Beer cocktails. So hot right now. And if you believe the Baltimore Sun, they are something of a trend in Charm City, not to mention elsewhere. I must admit to being late to the party, not really getting wind of this so-called trend until browsing the drinks menu at Of Love & Regret not too long ago. But I’m not really a trendy guy. Nevertheless, you’ll have to believe me that the idea for this concoction came to me not as a result of trying to hop on some bibulous bandwagon, but rather as an attempt to remix elements of drinks from a couple of famous barkeeps—one local and one not—with some ingredients indigenous to Baltimore into a cocktail that captures the flavor of the city, cigarette butts and all.
At its core, Way Down in the Hole is a modified Michelada, but it also pays homage to Jim Meehan’s Beer and a Smoke as well as my buddy Russell de Ocampo’s infamous Kosher Boh. Like Baltimore City, Way Down in the Hole could be an acquired taste for some. I have never licked a Baltimore sidewalk and am happy believing that this drink serves up enough tastes of the town so that I will never have to. All kidding aside, I was pretty impressed—and, to be honest, more than a bit surprised—with how good this cocktail tasted. What you get is an earthy, yet refreshing and well-balanced palate with a hint of smoke along with a bit of heat creeping in on the finish and lingering well after each sip. Sounds like Baltimore to me.
Way Down in the Hole
1 oz. Los Nahuales Mezcal Joven
1/2 oz. Pikesville Rye
3/4 oz. Lime Juice
1 dash Fee Brothers Celery Bitters
4-6 dashes Woodberry Kitchen Snake Oil hot sauce
1 bar spoon Soy Sauce
6 oz. National Bohemian Beer
Zest of Orange and Lime for garnish
Combine the mezcal, rye, lime juice, bitters, hot sauce, and soy sauce in a mixing glass. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass rimmed with Old Bay and half-filled with ice. Top with beer and add the orange and lime zest for garnish.
I think it was when the seventh kernel flew past my face and ricocheted off the stove top that I began to wonder if anyone was supposed to really strip down these dried cobs and actually pop this corn. I mean, they sure were cute sitting in that barrel at the pumpkin patch, and all the kids were definitely excited. But perhaps all those moms beside me knew to dispose of this old-world treat as soon as they got home. Because seriously, this was one step worse than shelling old peas.
Eventually, it either got easier or I got better at it. I worked out a system where I would clear a row up the cob and then flick out all the kernels in the row to the left with the side of my thumb. Then I’d work my way around the cob and repeat. It worked, more or less, but I’m not sure I’ll be motivated to do it again unless this turns out to be the Best. Popcorn. Ever.
Pffff. Microwave popcorn. I don’t think so. It’s way more fun to drag out the stockpot before Friday night movies knowing that you’ll have to wash a stockpot splattered in congealed oil in the cold Saturday morning light. Am I right?
So, no one probably needs a “recipe” for stovetop popcorn, though it occurs to me that I’d need instructions for using a microwave to do it, so I don’t want to be a snot either. I netted about 2/3 cup of kernels, so I poured about 4 T of cooking oil and the corn in my 8 qt. stock pot and heated over medium. I keep the lid vented just a crack and shake the kennels around every so often to avoid burning. In “a watched pot never boils” fashion, it may seem to take a while until you hear that first pop, but you should watch it and eventually things will take off. Once the percussive fun subsides, remove from heat and toss the light and airy popped kernels with seasonings of your choice.
I used to be pretty faithful to a salt/sugar mix, but this being Maryland, I was inspired to try some Old Bay seasoning and salt this time. I didn’t feel like my seasonings were sticking well and I didn’t feel like melting butter, so when I spied that can of olive oil spray on the counter, I went to town like it was a can of Aqua-Net on prom night. Problem solved. It wasn’t the best popcorn ever, but it sure was an experience–with unpopped souvenir kernels now hidden in unlikely places all over the kitchen.