The Classic Crimson Cocktail

The Classic Crimson Cocktail

Rye and tobacco
With gentlemanly pursuits
Perfectly blended.

Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect.

Whenever I visit a new bar the first drink I order is an Old Fashioned. Executing a proper Old Fashioned takes experience and care to blend the ingredients in just the right proportions. If the bar delivers a proper Old Fashioned then it bodes well that the rest of their drinks will be given similar consideration.

I figured it was probably time for me to learn how to make a proper Old Fashioned myself. I invited my closest partners-in-crime to be my judging panel and had a lineup that included: Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Knob Creek, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and Jim Beam Signature. All single barrel reserve, of course. Alas, I could not get my hands on the much sought-after Pappy’s Van Winkle. One day, you shall be mine. Oh, yes, you will.

Bourbon Selection

Not Jack, I know, but I think Frank would’ve approved. So who else to have on the playlist but Ol’ Blue Eyes himself? Add in some Thelonious Monk, Miles, and Coltrane and you’ve got the soundtrack set for a laidback evening with the fellas.

What to serve with the cocktails? Something substantial and spicy to stand up to the sweetness of the cocktails. Cajun should do nicely. It is close to Mardi Gras, after all, and the Old Fashioned’s cousin is the NOLA sazerac. Now usually I’d do the cooking myself but in this case I left it to the experts. Poor House Bistro makes a mean po’boy and kept the fellas happily sated. Why no photos? You know how it is. Guests start arriving, drinks are poured, and food is devoured.

Of course, a proper Old Fashioned should be accompanied by a proper cigar. For the evening we indulged in Aging Room’s Quattro F55 Concerto cigars. Their well-balanced cedar, cocoa, and espresso flavors offset the cocktails perfectly.

Aging Room Quattro F55 Concerto

The verdict? I think I can properly check, “Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect,” off my 360 List. The winning recipe is one I’ve dubbed, The Classic Crimson. Classic, because despite its name an Old Fashioned is timeless, and Crimson because it’s really the blood orange bitters that sets this drink apart. Did a quick search of the online drink recipe sites and I think we have a winner. No other matches found. First, bitches.

The Classic Crimson cocktail
2 oz Blanton’s Original Single Barrel bourbon
dash blood orange bitters
splash simple syrup
orange peel

Some whiskey stones or carved block ice gently chills without stealing character from the drink. Add a splash of simple syrup made from raw sugar. A dash of blood orange bitters. Two ounces of Blanton’s. Stir, then twist an orange peel over the drink and serve. I’m all for exploring new recipes, but for me, an Old Fashioned shall never be proper with a cherry in it. Cherry infused bitters? Sure. Fruit that’s better left on a sundae? Never. Remember when I said an Old Fashioned was my litmus test for a new bar? Add a cherry and you’ve got not one, but two strikes with me. That’s how strongly I feel about it.

Now that I’ve got the foundation set, I’ll be experimenting a bit with the recipe. Perhaps infusing the simple syrup with Arancia Rossa di Sicilia. Give a go with Blanton’s Gold Edition to have a bit of fudge and white pepper. Try barrel aging the cocktail.

This, of course, was merely stage dressing for an evening of jokes, stories, and conversation with gentlemen of distinction. Thanks to the fellas for sharing this experience and helping me check something off my 360 List. Special thanks to the lovely Kitten Marie for being my assistant for the evening (and helping me finally polish off my bottle of Deleón) 😉

Mindful Acts of Kindness

Buy a Kid an Ice Cream Cone

I’ve found that doing something kind for someone else has become my antidote for a crappy day. When the stress of work, the unexpected bumps of my day, and the worries of things not yet done weigh on me, I take the focus off me and look for something that I can do to brighten someone else’s day. Sometimes it’s direct. Sometimes it’s done anonymously. Sometimes I’m not even around to see the effect and am left to imagine the wonderful ways it has made that person smile.

As I began to do little acts…taking my used cup to the counter at my favorite cafe…picking up a bit of trash someone left behind…I started to become more aware of the people around me. I thought about how I treated them. I paid attention to how they felt after talking with me. I started looking for reasons to do nice things. While the thought of random acts is enchanting, the thought of being mindfully kind has a power all its own.

I like the idea that wherever I go, whatever I do, whomever I meet, I’ve done something to leave that small space a little bit better. In fact, I feel like something is left unfinished until I find some way to leave behind some kindness. Karma or no, I feel that at the very least my perception has changed for the better. I feel more open and approachable. I smile more. Things don’t bother me as much as they used to. Judging by the way people have been receiving me, they must be noticing it too.

I’m in the habit of buying a suspended kid’s cone at my local ice cream shoppe. What’s a suspended kid’s cone? I pay for an extra kid’s cone and ask the staff to pass it on to the next kid who comes in. Granted, it’s more of a gift to their parents but the ear-to-ear smile of the child who becomes part of my conspiracy of kindness is a blast to see. More often than not, the parent will pay it forward for the next kid. What’s been especially gratifying is hearing the staff tell me, “I’m going to start doing that.” Ripples. That my simple, mindful acts of kindness might be inspiring someone else to be kinder is reason enough to keep me going.

If you’re looking for some fun, simple ideas for mindful acts of kindness check these out at onelifecan.com. I know, some of these can take a bit of effort so start simply. A kind, well-placed word can have an amazing effect on a person. Say thank you to your boss. Compliment a co-worker. Scribble a quick smiley face on your waitress’ receipt. Tell a kid they’re awesome. It won’t be long before you start looking for other kind things to do.

And if you ever see me at a cafe, please let me buy you a cup of coffee. I’ve got a thousand to go.

Minding My Marbles

Minding My Marbles

2740 days is what we are given to pursue the things that matter to us (based on an average life expectancy of 79 years and removing things like sleeping, eating, grooming, work, etc.). I began thinking about how I might translate this into something that I could use in daily mindfulness. I decided to buy a bunch of marbles to represent the days given to me then each day move one from the “remaining” pile into the “spent” pile.

Having 3468 marbles–I’m an optimist, I scaled to assume I will live to be 100–didn’t seem practical because it would be very easy for me to let days slip by given such an abundance. Also, that time is broken up by other activities in our daily lives. So it would have meant that I would have had to take a marble every 10.5 days. Sort of defeats the purpose of daily mindfulness. Plus, it was too much to keep track of and I knew I would lose count so I decided to start with 365 marbles. 365 days to live my New Year commitments. Manageable mindfulness for a year.

I also saw this as an opportunity to find mindfulness in the quality of how I spent those days. I decided to use three colors of marbles: green, for days I felt I had spent well, yellow, for days that were okay but could have been better, and red, for the bad days. At the end of each day I would take one of these colored marbles and place them in the appropriate pile. I found some nifty jars at Crate & Barrel to keep them organized.

After a month, here’s where my experiment stands:

Minding My Marbles

24 green, 5 yellow, and 2 red.

I have tried to start a daily gratitude journal on several occasions and couldn’t quite get it to stick. Combining it with my marbles gave me an added incentive to be diligent. Each day, rather than struggling to find something new I was grateful for (or find myself writing about the same things) I would write what it was about that day that made my marble green, yellow, or red. That did the trick for me. I am much more disciplined about writing in my daily gratitude journal now and I have a built in topic to consider as I write: Why was my day good, meh, or bad?

For my greens: 9 came from time with friends and family, 7 involved doing things for others (random acts or mentoring/teaching), 3 days of inspiration, 3 great career moves, and 2 spent getting necessary things done.

For my yellows: 4 had me just vegging out at home and 1 was from a bad day that turned okay by some meditation and proper perspective realignment.

For my reds: 1 from family hardship and 1 from work stress.

Here’s where the experiment started to yield mindfulness benefits. Knowing I would have to “spend” one of my marbles that evening, it made me more aware of the things I planned to do that day. Whenever I was being a lazy layabout, I would ask myself if this is how I wanted to spend my day. If I had a bad day, I thought about how I might turn it around or what I would do the following day so that one red marble didn’t turn into two consecutive reds. I started finding little tricks to shift my day to green. Bad day at work? Do a random act of kindness. Being lazy? Call someone I love and talk for a bit.

If you’re not quite ready to commit to 365 days–I’ll admit it can be quite daunting–then start small. Maybe you’ve wanted to start exercising more regularly. Get 21 marbles and try it for 3 weeks. Ready to really form a lifelong habit? Then bump it up to 90 consecutive days. Whatever activity or habit you need help with focusing your discipline, daily marbles can help.

The inspiration for this article came from this brilliant video representing the time we are given in this world as illustrated by jellybeans: