What your favorite drink says about you, from a bartender who's seen it all

Mike Stankovich of Longfellow in Cincinnati

Mike Stankovich of Longfellow in Cincinnati (Credit: Catie Viox)

When Ladles owner Sarah Nicholas and her husband frequented their favorite bar in New York, the bartender would serve her a Hugo spritz, and a lager for Evan. It seemed to fit their personalities. Sarah is a trained chef, and elderflower liqueur appeals to a sophisticated palate. Her husband Evan is an FBI agent and sports fan, and just loves a good beer

It begs the question: Are bartenders sizing us up based on what we order? I knew just who to ask. Mike Stankovich may look like a hipster bartender at one of those reclaimed wood and Edison lights-type establishments, but make no mistake. He is a tastemaker and cultural juggernaut. Just ask the New York Times, GQ, Boston Herald,  and the countless news outlets that have paid their respects. He's also been my friend for over 25 years. Stankovich now owns Longfellow, a neighborhood bar in Cincinnati with a devoted following. 

 

"It's not what the customers order. It's how they order a drink," he insists. "I like it when someone comes in, and knows how they like their cocktails made. Some bartenders may be offended that someone likes it prepared a bit differently, but I respect that." Some pet peeves include leading a drink order with the mixer, followed by a generic liquor request. "Sometimes people will come in and ask for a Coke and whiskey. We have many kinds of whiskey, so it's best to lead with the liquor."

When I asked him to name certain drinks and the types of people who order them, he demurred. After 25 years, he's decidedly less snarky and judgmental as the guy I met as a teen. Not to mention he has a business to run. "I'll name three cocktails people order that tend to make me think highly of them," he offered. "The Negroni, gin and tonic, and a Manhattan." Why? "They're straightforward and classic."

Duly noted.

negroni cocktail

Below are a few outtakes from bartenders who have no hesitation sharing their opinion on what you order, and what it says about you:

  • Old Fashioned: You've been streaming Mad Men (various sources)
  • Vodka Martinis: Highly successful, highly functional alcoholics.”  - David Bumba, Yuzu, Lakewood, OH
  • Whiskey Sour: “I may or may not be 21.” - Kayla Quigley, Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, Boston, MA
  • White Russian: “Respectable by my standards.” - Jane Danger, Mother of Pearl, New York, NY
  • Long Island Iced Tea: “We didn’t have your first two requests of Fireball and Goldschläger.” - Brandy Feit, Headwaters, Portland, OR
  • Mojito“You're probably a cool cat looking for something refreshing. Just please don't crush it faster than I can make it; these things take time.” - Ted Vong, TAG Restaurant, Denver, CO
  • Cosmopolitan: “Where's the rest of the bachelorette party!?” — Justin Nelson, Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, Los Angeles, CA
  • “Moscow Mule: "You have a subscription to both Better Homes & Gardens and Sunset. You have strong opinions on how lime wedges should be cut.” — Drew Record, Mister Jiu's, San Fransisco, CA

 

What's up, dog?

 

crazy hot dogs

Guess how many hot dogs will be eaten this Independence Day? If you guessed 150 million, I'd be concerned for you. But you would also be right. That's a lot of weiners.

Hot dogs are always on the menu for the Fourth of July, but why not heighten the occasion? Go all out with a hot dog bar, where people can stack up thematic franks with uncommon toppings. The great Nora Ephron always said that people love to play with their food. 

hot dog bar

The below toppings can be combined for a taste you'll relish. See what I did there?

The Buffalo Dog: Hot sauce, crumbled blue cheese & diced celery

Blue Hawaii: Pineapple chunks, bacon and BBQ sauce

Tex Mex: Grated cheddar, chili, diced onion, sliced jalapenos and crumbled Fritos

Garden Party: Caramelized onions, grilled peppers, jalapenos and mushrooms

El Mariachi: Jalapenos, corn, cilantro, diced onion and cojita cheese

The American Dream: American cheese, onion dip and crushed potato chips

Some entertaining tips:

Make a chalkboard menu with combo suggestions

Create fun names for thematic hot dogs

Keep all the toppings in bowls or containers the same size and shape. The uniform look is appealing when people are making tough decisions

Have a DAREDEVIL section for outlandish toppings, like super-spicy ghost peppers, peanut butter or even marshmallows! Scour your cabinets and you'll be sure to find some stand-out options.

Happy Independence Day!

girl with fireworks

For all those dog day afternoons

a boy and his greyhound

Summer solstice is upon us. The longest day of 2020 is Saturday the 20th (that's a lot of 20s). Hot, steamy weather is headed our way. In a month, they'll announce that we're in "the dog days of summer." Which got me thinking about dogs. Our team here at Ladles and Linens are true dog lovers. One look at our inventory makes it clear. From embroidered dog towels (58 different breeds thankyouverymuch!) to hilarious linen towels, we know how to celebrate man's best friend!

cute funny dog towel wigglebutts

And while we love to cook and entertain for our loved ones, we believe in spoiling our furry friends too! Dogs basically wear fur coats throughout summer, panting the days away. So in addition to bringing them inside, you can spoil them with homemade treats. It's easier than you think! We stock silicone dog biscuit molds and the recipe options are endless.

Here's an easy starter:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • A dash of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your over to 350 degrees
  2. In an electric mixer, beat pumpkin puree, peanut butter and eggs on medium-high until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups flour at low speed, beating just until incorporated. Add an additional 1/4 cup flour at a time just until the dough is no longer sticky.
  4. Press mixture into the silicone mold
  5. Place into oven and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely before popping out.

Are your dog biscuits not the cutest? Who's a good wittle puppy pawwent? You are! Oh yes you are!

Happy solstice, and bring on the dog days!

 peanut butter homemade dog treats in a basket

It's Always a Kitchen Party, and Everyone's Invited!

Here at Ladles and Linens, you may have noticed our slogan:

It's always a kitchen party, and everyone's invited!

And by everyone, we mean everyone. We know that with progress comes divisiveness. For some, old wounds have opened. Others feel that the world is going mad. When our communities hurt, we hurt. We are here to bring some positivity to these fraught times. 

Businesses large and small have taken a hit due to COVID-19, but in solidarity with the black community, we are happy to share some black-owned businesses that you can support during these times. It helps to build strong families and strong communities. And for a number of factors, black communities have been disproportionately hit during these anxiety-ridden and economically-uncertain times.

The above photo references businesses in Richmond.

Here's some info on black-owned businesses in Roanoke

Here's another link on Virginia is for Lovers

Do your best to stay positive and remember to be kind. Remember, we are all in this together!

 

Father's Day Guide to Greatness

Sports were canceled in 2020, and that's just the tip of the iceberg for dads. If mama needed a gesture on Mother's Day, it's his turn now. For any dads reading this: I see you on Instagram, home-schooling and making those funny-shaped pancakes. We got your back this year. 

How do we make Father's Day special?  For starters, it looks like a lot of us have picked up some new hobbies during quarantine. My husband took up fishing. He likens it to gambling, which he is also a fan of. But since casinos are closed, fishing it is. Bring the family, pack an unforgettable picnic and gift him a great knife.

picnic

Some dads have taken up gardening, and every singe one of them are growing jalapenos. It's a thing. If their bounty is big enough, a thoughtful gift would be some vinegar, jars and spices so they can bottle their very own hot sauce

I know a lot of people are baking bread, because no one can find yeast or bread flour at the store. Social media is rife with crusty loaves. If the dad in your life is baking, treat him good with these gifts and hopefully you'll make off with a baguette. 

I know some of you are rolling your eyes at the thought of hobbies. I get it. Home-schooling while working from home should be an Olympic sport, like day drinking. Not all of us are built for it. If unwinding is what Dad needs, let's give him a break. Buy handsome tumblers for his single malt Scotch. Indulge in some quality BBQ goods, so grilling feels almost like self-care. He gets out of the house, and you get stellar ribeye. Does that sound selfish? Ribeye, though. 

Happy Father's Day!

 

Ladles Cooking Videos - Your Quarantine Companion

Sarah Nicholas of Ladles and Linens

I'll admit it. I was late to the game with the Ladles and Linens Cooking School videos. It's not that I'm virtuous about screen time; one of my happiest memories during quarantine is binge-watching Fleabag. It's not that I'm adverse to learning new things; I hopped onto that Masterclass train. It's that catching a live class means you need to know what day it is. I'm working on it!

In the meantime, Sarah recounted the live class where she knocked over her cocktail shaker along with the camera, resulting in a drunk dog (who lapped the drink off the floor). Thankfully, Sarah picked right back up and finished making the Smile Politely cocktail. Even better, this video (bloopers and all) lives on the cooking school page. Here's to keeping it real!

radishes ladles and linens

There are classes where she's dressed like a Bond girl mixing fierce drinks - perfect for happy hour. She takes you around the world with recipes like shakshuka - ideal for people looking to shake things up in the kitchen. Take advantage of the free cooking classes, which would be unheard of in any cooking school if you were on-site. There are silver linings all around us. 

For parents homeschooling, I had mentioned that keeping your kids active in the kitchen is where science meets art. Now we can add entertainment to the mix, because Sarah's 5 year-old son Asher even guides us through his favorites, via online classes. Sarah provides the list of ingredients ahead of time, so you and your kids can prepare, and follow along live. It's almost like you're hanging out, which we all need a little more of. 

healthy grain bowl

A couple of warnings: Sarah's kitchen is distractingly grand. But have no fear, your jealousy will be mitigated by her realness and warmth. Some of my favorite moments in these videos is when her children amble up to her while filming. It's a sweet and familiar feeling to working parents, who are trying to do it all.

Which brings me to my second and final warning. Her kids are distractingly adorable. You may have a brood of wild ones with grown-out quarantine hair, wrestling in an adjacent room. My son's shoes are perpetually caked with red Virginia clay. But you too can have a mini "Ladleman" or "Ladlette." Swap their tees for button-up shirts or Izod polos, give their hair a good brush and teach each of them to smile politely. 

Three cocktails for a true patriot

6 Best Memorial Day Party Ideas 2020 - How to Throw a Patriotic ...

Last week I wrote about making the most out of what will be an unusual Memorial Day weekend.  But I left out a major component: The drinks.

Did you know that the term "happy hour" has its origins in the military? The Navy invented the term for their break, which included drinks, wrestling matches, dancing and more. They were all in.

As am I, minus the wrestling part. Here are three Memorial Day cocktails that got their start with our friends in the military.

Gin and Tonic Recipe: A Simple, Refreshing Drink

Gin & Tonic

The British East India Company had it bad with the mosquitoes in India. To fight malaria, they had to drink quinine, and it was bitter. To make it more palatable, they added a twist of lime. To make it fun, they added some gin. And a star was born. Note: Today's tonic water has much less quinine.

recipe

Cuba Libre and Mojito Recipes - Tony's Rum Drinks

Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke)

American troops first brought Coca-Cola to Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. For homesick soldiers, it was a taste of home. It didn't take long for Cubans to swoon. Then Fausto Rodriguez, a bartender in Cuba, first served the drink to a U.S. troop named “Barrio” who frequented his bar. They brought his signature "Cuba libre" back to the states and...cha cha cha.

recipe

Sidecar - PUNCH

The Sidecar

Legend has it, a WWI Army captain was having a hell of a time beating a cold. He was often chauffeured by a motorcycle sidecar. He'd use it to frequent his favorite bar in Paris, where he enjoyed a custom cocktail. The bartender ended up naming the drink after the captain in the sidecar.

recipe

Cheers and have a wonderful Memorial Day!

 

May 23, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan

Don't turn Memorial Day into a, well, memorial

 

Like most people, we have a Memorial Day tradition. A group of friends, along with our family of three, rent a big house somewhere either by water, on a mountain, or in a town we've never explored. We grill, drink and occasionally check in on our combined child army, to make sure everyone's still breathing. 

For obvious reasons, we won't be gathering this year. But I'm determined not to make this Memorial Day feel like a memorial to the holidays of yore. We have to make the most of what we have, because what's the alternative?

Instagram would indicate that a lot of us are spending more time doing two things: baking, and gardening. If the latter is true, you've likely spent more time sprucing up the yard. What a perfect backdrop for Memorial Day. Though you might have ramped up your drinking just a bit to deal with the kids (or the spouse, no judgement), it is true that there may never be a era in our lives where we get to spend so much time with our families.

Our best option is to eat well, drink well, and enjoy the sunshine in your yard. The mosquitoes aren't at their most vicious, humidity has yet to paralyze us and oh the food. Below are a few tips to make the most of your back yard hullabaloo.

  • Keep the bugs off your prized grilled ribeye, with these mesh food covers
  • Drinking games aren't just for big crowds. Less people? More tequila for you! Ladles and Linens has just the thing.
  • Does your child also use their clothing as a napkin, though there's one right in front of them? Yea. Feel free to slather the corn cobs in butter, with these tidy cob holders
  • On Memorial Day, remembering our fallen military is important. And it's as American as apple pie. So why not bake some?
  • And don't even think of ditching the whipped cream!

Have a happy Memorial Day. 

May 16, 2020 by Fayeruz Regan

Attn: Panic Shoppers - Zero Waste Tips for ALL. THAT. FOOD.

On March 13th, I received a call from my sister, who urged me to buy toilet paper stat. I'm guilty of going overboard. Now I have enough toilet paper to cushion me against a parachute fail.

Unlike toilet paper, which lasts forever, those who purchased too many groceries are having to toss out expired food. In a world where we are all striving to be more sustainable, it can be guilt-inducing. Especially when we hear stories of food scarcity due to the pandemic. Below are some tips to help you use up every last morsel of your bounty.

  • Stale Tortilla Chips - Nothing works better as a bottom layer of a casserole. It soaks up juices while keeping its crunch and has a salty finish. Especially delicious on anything Mexican-themed or cheesy. Also, if you bake a tray of nachos, no one will know that the chips were ever stale!
  • Garlic - Are green sprouts bursting though? Plant these individual cloves in full sun (preferably a sandy, loamy soil), and each clove will produce an entire bulb! When the leaves start to whither and turn yellow, it's time to harvest.
  • Stale Potato Chips - I mean, I would eat these anyway, but if you're fancy, crumble them until they're fine and use as a substitute for breadcrumbs. Or use as a crispy top layer of a casserole. I like to saute them in Texas Pete Hot Sauce and make a toasty top layer of buffalo chicken dip. 
  • Wilting salad spinach - If they are getting droopy, saute them with garlic and olive oil in a pan. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Stale bread - Cube and bake into breadcrumbs. Have fun with seasonings. You can make cumin jalapeno croutons for Mexican salads, or a garlicky Parmesan batch for Caesar salads.
  • Fruit - Bananas turning black and strawberries getting mushy? Wash, peel and chop into cubes for a smoothie. Toss them into the freezer for later.
  • Wilting herbs - Fresh herbs at the grocery store don't come cheap. Wash them well, and spread them out on a towel in a sunny spot of your home.  Once dried, they can be stored and used like the dried spices in your collection. Only they'll be packing much more flavor.
  • Meat expiring - If your freezer has no room and you don't want to eat it at the moment, make jerky!
  • Vegetables - Chances are, you can find a good soup recipe for what you've got. Pull out your stock pot and get creative. One of the best things about soup is the way it freezes. Save up for a cold, rainy day by pouring into gallon freezer bags. Lay them flat in the freezer and they stack like playing cards - and the airtight nature of it keeps them relatively safe from freezer burn. 

    Remember, if it's too late for some of your bounty, you have options. Rotten produce can be composted, and moldy bread is still a treat for birds. Get outside, enjoy the sun and feed it to the ducks at your local park. I hope these tips make a little difference, and this shared experience that much easier. 

    Stay safe, my friends. 

    This Year, Mama Needs a Gesture

    Even before I became a mother, I often scoffed at the gifts people think women want. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day turns street corners into makeshift gift shops For Those Who Forgot. And it's always the same thing: red roses and teddy bears. Folks, please stop buying grown women stuffed animals. We've been allowed to vote for 80 years, yet are still fighting infantilization. 

    Mothers are practical, but also need to feel pampered. They need convenience, but deserve to luxuriate. Balance the equation, and you are golden.

    Last year I encouraged readers to ditch crowded brunch spots and serve her brunch in bed. This year, she won't even have the option to dine out. On top of this, many moms out there are overworked, with home-schooling and remote jobs. Others are stressed because they need to be out in the workforce, and fear contaminating their families. It's been a tough couple of months. She deserves a gesture. Here are some practical yet funny/luxurious/thoughtful gifts. 

    There are no stuffed animals. Only great ideas to pull together a basket!

    Towels are practical, but can also be:

    Mugs are necessary caffeine delivery systems. But they can also be:

    If she loves flowers, get her some that will last for years, with:

    Can't decide from all these fabulous options? You can never go wrong with a gift card!

    Happy Mother's Day!