Monday, May 18, 2009

Sample Jamboree and Traveling In Your Own Mind


Blimps over Bangkok

1 oz. Mekhong
1 oz. London dry gin
.5 oz. Aperol
.5 oz. Cynar
.5 oz. simple syrup
1-2 dashes Fee’s mint bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Float a very thin lime wheel on surface of drink.


I don’t travel much. But I do have a healthy wanderlust, and I satisfy it vicariously through TV shows, books, magazine articles, and travelogues on the Web. Cocktails also will do the trick, in their own way.

Sometimes a cocktail will be the catalyst for a journey that takes place entirely within your own mind. Aided by the smell, taste and appearance of a well-crafted drink, your imagination can take you down roads and rivers even though your body remains at rest. You needn’t leave your recliner or barstool- The trick is simply to have the right beverage.

I was recently experimenting with a bottle of Mekhong, and ended up making a drink that kick-started one of these mental journeys. The combination of flavors, aromas and colors had my mind drifting along the currents of a 19th-century adventure epic…a sepia-toned, steampunk saga replete with bold travelers questing for knowledge, experience, and perhaps a little treasure. Peering through goggles at faded maps, explorers clawed their way through dripping jungles and glided above crumbling temples in rickety, patchwork airships.

No doubt they needed the ropes, machetes, compasses, and rifles they packed at the outset. The one-of-a-kind book of ancient symbols purchased at the bazaar might be handy. And that shiny little talisman the old man in the hut gave them certainly couldn’t hurt. Everyone can use a little magic now and then.

Who knows exactly what they encountered? Were they imperiled by creatures only thought to exist in myth? Had their resolve been tested by treading upon forbidden pathways? Did they commune with a lost race of people, receiving a glimpse into unseen realms?

Regardless, I’m sure the travelers used their wits and whatever other resources they commanded to make their way home again. There were likely a few scars and certainly some good stories. Maybe even a strange, ancient object to hang on the wall of the club…a tangible reminder to be pondered while sipping a well-made and well-deserved cocktail.

Have a drink. Take a trip.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cinco de Moai


According to the ads in the local free weekly paper, I’m supposed to be celebrating Cinco de Mayo somewhere that offers both Tequila and Mexican beer in colossal quantities for very reasonable prices. As appealing as I find stock photos of bikini-clad women with sombreros Photoshopped on them, I decided to ignore them and the ads they populate in favor of other diversions.

Diversion #1 was spending a chunk of Saturday afternoon watching the Kentucky Derby and some of the pre-race hype on TV. I don’t know squat about horses or why they like to run in circles, but it gave me an excuse to brush up on my Mint Julep technique.

Diversion #2 was using the Bourbon I had leftover from Diversion #1 to continue tinkering with a recipe I’ve been playing with for awhile. It’s a tiki-style concoction that features a conspicuous lack of rum*, but still (to me anyway) has the requisite “tiki taste.“

Bluegrass Blowgun

1.5 oz. Bourbon (I used Bulleit)
.75 oz. Agwa de Bolivia coca leaf liqueur
2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
.25 oz. cinnamon syrup
¼ tsp. Absinthe
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into ice-filled double old-fashioned glass.** Garnish with orange wheel and any other tiki-themed paraphernalia that looks fun.

The secret weapon here is the Agwa, and I think it’s something that should be in every tiki drink enthusiast’s arsenal. It’s got a distinctive flavor- mellow, herbal, somewhat sweet, and with a borderline medicinal snap. It’s pleasing on it’s own, but it mixes so well it’s too much fun to not experiment with. Mr. Bali Hai over at Eye of the Goof apparently thought so too.

So even though I eschewed the fiesta crowd this year, I still think I should get some credit. Tiki drinks are technically south-of-the-border, right?

* I love rum…but I seem to have become enamored of rum-less tiki drinks lately.

** For bonus points, double the recipe and dump it into a Moai-shaped mug!