The Mojito Alternative #5: Something else to do with your gin than just a G&T

March 31, 2014 Leave a comment

As the story goes, in 1919 Count Camillo Negroni entered his regular watering hole in Florence (still there as the Caffè Cavalli), and asked the bartender to beef up his regular Americano and swap out the club soda for some gin. Voila, the Negroni was born.

While we’ve been enjoying exceptional good weather the past few weeks,  I’ve already retired my Fair Isle sweaters from my wardrobe and swapped my flannel suits for my summer jackets, and likewise I’ve stopped drinking wintery cocktails and am once again going for the ones that remind me of summer.

Since our holidays last year near Florence, one of my favorite summer drinks is the Negroni, and after returning home I’ve been tinkering with it, trying to refine it to the max.

In all honesty, there’s not a whole lot to be done with it, the drink is what it is, equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari and gin, neat or on ice (I prefer it on ice), and finished with an orange peel. So, I’ve been looking for the right ingredients, as with this drink I believe the devil is really in the details.

First of all, there really is no substitute for the Campari. I’m a sucker for more exclusive ingredients, but I’ve found that Campari is basically the best “Campari” for this drink. In for instance a Boulvardier I prefer Gran Classico Bitter, but it’s just not bitter enough for a Negroni.

The sweet vermouth is a bit the same story, I’ve tried it with Antica Formula, but it’s too sweet and the vanilla doesn’t really have a place in a Negroni. So I’m using basic Dolin Red Vermouth.

The Gin however, now that’s a different story. The taste of the Campari is quite strong, so you can go 2 ways; either you use a gin that has enough oomph to still cut through it, or you go for maximum complementarity. So far I’ve only had one gin that really could withstand the Campari, and that is Blackwood’s Vintage Dry Gin. At 60% (that’s 120 proof) it’s strong enough to still come through but it still doesn’t overpower.

If you prefer to make a really well integrated Negroni, I’ve come across 2 gins you might want to dig for. Both are the direct result of one day not having any oranges in the house, so adding a grapefruit peel  instead. The resulting flavor was a revelation, as I think the grapefruit adds a wonderful, yet subtle difference to the classic Negroni – still bitter yet somewhat more fruity than the orange peel which flavor frankly just disappears in the Campari.

That’s how I went looking for a gin that would enhance this flavor, and so I found Jensen’s Old Tom Gin which has a lovely fruity flavor and is slightly sweet.

And very recently I discovered Buss N° 509 Pink Grapefruit gin, a lovely pink gin with nice hints of citrus fruits, which goes great with the grapefruit peel. This creates an extremely well integrated Negroni, so smooth and fresh you might wonder where the gin went.

Classical cocktails surely aren’t boring, but once in a while they can be improved upon (without going overboard, and with means at the disposal of a home bar) so what are you doing to bring those classics into the 21st century?

There may be a very dark side to gamification

February 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Quick reminder for those who need it. Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. To put very bluntly, you score points and badges for performing certain real-life tasks or actions.

For a long time I’ve been reading nothing but articles and reports on the benefits of gamification; from being able to make your kids like to do chores by giving them a virtual persona who gains powers each time they perform a chore, to incentivizing employees to join in and participate on certain platforms by giving them points based on the level of their involvement, allowing them to (playfully) rank themselves against the score of colleagues.

This article from Motherboard “The Terrifying Future Where Everything Is A Video Game” may give you pause to think about where this is really going to lead to. Maybe for now it may seem like all “fun and games”, but the question he raises, namely “is gamification applied to a business/workforce context just a clever way to (re)introduce Taylorism without people noticing?”, should make us pause for thought.

To gamify an office leads to people who gain points and earn badges, but what indeed does it then mean to “lose” in such an environment?

Some interesting food for thought there…

Maybe the Internet of Things isn’t such a great thing to look forward to…

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

hal

Recently Gartner has been harping on about the economic and technological impact the Internet of Things (IoT) will have in the coming years.

For those of you who need a quick reminder of what this IoT-thing is all about, it comes down to plugging communication and computation capabilities into all kinds of everyday devices, and allowing them to interact with the user or even other devices, directly or by being hooked up to the internet, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The example long thrown around is the fridge that monitors its content and orders stuff you are about to run out of. Nowadays of course, we are hooking more and more stuff up to the internet, like your camera, TV and Blu-ray player, but also your running shoes or your heating thermostat. And everyday more applications are added to this list.

It creates possibilities in user-interaction, or user-friendliness never before possible – I mean being able to remotely turn down the thermostat in your house and lower the blinds can have its advantages, no?

But maybe there’s also a downside to this. IT-security is currently an ever growing concern for companies, so now add to the current stack of computers and servers in danger of viruses and malware, about 26 billion devices who have often been created with anything but IT-security in mind, and this is bound to be a recipe for serious disaster.

Charles Stross, a science fiction author with a degree in computer sciences, often writing about a world “15 minutes in the future” as he puts it himself, had some interesting points about the dark side of this Internet of Things (especially the report about the spambot hidden in an electric kettle)…

Wishing you a brilliant and stylish end to 2013

December 17, 2013 Leave a comment

best wishes 2013-2014

The Mojito Alternative #4: Celebrate prohibition with a Boulevardier

November 29, 2013 1 comment

Prohibition drove many of the good bartenders out of America towards Europe, New Yorker Harry McElhone among them. He introduced us to the Boulevardier, my current wintertime favorite.

Most people just refer to it as a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin, but maybe that’s doing quite some injustice to this little known cocktail, as depending on what source you go by, it might predate the creation of the Negroni. Regardless of its origins, a Boulevardier for me combines all the right flavours for the cold winter, just as a Negroni is one of the perfect summer drinks.

The original recipe is quite straightforward, calling for equal measures of bourbon, Campari and sweet red vermouth, stirred in a glass over ice and served with an orange twist. I however prefer it with these ingredients, which may not be obvious to find I admit:

  1. Fill a whiskey tumbler with ice cubes
  2. Add 40ml rye whiskey (I use Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Single Barrel Rye)
  3. Add 40ml Gran Classico Bitter
  4. Add 40ml Antica Formula
  5. Purely optional, but for an even stronger winter flavor you can add about 3/4ths of a bar spoon of Allspice or Pimento bitters (that’s 2 names for the same), giving hints of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and anis to the Boulevardier. I personally use the Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters, but other brands exist.
  6. Stir for 20 seconds
  7. Cut an orange peel, making sure to get the oils onto the cocktail, and add the twist in the glass

Now it’s time to sit back, enjoy your Bouelvardier and watch the fire crackle…

Need something to read for those approaching winter evenings? Here’s my 2nd list of (mostly) Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I read during 2013

October 29, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s that time of the year again, winter hour is upon us, darkness comes early, the holidays are approaching fast, and the weather is turning cold, so like me, lots of people look for something to read in the evening by a crackling fire. So as is my habit by now,  I thought I’d share with you my 2nd part of  the list of books I’ve read in 2013, as you will see, it’s been a bit of a hit and miss batch for me. The first half of my book list you can read here.

  1. Making Money – Terry Pratchett  (3/5) – The second outing of Moist von Lipwig, and for me rather unneeded. From the start it gives a strong “been there, done that” feeling, and is rather predictable all the way. It still gets 3/5 because of the writing, the characters and the jokes, but the story is a tired rehash of Going Postal, which in the end then, is the better of the 2 books.
  2. NOS-4R2 – Joe Hill (4/5) – Where as I still said “He manages to pack the same character development and mood his father is so known for in less pages” about his previous novel Horns, I guess he’s already turned over to the dark side with this one, clocking in around 700 pages, and not all needed in my opinion. The MacGuffin is a fun idea and the big bad is interesting, but the story could have been packed tighter, especially towards the 2nd half of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but regularly kept thinking “get on with it” as it has a tendency to linger.
  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (5/5) – In my opinion his best book since American Gods, and you could easily imagine it taking place in that same universe & mythology. The best description I can give it is an autobiographical fairytale based on a small part of Neil Gaiman’s childhood if it, like I said, would have happened in the world of the Gods from American Gods.
  4. The Rapture of the Nerds – Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross (5/5) – It’s the end of the 21st century and most of humanity has abandoned their meaty confines and uploaded to a gigantic computer network floating in space, while the rest has stayed behind and now have to endure technology gone out of control. Between the humor the picture they paint of this post-singularity future is eerily grim and not altogether unrealistic. Must read if you’re at all interested in high-concept sci-fi while able to enjoy it being prodded fun at in the same time.
  5. The Fourth Wall – Walter Jon Williams (2/5) – The third novel in the Dagmar Shaw series, where awkwardly enough Dagmar has been made into a supporting character. That aside the novel is an amalgam of genres, a bit techno thriller, a bit noir, a bit of a whodunit, some social commentary and a bit of an action thriller. For me it didn’t really work, plus I just couldn’t get into the main character.
  6. Neptune’s Brood – Charles Stross (3/5) – A novel set in the same continuum as Saturn’s Children, so not a sequel by any means. This time the master of futurology tackles the implications of intergalactic travel on economy and the financial services needed to support such endeavors – and the possible scams that go with it. Even though I could still appreciate the thought that went into developing the concept it just didn’t do anything for me.

Anything you would recommend to me?

Customers running away from the competition, literally…

September 20, 2013 Leave a comment

The video is over a year old, but I had never heard about it. Meat Pack, a sneaker store in a shopping mall, uses a GPS enabled app to track when you enter a competitor’s store and then offers you a discount at their store. Only catch is, the discount starts at 100% and decreases by 1% every second, so apparently you had about 600 people in a week while the campaign ran, sprinting out of those stores, straight to the Meat Pack store.

Just brilliant…

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