Monday, May 25, 2015

announcing the British Isles, 2015

Hello. I've been gone a while. You might have noticed some ch-ch-ch-changes since I was here last.

First, take a look up there in the location bar. You might notice that the Vaunter finally got himself his own URL. Yep. The Sententious Vaunter isn't just a smug moniker anymore, it's a web domain. I've got my own webpage now. Bought it from Google for $12 a year. This is part of my attempt to clean this blog up, pare it down, develop it into something useful and timely, and (perhaps) make it more profitable. I want a travel blog that'll pay me to travel, not just a corner of the web where I bloviate. As soon as I figure out HTML (I got an account with one of those free web design sites, but it was so long ago that I don't even remember which one), I'll revamp TSV, give it a shiny new overhaul, and it'll actually be its own webpage instead of a Blogger template. Time to hit the big leagues. Time I actually started a travel/sci-fi writing blog in earnest.

Speaking of travel...

If you've been with this blog from the beginning, you probably remember Jeff and Jenn, the Canadian/English couple I've bummed around with on two or three continents. They're getting married in July. In England. In a castle. Miss H and I were invited. We're going. And we're making it a three-week tour of the British Isles. Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, London, and Dublin. With long layovers in Miami and Boston. 

It's gonna be epic. 

I'm so excited, not just because this will be Miss H's first venture onto European soil, but because it's a chance for me to redeem myself. I saw Edinburgh and London and Dublin for the first time (with Jeff at my side, actually) but only for the briefest of moments. I was in London for an overnight layover and I had a scant 72 hours in Edinburgh and Dublin, respectively. This time around we'll have as much as five to six days in each location. Maybe not enough to explore their every nook and cranny, but enough to see the major sights, get to know more than one neighborhood, and drink as much beer and cider in pubs as I can hold (and then some).

And did I mention that the bachelor party is in Edinburgh, Scotland? The whisky capital of the world?

Hell yes it is. And you'll hear every gory detail here on TSV

Stay tuned...


Saturday, January 24, 2015

cocktail review no. 78 - Aberfoyle

One of the things I picked up from my parents' house before I came down to Vegas was my old box of booze. During the first six months of 2008, when I lived in my folks' basement in Wyoming after graduating college and fruitlessly scoured cyberspace for journalism work, I took an interest in cocktails. My folks were wont to have a martini every night before dinner. Their liquor selection consisted solely of a fifth of Bombay Sapphire and some Martini & Rossi. After thumbing through The Bartender's Bible by Gary Regan (which to this day is my go-to guide on mixology), I found my parents' stocks to be inadequate. So over the course of six months I laded their liquor cabinet with rum (light and dark), tequila, vodka, bourbon, Scotch, rye, and every liqueur or cordial you could name. My folks, having no use for this stuff after I moved out, boxed it all up. I retrieved it from their new house in Sacramento last week and drove it, rattling and clinking, down Highway 95 to Las Vegas. The gin, tequila, and whiskies were long gone; only two bottles of hard liquor remain to my name, some Ugly Dog Vodka and Ugly Dog Rum. (My parents acquired it thanks to my grandparents, who had recently moved to Chelsea, Michigan, the home of the Ugly Dog Distillery.)

So here I am. It's the second Saturday I've been home. I had a few beers with my dad in San Francisco and some Kraken Black Spiced Rum at a dinner party with an old friend in Las Vegas proper...that's it. No cocktails. I was dying for a good belt of something. So I reached for The Bartender's Bible, flipped to the section on vodka, and what's the first drink I see?

This one:

  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Drambuie

Pour both ingredients into a rocks glass half-filled with ice cubes. Stir well. 

Let's get one thing straight: Drambuie. It's honeyed Scotch liqueur, in case you haven't read any of my other cocktail reviews. And I love it. It's one of my favorite liqueurs in the world...or it was, before some wingnut decided to change the recipe. The bottle now looks like this: 



In the good old days, though, it looked like this


Culturally South Korea is a little behind the U.S., and matters booze-related are no exception. As the bottles of Drambuie made to the old recipe vanished from American shelves, a few holdouts remained on South Korean ones, and that's where I found mine. I think the new Drambuie tastes like cough syrup. I even did a video taste-test to that effect. I don't know where it's gone, otherwise I'd post it for your edification. 

Anyway, if you're going to make the Aberfoyle or any other Drambuie highball, make sure you've got the old recipe in the old bottle, not the new one. Yuck. The original recipe is (always) better.

What does the Aberfoyle taste like? Shockingly good. Vodka being a necklace of negatives, it absorbs and accentuates flavors, and with Drambuie there's plenty to accentuate: malt whisky, honey, herbs, and spices. One of my other favorite highballs is the rusty nail, wherein the Scotch and Drambuie really play off of each other; but with the Aberfoyle, the vodka sits back and lets the Drambuie shine. Consider the Aberfoyle a milder version of the rusty nail, but be warned: it packs a punch. There are no mitigating factors here. This drink has only two ingredients, and both are alcoholic...and the highball itself goes down smooth as butter. Mind you don't overdo it. 

Until next time...