May 31, 2009

Tea for two, and two for tea...

I decided to go with another non-alcoholic drink today, using the other flavor of the DRY Soda that I picked up, Vanilla Bean. I thought it might be interesting to combine the mild sweetness of the soda with something a little more unusual, and started rummaging through my teas. I found a genmaicha that I thought would go well with it. Genmaicha is green tea (sencha) with toasted rice. It sounds weird, but it's really quite good, with sort of a nutty flavor to it.

And happily, it turns out my theory was correct, and that this does match up well together. I was stumped for a name, though, so I just googled what "vanilla" is in Japanese, and from my exhaustive research (read, five minute search) the best I can find is "banila" (バニラ) so I just called this thing:
Banila Genmaicha

2 teaspoons good genmaicha tea, or two teabags
1 cup water just off the boil
6 oz Vanilla Bean DRY Soda

Steep the tea in hot water for about 10 minutes, discard leaves/bags and chill. Once cooled, pour 2 oz of the double-strength tea over ice and add 6 oz Vanilla Bean DRY Soda.
The green tea and the roasted nature of the rice really make for a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the vanilla. This'd make for a very refreshing summer drink, and pair well with most Pacific cuisines, I'd imagine. The great think about DRY's sodas is that they're not overly's nice to not have my teeth start to itch from too much sweetener. Definitely a combination worth trying.
Banila Genmaicha

May 29, 2009

Yellow journalism, red drink.

William Randolph Hearst was a newspaper magnate who never let the facts stand in the way of a good story. He's got a drink named after him already, though, so we'll move along. One of his enduring legacies, however, was "yellow journalism," wherein legitimate news was soft-pedaled, and attention-grabbing, sensational headlines were elevated to above the fold. Perhaps the most egregious example was how the unverified (and as yet unproven) assertion that the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor due to a bomb or torpedo, an assertion which helped to touch off the Spanish-American War. A popular rallying cry became "Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!" Not terribly clever, but catchy. So much so, it seems, that "Remember the Maine" became the name of a cocktail. And it tastes pretty good, too.
Remember the Maine

2 oz Bourbon whiskey (or rye, which I prefer)
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Cherry Heering
dash of Pernod
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir all with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Between the spiciness of the rye, the sweetness of the vermouth, the back of the throat tartness of the Heering, and the anise notes of the Pernod, you've got a lot going on in this drink. Happily, the elements work pretty harmoniously, as long as you don't overdo the Pernod. I wouldn't make a habit of drinking this every day, but it's one to keep in mind for an occasional tipple, especially when you want something a little different.
Remember the Maine

May 28, 2009

Should've saved this one for Columbus Day...

I have a whole slew of cocktail blogs that I read. Mostly for fun and enlightenment, but occasionally I'll poach a drink from them for later use. This one comes courtesy of "batgirl," a participant in the weekly "Thursday Drink Night" over at the Mixoloseum. It's a complex, but ultimately quite tasty little (ok, not so little) concoction called the Columbus Rum Sling.
Columbus Rum Sling

1 oz Appleton XO rum (I didn't have it on hand, so I mixed equal parts of Bacardi 8 and Coruba)
1/2 oz Myers rum (I subbed Cruzan Blackstrap rum)
1/2 oz London dry gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/4 oz ginger syrup (I used my ginger beer base)

Shake all with ice, strain, and top with tonic water. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Holy Ferdinand is this thing good. It's also huge and strong, but good. There's so many things going on here that it's really impossible to pick any one element out, but it's tremendously satisfying.
Columbus Rum Sling

May 25, 2009

In which I enjoy being contrary...

I figured that, since today people are grilling out and mowing lawns and most likely drinking beer and wine, I'd go outside of the booze bubble entirely and make a non-alcoholic drink. That doesn't mean that it's gonna be boring, though.

I was at the store the other day, and I found a variety of four-packs of "Dry Soda", a company that makes not-too-sweet soft drinks in unusual flavors. I saw lemongrass, rhubarb, juniper berry, vanilla bean and lavender, and I picked up those last two. So I'll use them periodically either in cocktails or with non-boozy ingredients.

Today, I'm using the lavender soda and making an unusual lemon-based drink. I started by looking around the web at what ingredients people usually pair with lavender, and got some I came up with this:
Lavender-Herb Raspberry Lemonade

3/4 oz lemon juice
3-4 raspberries
3/4 good sized leaves fresh rosemary, bruised
pinch dried thyme
4 oz Lavender DRY Soda

Bruise rosemary with the bowl of a spoon against a hard surface, add to lemon juice. Add thyme and raspberries and muddle briefly. Let stand for several minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing with a spoon to get all the juice out, and add 4 oz chilled Lavender Dry Soda.
I gotta admit, for wing-and-a-prayer-ing this drink, it turned out pretty well. If I could do it over with some extended prep time, I would have put the thyme and bruised rosemary in some boiling water, then strained and frozen it until it was time to use. The herbal flavor is a little weak. But given enough lead time, you could make a rosemary extract, let it steep and use that for a concentrated rosemary flavor. Or, if you like the idea, but want booze, you could use a good, herbaceous gin, or a tiny bit of Yellow Chartreuse. But even as a liquor-free drink, it's still something unusual and tasty.
Lavender-Herb Raspberry Lemonade

EDITED TO ADD: Yep, I tried it with steeping the herbs in boiling water, and it gets a LOT more flavor out of them. So take your bruised rosemary and your pinch of thyme, stick them in a tea ball or self-fill tea bag, and steep in about 1/2 ounce of boiling water, scaling up the water and herb quantities for multiple drinks. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, pull it out, and chill the herb tisane until well cooled. Then add it to the lemon/raspberry mixture, muddle, strain and mix with the Lavender DRY as before. Since every dried and fresh herb is different, though, I'd try the tisane before you plan to serve it out...that way you can test and adjust the strength of the herbal flavors.

May 24, 2009

No, this is not a post about energy sources...

I will be the first to admit, I have absolutely no idea exactly what this drink's name means. I mean, I can guess at part of it, but the other half? Not a clue. Meet the Corn 'N Oil. Blackstrap rum, lime juice, and falernum. Tastes and smells almost like a molasses cookie, but better. And alcoholic. The blackstrap rum gives makes it look like crude oil, I suppose, but I've no idea where the "Corn" part of it comes in to play. Despite that, it's tasty. And simple (provided you've got your falernum on hand, of course).
Corn 'N Oil

3 oz Cruzan Blackstrap Rum (any blackstrap or dark rum will work, but for this application, I think Cruzan's tastes the best. Yes, I've tried several others)
1 oz falernum
juice of 1/2 lime

build over ice, stirring briskly to combine.

It really looks intimidating, but a sniff and a taste will set you at ease. This is easily one of my favorite drinks, just because of all the spiciness going on in it, between the dark molasses character of the rum and the spice cupboard appeal of the falernum. I love this one.
Corn 'N Oil

May 23, 2009

Okay, now I'm really confused.

I put a poll out in the field earlier this afternoon, and since two people answered it, I can call it unanimous. Tonight's drink is the Singapore Sling. Easy enough.

Which one, though?

There's more recipes out there for the Singapore Sling than you can shake a swizzle stick at. Some with club soda, some without. Some with citrus juice, some saying if you add citrus it's no longer classified as a sling. Some with gin, some with brandy, some with both. It's very perplexing. So I'm going to mix up one version of it tonight and perhaps revisit its variants in the future. Tonight's version is the one David Wondrich takes on in "Esquire Drinks":
Singapore Sling (Wondrich version)

2 oz London dry gin
1/2 oz Cherry Heering cherry brandy
1/2 oz Bénédictine

Stir all well with 2-3 ice cubes, pour unstrained into highball glass, and fill to taste with club soda (or ginger beer, if you're of a mind to).
In this one, I taste the gin more than anything. The Heering and the Bénédictine round it out a little bit, and give it some depth, but it's really relegated to the background. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad drink, but it kind of lacks something. I'll be very interested to try some of the other versions and see what they bring. But first, I'll need to get a new bottle of Bénédictine, as this drink took the last few drops from my miniature "fun size" bottle (and since when is getting less of something "fun?"). Fortunately, my friendly neighborhood liquor emporium has a half size bottle that won't break the bank. Tune in next time, true believers!
Singapore Sling (Wondrich version)

May 22, 2009

I will readily admit that I'm addicted to ginger.

There, I said it. I love ginger. I love the sinus-clearing zing of it, I love the tingle in my mouth as I eat it, I love the fact that it can calm an upset stomach. I even eat ginger candy, for cryin' out loud. I love it. It's my most favoritest rhizome. Anytime I get to use ginger in a food or beverage, I'm there.

So tonight's drink is one that relies on having a good ginger ale at hand. Normally I'd suggest Vernor's, as it's chock full of nose-searing ginger flavor, but...BUT, dear's got high fructose corn syrup, and I avoid that crap at all costs. So. I will instead steer you towards Boylan's Ginger's a little more conventional in its strength, and it won't make you cough if you get a whiff straight from the bottle like Vernor's, but it's got a true ginger flavor, and it's made with cane sugar, not that corn crap. Alternately, Reed's Ginger Brew is another good one. So, go get yourself a highball glass, and mix up a Gin Gin Highball.
Gin Gin Cocktail

1 1/2 oz gin
5 oz ginger ale
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Build over ice in a highball glass. Garnish if you so choose with a lemon peel.
This is just a nice, simple drink, full of botanicals running around and playing tag with the ginger, frolicking on the green fields of your tastebuds (assuming you never ever brush your teeth), and generally pleasing everyone. This is also a good one to use with some of your more untraditional gins, the kind that have all sorts of wacky botanicals in them. Ginger is in so many different cuisines and types of food (main course, dessert, etc.) that it can interact well with all sorts of flavors. This is definitely one to try.
Gin Gin Highball

Bonus "Food For Thought" post

Falernum is delicious drizzled over ginger ice cream. It would also work remarkably well on Bananas Foster.

May 21, 2009

I love happy accidents in the lab.

Last night I was playing around with Tiki drinks, because I just got this nifty little iPod Touch app called Tiki+ (link opens in iTunes), which features more than 150 tiki drinks that Jeff "Beachbum" Berry has dug up over the years. So I was looking through them for inspiration, and, well, I wound up going a little "mad scientist," what with a dash of this and a little of that, and just generally experimenting. And I'll be frank, sometimes when I just mix stuff together, it really really sucks. But sometimes you can surprise yourself, and I'm delighted to report that this was one of those times.

And, since I made it up, I got to name it, which is one of my favorite parts of the process. So, since it's just some random thing, I went with the Hawaiian pidgin equivalent of "whatchamacallit," which is "da kine" (it's been described as "the word you use when you don't use the word")
Da Kine Cocktail

1/2 oz pimento dram
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz orgeat syrup
dash of vanilla extract
juice of 1/2 lime
slice of lemon
1 oz white Puerto Rican rum (I used Bacardi)
1 oz dark Barbados rum (I used Gosling's Black Seal)
dash of orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in shaker with lots of crushed ice, squeeze in the lemon juice and drop in the slice, and shake well. Pour, unstrained, over the juiced lime half, into a favorite Tiki mug, or boring old glass.
Brok'da mout*, da buggah is ono**! This turned out to be a great drink in the spirit of all the Tiki drinks it drew inspiration from...sweet, sour, full of spice, complex in character. Oooh, man. You gotta make this. Drink more than a couple of 'em, though, and you'll be pau***!
Da Kine Cocktail
*"Brok'da mout" = "It's so good, it broke my mouth"
**"Da buggah is ono" = "This wicked little thing is delicious"
*** "pau" = "done" or "finished"

May 20, 2009

It was hot today...I want a popsicle. With booze.

It was a most peculiar weather day here at Chez Casa Urbane Not Cosmopolitan...85ºF and windy. And it's still in the 70s well after I don't plan to do anything too crazy tonight...I'm just gonna sit in bed, read, and sip on this little drink of my devising...I'm trying to power through that Svedka Clementine, so I mixed it with some seltzer and threw a few drops of homemade vanilla extract into it. Light, fizzy and it tastes like a Creamsicle. Simple, convenient, and refreshing. Can't ask for more than that.
See-Thru Creamsicle Fizz

2 oz Svedka Clementine or other orange vodka
5-6 oz seltzer or club soda
5-6 drops homemade vanilla extract (halve the amount if using commercial vanilla extract, it's much stronger)

Build over ice, sit back, and sip.
See-Thru Creamsicle Fizz

Apologies for the brevity tonight, gang. It's been a long day. I'll have some good ones up going into the weekend. Pinky swear.

May 17, 2009

"Et Keanu Reeves, il n'a pas de cheveux, et Jeff Daniels est déjà mort."

Minor variations...they can change a lot just by changing a little. I mean, Hollywood's been doing it for years! "Instead of holding one person hostage, let's hold a whole bus load of them hostage! And instead of threatening to shoot them, let's make the bus blow up if it slows down!" "Brilliant! What's it called?" "I call it, 'The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down.'" "You've got a gift, my friend!"

So by changing one ingredient, we can change the whole tenor of the drink. Take for example, the Knickerbocker; rum, orange curaçao, lemon juice, raspberry syrup (or fresh raspberries) and a slice of lemon. Simple, straight forward, and a great balance of sour and sweet. What happens if we're out of rum? What do you do, hotshot? What do you do?

How about a flavored vodka? Now you know I'm generally against them, but I found a bottle of Svedka Clementine vodka for dirt cheap, and I just had to snap it up to experiment with in horrific and depraved ways. So I tried it out here. And you know what? It worked. I do, however, need to change the name. Since it's the same drink with a different kind of spirit, I decided to name it after a different hotel. So I went with the ritziest hotel in my hometown. I give you...
The Pfister

2 oz Svedka Clementine (or other orange vodka)
1/2 oz orange curaçao
6 raspberries
3/4 oz lemon juice
lemon slice
flamed lemon peel for garnish

In your shaker or mixing glass, muddle the raspberries with the curaçao and lemon juice, squeeze in the lemon slice, and drop it in, add vodka and ice, and shake to the tune of "What Made Milwaukee Famous." Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with flamed lemon peel.
You get that great tart lemon taste balancing the sweetness and earthiness of the raspberries, with a whisper of orange bringing up the rear from the vodka and curaçao. This one's a keeper. And it's such a nice color...
Pfister 2

May 16, 2009

You just can't leave well enough alone, can you?

I've got a fun tale to relate about this drink; I made it before I went on vacation last summer, and I think Nature decided to punish my hubris. My trip to Florida coincided with the arrival and subsequent quadruple-landfall of Tropical Storm Fay, and my entire vacation was spent dodging downbursts. The drink's name: Dark N' Stormy. The Atlantic has a cruel sense of humor.

Despite that, it's a wonderful, and very simple drink. Despite that, you all know I can't leave well enough alone, and I've doctored it a little bit. I'll give you the original, and then my take.
Dark N' Stormy (original version)

2 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum (or any dark/blackstrap rum, but Gosling's is traditional)
5 oz ginger beer (or as strong a ginger ale as you can find)
Large lime wedge (1/4 lime, or so)

Build over ice (rum first) in a highball glass, then squeeze in the lime
It's great as is, but I tinkered with it a touch and made this:
Dark N' Stormy (my version)

Juice of 1/4 lime
1/2 oz ginger beer base (recipe follows)
1/4 oz falernum
2 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum
5 oz ginger ale

Pour first four ingredients over ice, stirring to combine, then add the ginger ale, stirring gently to integrate everything.
The ginger beer base is more or less a homemade ginger juice, but one that doesn't require any juicer. It does require a bit of patience, however. I'm using the recipe from The Cocktail Chronicles, but I've scaled it down by about 1/3, just to keep it from going to waste:
3 1/3 cups water
4 oz ginger, finely chopped or sliced as thin as possible on a mandoline
2 oz light brown sugar (processed as minimally as possible)
juice of 1/4 lime
1/3 bay leaf

Boil the water, remove from heat and add the ginger and bay leaf. Cover and let steep for at least four hours but preferably overnight. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, squeezing out all the liquid you can. Add the sugar and lime juice, stir/shake to combine, bottle and refrigerate.
You can use this to make your own ginger beer, mixing with club soda at about a 1:1 ratio of base to soda, or for ginger ale, at about a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. It's wonderfully spicy.

Anyway, as for my variant on it, I think it's a great take on the original, if I do say so myself. The ginger and spice in the falernum really meld with the ginger beer base and ginger ale to make a deep, satisfying drink, and the fresh lime juice notes really make it pop. This is a fantastic summer could probably even serve it with a brunch (if you must. I hate brunch, but that's just a personal neurosis) as it's light and crisp. Plus, ginger is an excellent digestive aid, so it might even help you eat more. Just please, don't tempt the fates like I did and drink it before leaving for a vacation in the middle of hurricane season. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.
Dark N' Stormy

May 15, 2009

"I don't know, I made it up, I made it up!"

Much like elementary school students, or Agador in "The Birdcage," if I'm faced with the need to post an entry and no idea what to feature, I just make something up. Happily, the drink I came up with is much more palatable than Agador's "Sweet and Sour Peasant Soup." And it does not feature chreemps shrimps.
Halema'uma'u Cooler

1 1/4 oz London Dry gin
1/4 oz grenadine
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz Maraschino
1/2 oz lime juice
1/8 tsp homemade spice extract
dash of Angostura bitters
tonic water

Combine all except the tonic water with ice in a shaker, shake to mix well, strain into a small tumbler with one solitary ice cube. Top up with tonic water, garnish with a thin bit of orange twist.
I was struggling for a name to put to this one, so I reached back in my mind to a decade ago when I visited Hawai'i. Most of my time was spent on Oahu, but I did visit the Big Island and nose around Volcano National Park. This was before Kilauea had started erupting regularly again, and I was able to hop around the caldera, and look straight down into the Halema'uma'u Crater, home to Pele, goddess of fire in the Hawai'ian tradition. I remembered that they used to have a Volcano House drink (a hot buttered rum) at the overlook before the lodge went dry (likely when it became part of the National Park) and it turns out I lifted a couple elements of that (Maraschino and some spice) without even realizing it. I basically started out planning some variant on a gin and tonic. I threw in a little triple sec, a little lime, a little bitters, and a little grenadine for color, the aforementioned Maraschino and spice, and Aia hoʻi! Turned out to be quite a nice sipping drink, ideal for looking out over the caldera (assuming you smuggle it into the park in a hip flask, or something). Just watch out for the erupting magma. And Agador's seafood chowder, come to think of it.
Halema'uma'u Cooler

May 13, 2009

Hey gang, long time no see!

So...I'm into rehearsals, and the play is going to be awesome. But you're not here for news about my theatrical career, you're here for drinks! And to oblige, I'm offering a tiki drink, from Don the Beachcomber's vault, way back in 1941. It's called the Test Pilot, and it's made as follows:
Test Pilot

1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz falernum (use a scant 1/2 oz if homemade like mine)
1 tablespoon Cointreau
dash of Angostura bitters
1/8 teaspoon Pernod
3/4 oz light Puerto Rican or Cuban (-style) rum (I cheated this a bit and used Pyrat XO Reserve)
1 1/2 oz dark Jamaican rum (cheated this a little, too, and used Gosling's Black Seal)

Blend all with 1 cup of crushed ice for 5 seconds, then pour it into a double old-fashioned glass. Add a little more crushed ice to fill, and garnish as you like, though a cherry is pretty much all you need.
Now I know you're all going "a blender drink?!" And usually I'm not crazy about blender drinks, because they make noise and are a pain to clean up after, and generally imply that you're going to take inferior ingredients and make a liquor-filled smoothie out of them. However, it is possible to have good blender drinks, and the Test Pilot is a stellar example of one. First's COLD. Which is always good. Secondly, you've gotten a little bit more air in there, and made some of the more inaccessible flavors open up a tiny bit. Third, you've got tiny bits of ice melting all at once, helping to dilute the drink...and it needs it...there's a fair amount of liquor in this puppy. The bitters and Pernod sort of skulk around like good little henchmen, making you aware that something's there, but not really identifying themselves. The two rums, the falernum, the Cointreau and the lime all chime in at various points, making for a tremendously complex but ultimately awesome drink. Do take it out for a spin, won't you?
Test Pilot

May 10, 2009

Strike, yer colors, ye brazen wench! No, not you, mom...

Ah, Mother's Day, when mom's everywhere endure crowded restaurants filled with grumpy children (of all ages), sub-par brunches, and mimosas made with cheap champagne. I know it's the thought that counts, but I just can't stand the thought of enduring all of that just to show mom that she's important to me...she might get the wrong idea and think that I harbor a secret desire to torture her. I'm sure the Geneva Convention prohibits some of the conditions you can find in many restaurants on Mother's Day. Then again, my mom just like sweet rolls, coffee, and the paper. Must be a Midwest thing.

And speaking of Midwest things (how's THAT for a segue?!), this latest drink is inspired by a recipe from a Milwaukee-based music journalist, one that I found in Beachbum Berry's Intoxica!, a great source for all sorts of exotic drinks. I just swapped in two different varieties of rum and added some orange bitters. The interesting thing is, in it's original incarnation, The Marlin, as it was called, was blue. However, with the rums I used, it darkened and tended rather more towards green. el pirata y el perico 1So since I changed the rums and changed the color, I figured I'd change the name, too.
El Pirata Y el Perico

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz orgeat syrup
1/2 oz blue curaçao (or use a good triple sec and add a little blue food dye)
2 dashes orange bitters
1 oz Pyrat XO Reserve rum
1 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum

Shake all with ice, and strain into an Old-Fashioned glass or snifter filled with crushed ice.
I'll admit it, I geeked out a bit and named the drink after a spot at Walt Disney World, an eatery that's closed as often as not. But it's got a great name, and considering its meaning ("The Pirate and the Parrot") it fits with this drink, as well. I mean, rum and tiki elements and as green as a parrot? Yeah, that works!

In terms of flavor, the lemon and lime do a great job of balancing out the sweetness of the orgeat, the Maraschino similarly baffles the tastebuds (in a good way, of course) and the two different styles of rum really add a lot of depth. If you wanted to experiment a little more, you could add maybe an ounce and a half of a good strong ginger beer or ginger ale to it...might make things even more spicy and delicious. Really, half the fun of modifying recipes is trying variations on them.
el pirata y el perico 2

May 9, 2009

I'm my own grandpaw!

There's a drink that inspired the Martini, but looks like a Manhattan. It tastes like the illegitimate lovechild of both, though it predates at least one. And it's got another funny name. Well, funny for a cocktail, anyway. Ladles and Jellyspoons, meet the Martinez!

1 1/2 oz gin
1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
2 barspoons Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir all ingredients well with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist and a flamed orange peel (if desired, but highly recommended)
As you may expect, it's a sweeter drink than the Martini, and not as knock-you-on-your-butt as a Manhattan. It's a well behaved little thing. That said, it's also not as boring as you might imagine. The botanicals in the gin complement the orange really well, especially the caramelized notes a flamed orange peel add, and the Maraschino's "funk" keeps it from being a one-note song. If you've got a small-batch gin, or one that's distilled with some unusual botanicals, I'd recommend using it in'll make it a lot more interesting. If you want to play around with proportions, go for of the earliest guides for this drink calls for sweet vermouth to gin in a 2:1 ratio! A little sweet for modern tastes, but tasty in it's own right. But don't settle for your grandfather's version...make it your own.

May 7, 2009

Master...THESPIAN! Acting! Thank you.

Dear readers, I've been cast in the show I mentioned. For the immediate future, plan on updates coming at minimum of thrice weekly, most likely weekends and once during the week. I'll aim for more, but it'll depend on the rehearsal schedule. The show opens June 19, so there's about 4 weeks of solid rehearsal time before Tech (aka "Hell") week commences.

If you're in the midwest and would like to learn more and see yours truly don the cap and bells and tread beneath the proscenium arch (metaphorically...there is no cap and bells) then visit this page for more info.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and I'll try to keep your whistles wet. This is gonna be fun!

Drinks that should suck but don't

Much as bumblebees continue to confound all known laws of aerodynamics by not only bumbling this way and that but by actually becoming airborne in the first place, so too are there drinks that you'd think would taste truly vile, but manage to surprise you. Thus, a good rule of cocktails (and gastronomy in general) is "don't knock it til you've tried it." I offer tonight's drink, the Argentina Cocktail, as an illustration.

Picture, if you will, a 1:1 gin martini, that is, equal measures of gin and dry vermouth (purists should already be cringing). Add a quarter as much each of Cointreau and Benedictine, and a dash each of orange and Angostura bitters. Chill, and serve, garnished with an orange twist. Horrified yet? OK, now taste it.

Not bad, eh? In fact, it'll probably grow on you. It's another one of those drinks that sounds lousy on paper (or on screen) but has the potential to pleasantly surprise you. The dryness of the gin and vermouth sort of tempers the sweetness of the Benedictine, but the different herbal blends in each play quite nicely. The orange bitters and the Cointreau also complement each other, and the Angostura bitters just adds a few more spice notes to it. It's definitely a sweeter drink than some I've featured, but it stays just on this side of cloying. All in all, it's quite the pleasant tipple. Theoretically you shake and strain and serve it up in a cocktail glass, but I like serving some on the rocks, just to be contrary.
Argentina Cocktail

1 1/2 oz gin (the drier, the better)
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
3/8 oz Cointreau or other good triple sec/white curaçao
3/8 oz Benedictine
dash orange bitters
dash Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients well with ice, strain into cocktail glass. Or, to be difficult, pour unstrained into a glass of your choosing.
Argentina Cocktail

May 6, 2009

Mystery cocktails

A band that an old friend of mine used to listen to would play a game periodically with their audiences called "Stump the Hippy," where someone in the house would shout out a song, and their keyboard player, the "hippy" in question, would attempt to play it. There's a variation on this you can play on your friends if you serve them this cocktail, especially those who take pride in their educated palates. There's so many different and unexpected flavors going on in here, that I think they'd be hard pressed to properly identify them all. It's quite tasty, though.
Creole Gimlet

1 1/2 oz gin
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir all ingredients with cracked ice and strain into a small cocktail glass.
Like your typical gimlet, this starts off with just lime and gin. Then the falernum adds its crazy variety of flavors to it, and then the Peychaud's bitters have their say, and then the simple syrup sweetens everything up a bit, and you don't know WHAT'S going on. And it's delicious.
Creole Gimlet

Sorry for the shorter than usual entry tonight, gang. I got back from my audition not long ago, and I'm wiped out.I do have one piece of housekeeping for you all, though. I've snapped up a couple domain names, so now you can just point your browser at or and it'll take you here. It's a little less typing, anyway.

May 5, 2009

Just a heads up...

Q: How do you get an elephant out of a theatre?
A: You can't. It's in his blood.

In addition to being a drunk alcoholic lush alcohol connoisseur, I'm also a theatre geek, and to that end, I'll be auditioning for a (community theatre) show in the next couple days. If I get the part, it'll most likely impact the blog a bit, but I'm hoping it won't knock it down too much. I'll aim for at least three posts a week, but hopefully more. I'll keep you posted on it...and if all else fails, I've got several drinks that I can review, even if there's no pictures (I taste test most everything before I post liver suffers for you people!)

Anyway, I hope you all understand, and I look forward to letting you know what comes of my auditioning!


On pink drinks that are not Cosmopolitans

Odds are, if you see someone drinking a pink liquid out of a cocktail glass, it's a Cosmopolitan. Especially if that someone looks like they're in the target demographic for "Sex and the City." There, are, however, many other drinks that are served up in a cocktail glass that are pink that are NOT Cosmopolitans, and tonight I feature one. It's called a Juniper Club Cocktail, and like last night's Ranglum, it comes via that remarkable cocktail blog, Oh, Gosh. As you might expect from a drink with "Juniper" in the name, it features gin, and it's similar to the Pegu Club cocktail featured previously. However, this one adds a little twist with the use of Peychaud's bitters.
Juniper Club Cocktail

1 1/2 oz dry gin
1/2 oz lime juice
1/3 oz Cointreau or some other good triple sec
1 barspoon Peychaud's bitters
1/2 barspoon sugar syrup

Shake all ingredients together and double strain into a cocktail glass.
The Peychaud's bitters make this really quite unusual. They're a bit sweeter and more elusive than Angostura bitters...they're also very red, which is where this drink's color comes from. I used my local Rehorst gin here, which is pretty strong on the juniper and other herbs, and through some strange transformation, one of the most prevalent flavors I get from this drink is a sort of coconut...which is very unexpected, but very welcome. I'd be very interested to hear how this plays with other gins that you may have on hand. Let me know if you try it!
Juniper Club Cocktail

May 4, 2009

Adventures in Tiki Mixology

For years, tiki drinks have languished under the misapprehension that they are only sugary, syrupy confections made with cheap rum. And sadly, that became sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because with few exceptions, that's how they came to be made. The classic, exotic ingredients, with names like "pimento dram" and "falernum" were lost or just deliberately omitted, so that ingredients like commercial mai tai mix and corn syrup-laced passion fruit flavored goo and sour apple mix (!) could be added instead. Well, mercifully, there have been some devotees of Tiki culture who have kept the old ways alive, and others who have sought them out. And it's thanks to wonderful people like those that I can tell you about a great ingredient that you can make yourself; falernum.

Falernum, as I mentioned in last night's post, is a liqueur that's usually a rum base, and is flavored with lime, cloves, ginger, almond, and various other spices. And to make it takes about 20 minutes (just spread over two days). Using a recipe from Kaiser Penguin as a jumping off point, I started mine yesterday, finished it today, and made my first drink with it tonight. It's got two stages; the first one, what Rick at KP likes to call "Soak lots of tasty things in rum" and the second one, where you whip up a quick simple syrup and add it to the booze you soaked everything in during step 1. Here's what I used to make mine:
8 oz overproof rum (I used Wray and Nephew White Overproof)
30 cloves
1 nutmeg
1 tsp whole allspice
1 dozen assorted peppercorns (I went a little OCD and used 3 each of white, green, black and pink)
zest of 8 limes
1/2 cup julienned ginger

Quickly toast the spices over medium heat until they're nice and fragrant, then drop the spices, the lime zest and the ginger into the rum. Cover with plastic wrap, and let macerate for 24 hours. It'll look like a jar of kitchen scraps, but just roll with it.

for the syrup, combine 2 cups cane sugar and 1 cup of water over medium low heat, stirring until dissolved.

After 24 hours, strain your booze-soaked mix through a fine mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth, squeezing to get as much liquid out as you can. Combine with the simple syrup and add 10 drops of almond extract. Bottle and chill.
And with that, you've got falernum. A little goes a long way...I've yet to see a recipe that calls for more than 1/2 oz of the homemade stuff at a time (There are a few companies that produce falernum for purchase, but they tend to be a lower proof or non-alcoholic, and generally a little milder than the homemade version, plus you can't customize those).

So, the drink that I'm featuring tonight with the falernum is called the Ranglum cocktail, from a a bar called Le Lion, by way of a wonderful cocktail blog called Oh, Gosh. Since the original drink features a lower proof commercial falernum, I've dropped the amount a bit to factor in the stronger nature of our homebrew stuff.
Ranglum Cocktail

2 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum, or other dark rum
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz falernum
1/2 oz Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum
1/8 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into an ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass.
As Strong Bad likes to say, "Oh holy crap." This is an incredibly awesome drink, and I think if I could just freebase falernum, I totally would. It's sweet, it's sour, it's spicy, it's molasses-y, it's all sorts of good and wonderful things, and it's all in one drink. Plus, there's a ton of booze in there...Gosling's Black Seal is 80 proof, Wray and Nephew is 126 proof, plus the falernum is probably somewhere around 55 proof...This is some serious happyjuice here, folks. Go make some falernum, for your own good.

May 3, 2009

"I wanna be a producer, lunch at Sardi's everyday!"

I picked this cocktail earlier today, and was wracking my brain trying to come up not only with a decent title for tonight's post, but also for something I could use in the photo to decently illustrate the abstract concept of the drink's name. I mean, what kind of props can you use for "Fancy Free?" Then, as I was looking over my bookshelf (which overfloweth, and really needs to be augmented somehow with another one, though where I'd put it I haven't the foggiest notion) I spotted one of the "making of" books I picked up like a good little theatre major as soon as it was released: "The Producers." And a little light over my head went "ding!" and Matthew Broderick started singing in my head. I've asked him repeatedly to stop that, and go and bug Cameron Frye or something, but he never listens.

Anyway, Leo Bloom (in "The Producers," not in James Joyce's "The Dubliners") has an extended dream sequence in which he fantasizes about all sorts of wonderous things that will surely await him when he becomes a Broadway producer. Apparently the fact that his soon-to-be-partner, Max Bialystock, has to schtup little old ladies to raise capital for his shows has not sunk in yet. Anyway, he frolics through a big number, replete with showgirls (fresh from the casting couch, natch) and generally convinces himself that yes, he will be a producer, granny-schtupping be damned, because it's gotta be better than his current accounting gig (no word on if this was in the days running up to April 15th or not). So I figured, yes, that'd be a good evocation of "Fancy Free" and would supply me with enough filled space to be a decent start on a blog post. So here's the "Fancy Free" cocktail:
Fancy Free

2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
1-2 dashes orange bitters

Stir well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry.
Remember last night now I waxed rhapsodic about that indefinable woodsy flavor that Maraschino brought to the Aviation? There's more of it tonight in this, playing wonderfully off the bourbon, and when the spice and orange join in from the bitters, good. The only thing that would make it even better would be a flamed orange peel garnish. On that note...
A flamed orange peel garnish sounds scary, but is really quite easy. Just take a vegetable peeler and slice off a half-dollar sized bit of orange peel. Hold it above and behind your drink with one hand, and hold a lighter in the other, positioned between the peel and the drink. Spark the lighter, and squeeze the peel towards your drink. The orange oil will ignite and land on the surface of your drink. Then just rub the orange peel around the rim of your glass, and plunk it into your cocktail.
With that addition, I think this would be utter perfection. If you're a fan of bourbon at all, please go out and try this drink. It's incredibly good.
Fancy Free

In non-Maraschino related news, I started making a batch of Falernum tonight, a crucial ingredient in a good number of Tiki drinks. Falernum's a Caribbean liqueur flavored with lime zest, ginger, cloves, almonds, and a variety of other spices; mine has those ingredients plus some allspice, a nutmeg, and a few peppercorns. Tomorrow all the ingredients get strained out of the overproof rum they're soaking in, and get mixed with some simple syrup. I've been wanting to make this stuff for quite some time, now, and I'm very excited that it's almost ready. So there's more Tiki drinks forthcoming, which will be perfect as the weather warms up. Stay tuned!

May 2, 2009

Imagine Sally Struthers is asking for your help to feed the children...on second thought, don't.

Readers, all 6 of you...I beg your indulgence, as I realize this is extremely gauche. I'm doing a one time pledge drive on here (for this purpose anyway) see, now that absinthe is once again legal in the US, I'm very interested in exploring the grand old drinks that contained it by tradition, but then had to substitute some sort of pastis once it was outlawed. However, absinthe, by virtue of being the current "IT" ingredient, is not cheap. Therefore, I humbly do beseech you, help me help you help me to help you learn what absinthe works with and what it doesn't by supporting this website with the numerous links on the right side there [gestures politely]. This blog is made possible by the generous support of viewers like you.

Tomorrow: another drink! I haven't decided what yet.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Life is just a bowl of sickly-sweet, sugar-soaked cherries.

Pity the poor Maraschino has to endure the endless shame of being considered nothing more than a artificially-colored, sugar-drenched decoration for ice cream sundaes and the occasional cocktail. An ignominious end for what was once a much more interesting foodstuff.

Pre-Prohibition, a Maraschino cherry was a far more complicated (and alcoholic!) item; it was, in fact, a Marasca cherry that had been soaked in Maraschino liqueur, itself distilled from Marasca cherries, pits, skins, stems, fruit and all. And its pronunciation belied it's Old World roots; [mar-uh-SKEE-no] (I'll spare you the actual International Phonetic Alphabet spelling, because while I'm that geeky, I'm betting most of you are not). But then the Great Experiment rolled around, and even mere cherries soaked in liquor became too much to tolerate for the killjoy tee-totalers, and by the time everyone realized how miserable life was without booze, the cherry had been transformed into it's modern day incarnation; tooth-itchingly sweet, eye-gougingly red, and a pale shadow of it's former self.

However, I'm happy to say that Maraschino liqueur can still be had if you're willing to look (and pay) for it. And to that end, I've procured a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino, and will be doing interesting things with it, the first of which is tonight's cockail, the Aviation.

Now, the original Aviation made use of a very rare ingredient, crème de violette, made from the eponymous flower, giving it a pale, blue-violet tinge, much like the sky in which actual aviation takes place. Since it's so hard to find, most modern takes on the Aviation do without, and are thus made of three simple ingredients: gin, Maraschino, and lemon juice, in a 4:1:1 ratio, like thus:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz lemon juice

Shake well with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This drink actually marks my first run in with Maraschino liqueur, and I'm delighted to say that it will definitely not be my last. The cherry flavor, what you'd expect to be most prevalent in this drink, is actually really subtle; the Maraschino brings flavors that are almost sweet and woodsy to the drink, even a little bit of an almond note. It's really hard to describe, but it's not at all what you'd expect. I think cherries soaked in this stuff would be nothing short of awesome. I very much look forward to trying Maraschino in more drinks...

May 1, 2009

"Son, I do say, son! Fetch me down my hangin' rope!"

Much umbrage and discord has resulted from the debate over the methodology of the proper mixing of a Mint Julep, but nearly all of it boils down to this question: do you muddle the mint prior to adding the bourbon or leave it unmuddled? Well, I've decided to solve this Gordian Knot in my own way, by offending everyone and deconstructing the whole damn thing into my take on it. My experimental technique (kids, wear your safety goggles!) does away with any mint leaves in the drink at all, and no granulated sugar, either! I made a special mint syrup instead! Now, unless you live in Wisconsin, odds are you won't be able to get the precise ingredient I used to add my unique twist on the drink, but you can order it for your next Derby day (or for this coming's good anytime!) and, if nothing else, I'll give you a guide to making something similar, though not quite identical.

You'll need a little bit of prep time for this, say a couple hours, just enough to give the syrup time to cool down before adding it to your ice and bourbon. Or you can prep it the night before, and take a batch with you to your Derby Day celebration. You'll need to procure some Sweet Mint Organic Botanical Blend from Rishi Tea, plus some dried peppermint. Infuse two tablespoons of the Rishi blend plus 1 tablespoon of peppermint in 5 ounces of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes; the leaves will soak up about an ounce of water, so if you drop below 4 oz after removing the leaves, just add enough hot water to bring it back up to four. Add 1/2 cup of cane sugar to the still hot liquid, and stir until dissolved, ending up with about 6 ounces by volume. Bottle and cool until time to build your julep. If you can't locate the Rishi tea and don't feel like ordering it, but your favorite grocery carries Yogi brand tea, you can get by with their "Egyptian Licorice Mint" variety...2 teabags of that plus 1 tablespoon of dried peppermint should do it. Infuse as above.

Now, to build your drink, fill your Collins glass with cracked ice, add an ounce of your mint syrup, three ounces of bourbon (or rye if you live above the Mason-Dixon line, or if you just prefer rye), swizzle gently, top again with cracked ice, pour an additional 1/2 oz of your mint syrup on top, and let it sit for about five minutes before sipping. In case you're wondering just how much ice you'll need, the answer is "a lot," as I cracked an entire tray of ice for one Collins glass. On the plus side, the glass frosted itself after I swizzled it, which is always pretty damn cool! If you want to be really contrary, you can garnish with a mint sprig, but that'd be silly, after going through all that work to avoid using real mint leaves in the drink. Best to leave it ungarnished.
Deconstructed Mint Julep

I must admit, prior to sampling this drink, I was worried that it would not have as much of a mint flavor as one might hope. Happily, it does. Plus, the addition of the other herbs in the infusion make for something a little more complex than your typical mint-sugar-water-bourbon Julep. If you really wanted to commit sacrilege and play up the licorice notes in your syrup, you could add a scant 1/8 oz of absinthe or Pernod or an anisette of some sort (or even Green Chartreuse). It would be a scandal if the word got out, but it would certainly bring a dollop of new life to that staid old grey mare of Derby tradition.