Friday, September 18, 2009

Creme de Violette!

OK, I give.

I admit it.

An Aviation is much more flight-worthy with just a drop of the odd 'n' quasi-archaic liqueur in it. And it DOES seem to be an ingredient in the oldest recipes I've come across for this gin sour. AND it does also seem to be a topic of hot discussion in blogs that deal with cocktails only (instead of cocktails and free-form radio and the life of me like this blog).

I had a perfectly balanced, faintly violet-hued Aviation at Vessel in Seattle the weekend before last, and I'm here to tell you that I've had a conversion experience.

Spent some time back home here in NY trying to update my Aviation recipe. You have to be careful with Creme de Violette. Too much of the stuff and it does indeed taste like "licking a French whore's neck, and not in a good way", as another blogger has noted. The closest I've come to true Aviation satisfaction has been this spin on Paul Harrington's formulation from Cocktail:

1 and 1/2 oz. good gin (not Hendricks, though!)
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz. maraschino
1/4 oz. creme de violette

Shake hard and serve up in an a chilled cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry. If this seems tart to you--and it is pretty tart--add a few drops more maraschino, not creme de violette. If you're going to the trouble of getting creme de violette, you might want to consider putting up your own cocktail cherries--not a big deal if you use the frozen ones that come pre-pitted but not sugared.

For the cherries: Cook 'em up in a pan with a little simple syrup and water, maybe half a cup for a supermarket packet or two of frozen cherries (or use orgeat and water). Simmer just a minute or two. Scoop with a slotted spoon into a jar. Pour over them about 3/4 to one cup of not-precious brandy and top off with the cooking juices. Pop in a cinnamon stick if you want. These'll keep several weeks at least in the fridge.

This week on Cocktails with Chris--klezmer bluegrass, farewell to Mary Travers, and some Bumbershoot leftovers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Again...and a cocktail radio show

The rain we're getting outside the Potter building this morning as I put together this afternoon's radio show seems appropriate. It's the kind of day that never moves far away from twilight. We've had some dramatic downpours, but mostly just drizzle and gentle rain. Things seem very green outside.

I was in another life on 9/11, still teaching school. I was in the middle of starting my AP Lit class on Sons and Lovers and I barely knew students' names yet. Second period: that's when the attacks happened. I was unaware. Then, the bell rang and I went upstairs to the English Department office through oddly hushed halls. A line of parents snaked out of the principal's office, and I wondered why. None of my colleagues were drinking coffee at the long table where we usually gathered to hoot over various classroom silliness. My boss was on a personal leave day--that I knew--so I answered her phone when it rang.

It was her daughter, who worked in midtown NY, and just wanted her mom to know she was alright. When I told her I was delighted she was alright and asked why she might not be, she told me everything all at once: the towers on fire, the Pentagon, the plane down in Pennsylvania. I had a hard time taking my breath for a minute, and then snapped back to being Ms. Potter instead of Christine. I reminded her that her mom was off work that day and probably reachable by cell, but that I'd try to get in touch, too, and leave a message at least.

Of course. The other teachers were off where there were TV's, probably up in my friend Dave's video department. And the parents? Taking their kids home from school of course. I knew right away that I couldn't watch TV news or I wouldn't be able to stand in front of a class. I walked down the stairs and past a bunch of classrooms. My principal was standing in the hall, arms crossed over his chest, looking grim but calm.

"Whatever do we do?" I asked him.

"Teach the kids," he said. "Don't let your classes be too much about the attacks. Get through the day. Teach the kids."

It was the right advice, and I followed it.

Eight years has blunted the sense of the world turning over, but nothing can put things back the way they were before the attacks--for me or for any American.

A few years later, I retired from teaching, and now I do a cocktail radio show on I play music, and I talk about drinks. We had Manhattans at our house that awful night, I remember--and strong drinks though they were, it was like sipping iced tea. Today on Cocktails with Chris, I intend to be respectful but rocking. I'm thinking a whiskey sour might be soothing. I tasted an excellent one of them in Seattle this past weekend, where I went to the Bumbershoot festival. I'll be playing some music from there, too.

Tune in!