Gin ‘n’ Tonic Martini

Are you kidding?  A Gin ‘n’Tonic Martini?

To explore new worlds,
To seek out new life and civilizations,
To go where no man has gone before.

First, I am not on a five year mission.  I was just looking to finish off a bottle of Tanqueray Rangpur Gin.

Second, and this must be understood if you go further in this brief essay, I am a committed Martini traditionalist.  This most classic of cocktails is made with gin and, at your discretion, varying smidgens of dry vermouth.  The choice of swapping vodka for gin, even with the endorsement of James Bond, is the path to perdition.  It’s the slippery slope that brings us to Chocolatini, Espressotini, Fruit-Bombatini and other offensive departures from the genuine article.

This, if you didn’t know, is to give folks the opportunity to sip a friendly, less lethal, more appealing (?) concoction from an “up” glass (aka, martini glass) to add, perhaps, a veneer of sophistication to their cocktail choice. Sorry, it’s simply weak camouflage for a drink with training wheels.

Third, in my years past, I  consumed countless gin ‘n’ tonics, particularly during the warm weather months.  PRO TIP: the most important ingredient in a G&T is the tonic.  The next most important ingredient is a plump fresh lime.  Gin is the side show, which is why you don’t have to invest in a fancy shmancy gin to make a great drink – with one exception, which we will return to anon. And then there is this piece of good news:  a restaurant or bar will never (NEVER, EVER) make a G&T as good as the one you make in your home!  Why?  Because there is no tonic from a soda gun that can come close to the fresh taste and effervescence of a newly opened bottle of top quality tonic that you get at your Stop & Shop!! Buy the small bottles.

The recipe for a gin ‘n’ tonic is simple.  Put ice into a highball glass, add a jigger of gin (1½oz), top with tonic, squeeze a wedge of lime into the glass, rim the glass with the lime & drop the lime into the glass.  But, with no more effort you can substitute a “nothing” gin for Tanqueray Rangpur gin.  This fancy shmancy gin is actually worth it.  It’s a lime infused gin that makes so much sense for this cocktail.

We finally return to the matter at hand.  What would happen if we engineer a hybrid of a classic martini with a pedestrian, tasty but still pedestrian, gin ‘n’ tonic?  I devised an experimental recipe: 2 jiggers of Rangpur Gin, 1 jigger of tonic put into a mixing tin with plenty of ice.  Shake vigorously with a solemnity of purpose.  Strain into a pre-frozen up glass.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime, rim the glass with the lime, plop lime into the glass.

As I saw things, there were three possible outcomes for this brave new departure where no man has gone before.

One, fail. It ruined a gin ‘n’ tonic, and it ruined a martini.
Two, Winner winner, chicken dinner.  Unqualified success
Three, Interesting.   Sorta like hearing your blind date has a good personality.

OK.  I think I may give this another shot later in the warm weather season, when I might be drinking a gin ‘n’ tonic anyway.

Oh, before I leave.  I went on a blind date once, and the friend who made the intro never once mentioned Sandy’s personality.  Although she did say she was from Brooklyn.

The fixin’s

My sacred mixing “tin”

Richard Parker, my man frog, serves up the finished product

for a more detailed treatise on my Martini experience

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Birthday Dinner @ California Grill February 2, 2024

In the words of that great man of American Letters, Yogi Berra, and I quote: “It was dejà vu all over again.”  The Cali Grill has been my go to place for the past 8 year to celebrate National Groundhog Day, which conveniently takes place on the same day as my birthday.  And it also marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.

There is a wonderful mixture to Cali Grill’s vibe.  Not quite boisterous, but not subdued; not cozy, but not crowded.  Not intimate, but not crazy busy.  Not stuffy; but purely suited for enjoying very good cuisine, very good wine and an opportunity to catch a pretty amazing view of Cinderella’s Castle.

Typically I ask for a table along the window which offers a primo view of the fireworks display over Cinderella’s Castle.  But this year I changed my request to get a specific server.  Walter was our server last year and he was hands down one of the two best servers we have ever had on Disney property (or elsewhere for that matter).  We lucked out getting Walter last year. I wasn’t leaving it to luck this year…  I happily sacrificed a window table in order to ensure being seated in his section.

Martini Time! Sadly Disney is running out their inventory of Tanqueray Gin. Not just at the Cali Grill but at all their other sit down restaurants.  But I could postpone making the decision to quit Disney over this egregious shortfall because Cali Grill still had a bit of Tanqueray N0.10 still in play.  Color me happy!

The dinner at the Cali Grill is prix fixe @ $89 for three courses.  A wine pairing is available for each course, and once again I opted for the higher tiered selection of wines  @ $69.

I had hoped to repeat my first course from last year, Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons, which was a  fabulous starter. But it wasn’t on the menu this year, so I opted for the Spicy Kazan Roll (Crab, Shrimp, Scallops, Tuna & Fireball Sauce).  A brief pause here.  I’m not a fan of sushi, sashimi or any other expressions of uncooked, or nearly uncooked fish (although I regularly scarf down fresh shucked clams and oysters).  Kazan Roll?  I thought it was going to be a fish-based egg roll, with a crisp tasty exterior.  Wrong!  Walter instructed me on how to place some of the fireball hot sauce on each of the rolls, and armed with chopsticks I dug in. 

Yes, it was very good.  And made better because I had a glass of Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédérick Emile ’15 as the pairing.  I used the 2014 vintage in a tasting this past November and knew the wine is star quality in every vintage (it is only made in good years).  And the 2015 indeed rated a shade higher than the excellent 2014.  But to quibble over a point or two is a fool’s mission in a wine at this quality level. 

For my main course once again I went with the Fire-Roasted Venison.  I order Venison just about every time I see it on a menu (in fact I had Venison at Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge two days earlier.  Also excellent).  I love a good cut of steak; but I can prepare that anytime at home.  Venison is a treat.  The Chef swapped out the sides from last year and replaced them with Butternut Squash Gnocchi, Parsnip-Almond Purée, Roasted Cippolini Onions, Glazed Apples, Chanterelle Mushrooms & Venison Jus. This dish was superbly prepared and I enjoyed a new vintage of wine that had been in the flight last year. The Duckhorn Merlot Three Palms Vyd ’20 was in perfect sync with rich flavors of the venison and the sides.  Great wine in concert with a great dish – what could be better than that?

Last year I paired the dessert course (a Chef’s Selection of California Cheeses) with the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.   There was nothing noteworthy in the cheese board, so this year I opted for the Peanut and Banana Torte (Shortbread, Peanut Ganache, Miso Caramel, Nut Crumble and Caramelized Bananas).  Peanut and Bananas?  Isn’t that an Elvis thing?  No matter, I’m sure that the King would have knocked off a couple of plates of this dessert, and it was a definite upgrade over last year’s cheese plate!   The key for me was the Champagne.  I would love that Blanc de Blancs with anything – including the Kazan Roll, the Venison and even a peanut butter and banana sandwich!


Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédérick Emile ’15 (Alsace, France)
The 2015 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile is clear and intense but highly refined on the nose that perfectly blends mineral with concentrated lemon and smoky flavors. Round, concentrated and very elegant on the palate, this is a slightly sweeter than normal Riesling, but it is highly finessed, well-structured and perfectly salty with a long and tension-filled finish. Fine tannins reflect the limestone/marl terroir of the Geisberg Grand Cru with the southeast-facing Osterberg Grand Cru. The 2015 will not go on the market earlier than 2022. 95+pts Wine Advocate

Duckhorn Merlot Three Palms Vyd ’20 (Napa, CA)
A cuvée of 98% Merlot and 2% Malbec. The Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot is an iconic wine that always demands attention with its yearly release. The 2020 vintage is alluring, persistent, and classic. Epic, elegant and profoundly complex, this stunning wine draws you in with aromas of fresh cranberry, huckleberry, crushed rose petals, raspberry and graham crackers. On the palate, mesmerizing layers of black fig and cocoa powder mingle with the lush berry flavors, with a sophisticated note of minerality emerging on the long, resonant finish. 94pts Wilfred Wong

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (Champagne, France)
100% Chardonnay. Based on the 2019 vintage and disgorged in 2022, Ruinart’s newly released NV Blanc de Blancs bursts with characteristically reductive aromas of yellow orchard fruit, citrus oil, iodine and toasted bread. Medium-bodied, pillowy and fleshy, with lively acids and a saline finish, it is an attractive Champagne that incorporates 20% reserve wines.
91pts Wine Advocate

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Writing in My Head

I once read that when John Irving writes a novel, he puts the final sentence down, and then without changing a word or punctuation mark, he goes about creating a novel underneath that sentence. That my friends is pretty intimidating.  Irving is one of my favorite authors, and after reading one of his books, I typically smash all my pencils: there is no point in my putting a single word to page.

All this would be fine, except my brain keeps flooding me with snapshots of my life from whippersnapper days to the present, and this happens particularly when I’m trying to sleep. As I struggle with sleep, maybe after a brief pause to the bathroom, I return to the bed and I may have a huge smile on my face. Sandy asks, “Are you OK?”  To which I will respond, “It’s nothing, I’m just writing in my head.” Said without having to elaborate that I have just uncovered a hysterical word to use in a sentence. Then again, the smile could have indicated that I just peed in my boxer shorts.

I don’t think there is a piece I have written these many years, that did not have an important shakedown cruise as I waited for sleep to take me away. I love words. No other language can challenge the breadth and depth of the English word stock. There is such a rich texture in adjectives. Nouns, funny names.  I love putting words together. I love the turn of a phrase. There has to be a flow, words must follow a speaking rhythm.  It’s the way a joke unfolds.  Timing is critical.  And there has to be a consistency to the voice.  You have to hear me.  I aim for that… for you to say, “that’s Jim.”

And there at night. 2:00am, or such, I’m trying to find a way to convey the pace of the story in my head (with an improved word or two) onto the page.  It should be noted that at this point I have not written a word on paper, or on my laptop.  In fact, I just may have a subject line, “13 Beers on the Merritt” (for those interested, this is the link to that flight of fantasy .

It’s nice to receive a compliment for something that I have written.  I don’t aspire to be a writer.  I do tell  a good joke, and on many occasions, an exceptional joke. Like, maybe exceptional times ten.   And simply put, my pen just follows the thoughts and scenes that inhabit my mind.

Here’s a topic for future consideration: “Colonoscopy Was First Introduced During the Spanish Inquisition.”

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Mont Verrier Fleurie ‘La Tonne’ Cru Beaujolais 2020

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