Monday, August 22, 2011

Fruit of the Vine

Oops, I did it again! Tried to write a post in my sleep that is.
This time, though, I think I remember enough of what I wanted to talk about to just dive in and do it.

This time, I want to talk about booze. Margaritas and wine specifically. And I will mention the mighty Manhattan too. That should adequately cover all of my favorite libations.  But it's not really the drinks I want to talk about, it's my friends.

Blackberry margarita?
What was I thinking?
Blood orange margarita...
seemed like a good idea at the time?
Ok, so, on my 21st birthday, I called my mother at noon to get her not-so-Super-Secret Margarita recipe. I wanted in on the family secret, and it's really quite simple, but makes fantastic frozen margaritas, which is funny, since Mom likes hers best on the rocks, but Dad likes them frozen, and it's just easier to blend up a pitcher of those anyway, so... yeah. I called at noon, and my mother (who was in California at the time, while I still lived in Nebraska) was a little shocked that I was calling for booze recipes before lunch, but then I reminded her of the time difference and promised not to consume them until a more reasonable hour. I think I waited until like... 2. Because I had to go buy supplies, or course! Now, in it's simplest form, I think a margarita is just lime & tequila (with simple syrup so it's not all bitter). I like my margaritas pretty simple, with just a splash of orange-flavored something in there. I don't care for flavored margaritas or funky recipes with sweet and sour mix or other nonsense. I've tried some. It never really ends well for me. 

I am not a margarita aficionado. I leave that to my friend MB. She's a... bottomless well of information about tequila and margaritas. If you need to know where to get a good margarita in whatever town you're in, you call MB. Also, my first memory of my friend Amy is that she was the girl with the good tequila at my first social function in the greater Dallas area. She's my margarita buddy too. There's a fabulous restaurant along I-35 called Bienvenidos and we love it for lots of reasons, one of which is Rene, the best waiter in the history of the service industry, and the other is that this happened:

A group of us came to dine, were seated, and when Rene asked my brother what he wanted to drink, my brother said, "I want a margarita as big as my head." Rene didn't even blink, took the rest of the orders and came back with the biggest margarita glass I'd ever seen outside of a cartoon. It was LITERALLY (not in the internet way, the real way) the size of my brother's whole head. That's why we like Rene. That, and the fact that 4 years later, I walk in and he still knows what I want (sour cream chicken enchiladas & a side of black beans).

Speaking of my brother, this is where I'll make a clumsy switch to talking about wine. My brother is the good kind of wine snob. He's turned his passion for wine into a hobby, and is now half-way to becoming a sommelier. Yeah, I know. It's awesome. But that's not the best part! Well, the best part is that he's my brother, so I get to use and abuse his extensive knowledge at every family gathering. But the other best part, is that he speaks my language when it comes to wine. Actually, he speaks lots of languages, or can at least imitate the accent, but that's not what I mean. I mean that I can tell him that what I'm drinking tastes blue, and he knows what I mean, and better yet, he remembers what I like enough to never let me drink stuff that will make my face pucker. While I can probably tell you the difference between a chardonnay and a Riesling in a blind taste test, he's so good that he can do that thing where he can tell you what kind of grapes were used, where they were grown and the names of the kids of the guys who picked the grapes. Or most of that information anyway. But it's really the best when he hands you a glass, tells you to sip and breathe and describe what you taste and smell. He doesn't giggle at me when I say it tastes like rocks and leather. Turns out, both of those things are on the tasting wheel. "Blue" and "fuzzy" aren't, but he can usually translate those into something useful.

Then, one day, he made me like gin. Pretty much just like that. I had always said that gin tasted like Pine-Sol, therefore I wasn't drinking it. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, he & our friend Dan were concocting drinks. From a book, not just inventing things, although making stuff up by the seat of their pants is sort of a trademark of theirs, and they're pretty good at it. Dan & my brother are a lot like Josh & Sam from the West Wing, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, go watch that show, because Aaron Sorkin tells great stories. Anyway, back to the booze. Dan & Glenn (my brother, for those trying to keep up at home) like to explore stuff and learn stuff and discover stuff, especially when it comes to cooking or drinking or tiny metal sculptures of battle dudes and tank things... but this time, it was about old fashioned cocktails. Not the cocktail "Old Fashioned" although that's one of them. Classic cocktails. 60s type cocktails with sugar cubes and twists of lemon that require shakers and stuff. At first, it was a beautiful lavender concotion called a Blue Moon that Dan made for me. I liked it, but was convinced that it was a fluke. Gin was still an evil thing, and juniper berries should be left alone. Then I got curious about some of the names I was hearing. A Corpse Reviver? French 75? So, ok, I like gin cocktails.

Then I exercised the best rule of my brother's drinks--everything tastes better from his glass. I don't know why this is true, but it is. And usually he indulges me and lets me have a taste of whatever he's drinking. Which is how I fell in love with Manhattans. Now I have 3 different kinds of bitters at home and a very large jar of maraschino cherries in my fridge. Of course, my brother introduced me to the real thing, which is dark and sweet and rich, not like the bright red things we're used to, but I live with the bright red grocery store version for now. Someday I'll splurge and treat myself to a real kicker of a Manhattan. For now, I'll just sip them out of my brother's glass!

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