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April 20, 2014
Here in the midwest we are just now recovering from a long, cold, and brutal winter. What says “Summer” more than a good cocktail? In this case, or for this discussion, a Gin and Tonic, specifically. Say what you will about the Brits, but they came up with a classic cocktail out of the simple necessity of trying to make antimalarials palatable.
The problem is that over the years we have cut corners. We slurp overly sweet tonic water, fake or preserved lime juice and cheap gin and call it a gin and tonic. How sad. Lucky for us there is a growing movement to regain the classic nature of those days past, and to that end I am going to talk about tonic.
Yes, I know, you probably think the gin is more important. There are a lot of good, small batch gins commonly available. I, personally, like Tanqueray as my go-to gin, but “The Botonist,” “Deaths Door” and “FEW” make some great gins with the somewhat resinous flavor of juniper neatly blended with other savory botanicals. Take your pick.
Tonic, on the other hand, seems to be an after thought and that is really sad. So let us talk about tonic.
My favorite “common” tonic has been Schweppes. It isn’t overly carbonated and doesn’t make a mess every time I open a bottle (unlike Canada Dry). It’s not cheap at just over $5 for 6, 10oz bottles or around $1 a bottle (including sales tax). According to the label, that bottle is one serving and tops out at 110 calories or 11 calories an ounce. Honestly, a single 10 ounce bottle makes two cocktails (depending on how much ice) so figure around 55 calories per cocktail for just the tonic water. To me, Schweppes is a little sweet but the diet tonic water tastes like donkey piss, so I avoid it. What is really interesting are the ingredients:
- Carbonated Water
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Citric Acid
- Sodium Benzoate (preservative)
- Natural Flavors
Yes, the evil that is “High Fructose Corn Syrup” is in that tonic and probably accounts for most of the calories. The “Diet” version actually uses saccharin instead of something more modern, perhaps that is why it tastes so awful.
Q-Tonic is one of the new “boutique” tonics. Made in small batches it costs around $8 for four, 8 ounce bottles or $2 a bottle. It is actually more per bottle because it is two ounces smaller. However, it tastes soooo much better. It is not as sweet, and has a crisp flavor with that quinine bitterness. It is also “all natural” (which I know is important to you organic cocktail drinkers):
- Carbonated Water
- Organic Agave
- Natural Bitters
- Lemon Juice Extract
You could argue that agave is no better than corn syrup but Q Tonic has only 38 calories per bottle or 4.75 calories per ounce.
Depending on who you believe, Gin has between 73 and 97 calories per ounce. Let call it 85 calories per ounce on the average. If your standard gin and tonic follows this recipe:
- 2 ounces gin
- wedge of lime
- 4 ounces of tonic
You are looking at around 190-200 calories for a drink with Q-Tonic and 214 for Schweppes. Not a huge difference, really, but if you are going to consume the empty calories that are a good cocktail you may as well stack the deck in your favor and make certain that it is, indeed, a good cocktail! The marketers will tell you they have a lower glycemic index and are all natural or organic but I figure if you are consuming alcohol, isn’t all the rest of that just a gimic?
There are other small batch tonics on the market. Two that I have tried are “Fever Tree” and Jack Rudy. Fever Tree is much like Q-Tonic, perhaps a bit sweeter, but it is imported and thus more expensive per ounce. Jack Rudy, on the other hand, is a tonic syrup.
Yes, that’s right, a tonic syrup.
Jack Rudy is made in South Carolina in small batches and if you toss about an ounce into your glass and add seltzer you have just made some fresh tonic water for your cocktail. I find the syrup a little hard to get used to using because the order in which you add the ingredients makes a big difference. The syrup has a tendency to settle to the bottom so you need to add it last and just as you are pouring the seltzer into your glass. If you have a soda siphon this is a great way to go as the price per ounce is about $1 which puts it in the same range as the other small batch tonics I have mentioned. Because it is a syrup the ingredients and calorie count aren’t published, but the stuff is very tasty and worth trying out.
So, now that the summer is fast approaching I invite you to kick off the dust of an overly harsh midwest winter and enjoy a good cocktail with friends and family. Leave your iPhone in the house, unless of course it is providing music to socialize by.
April 6, 2014
The last couple of months have been really busy for me… I have been remodelling my mothers kitchen (thank you, again, to all who helped!) and took a little trip to the land and seas of the giant mouse for spring break. It was a great trip! However, I am really behind in things. As of todays date I still haven’t finished my taxes, but I hope to clear that up later today.
So, having lost a bit of momentum on this blog I thought I would put something fun up just to get things moving again. Let me take you back to 1993… The 386 PC was the fastest machine in town with 486 machines just starting to appear. My friend and co-worker, Mark Hibbert, invited me to play a new computer game called Doom.
I was blown away…
I remember at one point jumping up and shouting when I was surprised by the appearance of an Imp from behind some sliding, hidden, door.
Heretic and Doom 2 came out in the years that followed and they we basically clones of the same gaming engine with a different skin on top. I wasted HOURS playing those games with wanton abandon. The fact that I could play a death match modem to modem or up to eight on a LAN just sweetened the deal. I know that Wolfenstein 3D came first but, for me, Doom set the stage for a succession of first person shooter games that I still enjoy playing today.
In 1997 the Doom source code was release by John Carmack and a few projects started up to recode the engine to run on a modern widows PC. The two I tried out were called Doom Legacy (which supported custom WAD add ons) and gzdoom (which I prefer for ease of use). The hard part was finding the old floppy disks from the originally purchased game. After a bit of digging (thanks Mario!), I found the disks for Doom, Doom 2 and Heretic and started playing them again.
For my “non-techie” friends I used inno setup and wrote some installation files for the three games. If you are interested in going retro and giving these old gems a new try, you can download them here:
Enjoy and Good Games!
February 16, 2014
As of this date I am a week out from remodelling my mothers kitchen. Not a small undertaking and not one I am honestly looking forward to. I really have no choice. My mother has lived in that house since I was about three years old. My grandmother (her mother) died there and my grandfather (her father) died there and I think she wants to leave it feet first, too. The problem is that while my grandmother and grandfather had my mom to care for them (she lived with them for the last 40+ years) my mother has only me and I do not live with her. I have a wife and child of my own and trying to maintain two houses is just impossible.
The old homestead is also the worst possible arrangement for my mothers decreased mobility. Don’t get me wrong… my mom is a stubborn woman who stays active and moving. It’s just that things like stairs and a lot of walking are a bit difficult for her. The kitchen hasn’t been updated, other than vinyl flooring, since the house was built. Drawers that don’t open. Cabinets she really cannot use. A layout that is patently ridiculous.
So once we convinced my mom she needed to free up some cash to make her kitchen something she could actually use, we called in some contractors to give estimates.
What a waste of time…
Three contractors gave three different plans and estimates and as I read through them I thought, “Wow… they just see an old lady they can fleece for a wad of cash.” One guy spec’d out a pantry cabinet, but my mom has a walk in pantry. Another guy spec’d out two corner cabinets with lazy susans. A bit hard for my mom to bend over to use those… So, Karen and I decided we would do it. We have the design, the materials are already arriving and come next Saturday, February 22nd, 2014, we start.
It’s going to be a long week…
The hope is that come Sunday, March 2nd, 2014, my mother will have a finished kitchen, except for the countertops. I am trying to gather as many helping hands as I can for the opening weekend, but the week may be a bit lonely. It can be tricky to hang cabinets by yourself, but that is what I may end up doing. I will try to post some photos as the week progresses.
Wish me luck!
February 9, 2014
Lets try this again... shall we?
I originally registered this domain when I was running a small blacksmithing business called, oddly enough, "The Celtic Knot Forge". It was a wonderful time for us but the glory of days gone are not worth rehashing for the next 30 years. At least, I don't want to be "that guy".
I have allowed the website to lie fallow while I thought about what I wanted to do next. When I first started this I coded everything by hand in notepad and loaded it to the web. Then I tried a series of content management systems. The list is rather long and includes, in order:
I went through a bunch of versions of Joomla, and it is and was a very good CMS. The problem with all of them is that they are both too much and not enough. Eventually, all of them hit an upgrade that requires hours of work to convert, retool and reset... Honestly, I am tired of hitting that wall over and over again.
- Php Nuke
- Php Nuke Platinum
So, these days I earn my bread as a H.I.T. Man (that is Health Information Technology). I am a professional computer geek. So... since I have that skill set to draw from I have decided to recreate the Celtic Knot as a unique, hand-coded site. I can use SSI, PHP, CGI, PERL, Python, Java script or anything else that strikes my fancy. If I keep it simple enough, dare I say "retro" enough, it can become a communication medium for me again. Instead of a time sink.
So... Welcome to the latest incarnation of the Celtic Knot. I will bring back some of the most popular, original items from the previous incarnations. For now, however, this one page. This single post... this is my step back into the personal website.
And if, perhaps, this seems a bit simple in execution at the moment, it is as near as I can come to bullet proof from a coding perspective. Quick loading, simple and content should always be king, not modern frippery...