#7: Ratio'd

I spent all weekend working on Newsletter Content™, but just threw it all out.

October 11, 2020 • Day 213

This was a weird week — last week was nothing but shoes dropping; this week I feel like we were all waiting for the next shoe to drop (some big, dramatic turn in Trump’s Covid prognosis, perhaps?) but it was just more of the same — thousands dying, tens of thousands getting sick, Republican leaders saying crazy things with impunity, Biden’s poll numbers being crazy good yet nobody wanting to trust them. The end times are pretty boring when you’re living through them.

I nearly skipped this week because I don’t have anything important to say, and I don’t know what you all may want to hear — this isn’t exactly a newsletter anyone asked for. I had written a long thing about millennial burnout, and feeling like I’m falling behind everyone else my age as I get close to turning 40, but honestly, it just was a pity party for myself and not very good or interesting.

It’s been a struggle to find motivation beyond just trying to stay above water. Several big efforts at work finished up last week (being the last week of the quarter); now that we’re officially in Q4, things are a lot quieter, in an anticlimactic way. I got a big presentation done, negotiated a deal for some extra budget, interviewed a candidate for an open role on my team, which was all great… but it’s still a pandemic, and I’m tired. 😅


🍗 Cooking

Rather than tell you about some big idea, or some esoteric pop-culture or U.S. government trivia, here’s a tip for making barbecued (or, as we say in the States, “BBQ’ed”) chicken, if you’re in a part of the country/world that still has good grilling weather. (We… kinda don’t? But I’m still grilling anyway. 🍖)

A good way to get BBQ sauce to stick to meat on the grill is to mix it with mayonnaise. Really! As J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote in the NYT last year, mayo is an underappreciated hack for any kind of grilling or griddling.

I’ve been a longtime fan of mayo on grilled cheese, and my new go-to move is to marinate or glaze chicken with a mixture of 2 parts BBQ sauce (Lillie’s Q Smoky; I bet Gold would be great too) to 1 part mayo (Sir Kensington’s). Kenji writes:

It’s difficult to work with sweet sauces like barbecue or teriyaki, which have a tendency to burn as your meat grills. Mayo solves this problem by diluting and coating the sugars with fat and egg protein. Combining a sweet sauce with mayonnaise before rubbing it on the meat allows you to grill as hot as you like without risk of burning. Also, that sauce flavor really sticks to the meat.

… Another neat thing I discovered: Mayo-marinated meat can be cooked in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet as is, no extra oil necessary. The mayonnaise provides all the fat the pan needs.

Last night I forgot to oil the grill grates, and was very pleased to discover that last part works as advertised.

This week I’m thinking of trying to recreate an Indian-style tikka marinade, using mayo instead of yogurt.


🥃 Drinking

I also feel like I’ve hit a wall in my cocktail-making, probably because there are so many things you can make with the same ingredients and I don’t have shelf space for a lot of single-use spirits and liqueurs. (This is why even though I’m totally bored enough to try making tiki drinks, I still haven’t done it — they all call for multiple rums, and I currently stock zero rums.)

So this week, when I’ve made drinks, they’ve been old standbys like the Boulevardier.

A few years back I was a little embarrassed to be the one person at a work thing who didn’t know what a Boulevardier was, who had to ask when one person then another all ordered them.

In short, it’s a whiskey Negroni. But then it gets complicated. You see, a Negroni is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — this ratio is undisputed. But there is a vigorous debate whether this ratio works as well for a dark spirit like whiskey, and if not, which ratio to use instead.

When I made a Boulevardier this week, I used Jim Meehan’s recipe in Meehan’s Bartender Guide which doubles the whiskey:

  • 2 oz bourbon

  • 1 oz Campari

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica)

That gets you a very spirit-forward, boozy cocktail, similar to other classic whiskey cocktails like Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, etc. But Negronis are a great aperitif precisely because they’re low-ABV (and usually made with a lighter spirit) — we don’t need the whiskey version to live up to that, but it seems like a missed opportunity to go all-in on bourbon.

The alternative ratios I’ve seen (these are all bourbon/vermouth/Campari):

  • 3/2/1: This is basically a Manhattan with a splash of Campari instead of bitters. Nothing wrong with that, if you want a Manhattan variation!

  • 1.5/1/1: This was my friend Christopher Slye’s ‘house’ recipe at the Adobe Fonts team’s in-office bar in SF, The Descender. It’s a compromise between the Negroni-y and Manhattan-y versions of the cocktail, lower-proof but still whiskey-forward enough for all the flavors to come through.

Really to say, this is a very versatile cocktail that’s easy to adjust to taste, knowing that any of the variations are pretty good.


🤖 …Gadgeting?

A Thing That Happened this week was that I finally got this tiny keyboard which I’d pre-ordered/backed months ago, and decided to use it as part of an elaborate iPad typing setup.

I generally do not like micro-layout keyboards, or split-layout keyboards. But I kind of love this one? It encourages very accurate touch-typing, and the tactile-feeling mechanical switches and teeny size are just very pleasant.

On Tuesday Apple is having another product launch event. Because of Covid-related supply chain stuff, this year’s iPhones were delayed from their usual September launch to this month. The internet says to expect four iPhone 12 models, ranging from 5.7” to 6.5”, with 5G support, LIDAR sensors, new cameras, a bunch of colors… you know, the usual updates. Every few years I get bored of the medium-sized iPhone and go for the biggest one; this might be one of those years, especially as it sounds like the iPhone 12 Pro Max (🙄) will have some special new camera feature the others don’t have.


Did you know these emails have a comments section? They do. What are you grilling? Which Boulevardier ratio is your go-to? Which iPhone size do you hate least?!

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Until next time (probably),
—DD