21 September 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Tom Collins

What good would an Old Tom like Hayman’s be if not tried in a Tom Collins? The gin absolutely lived up to its promise. The cocktail itself is very soothing – especially in the warm evenings now in Atlanta.

This is made from gin, fresh lemon juice, fine sugar (I took the easy way of using simple syrup) and soda water. Usually garnished with an orange peel and a cherry.

20 September 2017

Do you want to be a Collector of Experiences along with me?

For a person who gets easily excited by a few Likes and a few Comments on my blog posts, I am certainly overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of visits, and hundreds of likes and wishes left on Facebook and LinkedIn on my post about stepping down from my current job.

The number one question posted is “What is the next big thing”?

Well, the answer might underwhelm you. Or not surprise you if you have known me for some time. Following a time tested pattern, I am going to take another year off before I look for a job. The purpose, as always, is to recognize that time is the only truly finite resource we have and therefore, I need to optimize how I spend that time the best I can.

And like every previous time, the focus will be on
(*) Do something for myself – like learning new skills, developing new habits etc
(*) Do something for and with my family (both my immediate family and my family in India)
(*) Do something for the friends, people I know and society at large

I keep a long list of items in my bucket list. Following are the ones that I am getting started on immediately or want to get started soon. Would you be interested in joining me?

(*) For myself: I have enrolled in motorbiking classes (and a lot of safety classes). I am going to get myself a motorbike and go for pleasure riding up the mountains, by the lakes, by the ocean line … It is not about the speed but feeling the wind and getting to know nature in a whole different way. I have been inspired by and mentored by some of my really good friends – Magesh, Avi and Danny to name a few.

(*) For my family: Nikita and I are getting into some serious volleyball playing. Sharmila and I have drawn up some initial plans on a few great places we want to see as a family. We are looking into Galapagos, Bali, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Banf, Kenya, Tanzania, New Zealand, Australia …. Hope to knock off at least a few of them… I also want to spend more time with dad and mom in the next one year. Did I mention, my great friend Roger and I once picked a country at random – Mongolia – and decided that we need to visit that country and find out more about their people? Well, this may be the year!

(*) For others: I have already enrolled and started working as a volunteer in a hospice in Atlanta. I now have 6 patients that I spend time with – most are about six months from what is euphemistically called “transition”. They have come to the end of the runway of that only finite resource we have – time. I want to share some of mine with them.

I am also looking at helping out academia and smaller companies if my prior experience can be helpful (not for financial returns though).

So, that is my initial list. As the list progresses, you will see them in my blogs and posts.

Of course, the old ones – mixing drinks, running long runs (maybe one in Antarctica?), meeting strangers, digging up old people from my past, terrible jokes, playing the tabla, writing more (with fountain pens and digitally)…. I hope to continue with them.

So, here are my questions –
A: Do you have any passion that coincides with mine? I would love to partner up with somebody in a few more steps in my life.
B: Do you want to pick up a new passion? Were you waiting for somebody to just give you the push? Let me know. I might get excited about it. I will be there to push you then.
C: Can you think of how you can help me achieve my goals? Know some professor who might be helped by me? Know some company that can use my experience? Know some old person or dying person who can do with me listening to them or talking to them?

I am up for it…

In the past, the year offs were – according to both my family and myself – the best times we have had. Would be great to keep up the trend… As my friend Avi keeps reminding me – Twenty years from now I will be more disappointed by the things that I didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So that is my plan.

And yes, at some point of time – around this time next year, I will be looking for a job to pay for stuff. I will reach back at you again then….

In the meanwhile, would you like to be a Collector of Experiences with me? (Suzanne had first told me about this phrase). I will leave you with a thought today…

Watching my patient friends at the hospice who know there are a few more days to live, I bet you they wake up every morning with one thought “One less day left”. And yet, that “One less day” is a truthful statement for all of us – every morning. How many of us recognize that and therefore focus on truly what is important to us individually in life – versus let today flow thru like yesterday was and let our priorities and calendar be driven by other people and things?

18 September 2017

She knew what an Alien Brain Hemorrhage is!!

One of the best perks of having a job that requires me to travel (pretty much all my jobs did) and it certainly makes up for all those delayed flights and crazy hotel situations – is getting to meet new people. Different people with different backgrounds, different dreams, different aspirations and most importantly different life stories.

Last week I had finished up my duties as the mixologist at our corporate event when I realized that I was very hungry. A challenge of being a bartender is that you are constantly mixing different drinks and rarely get a chance to grab a drink of water – let alone some food. The other challenge was that I was in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin where everything shuts down after 9PM. Even the room service at the resort we were staying shut down at 9PM.

It was nearly 9:45 PM. Not knowing any better, I hit Google and found a local bar and grill open till 2AM. I was too tired to go there and sit there by myself. So, I grabbed Anand – who was hoping to hit the sack and pushed him to come with me. (with the promise of a glass of beer; he is easy that way 🙂 ).

It was a pretty desolate bar. In fact, Anand and I doubled the population at Lincoln Bar that night. Discounting the bar lady, there was only one other customer. And the bar lady – Rachel – was her name – let us know that the kitchen was closed!! So, the establishment was open only for drinking. Anand, helpfully, let Rachel know about my situation. She went inside and came back with the good news that the frier was still on. So, onion rings, french fries and a couple of gins it was – for dinner. Long time back Jon, watching me have fries and wine for dinner in Burlington, MA had called it “The Dinner of the Champions” 🙂 This one must have topped it.

Once I got some food, I started to make friends with Rachel. What caught my attention was (remember Anand had talked about me mixing drinks earlier in the evening) how much she knew about cocktails. We exchanged quite a few notes. Here is the clincher. She asked me if I knew how to make a Alien Brain Hemorrhage. As luck would have it, I not only know how to make it, it is in fact my signature drink every Halloween. But I have never met anybody else who knew that drink. (Chris, do you remember me making that at the Azul Agave bar?). That was totally fascinating. And if you have ever seen that drink (it is a shot), you will know why that drink is named that way.

Then I got to know Rachel and her personal life story. She has 4 kids. When she told me her eldest one’s age, she must have detected some surprise on my face. “Yep, I married very early”, she said!!

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I asked her.
“I want to go to college and become a psychiatrist”.

Very encouraged by this, I mentioned to her that I have a daughter who goes to college and there was a time she was thinking of psychology and all that. (She is doing journalism now).

“What words of wisdom would you give my daughter if you met her today?”, I asked.
She thought for about a second and said “Do not get married early. Take your time and understand who you are and what you are looking for in your partner”.
“Okay, I will tell her that,” I assured her. “On the other hand, Natasha is on my FB friends list. You can tell her yourself”.

Eventually, Anand took a picture of us and we left the Abode of the Dinner of the Champions!

Next time I make a Alien Brain Hemorrhage, Rachel, I will toast one for you and wish that you can go back to college and grow up to be a psychiatrist soon!!

18 September 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Gin #20: Hayman’s Old Tom Gin

To refresh our memories, a Old Tom Gin was the middle stage in the evolution of modern day gin (most prevalent style being London Dry gin) from the original forefather of gin – Genever which was typically aged in a barrel. Old Toms, unlike London Dry was marked by their slight sweetness which was added during the distillation process.

While Hayman Distillers in UK was originally founded in 1820, it really came of being in 1863 (the year is marked on the bottle) when the family the runs it still took it over. It is one of the oldest continuously running distilleries in UK. Interestingly, Old Tom Gins had completely died in the 20th century. Towards the beginning of this century, this was revived upon request from many bartenders who were looking to diversify the repertoire of cocktails.

Made from a base of grain, this Old Tom Gin has juniper, almond, orange peels, lemon peels, lavender, ginger, coriander and Licorice roots in it.

Hayman’s Old Tom starts with a flowery (lavender) and citrus (lemon and orange) nose. To the palate, it is clearly sweeter than most gins and the junipers and spice start coming out if you hold it for a few seconds. Has a considerable length – mostly sweet – in the finish.

18 September 2017

Throwback to my first job in life!!!

He has lived all over the country – East Coast, West Coast, Arizona, Midwest… and went back to India a couple of times. But finally, I was able to nail him down – of all places, in Appleton, Wisconsin! The first time I met Qazi was in 1991 in Mumbai when I joined my first job. I think we both joined on the same day. In fact, we started working in the same project.

The way he used to crack jokes (mostly “groaners” or what my daughters call – “Dad Jokes”) and imitate others was hilarious. Clearly the clown prince of our project, he used to keep us regaled most of the days. He even started our own regular journal for the project team – “Dungeon Times”. (We used to work in the lowest floor in the building).

He has not changed much (I saw him for the first time after nearly 25 years). The spontaneous impressions he did of our old project mates had me rolling on the floor in Starbucks last week. And they brought back a lot of memories from that project where I spent about a couple of years.

Since I was never good at coding, I moved away from it eventually. Qazi stayed on the technology side. That led to some good discussions on the evolution of technology – or rather the evolution of programming over the last forty years. More importantly, where it is headed in the future. Thoroughly enjoyed the discussion!

Thank you Qazi for making some time for me in the middle of the day. Would love to continue with our discussions…

17 September 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Maddow

On the Upper East Side of New York, there used to be a bar called JBird Cocktails. (I think on 75th Street). It is permanently closed now. But before that, there used to be a bartender called Jason Littrell (who has multiple bars now). The Maddow was an invention of Jason and comprises of Hayman Old Tom Gin, both kinds of vermouths, elderflower liqueur and a dash of whiskey bitters. Jason’s particular style for the garnishing of this cocktail was to take the citrus peel (mostly lemon and just squeeze the oil on the top and/or rub it along the rim).

Smooth and refreshing drink.