Category Archives: Cocktails

The Chop’s Sweet Russian Cocktail Recipe

The holiday season is that time of year when the Amaretto rears its ugly head in homes and hearths from Highlandtown to Upper Park Heights. In cookies, candies, hot chocolate mix, or liqueurs, the stuff is bound up with Christmas just as much as eggnog and greeting cards.

Whether you’re forced to keep a bottle on hand for Aunt Marie, find yourself at a party with off-brand booze, or have the great good fortune to be entertaining a snowbunny with questionable cocktail tastes, it’s helpful to know how to use amaretto.

'Tis the season for amaretto.

This is a cocktail we’ve been calling for occasionally for a few years now. It’s good as an after-dinner drink, nightcap, that sort of thing. It’s as simple as it gets, tastes sweet and smooth, and being all liquor, it’ll knock you down if you’re not careful.

The Sweet Russian

  • 2 parts vodka
  • 1 part coffee liqueur
  • a splash of amaretto

Stir in a shaker and serve up or over ice.

Yep. A Black Russian with a splash of amaretto. You’ve got to love a cocktail that you can call for in any bar in America, and make at home with no effort at all. You can even get one at the Chinese restaurant on Christmas night.

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The Chop’s Holiday Egg Nog Cocktail Recipe

We like egg nog. We’ll make no apologies for that. If you’re one of these people who does not like egg nog, look at this, because that’s all we can do for you today.

For the rest of you, we’ve come up with a damn near perfect way to mix up an egg nog cocktail that’s actually thinner than pea soup, and tastes so good you might even drink more than one of them.

This recipe is guaranteed to have you feeling extra *jolly.*

As a bonus, this mix is a great way to use leftover coffee. We have leftover coffee in out home pot nearly every day (which doesn’t end up burnt and tarry because we bought a very good coffee maker) and we hate to see it go to waste, which it usually does.

The Chop’s Egg Nog Recipe

  1. 1 part liquor
  2. 1 part egg nog
  3. 1 part cold coffee
  4. a dash of simple syrup

Pour it all over ice and shake the hell out of it. Strain it over new ice. Swear at relatives, ruin Santa myths and topple Christmas trees accordingly.

Step 1 calls for “liquor” because you have a few choices here. We’ve tried this recipe with bourbon, brandy, and dark rum to good effect. Each base liquor is dramatically different, and although the Chop prefers bourbon the year round, our favorite take on this recipe was when it was mixed with the Kraken dark spiced rum.

Do not, we repeat, for the sake of the little baby Jebus at Christmastime do not use light rum, vodka, blended whiskey, or anything else that’s not a very sweet, very brown liquor. Bourbon, brandy, and dark rum… it’s all you want for Christmas.

Shake yourself up a few of these and the only worries you’ll have this holiday are remembering which wills you’re named in, and whether she’s you second cousin or your third cousin twice removed by marriage.

Happy Holidays.

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Best Bets: Compass Box Scotch Whiskies

Words like “craft” and “artisan” are thrown around much too freely these days. Everything we buy now has to have some grand, romantic story attached to it. From furniture to farmers’ markets, from apparel to accessories, stories sell. If you don’t know the name of the guy who made it and you can’t drop by his charming little Gepetto-style workshop on a whim, well, it’s just not worth having, is it? Of course, nowhere is this more true than at your local liquor store.

Let’s face it, wax seals and hand-written barrel numbers are the exact same thing as putting your vodka into a glass skull. It’s selling the bottle, not the spirit. (Although to be fair, there’s a lot of really good whiskies in some of those bottles, whereas all premium vodka is a joke.) In an era when every ultra-premium vodka has a celebrity pitchman, and every distiller in Kentucky is offering single barrel this and small batch that and putting the cute little hand-written batch numbers on the bottle, It can sometimes be hard to tell what’s inside, and whether it warrants its price tag. These days, everyone’s an artisan.

Spice Tree. The best way to warm up this winter.

John Glaser is an artisan. Take that statement for what it’s worth. Compass Box Whisky has a story. We’re not going to bother telling you the story. You can look it up on their site. It’s a lot of technical stuff about wood and blending and aging, which really is interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. What we are going to bother to do is to tell you that this stuff is really, really good.

Of the two lines that Compass Box produces, Signature and Limited Release, we’ve so far had a chance to try three different examples of their whisky. Each one was markedly different, but all were equally excellent. Bottles in the less expensive Signature line are generally available in the $35-$40 range, and compare favorably with bottles costing twice as much. To our palate, a Peat Monster is every bit as good as a Laphroaig, and We’d reach for an Oak Cross over a Glen-Whateveryoulike any day of the week. Seriously.

With Winter now firmly digging in, we’re in all-brown-liquor-all-the-time mode here at the Chophouse. We’re declaring Compass Box to be our house Scotch going forward, and by the time the Winter’s out we expect we’ll have three or four different bottles on hand. We suggest that when you head to the liquor store this weekend you go ahead and buy two or more bottles. They make a great holiday gift, but make sure to keep one for yourself.

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The Perfect Wine for Thanksgiving: Tawny Port

You’ve all probably figured out by now that the Chop really likes our liquor. We’ll always embrace the chance to try something new or compare two whiskies side by side. What you may not have realized though is that we also like wine quite a bit.

The difference between lies in the fact that while we harbor some nerdy, snobbish tendencies about liquor, we’re not at all picky about wine. We fall squarely into the 15% of consumers who are ‘Savvy Shoppers’ on Constellation Brands’ six types of wine drinkers list. If it costs $10 and doesn’t smell like vinegar, odds are we’ve gone home with it at some point. (But enough about our sex life…)

A visual approximation of the Chop's Thanksgiving dinner.

So when a wine magazine editor writing for the Huffington Post recently called Thanksgiving “the clusterfuck of wine holidays” we were inclined to agree.

The Chop has a very large extended family. For thanksgiving we traditionally pay a visit to our singularly Republican aunt and uncle who are enthusiastic wine cellar-ers and have been for many years. In typical selfish, undemocratic GOP fashion though, they keep most of the cellar locked up, and buy a bunch of crappy Vendange or Turning Leaf for the family, thinking we don’t know the difference. No matter. Picking and pairing wines for thanksgiving dinner really can be more trouble than it’s worth.

So when you’re standing around the wine shop this week, wondering what bottle to bring as a gift or which will make the best digestif, we’d like to plant this thought in your head: Thanksgiving is the best day of the year for drinking Port.

All of the best drinkers throughout history have embraced Portos. From kings and noblemen to oenophilic tastemakers to the fathers of Maryland to hobos and winos, and of course, the Chop, anyone who knows wine knows it’s better when it’s fortified. With the perfect mix of lightness and body, fruit and oak, and caramel and spice, a good tawny Port is the perfect choice for a tipple after a feast of yams and turkey. It even pairs sublimely with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

The bottle in our rack right now is the Sandeman 10 year old. We picked this out from among the large and varied selection of Portos at the Wine Source for about $25. To our mind Sandeman is roughly the Johnnie Walker of Portugal, from their wide range of Portos and a consistent quality near the bottom of their line, right down to their exporting machine and the shadowy figure in the logo. That’s not a knock. We’ve got nothing but love for Johnnie Black, and we’d recommend keeping both the Walker and the Sandeman on hand for the holidays, and all the year round.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Chop’s Cantonese Cookie Cocktail Recipe

First things first: since this is Baltimore, you can feel free to pronounce it ‘Duhmain d’Cant’n’. We really don’t think anyone’s going to call you on it, Hon. If they do look at you funny either for ordering it or for mispronouncing it… then fuck ’em. You’re in the wrong bar anyway.

Now then, you don’t need us to tell you how good Domaine de Canton is. Their website takes pains to tell you just how ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Extraordinaire’ and even ‘Fait a’la Main’ their product is. Fortunately for the rest of us, Boozeblogger translates that into ‘English, Motherfucker!’ and tells us it’s pretty good stuff.

We agree with their assessment, and recommend Domaine whether you’re at home or on the town. Any fan of B & B or Grand Marnier should feel right at home with this stuff. It is, however, a bit on the spicy side, and we doubt you’ll want to polish off the bottle by drinking it straight or on the rocks. There are a lot of great recipes on the Domaine site as well, although none of them are quite as simple, and probably not as tasty as ours.

The Cantonese Cookie

4 oz. Domaine de Canton

juice of half an orange

2-3 dashes blood orange bitters

Note that that says ‘juice of an orange’, and not orange juice. Bottled orange juice will not work for this drink. The bitters are important as well. It’s going to be much too sweet without them, and even with them sort of tastes like a fancy exotic cookie you’d get after your meal in an Asian restaurant. Mixed properly, this drink balances sweet and spicy perfectly. It’s ideal for fans of GM or the Sidecar, and like a Sidecar, it’s a good call year round.

Fucking magnifique, pardon our French.

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Speaking of fancy Asian restaurants, the Baltimore Sun’s Mobbies party is at RA Sushi on Tuesday, and if you can keep us on top of the Music/Nightlife category, we might just show up and buy you a Cantonese Cookie.

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The Chop Endorses: The Dizzy Cocktail Glass

Whew! Well, that was a hell of a Halloween, don’t you think? We had a blast going out all weekend, but if there’s one thing we regret it’s got to be that we did so much reveling out on the town, there was scarcely any time left for imbibing at home.

We’ve finally got the dining room done. As in finished. As in ready to eat. The last step in that process involved (yet another) trip to Crate and Barrel where we found one of our new favorite things ever: the Dizzy Cocktail Glass.

The Dizzy Cocktail Glass is available at Crate and Barrel for $1.95 each.

We weren’t even really shopping for cocktail glasses, but we picked up six of these on a whim. As you know, we’re big on the double old-fashioned (DOF) glass, and we’ve already gone on record as being against stemmed cocktail glasses.

The Dizzy Cocktail is 4″ tall, and 4″ in diameter at the rim, which makes it appear to be about the same size as a DOF glass, but with the V-shape of a cocktail glass. It’s even got the same heft and weight in the hand as a DOF, thanks to the knot of glass that serves as the foot. (Which means less drips and drops when you’re holding it in your hand.)

This ‘foot’ is not your traditional glassware foot, but manages to serve the same purpose while looking much more modern and stylish. No matter how cold you mix your drinks, your furniture will stay dry and safe without the need of a coaster. The name ‘Dizzy’ might have been a poor choice though, because these glasses are very stable on the bar. It would take the same force and effort to spill one of these as with any other type of glass… they won’t tip over easily.

At 8 ounces, we feel they’re the perfect size for a straight up cocktail, and will even leave you a bit of room around the rim. They’ll also support a drink which calls for crushed ice, and can even pull double duty as an attractive dessert or appetizer dish. (Think shrimp cocktail, crab salad, or gourmet ice cream.)

The customer reviews on the C & B site all unanimously rave about these glasses, and with good reason. Most of them neglect to mention the best part though: the Dizzy glass is hand-blown and costs $1.95 each. Let us repeat that… $1.95!

At that price you can’t afford not to buy one. Drinking from this glass will make your cocktails more enjoyable, and by encouraging you to mix cocktails more often they’ll ultimately make you a better drinker at the end of the day. It’s not just any glass that can say that.

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Crate and Barrel has locations at Towson Town Center and Annapolis Mall, as well as several DC area locations.

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How to Stock a Home Bar, Part 2

Welcome back, Choppers. In yesterday’s post we went over the problems with most bar-stocking advice at great length. Today we’re back to give you some solid advice on how to get started on building a bar that even Churchill himself would be proud of.

We told you yesterday that collecting 30 good bottles of liquor would not be as expensive or as difficult as one might imagine. Make no mistake though… it’s going to take a while. If you happen to have a large lump sum to blow on booze that’s all to the good. Most of you though, will be wanting to spread the cost out over time, by adding one or two bottles a week.

These posts make a couple of assumptions about you, Gentle Reader. They assume that if you’re going to acquire a piece of furniture for specific use as a bar or liquor cabinet, then you actually like to drink. We assume you’re the type who comes home from work and has three drinks to unwind, and then has a friend or a couple over on Saturday for four drinks. (And if anyone ever asks you how many drinks you’ve had, they’re an uncouth bastard. You will not answer with a number higher than 4 under any circumstance.) It assumes you know what you like and what your friends like, and that your tastes have evolved beyond your college years.

As we hinted before, we believe 30 bottles is the ideal number for the well stocked home bar. Any fewer might just leave you wanting for something particular in the wee hours. Any more will almost certainly gather dust and hang around way too long. Let us be very clear about this though; that 30 does not include wine. 90% Of bar guide books will suggest putting a few types of wine on your bar, and this is just plain wrong. Wine goes on the wine rack. We also assume that you own a wine rack.

This is pretty much what your weekends will look like with a proper bar in your house.

So with the wine out of the way, you can break down your 30 bottles into 7 different categories, which can be purchased individually in turn in the order of their utility. A hard and fast rule of bar stocking is this: Never return from the liquor store with a free hand. meaning that you should be buying at least 2 bottles at a time. One is the everyday bottle you went to the store to refill, and the other is stock to be put by for the future. In this way, in about 7 months of weekly trips to the liquor store, you should have a very well-supplied bar at home.

The Staples… 6 bottles.

These are what you definitely need to be shopping for first. They are the basic 6 liquors that you’ll find in any bar anywhere. They’re your everyday go-to’s, your speed rail, if you will. Whiskey, gin, vodka, brandy, rum and tequila. These don’t need to be very expensive at all, since you’re going to run through them. You do want to stick to name brands though. We’d recommend Jim Beam, Beefeater, Smirnoff, Bacardi, Cuervo, and Tariquet. (Which is actually Armagnac, but who cares? We like it and it makes a tasty Sidecar, so don’t be a nerd about it.) These are your minimums. You can adjust upwards as your taste and budget allows.

Variations… 8 Bottles

These are liquors of the same types as above, but of a slightly different type or a better quality. Example: One bottle of Cuervo might be plenty enough, but even though you like Beam okay, you still want to keep something better on hand like Buffalo Trace, as well as a good rye (Rittenhouse), 2 Scotches (Johnnie Walker and something in the $40-$50 range), a blend (Dickel) and an Irish (Tullamore Dew or Powers). You might even throw in a second gin and a dark rum.

Liqueurs… 6 Bottles.

These are going to be bottles that you use primarily as mellowing, sweetening, or flavoring agents in cocktails. They should be of at least the same quality as the base spirit, so do yourself a favor and stay away from the Mr. Boston and Bols shite down there on the bottom shelf. Six good choices would be: Kahlua, Cointreau, Domaine de Canton, St. Germain, Rumple Minze, and a Calvados or apple liqueur of some sort.

Vermouth… 2 Bottles.

Sweet red and dry white. You may think you can get by without them, but you can’t. Not even in the age of Red Bull. Smallish bottles of brand name stuff will pay dividends.

After Dinner Drinks… 2 bottles.

It’s handy to have something sweet on hand that you intend to drink one glass at a time. Nobody’s going to sit around and get drunk on sambucca, but sometimes it really hits the spot after a meal. Good choices in this category might be Pernod, Bailey’s, and Tia Maria.

Wild Cards… 4 bottles.

Use this category to fill in the gaps and experiment a bit. You might want to fill it up with more after dinner type drinks, or experiment with whatever catches your eye at the liquor store. At this point you’ve been collecting bottles for a while now, so you know what you’d like to try. You can also change it up once you empty a bottle.

Special Occasion Bottles… 2 Bottles.

These are your macho single malts and your VSOP or XO cognacs. Odds are you won’t even have to buy these bottles, as someone will likely notice you’ve built a hell of a bar, and may give you one as a gift. Likewise, they are what the name suggests. You’ll save them for a special occasion and share them as a gift with your guests for that occasion.

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You’ll need to round out the bar with mixers, maybe the two most important of which are bitters and simple syrup. get at least one bottle of bitters, and buy (or re-use) a dedicated bottle for simple syrup. you’re not going to be buying any of those pre-made gross grocery store mixers, so go ahead and boil some sugar. It’s really not hard.

For everything else, stick to small cans. You can skip whatever you’re in the habit of keeping in the fridge already. For instance, we usually have orange juice and ginger ale in the fridge at the Chophouse, so we don’t bother much with stocking bar sizes of it. You are going to want Coke, ginger ale, Sprite, club soda, tonic, OJ, cranberry, and the surprisingly versatile Minute Maid lemonade, as well as a can of tomato or v8 stashed way in the back just in case. We say experiment as much as you want with juice, but leave the flavored vodkas to the D.C. set.

The only other thing you’ll need is glassware. We swear by the double old-fashioned glass. It will in fact hold a nice double shot with room for sloshing if you’re drinking on the rocks, and is plenty big enough to build a highball in if you want some soda. It’s the only glass you’ll ever really need. If you have any room left, you might want to also go in for a decent set of cocktail glasses for serving drinks straight-up or neat. We recommend cocktail glasses without stems.

You won’t look or feel like Don Draper when you’re busy wiping that Negroni off your white sofa just because you wanted a set of “real martini glasses.”

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How to Stock a Home Bar, Part 1

As some of you may already know, we recently furnished our dining room here at the Chophouse. We’re exceedingly pleased with it, as it turned out looking and feeling even better than we thought it would. Thanks to the invention of the 180 degree flatscreen, we can even see the television from the head of the table, which means we might actually take meals in there more than once or twice a year.

Quite honestly; comparing furniture, installing lighting, trying to match napkins to placemats, and deciding from among thousands of paint colors can become a tedious chore after a while. There’s only been one step of the process which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way… building the bar.

Every house should have a bar. Even if that house is a tent.

Well, not exactly. We already had a very serviceable home bar set up in the kitchen. But moving it into the dining room means it’s still a good opportunity to step things up an extra notch, and a good excuse to buy (and sample) a few new bottles.

As luck would have it, we also just picked up a copy of Jason Wilson’s Boozehound; On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits and after the first 60 pages or so, we’re finding it pretty good. It’s conversational in tone, and Wilson is someone we’d definitely have a drink with. Still, he manages to fall into the same traps that virtually all drink and cocktail writers fall into.

People who adopt drinking as a hobby are almost exclusively of two types: Nerds and Frat Boys. Frat Boys (of any age) are pretty much self explanatory. Cocktail Nerds are a little more nuanced.

There are several things that nerds of all stripes will have in common, and one of them is that if you ask a nerd a simple question, you will get a very complicated answer. Ask a Star Wars nerd on which planet the rebels hideout was, and you’re likely to get an answer which includes the prequels, a full explanation of the rebels guerrilla structure, and the particulars of the Lucasfilm soundstage in the 1970’s.

So it is with Cocktail Nerds. Even something as simple as “What goes into a Manhattan?” will earn you a lecture on the merits of rye whiskey vs. bourbon, the type and ratios of vermouth, a lesson on the prohibition era, and a full discourse on bitters. Plus a snarky remark about cherries. On top.

This is the exact pitfall that catches Wilson in his book. Open up any mixing guide or bartender’s bible and you’ve got to sort through scores of pages of ridiculous recipes featuring arcane ingredients, endangered brands and preposterous combinations. Even modern guides and books talk about things like egg whites, grenadine, and Lillet with a straight face. It’s 2010. When’s the last time you saw anyone drinking a cocktail with grenadine?

By the same token, these books, as well as virtually every website out there will give you just plain bad advice on how to stock your bar. Most of them will just assume that you’re going to have some kind of huge party (and that you have them all the time) and that you’re going to be wowing your guests with your extensive knowledge and skill on the history and practice of bartending. Give us a break! Even fairly social people are usually drinking alone when they’re at home. When company does come over, they usually come just a few people at a time. It’s rare to meet an adult who hosts more than 2 medium-to-large scale parties at home each year. One or none is the norm.

This is why the Chop knows people with cabinets full of wedding booze that gather dust years after the wedding; because they followed bad advice on bar stocking when they threw the biggest party of their lives.What should be a source of pleasure and a point of pride becomes little more than a dusty, clangy, expensive eyesore.

So tomorrow the Chop is going to explain exactly how to build an impressive home bar to suit your own tastes, without all the nerdistry. And when we say impressive, we mean it. By the time you’re done you’ll have 30 bottles. There will be no sour apple pucker, no ancient bottle of sherry to impress Grandma, and most importantly: no Red Bull.

The best part? Building a full bar is cheaper and easier than you think. Stay tuned.

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P.S.- If you want to read writers who manage to talk about drinking in an interesting, engaging, and entertaining way, check out our drinking blogs blogroll, especially Modern Drunkard, NY Barfly, and Boozeblogger.

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The Chop’s Veracruz Cocktail Recipe

A lot of you may be scratching your heads on this one. You’re probably thinking to yourself ‘October is a great time for spiced cider drinks and rich, strong cocktails like Sidecars and White Russians. Why the hell is this blog giving me a recipe for a beach bar type cocktail? And you’re not wrong. But remember, we just returned from the desert. And it was hot in the desert. Even in the last week of September, it was hot enough to put us in mind of tequila.

A Veracruz vacation. Now available in a glass.

When you’re sitting out in a hot, dry desert during Ramadan, there’s nothing more natural than daydreaming about booze, which we did frequently, and which is exactly how this recipe came into our head. We had to wait until our return to gather the necessary ingredients, and it took a full 2 weeks of mixing and sipping to get this one down. The end result was certainly worth the wait.

The Veracruz

2 parts tequila

1 part pear juice

1 slice jalapeno

1 drop bitters

Cut a strip of jalapeno as thick as your taste will allow. Muddle it lightly in a few drops of pear juice, just enough to open up the flavor. Transfer the muddled pepper to a cocktail shaker full of ice and add the tequila, juice, and bitters. Stir thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass.

*If a garnish is desired, a slice of fresh pear will work better than a slice of jalapeno. The drink should taste like a spicy fruit, and not a fruity vegetable.

*We’ve found that for one drink, a slice of pepper about the size of a nickel is just right. Be sure to remove the seedpod entirely. Having little pepper seeds floating around in your cocktail is less than appealing. Also, be careful not to slice the jalapeno too thin, lest tiny pieces of it end up in your glass.

*Pear juice is delicious, but it can be hard to find. We used Gerber brand juice from the baby food aisle, which is 100% juice. Pear nectar from the Goya aisle will not work in this recipe.

*Go easy on the bitters. One good drop really is quite enough.

*Finally, something like Jose Cuervo or Hornitos will work just fine for this. You always want to stay away from generic tequila, but for this drink, there’s no need to reach for the expensive stuff. Enjoy.

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Booze of the Future! The Chop’s Slurm Drink Recipe

Good news, everyone! We’re not going out tonight. There is not a club, party, or event that could possibly bring us one billionth of an iota of the joy we’re about to experience tonight when we tune into the RE-Premiere of Futurama on Comedy Central. It’s going to be the greatest hour of television since the last hour of television.

In celebration of the arrival of the distant future, and of the fact that we’re not driving anywhere, we’ve decided to turn our home bar into a miniature Slurm Factory with this recipe that we pulled out of the Slurm Queen’s cloaca.

The Chop’s Slurm Recipe

2 oz. light rum
1 oz. sour apple schnapps
2 oz. pineapple juice
3 oz. 7 up.

Build it in a Collins glass over ice and you can give yourself a bunch of cavities and a nasty hangover at the same time. Please don’t write in and tell us this drink is gross. We know it’s gross. That’s the point. It’s the future. Stuff is gross now. Anyway, it’s probably not as gross as the product actually branded as slurm, which may or may not still be available somewhere in the universe.

Next summer it’s all about bros slurming bros. Bite my shiny metal ass, Chump.

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The one-hour season premiere of Futurama airs on Comedy Central tonight at 10 pm.

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