Posts Tagged ‘cocktails’

6th October
written by Arthur

IMG_1323The best feeling in the kitchen is when something comes out so well it’s surprising. I had that feeling while unscrewing the cap on my first bottle of homemade ginger beer. Before I had even taken a sip, I could see the tiny bubbles filtering up through the opaque liquid. Even if it didn’t taste right I had carbonated a beverage using only the power of yeast, sugar, and water. Lucky it also tasted good–maybe not as strong in flavor as I would have liked but the burn grew the lower down in the bottle I went.

A few months back I was doing a road trip through the Midwest with some friends. When we stayed with a couple in Chicago the lovely lady of the house was in the process of starting to brew some ginger beer. I had never thought of doing that but it sounded cool. After talking to her about it she kindly sent me on my way with some champagne yeast to help do the job. The yeast sat about in my kitchen for a good while until I started reading Proof: The Science of Booze (a must read for any one who is at interested in science and drinking). The description in the first few chapters of the magic and history of fermentation made me need to try it myself.


I had misplace the printed instructions my friend and given me and so took to the internet and found this:


2 1/2 cups (600 milliliters) warm, filtered (or pre-boiled) water
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne yeast (the everything store has it)
Freshly grated ginger
Granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 jalapeño, sliced (optional–I didn’t use, but will on a next go)
1 large glass jar
2 to 3 clean plastic soda bottle

Directions (with my own take):


Drink Up

The first step is making a “plant” for the ginger beer. In a glass jar stir the yeast into the water until dissolved. Add in 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sugar, the lemon juice, and the sliced jalapeño, if you’re using it. Stir to combine. (The jalapeño supposedly gives the ginger the burn–I didn’t use it and got some burn, but not as much as I would have liked). Cover the jar with a cheese cloth a rubber band. Place the jar in a warm place.

Every day for the next week you’ll have to feed the plant. Each day add a tablespoon of grated ginger and a tablespoon of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then replace the cloth and put back in a warm place. Don’t worry about being exact at this phase. After week there should be bubbles of a foam on top of the liquid. If you want a stronger flavor keep the plant going longer. The next step is bottling. I used a two liter bottle and a one liter bottle.

Use plastic bottles. Again: use plastic bottles. The pressure can really build up from the fermentation. If you use glass it could explode.

Using a cheesecloth, strain the plant out into a large measuring cup or bowl.

Fill the bottles two thirds of the way with water, use a funnel to add sugar, and shake to dissolve the sugar into the water. Add about a cup of the plant liquid to each clean, dry soda bottle — more if you want your ginger beer stronger, less if you want it less intense. Stir with a chopstick to combine. In adding half the mixture to a one liter and half to a two liter I could taste the extra strength in additional plant in the bottle.

Seal the bottles tightly with their caps and put them back in the a warm place. Every 24 hours, squeeze the bottles to test how they’re carbonating. When they feel like a rock and are impossible to squeeze at all, slowly start to unscrew the cap just until you hear hissing, but do not open it all the way. Let out some of the carbonation, then seal it back tightly.

After about two weeks of bottle time the magic of fermentation should have happened–that sugar will now be booze and it’s time to enjoy. Add more sugar or lemon juice if the ginger beer needs it. Then drink it on the rocks or make your self a Moscow Mule or Dark N’ Stormy. Just make sure you finish the bottle in a few hours–it goes flat fast.



5th February
written by Arthur

Every now and then, I stumble across something here in New York that just can’t be found in the Twin Cities.  This time it was a dimly lit bar with a brightly lit stage with a full band pumping out swing and jazz music to the bar and the dance floor.  For those from Minnesota, I know that the Twin Cities has places that sound similar to this, but not ones that are really on the same level in terms of size and energy.  I think the closest was Sophia’s in down on St. Anthony Main, which unfortunately closed around 2005.

Meg had been to Swing 46 before, but I was a virgin.  We didn’t start the night with plans to hit up Swing 46.  One of Meg’s friends, Rakesh, was doing a little Valentine’s show down the street (46th Street–aka Restaurant Row) at a piano bar: Don’t Tell Mama.  On our way to the show, Meg convinced me to stop outside and take a look at the televised live feed Swing 46 has of their dance floor.  While  watching a pre-show dance lesson we got to chatting with the promoter who was working to pull people in from the street.  We told him our plans for the show and dinner reservation down the street and he offered to waive the $12 cover if we wanted to come back for a drink later.

The Bar

After the Valentine’s show (good, but too heavy on the serious songs and too light on the funny and fast-paced fare) and an fairly average dinner at Don’t Tell Mama’s restaurant, we headed back to Swing 46.   As we walked in and the music from the stage in the main room rolled over us, the first thing that struck me was the size of the place–a large bar area and huge main room.  After checking our coats, as asked by the hostess, we found ourselves in the bar area, a large room with table seating opposite the bar.  The room with the bar opens into the larger main room, featuring a stage and a dance floor lined with larger tables for dinner seating. We were able to grab a seat at the very end of the bar which provided a great view into the main room at the stage.  After seeing the stage and the white table cloth tables I couldn’t help but feel like I was waiting for Indian Jones in the opening scenes of The Temple of Doom.

Okay, so this place has great music and atmosphere, but why am I writing about it here on Eat Cook Live?  In a word: cocktails.  The bartender Jake was a man who knew his booze.  For our first round, which at the time we thought would be our only round, Meg ordered a cocktail off the menu, the “Swing 46,” and I ordered a negroni.  About 20 seconds after we put in our order, the bartender swung back.  Usually this means I need to walk the bartender through how to make a negroni: equal parts gin, campari, and sweet vermouth, topped with soda water and severed with an orange peel.  But, as it turned out, the opposite was true.   Jake said something along the lines of “since you ordered an negroni I’m going to assume that you know something about cocktails and steer you away  from the ‘Swing 46.'”   After quick exchange with Meg about what she likes,  a gin based drink was decided on.  Jake muddled two cucumber slices and a little lime into some Hendriks  gin.  With the addition of a little simple syrup (sugar water), a shake, a pour, and a cucumber garnish and the drink was ready.  The cucumber was refreshing and the simple syrup added just enough sweetness.  A few minutes later my negroni arrived.  Jake used a lemon instead of the usual orange, which was fine, given that this was also Hendriks based.  With a little extra attention, Jake was sure to carefully squeeze some of the oil from the lemon peel into the drink.

George Gee

Realizing we had found a good thing with the drinks, and loving the George Gee Band on stage, we decided to have  one more drink.  This time I ordered us each a champagne cocktail and again entrusted the details to Jake.  A combination of vodka, muddled lime, simple syrup, and honey was mixed and topped with champagne.  Again, the drink was light, flavorful, and not overly sweet.   As we sipped we watched the stage and dance floor.  The leader of the band is a short stocky Asian man, whose voice is nothing like you’d expect.  With seemingly endless energy he kept the room and the band rolling.  The male vocalist, John Dokes, had voice that I can only describe as golden butter.  The dance floor would fill and wain depending on the song being played.  The mix of the people dancing was broad, from the young and fit to the heavy and middle aged.  The dancing highlight was a woman who I am guessing was somewhere in her mid 80’s.  Dancing with vocalist Dokes, she tore up the floor.

John Dokes

While watching and listening to the show, we enjoyed random small bits of conversations with Jake–mostly about cocktails.  Somewhere  during the night I learned how to make lime infused simple syrup.  A potential gem for summer cocktails.

For the atmosphere and for the great drinks I will definitely be making a return to Swing 46.  On the next trip, Meg and I plan to take advantage of the free early-evening swing lessons to prepare for a night of more than just great booze.