By Ron Fisher
<“Making a cocktail is like having a chemistry set, except very few experiments go bad.”>
This will be the final edition of “Rye on the Rocks”. After more than thirty years living in Rye, my charming wife, Eva, and I have sold our house and will be moving. I have enjoyed writing this column, but it is hard to work for a local newspaper when you are no longer a local. Rye has been a wonderful place to live, and it is hard to leave. But, things happen for a reason and life moves on.
The idea behind this column was, “If you’re going to have a drink, have a good one.” As I depart, I have a few final thoughts.
I got into the cocktail world several years ago, when my daughter, Margaret, took me to a Saturday-afternoon mixology class at a way-cool bar in Chinatown. It wasn’t a Chinese establishment, but a place that was located there — not easy to find and a saloon which doesn’t open until well past my bedtime — except for this class. Over three hours, we squeezed fruits and veggies, mixed and tasted, and really got a feel for what it takes to make a cocktail. Margaret and I rolled out in the middle of the afternoon, feeling no pain, had dim sum, and then went for foot massages. All in all, it was a great day, and for those with young children, something to look forward to when your kids become adults.
More importantly, what I learned from the experience is that it isn’t hard to mix a drink. Some fresh ingredients, a little bit of prep work, and you’re all set. Making a cocktail is like having a chemistry set, except very few experiments go bad. Start with a good recipe, modify it to your taste, and it’s pretty tough to fail.
If you want to mix cocktails at home, a comprehensive bartender’s guide is worth having, and there are many to choose from. A manual like that is a good resource, as it covers a lot of bases, and makes life so much easier than searching online every time you want to make something special. One other book I would recommend is “3 Ingredient Cocktails” by Robert Simonson (Ten Speed Press), which will give you a list of classics that you can concoct quickly and with a minimum of fuss. The book also throws in a little history that can be interesting to retell.
It’s nice to mix something up for yourself, and it’s also really fun to do it for other people. Having a well-prepared cocktail or two can really round out a dinner party – it’s a treat for your guests as they walk in, and it sets a nice tone for the entire evening. The prep time to get the ingredients together can take as little as fifteen minutes, and most cocktails can be made in advance – you need only stir and pour when it comes time to serve them.
What about when you go out? Signature cocktails have become a staple at most watering holes, and it does show that they care about being creative. Still, I want a bar to have the same standards that I have at home: fresh ingredients, few sweeteners, drinks mixed to order. A good indication is a bowl of citrus and bottles of juices. I also like to see a rack of ‘potions’ – the various bitters and mixtures used in cocktails, lined up on the bar. If all of the mixes are coming from the rail beneath the bar, I start to worry.
It’s OK to be particular about what you’re drinking. People think nothing of asking whether there is cream in the soup, how the fish is prepared, or if they can have green beans instead of asparagus. Why not be as discerning with a cocktail? Ask if the ingredients are fresh. If they are using Rose’s Lime Juice (which is more high-fructose sweetener than it is lime), tell them you don’t want it. Given what you pay for a cocktail at most restaurants, you deserve the same quality with your drink as you expect with your meal.
And lastly, thirty years living in Rye. We raised a family, lived in two great neighborhoods, made a ton of friends (who will keep us on the invitee list, we hope), and became part of a very nice community. We leave on a high note.
To warm houses and happy children. Cheers to all.