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Podthoughts by Ian Brill: “Cocktails on the Fly”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 25th July 2007

Freelance journalist Ian Brill is our man on the podcast scene, sorting the wheat from the chaff. This week, he covers the home bartending cast “Cocktails on the Fly”.

Do you remember the Kids in the Hall Sketch ”Girl Drink Drunk”? I have to admit: for me, watching Cocktails on the Fly’s “Flighty Hostess” Alberta Straub explain the recipes for her complex mixed drinks prompted flashbacks of Dave Foley telling Kevin MacDonald how to make a Squash Strawberry Alley Cat.

That said, even if my particular taste in spirits doesn’t lead me to Straub’s specialties I can appreciate her skill and talent. Dubbed “the Alice Waters of booze” Straub hosts quick video segments, ranging from three to eleven minutes, detailing how to create a drinks with such names as “Bijou,” “Pear Necessity” and “The Macdaddy.” She packs in a lot of instructions, too. Straub always uses fresh ingredients so there are plenty of fruits and vegetables to muddle. Muddling is a big part of mixing these drinks. Straub even has a whole episode dedicated to the art. She shows you the tools and the right amount if pressure to apply. With all factors going into these drinks it’s easy to forget that they’re alcoholic. The alcohol seems to be the easiest thing to get down, mixing some vodka or some gin with some liqueur. From there you have to master the delicate art of mint leaves. At the end of every episode Straub reviews all the ingredients and instructions in bullet point style so you’re ready to make your own concoctions.

Even if I have a hard time following along with the recipes Cocktails on the Fly is still fun to watch for Straub’s “flightiness.” Alone in her kitchen, she’ll start singing songs to herself and put on different voices. She’s a likeable personality and isn’t afraid to look a bit silly.

Three recent episodes broke the tradition of Cocktails on the Fly. Straub visited San Francisco gin makers Distillery No. 209. The multi-part guided tour is not unlike something you’d find on The Food Network. Straub and 209’s Technical Director Arnie Hillesand examine each step of creating gin. The lesson is filled with technical and historical tidbits. It’s pretty fun if, like me, you savor a nice G&T every now and again. That drink may not be as stimulating for a skilled bartender like Straub but at least it only takes a couple of seconds to make.