There’s something fitting about this particular Travel Tuesday going up on a Wednesday morning.  A few weeks back, I told you about my trip to New Orleans and my highly scientific study of the Crescent City’s signature sandwiches, the po’ boy and the muffuletta.  Three of each over the course of the trip…not too shabby.

But that pales in comparison to the dedication with which I threw myself into my third and final quest: a search for the best Sazerac in the city that created the cocktail.  To say I’m fond of a well-made Sazerac is a bit of an understatement.  Over the course of my trip I tried no fewer than five different versions of the classic rye-and-absinthe drink.  I even paid a visit to the Museum of the American Cocktail (an impressive collection within the larger Southern Food and Beverage Museum).

I sought the Sazerac in the classics – the bars that claimed it as their own as well as the ones that have likely been serving it since its earliest days.  I tried a few in bars with no obvious connection to the drink besides a commitment to well-crafted cocktails.  I even checked out a Bourbon Street bar’s offering for the sake of comparison.

And what did I find?  Generally speaking, there’s a reason a bar (or a bartender) becomes a classic.  Whether through skill, art or sheer force of repetition, they deliver if you know what you’re looking for.  But beware of any place that claims too close an association with something…you’re apt to find the spirit of the thing lost to the marketing and hype that surrounds it.

After the jump, the making of a Sazerac and a run-down on the contenders for my new personal favorite. (more…)

Extra news this week to make up for last Saturday’s absence…

Starting this off on a serious note. Due to the double-punch of rising costs and rising food needs in the community, Bread for the City a DC food pantry, is over their food budget by over $10,000 for this month. They need help. Please donate

Fans of the Arlington Rap know Remy loves Arlington. But did you know he also loves eggs?
 
The Real World DC cast has arrived. DCist gives us a rundown of where you might run into these exhibitionists and which DC favorites may be a safe haven.   
 
Planning any visits to Argentina? Be sure to try a choripan, their version of a hot dog. Or if you’re just hiking the Appalachian Trail and need some camp food, you can make it yourself. We Are Never Full shows you how.  
 
Wonkabout gives us a rundown of small plate restaurants in DC. 
 
How’s this for hospitality? A Hamptons restaurant manager retracted an awning in the middle of a rainstorm in an effort to disperse diners who were queued up to get inside. Check out the video from Gawker.  Classy.
 
Favorite fictional chefs from TV and movies.

Check out this recipe for sweet basil and mint iced tea. Plus the photos are glorious!  
 
“200 places to eat before it’s too late”authors are interviewed by the WSJ. 
 
Research indicates Briton’s are consuming more comfort food these days as a response to the recession. The most popular British comfort foods are bangers and mash, fish and chips, and baked beans on toast. Jesus Chrysler, if that was my comfort food I’d be depressed, too. 
 
A deep dive into Pintango organic gelato process.   
 
At eater’s guide to BBQ in Kansas City. 
 
Per Brightest Young Things, Adam Bernbach, the beloved former bartender at Bar Pilar, has returned to DC and joined the team at Proof
 
Rooftop bees get to work on menu items at the Fairmont in DC. 
 
What are the 10 cocktails everyone should know how to make?   
 
PQ Living hails Central’s banana split as the best deal in town.

Who wears short shorts and loves McDonald’s? Britney.
  
Denny’s plans its third Rockstar menu, this time featuring bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41. 
 
Tips on cooking with beer (as an ingredient… not just holding it in your hand at the stove).  

Ever wanted to make injera – that spongy bread you get in Ethiopian restaurants – at home
 
Endless Simmer takes issue with the new-hot-now New York food scene. 
 
Recent E.Coli outbreak may have been caused by consuming yummy, yummy cookie dough. I bet it was worth it.    
 
If you had to choose one, would you rather give up donuts or bagels for the rest of your life? SoGood wants to know.  
 
The top 5 failed McDonald’s menu items.  Oh Arch Deluxe, you silly burger.
 
Arugula Files gives you the scoop on some summer salads.   
 
We Are Out of Here eats their way through the Eden Center and climbs out of a food coma to share their reviews. (HT to DC Blogs from the link)
 
Kit Kat receives accolades at the Cannes advertising festival for their edible postcard in the Japanese market.   
 
NPR muses on the recession-proof success of the Cheesecake Factory.

Basil VodkaIt’s no big secret that we love a good cocktail here at Capital Spice.  Consequently, several of our cookbooks are actually collections of cocktails.  From the classics to the most eccentric, we’ve got our libations covered.  On our recent trip to San Francisco, though, a visit to Chronicle Books turned up a book that I just couldn’t resist. 

Infused: 100+ Recipes for Infused Liqueurs and Cocktails focuses on just what you’d think it does.  Ever since my failed attempt to make bourbacon, I’ve been eager to try my hand at making some homemade infusions to use in cocktails.  I snatched up the book and brought it home.

Since our June Cookbook Challenge applies to all of our recipe books, I decided there was no time quite like the present to try my hand at an infusion.  With some beautiful basil growing out on our deck (thanks to the folks at Shenandoah Growers, who sent us some of their organic “Living Culinary Herbs” to try for ourselves), I knew that I wanted to attempt a basil-infused vodka.

Taking a bottle of Absolut 100 that we bought with the intention of making our own limoncello, I poured the contents into a clean half-gallon Mason jar.  To this, I added one cup of lightly packed basil leaves that I rinsed and dried.

Filtering Basil VodkaAnd that was pretty much all there was to it.  I left the bottle in a cool, dark place to steep for 24 hours before opening the jar up and pouring the contents through a coffee filter.  The bright green color that the vodka had taken on was striking, and the vegetative, musky aroma of the basil was unmistakable.

With the vodka strained, I poured it back into its original bottle using a funnel (Thank you, Georgetown, for teaching me such valuable skills).  The bottle went back into its cool, dark hiding place for another week to further enhance its flavor.

We put the liqueur to the test with some friends this past weekend – inviting them over for a drink that involved the basil vodka, muddled strawberries, and rosemary-balsamic simple syrup.  The high alcohol content of the Absolut 100 gave it a bit of an alcoholic burn, but the balance of sweet and savory flavors made for a great time.

We’ve still got plenty of basil vodka left…anyone for a Bloody Mary brunch?