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Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

BittersInfusing

Recently I was invited to a holiday party that included the traditional gift swap.  However, being that I live in Minneapolis and Hipster-itis is an epidemic here, all gifts were highly encouraged to be homemade.  Being that my latest batch of wine, a Syrah, is months from being ready, I opted to make some bitters, because when one doesn’t have wine, cocktails are a nice alternative.

First off, what are bitters exactly?  Bitters is an umbrella term for any alcohol infused with botanicals which leave the end result tasting rather…bitter; bittersweet on occasion.  At your local trendy cocktail establishment, you’ll see a lot of them are making their own bitters in a variety of flavors and a few dashes of any particular one will show up on a high number of drinks on the cocktail menu.  However, if you want to appear cool (Like, really cool) when you’re out to eat at a fancy establishment, forgo the post-meal coffee and ask for a bitters to settle the stomach.  On multiple occasions, I’ve had waiters thank me for ordering a bitters because, and I quote: “[they] don’t see that much anymore.”  Even if you don’t like it, you’ll at least get some street cred with the waitstaff, so that’s something.

The homemade bitters that I made were more geared towards cocktails and here’s how you can make your own.  First, you’ll need a spirit as your base.  For starters, use a neutral grain alcohol.  If you have no idea what that is, just grab a high proof vodka or Everclear.  This will be the only time it is socially acceptable to buy Everclear.

Next you’ll need to decide what flavors of bitters you want to make.  You can scour the internet for some or use the ingredients that I did for the 3 types I made as follows.  Ingredients are listed in descending order of their presence in the blend:

Orange Bitters:  Orange peel, chicory root, cardamom, coriander, clove, allspice

Lavender Bitters:  Lavender, orange peel, coriander, vanilla, ginger

Caraway Bitters: Caraway seeds, orange peel, coriander, celery salt, vanilla

There was approximately 2-3 tablespoons of total ingredients in the 6oz of spirit I infused.

BittersIngredients

 

After that you just let them sit while giving them a shake once a day for at least a week.  The longer you let them sit, the stronger the flavor will be (up to a point).  Once the intensity is to your liking, strain the infusing agents out of the bitters and bottle them up.  I used eye dropper bottles because I’m fancy.

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And of course I would be remise if I didn’t include cocktail recipes for the bitters you just made.

The Old Fashioned

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 6 drops orange bitters
  • Splash of club soda
  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • Orange peel for spritz and garnish

The Old Fashioned is a drink you build, meaning you just throw it all in a glass.  First place the sugar cube in and put 6 drops of bitters on it.  Once it softens a bit, muddle it up and spread it around the glass.  Toss a large ice cube in (or ice sphere for extra points) the glass.  Then dump in your whiskey followed by the splash of club soda.  Spritz that orange peel and/or rub it around the rim and toss it in the glass as well.

The Very Fine Italian Greyhound

  • 3oz grapefruit juice
  • 2oz vodka
  • 8 drops caraway bitters
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup (or just an equivalent dash of sugar)
  • pinch of salt

The Very Fine Italian Greyhound is a stirred drink which requires a glass full of ice purely for stirring.  Throw all of the ingredients into the stirring glass and stir for at least 10 seconds.  Strain the contents into your drinking glass which will preferably be a coupe, but a copper mug is fine if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Wisp

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz white vermouth
  • 3 drops lavender bitters

The Wisp is a shaken drink which means you’re required to exert some physical effort.  Throw some ice into your shaker along with all of the ingredients.  Close up the shaker and shake it like you mean it for 10 seconds.  Strain into a coupe or martini glass.

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GiftGuide

There are a lot of gift guides for wine lovers that come out around this time of year and while I know each and every one of you, dear readers, were planning on getting me a gift, please refrain from using said lists.  There certainly are a number of wine lovers, let’s call them snobs, that appreciate any over-indulgent wine-themed gift that they deem worthy.   This appreciation is of course impossible to achieve unless the gift was known to be picked out by a bigger wine snob.  But what about the wine lover that doesn’t like things and abhors clutter?  What about the wine lover that prefers experiences with friends and loved ones instead of bragging to others about how wine-experienced they are? And what about the wine lover’s family and friends who can’t or won’t spend tons of money on someone who doesn’t have the cheapest hobby out there?

Why is it that every single list I can find assumes that gifts must cost hundreds of dollars in order to be worthy of a wine lover?  The only non-$100+ (and coincidentally, the only considerable) item on this horrible list from last year was a book.  Wine books are potential gifts for the minimalist wine lover, but you have to be very careful because it has to be a book that the wine lover was already wanting to read anyway.  Many times, when buying a gift for a minimalist, you must read their mind ahead of time to calculate how they will value various potential gifts.  What’s that? You can’t read minds?  Well, you are in luck.  I’ve created this list, just for you.

1. Wine

Do you know who is going to turn down a free bottle of wine?  No one.  Unless they’re a jerk.   I know you have confidence issues when it comes to buying a wine lover a bottle of wine, but here are a few tricks you can use when you walk into the wine shop:  First, if you’re in a respectable wine shop (e.g. you’re not at a gas station or place that only sells jug and boxed wine) ask someone who works there what their most interesting bottle of wine is.  The minimalist wine lover will enjoy trying something unusual and/or new.  Don’t want to talk to people?  Go ahead and find a bottle of wine that gives you the most specific information about where it is from.  This may limit you to the ones in English that you can read, but if you want to go out on a limb you can find a bottle of German writing that has the most writing on it and you’ll probably do pretty well.  Buying wine like this is a low-risk venture because you’re tapping in to built-in quality controls in wine laws.  Last, don’t worry about getting a really old bottle of wine or spending a lot of money.  While it’s a lot of fun to drink 20+ year old bottles of wine and occasionally the results are divine, a lot of the time, it’s a bit of a letdown in the taste department.  Also, a bottle of wine that sells between $10-$30 is probably going to be enjoyable.  Keep in mind, that for really old bottles, the increase in price is usually related to how much rent has accrued for that bottle sitting in the cellar for however many years.  Now, if you can afford it, go ahead a buy a bottle over that, but only if your minimalist wine lover has expressed interest in trying that particular wine.

Cost: $10-$30/bottle

2. A Corkscrew

There are countless gadgets that are available for the sole purpose of opening a bottle of wine.  There’s only one though that’s worth getting: The waiter’s corkscrew.  It costs, like $5, and sometimes you can get one for free.  Here’s mine:

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I will venture to say that the double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew is the most advanced wine opening tool in existence.  It cuts foil, and delivers an extracted cork with a 99% success rate unless for some reason you go on a rampage of opening a slew of bottles with old and brittle corks.  As a side, note, if for some reason, you have that rampage opportunity, please invite me.  So unless you have a physical handicap, the waiter’s corkscrew is not only the most bang for your buck, but it is also the most user-friendly assistive device, self-contained tool, one-stop-shop gadget.  It is the cat’s pajamas.  If you want to add a touch of indulgence, you can spring for a personalized one, or one made from exotic materials (Please, no ivory), but definitely stick with the double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew.

Cost: Like $5

3. A Wine Experience

This gift always requires a bit of discretion by the giver since preferences can vary widely.  For instance,  I stopped enjoying winery tours after about 10 of them.  They’re mostly all the same and unless they’re doing something unique it starts to feel like you’re an accountant checking out someone else’s cubicle.  Having a conversation with the winery owner or winemaker, on the other hand, can be a great time for me though.  However, I understand that some people like being herded around wineries, so if that’s their thing, go take them on a winery tour.  For me, I’d rather  take a trip down a road in wine country.  One road only, because, let’s be honest, you’re not spitting out that wine.  Tasting the differences between the same grape variety grown a number of meters apart can be fascinating and it also really gives you a sense of what the wine is like in that specifc area.  Tastings at wineries can vary, but are usually between $5-$10.  Unless they’re willing to shine your shoes too, I wouldn’t pay more than that.

Another option is to do a wine tasting at a restaurant or wine shop.  Most of these, unfortunately, are merely set up by wine distributors or importers to push their wine on you, but occasionally you can get a fun one that does something like a vertical tasting (tasting the same wine from the same producer across different vintages) in which you’d have an opportunity to taste some old wines without paying a hefty price for the bottle.  This way, if it turns out the wine was a dud, you’re only out the price of the tasting instead of the exhorbant price of the bottle itself.  Of course, it always help if the person leading the tasting has some fun stories to tell about the wine, but please take any universal truthisms they spout off with a grain of salt and a skeptical ear.

Of course, another fine option (probably the best) would be to contact me for a private wine lesson for them and their friends.  They’d think that was pretty awesome.

And last, if money and time are no objects, take them on a world tour of wine countries.  They will love you forever.

Cost: $5-$10/tasting, $35-$65/class, approx. $5-$20 million for a proper world wine tour

4. Wine Accessories

Here is the list of appropriate wine accessories for the minimalist wine lover:

  • A wine glass.  Maybe a few more in case friends are over.
  • A decanter.  Also see: milk frother or blender.

Cost: $5-$30. Let’s not get too crazy.

5. A Wine “Cellar”

One of the greatest gifts to give to a minimalist wine lover is a place to put their wine.  Now you could build them a bat cave for wine, or you can follow this amazing post on how to set up your own DIY Wine Cellar, which apparently is massively popular on Pinterest.  A minimalist is not prone to clutter, but wine bottles do take up space.  Therefore, at a minimum, you can point to a spot in your domicle, and say: “I gift you this spot here to put your wine.”  If the spot is next to a radiator or above the microwave, you’ve just insulted them, but if it’s in an out-of-the-way place that’s got a steady temperature to it, you will be thanked.

Cost: $0-$40.  A Wayne Inheritence would be required for the bat wine cave.

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