“Session” & obsession

Low-ABV cocktails are easy to drink, delicious, and protective of important internal organs.

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Sessionable beverages: You can drink all night, if for some reason you wanted to do that.

Let us buy the elephant in the room a Hemingway daiquiri and have a frank talk: Cocktailing is one of the few recreational activities that, when pursued with an abundance of enthusiasm over long periods, can slowly kill you.

Assuming you use Uber judiciously, avoid barfights, and don’t live in a concealed-carry state, the danger is not episodic but pernicious: The major bodily systems that can be incapacitated when subjected to excessive amounts of ethyl over time reads like the index of Gray’s Anatomy [the text, not the TV show, although maybe that too].

Of course alcohol in moderation has considerable health benefits, and other life habits create even greater risk of harm and death — texting while walking leaps to mind.

Anyhow: I’m only about 4 years into my cocktail adventure — still a senior in the school of adult beverages, so to speak — but I already well understand that a kind of mindful calibration is a necessary part of our secular practice.

The session obsession

And so we turn to our beloved frenemies, the beer geeks, to appropriate a practice that allows for indulgence while mitigating peril: “Sessioning.”

Among beer hounds, a “sessionable” beer is one with low alcohol by volume [ABV] but compelling qualities that one can enjoy for an extended “session” without fear of, say, waking up pantsless in a gravel pit with an unfamilar name written across your forehead in Sharpie.

The term has been adopted by cocktaileurs in the past few years, but I hear less of it in our area of interest. Moreso they are called “low-ABV” drinks. Essentially they are cocktails that eliminate the base liquor, usually mixing fortified wines, amaros, apertifs, bitters, citrus, fizzy toppers, and so forth. Many of the ingredients weigh in at 15 to 30 ABV, compared with 40 to 50% for most base liquors.

I first encountered the word when talking to one of D.C.’s great barkeeps. I was asking, as I often do, what they drink themselves. He just laughed: “Low ABV, man, low ABV.” I investigated and discovered a new sub-genre to explore.

A few days ago I was at the Top-10-in-D.C. Copy Cat Lounge and asked for a low-ABV bartender’s choice. We exchange knowing smiles and he came back with a concoction of Cynar [an artichoke [[!]]-based bitter liqueur], a Spanish vermouth, and lemon juice, with flamed orange garnish. Spectacular. I’m guessing 20 proof in the glass. Continue reading ““Session” & obsession”

The Drunk Monk: Old & “improved”

A new creation with a heritage dating back to 1806. No, wait, it was 1674. Well, whatever. A long time ago.

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The Drunk Monk: An “improved” whiskey cocktail.

Others bring wine to parties.

You are a cocktailer.

And yet…sometimes you barely have 10 minutes to swing by the liquor store. No time for muddling and macerating and suchnot. But you will not stoop to bringing a $26 bottle of Merlot.

Luckily, you have in your back pocket… The Drunk Monk.

The Drunk Monk

  • 4 parts bourbon
    • Most recently I felt expansive and sprang for Basil Hayden’s
  • 1 part Green Chartreuse
  • Showy orange peel garnish

Continue reading “The Drunk Monk: Old & “improved””

Getting to know Suze

Any home bartender with a credit card quickly learns that you can look like a genius if you just buy the right stuff. So get yourself a bottle of Suze — rhymes with “booze” — and bask in the admiration.

Suze liqueur recipes
Picasso’s “Bottle of Suze,” 1912. You can get one for $30. The Suze, I mean, not the painting.

Though it’s been imported into the U.S. since 2012, Suze is still a kind of secret handshake among cocktaileurs, spotted mostly on the upper shelves of bars that use different sizes of ice cubes. This complex and bitter liqueur has been made in France since 1889, the year the Moulin Rouge opened. Not a bad cultural landmark to share an anniversary with.

Tasting Suze

Taken neat, the first thing you notice is the dry front-of-the-mouth feel you get with any bitter. I’m reminded a bit of Cocchi Americano. Continue reading “Getting to know Suze”