Cuckoo for Coconut

(Not really.) I had a recipe the other day calling for coconut milk. My first instinct was to simmer some shredded coconut in milk or cream and call that coconut milk. But I was at the grocery looking for something else and saw they had cans of coconut milk, so I picked one up.

The recipe calls for Drambuie, Grand Marnier, coconut milk, honey, spiced rum, a pinch of cloves, with hot water poured in to mix and melt. You're also supposed to put whipped cream on top (which I forgot) plus a piece of lemon studded with cloves (which I thought was silly).

Not a bad, warm winter drink. I like cloves, and spicy drinks generally, so this appealed to me. If you didn't have powdered cloves on hand, you could add a little falernum, which might make it even better. I frankly don't see what the point of the coconut milk was, since you couldn't taste it, except to add creaminess. Regular milk or cream would do just as well. And I'm not sure you could taste the Grand Marnier either with all the other flavors going on.

Since I had most of a can of coconut milk left, I tried a couple other recipes. The first was Galliano and coconut milk, 2 to 1 ratio, shaken and strained. I like Galliano, but this cocktail was just too blandly sweet and generally unexciting.

The second was equal parts dark rum and coconut milk on ice, topped off with club soda. One drink, yuk, into the sink. I've had a drink or two before this year calling for dark rum with club soda, and the combination just doesn't work at all.

Pulling a Miilk Punch

Times flies; I didn't realize my last post was on the 25th. In the last few days I've been trying various hot drinks/cocktails, some from my calendar, some from Internet Cocktail Database.

Let's start with the milk punches. The first one was a cold milk punch: milk, a little sugar, bourbon, a little rum, and the ubiquitous nutmeg. This one was probably my least favorite. The combination of flavors just didn't do it for me, but maybe I should left out the optional rum. And the drink just tasted milky. I took a few sips and dumped it out.

The second one was a hot milk punch: warmed milk (I added a little cream this time for good measure), equal parts brandy and rum, sugar, nutmeg. I liked this one much more. Milk is always better warmed up (well, not if you drink it with popcorn, like I do), and the brandy and rum worked together more than the bourbon and rum had. Good drink.

Next was a hot buttered rum: hot water, pat of butter, rum, little sugar. This wasn't bad, but tasted like, well, water. Though the butter helped. I may have used a little too much water. I use big mugs.

Last, from my calendar, a 'Seville flip': cream, sugar, light rum, port, all warmed up, with a shower of nutmeg. I take back what I said earlier: this was my least favorite. It just didn't look appetizing, not least because the cream was curdling or whatever cream does. The flavors weren't all that great either. Don't try this one at home.

Egg Nogs and More

I tried a couple new egg nog recipes this year, along with one for wassail.

I must confess that I usually drink store-bought egg nog (Kroger, or whatever), with all its sugar and cholesterol. A few years ago I tried a recipe for homemade from the Food Network (one of Paula Deen's, I think), and it was undrinkable, so I retreated to Kroger.

The first version I made this year was from my calendar; the ingredients sound good: eggs, Irish whiskey (I didn't have quite enough so I supplemented it with bourbon), Irish Mist, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, milk, the usual nutmeg garnish.

Well, first off, with all the spice, you can't taste the Irish Mist at all, so it's wasted. Second, maybe because I was using 2 percent milk, but this nog tasted very 'milky', not rich at all. Although the whiskey and bourbon sneak up on you just when you wonder where they are. I drank a couple half cups and dumped it out.

The second recipe was from a holiday show on HGTV, Grandma Somebody's recipe: 6 eggs, 6 oz bourbon, 6 oz gin, 6 oz sugar, 15 oz heavy cream, all blended together. Nutmeg ad lib.

This one tasted much better (using heavy cream, it should), though I thought the use of gin sounded odd, and it makes the taste just a little off too. White or a light gold rum would go better with the bourbon. A teaspoon of vanilla might help too.

Today I tried the wassail recipe from my calendar; I've never drunk wassail before. Orange peel and juice, lemon peel and juice, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick (my addition), brown sugar, hot water, ale, and hard cider.

I had high hopes for this drink, but its main charm was to leave the house smelling good when I came back from Xmas dinner. I think the heavy hand of my calendar author with citrus came into play again here, because the flavor was on the tart side. It could have been sweeter, along the lines of mulled wine, but the ale as the main ingredient just didn't bring the best flavors. Maybe if I'd used a better ale, but I doubt it. Luckily I tasted it before going to Xmas dinner, so I left it at home as an Glade plug-in.

Irish Mist Cocktails

Continuing my investigation of Irish Mist, I made two of the recipes using it on wikipedia.

The first is equal parts IM and Drambuie. The Irish and the Scots come together. This cocktail is pretty sweet, but with nice herbal flavors from both liqueurs, especially the Drambuie. It might taste better warmed up a little.

The second is equal parts IM and Irish whiskey; I'm using Jameson's. This one isn't as sweet, and I like the slight sweetness and herbal flavors that the IM adds to the IW. IM is made with whiskey and honey, after all. You can't beat that combination. This might taste better warmed too.

Geting Misty

I have a recipe coming up in my calendar that calls for Irish Mist. This is another occasion of the calendar author calling for a liqueur all of one time, with me, the gentle reader and mixologist, stuck with a bottle of something he/she/it wouldn't drink otherwise.

I asked the clerk at the liquor mart (where luckily they had a small size bottle of Irish Mist--still $20) if they had an airline size bottle in their extensive collection behind the counter. They had everything else under the sun. He looked, not very hard, and said no, so a full bottle it was.

According to Wikipedia, IM is made in Dublin to a 1,000 year old recipe that includes Irish whiskey, honey, secret herbs and spices, and other secret stuff.

I tasted a splash or two last night (the recipe that calls for it isn't for another day or two). Its taste seems pretty bland. I could taste the whiskey base, but otherwise it seemed pretty innocuous. To compare it to Benedictine and Drambuie, I poured out little glasses of both. Benedictine is by far the most herby of the herd. Not as much as chartreuse, but I let out a moo. Drambuie is slightly less aromatic, but a lot more than IM.

Internet Cocktail Database must not like IM, because they don't list it as an ingredient and don't have any recipes calling for it. According to Wikipedia, you can combine it the blue curacao and sparkling water or lemon-lime to make a Green Mist cocktail, equal parts Drambuie for a Rusty Nail, and equal parts Irish whiskey (e.g., Jameson's) for a Black Nail. I'll give those a try and report on them. Maybe not the lemon-lime version.

Cold Winter Drinks

And cold it was today: 15 degrees when I got up this morning (and the sun was shining) (so you can figure out how late I slept in). It never got much warmer and had dropped to 12 before the sun went down. The wind really picked up this afternoon, with a wind chill of minus 11. We're supposed to hit 6 overnight, but I bet it gets colder.

The first drink I made this weekend was yet another, but luckily the last, sangria. This called for a 'light red wine', cognac, dried cherries, figs, and optional club soda (I didn't option it). I had a small chunk of lemon I tossed in too.

So what's a light red wine? Luckily this was a one bottle sangria, unlike some of this calendar's recipes, so I looked for something cheap. At the grocery I saw a Beringer "white Merlot" for $6; I figured that would work. And what's a white Merlot? Sort of like a pink Zin or a white Zin. Pretty sweet for me, though my sister loves these soda pop wines.

Figs always are useful to have around for baking or cooking, so I bought a package. The dried cherries, which I love and can eat right out of the bag, cost twice as much as cherry-flavored Craisins, so the Craisins won. It's the usual stir up and let sit for 2 hours recipe. Serve over ice. (I heard a quasi sangria recipe on the radio today that called for pears, prunes, and sage: I think I'll past on that one. What a combination!)

This sangria isn't bad. I don't think I could taste much of the figs, though I did get an erstaz cherry or two. The wine wasn't overwhelmingly sweet, probably toned down by the lemon chunk and the cognac. And the sangria packs a nice little punch.

The second cocktail was a coffee-hot chocolate combination. I had some Ghirardelli sweet cocoa, so I mixed it with milk in a pan. The coffee came from my local Kwikee Mart. You pour some dark creme de cacao (good thing the recipe called for dark, only about the second time all year, since I'm out of white) and some peppermint schnapps in your mug, add roughly equal parts hot chocolate and coffee (a little more of the latter), stir, top with hipped cream.

A nice hot chocolate mint cocktail. If Starbucks served these, maybe they'd be doing better.

Grappling with Grappa

I bought a bottle of grappa a few months ago thinking that my calendar had a recipe this fall that calls for it. Alas, it doesn't. In fact, Internet Cocktail Database has only one cocktail recipe calling for grappa.

My bottle is Grappa di Pino Zardetto. Grappa is the distilled leftovers from the wine-making process: stems, skins, etc. Wikipedia says it's a "pomace brandy". If you're interested in what that is, it's easier to read their explanation than my trying to paraphrase it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomace_brandy

Grappa is pretty high proof: 75 to 120. It looks like rubbing alcohol in the glass. My first reaction to tasting it is it tastes like rubbing alcohol too.

But after I took a few sips, I began to get its floral notes. Or maybe it was just the proof talking in a slur. It's not a liqueur I'd ever gulp down in even sherry-like quantities, but it's a nice sipping liqueur.

Wikipedia says that in Italy grappa is often drunk as a digestif, and many times they add a shot to espresso, which they call an espresso corretto, corrected espresso, or put a little into the dregs of a cup of espresso and drink it that way. Those Italians really know how to do a meal right.

If I have a chance this evening I'll make the grappa cocktail and report on it here.

And the review: the cocktail calls for 2 parts gin (I used Calvert's) to 1 part dry vermouth, 1 part sambucca, and 1 part grappa, shaken over ice, poured into a cocktail glass (or a red Solo cup, as is my usual practice).

Not a bad cocktail: if you like licorice/anise, you'll like this because the sambucca overwhelms the other flavors. I'm not a big licorice fan, but I can go for this one. It's also a sweet drink without being too sweet, like a lot of creme de cacao cocktails. I'm not sure I can taste the grappa, but I'm sure I'll get the kick from it.

Chocolate Egg Nog

My drink a day calendar has moved into holiday cocktails this week.

This one from yesterday is for people who don't like egg nog, but think they should drink it to be festive: 4 cups any store bought egg nog, nutmeg, cloves (just a tad), couple tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. You'll probably need to whisk it all together while you warm it up in a pan.

Add a half cup grated Mexican chocolate, the kind that comes in individually wrapped paper circles in the little paper 'box'. I grated mine on a micro-plane, but the food processor would be a lot faster. Warm this up with your egg nog mixture just to a simmer. Take off the heat, and add a cup of tequila (or to taste; I used a little less, and reposado).

I'd never thought of tequila in egg nog, but this doesn't really taste like egg nog, more like a spiked hot chocolate, and it's nicely spicy. And the tequila packs a punch.

A good winter night drink, and it'd be great on the stove or in the slow cooker at parties.

Amaretto Drinks

Amaretto sours were about as wild I used to get when I would order a drink out, before I started this cocktail a day calendar this year. I've always liked amaretto, though after all the flavors I've tasted this year now it seems kind of bland.

I knew I had an amaretto drink upcoming in my calendar today, so over the weekend I tried a couple that I saw in amaretto ads on TV. The first is roughly equal parts cranberry juice and amaretto on ice. This one didn't have much kick: the amaretto surprisingly muted the cran, and vice nversa.

The second was milk with amaretto on ice. Now, granted, I used Dean's 2 percent, so I wasn't using a full-flavored (and fat) milk, but this one tasted like a beverage my friends would give their 6 year old while the grown-ups were enjoying sazeracs.

The cocktail in my calendar today is 2 to 1 brandy (I used Korbel) to amaretto. I always have mixed feelings about brandy; I'm beginning to think I like it best for flaming desserts, but maybe I just haven't had a really good one. This cocktail wasn't my favorite of the year, but you could taste the amaretto and it had the brandy kick. A splash of lemon might have taken it over the top.

Peach Beer and Double Chocolate Stout

While waiting to check out my rum and gin at the local Kwikee Liquee Mart the other day, I was eying bottles of beer and ale and stuff there by the register. Sort of like candy bars at the grocery. I ended up picking up two products I haven't tried before.

The first is Lindeman's Belgian peach beer. According to the bottle (12 fl oz; I think the bottle weighs more than the beer), they add peaches after the first fermentation, creating a second fermentation.

It's not a bad beer, not very potent, with a fairly mild peach flavor. I'd consider using it in a cocktail before I'd drink it straight again, but if you like peaches, it's good.

The second is Young's double chocolate stout. This one packs a little more than a pint, using both chocolate malt and dark chocolate.

I'm not a big stout, guiness, dark ale fan. This one was just OK to my taste buds. I poured some of it over a roast I cooked in the crockpot this afternoon while I was putting up Xmas decorations. (Holiday decorations, I should say; 1 menorah amidst the Xmas trees.)

I used a strange assortment of spices and veggies (sweet paprika, herbs de provence, fennel, cinnamon stick, pearl onions, cherry tomatoes, large green olives), and then I got invited over to friends for supper. By the time I got home, the roast was literally falling apart. So I poured in a container of veggie stock, got out the stick blender and shmushed everything up, and ended up with something halfway between beef mush and mystery meat. It'll be good on potatoes or rice.

More Fa la la's

Before I put the falernum bottle away, I tried a couple more cocktails with it.

The first one is a recipe from Internet Cocktail Database, called a Rum Swizzle. It's pretty easy: 2 to 1 white rum (I cracked open a new bottle of Ronrico, which I hadn't tried before), 1/2 oz falernum, 1 dash bitters.

This isn't bad. It doesn't taste overwhelmingly 'rummy' and has a nice combination of lime and spice flavors. You could probably scale back the falernum a little more to 1/4 oz so its flavors are a little more subtle. But on the whole it's a nice, smooth cocktail.

The second cocktail I got somewhere off the web, maybe ICD again: 1 1/2 oz gin (cracking open a small bottle of New Amsterdam to try it), 1/2 oz falernum, 1 spoon Rose's, 1 spoon plain ol' 2H and 1O, dash of lime juice (yup, in addition to Rose's), and a couple dashes of Peychaud's bitters.

This was my favorite of the falernum cocktails. The falernum blended just right, and it had just the right amount of lime, even with the double dose. New Amsterdam smelled great when I opened the bottle, and based on my first drink with it here, I prefer it to Calvert's, which I've been using lately. Whatever gin you use, a good cocktail.

Fa-la-la-la-lernum


At the beginning of this year I'd bought a bottle of Fee Brothers falernum, but I don't think I even opened it. When I was in Chicago a couple months ago, I spotted a bottle of velvet falernum, made in Barbados with white rum, and I thought, boy, this has got to be better than the non-alcoholic stuff!

I've had a few days in my calendar where I've been caught up on its recipes, so yesterday I decided to mix up a couple cocktails using falernum. The first was one off Internet Cocktail Database called the Royal Bermuda cocktail.

This calls for 1 3/4 oz Barbados rum, which I didn't have on hand but I've actually seen locally, unlike most 'exotic' rums, so I used rhum agricole instead, 1/2 oz lime, 1/4 oz cointreau, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 oz falernum.

Before I started, I took a couple swigs of falernum to see what the good stuff tastes like. Sips, I mean. I immediately tasted cloves. I like cloves in baking and on a ham, so this was a nice surprise in a liqueur. Also lime. The bottle says falernum also has almond flavoring, but I didn't catch that when I tasted it.

This cocktail has so much going on that frankly I didn't taste the falernum. You probably could have left it out and never known. Rum cocktails aren't my favorite, but this one isn't bad, with a little more complexity than a lot of rum cocktails.

For a second drink, I decided to go with something simple where I could taste the falernum, so I poured a little in a glass with ice and topped with the dregs of a bottle of Absolut Mandarin.

The cloves and lime go well with the orange vodka. I needed to stir this up a little better, because I got more cloves as I went deeper into the glass. Another ingredient, like bitters maybe or a good gin, would have made the cocktail even better. Even brandy or cognac perhaps.

I tried again with regular vodka and falernum. This time I learnt a lesson: a little falernum goes a long way. I poured too much in this drink, and the cloves were overpowering. (And I even stirred it up enough.) I took a few sips and dumped the rest.

But in general, falernum - the real stuff - is a great ingredient (if you like cloves). Just keep the cocktail simple.

More Bourbon - And Brandy Too

Another bourbon drink from my calendar (I jumped ahead a couple days for this one) is 2 to 1 bourbon to creme de cacao with a splash of lemon.

I'm not a big chocolate fan; I only tend to like the really good stuff, dark chocolate in particular. This drink isn't bad if you like chocolate. Godiva or another chocolate liqueur would probably work just as well. For a sweetened bourbon drink, though, my grape juice with bourbon from a few days ago was better.

The second cocktail, jumping even farther ahead in the calendar (I'm almost done! Woo hoo!), is equal parts bourbon (I'm using Jack) and brandy (Korbel) with a half ounce of Grand Marnier and a splash of lemon.

Did you know GM corks crumble? (Bailout!) And pliers don't work too great to twist 'em out. But needle nose ones will push the cork into the bottle, then you just strain off the GM into a jar and appoint a bar czar.

Anyway, this drink's not too bad either, but not my favorite. I like brandy in the French (Whichever No.) cocktail with champagne, but in general brandy should be sipped on its own, not used as a mixer. The GM and lemon blend well together with the brandy and bourbon, though. A good drink for a chilly winter evening.

Long island Iced Tea

I think it's a strange time of year to be making a Long Island Iced Tea, but that's the recipe my cocktail a day calendar featured a few days ago. Tonight I set out to make the first one I've ever made, and the first one I've drunk in longer than I can remember - at least 10 years.

Many moons ago, like 20, I got very smashed on LIITs one summer Sunday afternoon, so I remembered that they're more lethal than they taste.

According to Wikipedia, the LIIT is a fairly recent concoction, invented in the late 1970s by a bartender in the town of Babylon, Long Island. I might have guessed a bar called Babylon on Fire Island, but OK, I'm sure Ina Garten has given it her seal of approval and had her hubby or one of her entourage of male friends drive her back to the manse. (BC is about my favorite Food Network chef. Head and shoulders above a certain very loud demi-grand dame from several hundred miles down the coast.)

LIITs are pretty simple to make. The basic recipe is equal parts vodka (I used Absolut), gin (Calvert's), tequila (reposado), white rum (10 Cane), triple sec or cointreau, and lemon juice, topped with Coke. My calendar makes a couple tweaks in this recipe. In addition to the triple sec or cointreau, she calls for another equal part orange juice, and instead of lemon juice, lime juice, with a lemon wedge squeezed in at the last minute. I made a further adjustment and replaced the cointreau with Licor 43, hoping to give it a bit of a vanilla Coke flavor.

OK, so I did all that. And I took about 4 sips and said, this isn't a LIIT like I remember it. Of course, I probably don't remember nos. 2 through however many very clearly. In this one, I could taste the OJ through the Coke. And I couldn't taste any vanilla (but Wikipedia says the Coke is just for color anyway).

Now, I may not remember what those summer afternoon LIITs tasted like, but I'm pretty sure I didn't taste OJ in them. I think my calendar author grew up suckling mimoas or screwdrivers, but I'm over her citrus fixation. I like citrus, but not a Neely Family kitchen container full of limes and lemons (and they use those up fast enough to keep them fresh between making out on the kitchen island? sure)

So I dumped it out and tried again. This time I used the recipe on Internet Cocktail Database. I skipped the OJ, still used my Licor 43 instead of their triple sec, added their 3/4 oz simple syrup, but skipped their ounce of lemon juice and just squeezed in a wedge at the end.

This one started out very sweet, but I think I didn't stir it up enough. I was about to give up on it too but kept drinking, and it got better. (No kidding.) If I made it again I'd add at least some lemon juice, and maybe skip the simple syrup. Even if I used triple sec instead of the Licor 43, that would be plenty sweet, and Coke is awfully sweet anymore. (You don't think I'm making these with the Diet stuff, I hope.)

Maybe in 10 years or so I'll make another one. Or have an expert mixologist make me one and show me how it's done.

Bourbon Drinks

I had a bourbon drink over the weekend and one in my calendar today, so I combined them for a mini- balmy winter evening bourbon fest.

The first one was easy: squeeze a lemon wedge in a glass with ice, a couple ounces of bourbon (I'm using Jack), top with ginger ale (Stirrings - not my favorite, but what's on hand). A good drink. I'm a big ginger ale fan anyway, and the citrus is just enough. I'd order this one out.

The one for today is just a little bit harder: lemon wedge squeezed in an ice-filled glass, then half ounce of lemon juice, half ounce of Southern Comfort, and 2 1/2 ounces of bourbon shaken up, poured in the glass, topped with chilled club soda.

I'm not a big fan of topping perfectly good liquor with club soda. (Remember my story about the Chicago restaurant where the bartender didn't understand why I didn't want my Campari and gin topped with soda). It too often dilutes the flavors, it doesn't open them up. I am a big Southern Comfort fan - usually just on ice - so this drink appealed to me.

It's an OK drink, though it did taste a bit watered down. Too much citrus, but I've come to expect that from the author of this calendar. I might reduce the bourbon to 2 ounces and up the SC to a full ounce to add more sweetness. But any drink with SC in it is bound to be good.

Aviators

Earlier this week the New York Times ran an interesting article on 'schools' of bartending. I guess I'd say I'm a member of the minimalist school: 5 ingredients or less, no unnecessary fruit, keep the flavors simple and straightforward.

They mentioned a cocktail that I hadn't heard of and hasn't been in my calendar this year: Aviation. It's pretty simple: 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, and a dash or two of maraschino liqueur.

I mixed up one tonight (I'm using Calvert's gin - not my favorite, but I hate to let it go to waste). I used 2 oz gin, 1 oz lemon juice, and a drizzle of maraschino. The lemon looked like it would make the drink a tad citrusy for my taste, so I added a teaspoon of simple syrup.

Not a bad cocktail. It is on the lemony side, though the slight maraschino notes are nice. And I don't think I needed the simple syrup.

Internet Cocktail Database lists a variant that looked interesting, so I tried it too: 1 part bourbon to one part grape juice.

Now, tell me how that's a variant of gin, lemon juice, and maraschino. It's in another part of the solar system. But I was intrigued.

I bought some red globe grapes. I wanted purple grapes, but the nearest grocery didn't carry them, and I didn't want to use white/green grapes. Juicing grapes in my juicer turned out a bit messier than I'd anticipated, but I got a couple ounces or so of juice.

This wasn't a bad drink at all. (For the bourbon I used Jack.) I liked it a lot. It's simple, and the fresh grape juice adds a subtle sweetness and just a tad of fruitiness to the cocktail. Regular Welch's or whatever commercial grape juice would make it too sweet, like spiked communion wine in a plastic cup in a Kentucky Baptist church. Store-bought unsweetened grape juice might be OK.

It's a good drink and easy to make; give it a try sometime.

Metropolitans, Part 2


Since I tried the imitation Cosmo metropolitans the other day, I decided to mix up a few of the real thing.

The 'real' metropolitan is equal parts brandy and sweet vermouth, bitters, and a sprinkling of sugar or drizzle of simple syrup. So sort of a cross between a Manhattan and a sidecar, without the citrus flavors (though you could use orange bitters for that).

I started with a Punt e Mes metropolitan, since I like that better than regular sweet vermouth. In all these I'm using Korbel brandy. This version wasn't bad; the Campari bitter-herbs flavor came through maybe a little much but it was drinkable.

The second one was made using Dubonnet with the brandy. BTW, Dubonnet has a great web site at www.doyoudubonnet.com. If the Queen of England likes it, you should too. This one wasn't bad; maybe the Dubonnet was a little too fruity.

Last was the real thing, with regular sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi). As I've said before, I'm not a big sweet vermouth fan. This one's OK, but without as much personality as the first two. You might as well just drink a Manhattan for about the same flavor.

If I get industrious, or thirsty, tonight, I'll dig out my bottle of Lillet rouge from the back of the fridge where it's been lying neglected and try a version with that, and report back. Or maybe Fernet Branca?

Metropolitans

Today I moved up (or is it down?) from cosmopolitans to metropolitans. Sort of like metrosexuals, who I guess don't exist anymore because you never read about them. Sensitive and it waxes, if not poetic.

The recipe in my calendar for today is the vodka version, not the more standard metropolitan that calls for brandy, sweet vermouth, and bitters.

My calendar specified black currant vodka, about the only flavor I don't have (I don't have Peppar either, and that one would actually be useful to have around), so I substituted Absolut Raspberry with the cointreau, cranberry juice, and lime. I cut the lime from 3/4 oz to 1/2 oz, knowing my calendar author's love for puckering up.

I don't know if it was the Absolut Raspberry or what, but this was about the thinnest tasting cocktail I've mixed up all year. It didn't have much flavor at all. I took a few sips and gave up on it.

I tried a second time with a recipe of my own devising: regular vodka (about 1 3/4 oz), creme de cassis (a little under 3/4 oz), triple sec (3/4 oz), cran juice (3/4 oz), and a drizzle of lime.

This was much better, packing a lot more flavor. Surprisingly, the lime still came through the strongest. Maybe Rose's would have worked better. But besides that, all the flavors blended nicely into one non-OJ, juicy tasting drink.

The last one I tried was a Mandarin Metropolitan off the internet: 1 1/2 oz Absolut Mandarin, a full 2 oz cran juice, and a half ounce Rose's lime juice. I like cran juice, so this appealed to me in theory. In reality t was just a tad too orangey for my taste; maybe a mix of Mandarin and unflavored vodkas would work better. But not a bad drink if you like yours sweet and fruity.

Cosmos

So today I launched into Cosmo week on my calendar. I've never been interested very much in vodka-based martini glass drinks, though I love Sex and the City. Or just Sex. Or just Cities.

My usual rule is 2 drinks a day. Per Men's Health, and per keeping the calorie count down. Today I broke my rule. Four drinks. Oh, well, it's winter (almost). Who wants to be aware of what's going on, or not going on, outside?

Number 1 was the Cosmo recipe in my calendar for yesterday: equal parts citrus vodka (I'm using Tanqueray for all of these; it was on sale) and Cointreau, a little less lime juice (1 oz), and a couple splashes of cran juice (I have a bottle of cran-pom).

Ugh. This confirms my opinion that the author of my cocktail a day calendar enjoys sucking lemons evenings. This was so citrusy. Certainly not a drink that Sarah Jessica and the girls (and Kim) would sit around sipping while eying guys' butts.

Drink no. 2 was from Internet Cocktail Database, my no. 1 internet drink site: 1 1/2 oz citrus vodka, 1 oz triple sec, 1/2 oz lime juice, a couple splashes of cran. This was better than no. 1, but I thought the triple sec was weak; it didn't bring much flavor to the party.

A nap with a visiting border collie after these two, and then onto no. 3, my version of no. 2: 1 1/2 oz citrus vodka, 1 oz Cointreau, 1/2 oz Rose's lime juice, a couple splashes of cran-pom. This was my favorite of the day. Just enough citrus but not too much, and the Rose's brings some needed sweetness.

Last, another drink from my calendar: 2 oz citrus vodka, 1 oz cran, Cointreau, lime juice. It called for an ounce of lime juice, but I knew that would make me pucker up again, so I just used 1/2 oz (regular, not Rose's).

This one was OK, maybe still a tad tart. Rose's might have worked better. I could taste the lime, and I think the pom in the cran-pom made it just a little too bitter. I love cranberries in general and cran juice, so this one (with Rose's) would probably be the one I'd drink if out slumming with Miranda in the midst of the urban tempest.

"Russian Qualude"

The first part of this week is Cosmo Days in my calendar. I didn't feel like a Sarah Jessica cocktail tonight, so I jumped ahead to Thursday for a 'Russian Qualude'.

The cocktail is equal parts (I used 1 oz each) vodka (I used Absolut Vanilla), Frangelico, and Irish Cream (I used Carolans).

For all the great flavors in this cocktail, I didn't think it had much oomph in terms of taste. The separate flavors seemed diluted instead of well blended. I'm not sure what you could do to improve on it (Nocello maybe instead of Frangelico? Use nonflavored vodka?), but I think this drink has potential, given a little tweaking.

And One Last Recession Cocktail

This third drink is from 10 Cane too, and I think it's my favorite:

1 1/2 oz 10 Cane rum, 1/2 oz Grand Marnier, 1 oz pom juice, 1 oz OJ, 1 oz lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup, shake it up, pour into a chilled glass, add crushed ice (I used a couple cubes).

OJ-based drinks don't tend to be my favorites, but the OJ doesn't overwhelm this cocktail. It's a great blend of flavors and one of the best new cocktails I've made lately. Tangerine juice would probably also work well, since they're in season right now, or even pink grapefruit juice.

Very Dry Martinis

I used to be (and I guess still am) a big fan of the English poet and essayist Wystan Auden. He was a big martini drinker (out of jelly jars) and supposedly said that his idea of a dry martini was to wave the vermouth bottle over the glass (without opening it).

A similar story circulates about Winston Churchill. Frankly, I don't think a 'martini' without any vermouth, Lillet blanc, or similar aromatic white wine-based liqueur can really be called a martini. It's just chilled gin. I won't go into my thought about 'vodka martinis'.

My cocktail calendar had a dry martini for this weekend (they call it a 'naked martini'), so I mixed up three versions. For all three, I used Gordon's gin.

For the first, I soaked my almond-stuff olive in the vermouth, then plunked it in my chilled (stirred, not shaken) gin. This was my favorite. Maybe because I love olives. But the vermouth seemed to diffuse into the gin just the right amount.

For the second, I swirled some vermouth around a chilled glass, dumped it out(into a paper cup; no need wasting it), then poured in my chilled gin. This was my least favorite. I could smell the vermouth, but it didn't seem to blend with the gin at all - or at least not very much.

For the third, I poured the vermouth over the ice in my glass, swished it about, poured it out, then poured in the gin, stirred it, and poured it in my chilled cocktail glass. After lying down in a state of exhaustion from all the work, I tried this one. The gin and vermouth had blended better than in the previous one. It wasn't bad, but not as good as the version number one (and I'd even plunked an olive in it).

I'll have to remember the olive soaked in vermouth trick when I order an aperitif, to irritate the bartender. Or maybe number three to really tick him off.

Another Recession Cocktail


I had a busy weekend around the house washing windows, cleaning out gutters, shampooing carpets - and other stuff besides. Now all I have left is to get some bulbs in when we get a nice day.

After I took the carpet shampooer back to Home Depot, I was ready for a stiff drink, so I stirred up another one of the recipes from the folks at 10 Cane: 2 oz 10 Cane, 1 oz simple syrup, 3/4 oz lime juice, a few dashes of bitters, stir with a candy cane (which I didn't have).

I like this one a lot. A nice simple drink, and I wouldn't have expected the bitters (which remind me of mincemeat for some reason - I'm about the only person I know who likes mincemeat pie around the holidays) to work with this combination, but they do. I bet grapefruit bitters would be good in it too. After all the work I did this weekend, I think I deserve another one.

Bailout Drinks


The nice folks at 10 Cane rum sent me some stock market/bailout-related cocktail recipes. I'm ahead in my daily calendar, so I'll be reporting on these over the next couple days.

I'm just not a big rum fan and haven't developed a taste for even the more expensive varieties this year. But I like 10 Cane. It's light and a good mixer, and not as overwhelmingly 'rummy' as many rums are.

The first is called The Bailout, and it's easy, like the money in our bailout: 2 oz 10 Cane, 1/2 oz lime juice, 3-4 oz ginger beer, all on ice. Everything tastes better with ginger beer or ale. I'm using Stirrings.

A nice drink: just enough citrus without it being overwhelming (like too many of the cocktails in my calendar this year), and the 10 Cane goes well with the ginger beer. I like it!

Coffee Drinks

My calendar had 3 coffee drinks last week, which I got around to mixing up the last couple days. My local Starbucks is closing in 2 weeks (don't get me started on my unhappy feelings towards that company; their stock can go down a lot more), so I needed to get my espresso while I still could.

The first drink called for regular hot coffee, tequila, Kahlua, and brown sugar. This was my favorite of the three. I'm not a big tequila fan, but here it gives the coffee a nice kick, and the Kahlua and brown sugar (which makes anything taste better) add some nice flavors.

Drink no. 2 was vanilla vodka, espresso, Kahlua, and creme de cacao. This was a bit too after-dinner drink for me, and too chocolatey. Not bad if you like sweet coffee drinks.

The last one was cold espresso, reposado tequila, Kahlua, and Irish cream (I used Carolans). This one was better than the previous drink. I like reposado tequila and mezcal better than the silver stuff (Patron's popularity is a triumph of marketing over being worth the money), and it works well here. The Kahlua didn't predominate, and the Carolans peeked through in the background. A good drink.

Cocktail Royale

I watched Casino Royale (the recent, 'real' version) again last night and was shaken, not stirred. But do I look like I give a damn?

I tried mixing the Vesper martini that Bond orders during the poker game: Gordon's gin, vodka (Svedka), Lillet (he ordered a brand no longer made; I used Lillet blanc).

I could have sworn he told the waiter 2 parts Gordon's to 1 part vodka and half part Lillet. But on imdb.com, they say it's 3 parts Gordon's. Internet Cocktail Database says so too. My one time for being wrong this month.

The first time I made it, pre-imdb'ing, I used my 2 parts Gordon's version. It was OK, didn't convince me that it's the best martini ever. The Lillet brings some nice sweetness to it; I've come to appreciate Lillet in general this year. Like Felix Leitner, I skipped the fruit.

This afternoon I started my drinking way earlier than usual and shook up the correct version with 3:1:1/2 proportions. This is certainly a gin martini. I'm not sure but that the Lillet flavors get lost amongst the juniper and other herbal flavors of the gin. I wonder how Campari would work in it. The vodka certainly gives it an added kick.

But, going against my usual inclination to avoid vegetative matter in my cocktails, I must disagree with Mr. Leitner and say that I think a strip of lemon would add just the right finishing touch.

Old Drinks, New Drinks

I caught up on a bellini recipe from May a couple days ago. I'd held off making it till my calendar called for another drink with prosecco, and oddly enough (going all summer long without a perfect prosecco-based summer drink), it just recently had another one.

The bellini called for white peach puree. You're not going to find that fresh either in May or in November. I didn't even see semi-fresh peaches at WallyWorld, so I bought a can of diced ones, muddled a few in the bottom of the glass, added a bit of creme de peche, and topped with prosecco (Bottega moscato spumante, actually).

It wasn't bad, not my favorite sparkling wine cocktail, but drinkable. I made another one with a bit of passion fruit liqueur along with the creme de peche (and skipped the fruit, as is my wont), and that was even better.

The new drink from this month called for prosecco, vanilla vodka, lemon juice, and another ingredient, I think (I've managed to misplace that day from the calendar).

The vanilla vodka goes well with the prosecco. I bet another liqueur with strong vanilla flavors like Licor 49 (or whatever number it is) would blend nicely too.

My Last Champagne Cocktail

Of this batch, at any rate. Towards the end of December my calendar has a few more.

This last champagne cocktail, dating from October, called for Ouzo, which I'd bought a couple months ago seeing that I was going to need it, Mextaxa (however you spell it), ginger beer, maybe another ingredient that I'm forgetting at the moment (probably lemon juice; my calendar's author loves citrus), topped with champagne.

I'd bought a little 4 pack of Stirling ginger ale at my local liquor mart. Frankly, it's blah, not much flavor. Not as commercial tasting as Canada Dry, but not as good as the other ginger ale/beer that I usually find in the organic foods aisle (don't remember that either; I'm having a quasi-senior moment day).

I've grown to like anise flavors as I've made cocktails with them the last six months. This drink was OK but really didn't turn me on. Maybe in part because the Korbel had lost a lot of its fizz in the fridge. I drank about half of the cocktail, and kitchen sinked the rest.

I don't have any more recipes calling for ouzo, so I think I'll be donating that to a needy friend who likes it at the end of the year. I'll stick with Ricard and Herbsaint.

Another Champagne Cocktail

Continuing my week of champagne cocktails (I'm jumping forward through my calendar and hopefully drinking most if not all of the champagne recipes for the remainder of this year), I made one last night with parfait amour, cointreau, lemon juice, and champagne (I'm drinking Korbel from Sam's Club).

The recipe calls for 2 violets floated on top. At this time of year? Unfortunately my parents don't grow violets anymore. Instead I pulled out my bottle of creme de violette, which I'd bought for a pousse cafe (the less said about my attempts at layering the better), and drizzled in a few drops.

This is a nice drink. It's sweet but not too sweet, and the flavors blend nicely, especially the cointreau with the parfait amour. I don't think creme de violette tastes much like violets (yes, I've tasted one before), but a little more purple never hurt anything. I bet you could use it for coloring frosting and giving it some flavor.

100 Drinks to Drink Before You Can't Drink Anymore

(or die, whichever comes first)

This list of 100 drinks to drink comes from www.artofdrink.com, which got the idea from a list of 100 foods to eat before you die (not all of them things I want to eat because they might kill me: horse, roadkill, ...).

I count 52 of the 100 that I've drunk. I need to check my tequila and cognac supply to see if they qualify, I may have drunk a pisco sour and just don't remember, and I'm willing to substitute my Guyanan rum for their Cuban rum. I'm not game on drinking the Canadian cough syrup.

How many of these have you drunk?

List of Drinks You Must Try Before You Expire

1. Manhattan Cocktail
2. Kopi Luwak (Weasle Coffee)
3. French / Swiss Absinthe
4. Rootbeer
5. Gin Martini
6. Sauternes
7. Whole Milk
8. Tequila (100% Agave)
9. XO Cognac
10. Espresso
11. Spring Water (directly from the spring)
12. Gin & Tonic
13. Mead
14. Westvleteren 12 (Yellow Cap) Trappist Ale
15. Chateau d’Yquem
16. Budweiser
17. Maraschino Liqueur
18. Mojito
19. Orgeat
20. Grand Marnier
21. Mai Tai (original)
22. Ice Wine (Canadian)
23. Red Bull
24. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
25. Bubble Tea
26. Tokaji
27. Chicory
28. Islay Scotch
29. Pusser’s Navy Rum
30. Fernet Branca
31. Fresh Pressed Apple Cider
32. Bourbon
33. Australian Shiraz
34. Buckley’s Cough Syrup
35. Orange Bitters
36. Margarita (classic recipe)
37. Molasses & Milk
38. Chimay Blue
39. Wine of Pines (Tepache)
40. Green Tea
41. Daiginjo Sake
42. Chai Tea
43. Vodka (chilled, straight)
44. Coca-Cola
45. Zombie (Beachcomber recipe)
46. Barley Wine
47. Brewed Choclate (Xocolatl)
48. Pisco Sour
49. Lemonade
50. Speyside Single Malt
51. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
52. Champagne (Vintage)
53. Rosé (French)
54. Bellini
55. Caipirinha
56. White Zinfandel (Blush)
57. Coconut Water
58. Cerveza
59. Cafe au Lait
60. Ice Tea
61. Pedro Ximenez Sherry
62. Vintage Port
63. Hot Chocolate
64. German Riesling
65. Pina Colada
66. El Dorado 15 Year Rum
67. Chartreuse
68. Greek Wine
69. Negroni
70. Jägermeister
71. Chicha
72. Guiness
73. Rhum Agricole
74. Palm Wine
75. Soju
76. Ceylon Tea (High Grown)
77. Belgian Lambic
78. Mongolian Airag
79. Doogh, Lassi or Ayran
80. Sugarcane Juice
81. Ramos Gin Fizz
82. Singapore Sling
83. Mint Julep
84. Old Fashioned
85. Perique
86. Jenever (Holland Gin)
87. Chocolate Milkshake
88. Traditional Italian Barolo
89. Pulque
90. Natural Sparkling Water
91. Cuban Rum
92. Asti Spumante
93. Irish Whiskey
94. Château Margaux
95. Two Buck Chuck
96. Screech
97. Akvavit
98. Rye Whisky
99. German Weissbier
100. Daiquiri (classic

List from http://www.artofdrink.com/2008/11/100-drinks-before-you-die.php

Champgne Cocktails Part XVIII

I was going to try to catch up on champagne cocktail recipes over the weekend, but it was so nasty here, I just didn't feel like it. It's almost as bad today (albeit no rain), but I forced myself. The bottle of Korbel was calling me. Or maybe whistling.

I started with two "Monte Carlo" cocktails that were back to back in my calendar last week. They're so similar that I wonder why the author didn't list the second as a variant, but from the taste of some of her cocktails lately (e.g., gold rum, lots of lime juice, a little cranberry juice - too tart for me), I think she ran out of ideas mid-summer and is just filling up days now.

Both use gin (I'm using Calvert's, which I bought only because I hadn't tried it before, and I wouldn't try it again; even Gordon's has more taste), lemon juice, and creme de menthe (I'm using white/clear), topped with champagne. The only difference is the amount of gin and lemon juice.

Champagne cocktails are the few cocktails that I've tried for the first time this year that I would drink regularly. I didn't like creme de menthe particularly before I started this cocktail odyssey, but it's sort of grown on me, along with Ricard, Herbsaint, and similar liqueurs.

This is an OK cocktail, especially the variant with a full 1.5 oz of gin and an oz of lemon juice. Sometimes I don't go along with my calendar author's love of citrus, but the lemon works pretty well here. A sweeter champagne might work better in this cocktail, or a little cranberry juice perhaps, but it's OK.

Eat something between glasses, though. A moderately strong cheese on crackers would go well with it. Two glasses pack a punch on just a can of soup and cottage cheese for lunch! (I'm American; that's what we eat for lunch now. We're monks and don't know it.)

Joyeux Noyaux

I was skipping around in my calendar looking for an easy drink to mix yesterday, and I found one calling for creme de noyaux. I'd had a recipe, maybe two, earlier this year calling for it, so I have the larger part of a bottle collecting dust in my liquor closet. Once this year of drinking is up, I may see what effect it has on a peach tree growing in my neighbors' (since moved, house not selling) yard.

Noyaux is basically the French version of amaretto, just pinker, and sweeter. Very pinker. And it tastes like almonds, of course.

The drink called for noyaux, brandy, cointreau, grenadine, and a couple dashes of bitters. On the first sip, my initial reaction was, Boy, is this sweet. But as I sipped more, it began to grow on me. In the end, it wasn't a bad cocktail, and I don't tend to like sweet drinks. I found another version of this on Internet Cocktail Database that calls for orgeat in place of the grenadine; that might be interesting too.

On the back of the noyaux bottle, I noticed a recipe for raspberry coffee cake, or some such silly drink name: noyaux, half a cup of cold coffee, half and half, and raspberry liqueur. Not enough real alcohol for my taste.

Well, it's pink (sort of - more like pink-brown) and foamy, but it doesn't taste like any coffee cake I've ever eaten. It didn't have much taste at all actually.

But the real question is: does the cream form an emulsion when you shake it? Only the boys on Top Chef know for sure.

Sangaree, Sangara

A month or so ago my cocktail a day calendar had a recipe for a sangaree. I was intrigued by these cocktails, new to me, and wrote myself a note to experiment with various versions one of these days. Yesterday was one of those days.

Sangaree is derived from sangria, which is derived from the word for blood. In its basic form, the sangaree, a West Indies drink supposedly, is a base liquor on ice, usually sweetened (sugar or simple syrup), sprinkled with nutmeg, and more often than not port floated to top it off, which of course adds more sweetness. You can add a lemon wheel for a little extra zing.

I tried four versions. The first was one of my own concocting: Southern Comfort, simple syrup (or maybe I didn't use it in this one; it didn't need it), creme de peche, a wheel of lemon, nutmeg, and port. Southern Comfort goes good in anything, and this cocktail was pretty good, maybe even great. The nutmeg went well with the peach flavors in SC, turbo-charged by the creme de peche.

The second was gin (I used Tanqueray 10), simple syrup, nutmeg, port. I don't remember much about this one, except that it was drinkable, if not rememorable.

Third on my list was a variation on #2: gin, Benedictine, grapefruit juice, lemon wedge, nutmeg, port. I had a grapefruit but didn't want to juice it just to get a squirt for this, so I used - with some trepidation - pineapple juice (from a can) instead.

To my surprise, the pineapple juice worked pretty well; it didn't overwhelm all the other flavors. I like Benedictine, which worked in combination with the other flavors, including all the herbal notes in the gin. A pretty drinkable drink too.

Last was a whiskey sangaree: I used Jack Daniels, simple syrup, lemon chunk, nutmeg, port. I have a love-hate relationship with whiskey drinks. I like 'em sometimes; other times they just don't do it for me. This tended towards the don't do it for me category. Drinkable, but I didn't love it. I'd make the Southern Comfort one instead.

So try a sangaree sometime. They're a nice change from your usual cocktail.

Negroni Nation

The other day I had a recipe for a Punt e Mes negroni, so I played around with several variations last night.

Punt e Mes, if you're not familiar with it, is an Italian quinquina. On the bottle it calls itself a vermouth, but it's very close to Campari. Sort of halfway between the two,

The recipe for a negroni called for an ounce of gin (I used Tanqueray 10), ounce of sweet vermouth, half ounce of PeM. A good drink: I don't usually like sweet vermouth, but it worked here, maybe because of the quasi bitterness from the PeM.

An option at the bottom of my calendar page was to top it with club soda, so for my second attempt I did that. Nope - just confirms my bias that you shouldn't dilute most (good) liquor with water, bubbles or not.

No. 3 was a negroni with just the PeM, increased to an ounce, and no vermouth. This one didn't work; it had a sharp edge. The sweet vermouth definitely helps mellow it out.

And, last but not least, the classical negroni with Campari and sweet vermouth (in equal parts) and only a half ounce of gin. I didn't like this as much as the original PeM, vermouth, and gin version (maybe because that has twice as much gin). The bitterness of the Campari overwhelms this negroni, whereas the herbs and other secret ingredients are much subtler in the PeM version.

Now just try to find bars and restaurants that stock Punt e Mes to make it with.

November 11, Veterans Day, Part 1

Part 1 of a two-drink report for today. My first recipe from my calendar is the one for today: roughly equal parts bourbon and OJ, with a splash (1/2 oz) of Benedictine. I used Jack Daniels Black.

Not a bad cocktail, and you get your vitamin C. I even stirred (not shook) it in my new Maker's Mark mixing glass and strained it, as instructed. I'm a Benedictine fan, which brings nice flavor to the drink. But if you didn't eat much lunch, like I didn't, this may knock you on your ass. Time for a nap.

A Drink to Soothe the Stomach (& the Nerves)

As the cocktail year winds down, the author of my daily drink calendar seems to be running out of ideas. More often than not the recipes are 3rd tier, from the take 2 sips and throw the rest in the sink class of cocktails.

I made a couple this weekend like this: one with brandy, applejack, and sweet vermouth. The vermouth was strangely muted, but then so was the overall taste of the drink.

Another one called for Fernet Branca, which has odd, menthol-like notes. It may work in some drinks or as an aperitif - I need to play around with it one of these days - but it doesn't work with creme de menthe and brandy.

One cocktail that came close was supposedly a favorite of Bond author Ian Fleming's and the British garrisons in the Raj, who used it to soothe their stomach after an encounter with a man-eating tigger or a native.

You swirl bitters in a glass (they used a sherry glass; I used a miniature A&W rootbeer mug), dump it out, then straight gin, with a glass of water on the side.

I only took a few sips, mainly because I was liquored out from my tasting the other drinks, but I can see how this would be a nice after dinner drink sitting out on the terrace at Goldeneye (actually the name of Fleming's estate in Jamaica). A better gin (I was using Calvert's) and maybe orange or Peychaud's bitters would make it even better.

Two OJ Drinks

Harvey Wallbangers are fairly recent concoctions, around only since 1952 and, if I read wikipedia right, going by this name only since 1982 (something to do with the Milwaukee Brewers).

I made a Wallbanger when I was brewing up some Galliano drinks back in the spring. It's an easy drink: OJ, vodka, and Galliano floated, or at least thrashing across the surface of the drink.

I liked it better this time. The Galliano brings a nice herbal note to an otherwise boring OJ and vodka. I think another ingredient could make it really good; I'll have to play around with my mixology set sometime.

The other OJ drink from my calendar of a few days ago with OJ, amaretto, vanilla vodka, and cream; they called it a 'dreamsickle.' I haven't had many drink recipes this year calling for amaretto; it's been one of my favorite liqueurs for a long time.

Not a bad cocktail; how could it be, with heavy cream in it? Sweet, but with only 1/4 ounce of the vanilla vodka, that doesn't come through much. A nice after-dinner drink in lieur of dessert. But who orders dessert anymore?

Good Drink, Bad Drink

The first recipe from my calendar today was actually the recipe for today: a perfect Manhattan. Bourbon (I used Maker's Mark), dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, and bitters. I took two sips, said Yuck, and poured it out. Sweet and dry vermouth together just don't do it for me. Rye instead of bourbon might have helped the taste.

The second was gold tequila (I used Jose), OJ, pineapple juice, cointreau, and grenadine. This was very orangey tasting, but at least the pineapple juice didn't overwhelm everything else and the grenadine didn't make it too pink. A good brunch drink, I suppose, packing in the ol' vitamin C for the day, but I wouldn't drink it often.

Sweett Drinks, Part I Forget

Still catching up, I made a 'Death by Chocolate' cocktail from a few days ago: vodka, dark creme de cacao, Irish cream, and chocolate ice cream (I splurged and bought Walgreen's).

Chocolate ice cream isn't my favorite, but this wasn't bad. Strawberry with strawberry liqueur instead of the creme de cacao might work, or butter pecan with butterscotch schnapps. The vodka came through a bit strong; Absolut would be my pick next time.

Moving on to a shooter: vodka, butterscotch schnapps, and Irish cream. I upped the recipe from a half ounce each to an ounce to make it worthwhile.

Very sweet, and fratboyish. The vodka didn't overwhelm in this one, but butterscotch schnapps is like pineapple juice: it usually takes over a cocktail.

Now it's time for some insulin.

Catching Up

I've gotten behind again on my drinking. For one thing, I went to Chicago last weekend. I took some daiquiri recipes to make for the friends I was staying with, but I bought a new bottle of cachaca, and ended up introducing them to caipirinhas instead. They liked 'em. Then, there's the fact that the recipes in my calendar have been decidedly uninspiring the last week; the ones for Halloween look awful, but I'll make them at some point just to say I did.

My evolving tastes in cocktails landed me in a funny exchange in a Greek restaurant on the far north side of Chicago. I ordered a campari and gin with lime as an aperitif. The waistress said, You want what? I said, blah blah blah. Calamari and gin? No, campari. I don't know if we have that; I'll have to check the computer. They did. I wrote it down so she'd get it right. A few minutes later she came back: The bartender wants to know if you want soda with that; it sounds weird. Nope, just as I ordered it. And I finally got it. Both my friends had never had one. One of them didn't like the bitterness. The other one made the shrewd comment that he got the bitter at first, but then the sweetness came through.

Last night here at chez dogs and cats I fixed two cocktails from my calendar: one with Southern Comfort (I haven't had enough recipes with that this year), cranberry juice (I used pom, since I had it), lemon and lime. Not a bad drink, though equal parts pom with the Comfort overwhelmed it.

The second drink was gin (I have anew bottle of Calverts; not my favorite one I've tried this year) with a little OJ, a little lemon juice, and a splash of grenadine. It was OK, not my favorite gin cocktail. And awfully pink.

Sweet Drinks

I caught up on two more drinks from my calendar today.

The first is a walnutini (I think the calendar calls it something else): Nocello, tuaca, and vodka. I think (and hope) Nocello is the last new liqueur I have to buy for my calendar's drinks through the end of the year. Huzzah!

I tasted the nocello before I mixed the cocktail: it's OK, but it tastes a lot like hazelnut liqueurs to me. I could have used my bottle of Frangelico and saved $22. And the walnutini wasn't all the great: the vodka overwhelmed the other flavors; it needed more nocello. Or more something. I did leave out the orange peel it called for.

I looked for other nocello recipes online but found Nada. The only recipe I came across was for a walnut cake, which sounded pretty good. I also found a recipe for a pasta with walnut sauce that I bet you could add some nocello to, and it'd be pretty damn good.

The second cocktail was yet another appletini - the usual mix: apple pucker, butterscotch schnapps, lemon juice, but vanilla vodka as a twist - with caramel sauce coating the cocktail glass.

The recipe calls for a chilled cocktail glass, but when I poured the room temp caramel into the glass, it suddenly firms up, and you can't coat the glass with it. It just sits there in the bottom of the glass. I'm beginning to wonder if my calendar author tested all her recipes.

But it's a good drink nonetheless. The vanilla vodka brings a nice plus to it, and I had dribbled caramel on one side of the glass, so I drank from that side, getting some of the sweetness. And there are these metal things called spoons you can use to get the caramel out of the glass. When I make appletinis again, this is the recipe I'll use, minus the chilled glass.

Boilermakers, Go IU!

Or Purdue, whatever.

I didn't drink much over the weekend; trying to watch the calories since I go into chipmunk hibernation mode every fall and store every gram of fat I eat. I'd almost caught up on my cocktail calendar recipes, but I'm falling a bit behind again.

The first drink I made today was cognac (I used Hennesy), cointreau, anisette (I finally bought a bottle), and vodka. I'm not a big anise flavor fan, but it works well with cognac and brandy. This drink, though - I took a few drinks and said "That's nice" and tossed out the rest. Not my favorite. The vodka doesn't bring anything to it that I could taste.

The second was a boilermaker: I followed option 2 in my calendar and dropped the shot glass with whiskey in it (I used JD Black) into my 'frosted mug' of light ale (I used Bud's American Ale). This wasn't bad, but I think I like my ale and my Jack separately. I guess I'm getting too old for frat boy drinks.

Two Quick Drinks

So I don't go too far between posts, a couple quick updates on drinks. I haven't been drinking as often the last few days, but an oversized gin (Tanqueray 10) and tonic Wednesday night could still be felt Thursday morning.

One drink was vodka with hazelnut liqueur, approximately 5 to 1 ratio. The recipe called for an orange strip twist dropped in; I used a few drops of orange flower water instead. I like hazelnut and this wasn't bad, but it could have used another flavor or two. It was just a tad bland.

The other drink, equally bland, was a 'Scotch mist'. Scotch on crushed ice with a twist of lemon. I got a bottle of Cutty Sark to use for this and another recipe. I'm not a big Scotch guy; my liqueur consultant told me people don't buy the Scotch like they used to. This was ok, but a better Scotch (not sold in a plastic bottle) would probably be a lot better.

Tangerine Season

It may not be blackberry season anymore, but I'm glad tangerines are finally coming into season so I can make recipes from my calendar calling for fresh juice. One of them was from late summer, not the best time of year to be looking for freshly squeezed tangerine juice.

I bought a bag the other day at my local Save A Lot. Boy, they have a lot of seeds. There were almost as many seeds as juice when I got done juicing most of the bag, though I had a Mickey juice pitcher half full of juice.

I went back through my calendar looking for recipes calling for fresh tangerine juice, and I discovered the one recipe they'd accidentally duplicated, for a Kentucky sidecar. It's bourbon, cointreau, lemon juice, and tangerine juice. Not bad, but I think the tangerine juice in a bottle that I bought a month or so ago is almost as good (all that cane syrup in it).

I also tried the two variants, one topped with club soda, the other increasing the juice and cutting out the lemon juice. The club soda version would make a good summer cooler. The last one was awfully citrusy for me, especially as it calls for a splash of orange flower water too.

Then I tried my Damiana recipe from a couple weeks ago again, with quartered lime, honey, Rhum Barbancourt, and tangerine juice. This was as good or better this time as with the bottled tangerine juice. I'm not sure the spiceness of the Daminana comes through, and any light or gold rum would work just as well, but it's a good - and nicely potent - cocktail.

So now what do I do with the rest of this tangerine juice ...

Blackberry Season

Actually blackberry season around here was a couple months ago. I bought a couple quarts, but all my plans for making a cobbler came to naught. I ate them with cereal or with sugar for breakfast instead, which is almost as good as in a cobbler.

My calendar has a couple recipes this week calling for blackberry brandy, so I had to go out and buy a bottle. I asked my liquor consultant at the local Kwik-E-Mart which is better: De Kuyper or Hiram Walker. She said the latter and it's cheaper too (I didn't double check).

The first one calls for brandy, bb brandy, dry sherry, dash of lemon juice (restraint on the part of my calendar's author; she's a lemon juice fan), and orange bitters. Not bad: you can't really taste the sherry (at least I couldn't), the dash of lemon is just enough, and the sweetness of the bb brandy comes through. Not a bad drink.

The second cocktail is a twist on the sidecar, calling for cognac (which I used, Remy Martin) or brandy, bb brandy, cointreau, lemon juice. I liked this one even better; I'd push it up to my Drinks I'd Make Again list. I'm not a big sidecar fan, but the flavors in this really do it for me; using a better quality cognac probably helps. Look this one up on the internet; I think you'll like it.

Hahvahd, Not So Square

My cocktail a day had recipes associated with Harvard on two consecutive days. The first is a "Harvard Cocktail": brandy, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine, bitters. I'm not a sweet vermouth fan, but it's a good cocktail otherwise. The sweetness of the grenadine and the lemon juice balance each other out, almost a sidecar crossed with a Manhattan.

The second is a "Harvard Cooler": apple brandy (I used Calvados), lemon juice, simple syrup, topped with club soda. A nice summer cooler (in October). It was a bit tart and needed a tad more simple syrup, but the apple brandy-club soda combination works well. This comes close to my Cocktail I'd Make Again category.

Mulled Wine

Tonight for the Project Rungay finale I made a mulled wine recipe from last March in my calendar.

The recipe calls for 2 bottles of dry red wine, orange zest, lemon zest, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and port and sherry at the end. My friends, although Catholics, aren't big drinkers (wait, did that come out wrong?) (no), so I decided to make a half recipe.

I used a bottle of Newman's own Cabernet to honor the late blue eyes. The little neighborhood grocery I ran to this afternoon didn't have any oranges for sale individually, but tangerines are finally in season, so I bought a bag and used one of them. Damn, now I have to remake those recipes that called for fresh tangerine juice.

When I tasted it before adding the last bit of alcohol it seemed awfully, well, dry. Not very sweet. Having to add sherry reminded me of the hot rum punch I made a few weeks ago that was so lethal. So I added ruby port, but instead of sherry I added Punt e Mes, which calls itself a vermouth on the bottle but I think of it as midway between vermouth and Campari. Just add gin and you have a negroni for Mrs. Stone. I also added a little more sugar (turbinado).

It was good. Only one of my hosts drank some, and he said it was good too. We were eating crackers and brie (Charlie the dalmatian said that was good) while we watched the final Runway moments, and it all went well together.

Yo Ho Ho and Several Bottles of Rum

Today's recipe in my calendar is one of the champagne cocktails that I mixed up over the weekend, so I decided to catch up on an old recipe or two. Actually one; I meant to make two, and I am making two, but only one from my calendar. I'll explain.

As part of my mail-order shopping extravaganza a few weeks ago, I ordered a bottle of Demerara rum, which I can't find it locally. Demerara rum comes from the country of Guyana in South America; it's sort of a generic term. Like most rums, you can buy it in various proofs and aged various lengths of time. 151 proof demerara rum is the only 151 proof rum that Internet Cocktail Database recommends. I bought a bottle of El Dorado Special Reserve 21 year, 80 proof. A rare burst of splurging and not going for the cheap stuff, but it'll last me forever, unless, with my champagne tastes, I develop a liking for it.

This recipe calls for equal parts Demerara, light rum (Tommy Bahama), and gold rum (cheap Bacardi, which I'm trying to use up to make more space on my shelf), orgeat syrup (the first recipe calling for that in quite a while; I have a bottle of Fee's), OJ, lime juice, pineapple juice, and passion fruit juice (I used the liqueur). I usually hate recipes that call for a dozen ingredients, but this one wasn't bad.

And it's good too. I'm not a big rum fan, but the molasses flavor really comes through in this drink, almost like it has brown sugar in it. On the first swig I wasn't sure I liked it (I could taste the pineapple juice, not always a turn-on unless I"m licking it off someone), but the cocktail grew on me. It's on my list for one of the handful of recipes from my calendar that I'd make regularly.

For my second cocktail I had planned to make a second recipe from August calling for Rhum Barbancourt, which hails from Haiti. But while looking around the net for info on Demerara rums, I found another Demerara recipe with many of the same ingredients and looked awfully good. The recipe was on the great Kaiser Penguin cocktail site: www.kaiserpenguin.com

It calls for OJ, lemon juice, passion fruit nectar (I used liqueur), Demerara, light rum, dark rum, maybe another ingredient or two. I wasn't as crazy about this cocktail. The OJ and lemon juice came through a little too much, and the Myers's dark rum gave it a pure alcohol taste that I often get from that.

I did make the Rhum Barbancourt recipe after all: you quarter a lime, muddle it with some honey (the best is from Flying Bee Ranch, available on ebay), add Damiana, RB, and another mystery ingredient or two. (I had all these recipes written down to refer to; the cats must have been getting mischievlous and used my notes for paper hats). This is my first cocktail with Damiana and I liked it. It gives a cocktail a spicey, cinnamon-like taste. This cocktail is sweet, but the Damiana and the lime help cut it and give it a nice south of the border flavor. Good drink.

More Stout

Today (Sunday) I'm remaking some champagne cocktails now that I have finally found the elusive maraschino liqueur. Nothing new and extraordinary to report. I did discover that the large liquor start I frequent, well, shop at, has carried maraschino all along. I just didn't realize that's what the bottle was since most of the front label is in Italian, and 'maraschino' is in vertical type along the side. Oh, well. A chance to make drinks a 2nd time. I have a daiquiri weekend coming up one of these days.

I did make a couple more recipes calling for stout (I'm using Guinness Extra Stout). The first is a stout version of the ale and hard cider cocktail (it's too simple to call it a recipe): half stout and half cider. I liked the ale version better. The stout is just too overwhelming and bitter, and the hard cider I'm using (Woodchuck Draft) doesn't pack a lot of flavor. My WalMart apple cider almost has more taste.

The second is a cocktail calling for simple syrup, stout, ruby port floated, and cinnamon and nutmeg. I skipped the spices, mainly because I didn't want to mess with grating the nutmeg. My calendar says this is a 'sangaree. Wikipedia, surprisingly, doesn't have an article on the sangaree. In some circles it's an archaic name for a sangria, and it seems to be associated with cocktails of the West Indies.

But the author of another excellent cocktail-related blog, the Cocktail Chronicles, reports that it's a base liquor of your choice (I've pulled up recipes for both brandy and gin sangarees) shaken with a little sugar, and nutmeg springled on top. I guess should have gone with the nutmeg. He also reports it's traditional to throw in a couple wheels of lemon, which had occurred to me as a nice future addition to this recipe. Several of the recipes I found call for port floated.

I liked this better than the cider and stout cocktail. The port adds a nice sweetness to the bitter port, and it's robust enough to make a statement on its own (whatever that means in a cocktail). But, what it means is, it's a good drink; I'll try other sangrees when I have a free cocktail day and report back.

Stout

I've drunk stout occasionally, very occasionally, but it's never been one of my favorite drinks. My calendar has several stout drinks this fall, so I'm working my way through a 6 pack.

One is the famous black and tan: ale (I'm using Bud's American Ale) and stout (Guiness Extra Stout), in a perfect world layered on top of the ale. I'm not good at layering, so I just poured it in. My friend Bonnye said when she was in college her parents drank black and tans because it was 'cool'. OK ... you party-late-30-somethings.

I didn't get the point, or the coolness, of it, except that the ale cuts the heavy stout. Wikipedia, in a very good article, says that I shouldn't be using Guiness Extra Stout, so I'll try the black and tan again sometime with another kind.

Tonight I poured a chilled glass of stout with an ounce of gin. My calendar likes beer drinks like this one; they had some back in the spring. It wasn't bad actually (I used Bombay Sapphire). With a 'lighter' stout, or even the ale, the combination might go better. Tanqueray's Rangpur gin, with its lime and other flavors, would probably be successful too. I just had a (small) Milky Way bar, so no more stout tonight or I will be too.

Memories of WIld Youth

A quick, short post since I haven't been posting as often lately. My excuse this week is I have several recipes in my calendar calling for hard cider, stout, and ale in various combinations, and I'm trying to keep my calorie intake down to 2 bottles a night, which usually means one actual drink combination.

Last night I made what they call a 'snakebite' (I'm not sure why): equal parts ale and hard cider. The combination was better than I thought it'd be. It reminded me of when I was in my 20s and went to Munich a few times, and in the summer in the English Gardens they sell flagons of beer mixed with lemonade. It sounds ghastly, but it's good (or at least it was then). I don't remember what food they sold to go with it - pretzels and radishes, if it was like the Hofbrauhaus.

Anyway, this cider-ale combination reminded me of that. No radish needed to complete the memory.

Fall Appletini Festival

A friend was going on about the joys of appletinis a couple weekends ago when we went to the Bardstown Ky Bourbon Festival, so I decided to pick up a bottle of Apple Pucker (which is just a quasi sour apple-flavored schnapps) and try a theme and a few variations.

On the first one, I just winged it: some of the Sobieski vodka that I reviewed yesterday, with apple pucker 2 to 1, and a little lime juice. Good, but the lime juice, even though I used only half an ounce or so, made it a tad tart.

Second try was straight vodka and apple pucker, 2 to 1 again. Better than version no. 1, but a little bland and uninteresting.

Third try: version 2 with a splash of apple cider (from WalMart, but not bad as WalMart produce goes - and I rarely buy WalMart produce, or anything else not in a can or a box). This one worked better for me: the cider spiked the apple flavor, but I still got the sour apple from the pucker.

Version no. 4 was the recipe from my calendar for this weekend, and I didn't know the recipe was going to be for appletinis until after I started mixing these. Vodka (still Sobieski), pucker, lemon juice this time, and butterscotch schnapps. My friend was extolling his version made with Buttershots (which I didn't see in my local liqueur mart), but schnapps works just as well. I liked this one best. I'm a big butterscotch fan anyway, and it brings a nice sweetness to the drink. I'd skip the lemon juice; again, I don't think you need the tartness. Maybe a splash of the cider would make this one even better, or a sprinkle of cinnamon or allspice.

Version no. 5 was off the internet: raspberry vodka with apple pucker. Interesting, but just that. I wouldn't call this an appletini. Like my second attempt, it was bland and uninteresting.

Last, another version off the internet, your basic recipe but with a splash of cointreau instead of citrus. Maybe I should have used half a splash, but the cointreau overwhelms this one; I could hardly taste the apple pucker.

So, summing up, the best version was the one with vodka, apple pucker, lemon (if you want), and butterscotch schnapps. A good fall drink.

Sobieski Vodka

I haven't posted much this week because I've been busily and happily trying out a bottle of Sobieski vodka, generously provided by their marketing people here in the U.S. Sobieski is reportedly the leading premium brand in Poland, the birthplace of vodka. Boy, if Russians only knew - but then what would they get snookered on to while (wile? e coyote?) those long bitterly cold nights away?

Sobieski is reasonably priced; no Grey Goose or Belvedere prices here. It's made from rye and spring water. The name comes from a Polish king, Jan III Sobieski, who helped push the Turks back from the gates of Vienna in the late 1600s.

OK, end of history lesson. I tried it in just about every 'simple' vodka cocktail I could think of, drinks that wouldn't just use it to kick up 5 other ingredients: on the rocks with a twist, martini, thumper (with Tuaca; this just tasted like vanilla vodka), gimlet, vodka tonic, vodka stinger (this one was simple but good), a quasi-Cosmo but with raspberry liqueur (give me the cranberry version), kamikaze (not my favorite), and black, uh, Russian? Pole?, using Starbucks coffee liqueur (next time I'll stick with Kahlua - Starbucks is too strong for this drink; just like I do with their coffees, I had to add some cream: so I guess I had a white, uh, Polish Russian).

Sobieski is very, very smooth. Although it's 40 proof, I could drink 2 or 3 drinks made with it in an evening and not be significantly worse for wear, like I might be if I'd drunk an equal number of gin drinks with 2 oz of gin in each. (I checked my bottle of Bombay Sapphire; it's 47 proof). I had an appletini evening last night, which I'll report on later this weekend. Despite 4 (or was it 5?) versions made with Sobieski over the course of 6 hours or so, I wasn't feeling any ill effects.

You should drink responsibly, only drink 5 appletinis at home, don't drink and drive, don't let your dog taste it, etc. (There, legal disclosures and finger wagging covered.)

In short, I'd buy Sobieski regularly as my go-to vodka. It's a great value and a great vodka.

Champagne Sangria

Last night I made a champagne sangria recipe dating back to March from my calendar to take over to friends for our weekly Project Runway viewing party. Why didn't Heidi and Michael and Nina and Pinta and Santa Maria just flip a coin and kick one person off if they couldn't decide, instead of repeating their little stunt from last year and telling all 4 go home to sew for 6 months? But I digress.

The recipe called for kumquats muddled with turbinado sugar, Tuaca (the Italian vanilla-ish liqueur), and a broken up vanilla bean with champagne added at the last minute.

I made a couple itsy bitsy mistakes. The recipe said 'kumquat'. My brain saw 'kiwi'. I thought it was strange it said you can substitute tangerines. Why is a tangerine close to a kiwi? And you don't need 20 kiwis to get 2 cups sliced up. Anyway, I was stirring the champagne in when it hit me that a kiwi isn't a kumquat. I couldn't have found kumquats locally any time of the year anyway. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head what they even taste like, though I've had a few.

The second was that the recipe called for brut champagne, which I thought was what's been in the fridge for a couple weeks. But when I went to get it, I discovered I had a bottle of Asti. Oh, well, extra sweet with the sugar. And my vanilla bean was old - goof no. 2 1/2.

Despite being pretty sweet, I liked the sangria. The kiwi worked well with the champagne, despite the little black seeds floating around in it being a tad offsetting. I couldn't taste much vanilla, and I'm not sure how much a fresh vanilla bean would have helped in that regard. If I get to a Whole Foods and see a mound of kumquats and a mound of vanilla beans and a mound of brut champagne, I'll try it again sometime, but it's good with kiwis (and maybe a cut-up lemon or lime next time).

New Flavors

I finally nailed the elusive maraschino liqueur. I found a store in NYC that's willing to risk the wrath of Evan Bayh (sort of like the wrath of a pomeranian) and ship to Indiana, so I got 2 bottles of maraschino, a bottle of punt e mes for a recipe coming upthis fall, some lillet blanc (which I've found semi-locally, but since I was placing an order...), and creme de violette, for the many times I'll ever drink that. It sure is purple.

I wondered how they would ship bottles of liqueur. The company uses rectangular white styrofoam holders with bottle-shaped indentations. The creme de violette leaked just a little, but the packaging is remarkably inventive.

So I mixed up again a recipe from early in the year for a quasi-sidecar: brandy, maraschino, cointreau, and bitters. It's not my favorite sidecar, but you can definitely taste the maraschino - it's like the essence of a cherry imbues your cocktail, but you're not using use the real thing, like I usually don't.

The second drink I tried was my standard campari and gin (Bombay), but using punt e mes. As wikipedia correctly puts it, punt e mes sits between a sweet vermouth and campari. I could taste the bitter orange/quinquina in it, but it also tastes like 2/3 of the ingredients for a negroni. Just add gin. I order specifically campari and gin with lime instead of a negroni because I don't like the sweet vermouth.

So my concoction tasted like a negroni, not bad, but give me my campari and gin. A nice substitute for sweet vermouth when your cocktail needs just a little extra bite.

As a p.s.: last Wednesday evening I made a hot rum punch from my calendar to take over to friends to watch Project Runway: a whole bottle of gold rum, a bottle of brandy, a cup of sherry, 6, count 'em, 6 lemons zested and juiced, simple syrup, I don't know what all else. Boiling water.

This was the most lethal concoction of the year. (It needed more simple syrup to offset the lemons too.) I'm getting a reputation with my friends for making strong cocktails, and this surely set it in stone. I'd like to say I fell asleep on the couch (my own) later, but more accurately, I probably passed out. Whew!

Grapefruit Cocktails

Grapefruit juice is one of favorite juices. The last few days my calendar has had a couple recipes that call for it, so I saved them up for today and actually bought the real beast and juiced it, instead of buying a bottle of sugary pink stuff that's mostly apple juice at the Quickee Mart, like I usually do.

The first called for G juice, gin (I used Bombay), and Benedictine. This tasted nice, with lots of secret herbs and spices from the Benedictine and the gin. I would use maybe a tad less Benedictine next time (it called for half an ounce to 2 oz of G juice), but I wasn't complaining.

The second cocktail is G juice, a splash of grenadine, apricot nectar (available in the Hispanic section of your grocery most likely if you don't see it in the juices), and pear brandy. I used real pear brandy, "Black Forest", not the pear-flavored stuff.

This one is a wee bit on the nice but bland side. I got more of the aroma of the pear brandy than the actual taste. Absolut Pear might work better than the brandy in this (if I hadn't slugged down the rest of my freshly squeezed G juice, I'd be able to tell you; maybe I should make a Quickee Mart run). A good drink if you don't want to get too snookered before 2:00. That's p.m.

You Say Tuaca, I Say ...

Well, tuaca, I guess. I didn't realize till I brought the (small size) bottle home and read the label that it's an Italian liqueur. I thought it was Mexican. Tuaca, Damiana - who can remember.

According to wikipedia, legend has it that the recipe was created for Lorenzo the Magnificent. This is beginning to sound like an Antiques Roadshow provenance. It's still made in Tuscany, and the recipe includes citrus, brandy, and vanilla.

Vanilla was the first taste I got. It reminds me a lot of Licor 43, the Spanish liqueur, and Internet Cocktail Database lists Licor 43 as its first substitute if you're out of tuaca. The bar at Vincenzo's in Louisville that I reported on the other day had a large bottle, but I didn't get a chance to ask the ladies what they use it for. Getting guys drunk and tipping. But besides that?

The first drink I tried was a tuaca martini - gin and tuaca. I probably made a mistake pulling out the Tanqueray 10. It was just too herbal, and I couldn't taste much of the tuaca at all.

The second one is something called a Thumper, one of my favorite Disney characters: roughly 2 to 1 gin to tuaca. This time I used Bombay Sapphire. This cocktail played together much more nicely, and the vanilla melded well with the BS, a good blend of flavors.

I needed Godiva white chocolate liqueur for a drink today (it wasn't a big hit among my taste buds, so I won't be reporting on it). I'd just bought a bottle of the regular Godiva liqueur and didn't need another one taking up space in my liqueur cabinet, so I thought I'd get a mini-bottle, to go with my mini-bottles of Jaegermeister and Goldschlager. My local liqueur mart didn't have the white chocolate, but they had the caramel. Close enough.

I decided to try my hand at a concoction: Absolut Raspberry, a little of this Godiva for a chocolate-raspberry mind meld, and a splash of tuaca for some vanilla and citrus (though I'm not sure I've tasted the citrus in it yet).

This drink was only so-so. The Absolut predominated, the Godiva didn't bring that much chocolate to the party, and I only got a whiff of the tuaca. If I try it again, I'll use the regular Godiva and maybe pour half an ounce. Nice try though.

Before I put this posting to bed, I compared Licor 43 and tuaca. Licor is much sweeter and overwhelmingly vanilla. Tuaca has an obvious brandy base, with more bite, less vanilla (I still didn't get the citrus). I guess Lorenzo didn't want his guests to taste the arsenic.

Katie Didn't Have to Go to Haiti

My calendar of the month has been calling for more 'exotic' rums in the recipes lately: agricole, demerara, Barbancourt. Yesterday down in Louisville I found Barbancourt. The store had one aged 4 years and another aged 15. Being frugal and not wanting to pay $35 or so, I went for a bottle of the 4 year.

Rhum Barbancourt is from Haiti, manufactured by the company of the same name. It's made from sugar cane juice, not molasses, from cane grown on plantations owned by the company, and is double distilled.

The first recipe I tried calls for Barbancourt, grenadine, a splash of apricot brandy, a splash of orange curacoa, and an egg yolk. Yup, a yolk, not a white - the first recipe this year. I'm more comfortable making drinks with egg whites than with egg yolks, but why be a sissy, so I lived dangerously. (Actually, a little of the yolk froze to one of the ice cubes.)

It better than I thought it would be. It was pink, from the grenadine, and sweet, from everything else, and the yolk gave it body while not making it taste like an egg cream. Not a bad drink. I think Myers would have overpowered the other ingredients.

The second recipe, skipping ahead a couple weeks, was for a spiked cider: apple cider, raspberry syrup (found in the coffee syrup aisle), Barbancourt, whole cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamon, and grated orange peel. I didn't have ground cardamon (I think I do - somewhere) so I tossed in a few green pods. You let this just warm up, not come to a boil.

This was good too. Next time I'd use a little less of the raspberry syrup; it tended to stand out. I couldn't really taste the rum, so I might use more than an ounce per cup of cider. For my second cup, I fizzed some whipped cream on it per the recipe but skipped the cinnamon on top. Not bad either, but the drink's great without it.

A nice spiked cider for a fall evening - though it was in the low 80s here today.

On the Town, Dodging Golf Balls (or Golfers)

Last evening I found myself wandering downtown Louisville looking for a place for dinner with a friend visiting from Memphis.  The Ryder Cup is happening there this weekend, so you're dodging golf balls and golfers flying everywhere.


We were looking for a bistro, but the first place we came across was Vincenzo's, an Italian restaurant in the Humana building.  I took one look in the door and could tell it was too high end for me (I'm a bistro kind of guy), and I wasn't dressed for it, nor my pal (denim shorts and Crocs).  I was headed back out the door when a very pleasant waiter told him we could eat at the bar.  I still wasn't keen on the idea, but went along.

Vincenzo's has a beautiful marble bar  in the lobby.  A  talented pianist was playing behind us.  Anyone who knows "Have you Met Miss Jones" is my kind of pianist.  We were waited on by two pretty and friendly ladies behind the bar (I didn't get their names), one a short blonde in a striking blue dress, and a tall, thin black-haired young lady in black.  They didn't have much to do when we first got there and we chatted with them a bit, but when the golfers started ricocheting into the restaurant 20 minutes later, they got very busy.

While we were looking at the menu, my friend ordered a Tanqueray and tonic.  I asked for a campari with gin and a lime.  "That's my father's favorite drink," the blonde said.  Note to bartenders everywhere:  don't tell patrons of the opposite sex (or the same sex; they tip well) that a drink is one of your parents' favorite drinks.  But that's OK; I didn't mind.  I expect they don't get many orders for quasi-negronis. And the drink was really good.

A brief digression on the food:  the blonde told us that Vincenzo's is known for their veal and that it's very good.  I love veal, especially veal piccata, but wasn't in the mood last night.  I ended up ordering a spaghetti with South African lobster tail, asparagus spears, sun dried tomatoes, I don't know what all else.  My friend ordered a shrimp dish; his presentation was very nice.  The chef himself brought our entrees to us, which was very nice too.  Maybe Aaron Eckhart was in the kitchen singing Puccini and the chef needed to get away.

For an appetizer we shared a split of tortellini in a cream sauce and the special, which was the seashell tightly rolled-up pasta (I don't have a chart of pasta shapes at hand to remember what that one's called) in a tomato sauce.  He liked the tortellini so much that he ordered an entree-sized portion to take back to his hotel. 

How was the food?  Good.  The ambiance was better, but that's half of any good restaurant.  Our only complaint with both of our entrees (I didn't taste his) was that they were just a  bit bland.  I'm not saying Could We Get a Salt Shaker?, but a little lemon juice or herbs or something would have helped.  Not that I didn't eat all of mine.  (Though have you ever tried eating spaghetti with people looking over your shoulder?  It's hard to be graceful.)  Likewise with the appetizers:  the tortellini was great (though, honestly, how difficult is tortellini in cream sauce?), but the tomato-based pasta, though it had some subtle heat, needed an Emerilesque kicking up a mini-notch.  Pehaps a slight dusting of a hard, sharp Italian cheese would have done the trick.

The food was good, though, and even eating at the bar with mobs of golfers congregating in back of us as dinner progressed, Vincenzo's was a nice place and I'm glad I got dragged in.  For an after-dinner drink, my friend ordered a white Russian.  I asked the blonde her recommendation for an after-dinner drink: she said she likes a white Russian, or a chocolate martini (or maybe she said a coffee martini).  Neither one really appealed to me.  They had quite a collection of bourbons behind the bar, so I asked for a Woodford Reserve on the rocks with just a little water.  That hit the spot.

Listening to other orders as the golf crowd poured in (most dressed not much better than us; we really didn't need to worry - and I was wearing a coral-colored cashmere sweater that outclassed any polo shirt), it's interesting how mundane most of the drink orders were.  4 Bud Lites for one group.  A rum and (diet) coke for someone else.  One fellow asked for a gin and tonic and specified Tanqueray 10.  He knows what he's doing.  Towards the end of the evening they pulled out a bottle of Basil Hayden from somewhere.  I tasted that at the Bardstown Bourbon Festival a couple years ago and didn't particularly care for it; I'll have to give it another try sometime.  But, anyway, my ordering a campari and gin right off the bat (and in an Italian restaurant at that) was probably a welcome change from the usual order.  And reminded her of her dad.

In short:  a very nice evening at Vinzenzo's, great cocktails, good food, wonderful ambiance, and my friend picked up the check.  Woo hoo!


The Ugh Factor

Today, according to my cocktail a day calendar, is Talk like a Parrot Day. I would say that for many people around here every day is Talk like a Parrot Day, but that would be uncharitable.

The drink is a Yellow Parrot: equal parts apricot brandy, yellow Chartreuse, and Pernod (I used Ricard). I thought the combination sounded strange, and it tastes as weird as it looks. I braved 3 sips and then gave up on it. Maybe it tastes too much like real licorice with the sweetness of the brandy and the Chartreuse; that's one of my least favorite flavors, next to raw oysters.

So I shook up another recipe from a few days ago: Galliano, vodka (I used Citron), and pineapple juice. I like Galliano in some cocktails; you've read (and if not, why not?) my musings on how pineapple juice tends to take over a drink.

This was OK, but nothing special: I could taste mainly the pineapple juice, but the Galliano came through. I've had better Galliano cocktails.

One from a few more days ago substituted OJ for the pineapple juice and added light rum (I used 10 Cane) to the vodka and Galliano. This one looked funky but it tasted good. The OJ doesn't overpower everything like pineapple juice does, and a little extra alcohol, in the rum, never hurts. This would make a nice brunch drink, or early evening cocktail.

Maybe Another Vodka Stinger after All

The recipes in my calendar haven't been exciting the last few days, so I continued my exploration of the wonderful world of stingers. Bumble bees, hornets, yellow jackets, carpenter bees ...

The next one that I made after my last batch was a rum stinger. I used Tommy Bahama white rum. The drink was OK, nothing special - it tastes like fortified creme de menthe. You don't get much from the rum except the added kick. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Next one was a brandy stinger, which I made with Korbel. This was the best of the bunch. I didn't have much hope after my disappointment with the Courvoisier, but this cocktail tastes really smooth. The brandy and the creme de menthe blend perfectly. I'd make this one again - and how often do I say that?

Last, the ubiquitous vodka stinger. But which one to use? I figured Absolut Raspberry probably wouldn't be too great. I haven't done much with my bottle of Absolut Vanilla since I bought it a few months ago, so I pulled it out of the back of the freezer.

This one is surprisingly good: it tastes like a spiked mint milkshake. If this tastes like licking the center of a mint Oreo, I wondered how it'd be with chocolate.

I pulled out my Godiva, and shook up half ounce of it and creme de menthe and an ounce and a half of Absolut Vanilla. Good, but maybe not as good as I'd hoped. Upping the Godiva to 3/4 ounce or even an ounce (maybe the Absolut up a little smidge too) would make it a more chocolately cocktail. A nice drink after dinner.

And now I'm all stingered out.

Not Another Vodka Stinger

I've been getting my cocktail ideas from TV lately. Most recently, on HBO's new vampire and rough sex show True Blood Sunday night, a middle-aged lady sitting at the local redneck Louisiana bar (is that redundant?) (just kidding! cancel the hate e-mails, please; one of my best pals is from Morgan City, before the remains of it blew up here) orders a stinger made with cognac.

Huh? That's what I said too. I got to thinking, has my calendar has a stinger yet this year? I didn't go through the last 9 months, but I flipped through the pages through March and I didn't see one. No Tom Collins, no stingers. What is the author thinking? She goes for the exotic ingredients drinks.

A stinger, of course, is just a base liquor with white creme de menthe. Mint - white or green - isn't my favorite liquor flavor, but I figured I'd give a few versions a whirl.

I screwed up the first one, using Jim Beam Black, bitters, and creme de menthe - supposedly. I accidentally grabbed the white creme de cacao bottle instead. I didn't think this tasted very minty. But it wasn't bad. The combination of bourbon and creme de cacao may sound weird, but it was good.

So, option 2, made with the right stuff, was Bombay Sapphire and mint. I didn't hate it after 2 sips and I drank it all, but I wouldn't make it a usual.

Option 3 was made with Jose Cuervo. This was my favorite of the afternoon; I was surprised that the mint-tequilla combination worked so well. I bet it would work with mezcal too.

Last, staggering to the cocktail shaker, was one with cognac (I used Courvoisier), as seen on TV. This was my least favorite; it was pretty bland. But I've had this bottle of Courvoisier for a long time, so it may have oxidized or whatever cognac does when it doesn't age gracefully.

I'd like to try a rum or a brandy stinger, and of course a vodka in honor of Elaine Stritch, but those will have to wait for a slow day in my calendar.