Drink of the Week: The Perfect Gentlemen

The Perfect Gentlemen.Yes, Drink of the Week is back this week, but work on the new location at Drink of the Week Plaza continues and I’m really not even remotely settled in yet. Odds are, it’ll be a few weeks before I get back on a more regular, weekly boozing schedule. Even so, I was tempted away by one of my boozy benefactors to come back with a special Valentine’s Day edition of DOTW and a really delicious recipe they gave me absolutely for free. It’s a doozy.

This week’s selection is as sweet and delicious as love itself and, if you drink enough of it, is guaranteed to enlarge your heart…with cholesterol. Very honestly, however, it’s tasty enough that you may might not mind. No joke, the anonymous mixologist who developed this for the Laphroaig Scotch Whiskey people knew what the hell he or she was doing.

The Perfect Gentlemen

1 1⁄2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
3⁄4 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 1⁄2 ounces heavy cream
2-3 dashes orange bitters
Chocolate shavings (highly desirable garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake with all the vigor of a new romance, and strain into a cocktail glass. (The Laphroaig people think it should be stemless.) Top with some chocolate shavings. Toast whoever you’re looking at…and mean it, even if you’re looking in the mirror.

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Like our last great drink,  this week’s selection is a warm and loving finger directly in the eye of the idea that there are no great Scotch based cocktails. What’s really interesting about the Perfect Gentlemen is that it really does seem to be best with this very particular brand, which I’ll admit to having quite a crush on. Yes, it’s true  I got my bottle of Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky for free but the distinctively ultra-smokey flavor, with a hint of sweetness and a bit of vegetables too, has really grown on me. I might even purchase a bottle some day with my own money!

In the Perfect Gentlemen, the evocative smoke of the single malt Scotch cuts through the sweet creaminess of the crème de cacao chocolate liqueur and the heavy cream in just the right way. I tried the drink with a very decent inexpensive blended Scotch and found the results to be, relatively speaking, dullsville. I’m totally sold on the Laphroaig for the Perfect Gentlemen and would suggest you try it that way, if at all possible.

I also strongly suggest you don’t skip the chocolate shavings. This is Valentine’s Day after all, and chocolate really does seem to be related to love in some unusual way.  Cheapskates will be happy to know that you don’t necessary have to use a fancy or expensive brand. My shavings were produced by taking a dull knife to a Hershey Bar.

I do have to admit, however, that my second Perfect Gentleman was, while still delicious, ever so slightly less rapturous than my first. My measurements may have been slightly off that time because my usual measuring jigger is still packed away somewhere. Or, maybe, it’s just that there’s no topping that first blush of true romance. Happy Valentine’s Day, anyway.

  

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Most Memorable Hockey Fights in History

hockey fight

Fistfights on the ice are almost a quintessential part of any hockey game. When a couple of guys (or girls!) lose it in the emotion of the game and start pounding away at each other, fans get caught up in the brawling, and sports highlights reels spin. Take a recent example — when the Vancouver Canucks played the L.A. Kings on January 13, 2014, Canuck Tom Sestito started punching Jordan Nolan of the Kings right after the faceoff. Sestito’s one second of play generated 27-minutes-worth of penalties, earned him the designation “Worst Sports Person in the World” from ESPN’s Keith Olbermann and started a much-watched Twitter fight between Olbermann and Sestito’s 13-year-old sister, Victoria.

Ten former NHL players, including former All-Star Gary Leeman, have sued the NHL for failing to educate them and to prevent recurring concussions. Despite the danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the deaths of multiple players from the head trauma-induced disorder, hockey fisticuffs are unlikely to stop anytime soon. There’s not enough room to recap every hockey fight in history, but NHL fans should remember at least a few of these memorable clashes. Grab your favorite team’s gear and get excited for the next match.

Bob Probert and Tie Domi — 1992

Bob Probert was one of hockey’s most seasoned fighters, and he probably didn’t believe that the much-shorter Tie Domi would be much of a match for him. Domi dangled the gloves first, but he waited until Probert made the first move. In the beginning, Probert and Domi’s fight didn’t pack much punch; Domi was too short to reach Probert with his left, and Probert kept hitting Domi’s helmet with his right. Then, Probert pulled Domi in, and Domi landed two fast punches that opened a four-stitch cut over Probert’s right eye. The two continued to struggle, with Probert entangled in his own ripped sweater, until the refs finally broke up the fight. As Domi skated toward the penalty box, he put on an imaginary championship belt to the delight of the 22,000-strong crowd.

Stan Jonathan and Pierre Bouchard — 1978

Jonathan was six inches shorter than Bouchard and 30 pounds lighter, and at first, fans thought Jonathan didn’t have a chance. However, because of his ability to duck Bouchard’s punches, Jonathan soon gained the upper hand. He delivered a right to Bouchard’s forehead and then a nasty left overhand punch to Bouchard’s nose, sending the big man down onto the ice with blood squirting out of his nose. Bouchard had prevailed over Dave Schultz, Ted Irvine and Wayne Cashman on the ice, but he couldn’t defeat Stan Jonathan, who had the bulldog defensive moves of a professional boxer.

Bob Probert and Craig Coxe — 1987

Probert and Coxe were both huge guys, and during the game, they threw off their gloves and started wailing each other with punches. After the fight had gone on for about 40 seconds, Probert looked like he’d had enough. However, he grabbed the back of Coxe’s jersey and started pummeling him with heavy-fisted rights from behind before the refs pulled Coxe away. Tragically, Bob Probert died at the age of 45 in 2010. Postmortem examination showed signs of CTE.

Scott Stevens and Dave Manson — 1991

In the fight known as the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre,” the Blackhawks and Blues were milling around the St. Louis net when the players started pairing up to duke it out. Big defenders Scott Stevens and Dave Manson skated away from the crowd to center ice, where Manson delivered a series of rights that left Stevens staggering and bleeding around his left eye. Stevens had been instigating fights all night, and the announcers and fans agreed that he deserved a righteous beatdown. Both teams were fined $10,000, and a total of 12 players were ejected from the game.

Flyers and Canadiens — 1987

Four players were on the ice before Game 6 of the Wales Conference when Claude Lemieux shot a puck into Philadelphia’s goal. Hospodar went after him, and both teams piled onto the ice. Dave Brown even ran out of the locker room without his shirt on and started hammering Chris Nilan. Hospodar was suspended for the rest of the playoffs, and the NHL initiated an automatic $10,000 fine and a 10-game ban for players that cleared the benches to fight. Coaches were also fined if they failed to control their players, and the new restrictions dampened most players’ enthusiasm for bench clearing.

Image by Les Stockton from Flickr Creative Commons

About the author: Blake Hollande lives in Quebec City and is an insatiable hockey fan.

  

Gearing up for the Super Bowl matchup

Now that all of the drama about the weather is subsiding a bit, the betting frenzy around the Super Bowl can focus more on the teams and the game. The video above gives some perspective on how Las Vegas handles the biggest betting event of the year and how professional betters deal with the game. The key is grinding it out over time.

THis of course has nothing to do with how casual betters will approach the game, where it’s much more about fun. Of course there are plenty of serious and smart sports betters on this game, and many of them will be reaserching everything about the matchups and checking out Top Betting Reviews on where to handle their action. They probably won’t mess around with the crazy prop bets.

As for the game, this matchup offers plenty for betters to ponder. With the weather looking mild, it appears that Seattle will have to rely on their own abilities to stop Peyton Manning and Denver’s high octane offense. But we’ve seen that happen in Super Bowls before, with high scoring passing teams like Tom Brady’s Patriots and Jim Kelly’s Bills. The Patriots were pummeled with a real pass rush. The Bills seemed to be addicted to the pass and wouldn’t let their running game get going.

This time we have Seattle’s excellent secondary which seems to smother wide receivers. The key is whether they can do this to the Broncos. The problem is that Peyton Manning understands how to exploit what a defense is doing, and here he has two weeks to prepare.

Of course, we also have the Seattle offense to consider. Can they run on the Broncos? If not, can Russell Wilson win this game for them? Wilson is the wild car here. He’s not nearly as good as some analysts suggest, but he’s capable of making a big play with his legs and his arm.

Still, while a close game is probably in the cards, it will be interesting to see how Seattle responds if Denver jumps to a quick lead.

  

Freemark Abbey is a Standout Napa Valley Winery

I just spent ten days tasting wine in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Over that time I visited a ton of wineries and sampled countless wines. The types of visits, the styles of wine and everything else varied greatly. Some wineries had a few wines I liked; one or two had none at all. At precious few I enjoyed the vast majority of what they poured. One of the things that stood out convincingly at Freemark Abbey was the quality of the portfolio from top to bottom. The tasting I had was fairly exhaustive, including not only just about every current release but also reserve wines and a couple of older vintages. One of the older wines I tasted was a single vineyard Cabernet from 1981 (but a bit more on that later). Many of the wines they make are smaller production aimed at their wine club, tasting room and select higher end wine shops. However even the three wines which they make oodles of, and send out into the world at large, are each excellent examples of their varietals. Here’s a look at them.

freemark_abbey_1

The Freemark Abbey 2012 Chardonnay was produced using fruit sourced in four distinct sub-appellations within Napa Valley. This wine is 100 percent Chardonnay. Fermentation took place in stainless steel at a temperature controlled over a period of roughly 22 days. Barrel aging took place over 4 months in a combination of French (86 percent) and American (14 percent) oak; 15 percent of the barrels utilized were new. Thirteen thousand cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $30. Chardonnay happens to be a grape I’m a bit finicky about. When it’s well made in a style I enjoy, I can love it; however that isn’t the case often enough. Granny Smith apple aromas are present on the nose. Anjou pear, yellow delicious apple and a potpourri of spices mark the palate, which is deep, concentrated with flavor and even-keeled. A nucleus of minerals and a continuing core of spices are present on the finish, which has above-average length. The oak on this wine adds some complexity and character but never detracts from the brilliant fruit flavors. It has more in common stylistically with Chablis than the style of Chardonnay most think of as classic Napa.

The Freemark Abbey 2011 Merlot was produced from fruit in a number of Napa Valley sub-appellations. In addition to Merlot (82.3 percent), this wine also has some Cabernet Sauvignon (9.4 percent), Petit Verdot (7 percent), and Cabernet Franc (1.3 percent) blended in. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel over approximately 22 days; 14 months of barrel aging followed. The oak used was a combination of French and American barrels, of which 25 percent were new. They produced 12,000 cases of this vintage, and it has a suggested retail price of $34. Black cherry and violet aromas permeate the nose of this Merlot. Those cherry characteristics (both red and black) continue through the palate along with bits of leather, dark chocolate and a hint of cinnamon. The finish here is long and complex with all of that fruit being joined by wisps of earth and chicory. This is a textbook example of Merlot in the best sense of that term. It tastes like Merlot, which is no small feat; so many examples are, at best, anonymous. The Freemark Abbey Merlot is a fine one, with structure, varietal character and complexity to spare.

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Drink of the Week: Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand. If you notice a sort of philosophic air to this post, let’s say that’s because life and death is swirling around Drink of the Week. People in my sphere are being born and others have made their last appearance after good and long lives, and that’s not all. This will be the final entry in Drink of the Week written before our departure from DOTW Central in exciting Van Nuys and our arrival at what we sure hope will be more permanent digs at DOTW Plaza in exotic North Hollywood.

Expect a DOTW return to a more regular schedule in a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s maybe one of the very finest and also most crowd-pleasing cocktails we’ve done here. And, yes, it features Scotch. Such things are possible.

I’ve been circling Blood and Sand, an infrequently revived classic, apparently named for the hugely successful 1922 bullfighting melodrama (viewable via YouTube), for several months. I’ve been biding my time because I had figured out a true Blood and Sand almost had to feature the juice of a blood orange, a fruit which has a relatively brief winter season. Yes, most recipes simply call for orange juice, but now it’s clear to me that the juice of the smaller purple fleshed orange, which looks exactly like grape juice, is the life’s blood of a truly outstanding Blood and Sand. Regular OJ is also definitely an option, but we’ll get to the issues around that later.

Blood and Sand

1 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 ounce fresh blood orange juice or, if it’s all you’ve got, regular orange juice
1 ounce Cherry Herring
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine the Scotch, citrus juice, Cherry Herring — a very delicious liqueur you’ll be seeing more of here — and sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously as a toreador torturing a testosterone-laden bovine and strain into a not too small chilled cocktail glass, adding your orange twist. Feel free to reduce the ingredients down to 3/4 of an ounce if  you want a smaller drink. If you’re a silent film fan, you can certainly toast the charismatic star of the first version of the movie, Blood and Sand, Rudolph Valentino, who famously had his own dance with death much too early. Or, you can simply toast getting to enjoy another day on this earth and being able to sample this super-spiffy drink.

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I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s hard to find any solid info behind my assumption that blood orange juice was part of the original Blood and Sand, whenever and wherever it was made. The recipe that I basically stole from the prohibition-era The Savoy Cocktail Book makes no mention of blood orange, nor does Ted Haigh in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. On the other hand, the cocktail enthusiast who contributed the Wikipedia stub on the drink specifically mentions blood orange juice, as do several bloggers.

I think it’s very safe to figure that the original Blood and Sand had some real blood orange in it and it makes an enormous difference. The tangier flavor of the blood orange, which has a hint of grapefruit to it, is just the perfect balance for the sweeter ingredients, particularly the Cherry Herring. Although my picture doesn’t do it much justice, it also looks vastly better this way — a deep red, as opposed to a muddy orange.

Speaking of Cherry Herring, it is typically used for the cherry brandy mentioned in a lot of recipes. This is confusing because brandy is usually a distilled spirit that’s a million miles from a liqueur. Apparently, somewhere along the way, cherry brandy, cherry flavored brandy, and cherry liqueurs have all become oddly interchangeable with, I guess, the exception of cherry-derived kirsch, or kirschwasser, brandy. In any case, Cherry Herring, a standby cocktail ingredient you’ll be seeing here again, has become the standard for a Blood and Sand.

Getting back to my own adventures with this drink, whenever I used the blood orange, I found it pretty indestructible — sweet, of course, but with a nectar-of-the-gods sort of complexity to it. For my Scotch, I mostly used Grant’s, a very good, basic choice for this type of drink. (I’m sure any standard brand — Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, etc. — will also work just great.) Though some discourage the use of smokier Scotchs, I also found that the strong smoke flavor of Laphroaig 10 Year Old, featured here previously, added a very nice undercurrent to the drink; it also saved an unblooded Blood and Sand from being even slightly cloying when I tried it with regular orange juice.

But that still left the problem of what to do with the still enjoyable, but arguably overly sweet flavor, of the non-blood orange Blood and Sand when you’re using a less smokey Scotch. One decent solution comes from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. He reduces all the ingredients, save the OJ, to 3/4 of an ounce, making for lighter, more refreshing but still darn sweet concoction. (He also flames the orange twist…but then DeGroff always fires up his orange peels.)

Ted Haigh proposes a slightly boozier alternative which I haven’t had a chance to experiment with as yet. He proposes an ounce each of juice and Scotch, but reduces the cherry liqueur and sweet vermouth down to 3/4 ounce, while adding a super-sweet cocktail cherry to the mix. Let’s all give that one a try when blood oranges finally go out of season.

  

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