Being and nothingness

Eric Asimov returns today to the spirits, with a good entry about vodka. From time to time, I find a good non-flavored vodka that actually tastes like something (and, moreover, something good). I’ve praised Charbay on this point in the past, and they deserve it. But in most cases, I find that Asimov’s right. Vodka is boring, unless you’re drinking it straight and freezing cold, or unless it’s in a bloody mary.

As an aside, I like it when Asimov talks spirits on The Pour. I love wine, and I enjoy his writings on wine, but I also wish he’d mix it up a bit and bring the likker more often.


Tiki Talky

tiki mask

For the tiki-crazed among you, American Heritage has just published an excerpt from Wayne Kramer’s book, And a Bottle of Rum, which I keep bloody-well meaning to read. The excerpt focuses on Tiki culture and the histories of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic. They’ve paired the excerpt with a James Teitelbaum review of ten tiki bars. Makes me wanna open the rum.

Zeta Cool

One of the new blogs I’ve been reading is the cool Cocktail Parlor, out of Vancouver, B.C., a city I’d love to go visit one of these days. In an entry last week, Damin linked to a site called VideoJug, a repository of videos meant to explain and illustrate topics ranging from health and cooking to finance and drinks.

Video Jug has a great section on cocktails, with professional, fun videos showing great bartenders at work on specific drinks. It was there I found the As Cool as Zeta cocktail, from Zeta Bar, in London’s Park Lane Hilton. Zeta’s head bartender, Mauro Pisano, puts together a yummy drink made of gin, cucumber (hence the “as cool as” reference in the dorky name), and cilantro.

Mauro has an interesting approach to building a cocktail menu–putting the fruit first and emphasizing the health benefits of produce-laden drinks.

The wifeling and I enjoy a bit of cuke in a drink, whether it’s the hint of cuke in Hendrick’s gin or sliced cuke garnishing a cool martini, so I wanted to try As Cool as Zeta. We had no cilantro, but basil makes a good substitute. (In the voiceover intro to the video how-to, the announcer actually says the drink uses mint, but then the recipe calls for cilantro. I can’t tell whether cilantro’s considered a type of mint or whether the narrator simply misspoke. Regardless, I think spearmint or peppermint would work well in this drink, too.)

As Cool as Zeta is a well-balanced, well-layered drink and a good addition to my repertoire. Check out VideoJug when you’ve a chance, and be sure to drop by Zeta Bar when you’re in London. I certainly plan to.

As Cool as Zeta

  • 1 small cucumber, or ½ medium cucumber
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. gin
  • Cucumber peel, for garnish
  • Basil sprig, for garnish

Technique: Peel the cucumber, leaving a thin strip of peel on the cucumber to provide extra flavor and color to the drink. Retain a strip of peel for garnish.

Dice the cucumber and add to a blender, along with the other ingredients.

Blend for 10 seconds. Using a wire-mesh strainer, strain the blended drink into a mixing glass. Gently press the mash to squeeze all drops of the precious drink into the glass.

Fill the glass with ice, and cap off with the metal part of your Boston shaker.

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.