The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 10 of 100

10 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 { editor's notebook } Leading spirits historian David Wondrich gives a salute to American bar classics in the updated and revised edition of his acclaimed James Beard Award–winning book Imbibe! ($17, Perigee Books). In it, he delivers a lively narrative of "Professor" Jerry Thomas's role as the father of the American bar. Thomas was a rambunctious sailor and gambler who happened to own the fanciest saloon in New York City in the 1800s; he made gustatory history standing behind his bar. Wondrich gives American history buffs and mixology geeks alike the recipes and stories behind many of Thomas's timeless cocktails, as well as the obscure drinks that paved the way for today's popular concoctions. Wondrich's well-researched work, a classic in its own right, provides helpful bartending tips, information on mixology gear and a comprehensive discussion of spirits. Alcohol also has a rich history internationally, one that involves medicinal elixirs, political move - ments, religious affiliations and pioneering trends. Capturing the depths and nuances of alcohol's com- plex global story is Jane Peyton in her book School of Booze: An Insider's Guide to Libations, Tipples, and Brews ($15, Skyhorse Publishing). Brimming with factoids, such as Cleopatra's and Jane Austen's drinks of choice, and providing insight into the evolving styles of making absinthe, gin and other spirits, Peyton's book is packed with fascinating information and fun facts that most other sources have overlooked. For example, the commonly used phrase "rule of thumb" has roots in the booze world. Before brewers had thermometers to measure the temperature of their brews, which is used to mark the start of fermentation, he or she would stick a thumb in the brew to make a cultured guess. Since the advent of the restaurant, vegetarian ingre - dients have usually been relegated to side dishes or mere garnish for more carnivore-sanctioned fare. But produce is now climbing its way to star- dom in a big way, and Austin-based Laura Samuel Meyn and SOMM Journal Texas Editor Anthony Head authoritatively capture this ascent in their cookbook, Meatless in Cowtown ($22, Running Press). These two vegetarians celebrate the Long Star State with intensely innovative and unexpectedly hearty Texan food. For example, Meyn and Head fill fajitas with smoky grilled peppers, squash and mushrooms, and garnish them with a piquant tomatillo-avocado salsa verde. For something that'll stick to your ribs, the white cheddar-green chile mac and cheese fits the bill. There are morning delights, such as banana-oat pancakes with toasted pecans and migas (a local mix of scrambled eggs and tortillas) with peppers and onions. A Texas peach cobbler highlights the dessert section, and the salted caramel-coconut milk ice cream scores a sensory home run. Bringing the book full circle are the cocktails. Don't miss the Rye Russian and the Michelada, which the authors transform with Worcestershire, soy and hot sauce, chili powder and cracked pepper. THE READING ROOM Screw It! YOU ARE A SKILLED AND EXPERIENCED sommelier. You are well-trained and adept at the protocol of presenting and opening a bottle of wine. You know how to bring the bottle to the table, how to present the label to the person who ordered it and how to open it. You have perfected your technique of quietly and smoothly removing the cork. You can cut the capsule in one fluid, continuous motion. You can extract the cork with a flourish and present it to the guest. You know exactly how much to pour for a pre-taste. You have it together. But wait. Things and the times are a-changin'. More and more wineries are adopting alternative closures. Even some of the best and most expen - sive wines now come topped with screwcaps. How do you adjust your technique and still retain the sense of style and mastery you have perfected for natural corks? Do you present the bottle in the same way? Do you cover the cap with a napkin when you unscrew it? What do you do with the cap when it has been removed? Do you dispose of it or leave it on the table? Do you still pour a pre-taste or just go ahead and pour? Does pouring a pre-taste in this situation allow an obnoxious customer the opportunity to send back a perfectly good bottle? The screwcap presents a whole new set of issues. I'm not going to presume to tell you how to deal with them; all I'm saying is you need to think about this and be prepared with your own logical approach to stylishly opening a screwcapped bottle. However you go about it, remember that the pro - cedure is part of the drama that service provides. It's an important component of the evening's entertainment. —Anthony Dias Blue

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - June / July 2015