Quel idiot a mis le vinaigre balsamique dans ma boisson?
For those Mixeurs (and Mixeuses) who have never experienced the ambrosia that is aged balsamic vinegar, C. Mixeur can only express his heartfelt sympathy. Break open the piggy bank, count out, um, well, $600, and get yourself a tiny bottle of Acetaia Leonardi Riserva Oro 100 year Balsamic Vinegar. You will not regret it, unless, of course, you care about such mundane things as paying your rent, eating, etc. I sure as hell don't care about those things. Ask my creditors.
OK, fine. You can get a rough approximation of the experience for a mere $45 per 250ml by seeking out a bottle of Villa Manodori Balsamic Vinegar. Some time ago, I bought a bottle myself at Di Laurenti's down at Seattle's Pike Place Market. That bottle had been gathering dust in my kitchen cupboard until last Wednesday when the ineffable Zane Harris, the best bartender (with the possible exception of one other guy) at Seattle's Vessel cocktail bar, changed everything.
I was entering my twelfth straight hour of intensive, grueling work that evening -- oh, OK, I was snooping around on Facebook after goofing off for several hours, so sue me -- when I received a highly confidential "status update" from Mr. Harris which he had posted for everyone on Facebook to see. In it he asked for suggestions for a "secret ingredient" with which to experiment that very evening at Vessel. Well, I can't speak for you, dear reader, but when someone says "secret ingredient" in the same sentence with "cocktail recipe," then the first word that leaps into my mind is VINEGAR. I mean, it's a great topping for ice cream and works well in espresso -- and boy does it do wonders for beef jerky! -- so why not cocktails? I'm surprised a dozen people didn't rush to suggest it.
[Editor's note: It is becoming increasingly obvious that C. Mixeur is from another planet and potentially dangerous. It is probably safe for you to continue reading this post, but try to avoid any sudden moves. Or, if your stomach is the nervous sort, please back away slowly and come back when it's safer.]
Um, excuse me, "T. Mixeur," if that really is your name, but you said I could make this guest post and you promised not to interrupt me. Now I don't interrupt your posts, so I expect you to keep your word.
[Editor's note: Um, sure, "C. Mixeur." Sorry. (Psst: just humor him. He'll go away eventually.)]
Hey! I can read, you know. Oh, never mind. Where was I? Right: vinegar. OK, long story short, I grabbed my bottle of Villa Manodori and hightailed it down to Vessel, where Zane was already holding court. It was a slow night, so we had plenty of time to experiment. Shortly after I arrived, the inbimnimable, the inimitminble, the, uh, the difficult-to-imitate Rocky Yeh showed up and together with Zane we formed what we called the "Brain Trust."
[Editor's note: That makes sense. Roughly 1/3 of a brain each equals one full brain... we trust.]
Shut up! You are completely throwing me off here. I'm getting all freaked out!
Right. Well, it turns out that aged balsamic vinegar mixes really well with lots of things. The first drink we came up with we called the:
Balsamic Tequila Thing
1 1/2 oz. tequila blanco
1/2 oz. aged balsamic
1/4 oz. raspberry liqueur (homemade)
1 dash Fee Brothers Aged Whiskey bitters
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Or was it a rocks glass?
That was pretty good, but we thought we could do better. At this point, a synapse in C. Mixeur's brain sprang to life after a long period of disuse, and he had what most people call "an idea." Why the hell am I speaking of myself in the third person? This blog drives me crazy. So it occurred to me, "This vinegar stuff would go well with bourbon." And guess what! I was so very right. Take that, T. "Mixeur."
[Editor's note: Dude, you're losing it.]
Mom!!? Ted keeps interrupting my Le Mixeur post!
[M. Mixeur note: Charles, you are almost 50 years old. Don't you think you should be able to work things out with your younger brother by yourself by now?]
[Editor's note: Heh, heh. Busted!]
Fine! Fine! FINE! So we put a quarter ounce of the aged balsamic in an ounce and half of bourbon (Woodford Reserve, if I remember correctly), and damned if it wasn't pretty stupendous all by itself. But the Brain Trust cannot leave well enough alone, so we threw in a quarter ounce of Amaro Nonino. That was pretty good, but later experimentation revealed that Cynar worked better, so now we have:
The Balsamic Bourbon Thing
1 1/2 ounce bourbon
1/4 ounce aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 ounce Cynar
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
At this point Rocky chipped in with the suggestion that we mix the balsamic with Laphroaig, which frankly I thought was going to be really awful. But we're fearless folks, and after mixing one and a half ounces of Laphroaig with a quarter ounce of the aged balsamic, I was very surprised and had to admit that I'd been wrong. We had discovered something truly new! Laphroaig and aged balsamic vinegar is way fucking worse than any of us could ever have guessed! The extreme smokiness of the Laphroaig binds in some way with the sourness of the vinegar and creates what may be a sixth taste. [Note to food chemists: you saw it here first. If research bears out our finding, we propose to name this sixth taste sensation "blaargk," which is pronounced as the sound of a person expectorating or possibly vomiting.]
But good can come from bad, and Zane quickly stepped in to cover for Rocky's faux pas. [Look, Ted, real French! Happy now?] He suggested that we try a different scotch and I suggested Yamazaki 12 year single malt because, hey, we were drinking for free (heh, heh) and I'm not stupid. You might want to use Famous Grouse if a 12 year single malt seems wasted in a drink with vinegar, i.e. if you are not utterly insane. Thus we have:
The Balsamic Scotch Thing
[Editor's note: Are you fucking kidding me? I let you post to the blog and the best you can come up with is three drinks called the "Balsamic Thing"?]
Hey, man, why you always got to be bringing me down? Maybe it's a learning disability. You got a problem with that?
[Editor's note: Fine. Go ahead. But this is the last time you're posting to this blog for a long time.]
Ahem! As I was saying:
The Balsamic Scotch Thing
1 1/2 ounce of Scotch (try it with Famous Grouse)
1/2 ounce aged balsamic vinegar (we bumped it up a bit)
1 dash Angostura orange bitters (which makes everything really yummy!)
[Attention Angostura company: Make the check out to Charles F. Munat, please. Not Ted!]
Stir, strain, whatever.
Now at this point, with three drinks under our belt, we began to force other patrons in the bar to try them. To my right was the amazing Anu Apte and to her right was Anu's friend Hallie, who spent the whole night making sure that Anu didn't have to talk to me at all. Thanks, Callie. At the opposite end of the bar, and looking a bit nervous since we were between them and the door, sat Zoë and Aneal Gadgil, two people with very cool names, which is why we included them here. I am proud to report that all of these other patrons at the bar were astounded and amazed by the supreme deliciousness of our vinegar cocktails. Please send accolades and big checks to C. Mixeur, c/o Le Mixeur, Seattle, Washington. Cash works, too.
But the best was yet to come:
The Balsamic Flip! [Happy, Ted? It's not called the fucking "Thing."]
In a mixing glass add:
1 1/2 ounces of Cognac (Bourbon works, too)
1 whole egg
1/2 ounce aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 ounce Benedictine
1/2 ounce cream
Shake like hell! Strain into a cocktail glass and top with freshly ground nutmeg.
This one was so outstanding that Aneal and Zoë, who had been backing slowly towards the door while nodding vigorously, changed their minds and sat back down at the bar. Even Anu broke away from Hallie's spell and said three or four words to me, which, frankly, made the whole drinking vinegar thing worth it.
Then, I don't know, some people left. I wasn't really paying attention. Eventually, Zane closed the bar and we went over to Tini B... I mean, the secret bar that Jamie Boudreau works at and told him all about our experiments with aged balsamic vinegar and he, um, well actually he didn't look like he was very interested at all, really.
But then on Saturday, Zane and Anu threw a party at their super cool SoDo loft. Several hundred of Seattle's biggest movers and shakers were there. [Editor's note: Fewer than a dozen people showed up.] Bill Gates and Paul Allen showed up! [Editor's note: No they didn't.] And for several hours, some of the best cocktail geeks in Seattle, including Robert Hess, Jamie Boudreau, Jim Romdall, Andrew Friedman, Dave Nelson, and a couple of gate crashers from Vancouver, Bryant Mao and Shaun Layton, made and drank cocktails containing aged balsamic vinegar. And all thanks to me, me, me!
Fine. You can have your blog back now.
C. Mixeur watches as his friend of more than five years, Zac Jensen, reconsiders their friendship, Zane Harris looks on in disbelief, and Canadian Shaun Layton, unsure of what to do with a drink containing vinegar, decides to simply snort it directly up his nose.