Make Your Own Tonic Water

When I (Shanna – the one who’s drunk for fun on YouTube) tell people about my latest culinary projects, I get the most questions about 1.) my pickled strawberries (not good for cocktails, unless it’s like a shrub) and 2.) homemade tonic water (only good for cocktails).

My quest for good tonic water started with an Advance Readers Copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s forthcoming book The Signature of All Things. I like to describe it as the Philadelphian Gone With the Wind, but with botany instead of “the gentry,” moss instead male suitors. It’s great. The father gets rich on early botanical pharmaceuticals, including powdered cinchona bark, which contains quinine, the key ingredient in tonic water. The stuff you get at the grocery store also has preservatives and corn syrup. If, like me, you’re not a fan then making your own traditional tonic water may be the way to go.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be in the Mission District of San Francisco where I could get some cinchona bark, because the Strip District of Pittsburgh unfortunately isn’t that kind of niche. The Duc Loi Supermarket has everything you could possibly want, including whiskey and Bahn Mi sandwiches… and salvia. Don’t get the salvia. Get cinchona bark. Otherwise known as the fever tree, Jesuit’s bark or Peruvian bark, the quinine in cinchona is known for curing malaria and muscle cramps. It’s also what gives your G+T that nice bitter flavor.

To start, steep the bark in hot water for 30 or more minutes (depending on potency – just keep tasting it), almost like making cinchona tea. Use fillable tea bags or tie up some coffee filters so you don’t get any wood-bits in your tonic. It’ll turn a nice red color and start to take on some bitterness. You can then make a syrup by adding a cup (or more, or less) to every 2 cups of water. Any more is too sweet in my opinion, but it’s up to you. Try adding botanicals while steeping, like lavender or citrus.

Now you have a Tonic Syrup, to which you can add your own soda water. One part syrup for 4 parts soda seems to work well. Bottle, refrigerate, and throw a tonic party.

Strangely, it goes well with bourbon. Try it out!

How to Stock Your Bar

Aside from booze blogs, web comics, regular comics, and as many books as we can get our hands on, we (specifically Matt) like to read certain menswear blogs. In particular we recommend An Affordable Wardrobe and Put This On, which inspired our video segments. One of the common questions addressed on menswear blogs is how to build a wardrobe and not surprisingly, the process is very similar to stocking your bar.

This is our collection a year ago. Much like a child, it has only gotten larger and more expensive since then.

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Dempsey Cocktail

Named for the legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, this cocktail may not be for everyone, but its distinctive combination of flavors could make devotees out of a few. Like its namesake, this one hits hard.

3 oz gin

1 oz applejack

1 tsp absinthe

1 tsp grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass half filled with ice and stir thoroughly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Dempsey Cocktail

Film Friday: Mad Men

At long last Mad Men is back! A couple episodes into the new season and we’re as happy as Roger Sterling in a pool full of Stolichnaya, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to bend the rules on our Film Friday series. So sure, Mad Men isn’t a film, but after 4 seasons the character development is outstanding, the writing is absolutely on point, and the editing and camerawork are downright cinematic. Besides, it’s our blog and we’ll do what we want.

So suppose for a moment that for the past five years you’ve been consciously avoiding AMC and shunning their programming lineup. Maybe you’re under the impression that this “Mad Men” thing that people keep talking about is some gruesome spinoff of Angry Birds. But now you’ve seen the light. You read something online that changed your mind, or that cute girl at work was talking about the show, or maybe your friends and family staged an intervention, because they love you and want you to be happy with your television choices. Anyway, you’ve decided that you need to start watching this Mad Men show and through the miracle of Netflix you can start right from the beginning.

While I wouldn’t recommend going drink for drink with the characters onscreen, we find that the show’s more enjoyable with a strong drink in hand. As such, here’s a guide drinking along with Mad Men, season by season.

Mad Men season one with a Martini and Vodka Gimlet

Season 1: Martinis and Vodka Gimlets

Still steeped in the glamor and buttoned-up culture of the 1950’s, the first season of Mad Men begins in 1960 – the Drapers and the Sterlings sip traditional alcohol-heavy drinks in their favorite clubs, at home, and at work. More importantly, these period-appropriate cocktails will sooth the shock of some characters’ blatant sexism. But as the final scene of season 1 implies, the shows writers have a higher opinion of the female characters than do many of the male characters.

Season 2: Cuba Libres and Heineken with a side of Utz potato chips

I must admit, that of the four full seasons so far, season 2 is my least favorite. However, 3 & 4 more than make up for it and there are important plot points in season 2 that will be important later on. We went with Heineken and Utz for this season because both brands are featured as clients of the Sterling Cooper ad agency. But with the Cuban missile crisis looming at the end of the season, we figured the politically pertinent Cuba Libre would make a good fit.

Season 3: Old Fashioneds and French 75s

Season 3 is back on track with quality writing, compelling stories, and masterful filmmaking. This season is one of triumph, tragedy and strife, which made our selections more difficult. There is a birth and a death, which led us to the French 75. A celebratory drink, the French 75 is champagne-based, but also takes its name from a First World War artillery gun. And in episode 6 an altercation with a lawnmower inspired the selection of the Old Fashioned, a somewhat gory muddled drink.

Season 4: Irish Coffee and Dempsey Cocktail

We figure that if you’ve gotten this far you’ve probably missed some sleep, so wake yourself up with an Irish Coffee and soldier on. You’re on the home stretch. Once you’re awake, switch to the Dempsey Cocktail (which we’ll be posting in a few days). Named for the legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, this drink fits in with season 4’s combative themes. As Don battles with Betty and Sterling Cooper Draper Price go head-to-head with a rival agency, we see the characters at their best and at their worst. In fact, in one of the show’s many examples of highlighting historical context, episode 7 takes place the same night as Muhammad Ali’s second match-up against Sonny Liston.

Season 5 is off to a good start and we’re super excited to have new episodes to look forward to. As the season progresses, leave us suggestions in the comments as to what your drink of choice is for this season.

Post #100: the Century Cocktail

Holy crap you guys! We have officially reached our 100th post. It’s a small milestone to be sure, but I’ll take any excuse to pour a celebratory tipple. To mark the occasion we thought it’d be appropriate to invent an IPTB original cocktail which we have fittingly dubbed the Century. I was actually rather surprised to find that there wasn’t already a drink by that name, but all the better for us. We fiddled with the recipe for a few days and tried a few variations, but it was Shanna that hit upon the winning combination. Those who know us and/or are regular readers won’t be surprised by the ingredient list. The result is a cocktail that’s complex in flavor, but not in execution, and which we think has the merits of a classic.

So let’s raise a toast: May the next 100 posts be even more fun than the first, and may you always drink in good health and better company!

Celebrating 100 posts with a Century Cocktail

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