Last night’s Mad Men was amazingly depressing. Not only did it bring back memories, for me, of how I reacted to 9/11, it was just plain sad. And could someone please explain to me why, despite the fact that he is a jerk and, at most, an anti-hero, I still want everything to turn out all right for Don Draper?
What did they have to drink last night? Well, there was “red wine,” which isn’t helpful. There was a return to champagne coupes for the wedding toast. There were nameless mixed drinks, made by a cast that is extremely skillful at hiding the bottle label from me.
But I’m settling on the hot cocoa, because it’s comforting. In the beginning of the episode, Pete’s assistant wakes him up and offers him a hot cocoa. It’s instant, made with water and not milk, but the thought is nice.
Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker (unless it’s an Irish Coffee). All year long I live on hot tea and/or chai, usually with milk for that latte kick. Around this time of year, I start breaking out the hot chocolate. Now, I agree with Pete – the best hot chocolate is made with milk. I even have a Hot Chocolate Maker that perfectly mixes and heats the milk and cocoa powder (it also works with Oregon Chai and milk).
But in the evenings, sometimes I want to add a kick. I thought I’d list my three favorite additives for hot cocoa. I’d love to hear yours in the comments;
What are your favorite mixers in warm drinks? You can’t go wrong with bourbon and honey in hot tea or Irish Whiskey and cream in coffee. Any other ideas?
Last night our favorite couple took a whirlwind trip to Rome during a hot summer at home. When Betty first arrives at her table, looking all Audrey Hepburn, she orders (in fluent Italian), a glass of Asti Spumante.
The first thing into my head is the jingle from when I was a little girl: "Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante, a celebration in a glass." I searched all over The Internets and could not find that ad anywhere (although I was highly amused by a few Angie Dickinson, Burt Bacharach, and Jaclyn Smith Martini & Rossi ads). I did find one with the right attitude though:
Are you done laughing now? I laugh nonstop every time I watch it. And don't you just want to break into the jingle there at the end?
Thanks to years of ads like the one you just watched, Asti Spumante gets a pretty bad rap, and in fact, most of it is mass produced. Betty should have ordered a Moscato d'Asti.
Both Asti Spumante and Moscato d'Asti are made from the Moscato Bianco grape and come from an area to the south of the town of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. How is Moscato d'Asti different? Well, aside from smaller production, Moscato d'Asti is lighter, more fizzy than bubbly.
Additionally, the production process is different. After all, there's more fizz than foam in a Moscato d'Asti. When making our moscato of choice, the winemakers stop the fermentation earlier than they do with a Spumante. The result? Less sugar is consumed by the yeast, so you get a sweeter, low alcohol wine.
A Moscato d'Asti is a drink-now sort of wine, tasting fresh and easy. It's a perfect light summer drink, for instance. And of course, perfect if you're in Rome in August.
Last night's Mad Men featured Don drinking a Budweiser and later, an office party with champagne. While it's great that Bud was around in 1963, I'm not sure it's changed all that much, so let's focus on the champagne and, in particular, the glasses.
Peggy: "This is good champagne."
Don: "I don't think so."
Maybe Don likes small-grower champagnes (or he's just irritated with management). As far as I can tell (by pausing and peering intently at my television), the British management of Sterling Cooper brought in a case or so of orange label Veuve Clicquot, which currently retails for around $75-$110.
What I really want to talk about isn't the expensive champagne, but the glasses from which they drank it. More often than not, we drink our champagne today out of flutes, but in Mad Men, they're using coupes throughout the doomed office party.
The champagne coupe has a wonderful legend associated with it, but unfortunately, it's just a legend. It's said that the shape of the glass was molded on the breast of Marie Antoinette, or occasionally, Madame de Pompadour. While romantic, it remains just a myth.
The coupe was designed in 17th century England and came into fashion again in the 1930s. However, it's not a recommended glass for the drink – it simply looks pretty. The broad surface means the bubbles disappear faster. The preferred glass is a champagne flute, a tall skinny glass that is designed to increase the flow of bubbles to the top and that helps concentrate the aromas of the wine.
It really does make a difference. About a year ago, Kevin and I experimented with several types of glassware, including an old champagne coupe. Aside from being hard to handle (the champagne sloshed out of the glass), the champagne went "flat" a lot faster in the coupe than in the flute.
When it comes down to it, I'll drink champagne taking swigs from the bottle, if need be. But I'm often reminded that glassware really is something to consider when tasting wine.
It's time for our latest installment of Mad Men Monday. Last night on everyone's favorite retro television show, Betty had the baby. Back then, the guys stayed in the waiting room the whole time. I have to admit, I'm surprised Don even stayed and didn't head to the office until he officially had a son.
However, he did wait and in the process, he met Dennis, a prison guard. If it wasn't obvious from the uniform, accent, and whiskey, I think they were trying to drive home a point that Don and Dennis were in slightly different social classes. And yes, I saw it reflected in the whiskey. Dennis brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red.
Johnnie Walker is a blended scotch whiskey that has been around since 1865, when it was Walker's Old Highland. Johnnie Walker Red Label, as we know it today, was introduced in 1909. If you're not familiar with your whiskey, Johnnie Walker comes in different levels (and prices) that are denoted by the label.
About a year ago, Kevin and I were invited to a Johnnie Walker dinner at Boi Na Braza. While I didn't enjoy the restaurant, I did enjoy the whiskey. We got to taste through the entire portfolio, including the Blue.
The label spectrum is as follows, per Wikipedia. They get more expensive as you head towards Johnnie Walker Blue.
So Dennis brought the working man's Johnnie Walker. Don, never one to turn away a drink, didn't seem to mind. The Red Label is quite popular for mixing with Coca-Cola and they are even being offered together in a limited edition can. At our Boi na Braza dinner, we drink the Red Label on the rocks, with a splash of guarana soda, with our salad course.
The soda sweetened the scotch but there was still a nice light peat
flavor on the finish once the sweet faded.
Based on Johnnie Walker press materials, more than 33 million bottles of Johnnie Walker were purchased in 2004 and Johnnie Walker Black Label seems to be the most popular, with approximately 43 glasses of Johnnie Walker Black Label enjoyed by consumers each second. We occasionally have Black Label in our house, as Kevin sometimes purchases it as an "everyday scotch."
Overall, great episode and great product placement for Johnnie Walker.
Last night on Mad Men, there were classic martinis served at Joan's house (gin, 3 olives) and our copywriters were working on a Bacardi campaign, leading to multiple mentions of rum and coke. But two other drinks took precedence for me: the Old Fashioned that Don whipped up at the bar and the Mint Julep everyone was sipping at the party.
Once again, I'm consulting my Grandpa's books, The Bartender's Friend (1946) and Old Mr. Boston's Complete Bartenders Guide (1935).
The Old Fashioned
Since I love bourbon (and rye in particular), I'll often order an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan when I'm in a bar where I know the bartender will create an excellent one (such as McCormick & Schmick's or a Ruby's restaurant.)
1 lump sugar
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/2 oz Ginger Ale
1 jigger Rye
Muddle together the sugar, bitters, and ginger ale.
Add to mixing glass or shaker, along with 2 lumps of ice and rye.
Pour into highball glass and garnish with orange slice and a cherry.
The Mint Julep
There are definitely more complex mint julep recipes out there, many involving your stove and a simple syrup. This version of the mint julep is the easy-to-make-behind-a-bar version
4 sprigs mint
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp water
2 oz rye or bourbon
12 oz highball glass
Muddle 4 sprigs mint with powdered sugar and water and add to glass.
Fill glass quarter-full of shaved ice and stir.
Add 2 oz rye or bourbon
Top off with crushed ice and mint garnish
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