Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Holidays!


Elixir #2

1 ½ oz. Gin
½ oz. White crème de menthe
½ oz. Maraschino liqueur
½ oz. Brandy

Combine all ingredients in ice-filled cocktail shaker and stir for 20-30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

From the Art of the Bar by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz (adapted from Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes by Harman Burney Burke, 1934)

Let's face it, cocktail choices during the holidays can leave much to be desired. You’d think with the abundance of shindigs this time of year there'd be all manner of adult beverages to indulge in. You've got office parties, visits with family, catching up with out-of-town friends at the local watering hole, and lots of other excuses to bend the elbow during the weeks between Thanksgiving and year's end. It's a tippler's paradise.

So why does it seem that no matter where you go you’re offered either egg nog or some dubious chocolate/peppermint/cinnamon concoction that delivers its yuletide spirit with the subtlety of a grease fire? (For the record, I personally love egg nog, but there's only so much of that stuff one person can reasonably be expected to shovel down. Besides, have you seen the price of nutmeg lately?)

I was looking for an alternative that sidesteps the creamy/syrupy stuff, but still manages to convey the holiday sprit. The Elixir #2 wasn't designed as a holiday drink (as far as I know), but it sure works as one. Flavor-wise, the gin & Maraschino cuddle up together nicely, evoking an earlier holiday vibe where the silver gleam of the cocktail shaker could be seen in its rightful place next to the glimmer of the tinsel on the tree. The brandy lends a nice Dickens-era feel throughout, bringing visions of a redeemed Scrooge and our festive Victorian predecessors gathered at the hearth. Finally, the crème de menthe puts a whisper of mint into the equation, giving just the slightest nod to the time of year we're celebrating.

Now if you want the cocktail equivalent of a crowded department store loudspeaker blaring Muzak carols, be my guest. But I'll fill my glass with the distant tinkling of sleigh bells heard through a snow-laden nighttime forest.

Happy Holidays...and remember to leave a bottle out for Santa!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Irrational Crush

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I’m not a gadget guy. I have a severe Luddite streak that makes me skeptical of many consumer goods that have a limited purpose or in some cases seem to be altogether unnecessary. It’s not that I’m anti-technology…there are many modern inventions (contact lenses, air conditioning, computers) that I consider to be indispensable parts of my daily life. What I’m talking about are those items that are designed not to fill a genuine need or solve a problem, but rather exist solely to separate a potential buyer from his or her money for dubious reasons. If you’ve ever flipped through a Brookstone or Sharper Image catalog, you know what I’m talking about.

However, I’m not totally immune to the “Gee whiz!” syndrome, and occasionally find myself yearning for a doodad that 98% of the world doesn’t need, but is considered vital for the other 2%.

Like a manual ice crusher.

When I began investigating how to make decent drinks, I noticed many recipes that called for crushed ice (Fellow tiki drink fans know what I’m talking about). I had readily available cubes, but crushed ice was a bit more elusive. After the usual poking around, I discovered at least 3 options:

1) Blender method: I own a blender that has a “crush ice” setting, and I thought this might be the answer…but it was pretty disappointing. My initial excitement quickly faded when I realized that on this setting the blades practically atomized the ice in the lower third of the blender while leaving the cubes at the top untouched. Bleh. On to option #2.

2) Wrap-in-cloth-and-whack-with-something method: This yielded better results than the blender, but was still far from ideal. I used several different cloths, and several different whackers, but things always turned out the same: The ice was irregularly crushed, and much of it remained stuck to the cloth. Also, the process is loud as hell, and scared the bejeezus out of my cats.

3) Manual ice crusher method: A revelation. If you don't have one, get one as soon as possible.

Here’s the deal. Fancy-schmancy kitchenware stores sell new ones for as much as fifty bucks. My advice is to hit up garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets or online auction sites for old ones. The one I have came courtesy of my father who found it at a flea market for five bucks. It’s at least 30 years old, built like a tank, and will easily fit in your liquor cabinet. And it was one of FIVE he spotted in a single afternoon, so they definitely can be found in the wild.

It’s also a great example of simplicity and elegance in design. Dump ice cubes in the top, turn the hand crank, and collect your crushed ice in the bottom. The whole process takes mere seconds. If you’re finicky about the texture, you can turn the handle one direction for coarse, and the other way for fine. And if you fill it entirely, it makes exactly enough ice to fill a double old-fashioned glass. My Mai Tais are now complete.

Did I mention the utterly gratifying tactile sensation of cranking the handle to grind your ice into a cocktail-ready consistency? This thing makes you EARN your drink, and no one who observes you operating it will doubt your commitment.

So yes, I do own a gadget. And its sole purpose is to make big pieces of ice into smaller pieces of ice. But us two-percenters are okay with that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mixology Monday: Gin

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Del Coronado

1/2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz. passion fruit syrup
2 1/2 oz. orange juice
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. papaya nectar
1 oz. gin
1 oz. dark Jamaican rum

Shake well with ice cubes and pour into tall glass.

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When I saw that this month’s MxMo theme was gin, I almost collapsed under the combined weight of options and excitement. Gin is my favorite spirit, and I didn’t even know where to begin. There is a phenomenon known as “choice overload” and I was clearly experiencing it.

But help was on the way. By pure happenstance, this past weekend I had the good fortune to play bartender to three women who, in addition to being a hell of a lot of fun, also enjoy a good drink. And like myself, these gals appreciate gin.

Slowly, ideas began to coalesce. I needed a MxMo entry…and also had the opportunity to serve several drinks (many including gin) to fellow enthusiasts…surely something concrete would materialize and form the nucleus of my entry. Best not to overthink or try to engineer it- I was going to let the drinks appear and see where things went. I don’t know if it could properly be called Zen, but it was in the ballpark.

My approach was to simply offer up a fairly wide-ranging menu of drinks and see what the proceedings yielded. The plan was no-plan, allowing the evening to set it’s own agenda. Knowing my crowd was partial to gin, it was a safe bet at least one gin-based recipe would be selected and perhaps become the basis for my post...but the main question was: Would things develop into a bare-knuckle gin drink showdown with recipes, brands, and styles subjected to rigorous scrutiny? Or would we casually meander through the offerings, perhaps ending up with nothing more than a pleasant ramble through a pile of drinks?

As it turns out, it was a little bit of both. The drinks chosen fell into two rough groups: tiki and gin-based. On the tiki side, Mai Tais and Zombies showed up. On the gin side, Pimm’s cups and Corpse Reviver #2’s made the cut.

All were enjoyed to varying degrees, and during the aftermath, I thought, “Well, since the drinks everyone seemed to go for either involved gin or were tiki-style, why don’t I look for a recipe that somehow combines both?”

Turning to my dependable Beachbum Berry tomes Grog Log and Intoxica! (Shamefully, I haven’t yet picked up Sippin’ Safari…feel free to heap abuse on me at your leisure), I eventually settled upon the Del Coronado (Aside from containing gin, I think the other reason I chose it was the challenge of finding papaya nectar...thrill of the hunt and all that).

Anyway, the Del Coronado is fruity. 6 of the 8 ingredients are fruit-based, and it really shows in the overall taste. The orange jumps out front, forming the main flavor, with the passion fruit close behind. The pineapple, lemon, and lime are less noticeable, meshing together into an somewhat indistinct fruit blend, with the papaya doing a bit of drive-by tartness. Lastly, the rum reveals itself on the finish, giving a quick wave to remind you that there was actually some grown-up stuff amidst the juice…kind of like finding a tarantula lurking around in your fruit basket.

But what about the gin? In this drink the gin plays a supporting but crucial role. You don’t notice it’s flavor so much as it’s feel. This is a drink that is thick with flavors, and rather than compete with them, the gin snakes it’s way around the edges, sharpening things up and keeping it the other ingredients from bogging each other down.

Maybe it’d be easier (or at least more fun) to say it this way: If the Del Coronado was a piece of clothing, it’d be a Hawaiian shirt with a great floral print (the juices), real coconut-shell buttons (the rum) and silver thread (the gin) stitching it all together.

Sound weird? Have a couple Del Coronados and maybe it’ll make sense. Call it “gin Zen.”

If a metaphor falls in the forest…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mixology Monday: Pairings

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3 oz. Gin
1/8 oz. Dry Vermouth

Shake with plenty of ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with olive.

Celery & Stilton Soup

1 head celery, chopped
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3-¾ cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup half-and-half
1 cup crumbled Blue Stilton cheese (but I use at least twice this much)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Gently cook celery and onion in butter until tender. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes. While soup is simmering, mix egg yolks and half-and-half in a small bowl. Stir in egg/half-and-half mixture. Crumble cheese and stir in gradually. When cheese is melted, use an immersion blender to mix everything into a smooth consistency. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, wait until the soup cools, transfer to a regular blender for mixing, then re-heat).

Adapted from The Book of Soups by Lorna Rhodes

Notes on the Martini:

There’s enough info out there on the Martini and it’s various incarnations to choke a rhino, so I’ll save my crackpot ramblings on that subject for another time. For now, I’ll just say I like mine very dry, shaken, and with an olive.

And use gin. Please.

Notes on the soup:

This soup is ridiculously easy to make, and falls squarely within the “dump & stir” category (Since I usually enjoy an adult beverage when I cook, this category is my current favorite).

It’s been my experience that those who enjoy this soup are big fans of strongly flavored cheese, so I really don’t measure the amount of Stilton I add. I usually just double the recipe, buy one of those big wedges of Stilton and throw that in. It’s a very flexible recipe…just adjust the ratio of celery to Stilton however you like.


For this month's MxMo hosted by the lovely and talented Natalie over at The Liquid Muse, I quickly realized what the food half of the theme would be. The Bamboo Babe and I have a very good friend who has declared this soup a mandatory menu item whenever we all get together. Consequently, when we make the drive to her place, the first item in the car is my 16-quart soup pot.

In addition to being a long-time food industry professional, our pal is also well underway to becoming a certified sommelier, which makes her a deadly double-threat on the food & drink front. Needless to say, whenever we find ourselves at her place, the proceedings rapidly shift into a decadent frenzy of food and wine (often before I have the key completely out of the ignition).

A quick note about the wine and where it lives- Her collection is housed in a built-in climate-controlled setup in her basement. But calling it merely a “basement” would be doing it a disservice. The lower floor of her house is a full-tilt, utterly tricked-out bachelorette pad with wet bar, insanely comfortable seating, flat-screen TV and the aforementioned wine stash. Imagine if Batman was female, and she replaced all the crime computers and lab equipment in the Batcave with state-of-the art entertainment goodies and you get the idea. The only flaw is that you have to take stairs to get to Bat-poles yet.

Anyway, when we’re not demolishing her wine stash like grape-crazed locusts, we’re usually indulging in the occasional cocktail. This is how we discovered that a bowl of celery & Stilton soup goes really well with a bowl of loudmouth soup.

I won’t even attempt to break down the how’s and why’s of the pairing - I’d probably botch it. All I can say is that through sheer happenstance we tripped across a great combo. The afternoon I whipped up a pot of the soup we were having Martinis all around and soon discovered a little Stilton with your See-through is not a bad thing at all. Give it a shot- preferably with several of your friends.

Oh, and if the soup isn’t enough to satisfy your cheese jones, get some decent olives, remove the pits, and replace them with some Stilton. Then sterilize them in your Martini before consuming. (For extra fun, wait until everyone has had a couple of Martinis, then start passing around the olive pitter).

(Epilogue: Mere days after the visit, our host mentioned in passing that the surface of her brand-new ceramic-top stove had developed a huge crack, rendering it unusable. I suggested that perhaps a witless houseguest exceeded the safe performance envelope by using it to put a 16-quart vat of soup on the boil. Gracious as always, our host strongly assured me that the demise of the stove had absolutely nothing to do with my antics in her kitchen.

I just think she’s afraid I won’t make the soup again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mixology Monday: Fizz

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Colonel Beach's Plantation Punch

1 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz. falernum
2 oz. ginger beer
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/8 teaspoon Pernod
2 oz. dark Jamaican rum
1 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum
1/2 oz. Barbados rum

Shake with one cup crushed ice. Pour into tall glass with 3 or 4 ice cubes. Garnish with pineapple chunk and sprig of mint.

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Baby Bamboo wasn’t the only thing to arrive last month. I also received a second bundle of joy- the bottle of falernum I finally got around to ordering. Unlike those industrious souls out there making their own falernum from scratch (My hat‘s off to you, you magnificent, fearless bottle-jockeys), I relied on the Fee Bros. this time around.

The arrival of the falernum sent me straight in one direction…right toward the Beachbum Berry books. I also figured I could find a recipe that would satisfy the “fizz” requirement for this month’s MxMo, and after some vigorous page-flipping I found it: Colonel Beach’s Plantation Punch, courtesy of Don the Beachcomber.

CBPP contains not only the falernum I’d been dying to try, but also ginger beer, which brings the fizz. Most importantly, It‘s a tiki drink, and I’d been meaning to put one of those through it’s paces since I started this whole enterprise.

After getting everything into (and out of) the shaker, the drink settled into the glass with a translucent, dusky amber color, topped by a frothy head that remains well after the pour. The rums & juices combine in an aroma that is unmistakably tiki, but it won’t knock you over with a boozy updraft…you have to move in and chase it.

After several sips I was pleased to find that the various flavors stand up well against each other. Many times I’ve had tiki-style drinks where the ingredients end up as an indistinct stew of citrus, rums, and sweeteners, often in lopsided proportions. By contrast, CBPP is a very evenly-flavored (some would perhaps say flat) tasting concoction.

Despite the evenness, the pineapple and Pernod still seem to pop a bit. They really complement the dryness of the rums, and the Pernod in particular is noticeable despite how little the recipe calls for. The ginger beer however, is almost nonexistent- the flavor isn’t evident, but rather the warm tingle of the ginger hangs in the background, assuming more of a texture than a taste (Although I’m guessing this can vary depending on the brand used).

Overall, I liked it. It’s not terribly distinctive, but it is pleasant, and a great example of a tiki-style drink. As I finished it, I couldn’t help notice its resemblance to another of Don the Beachcomber’s drinks: the Zombie. There are several similar ingredients (including 3 rums), and even the garnish is basically the same. The falernum taking the place of the passion fruit syrup is a departure, but the formula remains essentially intact.

Now I’m not bashing the Beachcomber by implying he merely dusted off an established recipe and made a few tweaks…but how’s this for an analogy? Ever met two siblings where the older one is brash and extroverted, and the younger one is quiet and charms all the older relatives with his mature reserve and politeness? The Zombie is the former and CBPP is the latter.

They’re both good kids. Spend time with each of ’em.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mixology Monday: Orange

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Blue Monday Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Vodka
3/4 oz. Triple Sec
1 Dash Blue Food Coloring

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Baby Bamboo* arrived last Wednesday.

Back in February when I started this blog, I wondered if the Bamboo Babe** being pregnant would affect the frequency and quality of my posts. The answer was yes. In retrospect, starting a booze blog when your wife is expecting is probably not the wisest move considering that most of your free time is spent shopping for baby stuff, going to classes, visiting doctors and renovating half your house. Plus, there's the whole "driving to the hospital at a moment's notice" thing.

It also really affects your ability to participate in MxMo when your baby shows up 5 days before the deadline. When I checked the calendar I realized I probably wasn’t going to be feeling Springtime fresh by the time Monday rolled around.

However, I like to give things the ol’ college try. Mixology Monday beckons, and I must heed it’s call.

But don’t assume the demands of new fatherhood didn’t take their toll. Through blurry, sleep-deprived eyes, I re-checked this month’s theme, and my convoluted thought process went something like this:

“Okay, I need a recipe that doesn’t have too many ingredients…and simple preparation…and I can’t get carried away with the artwork either…Let’s see…MxMo takes place on Monday…and hey, the MxMo icon has blue in it…and oh, here’s a drink called the Blue Monday…and it calls for Triple Sec…which meets the orange criteria…and I think I’ve got some decent vodka lying around…and the recipe comes from this old Mr. Boston book my father gave me…and I‘m a father now…so there‘s like, some sort of cosmic parallel happening here…”

You see, in addition to the specified ingredient (orange) I was working with a secret ingredient (lack of sleep).

Having spent Wednesday morning through Saturday afternoon at the hospital, I realized anything I submitted this month was destined to be quick and dirty. There would be no last-minute runs to the liquor store or elaborate rituals involving garnishes. Cars and cutlery were not my allies at the moment.

So what about the drink? Well, it tastes like vodka and triple sec. More accurately, it tastes like really strong triple sec. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, this isn’t a recipe that’s going to bowl you over with depth or complexity. But I’ve certainly had worse drinks, and if you like vodka and/or triple sec, you’ll probably like it.

And did I mention it’s a really pretty blue color…and the MxMo icon has blue in it…and zzzzzzzzzzzz…

*Credit goes to Natalie at The Liquid Muse for coming up with the name “Baby Bamboo.”

** I came up with this one. I like consistency.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Go Green!

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Leatherneck Cocktail

2 oz. blended whiskey
3.4 oz. blue Curacao
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

The Green Man

1 measure Irish whiskey
1/2 measure blue Curacao
1 measure fresh lemon juice
1 dash egg white

Shake all ingredients with a little ice until well frosted. Pour into a medium-sized tumbler or glass and fill up with more ice.

I normally stick to one recipe at a time, but on this outing I'm compelled to do a two-fer. I was paging through Alex Barker's 1001 Cocktails and a drink called the Green Man caught my eye. The list of ingredients looked familiar, and I was wondering...hadn't I seen this drink masquerading somewhere else under a different name?

Almost. I realized it bore a decent resemblance to the Leatherneck Cocktail from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. This obviously left me with only one course of action: try 'em both in an old-fashioned taste test!

Up first was the Leatherneck. The first thing I noticed was the spiffy green-with-a-bit-of-blue color. This is a drink that would not look out of place being sipped by someone/something on an episode of Star Trek.

The whiskey (I used Canadian Club) definitely takes a back seat to the lime & Curacao. Despite this, the flavor still comes through somewhat, and using the blended stuff here is a good move- the milder tone of blended whiskey meshes better with the other two ingredients. Something like Bourbon or rye would be a bit too sharp here.

Also, the Leatherneck has an almost "proto-tiki" taste but still retains a classic cocktail character. A festive quality is grounded in whiskey warmth, resulting in a great interplay between the fruit flavors and the base spirit. Its got a short ingredient list and simple preparation, but it's flirting with a tropical vibe. The best of both worlds in many ways.

The Green Man also pours a nearly identical blue-green color. The egg white adds the barest touch of froth, but if you don't have any chicken fruit handy, don't won't be missed.

The whiskey (in this case Jameson's) is nearly undetectable. The other ingredients eclipse it, with the lemon ending up the dominant flavor...I'd reduce the amount of lemon juice a bit to balance things out a bit more. However, left as it is, this would be a good recipe for someone who doesn't like their drinks to come on too strong.

Overall, it's a matter of personal preference. I'd recommend the Green Man for anyone who likes their drinks on the citrusy side and not too boozy. That being said, it comes off a little lackluster when compared to the Leatherneck, which definitely has more depth. But I suggest trying them both for yourself.

And while you're at it, rent one of those great 50's sci-fi flicks where our men in uniform go toe-to-toe with the flying saucer jockeys. How can you say no to that kind of symmetry?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mixology Monday: Blog Love

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Dr. Bamboo, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

For this month's MxMo my intent was to try a recipe I found over at Intoxicated Zodiac that called for gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and rose water. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to lay my hands on any rose water (not being able to locate a key ingredient is a recurring motif in my adventures).

However, I still had an ample supply of gin and limes. That, combined with Paul’s invitation to do a bit of navel-gazing on the nature of booze-blogging got me going in a whole new direction. Serendipity ahoy!

As I looked at that proud, clear bottle I began thinking about gin…which got me thinking about the Gin & Tonic…which made me realize if it weren’t for the Gin & Tonic, I may not have arrived at the point where I spend many an evening and weekend hunched over the kitchen counter, poring through drink recipes and feeling compelled to toss my findings out here on the web. To put it simply, the Gin & Tonic was the was the first drink I took seriously. (But if you want to see two people who really take the Gin & Tonic seriously, check out these recent posts over at Jimmy's Cocktail Hour and The Art of Drink).

My first brush with gin was not long after I graduated from college. A friend asked me if I’d ever had a Gin & Tonic, and when I’d said no (my only forays into hard liquor had been rum and bourbon), he ordered me one from the bar. I remember liking it immediately, and for the next several years the Gin & Tonic was my drink of choice. (This would change when I encountered my first Martini, but that’s a story for another post).

Gin was a mystery to me. No one I knew drank it. All my friends were devotees of the Brown Stuff (the aforementioned rum & bourbon, almost always dumped haphazardly into a large plastic cup of Coke) and of course vodka, which was a staple for any college student due to it’s “mix-it-with-anything” allure. Tequila (invariably the cheap stuff) occasionally showed up on my radar, but seemed to be consumed solely in shot form by those who considered a social occasion successful only if they awoke the next day sans pants. Brandy was unheard of, but there was a full-tilt schnapps craze in effect, so at any party you were guaranteed to see at least one brightly-colored bottle lurking among the offerings, waiting for it’s next victim (usually female, extroverted, and weighing far less than required for the amount she drank).

Family wasn’t much help either. My father was (and still is) a bourbon guy. My mother rarely drank, and when she did, her tastes ran to the occasional glass of wine, or if on a vacation, a Pina Colada. One grandmother never strayed far from red wine and Black Russians, and I don’t recall the other one’s preferences exactly, but I know they didn’t include gin.

And whenever I asked anyone about gin, I almost always got one of two responses:

#1 (If the person was under 40) “Eeeeyuck! I had that stuff once and it tasted like paint thinner!”

#2 (If the person was over 40) “I think your great-grandmother/father/aunt/uncle used to drink something with gin in it.”

I’d also occasionally get a vague reference to a character from a black-and-white movie. Or someone’s golfing buddy. It seemed that gin was exclusively the domain of classic cinema, the country club set, and the elderly.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on, evangelizing my favorite spirit and proudly brandishing my stubby glass filled with gin, tonic, ice and a plucky little lime wedge- A drink I felt was much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Between then and now I’ve discovered many more great gin drinks. And I’m glad to see that gin seems to finally be shaking off it’s reputation as a stodgy, obscure spirit perennially eclipsed by the other guys on the shelf. I’d like to think that the Gin & Tonic is playing a role somehow. I’m sentimental about the humble G&T; It was the drink that made me realize that hard liquor had more promise than just hastily splashed-together “2-for-1 night” specials and charmless pours in cobwebby clubs.

So rather than presenting a hard recipe, I encourage you to explore the Gin & Tonic on your own. Unlike when I first ran across gin, there is now a great selection of brands and styles. There are also some wonderful new tonics popping up here and there, so pick up a few and start experimenting. Find something you like. Make the Gin & Tonic your drink in some special way.

And if you discover that you really like fiddling with drink recipes to the point where you simply must tell someone about it…I hear there’s a bunch of people on the web who are really into this stuff.


One last note: Since we’re talking about Blog Love, I’d be dropping the ball in a big way if I didn’t give a hearty shout to Rick over at Kaiser Penguin. KP was one of the first booze blogs I discovered, and I became a regular reader on the spot. Rick has an unerring intuition where good recipes are concerned, and his ability to communicate their subtleties is amazing. And anyone who has seen his site knows it goes without saying that his photos are superb. They make me want to climb through the screen to get at ‘em.

Other people must think so too- there’s a reason his site shows up on almost everybody’s links list.

Rick was also the one who first urged me to start my own booze blog, patiently answering my questions and providing an abundance of great tips & advice. Thanks for all the encouragement Rick! (By the way, I’m saving all my State Store receipts so you can reimburse me at your convenience).

UPDATE: Robert Hess joins the G&T discussion with a great piece over at The Spirit World.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mixology Monday: Cream

Lady Rebel Cocktail

1 oz. rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz. apricot flavored brandy
1/2 oz. white creme de cacao
1 oz. sweet cream (I used heavy cream)
1 tbsp. grenadine

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into 4 oz. cocktail glass.

The next time I see my father, the drinks are on me.

Thanks to him, I recently came into possession of a pristine 1959 edition of the Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender's Guide. It arrived just in time for this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Anna over at Morsels and Musings. My father, who can often be found scouring local flea markets and antique sales presented me with the slim volume knowing that I would put it to good use. Thanks dad!

The book contains several recipes using cream, but I settled on the Lady Rebel Cocktail partly for it's name, but also for it's ingredients. I really didn't know what I was in for, but I figured it would be either really good, or really awful. Fortunately, it's a keeper.

First off, it's a very pretty drink. It pours a pale pink, with just enough froth to give it a look that somehow straddles festive and classy. But the pink, creamy appearance camouflages a drink with bite. When you bring this innocuous-looking concoction to your lips you'll catch the unmistakeable whiff of whiskey. It may be pink, but it's got a punch.

The taste & texture of the cream will be the first thing you notice, but the warmth of the whiskey and the mellow sting of the brandy will show up quickly. Adding to this will be the fruitiness of the apricot and a touch of chocolate from the creme de cacao that will slip in and blend seamlessly with everything else.

And even though the recipe didn't call for it, I garnished mine with a mint leaf. It just seemed to look better with a splash of green.

One last note: I made one each with Bourbon and rye, and I definitely recommend using Bourbon. The signature spiciness of the rye asserts itself a little too much, thinning out the taste and adding a sharpness that seems out of place in this recipe. Bourbon matches up much better with the other ingredients and creates a more cohesive combination of flavors.

Don't be afraid to think pink. Cheers!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mixology Monday: Tequila

Mexico on Fire

1 1/2 oz. Tequila Anejo
1/2 oz. Amaretto

Build Tequila and Amaretto in Champagne flute. Fill with Champagne. Garnish with orange twist and cherry.

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I swear this recipe isn't just an excuse to get rid of leftover Champagne from last month's MxMo.

Actually, this one comes courtesy of my good friend (and fellow adult beverage enthusiast) Dave from San Antonio, Texas. He plucked this little gem from Tequila: The Spirit of Mexico by Enrique Martinez Limon, and recommended it highly.

Despite completely trusting Dave's taste in cocktails, I have to admit the combination of Tequila, Amaretto, and Champagne initially gave me pause...but my first sip removed any doubt.

The flavors blend wonderfully. The smoky edge of the Tequila complements the sweetness of the Amaretto, while the Champagne unites them both with a bit of dry effervescence. The initial taste is a bit fiery (but smooth), with the Tequila bite coming through, but the other ingredients definitely show up: The Amaretto and Champagne mingle perfectly with the Tequila, and help produce a flavor that's warm, smooth, and velvety on the tongue.

One quick note: This is one drink where you do not want to ignore the garnish. It could probably live without the cherry, but the orange twist is crucial. Use a fresh hunk of peel and make sure you get a decent spray on the surface of the drink. The orange flavor is key, and it adds a nice citrus accent.

And don't forget to swing by this month's MxMo host site My Bar, Your Bar to check out all the other great Tequila-centric recipes!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Pearl of Wisdom

Pearl of Wisdom

1 oz. dry white sake
1 oz. cherry brandy
1 oz. gin
2 oz. sweet and sour mix
Approx. half a lime's worth of juice (just enough to add tartness & a little pulp)
Splash of club soda

Place a Maraschino cherry or pearl onion (the pearl) in the bottom of a tall pilsner glass and cover with a couple inches of crushed ice.

Shake all ingredients (except club soda) with ice and strain into the prepared glass. Add club soda.

Garnish with a lime wheel and a pair of chop sticks. Place a fortune cookie on the rim of the glass.

Once served, the idea is to retrieve the "pearl" with the chop sticks then learn your fortune from the cookie.

This one comes direct from tiki enthusiast and carver extraordinaire Finkdaddy. In addition to creating incredible carvings & sculptures, Finkdaddy is a fan of adult beverages, and he recently submitted his original recipe, 'The Pearl of Wisdom."

This drink is outstanding.

Finkdaddy himself describes it as a variant of the Singapore Sling, and says it has been a big hit with friends and family. After trying it, I can easily see why.

The Pearl of Wisdom is a great example of a tiki-style drink, striking a wonderful balance between tart and sweet. The cherry and lime match up well, and combine to form the main flavors. There is a great citrus taste throughout, and the whole thing is unbelieveably refreshing.

The secret weapon here is the sake. It pulls the other ingredients together and puts a soft, dry tone on everything. As for brands, Finkdaddy recommends Momokawa Diamond, but not being able to find it locally, I substituted their Ruby and it was fantastic nonetheless.

Also, I'm generally not a fan of bottled mixes, but the sweet and sour works very well here. Just make sure you get some fresh stuff- this isn't the time to use up the remains of that derelict bottle that's been in the back of the fridge since last Summer.

Overall, if I had to choose between this and the Singapore Sling, I'm certain I'd take this one almost every time. The Pearl of Wisdom is drier and crisper, whereas the Sling is sweeter and fruitier. They're both great drinks, but I found the subtleties of the Pearl of Wisdom more appealing.

If you've been looking for incentive to buy a bottle of sake or cherry brandy, this is it. I can't recommend it highly enough.

And if you have a few minutes, check out Finkdaddy's excellent work at his site, The Leeward Lounge. You can also see additional pieces in this thread over at the Tiki Central forums.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mixology Monday: Bourbon

Bourbon Lancer

1 1/2 oz. Bourbon
1/2 tsp. sugar -or- 1 sugarcube
1 dash Angostura bitters

In a tall glass (14 oz. works well), place sugar and wet with Bourbon and bitters. Add several ice cubes and fill with Champagne. Garnish with lemon peel spiral.

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The good folks over at Married with Dinner are hosting Mixology Monday, and the theme this time around is Champagne cocktails. Go check it out, grab a bottle of the fizzy stuff, and try the nifty concoctions they've compiled.

As for my entry, I found a few scant recipes online, but little else in the way of history/origin. None of the bar guides in my collection made reference to it either, which further increased the mystery. However, I enjoy mysterious things so I found my fevered imagination filling in the blanks and pretty much guaranteeing I had to try it.

The drink is as simple as it is tasty. It has few ingredients, and requires little in the way of preparation or fancy mixing. As such, I definitely recommend using decent quality booze, because this recipe contains nothing to mask an inferior product.

I made two of these- one with Maker's Mark, and one with Woodford Reserve. The Woodford made a much better-tasting drink, but if you have a favorite brand I'm sure you'll enjoy it in this recipe just as much as any other.

It's a very refreshing drink. The Bourbon is right up front as the dominant flavor (people who aren't fans of Bourbon will probably want to take a pass). The Champagne lightens & crisps up the Bourbon's earthiness without watering it down, and in some ways it reminded me of a stripped-down Mint Julep.

Give it a shot. It would be a great warm-weather drink, or something to spring on your friends if a celebration is in progress and bubbly is in good supply.

Friday, March 30, 2007



1 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. apricot brandy
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 dash bitters

Stir (if you like a silkier texture) or shake all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

I pulled the Czarina from Stuart Walton's The Ultimate Book of Cocktails. After trying it (and liking it), I did a little digging online and found a variant recipe listed in several places (shown below). I thought both were very good, so I'm listing each recipe.

I really liked this drink. It's a beautiful pale honey color and very evenly flavored. The brandy and vermouth are complementary, and the vodka seems the ideal base spirit with which to match them.

None of the flavors compete. They combine to make a simple, subtle drink. The brandy is warm on the tongue, but the vodka streamlines it and keeps it from being too dominant. The vermouth softens both, and the bitters put a nice little edge on it all.

Czarina (alternate)

1 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. apricot brandy
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

This recipe, while similar, makes a couple changes- it substitutes sweet vermouth for the bitters, and ups the brandy by a quarter-ounce.

Taste-wise, this recipe is comparable to the first one. However, it's a softer, warmer, and deeper version. Most of the key flavors are still there, but they're more subdued and rounded. The sweet vermouth really plays a role here, and it makes an already smooth drink even smoother.

I also found that the first recipe was ideal when just out of the shaker and at it's coldest. The second really seemed to shine after warming slightly, when the flavors came out a bit more. Either would be a great option for someone who wants to begin venturing beyond a comfort zone of "vodka plus sweet mixers"-style drinks.

Monday, March 19, 2007



3 oz. gin
1 oz. cherry brandy (I used Cherry Heering)
1/2 oz. Campari

Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with fresh cherry.

This one comes from The Martini Book by Sally Ann Berk. Unfortunately, the book lists no information on the history of the drink, so I have no idea as to it's origins.

The drink itself is a great blend of flavors. The gin lays back and provides a relatively neutral foundation for the brandy & Campari to come forward. Although you initially get the zap of the brandy/Campari combo, you can still detect the gin lurking around the edges.

At first glance, I was a little leery of a drink that used both gin and brandy. I had a vague perception of gin as a "cool" spirit and brandy as "warm", and wondered if they'd work well together. After trying this recipe I think they do work well together, and I'm definitely going to scrounge up more recipes that combine them.

Overall, the Rendevous is one of those drinks where the first sip or two may come across a little harsh, but stay with it- everything smooths out quickly and all the flavors really reveal themselves. Being that all three ingredients contain alcohol, it falls into the "all killer, no filler" category, but it's a very evenly-flavored drink despite it's strength.

A quick note on gin: I'd recommend using one of the crisper-tasting brands (i.e. Bombay, Tanqueray, Broker's) as opposed to a "big" gin like Bluecoat or Hendrick's where the aromatics and infusions are up front- You'll pile too much herbal flavor on top of the already punchy Campari and end up with a drink that's too flowery.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Satan's Whiskers

Satan's Whiskers Cocktail (Curled)

1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1/2 oz. orange juice
2 teaspoons orange Curacao
1 teaspoon orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

I have to admit the name of this drink played a major part in my choosing it. Who wouldn't be intrigued?

The Satan's Whiskers Cocktail is another selection from Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, which list two variants: straight and curled. The straight version substitutes Grand Marnier for the Curacao, and I tried 'em both.


The bitters really comes through in this one. Of all the ingredients, it seems to be the one that asserts itself right up front but also lingers on the finish. Aside from the bitters, there's a noticeable orange flavor throughout, but it's not dominant.

My overall impression is that this version would work equally well as an after-meal drink (due to the hefty dose of bitters), or as part of a summertime menu paired with something like barbeque or grilled chicken.


I definitely preferred this version- It's much smoother and has noticeably less edge to it than the curled version. In many ways it reminded me of a Margarita, but with the characteristic citrus flavor coming from the orange rather than lime.

If you like your drinks citrusy and on the dry side, give this one a shot. Besides, it'll be really fun to tell anyone who asks that you're drinking a "Satan's Whiskers". You have to admit it sounds much cooler than a vodka tonic.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Scoff Law Cocktail

The Scoff Law Cocktail

1 1/2 oz. rye (I used 6-year-old Sazerac)
1 oz. dry vermouth
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. real pomegranate grenadine

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

What a harsh name for such a smooth drink!

The Scoff Law Cocktail comes from Ted Haigh's fantastic Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, which notes the drink originated during prohibition and was named in honor of those intrepid souls who refused to recognize the 18th amendment.

Much like the Havana in the previous post, the flavor balance in this drink is amazing. Healthy doses of vermouth and grenadine round the corners off the rye just enough without concealing it's taste, and the lemon juice brightens & lifts everything. There's a sweetness up front that gives way to the rye on the finish, and the citrus undertone pulls the whole package together. This is a spectacularly refreshing drink, and pretty too- it pours a beautiful light ruby red.

I also made one using Vya vermouth, which added a floral aspect that further softened up the overall texture. But if you don't already have a bottle of the Vya handy, don't go out of your way for it just for this drink- Your Martini & Rossi or Noilly Prat will do fine.

One quick note on grenadine: If it's at all possible, use decent grenadine. Whereas many recipes only call for a dash or two, you'll be using almost a full ounce in the Scoff Law, and you will definitely taste it. In fact, if you've been toying with the idea of making your own grenadine, this drink might be the perfect incentive!

Bottoms up!

Saturday, February 17, 2007



1 1/2 oz. Gosling's rum
3/4 oz. Cointreau
1/2 fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
splash of orange juice
dash of orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in ice-filled shaker. Shake until cold and strain into sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with edible flowers.

Welcome! Since I'm currently in the grips of sub-freezing temps, I decided to start things off with a drink that evokes a warmer climate. This one comes from The Art of the Bar by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz.

The first thing I noticed was how well-balanced this drink is. It's both tart and sweet, with a gentle, natural orange flavor throughout. The rum comes through but doesn't dominate, which makes me think this would be a great drink to convert someone who's not necessarily a fan of rum. I also used fresh-squeezed O.J., which livens up the recipe a bit.

If you're in an experimental mood, try a variant using Rhum Barbancourt instead of the Gosling''ll result in a drink that is lighter, crisper, and has a bit more citrus bite.

One last note: In many recipes, Myers's is often considered an acceptable substitute for Gosling's due to both being dark rums. If you use Myers's in this recipe you will be disappointed. Using Myers's utterly changes the complexion of the drink, deadening the citrus flavors and leaving the whole affair flat-tasting.

Happy mixing!