I am in love with coffee. I'm not ashamed. I think, probably, coffee has been secretly dictating the course of human affairs for many centuries now. Think of any great woman or man, and I suspect coffee was right there, in the thick of it, driving them to get up in the morning, or work late in the evening.
Teddy Roosevelt got by on only about a gallon per day, and Voltaire downed 40-50 cups daily, which sounds great to me, if I didn't have to do anything else that day, or interact with people, or operate a moving vehicle.
Me, I enjoy just one good cup in the morning. And that's the important part: it has to be good. Like, really
You know the basics. The onions and carrots. The potatoes, rice and noodles. The salt and pepper. The goods that can help accompany fresh proteins and vegetables into a proper meal. But today, we're talking those "secret ingredients" — those back-of-the-lazy susan bottles and powders that improve anything they come in contact with, and take food from being simply filling to truly satisfying. Keep them on hand, understand and respect their powers, and you can use them to blow any dish out of the water.
Often, when I try to explain the idea behind ManMade or what I do for a living, someone who doesn't quite get it will inevitably say to me, "You mean like MacGyver?" Um...I guess?
For the record, I don't think making stuff out of ordinary materials – what we do on ManMade – is anything like MacGyver. But I do like the approach of understanding how things work, and then applying standard techniques to whatever materials sit in front of you. Especially when those materials are bottles of spirits, and the techniques result in something like delicious cocktails.
'Cause here's the thing: when you become known amongst your peers as a guy who knows something about tasty cocktails, you become the guy who everyone turns to to make a tasty cocktail, whatever the occasion. And that's a good thing. It's a solid skill to have, and it's even more impressive if you don't have to look a recipe up on your phone before you start shaking and stirring.
So, with that in mind, here are seven standard recipes, ratios, and approaches to cocktail making that you can tuck in the back of your mind to whip up a tasty option, whatever you find in front of you. (Oh, and if you need bottle recommendations, here are our picks for stocking your home bar without spending a ton of money.)
There are plenty of times when a small wooden board is all you need to set out or serve something when entertaining. And it's even better when they look awesome and make whatever you're sharing look that much tastier. If you have a few scraps of wood lying around after a project, this is exactly what you should do with them.
In the summer, it's easy to get those deep, blackened and charred flavors in your weeknight meals. During grill season, you simply head outside, and cook your meal over an open flame.
And then comes January, where the produce is poor, and everything lacks that certain zing that the warm sun and fire-seared foods provide.
It's a new year, and for the next twelve months, I'm committed to trying to make every object in my life something of true value. Call it a Kondo-inspired "sparking joy" if you like , but this year, I want to cut out the garbage and keep only what's quality. I want everything I touch and use in my life to be beautiful, lasting, and made with integrity. This starts with my morning routine, from the my coffee routine and the mug I drink it in, and goes all day through the book I read during the last few minutes before bed.
There's lots of scientific research on why setting goals on January 1 never really works out, and by March or April, we've all backslided into our old habits. Often, it's because goals aren't specific enough, or we haven't found the best way to track the work we've done. Or, perhaps we don't actually believe we can achieve that new version of ourselves for the long term.
Anyone who has grown up near in the mountains knows what it means to see the ridgeline. Being tucked in nearby some exciting geological features has a comfort and appeal, and, of course, great views. It's safe, secure, constant. The mountains invite adventure, and simplicity. To honor my own local Cascade range, I built this simple key rack that takes a bit of that wild adventure and brings it home.
At this point in the season, the big gifts have already been decided. And if you're on your game, they're boxed, wrapped, and under the tree. But this week is all about the little bits: the practical things, the accessories, and the stocking stuffers. If you or someone on your list is a maker, DIYer, woodworker, tinkerer, or just a general creative type who likes to build and fix things, here's our list of quality stocking stuffers that are just as good as whatever's in that huge box with the bow on it.
I have gone on record, in this publication and elsewhere, about why the hot toddy is the perfect cocktail to be sipping in December. It's warm. It's spiced. And at least according to folk wisdom, it's good for your health, and can help to heal a nasty wintertime sore throat. But, to be honest, until last Tuesday evening, I didn't actually like a hot toddy.
They were fine, but not delicious, and not really an improvement over a simple glass of neat whiskey. (You could make a hot toddy with rum, brandy, or tequila, but why would you?)
Hot toddys (toddies?) always disappointed: never quite hot enough to truly enjoy, and somewhat ... harsh. There was something I never liked about adding acidic lemon juice to a healthy glug of bourbon, then heating the whole thing up. It seemed to bring out all the rough, grain-y flavors, and hide the tastier warm and spicy barrel-aged notes that make whiskey, well, whiskey.
This post was sponsored by KILZ, a brand that believes in makers and dream-shop builders everywhere. Thanks for supporting the brands that support ManMade.
A few years ago, if you'd asked me which tool I thought was the most important, I'd probably have punted, wavered a bit, and never decided on a single item. There are too many cool tools, and too many essential ones I use on every project. But if you'd asked me the same question last month, my answer would have been decidedly clear, and much more informed by a different kind of personal experience:
This holiday season, I wanted to give my friends and family a customized gift with some personality. So, using nothing but our own photos and a few crafty tools, I came up with this coaster project which is super fun, super inexpensive, plenty easy, and you can dial it in perfectly for each person on your list - just raid their Instagram or social media accounts!
Let's get to it!
Looking for a warm drink that will give you energy without the jitters? You need to try this brewed South American tea.
For years, coffee has been my go-to AM brew, and I've been dedicated to grabbing a cuppa joe to get me through the morning. Sure, I mix it up with an espresso drink every now and then, but for the most part it's a few milligrams of caffeine that powers me through the mid-morning slump.
Sometimes, the best DIY projects are also the simplest. This rustic cheese board takes less than an hour to whip up, and costs less than $10.00 in materials. Plus, it's easy to create even if you don't have access to a huge forest or wood pile, and doesn't require a chainsaw or any fancy power tools.
Let's make one!
My grandfather was a toothpick guy. Like, he had a seven-or-eight-a-day habit. When he died and we helped my grandmother do a clean sweep of the house, my aunt found more than one hundred individual ones tucked away into couch cushions and drawers and pockets. Last year, when my grandmother passed away and we prepped the house for selling, we found at least a couple dozen more stashed away.
A few Christmases ago, when I first got my band saw, I made my [now] wife this wooden cheeseburger for her office desk. The whole thing was made from old wooden flooring and other scraps, and each of the colors comes from the natural wood tones of a variety of species.
Last summer, in the midst of the August showers, a neighboring building lost a beautiful maple tree in a major thunderstorm. It was quickly disassembled by the electric company, presumably so it wouldn't fall onto the power lines. And there it sat. For weeks.
Then, a month or so later, I heard a loud grind out of my open windows (horray for open window weather!), and spied a big truck with a wood chipper in their yard.
"Surely," I thought, "they're just gonna grind up the small stuff and use the trunk for something." But, they just kept throwing in big, beautiful chunks of pure hardwood, turning it into mulch. I immediately rushed out and asked if I could have what hadn't been chopped.
The guy was very hesitant (apparently no one had ever proposed such a crazy thing), but allowed me to escape with an armful straight limbs and branches (sadly, no trunk segments) as long as I promised not to tell anyone. So, don't repeat that.
My branches have been seasoning and drying all fall and winter, and are now ready to be turned into all kinds of fun "bring the outdoors in" projects. First up, these playful tree branch magnets which cost a mere $1.00 and some glue to make, and can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes.
With all music heading to online streaming, I tend to buy my favorite albums on vinyl so I can cherish them for years to come. As my collection grows my need for space grows with it. So I had to quickly find a solution. Here's a simple project to create some stacking cubes that will hold records, books and more!
Around here, we've moved past the short glass - the whiskey in a tumbler, the shaken 3 oz. cocktails of spring -and opting for the long and tall. With sunshine comes all-day drinks: those mixed with plenty of ice and fresh ingredients to keep you cool.
Of course, it's ice that keeps 'em cool, and when your glass sits around in the heat...well, ice melts. So, this summer, make that a good thing. We're sharing our technique and recipes to allow the ice to actually contribute to the flavor of a drink or cocktail, not just its temperature or dilution. Check it out!
Anyone who regularly uses the same water bottles several times a week - runners, cyclists, hikers, athletes, or any general person-on-the-go that likes to stay hydrated - can attest: they can get nasty. Even if nothing but water and ice ever go in, the crud can still build up, and non-H2O fluids like sports drink or add-ins make the taste, odor, and junk even worse.