Friday, July 4, 2008

What's in the Cabinet

It's a popular trend to list the bottles in your cabinet. Paul Clarke does it here. And here's Jeffrey Morgenthaler's. In my previous life, in Brooklyn, I had a nice collection growing above 30 bottles. I moved west, but the bottles didn't move with me. On a recent visit back east, I wasn't at all surprised to find the former roommates had emptied almost everything that could be drunk straight, as well as several things that should not have been. There were still several "creme de (fill-in-the-blank)s" but no base spirits. So much for my investment, though at least my karma points have increased.

In my new home, I started over with nothing. Building a home collection takes time, and certainly a significant investment, but it's all part of the geekiness that cocktails encourage in this day and age. It was easy in New York, with Astor Wines a few doors down from the office. If a spirit had distribution, I could count on them selling it. Unfortunately, in Seattle that's no longer the case. Were I content to exclusively drink martinis and Manhattans with the occasional rum and Coke (ha!), stocking would be no trouble. But I like the process of mixing. I enjoy ritual and time consumption. I've never made drinks requiring lemon or lime without squeezing the fruit myself. A decade ago, that was as fastidious as I knew how to be. But the times have swung even further, to hand-crafted syrups, long steeped tinctures, bitters recipes as long as your arm, and weeks-long spirit blends, so I'm on that wagon as well.

I'm working on two different things at the moment, with recipes provided by helpful bloggers. The first is Jamie Boudreau's well publicized Amer Picon recreation. I tasted it at Vessel on my first trip to Seattle and was hooked. I've been looking for it ever since I got my copy of Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead's now almost unattainable classic Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century. I love it as much now as I did 10 summers ago when I first bought it. It took 9 years before finding maraschino liqueur for purchase, so perhaps Amer Picon will eventually see American distribution again. Today I began work on pimento dram as per Paul Clarke. I have ten days + one month to wait for that to be ready. At that rate, it should be ready at about the same time I assemble the rest of the Amer Picon.

Along with those to major time-consumers, I have several more mainstream items in the cabinet.

Gin: Bombay, Broker's, Junipero, Plymouth, Rogue

Rye: Jim Beam, Rittenhouse, Russell's Reserve, Wild Turkey 101

Bourbon: Bulleit

Scotch: Famous Grouse

Applejack: Laird's

Rum: Bacardi 151, Barbancourt Reserve Speciale, Cockspur, Goslings Black Seal, Lemon Hart Demerara, Pusser's Blue, Rogue

Bitter / Herbal: Becherovka, Campari, Cynar, Fernet Branca

Liqueur: Amaretto di Amore, Benedictine, B&B, Berentzen Apfel Korn, Cointreau, Frangelico, Kahlua, Luxardo Maraschino, Maraska Maraschino, Pallini Raspicello, Pernod, Sophia's Lemoncella

Sherry: Lustau Deluxe Cream Capataz Adresm, Sandeman Armada Rich Cream Oloroso, Sandeman Don Fino Superior Fino,

Wine: Cinzano sweet vermouth, Dubonnet Rouge, Lillet Blanc, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, Punt e Mes

Bitters: Angostura, Fee Bros. Old Fashioned, Fee Bros. Orange, Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged, Peychaud's, Regan's, Stirring'

Those are all the things with alcohol. There are a bevy of other juices, syrups, and other flavorful liquids. But if for some reason I had to limit myself to just, oh, let's say 5 bottles total, I would have to keep the Plymouth gin, the Cointreau, some sweet vermouth, a bottle of rye, and probably the Campari, since it's in so many things I really enjoy. I suppose it follows that the other 38 bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and wines all just count as icing on the cake. But the urge to try everything possible is just too tempting.

So what's in your cabinet and why? What do you use most frequently and what do you think you could pretty much do without? You notice I have no vodka. I also don't have any brandy (except the applejack), but that is because of finances more than anything. Ditto for single malt scotches. I've never been a tequila fan, but I'm willing to change given the right circumstance. While my tasted used to be almost exclusively in the gin camp, the past couple years have been far more whisk(e)y-centric. I've moved from very tart, citric drinks to darker, warmer, sweeter, richer fair with plenty of bitters to keep things exciting.

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