True Life: I’m Obsessed With Clear Ice

You can call me “Ice Man” from now on. No. Not like Val Kilmer in Top Gun (tho that volleyball scene amiright??!) but more like the ice-cream-man with the weird facial hair that you secretly buy popcicles from on the days you skip the gym, cause that is volumes more interesting to me. I spent a lot of time with my head in the freezer lately, boiling water and then burning myself with said hot water, breaking/cracking/biting/cutting ice, taking notes from sexy bartenders and listening to Vanilla Ice way more than I care to admit.

So it’s no secret that I’ve been writing for eHow every week for a little bit now (unless it was a secret and now you need to go read it all) and some of my favorite posts there were about the importance of ice in craft cocktails. So here are the 2 posts that make up the ice-series, which is a horrible way to refer to them and I hate myself a little bit more for having just done that:

Cocktails 101: The Importance Of Ice

bug ice block at the baldwin bar

Fact: Ice is kind of a big deal in cocktails. It provides balance and temperature, and in many cases it adds to the visual appeal of a drink. Different drinks require different forms of ice (e.g., a Moscow Mule versus an Old Fashioned) but the main, unifying factor comes down to its quality.

It’s probably safe to say that if you’re reading this, you can make a bunch of ice in a matter of hours — unless you’re out in the wilderness somewhere with amazing cellphone reception, in which case I’ll make myself a chilled cocktail in your honor. The problem with the ice you make at home is that it’s not very good for cocktails. That ice was designed to be added to Tang (the official drink of astronauts) or maybe some super-sweetened ice tea. So what makes for quality ice and why does it even matter?

Read more :

Craft Cocktails: How to Make Clear Ice


You know that scene from Frankenstein where you have the guy devilishly screaming “It’s alive!…It’s aliiiiiive!”? Well, if you ever wanted to feel that level of joy (and pain) in the comfort of your pajamas while you simultaneously battle a hangover, have I got something for you!

So last week I talked about the importance of quality ice in cocktails and left it with a “cliffhanger” ending. promising a no-nonsense how-to on making some gorgeous-looking ice at home.

Read more :

This post is more of an oddity and I wont tend to post those articles here but if by some act of God I happen to write & shoot something that is (as they would say in Germany) “wunderbar“, then you bet your sweet ass that it’ll be all-up-on-this but I have a couple tasty recipes coming up until that day comes.

#OnLocation: The Baldwin

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#OnLocation is a new section where I check out local craft cocktail bars and share an intimate look at their operation; From the influences, flavors and styles, I’ll showcase aspects of the bar that make it special and their drinks unique.

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Located in the historic Baldwin mansion in Woburn, Massachusetts, sits a restaurant that many have known for the past decade as Sichuan Garden II, a restaurant with an excellent pedigree in Chinese cuisine, but seemingly hidden within is  The Baldwin, a craft cocktail bar of the highest caliber. The bar shares the same roof (and proprietorship) as the restaurant and gets its illustrious name from the same historic walls that house it.

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The mood: You walk into a dimly lit room to the right where a multitude of vintage decanters, candles, fresh citrus, an ornate register from an era long gone and a colorful tiled bar set the stage. Not a single part of it feels industrial or quickly manufactured; Instead, you are greeted with an intimate environment with antique touches peppered throughout that yields an experience that is more than the sum of its parts.

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A pleasant surprise that you wont notice until after you finish taking in the sights is just how harmoniously quiet the room is. Sure, there’s some music in the background, but I’m there to imbibe and have a great time, not test out the range of my vocal chords and yell “I’M GONNA GO PEE” into someone’s ear.

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A bar is only as good as its bartenders. You can have all the pieces needed but knowing what to do with them is a whole other story; Enter Ran Duan. The Baldwin is Ran’s baby since its inception 3 years ago and it doesn’t take long to notice the absolute attention to detail in every inch (even the bathroom. It’ looks like a sauna in there) of the bar to know this place was meant to be something special. You may know Ran as the bow-tie wearing, ink loving, cocktail shaker-extraordinaire in various competitions all over the place; A self proclaimed “cocktologist” and proprietor of The Baldwin.

When I asked him about his influences in creating The Baldwin’s bar program, one that boasts a cocktail menu that changes every 2 weeks,  the focus is on seasonal flavors, an “everything goes” kind of attitude towards ingredients when making cocktails and a deep-rooted desire to always keep things fresh.

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Vannaluck Hongthong & Joel Atlas (pictured above) make up the rest of the dapper bar crew at The Baldwin. Van, being the newest to the Baldwin team, is the nicest guy you’ll meet, but can shake up a drink like it owes him money. Then there’s Joel (who unfortunately was gallivanting elsewhere the day of the shoot) being Ran’s long-running ‘cocktologist’ at the Baldwin and a crucial part of the team.

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Not all ice is created equal. At The Baldwin, great care is placed in the way their ice is crafted, as a paramount component to their cocktails. From an initial 300 lb block of ice, which is then broken down into more manageable 50 lb blocks, to witness their ice being prepared before opening their doors was a treat in itself. From the use of chisels, chainsaws and butter knives, it’s a complex process that yields the ideal ice for a variety of drinks (more on that later).

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You can see more of the ice crafting process in the gallery below:

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And now onto the cocktails! As I mentioned before, they have a cocktail menu that changes every 2 weeks, along with a dedicated Mai Tai section but the real fun lies in having them make you something per your request. The team here really has an ability to craft a delicious cocktail every-single-time that had me wondering a) how can I make love to this right now? and b) what the hell is in this that’s so damn delicious? Weather its citrus or spirit based, a classic or something completely random (like drinking out of  a whole pineapple), they never missed the mark.

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The team from The Baldwin were kind enough to share a couple of their cocktail recipes, which you can find below.

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William Burrough

1 1/2 oz. London dry gin [Beefeater 24]
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. earl gray tea syrup*
1 bar spoon of Greek yogurt
10 drops orange blossom water
shake vigorously with ice.
Double strain into a glass & garnish with a cherry.

*make some concentrated dark Earl Gray tea and while still hot, add an equal amount of sugar.

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No Stone Unturned

1 1/2 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. Pedro Ximenez Sherry
1/2 oz. Absinthe
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
Pour all into a mixing glass and stir.
Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube.
Garnish with a bit of salt on the cube.


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A bit of sage advice from Ran came towards the end of the day, when I asked if he had any tips or advice for someone making a cocktail [at home] or perhaps looking to discover something new at a bar, to which he answered with a question:

“Do you drink for the taste or for the feeling?”

…I’ll leave you with that to ponder.

A big thanks to the The Baldwin for being so a accommodating in the process but above all, for making it clear that it is possible to make inspired craft cocktails outside of Boston city limits.

The Baldwin is located at: 2 Alfred St, Woburn, MA 01801

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Death to Anonymity

You guys, I got business cards;

…What I’m actually going to do with these cards is a complete mystery to me right now, but at least now I don’t have to hope the slightly-drunk individual I’ve been talking to for the past hour can remember a) where they are and how they get there, but more importantly, b) to read my blog. I’m fairly certain the majority of these cards will end up in those bowls at Quiznos with the hopes of scoring me a free sandwich, but only time will tell.

Why do I need business cards for a site that doesn’t technically have a business model? Branding. Because in order to raise awareness for something you care deeply about (any blogger that writes about a dedicated topic for free has a profound attachment to it), you need to market yourself. Because we all know  that if a tree falls in the woods and all that shit. Basically It’ll be like I’m handing someone a ‘selfie‘ of my site, except it doesn’t have ‘#yolo’ anywhere on it. I don’t know how to do any of this, so I’m hoping to learn about it as I go. Painfully, I’m sure.


If I were an eloquent man, I could easily hype up my site to people in a positive, memorable way, but on average, it goes a li’l something like this:

Oh, no, I'm not Lou Diamond Phillips from La Bamba.
So you enjoy beverages?
Damn, that's a cool jacket. Where'd you get it? J. Jill?
I write. I have a site. There's this thing. Online.
<begin sweating for no reason>
So, do you know how to read? No? That's weird.
Can I borrow your phone? Oh is that a flip phone?! Never mind.
I take little pictures. Well they're not little. I guess they're regular size.
You know what? Forget my face. FORGET YOU EVER SAW ME!
<I then knock the drink out of their hands and bolt out of that Denny's>


I commissioned Print and Grain [an army-of-two] letterpress company from the lovely Portland, OR to design these and man did they deliver. The style they designed works great with my site’s bad boy attitude and I’ll proudly spread them like a virus wherever I go.

*be sure to check out their shop on Etsy for more on Print and Grain letterpress products.

MxMo: Branches In A River

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“You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we’re going
Lodged in life
Like two branches in a river
flowing downstream
caught in the current
I’ll carry you. You’ll carry me
That’s how it could be
Don’t you know me?
Don’t you know me by now?”

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After sitting a couple rounds of MxMO out, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of playing around with resin and liquor, the same way the people from Jurassic Park did. That movie still scares the crap out of me. Just sayin’. This month, it’s the ever sexy duo known as the Booze Nerds leading us into the woods:

From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer.

The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game.  Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it.

This cocktail worked out beautifully with this month’s theme in that I was working on a drink with Zirbenz and either rosemary or thyme or lavender inspired by Linklater’s Before Sunrise?!? So when I read Zirbenz on the announcement post I knew now was the right time. I settled on thyme in the end to dance around with the Alpine liqueur and tossed in a European mix of ingredients that I’m very happy with in the end, that met my original concept for the drink.

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  • Bols Genever
  • Zirbenz
  • Apricot Eau de Vie
  • Lillet rose
  • bitters
  • muddled thyme

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Before Sunrise holds up. It is 90’s-as-fuck and slightly creepy but damn did Ethan Hawke have great hair. I watched it recently with my wife (her first time) with hopes of it culminating in a marathon screening of all 3 with the best wine $8 can buy…but after her losing any and all interest in it after about 10 minutes or so, it ended with me watching them alone. But she didn’t get any of my fancy wine.

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For this to work best, I’d advise you buy some German rock sugar from Teavana. Make a 1 to 1 syrup with it and you will instantly fall in love with the flavor; Not as cloyingly sweet as regular sugar or honey, with a quality that I can really just describe as “soft”. It works great in this one to just give a bit of sweetness and balance.

1 1/2 oz Bols Genever
3/4 oz Lillet Rose
3/4 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur
1/2 oz Blume Marillen Apricot Eau de Vie
1 dash Bittercube Bolivar bitters
1 dash black mission fig bitters
1/4 oz German beet syrup*
1 small sprig of thyme for muddling

Add the sprig of thyme and the syrup in the shaker and muddle for a bit. Pour in the rest and shake it fast (But watch ya self). Double strain into a rocks glass with some ice. It helps to extract the oil from a lemon peel onto the drink in the end. Garnish with the peel and a small sprig of thyme.

[ Enjoy ]

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Zirbenz is a stone pine liqueur from Austria. Known by some as “the agave of the Alps”, it is pine-y as hell but in the form of a very pleasant finish. I can see it going great with a nice gin.

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