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Chicago Gourmet Wed Sep 28 2011

Shaking & Stirring at Chicago Gourmet

During Saturday's Champagne toast opening ceremony for Chicago Gourmet, Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appetit Adam Rappaport said, "The New Yorkers in the room don't want to hear this but there is more great food, more great restaurants, more great chefs here in Chicago than any other city in America." This year, I think Chicago Gourmet proved that. Check out our earlier post in the week for a visual summary and the admission that (gasp!) this year, CG was worth its ticket price. And about that last part, I'd like to expound on it a bit.
Atmospheric; Aromatic

Honestly, CG reminded me of Green City Market Chef's BBQ, but with better coiffed patrons in a more picturesque setting. We had bites of every restaurant in town with locally sourced ingredients and plenty of booze to wash it down, but does the setting alone make up for an extra $50 on the sticker price? No. So why did we think it was so worth the sticker? A cocktail class.

Drawing Room's Charles Joly, Blackbird's Lynn House and Beam Global Spirits' Bobby Gleason walked a lucky few of us through their favorite cocktails, drop by drop. Andrew Knowlton, Bon Appetit's drink editor, and Southern Wine and Spirits of Illinois' Bridget Albert were there to share anecdotes and a little harassment to keep our mixologists on their toes.

ChiG 022

This was not just a seminar for us all to sit and hear what new trends are being stirred up in the drinking world. Rather we sat down to a spread of premeasured liquor and mixers, complete with our own cocktail set courtesy of Cruziero spirits and appropriate barware.

ChiG 009Under the tutelage of the Charles Joly, we began with a good muddling for a Mojito: in a Tom Collins glass drop in 1/2oz. simple syrup, a few sprigs of mint and 1/2oz. lime juice and gently press and turn to release the oil. Don't shred your mint or your entire drink will turn bitter. "We're not making pesto here folks." And as far as ingredients go, "Please, no plastic limes like my grandma had in her refrigerator and probably still does. Fresh only." After muddling, add your rum and fill your glass with ice. Using a cocktail spoon, stir around the outside of your glass, pulling up the minty sweetness from the bottom of your glass. Top with a bit of club soda. Slap your mint like a whip into your hand to release its oils and garnish. Voila.

ChiG 012Next up, Lynn House with a cocktail for the season: her take on an Autumn Manhattan. "Start mixing with your cheapest ingredients so if you need to toss it, you're not tossing out your sweet, sweet bourbon." Lynn had made her own autumnal simple syrup for us to use: simmered 1.5 cups water with orange peel, cinnamon and allspice for 10 minutes. Then strain and add 1 cup of sugar, simmer until dissolved. Allow to cool. In your shaker glass pour in 1/2oz. autumnal simple syrup, 1/2oz. lemon juice, 1/2oz. apple juice and some "sweet sweet love" 2oz. bourbon (we used Basil Hayden). Dash in two shakes of orange bitters and fill with ice. Do the "Chicago shake," one hand on top of the shaker, one hand below and shake HARD until the sound gets a little softer, telling you that your ice has broken up a bit. She lifts up what I know as a martini glass. "What's this folks? It's a cocktail glass. Not a martini glass. Don't limit this poor cup with only martinis!" Pour into a cocktail glass and tap in two drops of Angostura bitters. Voila. Second cocktail done.

ChiG 015Bobby G of Beam also doubles as chief mixologist at the Bellagio in Vegas and sits as reigning champ for most cocktails made in an hour, ringing in at 230. We started off slowly with the High Ball. This ubiquitous drink is actually any drink with liquor and a mixer: rum and coke, vodka tonic, seven and seven, all called a "High Ball." The etymology of High Ball isn't quite so clear, with two possible sources. First, the Irish would pour their whiskey in a glass and put one chunk of ice into the glass. When it rose to the top, the glass was ready to be served. Second, back in the 1800s when folks used to more regularly travel on trains, they certainly didn't want to spill their cocktails while riding. When the train started moving fast and wouldn't roll side to side, train workers would move the ball lights along the tracks to the high position to warn pedestrians of a fast moving train. Pedestrians were alerted and passengers on the train knew it was time to get their drink on. To make Bobby G's BBG, we took another Tom Collins glass filled with ice and poured 2oz. of bourbon into the bottom of the glass. Then filled the rest of the glass with ginger ale and topped with a few drops of angostura bitters. Thank the Irish or the railroads, but that my friends is a Bourbon Bitters and Ginger Ale High Ball.

ChiG 017Lastly we turned to another classic with Bobby G: the Manhattan. While Samuel Tilden lost the presidential election by one electoral vote to Rutherford B. Hayes, we remember him as the father of the Manhattan. In a mixing glass filled with ice, throw a splash of bitters, 1/2oz. sweet vermouth and 2oz. bourbon. Stir gently and pour into a cocktail glass. Take a wide piece of lemon peel and juice your peel, by squeezing it width-wise over the glass. You'll get a burst of oil atop your drink, rub the peel around the rim of the glass (skin side down) and drop into your glass. Cocktail #4 is done.

Of course as we were mixing, stirring and pouring, we were also sipping, tasting and smelling our way to an olfactory overload before noon. Our final comment from Lynn was, "Remember folks, citrus and bitters are the salt and pepper of the cocktail world."

ChiG 019

After the event, I strolled through the lawn, with two very grown-up sized cocktails in hand and a few folks asked, "Where did you get that!?" "We made it with some of Chicago's best bartenders," I quipped. Add that one to your list for next year, Mr. Rappaport.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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