Shake everything with ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a hefty hunk of orange peel.
~ A Dr. Bamboo original creation
Let's talk grilling.
This is the season for cooking in yards, driveways, parking lots or any surface flat and solid enough to support a metal container full of flames. Since this will be happening with increasing frequency in the coming weeks and months, I will use this space to offer up my guide to grilling in the hopes it will improve the experience for you and your guests (unless you're grilling solo, which is also a perfectly fine undertaking...the undisturbed communion between you and your grill can be very meditative and therapeutic).
Moreover, grilling is a fantastic excuse to stand around outside holding a drink without everyone assuming you have some sort of problem. I have a theory that when the first of our primitive forebears had the idea to toss a slab of animal flesh onto a fire, one of his buddies handed him an ice-cold can of beer mere seconds later. Science has yet to provide physical evidence, but trust me, I know those guys were knocking back gin & tonics while the Stegosaurus steaks were sizzling away.
Here then, are a few key thoughts on the subject of grilling (and how it can be conducive to the enjoyment of a good drink)
The debate concerning gas vs. charcoal is one that will likely never be settled, but for the record, I'm a charcoal guy. Gas grills look nice with their gleaming silver sheen and array of knobs and buttons, but nothing can compare to the gritty, weathered nature of a charcoal grill that has seen a few seasons outdoors. Such devices acquire the noble patina of an oft-used tool that wordlessly communicates its status as a no-nonsense device that puts function before form.
Aesthetics aside, there's sport involved in building a decent charcoal fire. A number of variables can scuttle the whole enterprise, including a bad batch of briquettes, inclement weather, and poor technique on the part of the cook. But if you are conscientious in your preparation and focused in your execution, your efforts will be rewarded by an unparalleled grilling scenario.
Anyone can turn a dial, flick an igniter, and finely calibrate the heat to whatever level is desired. However, it is work getting a charcoal grill fired up and going the distance, and it earns you a drink (like the one shown above for example).
It's a misconception that grilling only takes place in the warmer months. Granted, Summer is when most people get a yen for it, but grilling can take place in the Spring, Fall, and Winter. Rain can be worked around with some ingenuity, wind can actually aid the process, and snow is no impediment, provided you have a shovel handy.
You see, all the weather phenomena peculiar to the seasons can be managed, and should not be seen as a reason to avoid grilling. I suggest embracing the diversity of what Mother Nature has to offer year-round, and celebrating it by keeping your grill ready to go at a moment's notice, regardless of the time of year. You may have to fend off hostile winds, devilish precipitation and brisk temperatures, but putting forth the extra energy required to grill in the non-Summer months will be well worth it. Just remember to stockpile enough charcoal to last you through the Winter.
Again, such efforts will earn you a drink.
It pretty much goes without saying that anyone you want to have around while you're grilling should be someone you're on good terms with. The grill is a sacred object, and those gathered around it should demonstrate the proper reverence- relationships have been shattered irrevocably over poor grill etiquette. Invite whoever you like, but bear in mind the last thing you need is some knucklehead yammering away, criticizing your technique and offering unsolicited "advice." So make sure whoever you're grilling with is someone whose character you are reasonably confident of.
And remember: Never touch another man's grill unless invited. This rule is paramount, and violating it earns the offender a swift rebuke. This will invariably cause some tension, so if it happens, ease any anxiety with a drink. You have earned it with your vigilance.
Really, you just need to cook whatever you like. There's an amazing variety of edibles that can be grilled (for many it's the ideal method), and no shortage of cookbooks and recipes that offer up guidelines for doing so. There's no reason to keep things limited to traditional items like hot dogs, burgers, steaks, and the other usual suspects. Get creative, and experiment.
However, no matter what you decide to place on your ember-filled altar, I urge you to commit the extra time and money to getting good-quality eats. Find a local butcher for decent cuts of meat. Hit the farmer's market for fresh, local veggies. Take the time to whip up some homemade marinades and sauces. You may have to go a bit out of your way initially, but it's completely worth it.
And for having gone the extra mile (possibly literally) you have earned yourself a drink.
Obviously this is a matter of great importance, for as we've established, grilling and drinking are practically inseparable. Your drink of choice should be something you enjoy that also lends itself to being consumed while standing adjacent to a waist-high pile of hot coals. How you interpret this directive is completely dependent on personal preference, so far be it from me to limit your list of options. (For what it's worth, I like Martinis, beer, and anything in a tiki mug. I've had other things of course, but those seem to be my most frequent grilling companions.)
Whatever you choose, I suggest the key feature of your drink be ease-of-assembly. If you're monitoring a grill, you don't need to be spending an inordinate amount of time rounding up obscure ingredients and making recipes that require elaborate preparation. Pop inside, make your drink, and get back out on duty. If you need further convincing, remember that there's always a chance your drink could get knocked into the grill, and while pretty, the resulting pyrotechnic display could very well result in injury, property damage and ruined food. And if any of that happens, it means more work for you.
But that work will earn you a drink, so it's really not as bad as it seems.
Thanks for drinking!