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Carnaval!

Posted by Reese On February - 24 - 2009

Today is the day folks.  Whether you think of it as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shove Tuesday, Pancake Day or, as the Brazilians know it, Carnaval, today is a day to celebrate.  For you Catholics out there today marks the last day before the beginning of Lent.  Lent refers to both the 40 day period prior to Easter Sunday and the tradition of fasting from certain foods or practices.  In the US you’ll find most people practicing Lent by giving up a food they love, typically junk food.  My Grandpa Lloyd for example would always give up watermelon for Lent.  Which worked out particularly well for him since you generally couldn’t get it during Lent anyway.

Photo Copyright Raquel Teixeira

Photo Copyright Raquel Teixeira

But, I’m not here to talk about Lent.  I’m here to talk a very small bit about Carnaval.  No, it’s not spelled wrong.  Carnaval is the correct Portuguese spelling of Carnival and is probably the most well known event in Brazil.  Carnaval consists of a number of days worth of partying, dancing and parading culminating the four days before Ash Wednesday.  Groups will congregate and form blocos which assemble and then parade throughout the city.  In Rio de Janeiro you get the addition of the local Samba schools who compete in the four night Sambadrome.  Which, never have been to Carnaval I can only assume is very similar to Thunderdome.  That’s probably not true at all, but it would be awesome.

If you’re looking for a party but sadly don’t have decorations to make it happen head on over to Leblon’s website and pick up your very own Leblon Carnaval Kit.  The kit comes complete with masks, beads, glow sticks, and even a music CD to put your party in the right mood.  Add to that some Caipirinhas and you’ll be set for a night of partying.

In honor of Carnaval and Mardi Gras tonight I’m hosting a cachaça tasting at my house complete with homemade gumbo in true New Orleans style.  I’ll be posting the results later in the week.

Another Round of Corpse Revivers

Posted by Reese On January - 3 - 2009

Sometimes in the course of cocktail hacking, as with many pursuits, I encounter a touch of laziness.  This week I encountered just such an event.  During  the week I only sampled two Corpse Reviver #2’s, which, I’m certain you’ll agree, is simply not enough.

To make up for my laziness I’m going to spend another week on the CR, and specifically spend time on CR #2.  There are a couple of variants I want to try and I’d like to get my hands on a couple of unique ingredients if possible.  More on those later though.  Hope everyone’s new year is starting off wonderfully.

PS – Despair.com has some great demotivational posters.  If you haven’t checked them out, please do so, you’ll enjoy them greatly.

The Morning After…

Posted by Reese On January - 1 - 2009

Let’s talk about a possibly unpleasant topic.  We’ll start with a purely hypothetical situation.  Suppose you went out on New Year’s Eve, enjoyed a few too many delicious beverages, and now, the next morning, you’re encountering some unpleasant after effects.  You’re likely a bit nauseous, exceedingly thirsty, seriously pissed off about the bright lights and much too loud sounds surrounding you, and to top things off it feels like the fireworks from last night are all going off in your head ceaselessly.  You, my friend, have a hangover.

fireworks500

The good news is that since the above scenario was purely hypothetical I’m sure you’re all rested, cheery and eager to hear the details of what a hangover is and how you can fight it.  A hangover is a mix of physical symptoms that are the result of over consumption of alcohol.  According to Wikipedia some of the most common symptoms of a hangover are “headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, lethargy, dysphoria, and thirst.”  Why you experience these unpleasantries is, however, still a bit of a mystery.  There are a number of possible causes and in all likelihood the true cause is a combination of some or all of them.

We’ll start with dehydration.  Ethanol is a mild diuretic.  The main cause for this diuretic effect is ethanol’s ability to block ADH in the kidneys.  Once ADH is blocked the porosity of the kidney wall decreases and less water is reabsorbed in to the body causing dehydration to set in.  Take a peek at Buzz by Stephen Braun if you’re interested in more details.  A snippet of the book can be found here on Google Books.

As if the dehydration wasn’t enough there’s also the fact that ethanol, when metabolized, actually becomes more toxic to the body.  When the liver metabolizes ethanol it is broken down into acetaldehyde, which will then be further metabolized in to acetic acid.  Acetaldehyde is considerably more toxic to our bodies than ethanol alone and is thought to be the other main cause of hangovers.  Thankfully acetaldehyde only hangs around our body for a relatively short time before it is further broken down into acetic acid.  There are, however,  some unlucky folks who metabolize acetaldehyde very slowly and as a result experience severe hangover symptoms.

Okay, enough of the bad stuff, what can you do to avoid a hangover and fight one once its there?  The web is full of hangover cures and preventative measures. Wikipedia sums up both the good and bad remedies and there is another great article over at Lifescript that details ten hangover cures and why they work.  Also, if you’re really wondering what people think you can read some of the responses from the hive mind over at MetaFilter.com.

Let’s start with avoiding the hangover in the first place.  Since ethanol is a diuretic you need to stay very well hydrated when drinking.  A good rule of thumb is to try to drink one glass of water for each cocktail you consume.  Without question you’ll need to pee a lot, but you’ll stay better hydrated which should help to eliminate the hangover or at least shorten it.

Eating is another good plan.  The vitamins will help keep your body operating at peak efficiency and if you consume foods that contain cysteine, like eggs, you’ll get a further boost in converting the toxic acetaldehyde into harmless acetic acid.  So, good news, that late night drunken trip to Denny’s is actually beneficial after all.

Finally some thoughts on reducing the duration of a hangover that’s already set in.  The two remedies listed above apply to fighting a hangover as well.  Drink a lot of water and consume foods that are going to provide a lot of carbohydrates and proteins while being easy on your upset stomach.  Scrambled eggs and toast should fit the bill nicely.  Pain killers can be good for fighting body and head aches, but be careful since some of them can cause nausea.  Finally, make sure you get vitamins and minerals back into your system.  Since you’ve been peeing more than usual (diuretic effects of alcohol and all) you’ve lost a lot more minerals than you usually would.  Pop a multivitamin or drink some electrolyte drinks to help bring your levels back to where they should be.

Sadly, the cure that is guaranteed to work is time.  Wait out the pain and you’ll be back to your normal self in no time.  I hope this write up finds you without a hangover, but in the unfortunate event that you were forced to consume too much last night hopefully the information here will get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

The Gimlet

Posted by Reese On November - 2 - 2008

Well, Halloween week is over for this year and I had a damn fine time.  Hope you were able to get some good ideas from my posts, but now we must move on.  This week, as you doubtless know, is election week and following that theme I’m highlighting the Gimlet.  What does the Gimlet have to do with election week you ask?  Nothing actually, just seemed like a good segue.  I first heard about this cocktail from my friend and loyal CH reader Matt Beasley.  We were at a party at a mutual friend’s and we only had gin and limes on hand, a sad situation I know.  Matt wisely suggested that we make some Faux-Gimlets.  So we mixed up some lime juice, sugar and Gin.  It was a pretty delicious.  Strangely though, I never made the real version using Rose’s Lime, until now.  The recipe I’m starting with is directly off the Rose’s Lime bottle.

Gimlet - A la Rose's Lime
[Ingredients]
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz Rose's Lime
[Directions]
1) Stir with ice

The Omnivore’s 100

Posted by Reese On August - 28 - 2008

This post isn’t cocktail related but it does relate to one of my other favorite pastimes, eating.  This is a list of 100 foods from Very Good Tastes, that the author feels every omnivore should consume in their lifetime.  He’s asked that you take the list and bold items you’ve eaten and strike through items you wouldn’t eat.  Then repost and spread the meme.

Here are my answers.  I’m a reasonably good omnivore, but I’d like to have this list over 75% done by the time I turn 35.  I need to get cracking.

I’ll be posting a story about our Vegas trip later tonight so check back in.


1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin

51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake