Monday, March 31, 2014

California Bookstore Day - the First Round is on Me

California Bookstore Day is happening on May 3rd at a bookstore near you.  It's a daylong celebration of books and bookstores and the neighborhoods and communities that bookstores serve.

Riffing off of Record Store Day - which sings the praises of Indie record stores and the particular cultural vibe that sounds wherever their needle happens to touch a platter - California Bookstore Day aims to do the same.  Aims to remind people of that certain something that good bookstores impart to their customers - and to the cities and towns lucky enough to have them.

I'm a broken record, but we're cooler than any online retailer could ever hope to be - if you value interaction, if you value serendipitous in-store discovery, if you value neighbors employing neighbors and local businesses giving back to their communities every day.

So on May 3rd we're throwing a party and we hope you can be there.  We'll have cool stuff for sale - all kinds of books and art - that you can only find in person when we open our doors at 9am.  Everything's a limited edition and you can check them out here - from books and lithographs to tote-bags and prints.

But in addition to cool stuff, it's going to be a statewide party.  Mainly we want to have some fun.

In Alameda?  We'll be playing all day, and come night-time, we'll be serving up mac and cheese from melt:

The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, because - well, hell, what kind of party would it be without M&C?  Oh, and one of the authors, Stephanie Stiavetti, happens to live nearby.

So there's that.

Me?  I'm mixing drinks.  I wanted to begin the cocktail with apple brandy because my good friends at Green Apple Books are driving forces behind California Bookstore Day.  I've also been sampling Bell-Ringers lately - they're an old cocktail developed by a fabulous bartender at the turn of the 1900's.  Jim Maloney wrote his book, How to Mix Drinks, in 1903, and his Bell-Ringers - cocktails crafted in glasses rinsed with apricot brandy, were born.  And if you don't think apples and apricots go together, well - stop by ye old bookshoppe on May 3rd, in the evening, and I'll prove it to you.

I used California booze - what would be the point otherwise?  California Bookstore Day meets California spirits.  Starting with the apple brandy made by Osocalis down in Santa Cruz - it's lovely.  I remember reading that Daniel Farber, one of the owners of the distillery, appreciates the intensity of California apples and that what he's done is captured California in a bottle.  So I started there.  And didn't leave California when I went looking for vermouth.  Have you tried Vya?  It's a beaut.

May 3rd?  I'll see you.
California Bookstore Day Bell-Ringer:

1 oz. Osocalis Apple Brandy
.75 oz. Vya Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz simple syrup
5-10 drops Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

apricot liqueur for rinse


Shake all with ice & strain into a chilled cocktail glass that's been rinsed with apricot liqueur. Garnish with green-apple slice.

A green-apple slice - see what I did there?


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Big Mike

What goes into a drink?  Booze, naturally, unless you want a non-alcoholic cocktail - like customers who belly up to the bar and ask for a virgin Bloody Mary, a drink bartenders call a Bloody Shame for obvious reasons.

But it's the choosing of the booze that can make a drink sing, so choose carefully.  To commemorate Matthew Thomas's remarkable debut, We Are Not Ourselves, I took my cue from the father of Eileen Tumulty, the character you'll follow from her girlhood in the 1940's all through her tumultuous life - a life colored by the times she grows up in, certainly, but colored even more by the neighborhoods she'll call home, by the friends and acquaintances she'll meet along the way.

Her father, Big Mike?  He's loud.  Charismatic and dynamic.  And even though he cuts a brash, dangerous figure, "When he drank whiskey....the leash came off," he's also responsible for some of the most touching scenes in the book.

In one, he's purchased his daughter new shoes to replace her worn-out pair - and because this happens while Eileen's mother is in the hospital, Big Mike has to choose on his own and he buys a pair, manure-brown, that little Eileen "was sure were meant for boys."  When she balks at wearing them, he upbraids her and says when he was young, he would have been grateful to receive secondhand shoes.

     "If my mother were well," she said bitterly, "she wouldn't make me wear them."

     "Yes, but she's not well.  And she's not here."

     The quaver in his throat frightened her enough that she didn't argue.  The following night, he brought home a perfectly dainty, gleaming, pearlescent pair.

     "Let that be and end to it," he said.

In another scene, after Eileen gets drunk on a date and Big Mike hears of it, he decides to school her in the ways of drinking.  He has her take a drink from every bottle in the house, beginning with whiskey - from the bad stuff to the good.  Then vodka.  Gin.  Beer.  And onto colorful drinks - Cointreau, Creme de menthe, Grand Marnier.  When she complains ("I don't want to drink that much") he tells her if she wants to stay under his roof, she'll finish the glass.

The next day, head pounding, Eileen receives Big Mike's final lessons:

"You will never again drink anything you can't see through....You will never pick up a drink again after putting it down and taking your eye off it....Drink whiskey," he said.  "Good whiskey.  Not too much.  That's the long and short of it."

If only we all had had a Big Mike to instruct us in the ways of the drink.

When I needed to choose the booze, I began with Big Mike's admonition and went with whiskey, good whiskey - but I wanted it to clamor like the Queens neighborhood where Eileen grows up.  I started with Jameson Irish Whiskey, of course - the Tumulty clan I'm sure would've liked their Jameson - but then I added New York in the form of Hudson Manhattan Rye.  Still, the neighborhood was loud, and two voices weren't enough, and I wanted more of the melting-pot chaos involved, so I added some smoky Yamazaki Single Malt.  This trifecta of different cultural voices was good, but the addition of sweet Italian Galliano made it a grand slam.  Lemon and Jerry Thomas' bitters would tie the ingredients together, bringing calm to this raucous neighborhood in a glass.  The fact that the bitters were named Thomas, like our author?  Sheer coincidence.

What I ended up with, then, was a Big Mike.  I think it sings, even though, alas, the lemon makes it impossible to see through.  Enjoy.

Big Mike:

.75 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
.75 oz. Hudson Manhattan Rye
.75 oz. Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky
.75 oz. Galliano
.75 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Bitters

Stir all with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.