The Scofflaw

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The Scofflaw, a gorgeous new cocktail at Beauty & Essex.

Last night I celebrated a friend’s last day at her job of 11 years, a job we worked at together during a time we laugh about now as “the salad days of publishing,” when magazine writers of note could be paid $4 a word, or much more. My friend mentioned she had written a freelance piece, and our other friend, also formerly in publishing, said, “What’d you earn? $50? $75?”

We went to Beauty & Essex on the Lower East Side, a neighborhood I’ve not been out in for many months. I studied the cocktail list for many minutes, maybe 20. Anyone who has ever ordered a drink with me knows it takes me 20 minutes to order a drink, 2 minutes to send it back because it’s not perfect, then about 12 minutes to drink the replacement drink. I ordered the Scofflaw—it’s a word I had to look up, which means “a person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.” Some people might call me a Scofflaw, including some people who saw me drink an espresso shot from a Nespresso machine in a big corporate office building recently, and realizing only after I already had drunk shot that it cost $3.50, and you were supposed to pay using the honor system. Well, I scoffed that law. Also, every time I get a parking ticket, I try to contest it, even if it’s completely valid, because, I was only parked 4 inches into the crosswalk and I already pay a lot in city taxes anyway, so…

I had never even heard of a Scofflaw. This one was a customized version, using 12-year aged McCallan’s Scotch, Luxardo cherry liqueur (which I tasted at Freek’s Mill, to my great pleasure), some amaro (I am currently obsessed with amaro and just bought one made by a cute guy who makes amaro out of a spot in Bed Stuy), and green chartreuse, a naturally green French liqueur which, our server who looked like Parker Posey in 1989 and with braces and amazing hair, told me tastes a little like Campari. And I like Campari. I never order something off the specialty cocktail list because I am too rigid to take chances, and I like it the way I like it, which is to say, strong, boozy, sipping, not too sweet, few ingredients. But I went for it. It kind of tasted like what I imagine Fabuloso the cleaning solution might taste like if green chartreuse were stirred in, and  it was spectacular.

And, after I sipped this Scofflaw and some delicious Sauv B and maybe one or three more sips of my friend’s sister’s sparkling rosé, well, suddenly, somehow, thanks to our millennial Parker-Posey-doppelganger server’s local answer to “what dive bar should we go to,” we ended up at a burlesque bar a block away. When is the last time you went to a burlesque show? Do yourself a favor and don’t wait so long next time. Because you, like me, might get treated to a campy emcee singing “Hey Big Spender” from Sweet Charity and name-checking your newly unemployed friend as “the blonde with the blowout in the back.” To the Scofflaw, to friendships that endure, and to the NYC bars that still serve Miller High Life.

Making Spirits Bright

IMG_6337So, a couple of friends have suggested I should collect my thoughts about my food and drink creations all in one place. So I’m starting here. My foodie/spirits enthusiast days go something like this: Wake up. Make French press coffee for partner. Make Yorkshire Gold tea for myself, milk, two sugars. Complain that dark, robust tea stains my teeth (how do the Brits deal with this?! Cosmetic dentistry is ‘spensie). Feel bad that I need two sugars. Make homemade lunches for two kids, consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, or turkey roll-ups (or recently, inspired by another mom, a cheese plate of Brie and Carr’s water crackers for my daughter, with a side of cornichons), some dry savory snack, and some piece of fruit that will oxidize and then go uneaten by children, then eaten later that night by me after I have a drink because #foodwasteguilt.

Go to the Dodge Y. Stop at Trader Joe’s because it’s there, because it’s familiar, and because the coffee samples are always fresh and I like the soundtrack. And because I like grocery shopping every day or every other day, buying only what we need, supplementing regularly with fresh fruit. A dear friend urges me to join her as a member of the Park Slope Food Co-Op, but it’s too far away, I would need to drive to shop, and my dirty little secret is that I actually like the culture of Trader Joe’s, even if the bagged produce drives me banaynays. Always bring own canvas bags. Fill out raffle ticket, even though I never win. Will. Never. Win! Carry bags home, complain about the weight. En route, if it’s after 12, maybe stop by Brooklyn Wine Exchange to see what new thing they’re promoting in the window.

Evenings I try to cook most nights, planning a meal that’s simple enough that my kids will eat it, healthy enough that I’ll eat it, and has enough flavor/texture variety that Ingrid will like it too. The concept is simple, plain, clean cooking with mostly olive oil, garlic, lemon juice/zest, salt, pepper, butter, fish sauce, hot sauce. Greens. Raw vegetables. Lean proteins. A few frozen foods mixed in, and yes, I feel bad about it, but MOZZARELLA STICKS!

And then, DRINKS. Unfortunately for my acid reflux, I like all of them. Gin, bourbon, rum, beer, wine, Champagne. Equal opportunity imbiber. I like simple sipping drinks garnished with a large cube and some fresh herb like thyme or a little twist of lemon, not too sweet. Manhattans, martinis, old-fashioneds, gimlets, what have you.

This holiday season, when appearing on the Domino contribs page, I was asked what my favorite winter treat is: I harked back to a time about 10 years ago when Ingrid and I visited Blue Hill Stone Barns in the fall, sidled (saddled?) up to the bar, and the bartender asked if we wanted to try a spirit she had been infusing. Who could resist a house-infused spirit at Blue Hill Stone Barns? The air was crisp, the fire was crackling, the space is beautiful, we didn’t have kids yet so #peace. The spirit was vodka infused with honey and oats. Shaken over ice and poured into a martini glass, I had found a toothsome, milky, nutty, slightly sweet but less sweet than you would image, gorgeous elixir. We asked for the recipe, she gave it. I went home and started making the vodka as Christmas presents for my extended family. I’m not sure any of them liked it, but I did, and I liked making it even more. So fast forward ten years, and I cited this recipe again to Domino—and then revisited making it again, with different types of vodka, different ratios of oats and honey. I batched it in huge mixing bowls. Always be steeping became my motto this past December, to the annoyance of my partner and my children. Why are there always gigantic bowls of booze with oats and honey in them, everyone would ask as they fumbled around the fridge just to find a condiment. Because infused spirits are fun, I would grumble, taking more empty bottles out to the recycling. I bottled 14 containers of vodka, hand delivering all of them. I don’t know if anyone liked them, but I keep infusing because I myself love it so.

I moved on next to gin. My friend Ian who is a professional cook and food person told me making gin is super easy and fun. He was right. I’ve again tried a bunch of different formulas. Here’s my latest recipe:

LESBIAN BATHTUB GIN
To a few cups of vodka, add:
Tbsp juniper berries
Tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
Tsp fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
Handful of black peppercorns
Slice of lemon peel.
Let steep for 18-24 hours, taste, strain.
Bottle, give to friends, mix with a teensy bit of vermouth, enjoy up or on rocks. With a side of mozzarella sticks. CHEERS.

Feeling the FB feels…

Thank you to all of my Facebook friends and friends of friends who have been reading The Ambition Interviews on The Atlantic since Monday, and sharing it on your own pages, and for your and your friends’/communities’ supportive comments. The essays have been trending on The Atlantic’s home page! It is thrilling to finally see this project reach the public, after two+ years of work. xoxoxo

The Ambition Interviews is LIVE on The Atlantic!

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The Ambition Interviews began as a project between my college roommate, Hana Schank, and I, who attended Northwestern University in the early ’90s. What had happened, we wondered, to all of our brilliant, hard-working friends from our college days? Had life come together as they had hoped? We reached out to 37 other members of our sorority’s graduating class, and those conversations became the foundation of the essays published Monday in The Atlantic. Yipppppeeee!

Champagne TK.