe. I do have a tub of duck fat at home...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Drinking on the Job

This morning I got a pleasant surprise. I was cited in an AJ Jacobs' article:

My initial answer, from which he pulled my response, was, "First, you're assuming the post was truthful. I lie all the time on the internet. Or do I? Second, three beers does necessarily equal intoxication. It could, but depending on their size, ABV, employee's biology, etc. it might not have done very much at all. Third (and really first), do you have a policy about being under the influence of drugs and alcohol in place? If you do not, you have no footing to punish for the drinking itself. If the employee is capable of doing the job, that should be the determining factor."

(I realize I left out the word "not" in "does necessarily equal intoxication". Thankfully, AJ was able to grasp what I was saying.)

I'm not advocating drinking on the job. At least not for most jobs or most people. But I've had menial jobs in the past, and I would occasionally sneak off for a drink or two before alphabetizing a box of books or sweeping the porch free of leaves. Don't drink and drive. But I'd certainly say you should consider having a beer before, during, and/or after digging holes for a garden. Also, some writers find that alcohol helps them write. 

In college I would mix Jagermeister and SoBe's No Fear (an energy drink) for what I called a "Don't Fear the Jager". The ratio was usually 1:2, but I discovered that it helped with my writing. I would mix it much weaker, like 1:8 and I called that a "Paperwriter". The caffeine kept me going, and the little bit of alcohol loosened my inhibitions. I wrote many college papers, usually getting a B/B+. Once I got a D, but that was mostly because that class was much harder than the rest. (A word of warning: if you're going to stay up all night drinking and writing a paper, remember that you've been up all night drinking. That means take a cab or arrange a ride from someone. Also: don't go to fencing class, like I did. Dislocated my knee.)

I'm pursuing a career in writing, and I've found that a glass of absinthe can put me in the state of mind I need to write. While brainstorming the next section of my book, I like to grab a beer and let my mind wander. This infographic talks about the benefits of alcohol on creativity. Mad Men was right about that thing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


This is a hard one for some people. The thick,smoky flavor seems to turn off a lot of people. I remember getting a glass of something that tasted like it would be much better as a dipping sauce for chicken and steak than something to be taken directly.

But it turns out that there are multiple types of Scotches out there, and they are from various parts of Scotland. So yes, there's the smoky barbecue ones, but there are also the lighter floral ones. I haven't researched Scotch well enough to tell you which regions have which flavor characteristics, but I can tell you that Glenfiddich 12 is a great start. It's not overly smoky and can be sipped neat or on the rocks.

The longer it's been aged, the mellower the flavor. There's a certain harshness to Scotch, I find, so this mellowing is desirable to me. I try to aim for 12 years, unless I'm feeling spendy. I've purchased a 21 year old bottle, but didn't enjoy it proportionally more. It was around $110, but I would have been better served by three $30-40 bottles.

Sometimes you'll find that it says it's been matured on sherry or port (or others). This indicates that after it sat in the barrel for X years, it was placed in a second barrel that was used to age that named alcohol. It will then finish in the second barrel for a few months before bottling. I've only had sherry finished once, but it didn't make a good impression on me. I've had friends drink the same bottle with me, and they liked it. Port and sauterne are good though. I've also had some good luck with rum barrels.

There's single malt, blends, etc. Single malt costs more, and it's good. Blends can be nice, but not necessarily. They tend to be cheaper though, so maybe you could start with a blended 12 year old Scotch to see if that appeals. Save some money that way.

That's another thing. Scotch is pricey. A quality vodka goes for about $30 a bottle. A fine bottle of Scotch goes for that price. I've routinely spent $45~50 for a good 12 year. I think it's worth the money, but you may not.

Story time children (but hopefully no actual children are reading this).

My friend Nate loves smoky Scotches. The smokier, the better. Me, not so much. But he did recommend smoking a nice cigar with them. The idea is that the smoke of the cigar will overpower the smokiness of the Scotch, like eating candy and then drinking soda. But instead of getting a mouthful of crap-tasting swill, the other flavors are brought to the forefront. Scotches are rarely a one-trick pony.

We did a cigar, Scotch and Archer night at my place (wait, I had something for this). I should have taken a picture of the table that night. I think we had 10 bottles. We started lightest to heaviest. When it came time to hit the super smokies, we did a taste pre-cigar. It was overwhelming. We went to the patio to smoke, bringing our glasses, and the bottles because why not.

Outside, we lit the cigars and just enjoyed their aroma for a while. Finally, I grabbed my glass and took another sip. Wow, what a difference. I tasted orange and spice, and some other stuff, I'm sure. You're probably thinking it was just due to the Scotch breathing. I wondered that myself. I poured a fresh finger and gave it a sip. It wasn't quite as good as the glass that I just finished, but I definitely could taste the flavors under the smoke.

A few more glasses were had. Stories told; jokes swapped; cigars finally stubbed out.

We resumed inside, re-visiting several bottles and finishing off the marathon. Soon the sun came out. We had been up all night drinking Scotch and smoking cigars. Hardly a bad way to spend 8 hours. I fished out two cigarettes and we called it a morning. He said he was OK to drive, and he seemed like he was.

I got a text saying he was home. I went to bed. I knew I'd have to clean up later. Much later.