Tom Waits; Stan Getz; Rolling Stones…
There are certain operations that, as adults, we all should kinda/sorta be able to perform without much drama. For inst', every grownup should be able to parallel park in less than 30 seconds. No exceptions. Every adult reading this magazine should be able to open a bottle of beer with something other than a bottle opener (keys, lighter, "art glass sculpture," etc.). But beyond these few necessary life lessons is a skill set all adults must be proficient in if they're to be considered "with it," and that's the ability to mix the five classic cocktails. Nope, gin and tonics don't count. That's a highball. A tumbler of single malt scotch is also excluded - no mixology involved. And finally, dance club "woo-woo" drinks/shooters/upside-down whatevers are out simply because no one really takes a Suspended Hairy Nipple that seriously. Plus, they're rather difficult to duplicate at home without rather complicated harnesses.
Before We Begin
You don't need a lot of gear. However, you do need a cocktail shaker. Go buy one, and lovingly welcome this sleek, sexy instrument into your home, for it is, indeed, a gift from the Gods. Secondly, you'll need ice. This doesn't involve a major cash outlay, and if you're short on coin, you can even make your own! Finally, you'll need glasses; a coupla martini glasses (you sexy devil, you) and a coupla tumblers. Optional: a coupla highballs (though substituting pint glasses works in a pinch). If you're feeling extra fancy, spring for a kitchen zester, which will allow you to create those seductive little lemon/lime twists. Oh, one more thing.... Booze. You'll need some.
The venerable Manhattan defines everything about a classic cocktail; it's nuanced, complex and kicks like David Beckham. The bourbon adds both body and mouthwatering vanilla, cinnamon and oak tones, while the vermouth rounds and polishes the sharper ends of the whisky. Yummy!
HOW TO MIX IT
Pack your shaker with ice and pour in two shots of good bourbon. Add a quarter shot of sweet vermouth, just a splash of angostura bitters and a splash of maraschino cherry juice. You can get by without the bitters, but a Manhattan without the cherry is horribly sad. Shake the hell out of the thing if you like your Manhattan up. If you like it on the rocks, no need to give it the "Outkast" treatment. For an up Manhattan, strain and pour into a martini glass and, with a loving touch, send a cherry to its boozy grave. Prefer on the rocks? Drop that cherry in first then send in the ice.
HOW TO SAVOR IT
A Manhattan is a brawny drink, but it's also sophisticated. It's Dean Martin at the Tropicana. It's a big steak dinner with the cronies. It's hearing a saxophone after a day of listening to your damn computer burp, whirl and beep.
The phrase "whisky-soaked" springs immediately to mind when considering the rasp of Tom Waits, and on Rain Dogs, that rasp voices some of his most remarkably comic, carnivalesque and intriguing songs.
John Lee Hooker
The Complete Motown Recordings 1948-1954
One of the classic blues documents of the pre-rock era. Here, Hooker is a one-man house-rocking machine. His dangerous songs are escorted by stiletto-wielding guitar moves, and only his stomping foot keeps time.
Thelonious Monk with Sonny Rollins
Monk was capable of spinning a dizzying path around his piano, but in these sessions, saxist Rollins was up to the task. Full-throttle be-bop from the golden era.
There's no "right" way to make a Bloody Mary. In fact, the variations on the simple tomato/vodka theme are proof of The Mary's classic status. Me? I like 'em all. Spicy, peppery, restrained, with a spear of pickle, avocado or asparagus, or a few pepperoncinis, some horseradish, wasabi... whatever. If you're mixin', I'll have one just like you're havin'.
HOW TO MIX IT
Fill your shaker a third of the way with ice, and add a shot-and-a-half of vodka. Follow with about 4 or 5 ounces of tomato juice and a half teaspoon each of horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Add just a dash of lemon juice and a couple good shakes of Tabasco. Finally, add a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Give a couple moderate shakes, and strain into an ice-filled pint glass. Now, feel free to dunk that celery stick in and get to work curing that hangover.
HOW TO SAVOR IT
Nothing says Sunday morning like a Bloody Mary. Stay in your pajamas, unfold the paper and try (but not too hard) to slowly recall what the hell you did to yourself Saturday night. The stereo - not too loud, please - is playing the following:
Various Artists Greatest College Fight Songs
Tailgating 101. This class is not pass/fail.
Ella and Basie
The ultimate Sunday morning songstress, Ella had the voice. Soaring, gravity-free and pure, Fitzgerald has no equal. On Ella and Basie, she meets her match in Basie's formidable band. A swing summit.
Bill Evans Trio
Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Evans, a reclusive genius (and the piano player on Miles Davis's Kind of Blue) was a heartbreakingly eloquent musician. On this album, he joins his gentle melodies to the strong, lyrical bass lines of bassist Scott LaFaro. Gorgeous.
If there is a stealthy panty/boxer shorts remover on the classics list, it's the underappreciated Sidecar. Full-bodied and sweet, yet balanced by the sharp acidic pop of lemon, the Sidecar - featuring both cognac and cointreau - is certainly an upscale cocktail, but one with a perfectly enchanting blend of flavors. Be warned: the Sidecar isn't a difficult drink to mix - only three ingredients - yet finding the perfect balance can be an obsessive quest.
HOW TO MIX IT
First, fill a martini glass with ice and a splash of water - this chills the glass and adds a frosty, sexy glaze. Next, fill your shaker three-quarters full of ice and add a shot each of cognac and cointreau. If you're using fresh, use the juice of a fourth of a lemon. Use less if you're using bottled juice. Cap the shaker, and shake that baby for all you're worth. You want this drink cold, colder, coldest - with those cool little ice crystals on top. Sugar the rim of the glass. Strain and try - with all your might - not to drink it too fast.
The Richest Man in Babylon
This stellar LP from 2002 features ultra-hip, super-sophisticated genre hopping with dance, reggae, jazz and chilled out grooves taking center stage. The soundtrack to the modern lounge scene.
Released in the final days of the bossa nova craze of the early 1960s, this is the album that's come to define the movement. Languid, low-key and brilliantly soulful, this album begs for a sunset and a Sidecar.
It's been said there are only a handful of perfect pop songs. "God Only Knows," is the perfect pop song, and it's on this recording - along with other pretty okay tunes like "Wouldn't it Be Nice."
You don't get to be North America's most popular cocktail on a fluke. The Margarita is, more than anything, yummy. There's no mistaking the sharp notes of the tequila as you go nose first into the glass. The salted rim is optional; however, use good gold tequila and, if you can, fresh lime.
HOW TO MIX IT
Fill your shaker halfway with ice, and add tequila in a two-to-one ratio to triple sec. For every portion, add the juice of half a lime. Shake. Take a breath. Sip.
HOW TO SAVOR IT
There's a very real grittiness to a Margarita that slips below its perception as a lightweight drinkie. This is, after all, tequila we're talking about.
The best voice, the tightest band, the coolest songs in all of punk - and perhaps all of rock n' roll - continue their string of completely kickass albums with Indestructible. Though they strut about in spikes and Mohawks, Rancid's roots rock to the core with gut-buzzin' guitars, sing-along choruses and plenty of adrenaline.
Tijuana Hit Squad
Over-the-top surf music tangles with surly biker attitudes. Surprisingly, everyone goes home happy!
Gritty hard rock, blues and country on one of the Stones' best hard-drinking albums.
Yeah, vodka. Not gin. Vodka. The VODKA Martini is the classic, and if you've got a beef with that, please take it up with Mr. Bond. Served icy, icy cold, the vodka - with its subtle sweetness - waltzes gracefully with the soft herbal airs of the dry vermouth. The result is a molar-numbing drink, but it's one that, if executed properly, glides into the bloodstream like a silver phantom.
HOW TO MIX IT
If there's one piece of advice worthy of passing along regarding the Vodka Martini, it's this: you canNOT have it too cold. Put everything in the freezer: the vodka, the vermouth, the glass - in fact, if you have a large enough freezer, mix the whole damn drink in there. Fill your shaker three-quarters full with ice and add half a shot of dry vermouth. Give it a quick shake or two, and strain the vermouth out. Next, add two shots of your super-cold vodka and shake. But be quick! You don't want to water down the drink! Finally, drop an olive into your freezingasscold martini glass and strain. The first sip should give you one of the shooting pains between the eyes you used to get from drinking a Slurpee too quickly.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
This is the most romantic album ever recorded. Coltrane's lush fluent sax and Hartman's exquisite vocals meld into a pool of helpless, hopeless romantic bliss. Ladies and gents, if this album doesn't get you laid, there's simply no hope for you.
A Swingin' Affair!
This is Frank at the top of his estimable game. Confident, suave and in charge.
Stefan Betke's minimal tones and pulses create dub music as icy and austere as the perfectly frigid Vodka Martini. Subtle, serene and smart.
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