All posts by CarterHayes

3 September 2021: Colloquial

On the way to school this morning, the Poissonnière was talking about the new game she learned at school yesterday. I told her I learned a similar game when I was a kid, but it was called something else.

Wittgenstein wrote that the limits of one’s language are the limits of their world. I’ve noticed that she pronounces certain words differently than I do, regional subtleties that make it clear we’re from different places. No doubt the color of our language will wash our worlds with unique tinctures.

If she starts calling one of these a “bubbler,” I don’t know what I’m gonna do.

Basic Bar: Spirits

Introduction

Building up a personal bar can be a delicious voyage of self-discovery. It can also be pretty flipping expensive, particularly if you develop a taste for vintage spirits or specialized cocktails (Tiki, for example). The good news is that there's been a lot of thought put into various schemes for stocking a nascent bar or for dealing with limited space for your cocktail ephemera.

I'm going to tip my hat to the various discussions of 9–12 bottle bars that were in vogue a half-dozen years ago or so. Like building a starting lineup and bench in baseball, it's good to have a few stars supported by several quality players who have positional flexibility. I'm going to divide the basic bar into three categories — spirits, liqueurs, & augmentors — with dedicated posts. That's where this conversation starts; where it ends is basically determined by a combination of your desire to explore, your palate, and your wallet.

One thing to remember: the marketing arms of every distiller & distributor on the plant expend a great amount of money & effort trying to convince you that you need to stock their bottles, which has both credible (the company has lasted forever) and dubious (the equipment/formula/technique to produce the spirit or liqueur has changed over time) claims to longevity. Beyond that, you'll be assailed by every claim of exclusivity & intangibles you can think of, and probably many you couldn't. Follow your tongue — the best bottle for you is one that tastes good and that you can afford to keep on hand.

Spirits

Unless you know from past experience you don't like one of the distillates below, you should probably plan on having a bottle of each of the following in your bar:

  • gin
  • rum
  • tequila
  • vodka
  • whisk(e)y

With these, you'll have the base ingredient for most classic cocktails & quite a range of modern ones. My personal bar varies here because I don't drink whiskey often, but I love brandy, which I think most folks outside of the state where I reside view as a luxury spirit, if they think of it much at all. More on brandy, which actually figures significantly in both the classic and pre-classic cocktail eras, in a future installment.

Let's take each spirit in order, looking at the styles within, and good options for stocking a bar. I'll provide some selections at the Rail (~$20/bottle) and Call ($25+/bottle) level.

Gin

Rail: Aviation, Beefeater, Citadelle, Knickerbocker, Tanqueray
Call: Ford's, Junipero, Hendrick's, Plymouth, St. George Terroir

Gin can be pretty divisive. Some people like feeling as if they're drinking a glass of conifer juice, and some people really don't. The good news is, there are balanced and even juniper-neutral gins available. You probably already know whether you like a strong juniper taste in your gin, but if you don't, purchasing a couple single-serving bottles of options below and mixing up a Gin & Tonic will orient your preferences.

Classic, Juniper-Forward Gin

A London Dry or any of the modern, New World Gin descendants of that style will suit this preference. The classics here are Beefeater and Tanqueray; Beefeater is almost always considered a good value buy. The more modern takes — Junipero or St. George Terroir, for example — will set you back about half again the price of the bottle of Beefeater, but if you like this style, they're available as a treat.

Plymouth, both a brand and a wholly distinct style of its own, has juniper notes that are bit softer (and to me, more nuanced) than London Dry. It has fruit & spice components; I generally prefer it if I'm making a cocktail with a "classic" gin. Plymouth is a bit spendy, so I chose my drinks carefully and alternate it with Knickerbocker (see below) as my rail gin. There's nothing quite like it.

Contemporary, Juniper-Balanced Gin

Given the relative recency of most gins that foreground botanicals other than juniper, there aren't many archetypal spirits that are going to be available in all markets. The most ubiquitous is probably Hendrick's; Aviation has been around for a while and seems to have some distribution legs behind it at this point. I happen to really like New Holland's Knickerbocker, which balances citrus & spices, and Suntory's Roku, which adds six (thus the name) Japanese botanicals to the traditional mix. Ford's gets a lot of love for a gin that mixes well in a variety of cocktails. Citadelle — which is one of the older "contemporary" options, dating back to 1989 — is a bit more budget-friendly and was one of the pilots of the move toward contemporary gins that heavily emphasize botanicals other than juniper.

Rum

Rum is a spirit you could spend decades exploring, and people develop strong affinities to countries of origin, particular houses, or production methods. It definitely is not an archetype — forget what you know about rum if most of what you've tasted comes from one producer in Puerto Rico.

Strictly speaking, you could make any cocktail calling for light or silver rum with an aged rum and have a delicious drink on your hands. So you don't strictly need two bottles here, particularly to start. I'm skipping the Overproof/Navy Strength, "dark," and spiced types here.

A note: below I recommend rums produced under the Plantation label. Plantation is produced in Barbados by Maison Ferrand, a Cognac house. Due to the colonialist, slave-holding implications of that name, Maison Ferrand committed to renaming the rum following Derek Chauvin's murder of George Floyd. The new name has not yet been announced.

Light/Silver
Rail: Appleton White, El Dorado 3-Year, Flor de Caña Extra Seco 4-Year, Plantation 3 Stars
Call: Caña Brava Rum Blanca, Rhum J.M. Agricole Blanc, Ron Diplomatico Planas, The Real McCoy 3-Year

Plantation 3 Stars is such a good rum at such a nice price that I can't see a real reason to get anything else here unless you have a very strong preference for a particular country of origin, mode of distillation, or flavor profile. There are plenty of variations within those three areas to explore, so you should cycle through until you find one you particularly like. I'll admit this is a category where I've pretty much found what feels like the sweet spot to me.

Aged (5+ years)
Rail: El Dorado 5-Year, Flor de Caña Gran Reserva 7-Year
Call: El Dorado 8-Year, Plantation Barbados 5-Year, Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, The Real McCoy 5-Year

A bottle in this category should serve you for both mixing cocktails and sipping on its own, straight or on the rocks. I'll admit to keeping multiple bottles of aged rum in my bar — right now I have Plantation Barbados 5-Year, Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, & El Dorado 15-Year (sipping only), plus I recently finished a bottle of Real McCoy 5-Year. Rum, like whiskey, is a spirit that invites a lot of exploration between countries of origin, distillers, production methods, spirit ages, and more.

Tequila

As with rum, if you’re starting out, you really only need either a blanco/plata or a reposado. With a budget in mind, I’d go with the blanco unless you’re sure you’re a tequila drinker.

One thing to note with tequila is that there's an additional environmental consideration that doesn't factor into most other spirits (mezcal excepted). Agave takes significantly longer to grow than grain crops — seven years until it's ready for production, and twelve years to reach maturity. Buying one bottle isn't going to destroy the planet, but if you develop a taste for tequila, supporting makers that produce the spirit with ethical, sustainable practices is a very good idea.

Blanco/Plata
Rail: Cazadores Blanco, El Jimador Blanco, Espolón Blanco, Milagro Silver, Olmeca Altos Plata, 1800 Reserva Silver
Call: Don Julio Blanco, El Tesoro Blanco

Do yourself a favor — don't buy any tequila you heard of in college (unless you went to college in Mexico). Those spirits are mixtos — 51% tequila, 49% other stuff. A perfectly decent 100% agave blanco tequila will run you a few bucks more and will taste much better. Espolón was, until recently, an exceptional value — I regularly could get a 750ml bottle for under $20. I still stock it as my rail tequila, but any of these above would serve just as well. You don't want to go too pricey here, at least if you're primarily drinking tequila in cocktails. If you're interested in mixing in a bit of sipping, wait until a call bottle goes on sale.

Reposado
Rail: El Jimador Reposado, Espolón Reposado, Olmeca Altos Reposado
Call: Casamigos Reposado, El Tesoro Reposado, Herradura Reposado (or Double Barrel Reposado)

No need to go crazy here, either, although this is where you can verge into a bottle that does double-duty or is primarily a sipper with an occasional cocktail that calls for a reposado. I stick with Espolón and save my aged agave funds for mezcal or the occasional really nice añjeo tequila.

Vodka

Rail: Chopin Potato, Ketel One, Prairie Organic, Reyka, Russian Standard, Russian Standard Gold, Wheatley
Call: Belvedere, Beluga Noble, Chopin Wheat, Chopin Rye

You have a ton of choices when it comes to vodka. However, that doesn't mean that all vodkas are the same. Despite being a neutral, unaged spirit, vodkas can have distinctive characteristics, particularly when it comes to earthiness, minerality, oiliness, & spiciness. I've avoided a few of the big names — the regular versions of Abolut & Stolichnaya are perfectly decent, but I don't feel like rewarding their marketing departments. A well-stocked supermarket liquor department should have at least two of the options listed above.

Prairie Organic is based in Minnesota, made from 100% Midwestern corn, and uses zero-waste distilling practices. Several years ago I brought a bottle to as a host give a Ukrainian friend who put me up in Brighton Beach during an extended layover (involving La Guardia & JFK) on my way to Moscow — he gave it his seal of approval. If you're looking for a Russian vodka, you can't go wrong with Russian Standard, which is made from winter wheat and water from Lake Ladoga. (I also recommend Russian Standard Gold, if you’d like a little Siberian ginseng in your vodka). These are the two all-purpose vodkas I keep in my bar. I do enjoy drinking vodka neat, so I rotate others through as well.

As for the other rail options: Reyka is Icelandic, made from Scottish barley, Ketel One (Dutch) & Wheatley (Kentucky) are made from wheat, and Chopin Potato is Polish and made from what you would suspect given that information.

Whisk(e)y

Rail: Evan Williams Bourbon, Old Grand-dad Bonded, Rittenhouse Rye 100, Wild Turkey 101
Call: Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye, Elijah Craig 12 Year Bourbon, Sazerac Straight Rye, Wild Turkey Rare Breed (Bourbon or Rye)

Truth be told — I'm not the best person to ask about whisk(e)y. I enjoy a couple whisk(e)y-based cocktails occasionally, but I much prefer rum & tequila (or mezcal), whether for cocktails or sipping. I’ll admit that I only keep a couple bottles of whisk(e)y in my bar — a bottle of Elijah Craig 12 year old bourbon, and bottle of 116-proof bourbon made by a distillery near our friends' place in far-west Chicagoland do the heavy lifting. I would probably get a bottle of rye, were I likely to be mixing drinks for anyone favoring that type.

We'll skip Canadian, Japanese, Irish, & Scotch whisk(e)ys for the basic bar — these are worthy libations, and you could make many whisk(e)y-forward cocktails with them, but most of the time you'd be well-served with a bottle of bourbon or rye. Based on my visits to well-stocked supermarkets & liquor stores, there is a near IPA-level of hype & demand for American whiskey — bourbon having been ascendant for several years now, and rye following close behind. Follow your palate, ask people whose opinions you value, and don't get soaked on the purchase price.

Migas para Mis Amig@s

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp tomatillo salsa, Hatch/green chiles, chipotles in adobo, or fresh hot peppers & shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • shredded Asadero and/or Oaxaca cheese and/or queso fresco
  • tortilla chips
  • tortillas (wheat or corn)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • spices (chile powder, coriander, & cumin suggested)
  • hot sauce(s!)

Optional Additional Toppings

  • cilantro
  • crema/sour cream
  • leftover black or refried beans (reheated)
  • lime juice
  • onion relish
  • queso fresco

Tools

  • 8" skillet (well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick)
  • plancha, crepe pan, or other flat-bottomed cast-iron pan
  • fork or whisk
  • plate
  • silicone spatula
  • small bowl
  • small kitchen towel

Preparation

Crack the eggs into small bowl, then beat or whisk them until the yolks & whites are thoroughly combined. Season the ggs to taste with kosher salt, black pepper, and any combination of spices desired. (I typically use chile powder & cumin, and sometimes include coriander. You could get really interesting and use chaat masala...) Break some tortilla chips into bowl and mix with eggs until the eggs are completely covered; the exact amount is personal preference, and something to dial in over time. Let the tortilla chips soak while moving on with prep. Migas are a great way to use up the chip crumbs at the bottom of the bag, too!

Heat the plancha/crepe pan/cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the pan, one at a time, on each side, until browned & crisped to personal preference. Keep the toasted tortillas warm in a folded kitchen towel. This step can be completed in tandem with the next three steps below.

Melt butter in the skillet until foaming but not browning. Then, add the salsa or any of the following: Hatch/green chiles, chipotles in adobo, or fresh hot peppers & shallots. Sauté until fragrant and some of the liquid volume is reduced, if using salsa.

Add the eggs to the pan and stir to integrate the cooked salsa or vegetables with the eggs. Swirl the pan over heat as if making an omelette, taking care to expose uncooked egg to heat so it begins to solidify.

Add the cheese to the eggs as if making an omelette, then fold the egg in half over the top. Remove the pan from heat and allow the carryover heat to continue melting the cheese.

Place the tortillas on a plate. Using a silicone spatula, divide the eggs into equal parts for the number of toasted tortillas. I find two eggs to three 8" tortillas works well. Fill the tortillas with any leftover beans pulled from the fridge & reheated, then the eggs. Add hot sauce to taste on top of the eggs; my typical mix is Valentina Black Label, El Yucateco Chile Habanero, and Yellowbird Serrano condiment. Finally, top with any additional cheese, cilantro, crema/sour cream, lime juice, onion relish, and maybe a couple broken-up tortilla chips for extra crunch.

Crack open a cold beverage that augments the flavors.

Enjoy!

Archie Schepp – Attica Blues

I got the feeling that's something ain’t going right
and I'm worried 'bout the human soul...

Originally recorded as the title track of Attica Blues (1972).

3 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 103 votes, average: 8.67 out of 10 (3 votes, average: 8.67 out of 10)
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FMD: Time Has Come Today

Your doorbell rings. On the steps is a traveler, someone who looks to be in their early twenties. They’re a local resident. They think they haven’t gone far out of their way, but they seem confused. In reality, they’re lost. They have appeared on your doorstep at the end of a sudden journey.

The traveler looks down at a note in their hand. By their puzzled expression, it’s clear that the note was not there a moment ago. They hand you the note. It reads:

I have arrived from the past. When I left, it was August 7th, 1965. My journey has left me unable to talk with you, but I can listen. I know the general outline of the intervening years between now and when I left.

Back home, I play & listen to music all the time — it helps me make sense of the changing world around me. I am permitted to stay with you for the span of five songs. Please play songs that will tell me something about your world, and how your world emerged from the world I just left. I will take what I hear back with me.

You bring them inside your home, stall for time by getting them something to drink. What are you going to play? Why?

Max Roach – “Tears for Johannesburg” + “Prayer/Protest” from “Tryptich”

Max Roach, drums; Abbey Lincoln, vocals; Eddie Kahn, bass; Clifford Jordan, tenor sax, Coleridge Perkinson, piano.

Live on Belgian television, possibly circa 1964. Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite is a landmark jazz album and an artistic jewel of the Civil Right Movement.

We get two pieces of ”Tiptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” here. I’m not sure why the third was not included on the video, but it’s worth a listen to complete Roach’s thought. (Follow the link above.) He doesn’t simply “Peace” as a nirvana state. It’s jagged, weary, even incomplete.

”Tears for Johannesburg” was Roach’s artistic reckoning with the Sharpsville massacre, which I’d encourage you to read about — particularly right now.

Juneteenth marks the last arrival of the news of an emancipation formally proclaimed two and a half years earlier. By the time of its arrival in Galveston, the proclamation’s author had been reelected & assassinated. We should not forget that slavery continued in a couple Union states until the 6 December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified and finally abolished the practice. Nor should we forget that last Union state to ratify that amendment was Kentucky — on 18 March 1976.

Johnson’s amnesty, Reconstruction’s failure, Jim Crow, the mass perpetuation Lost Cause myth, federal anti-immigrant laws, segregation, and redlining thwarted a national reckoning with the political, social, and moral devastation of slavery & racism for generations.

Juneteenth’s rightly a day of celebration. It’s also a reminder of how far we yet have to go as a country, how fragile progress can be. It is a call seeking a response, because the work of emancipation remains incomplete.

3 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 103 votes, average: 9.67 out of 10 (3 votes, average: 9.67 out of 10)
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Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free

Composed by jazz pianist Billy Taylor, this song was originally an instrumental called “I Wish I Knew”. Taylor recorded it in November 1963 with Grady Tate on drums, Ben Tucker on bass, and a horn section. He also wrote the first verse of lyrics, then collaborated with Dick Dallas on the rest. Ms. Simone recorded the song, now retitled as “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” for her 1967 album Silk & Soul. She performs it here at Montreux ‘76.

4 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 104 votes, average: 9.50 out of 10 (4 votes, average: 9.50 out of 10)
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Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis

A WGOM debut. Mrs. Hayes & I saw the Sons of Kemet in the People’s Republic in October 2018. They were touring in support of their album, Your Queen is a Reptile, which was one of my favorite albums of 2018. Shabaka talks about the idea behind the name of the album & each track in a brief commentary at the end of the video.

2 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 102 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10 (2 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)
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