Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Kinda Town...

Yeah, I know... corny opening. Can't imagine how many times that line has been used as an introduction to an article about Chicago. But it is my first trip, wanting to visit since the early '90s. Finally, 20+ years later, my brother invites me to the windy city for his bachelor party, and I have the opportunity to visit the city that has affected me with both it's cocktail and culinary influence. So please allow me this one trite opening and read on...

Through Priceline I was able to book flight and hotel for 2 nights for under $300, and I was on my way.

First night there was regular bachelor party fair. I arrived at 9am (after working 'til midnight the night before and catching a plane at 6am) and met up with my brother and his friends. We drove to Wicker Park for lunch and after much searching and indecisiveness we settled on a barbecue spot called Lillie's Q.
Offering a nice selection of all the barbecue greatest hits, we stumbled upon a highly rated barbecue joint that also specialized in Moonshine cocktails. And, as this was a bachelor party, we decided to start imbibing at lunch. I had a the Morning Lillie to start with, a version of Bloody Mary made with moonshine. The moonshine added a subtle sweetness to the drink that worked well with the contrasting spicy and savory characteristics.
Second round was a M&M&M which stood for moonshine, Maker's Mark and mint syrup. The mixologizing at this small pub was evidence of how the cocktail culture was becoming entrenched in even the simplest bar set-ups in Chicago. Another well balanced delicious cocktail, as was the next one Lillie Q Rita; Margarita with moonshine and barbecue smoky sauce added. Finally, I had to try the Lillie's Oyster Shooter. That was just the pick-me-up on-your-way closing act I needed to help me forge ahead into the evenings festivities; moonshine, bloody mary mix, fresh oyster shooter.

After lunch we regrouped at the hotel room. Drank some Bud Lite, played some caps and readied ourselves for Bachelor Party Battle. The evening was typical bachelor party fare; bars, pool halls, Guinness, Harry Carey's for dinner, a bottle of Chapoutier Le Bernadine 2008 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape, Maker's Mark on draft at our own private table.
Amid the calamity of a bachelor party, there was a bright spot when we visited my friend Fred Sarkis at Sable, a glorious new cocktail bar in the heart of Chicago that was dedicated to the art of mixology. While the V.E.P. Green Chartreuse shot was happily accepted, the stop off was bittersweet. I did not have the opportunity to fully engage this amazing temple built to the gods of carefully crafted cocktails. Walls of liqueurs, liquors, bitters, and bourbons greeted us, but our destiny, if only for this one night awaited us elsewhere.

After the pool halls and Irish pubs I bid adieu to my companions, ending the night with a drunken subway ride back and forth, completely lost in the city, riding the rails by myself at 2am, finally finding my way back to my hotel overlooking Grant Park and a restful night, to gather my strength for the following day.

My brother and his friends had left early the next day, but I had planned my trip to take in more of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this city which had so long eluded me, by booking another night at the Chicago Essex Hotel. I woke up around 10 and made a few calls to friends who were living in the area. Most importantly my good friend Claire who was a dear friend from college and even a bridesmaid at my wedding. I wanted to revisit Wicker Park, after having spent a few hours there the day before and seeing all the great places to visit. So I was back on the train and headed west.

The day before as we looked for lunch, I had texted Claire for recommendations, and so I used those recommendations today, as I wandered around Wicker Park area. First stop was Big Star a taco bar that's part of One Off Hospitality Group (kinda like the Big Burrito Restaurant Group of Chicago) There stellar family includes Violet Hour, Blackbird, Avec and more. I just wanted a taco. Which apparently everybody in Chicago on that Sunday morning wanted as well. There were no tables and an hour long wait. So I moseyed up to North Ave and walked around for awhile, did some window shopping, priced some Mallort, before returning to Big Star. Still a wait, but at this point I was getting hungry so I headed to a place I'd seen that interested me called Piece.

It was a pizzeria and brewpub emulating the '60s hippie counter-culture. I found a spot at the bar and ordered a single pie and some house brew. The Red Sox were playing the White Sox on the big screen TV, and as I was in enemy territory I silently rooted on my home team and enjoyed my lunch. As much as we love our wives and husbands, there is a secret thrill in traveling alone, and being able to order that green olive, garlic and pepperoni pizza that your wife will never let you eat at home.

That and a cold glass of Piece's Top Heavy Heffe Weizen made for a perfect lunch. Piece has a limited back bar selection, but why would they need it when the beer was this good? Tattooed staff and chalkboard menus adorned the walls and I was sad to leave, but there was so much more to experience.

I headed to Big Star again, and yes, again, they were on an hour wait, with no room even at the large circular bar which was the centerpiece to the restaurant. So I was back on the train and headed downtown.

I retraced our step from the previous night and took a walk along the river, and was about to head back to the hotel when Fred Sarkis called. Wanted me to meet him for a late lunch/early dinner. Back on the train.
I met Fred at a restaurant called Avec, which was right next to the also famous Blackbird. Fred was seated at the end of the bar. I was still a little full from lunch, so wasn't expecting to eat much. I ordered a glass of wine, a Spanish white, and Fred went ahead and ordered some food to share. As I said, I was not particularly hungry, but when the food came out and I had the first bite of each dish, well, a second and third bite soon followed.

We had crispy pork belly crostini with peaches, marinated kale and white beans. We got marinated hangar steak with summer squash, asparagus, apricot and bone marrow. Fred got an octopus special which was cooked as tenderly as I'd ever had octopus. And the star of the set was chorizo stuffed medjool dates with smoked bacon and pequillo pepper-tomato sauce.

The sweetness of the dates combined with the spicy chorizo and smokiness of the bacon, acid from the tomato-pepper sauce... my mouth waters thinking back to that dish. The location was very utilitarian, one long bar (or dining countertop) stretched the entire length of the restaurant, with long communal tables opposite the bar. 3 people worked the kitchen which was exposed and shared space with the end of the bar. It was impressive how few people they needed to put out such mind-blowing dishes.

After Avec, Fred brought me across the street to Sepia, which he said is one of his favorite bars in Chicago (he may have even said "favorite"). Sepia had a lot of exposed wood and antique varnish with numerous photographs throughout the restaurant which were all... you guessed it sepia toned. The space was warm and inviting but also winked an eye at modern craftsmanship through it's use of space. Apparently it had been a print shop in a prior incarnation. We were full from Avec, but the Manager insisted on sending out a cheese plate,
which we could not pass up. I needed a strategy for choosing what to drink from the massive cocktail lists I'd been presented at every stop. So I started my strategy of picking cocktails that had Green Chartreuse in them. I figured I'd get the most varied results by sticking with one modifier liqueur. And the strategy paid off immediately at Sepia. I got the Boston Martha to complement our cheese plate, a terrific blend of magnolia and oolong tea infused Bushmill's Irish whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, honey, lemon, egg white and orange bitters. Great mouthfeel, just the right amount of sugar vs. bitter, with some subdued floral notes. The whiskey was definitely the work horse, though.

It was time to meet Claire. We had originally planned on going to Aviary, Grant Aschaltz new cocktail kitchen. I had been excited to try it out, as I'd heard great praise from both the media and from friends, but apparently in the last few weeks they had discontinued Sunday service. I was disappointed, but that only gave me an excuse to return to Chicago at a future time.

Fred had offered to drive me back to Wicker Park, where Claire and I had settled on Violet Hour as a place to meet. Violet Hour was a destination for me on this trip, and while Claire had had reservations about going, due to a past poor experience, she complied and we were to meet up soon... after 12 years of not seeing each other!

Fred knows everybody! So it was no wonder he knew the doorman at Violet Hour and we chatted outside for awhile before gaining access to one of the premiere cocktail lounges in the world. Violet Hour is directly across the street from Big Star (which was still on a 2 hour wait). The front of the building looks like a long brick factory wall, painted yellow, with a tiny doorknob for an entrance. No signage, no logo, no windows... nothing! And if I hadn't been with Fred, I no doubt would have missed it completely. We entered the door into pitch blackness. A sign hung on the inside of the door which I neglected to see which read, among other things "no cellphones... no baseball hats... proper attire requested". I was in violation of 3 of the basic house rules. Cocktails and munchings at Avec & Sepia had cut into my planned sprucing-up-before-the-big-night-on-town. So I showed up at Violet Hour in my fanciest Green Lantern t-shirt and a classy Pittsburgh Steelers ball cap adorning my shiny scalp. Later I would break out my phone and start snapping photos of the cocktails we consumed. Fred was too much of a gentleman to point out my egregious faux pas.

Once we passed down an unlit hallway, through velvet curtains, we entered into an enormous warehouse that was redesigned into a luxurious house of cocktology with beautiful large backed chairs in circles around short tables, the length of the old storage house seperated by large velvet curtains as the ones we'd passed through to enter, and fully stock bar running the length of the building housing every obscure potable you could find under one roof. The entire lounge lit only by candlelight, it took awhile for our eyes to adjust, but once they did it was amazing how well we could see in the dimmest lighting I've ever been engulfed in.

Finally Claire arrived and we ordered some cocktails. I stuck with my Chartreuse strategy and firstly ordered the Fang's Out; a blend of Junipero, Antica Carpano Formula Vermouth, Green Chartreuse and Cynar. The Green Chartreuse stuck out alongside the sweet vermouth and bitter Cynar, while the gin gave a solid foundation for which the other components could build upon. The next cocktail was my favorite of the two: The Pusher Man, Lunazul Blanco tequila, pineapple, egg white and Green Chartreuse. Something about tequila, pineapple and Chartreuse... it really does work so well together. Sweet, herbaceous, smoky, peppery all frothed up and made lighter and heavier at the same time with the egg white. Claire had the famous Juliet & Romeo, and it changed her opinion instantly about Violet Hour. The bartender shared a shot of Chartreuse with us and again we were moving to a new location. Claire mentioned Big Star and I laughed out loud.
But, sure enough, as one of the premiere yoga instructors in Chicago, Claire also knows everybody, and the hostess at Big Star was no exception. We were seated within 15 minutes! Claire was a regular at Big Star and recommended a few dishes which followed our cokctail deliveries. I started with the Pine Belt Punch; Lunazul Blanco, Green Chartreuse (again?), cucumber and lime. Light, refreshing and perfect Chicago patio cocktail.
Then, I made the switch. I was off the Chartreuse, and I went for the Rio Bravo. While there was no Chartreuse, this cocktail had other enticing ingredients that I could not pass up; Sombra mezcal, Lunazul Blanco tequila (remember I said that Big Star was part of the One Off Hospitality Group, which explains why I was drinking so much Lunazul Blanco), strawberries and Gosling's ginger beer. It was a good choice (could've been made better if Chicago had access to Natrona Bottling Company's Jamaican Ginger Beer) that pared well with Claire's food choices; Taco de Pescado and the almost famous
Taco de Huitlacoche: roasted corn, corn truffles, fresh oregano, chipotle, avocado and cojita cheese. Even Fred had mentioned thus earlier in the day when I had told him about my numerous attempts to eat there. It was well known and the praise was well deserved. At $3 a taco I could have eaten a dozen if I hadn't already gorged on Chicago cuisine all day.

The night ended, Claire and I said "goodbye" and I was back on the train to the hotel. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, as well as an overwhelming sense of satiation. In one day I was able to visit Piece, Avec, Sepia, The Violet Hour and Big Star. I was able to revisit old friends, and spend some time with my brother before he takes the great leap into marriage.
Chicago is an impressive city, on the cutting edge of culinary and cocktail culture. Every corner seemed to boast a unique, enticing kitchen, a knowledgeable bartender plying the trades of his exotic well-stocked back bar. Innovative, enterprising, experimental... Chicago truly is my kind of town, and I can not wait for the next visit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Last Days of Mio Kitchen & Wine Bar, an insiders point of view

When the Chef calls you into the office, it's never good news.

On this particular day, at 10pm, service was slowing down and Chef Matthew Porco had just come in from the newly opened pizza shoppe just down the street. He was covered in flour, head to toe. It followed him through the upstairs hallways, an ashen monkey doppelganger clinging to it's host. I was leaving for vacation the next day, and thought he just wanted to discuss the upcoming week with myself and Cara Moody, the server who would be handling all managerial duties while I was on leave. When we got to the office, however, the topic of discussion turned out to be very different.

"I've got bad news... Mio is closing. We're gonna run through the next two weeks and close on Saturday, August 28th."

My first thought and subsequent response was "Shit. I wish I didn't just spend $2,000 on our wine inventory." My next thought, which I kept to myself for the time being, was "How is this going to affect my vacation?"

Chef talked a little about options he had on the table which he'd hoped could pan out before we actually had to shut the doors, but I think he knew it was over. Confiding in us with the news was the last piece of the puzzle to complete the portrait of Mio as a sun setting over the Allegheny.

"I feel terrible. Sean you are the classiest manager I've ever had here. I wish I'd hired you 3 years ago. Cara, you are like a sister to me, and I hope you know if there's anything either of you ever need, you can always call me." and with teary eyes and a cloud of baking flour left in his wake, Matt returned to Mio Pizza, and Cara and I returned to the floor to announce the news to the unsuspecting staff.

It had been apparent from the beginning of my short tenure at Mio that the restaurant was not doing well. Although when I took the position the Chef had just been named "Pittsburgh Magazine's Chef of the Year", and deservedly so. Hailing from Veritas in New York, Matt had wanted to bring New York city style fine dining to his hometown of Aspinwall. (Interesting side note: Mio was closing it's doors on the same night that Veritas was closing it's doors in NYC) A lofty ambition that succeeded greatly for the first year or so, but as the economic woes started to deeply affect Pittsburgh's dining culture, the cash slowed, the service staff was cut down to 1 server 1 bartender on the weekdays, and the wine cellar quickly diminished leaving only the higher priced bottles and shortages of medium value wines.

I came on in April and went immediately to work on the wine list which had been grossly overpriced, putting NYC price tags on an Aspiwall cellar. We ran with a tight crew throughout the lean days of summer. I brought in servers I had worked with in the past, the line in the kitchen basically ran on a 3 person staff with two on the grill & saute and one garde manger/dessert. One dishwasher, sometime 2 on weekends was all it took to support the line. A Saturday expo/food runner was added for FOH support. In all we had just over 10 on staff to operate what was considered one of Pittsburgh's top 10 Restaurants.

But what a staff we had!

Front of House we had Cara Moody who I referred to as "The Boss". Cara was the veteran, and the one who called me when the GM position opened and gave me a stellar recommendation. She knew the ins-and-outs of Mio better than anybody and helped me settle into my new position with great ease. Cara and I had worked together at Casbah 3 years earlier, along with my first two hires Eddie and Angela F. Upon starting I was introduced to Alyssa & Dana, both of whom I grew to love as fellow family members. Such is the small restaurant life.

We had many cameo appearances throughout the summer, including Joanne (Casbah again), Maggie (bartender from Eleven), Angela D. (who I worked with at Firehouse Lounge), Rachel (a terrific college kid working through the summer), and the one-night-only return of Raj to help us close on a high note.

Back of House was equally talented, if not doubly-so. Ephraim and I worked together at Casbah as well, and he helmed the ship as Exec Sous Chef. With a poorly tuned song in his heart and a Will Ferrell quote on his tongue, he kept the kitchen tight and consistent until he left us in July for the new restaurant Elements.

Derek stepped into Ephraim's shoes without hesitation, and, quite frankly, caught us all off guard with his talent. We worked together well, and I had very high hopes for the future with him and I, as a team, running Mio.

Sara came from Kaya and was quite at home in the spaciousness of the line, after being stuck in the Kaya cubicle of a kitchen for so long. Always smiling, always cheery, she was the pixie sprite fairy of the Mio kitchen line.

I fell in love with Megan immediately when she took over the garde manger position and we regaled in our commonalities which we shared: Thundercats, Mountain Goats, a game of pool, and deepening regard for Chartreuse. In the last week there Megan & I collaborated on the taste sensation that became Green Chartreuse Sorbet. She even took it a step further, creating Yellow Chartreuse Gummi Bears which she promises to make for me whenever I beckon.

The heart of any kitchen is always the dishroom. It beat strong at Mio pulsing freshly polished silverware, glassware and pots & pans through the veins of our little restaurant. Gi was master of this domain and he kept spirits high in down times with a half thought through joke or ribbing, mingled with Buddha-like sage wisdom.

On the weekends, his cousin Lou would come in to help. Much rougher around the edges, with street wisdom masked amidst vulgarities. I imagined him as a reflection of Gi, 20 years earlier, though you could never tell him that. There was no way you couldn't love Lou.

So these were the people all out of jobs in 2 weeks. But nobody was too distressed. When everyone on staff is as talented as this crew, we all just kinda shrugged our shoulders and said "onward". Before the end of the night everybody had a backup plan, including myself. After securing my job at Firehouse/Embury back, I had one plan: to join my family in Tionesta, sit in a river all day and not think at all about Mio. And that's what I did for week #1 of the two week closing period.

On my return we were faced with a few obstacles to hurdle. Mainly fielding angry calls from customers about redeeming gift certificates, calling all reservations for after Aug. 28th, recreating the menu daily to move through the last of our supplies, and answering the same question over and over and over and over again "Why are you closing?"

Now I can appreciate that each guest can not possibly be aware that I just answered that question 2 minutes ago and 2 minutes before that... and just got off the phone with somebody who wants the number for the pizza shop "oh, and did I hear you were closing?"... but please, do not ever ask a restaurant manager why their restaurant is closing and follow it up with "That's too bad. I love this place even though I haven't eaten here in years." Because, quite frankly, THAT's why we're closing.

My favorite was "I'm so sorry you're closing. This is my first time here. I can't believe you're closing, the food is delicious. What happened?"

Sometimes it can be very difficult not to strike a fellow human being.

The true frustration with that question is that it's not an easy answer. No one thing ever happens to a restaurant or any business that forces them to close. There was a different answer for every table. And by answer, I mean the individuals version of what they THINK actually happened. For Mio, it was the economy, it was the price perceptions, it was Route 28, it was the pizza shop, it was the huge staff turnover, it was the hot summer weather, it was the location, it was the fact that Pittsburgh has so many great restaurants, it was the fact that so many great restaurants opened over the summer... these all contributed to the demise of Mio. But what it really boils down to is that people were not walking in the door and spending their money there.

So after fielding all the inevitable calls, it's time for service. And here's were the professionalism of Mio's staff really shined. Running out of food daily, juggling hours and shifts, knowing there is no silver lining in the week following, where most would lose any sense of pride in their work place, Mio put out the best last week of business it possibly could. Booked all week with Gift Card redeemers and 1/2 off bottle of wine seekers, there was not a step missed or a gracious smile not given. It was beyond business as usual. It was "let's go out on the highest note we possibly can." And we succeeded.

Some highlights from that week included:

  • Serving Allen Chen from Tamari, and his family the last order of sweetbreads
  • Megan's concocting of my Green Chartreuse Sorbet idea
  • Casbah night where I called up the reserves of Casbah employees and the whole FOH that night was Casbah employees circa 2006-7
  • Raj lighting each candle in the restaurant for each past employee of Mio on the last night..."and this candle is for Bob Flood..." Survivor style.
  • The chef cooking the very last order of short ribs for me.
  • The final, heartfelt toast at Mio given by Chef Matt Porco thanking everybody for their dedication and loyalty.

After opening a few choice bottles and sharing some stories, it was time to go.

I was the last to leave. I shut off the lights, turned off the stoves locked the front door, headed to the back and added one more item to the 86 Board... "Mio"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I remember punch.

Mom and Dad's Christmas parties in my hometown of Norwell, Massachusetts. Guests would fill our colonial home, sharing the warmth of the wood burning fireplace complete with traditional bread baking hollow. Everyone dressed in their cocktail gowns and best suits while the snow blanketed the tranquil New England countryside. The punch bowl had been waiting patiently on the back porch to chill, and often freeze, a few days before the party. Various strange, unrelated fruit swam amidst the brightly red colored elixir. Berries, melons, bananas... The alcohol drowning in sweet nectar of pineapple, orange, grapefruit... whatever juice was on hand to hide the boozy flavors. Often accompanied by another bowl full of traditional eggnog.

I remember punch.

At Wittenberg University, November 2nd, 1991. My 21st birthday. It was Halloween weekend, I was dressed as a Shakespearean Romeo. The house was called "The Tabernacle", an all girls house/party destination. It was my first time there, later in the year I would begin a relationship with one of the tenants who was kind enough to share those fleeting college romance days with me. For now, I was finally of legal age to imbibe of the libations offered by our most gracious hostesses. Following numerous shots of Hot Damn Cinnamon flavored liqueur, I found myself in the basement where 3 large garbage cans were filled with "punch". Everclear and Hawaiian Punch (I may not be accurate with the recipe, though I doubt the ancient "laws" of punch making were being rigorously abided). 3 cups of this "punch" and I would not be drinking again for the remainder of the week. I spent the rest of the night lighting Everclear bottles with matches. The blue flame staying lit purely on the ethers of the moonshine.

And then I discovered Punch.

It started at Embury, where we made a variation of Philadelphia Fish House Punch called "Firehouse Punch". Here I learned the ancient techniques of punch making. The oleo saccharum, the water saturation, the liquors most appropriate for traditional punch, the balance, the booziness... the foundations were being laid. When the bar was 3 deep, and we couldn't service our guests in a timely enough manner, that was when we broke out the Firehouse Punch. A drink in each customers hand let us return to the tasks at-hand; making drinks for those waiting, washing dishes that had piled up, and congregating for "team meetings" (staff shots of Green Chartreuse).

Through my studies I noticed that punch was being used as more of a driving influence in bars across the country, rather than the "call-in-the-reserves" status that it had been appropriated to in our small wonder bar. I started colecting recipes for punches that included Dale DeGroff's Rainbow Room Punch, Martha Washington's Punch, a Negroni Punch, and selections from David Wondrich's book Imbibe.

We used many of these recipes at Pittsburgh's very first informational gathering and membership drive for the United States Bartenders Guild. We decided a Punch Social was the best way to meet and greet and share info, so no one member of the Executive Staff would be stuck behind a bar making cocktails when that time could be better spent introducing Pittsburgh bartenders to the benefits of a USBG Pittsburgh Chapter.

One of the highlight punches was my own creation, which started out as a Swedish Punch recipe I found online, but quickly became a bitch's brew of unmeasured additions of liquors and juices to try to correct my earlier errors. Thus was the "Sean D. Enright Garbage Pail Punch" born... and lost to time. I was too busy trying to "fix" the punch I didn't write down any recipes. It was VERY well received, but alas can never be replicated.

Then David Wondrich printed his second book (or the second book I'm aware of, to follow Imbibe) called Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. A historical biography of punch complete with recipes and techniques for the Punch enthusiast. I put down Les Miserables (again... been reading that book for over 10 years) and consumed every oz. of Punch.

As I read through I noticed there were certain rules to proper punch making that would make repeat appearances throughout the ages. Punch gained momentum in the 1600's and remained a drink of choice through the 1800's where it became the father of the modern cocktail. It seemed, from my interpretation of the book, that punch had certain fruits that were preferred; citrus and later the occasional pineapple, liquors that were preferred; rum and brandy... maybe some champagne additionally, sugar and water were as important as the base liquors (if not more so) and punches were served hot or cold depending mostly on the climes and seasons in which they were served.

With this punch knowledge in-hand I set out to create my first punch for our second USBG Pittsburgh event (and 1st unofficial/official USBG Pittsburgh meeting). I wanted to take the most intriguing elements I found in the book Punch, but also add some modern touches and elements that may not have been as readily available to our forefathers as they discussed revolution in whispered voices over bowls of punch. I also decided to write down the recipe this time.

Here is the recipe for what I've decided to name the Pittsburgh Craft Cocktail Guild Punch... or PCCG Punch, in memory of the original cocktail guild concept that has turned into Pittsburgh's first opportunity to have a USBG in support of the passionate bartenders who have appeared on the Pittsburgh scene over the last few years.

PCCG Punch:
Makes 1 Gallon (plus one glass)

1 Liter Rhum J.M. Agricole Blanc
750ml Laird's Applejack Brandy
1/2 cup Averna Amaro
1/2 cup St Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 cup Averna Limoni Di Sicilia
1 quart Green Tea (I used Liptons)
20 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
5 Oranges
2 cups cold water
12 ounces Florida Crystal Organic Pure Cane Sugar (available at Giant Eagle)

Directions: First, make green tea, heating 1qt water in the microwave for 2 minutes and adding 3 Lipton Green Tea packets to the water and setting aside. While the tea bags steep, you must make what is called "oleo saccharum" by peeling the skin off the five oranges, making sure not to get any pith. Peel gently to just take off the top layer of the orange peel. This will help the oils from the peel escape. Place peels in a non-reactive bowl and add the Florida Crystals sugar. Muddle the sugar and the orange peels with a flat or rounded end muddler (do not us a barbed muddler, you do not want to break up the orange peel, you just want to press the oil out of the skin to saturate the sugar). Set your sugar and peels to the side and let stand for 15 minutes to release more oil into the sugar. Take your tea bags out of the tea and set the tea aside. Juice the oranges making sure to get every drop out of them. Strain your juice through a tea strainer to keep out the pulp, and you may refrigerate the juice if you'd like. After fifteen minutes has passed, stir the orange peels and sugar one last time, then add the green tea. Stir until all the sugar has melted. Add the juice from the oranges and 2 cups of cold water. Through a sieve, strain this mixture, separating the orange peels from the sluice. To this mix you may now add your Rhum, Applejack, Amaro, Allspice Dram, Limoni & Peychaud's Bitters. Let stand for 1 hour so the flavors may integrate. Pour into a punch glass filled with ice and enjoy. This is a hearty blend, not for the week of heart. Be careful, this drink will creep up on ya.

Be sure to read David Wondrich's other book Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cosktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar

oleo saccharum