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... 

a day in San Francisco

In case you didn't know, I'm back. Back in the U.S.A. Cue the music. 

I flew from Seoul (Incheon) to San Francisco on Wednesday, January 7. My flight departed at 8:15 in the morning, and arrived at 9:30 AM. Ain't that International Date Line wonderful?

My parents met me at the airport and we made a day of it in San Francisco. I didn't get too many pictures (blame the reverse culture shock), but we had lunch at the Old Clam House (est. 1861), saw the Golden Gate Bridge, rode the cable cars, checked out Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf, and ate some lip-smackin' seafood. 

The sheaves (pronounced "shivs") upon which the cables were strung.

Alcatraz, as if you didn't know.

The view from the Chinatown Hilton at dawn. 
I spent a couple of days at my parents' place near Sacramento, and then I packed everything into my old Jeep and drove 589 miles south to Henderson, Nevada (just southeast of Las Vegas). Miss H and I were reunited after four long months, and to celebrate we went and cleaned out Wal-Mart's do-it-yourself furniture aisle. I've been job-hunting, assembling bookcases, job-hunting, making random runs to Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond, job-hunting, eyeing all the marvelous BOOZE and BEER at Total Wine & More, job-hunting, learning how to drive again, job-hunting, going to the gym, job-hunting, writing, job-hunting, reading, and basically trying to stay productive and sane. And job-hunting. 

And mixing cocktails. Which leads me to my next post...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

farewell to Korea...again

It's 7:15 a.m. 

The sky is still pitch-black. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in Bellona, the nightmarish, eternally overcast city from Samuel R. Delany's novel Dhalgren

In one hour, I shall be boarding a China Eastern flight to Shanghai (Pudong). After a five-hour layover, I'll jump another jet plane for San Francisco, where my parents will pick me up and take me back to their new place near Sacramento. After a few days with them, I'll drive down to Las Vegas on the 13th of January to reunite with Miss H after four long months...and have a job interview with a tech start-up the very next day.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I depart Korea for the second time, this latest stint having lasted three years. Was it time wasted? I think not. I made another bucketload of disreputable friends, proposed to the girl of my dreams (in Tokyo, but hey), wrote two-and-a-half novels, began to take my writing career seriously, kicked off the quest to get a book published, and (completely by accident) fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a professor in a foreign land. 

Now it's time to move on to a new set of dreams: marriage, family, a writing career, a commercial pilot's license (and a floatplane rating)...and after that? A steady writing job in Las Vegas, seasonal work with Grand Canyon tour companies, a published novel, a dozen syndicated short stories, two or three troublemaking kids, and a big mongrel dog. Wish me luck.

So long and farewell, Korea. You were awfully good to me and mine. I'll see you again someday. Let's do gimbap

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 it relates to 2015

The Akashic Records. Okay, no, not really. It's actually Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo courtesy of

Once again it's time for my customary look back at the previous year, and a peek ahead at what's to come next year. Without further ado, here's a list of the things I accomplished in 2014: 

  •  brewed a bunch of beers with the guys, including a lip-smackin' ginger IPA
  •  completed The Art of Manliness's 30 Days to a Better Man challenge (January)
  •  submitted a query, along with 10 pages of my manuscript, to Ace & Roc Science Fiction & Fantasy in January; sent in the full manuscript in August; rejected in October
  •  took a trip to Sapporo, Hokkaido in February
  •  rode the train through all the way through Japan (took a full day and then some) 
  •  said farewell to Adam in Busan
  •  moved to Gangnam-gu in March
  •  got my appendix out in May
  •  sent my full manuscript to Baen Books in June; rejected in December
  •  traveled through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong from July 12 to August 7
  •  took the Reunification Express through Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
  •  ate lo mai gai, bun cha, banh mi, and pigeon-heart pho in Vietnam
  •  traveled across Cambodia by bus, and ate khmer amok and beef loklak
  •  drank cocktails at the top of Bangkok's tallest building and watched a thunderstorm
  •  took the train from Bangkok to Butterworth, and hung around in the Hong Kong Bar on Penang Island, drinking cheap Tiger beers and talking to Chinese, Brits, Russians, and Brazilians 
  •  rode a miserable bus through Malaysia
  •  spent a hot, humid, overpriced weekend in Singapore drinking eponymous slings and riding open-top buses (and the Flyer)
  •  met up with Miss H in Hong Kong and spent four lovely days there, eating Hokkaido ramen and Moroccan lamb and MSG-laden Cantonese and English beer (and going to Disneyland)
  •  saw Miss H go back home before me in September
  •  moved into a oneroomtel in Gwangjin-gu that same month
  •  finished reading Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina in November
  •  read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux, Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings, Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany, and some other stuff
  •  found the best burger in Seoul (at Bartwo, a beer-and-burger pub in Oksu-dong)
  •  ...and the best Mexican in Seoul (Gusto Taco, near Sangsu Station in the Hongdae area)
  •  tasted seolleongtang, makchang (large beef intestines), fermented soybean paste, hoe deopbap (raw fish over rice), chicken bulgogi, shrimp gimbap, and barbecued ox hearts
  •  ate at the Casablanca Sandwicherie in Itaewon (lamb chili sandwich and a Berber omelette, yum!)
  •  completed the shooter challenge at Gecko's Terrace in Itaewon, and now have my name inscribed on a brass plaque above the bar with the following motto: Bibo Ergo Sum
  •  discovered Jack White, The White Stripes, Jeff Buckley, Sky Sailing, Cage the Elephant, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis
  •  took up pipe-smoking and honed my appreciation for good pipe tobacco (with a nip of bourbon or rye)
  •  completed another NaNoWriMo and took my first steps toward becoming a paperless writer 
  • started two new novels and abandoned a third
  •  submitted ten short science fiction stories to Clarkesworld, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Asimov's Science Fiction, Space Squid, Daily Science Fiction, 3LBE, and Fiction Vortex (all rejected)
  •  joined Twitter (11 followers so far!) and revamped my blog and Google Plus pages (to build my writer's platform)
  •  added some delicious dishes to my cooking and baking repertoire, such as chicken piccata, vegetarian lasagna, penne pasta with vodka sauce, New York cheesecake, and stuffed bell peppers
  •  wrote and submitted pieces to ElectRow magazine
  •  went to the HBC Festival and drank beer and ate doner kebab
  •  rode my bike all the way to Gwacheon 
  •  walked from Gwangjin-gu to Itaewon 
  •  walked 10 miles in one day 
  •  went to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art
  •  hiked Achasan and Yongmasan
  •  hiked Namhansanseong, the ninth of Korea's UNESCO World Heritage sites I've seen (out of 11 total)
  •  tried the hamburgers at Fire Bell, Libertine, and Left Coast
  •  visited the doctor about some heart palpitations, and started taking magnesium supplements for excessive stress
  • on a related note, I lost 20 pounds between August and December
  • visited a buddy in Gunsan, North Jeolla (and rode first class on the KTX back to Seoul)
  •  planned a wedding in April 2015 (my own!)
  •  scored an interview with a tech start-up in Las Vegas 
  •  made dozens of new friends in seven countries
  •  finished my final semester at Sejong University
  •  prepared to depart Korea on January 7, 2015

And here's what I hope for 2015: a job in January, a wedding with the love of my life in April, a wedding in England (congratulations, Jeff & Jenn!) in July, Wasteland Weekend in September, a literary agent by December, and burning off the rest of my gut at the gym. And keeping it off. Twenty pounds gone already, as you saw above.

Postie out.