Second Draft

A Better Sort of Gulag

Posted in Drink by Michael Skeet on Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lorna and I threw a small Prison Break party for Peter Watts a few weeks ago, to celebrate the better-than-odious (’cause you can’t can’t really call what happened to him good even though he doesn’t have to do time) resolution to his encounter with the U.S. punishment system (’cause you can’t really call it justice, can you?). We even provided a cake with a file hidden in it (said file courtesy of Jill).

I generated a series of celebratory cocktails, and somebody came up with the brilliant idea of giving them prison- or prisoner-themed names. (There was a Number 6, for example.) Peter’s favourite of the various drinks was the Gulag, and so I’ve decided to publish the recipe here. It’s a very easy drink to make, but one of the ingredients isn’t exactly easy to obtain.


1.5 ounces vanilla vodka

0.75 ounces ice cider

Combine in a shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Serve in a cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry. (Alternately, serve over ice in an old fashioned glass.)

The ice cider we use comes from Quebec; occasionally we find it at the LCBO. I have no idea how available ice cider is outside of Canada. Note that regular hard cider is not an acceptable substitute.


Your Turn!

Posted in Drink by Jill Snider Lum on Friday, March 26, 2010

Michael’s previous post has made me wonder about you, our readers.  Our blog hasn’t really been active for very long, and yet we do have people looking into it, presumably for all sorts of reasons.  It makes us feel good (and somewhat amazed!) that people are reading us, perhaps even on a somewhat-regular basis.  And the previous post got more hits than almost anything else we’ve put up here.  The previous post about infusing shochu with umeboshi, and how delicious the results are.

So… we’d love it if you would post your favourite drinkable innovations in the comments, so that we and all the other readers could try them.  Have you a favourite cocktail?  One you discovered, were introduced to, or invented yourself?  How about a delicious and unusual non-alcoholic drink?  Something you put in your tea or coffee that turns the ordinary into a treat?  Something you put in your hot chocolate that really goes well with it?  It’d be great to hear from you, and read your ideas!

Here are two to begin with.  A glass of soda water with ice is just sublime with a splash or two of yuzu juice added, especially on a hot day.  And so is a generous ounce of golden rum, enriched with a scant ounce of Calvados and an ice cube, sipped slowly as the sun goes down.

What about you?  What do you like to drink?

Anachronistic, Perhaps. But Tasty!

Posted in Drink by Michael Skeet on Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I have been experimenting with alcoholic infusions lately (apple-infused tequila is quite wonderful) and, as an afterthought at the end of a cocktail party a couple of months ago I tried something that’s appropriate to the spirit of Demon Gate if not necessarily defensible as being period-accurate.

From the back of our fridge I took the remnants of an old (very old) plastic tub of shiso-umeboshi (that’s pickled plums with a bit of shiso leaf to add extra flavour, not unlike putting dill in with pickled cucumbers) and dumped them into a small mason jar. Then I filled the mason jar with barley shochu. (Remember, that’s the only kind we can get up here, at least for now.) Then I put the mason jar in the fridge and forgot about it.

Fast-forward to last Thursday. Looking for something to drink, I spotted the shochu, glowing wickedly in the fridge. I dropped some ice into an Old Fashioned glass, and filled same with the infused shochu.

Oh. My.

Yeah, it was that good. And a really lovely shade of purple-pink, too. No, I don’t have a photo to show you; not in this post. That’s because I drank it all too quickly to think of taking a shot in any sense that didn’t involve shot glasses. As it were. However, I’ll try to post something about this experiment again in another couple of months, because as soon as I’d finished drinking the single glass I got from that small jar, I began infusing a much larger quantity of shochu in a larger mason jar.

I figure it’ll be great this summer.

A cocktail, ’cause it’s that kind of week

Posted in Drink by Jill Snider Lum on Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Michael’s working on another post about collaboration, but it’s not quite ready to put up yet, Work having intervened.  So in the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to a cocktail that uses two ingredients I first tried when staying at the Hirota Guest House in Kyoto:  shochu, and yuzu.

Shochu is a distilled spirit, not a brewed product like sake.  We have a few — a pitiful few — varieties of shochu available to us in Canada, and one or two types of Korean sochu which, while pleasant, is not quite the same thing.  So visiting the liquor shop near our guest house in Kyoto was a revelation.  They stocked dozens of different types of shochu, made from all kinds of ingredients.  Michael, Lorna and I tried a different one every evening and barely scratched the surface of what was available.  The variations in flavour were remarkable, as distinctive as those in different kinds of single-malt Scotch.

Earlier in the week, hunting up a hostess gift for Hirota-san — the lady who ran the guest house — we visited the nearest department store.  That was an experience in itself, and one that deserves its own blog entry at some future date.  Just seeing the food floor of that department store made me feel as though I had come from a backward and somewhat uncivilized nation.  Among the many thousands of delights on display was a section of liqueurs, presided over by a politely-smiling lady who was giving out free samples.  (Free samples of alcohol, in a department store.  See?  Intensely civilized.)  Noticing us as obviously being From Away, she offered us a taste of liqueur made from yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit.  It tasted like an orange, a lemon, a lime, and a tangerine, with little hints of grapefruit in the background.  We were delighted, and bought a bottle of it.  Hirota-san herself was so pleased with it that she told us she was going to place it on her family’s altar for a while before drinking it herself.  It was pretty gratifying to know we’d given her something that would even make her ancestors happy.

The recipe below uses yuzu juice, which is available at many Japanese and Asian grocery stores.  Don’t know if your ancestors will like this cocktail, but I hope you will.

Kyoto Guest House

1.5  – 2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. shochu
2 good dashes yuzu juice

Mix ingredients in a glass over ice cubes.  Fill with soda water.

Now This is Research!

Posted in Drink,Research by Michael Skeet on Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sometimes I have more fun than others when researching the background of Demon Gate.

When Lorna, Jill and I visited Japan in 2007 we were amazed at the selection of shochu/shoju available in the liquor shop down the road from our guest house in Kyoto. At the time it was difficult to find any shochu in Canada, much less a selection (shochu is distilled from an impressive variety of starches). I had liked the shochu I’d had up until then; after trying buckwheat and sweet potato shochu I was pretty much hooked.

So it came as a pleasant surprise to discover that, contrary to my guesses, distillation was not introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. None of the sources I’ve been able to check has been in agreement on precisely where the art of alcohol distillation came from (one source claims Thailand by way of Okinawa, another says China, and Wikipedia opts for Korea as the conduit through which distillation techniques came to Japan), but that doesn’t matter so much to me.

What matters is that most of the sources agree that shochu was being made in Japan by the end of the fifteenth century, though the first recorded reference to the drink was in 1549. That puts shochu into the realm of possible drinks for our characters to consume, with the proviso that the only shochu being distilled in the early sixteenth century was rice-based.

This was good news for us, because we had had our characters in “Beneath the Skin” merrily quaffing shochu—without our ever having gone to the trouble of checking to see whether or not we were being anachronistic. I hate being anachronistic in my fiction.

I will celebrate this discovery in a couple of days, when our annual winter cocktail party will feature at least one shochu-based cocktail. (Normally I drink mine straight, the way it was intended to be, but the shochu-based cocktails served at Momofuku Noodle Bar inspired me.)

As for anachronism, there is still the matter of futon and tatami to be dealt with…