Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Coffee and Cocktails

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coffee and Cocktails

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My True Love of Coffee and Cocktails

cognac and espresso serving at avec in chicago

It is true. I love coffee.
I can retrace my steps and pinpoint exactly when my coffee obsession started. It wasn’t high school and it wasn’t college, it was shortly after graduation. After college, my first job was with a small company that owned and operated several trendy of restaurants and bars in Chicago. I worked as an administrative assistant to the owner and assisted the woman who managed the company's public relations. Barely 23 years old, I had little knowledge of the culinary world, but would soon discover the elegance and complexity of the roasted bean.


One of restaurant managers was native Italian, and like any self-respecting Italian, he was a coffee enthusiast. I cannot recall this man’s name, but remember his scent - a hint of body odor masked by the smell of stale cigarettes. As a young girl, I excused his bad hygiene assuming it was part of his culture - later in life I found that foul body odor was not directly related to Italian culture. It was this smelly Italian who taught me to appreciate espresso. He explained the importance of coffee beans, I learned that the shorter the pull the sweeter the taste, I studied the significance of crema and was scolded when I tried to put sugar in my espresso. After a short time, I could make an excellent espresso. As the years went on, I worked in various other restaurants and continued to pick up espresso making techniques, such as, grinding beans for one cup at a time and packing the grounds in tight. 

Present day, I consume about 4 shots of espresso (or more) on weekdays. I drink Starbucks out of convenience but look for La Colombe, illy Italian coffee (the world's finest coffee), or Lavazza. At home, I make my coffee in a French press from fresh beans purchased at Whole Foods. I usually converse with the tiny hipster behind the bulk coffee counter and take his recommendation. Immediately after the tiny hipster grinds my coffee beans, the smell is reminiscent of pungent sticky skunkweed. If you're interested, here is an excruciating long blog post from David Lebovitz on How to Make The Perfect Cup of Espresso.

It's true. I love cocktails.
When I think back on my love of cocktails, I honestly believe it was love at first sight. I didn't have to learn to love cocktails at all, we took to each other almost immediately. And by cocktails, I mean booze in general.

cold gin martini straight up 

I love booze, but I have never been much of a beer drinker. When I first started drinking, I went straight for the Jack Daniels, Jack and Coke with a lime, and eventually graduated to the Jim Beam small batch bourbons (Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s being favorites). As the years went on, I gained an appreciation of most spirits (with the exception of scotch, I think scotch tastes like bandaids), and then wine, champagne and eventually I started to appreciate beer. Only on a rare occasion will you find me drinking a beer.

In recent years, the so-called craft cocktail has become quite an annoying fad. Having bartended in a former life, I find the whole cocktail phenomena maddening - idiots who would normally drink Budweiser ordering some drink they read about in Time Out Magazine. When I hear someone in a bar say, I’ll have a Sazerac, I fight the urge to stand up, flip my cocktail table over, and whip my rocks glass of straight whiskey in their immediate direction.

I must admit, I do enjoy a good Manhattan – up or on the rocks is fine by me, so long as it is made right. But in most cases, I take my whiskey straight.

Whipper Snapper Whiskey

More Information About Coffee and Cocktails

Looking for a good wine club? You can find wines in most price ranges at Cellars Wine Club. They have a West Coast Cellars club, a Champagne and sparkling wine club and many others.  

Want to read more about my love for coffee and cocktails? Here is a post about a SUSHI & SAKE 101 class I hosted in the past. And a post I wrote about my Sunday Morning coffee