Between the Sheets

One of the drinks for yesterday was a "Guggenheim", which my calendar describes as a variation of the Between the Sheets cocktail. It's a simple recipe, the kind I like: equal parts gin, brandy, and cointreau. The first sip or so, I wasn't sure I'd make it to the bottom of the glass. The taste just didn't do it for me. But as I sipped a little more, it started to grow on me as the taste of the cointreau came through. Needless to say, I made it to the bottom.

I decided tonight to try the original, the Sex and the Country Between the Sheets. Same recipe except for light rum instead of gin and a little lemon juice. I was looking at other recipes for it online: it's interesting how recipes for the same drink vary: equal part lemon juice here, other tweaks of proportions there. One site suggested substituting a fruit brandy, which probably would bring a little more flavor.

In the end, I don't like the rum version much better than the gin, though that didn't stop me from drinking all of it. Can't let the cointreau go to waste.

It was a lot better than the other drink yesterday: Irish creme liqueur with lime juice, let it curdle, down it in one gulp. Silly me, I followed my usual philosophy that more is better and used 2 ounces of the Irish creme instead of 1. You get a lot of limey tasting curdled creme product. Like a jello shot without the jello. At least no jello went to waste.

En Garde, Mort

Today is National Kaluha Day, according to my calendar, another soon-to-be Hallmark holiday sponsored by the makers for Kaluha. Scratch and sniff, or maybe lick, cards for adults 21 and older.

The drink is a Kaluha Toreador: brandy, Kaluha, and an egg white. Raw. Imbibe at your own risk. If you don't see a new posting here in the next few days, send help. The dogs will be licking SOS on the windows.

I think this is my first cocktail with egg white, though I've seen other recipes over the years. I'm not sure what it brings to the party, besides protein and the threat of lingering death. The drink isn't bad though. Sort of tastes like a Brandy Alexander made with egg.

I separate eggs all the time (well, not all the time, but often enough) a la Ina Garten, with my hands, and today of all times I got some yolk in the white. A teaspoon got most of it out. Did I put the yolk in the fridge to use later? No. Did the dogs get it? No. Are there starving canines in China? Bite me.

So what would taste good with this? Something deep fried, like crab balls or jalapeno shooters. Not chips or nuts, though maybe smoked almonds. If you want to salute the fine makers of Kaluha, it's not a bad drink, and easy enough, for a chilly February evening. Just make sure your will's in order first.

Dust Off That Turkey & Try Again

(Actually it was really a potato pancake that Julia Child dropped - on the table, not the floor - and dusted off. But did she remember to take out the giblets?)

The other day I reported my attempt at mixing a gimlet, favorite drink of Julie Powell as she reports in her memoir on cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of Food No Sane Person Would Want to Eat. My verdict, in a word, was Yuck. (The gimlet, as well as the food.)

I used straight lime juice with vodka, no sweetener. You might be able to make a decent ceviche with it, but it was pretty undrinkable. Then I read that Helen Mirren drinks vodka gimlets, described as a "very English drink," so I figured, might I be wrong? Evolution has no doubt selected me and my descendants for extinction since we're carrying this Maybe I'm Wrong gene.

So on Tuesday I located a bottle of Rose's lime juice. It wasn't easy. You'd think they'd have it in every grocery store next to the grenadine or the V8, but not around here. We have russet potatoes wrapped in cellophane and sold as 'microwave ready.' Tuesday evening I decided to do as English queens and French chefs do, and give the gimlet another chance, this time using Rose's.

On my first attempt I used vodka. My verdict this time: well, not quite yuck, but close. It's certainly an austere drink. But the lime and vodka together just don't work for me (I drank it neat, not on the rocks). If I'm going to drink a vodka straight up, the citrus will have to be a lemon twist. (And the booze a little higher end than Smirnoff.)

On my second attempt I used gin. Verdict: I actually liked it less than the vodka version. I thought the junipery gin would go well with the lime, but the gimlet seemed bitter or astringent. Maybe I needed a pickled onion in it. Isn't that what people float in gimlets? Or a cornichon? Capers?

So I'll respectfully leave Ms. Powell and Queen Mirren to their favorite drink, and continue on my quest to discover mine. I've gotta come up with something better than 2% milk with popcorn.

Banamarama

Not to be confused with Barack Obama.

I was out desperately looking for Rose's lime juice this afternoon (more on the reason for that tomorrow), and while I was in my neighborhood liquor emporium - which had it in 2 sizes; shame on you, WalMart, who didn't have it at all - I spied a bottle of Bols creme de banana. I'd looked ahead in my calendar and knew I had a drink upcoming that calls for that, so I bought that too. Banana liqueur and lime juice; the clerk must have thought I was screwy. The bottle is so big it'll last me till I'm 80. But I'm betting I can make a great banana split with vanilla ice cream, this, my strawberry liqueur, and creme de cacao.

Anyway, over the last couple months when I've been buying a new alcoholic distillation that I've never had before, or not in the last 20 years (yes, since at my mother's breast) (21 years, that's right), I've slugged a wee bit to see what it tastes like straight up. Creme de banana tastes like, well, like something that's had banana flavoring added. I don't really get the soul of the banana when I suck it down. But I'm sure it'll be great mixed with other soulless liqueurs.

Looking at the ingredients on the side of the bottle (caramel, coloring, no bananas listed), I found a recipe for a Slippery Banana. I won't make any questionable comments about that except to cock an eyebrow. It's easy and calls for large quantities of the ingredients, none of this 3/4 ounce stuff: 2 ounces tequila, 2 ounces banana liqueur, 2 ounces Rose's (lucky me to have bought both at the same time), blended with ice.

Verdict: it tastes like sort of a banana margarita, minus the salt on the rim of the glass. I'm not a big alcohol and crushed ice fan, but now I know that my blender does a good job of manhandling a slippery banana. It's a right-handed blender. And, since Starbux is closed for 3 hours tonight to teach their staff how to push the buttons on the coffee machines, I'll need this to make it through to bedtime.

Let No Expensive Liquor Go to Waste

Today's recipe is a non-alcoholic concoction with lots of fresh fruit. Since this goes against the very raison d'etre of this blog, we'll leave that to some summer Saturday when I have a hangover.

Instead, I decided to try a second experiment in mixology with my bright, new, shiny, expensive silver Patron tequila before I stick it in the liquor closet. With all the stuff I'm having to buy for this project, soon I won't have room for the clothes. I'd decided over the weekend to leave my bartender's guide out for occasions just like this when I feel the urge to explore Beyond the Calendar. Sounds sort of C. S. Lewisish, doesn't it?

There's any number of tequila drinks, but since I hadn't gotten much of a sense of the Patron from my pousse-cafe (which for some reason makes me think of "cat-synonym drink" - or maybe cat-synonym coffee; my boys are giving me the evil eye, if not the middle claw, since they're declawed), I wanted one that would show off the taste of the tequila and would prove I'm not a cat-synonym.

So I decided to go with a Tequila sour: tequila, lemon juice, and simple syrup. A margarita without the cointreau. I'd juiced my two surviving lemons earlier this week, so I have a supply of lemon juice to take up space in the fridge for at least a few more days along with my supplies of lime juice and simple syrup.

The sour didn't bowl me over. What else could I try? I'm not big on shots - those seem awfully frat boy to me, though if a bunch of frat boys my age started buying me rounds of shots, I probably wouldn't turn them down - so I didn't want to give a straight-up tequila shot a try.

I have a dusty bottle of Cuervo Especial that's had maybe two drinks made with it in the five or six years that it's been attracting dust mites - at least they've been enjoying it - so I decided to see what the difference would be, if any, if I mixed the sour with it.

Verdict: I liked this one better. It didn't seem as sharp and even a little sweeter, though I didn't use more simple syrup. In the future, if I'm in the mood for a sour, I think I'll stick with a whiskey one, though. Moral of today's exercise: cheaper is sometimes better, and you shouldn't let perfectly good liquor gather dust. See, I am learning something this year. Info on treatments for cirrhosis of the liver too.

Mexican Hat Dance

My calendar has 2 recipes for this weekend, the first time thus far this year, I think. Yesterday's was in honor of the Tootsie Roll. Today's is in honor of Mexican Flag Day. What a juxtaposition.

Today's was also my first attempt at a pousse-cafe. I believe it also marks my first time drinking one. In all my years sitting at Chicago bars, I don't think I ever drank one. Budweisers are cheaper.

According to wikipedia, pousse-cafe means "it pushes down the coffee." OK. Whatever. Like a French press? Or the cognac afterwards?

The Mexican flag is a tricolor thing: vertical green, white, and red stripes, with an eagle eating a snake in the middle of the white stripe. It's a long story, or legend, actually.

The drink makes a stab at duplicating the colors. Fortunately no stab at duplicating the eagle or the snake. Still-beating cobra heart is a Tony Bourdain thing. Grenadine first for the red; green creme de menthe for the green; and silver tequila for the white. I've had a bottle of regular tequila forever, but it isn't the right color unless some unhappy fellow pissed on the flag on his way over the border, so I found a bottle of Patron on sale at CVS. I have both a small and a large bottle of creme de menthe - I don't remember why, but I sure wasn't about to buy another, green, one - so I dug out the little teardrop bottles of food coloring. Two squirts, and voila, green creme de menthe.

The alcohol didn't go in in the right order, but I figured the recipe writer knew from experience that the tequila needed to go last for everything to work. Now, a small enough glass to whip up this trifle in. I don't have any juice glasses. My usual glassware is too big. Ah, up on an upper shelf, a miniature A&W root beer mug. Mom found it in her basement and was convinced it's yet another priceless antique. I don't know about that, but it's just the right size. I wonder if you can make a pousse-cafe with A&W? (My favorite root beer since I was a little guy.)

So I pour in a tablespoon of grenadine. Then the food coloring tinkered-with creme de menthe. I was supposed to pour it over a bar spoon to get it to 'float'. I actually used a bar spoon for authenticity. I forgot that my tablespoon measuring mini-cup was magnetized, which created a momentary issue. No yelling or animals diving for sanctuary. But that worked pretty well; the green didn't blend with the red. I could see two layers. Then the tequila on top, avoiding touching the spoon with the measuring thing. Well, the layers didn't settle out quite as distinct from one another, but I could see three, not one big (or small) murky mess.

Downed in one gulp. How was it? I hardly tasted the tequila. For $20 I should taste something. I'm not a big mint taste fan, so I was glad the grenadine went down last. Would I make it again? Ah, probably not. But wikipedia has a recipe that calls for 6, if I ever convince myself to fork out $100 for those two bottles of Chartreuse I still need for my January 3rd drink.

Barack & Me, Xeroxing It In

I got to thinking a few weeks ago: Did I swipe the name of this blog--My Year of Drinking Heavily--from the subtitle of Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously? I was aware of the book pre-January 1st, 2008. I'm not sure I knew at that point what the subtitle was, though.

So I figured maybe I'd read the book, and early this week I bought a "like new" used copy on amazon. No use further enriching Ms. Powell. Today a bubble envelope with no return address arrived in the mail. Is it ticking? What did I buy this time and forget I bought? Lo and behold, the paperback edition, actually like new, and a smiley face inked in on the packing slip.

I dipped into it after lunch (or what passed as lunch: ground turkey with garlic and curry powder, since we're talking about food). Just a few pages, said I. About 30 minutes ago, I stepped out of the end of it, pg. 305 or thereabouts, sopping wet after swimming the Verrazano Narrows (though she lives in Queens; anyway).

It certainly wasn't what I expected, but I couldn't put it down. Ms. Powell is a brilliant writer. I broke out laughing several times, to the dogs' wary glances. And she loathes George W. Bush in no uncertain terms, so she is a genuinely wonderful human being too. (There's a great line about "plutocrats.")

But did I swipe my blog title from her? While checking slate.com for the latest Oscar buzz after I finished reading the book, I noticed a sidebar advertising A. J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically. And that's when I remembered: I swiped my title from Mr. Jacobs, not Ms. Powell. I'd heard him interviewed on NPR late last year. The same day or shortly thereafter, my minister mentioned the book in his homily. A great believer in signs and omens and picking up pennies, I took that as a sign. I didn't know of what. But when I bought my now famous cocktail of the day calendar, the title of Jacobs' book came to mind, and the mental Xerox machine kicked into gear.

Back to Ms. Powell for a minute. She and her husband (long suffering doesn't need to be said, but my dogs don't say the same thing) frequently ordered bacon and jalapeno pizzas from Dominos when they needed a break from homemade food with even more cholesterol. You can tell the Powells are from Texas. I'm a Dominos fan too (no Papa John's for me, thanks), and I like bacon on pizza, but I'd never tried it with jalapenos. So I ordered one tonight (with onions as my 3rd ingredient; I wasn't going to be kissing anybody). Not bad, but I like banana peppers and provolone better.

On the other hand, over the course of The Project (sounds like a Tom Cruise thing) she and her husband frequently drank vodka gimlets. So I tried one of those (admittedly with lime juice, no Rose's at hand, and Smirnoff, not her Stoli). Yuck! And I've rarely said that about a cocktail thus far this year. I hope they use Rose's, or at least a little sugar, though even that still seems like just an attempt to prevent scurvy and get a buzz at the same time. Stick to cooking, lady, Mr. Jacobs can stick to whatever he does biblically or missionarily, and I'll hasten me back to my cocktail shakery.

And 2 Drinks for Aloysius

So, after the Tootsie Roll got me in the mood for a sweet chocolate boozy buzz, I mixed up a Brandy Alexander. This time I used the E&J I'd bought the other day instead of the Courvoisier along with dark creme de cacao. But I didn't have any cream or half and half. The cats' morning evaporated milk didn't sound appealing. However, I'd just bought a bottle of Irish cream liqueur for a recipe next week. That's got cream in it; you even have to keep it in the fridge by the grenadine. And, boy, it's good! Where's it been all my life? More on my usual antipathy to things Irish another day.

Verdict: good. More mellow than when you make Alexanders with Courvoisier. And now the cream has liquor in it too. I must confess, I had to look up the proportions on wikipedia (too many drinks lately to remember how much of what each one calls for): equal brandy and creme de cacao, half that much cream, but now that the cream has buzz potential, I just used equal parts of everything.

While looking up the recipe, I read that the Brandy Alexander is the descendant of the Alexander, a similar drink but made with gin and clear creme de cacao. I wasn't sure how well juniper and chocolate go together, but, hey, I'm up to donating my taste buds to science. I was also up to a few crackers left over from the Wisconsin primary results the other night to soak up some alcohol. I'm out of Readi-Whip.

Verdict on the gin Alexander: surprisingly good. I liked it better than the brandy version. It's really smooth and not overwhelmingly sweet or chocolaty. I wonder how a little creme de menthe would go with it? Three drinks are my limit, so that's it for this afternoon. The third drink's always the best. But only if you're not extending the run to five or six.

Tootsie after Dustin'

The Tootsie Roll was invented in February many moons ago, according to today's calendar. I've always liked Tootsie Rolls for just the pure chocolate taste. Almond Joys have too much plant matter; same with Snickers. My brother-in-law goes for Tootsie Rolls like me. People confuse us on looks too. It's a Freudian thing for my sister.

The Tootsie Roll shooter is equal parts vodka (no funny flavors), creme de cacao, and orange juice. Here again, my calendar calls for minuscule quantities, half an ounce of each (in other words, a tablespoon). What fun is that? I upgraded to a 3/4 ounce of each, and the final product didn't overflow my shot glass.

And how was the final product? Not bad, though I've never noticed that Tootsie Rolls taste orangey. If I were going for a chocolate drink, I'd mix up a brandy Alexander instead. Which sounds like a good idea right now, actually. How else do you make it through an icy February Saturday afternoon? Besides sex. Or cleaning house.

Postscript: I see from wikipedia that Tootsie Rolls do contain orange extract. Who knew?

Sting in the Tail

Today's drink, another funny choice for a winter drink, is the Scorpion, a Mai Tai-type drink made popular in the middle of the last century when Americans went in for all things Polynesian and sipped them out of big communal bowls with flowers floating on top. Obviously your local health boards wouldn't go for that kind of thing today, nor would most germ-o-phobes like some people I know. Germs build up your body's resistance to disease. Embrace them.

I ate at a Kon-Tiki, in Kansas City, of all places, back in my college days. I don't remember much about it (not because of the quantity of alcohol consumed), except for the tropical decor and some vague memories of food on a stick. I may have been in the one in the Palmer House (I think) in Chicago one time, but I have even fewer memories of it. Give me good solid German braised pork anyday.

I wonder why Polynesian themed restaurants are on the outs these days. Is it because Hawaii is only a plane ride away from LA, so you can eat at the real thing? Or were those restaurants yet more mid-century kitsch? Kitsch never seems to go out of style, though; it always comes back to scare you sometime.

Anyway, this recipe calls for both rum and brandy (interesting how those go together in so many recipes), orange juice, lemon juice, and orgeat syrup. With my aversion to living things in my drinks, I skipped the pineapple spear and maraschino cherry, not to mention the edible flower. It's awfully lemony to my taste; I wonder if lime would go better in it. But I also used the cheap Bacardi stuff, so a gin with more kick (flavor, not alcohol content) might help balance out the lemon better.

I didn't have a clue what orgeat syrup is, and didn't want to run out and buy a bottle just for this, if I could even find it locally, since I'm still hunting for the elusive Parfait Amour. In more ways than one. According to wikipedia, it's a syrup made from almonds usually used in these Polynesian drinks. I found a recipe for it, but I didn't want to spend the evening soaking almonds and straining out all the oils.

Somewhere online I found a drink recipe that says you can replace orgeat syrup with 2 teaspoons of simple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract, so that's what I did. (Not that I could taste the almond through all the citrus.) The long and involved orgeat recipe called for orange flower water too. For some strange reason I have a small bottle in the fridge (it smells really good), so I put in a little of that too. The citrus also knocks out that flavor.

If I stumble across orgeat somewhere, I may pick some up along with a bottle of better rum and try this again. Not a bad drink, though certainly not ideal on an icy February afternoon if you're not chowing down on meat on a stick. And I don't mean corn dogs.

Is That a Butterfly in February?

Today's cocktail in my calendar is a New Yorker. A lot of these drinks seem to have some connection to New York. I'd drink a lot if I lived there too, I guess, though I'm doing pretty well here several leagues away. Do Woody Allen's characters drink cocktails? I've seen a lot of his movies but couldn't tell you off the top of my head if Geraldine Page downs one before she walks into the ocean in Interiors. I guess his characters just take pills.

The ingredients for this one are simple: bourbon, lime juice, a little sugar, a dash of grenadine. It's harder to dash grenadine than it is bitters, since the bottle doesn't have a dasher top, so I just poured some into the cap. But you don't have to shake this cocktail, just stir. You're supposed to twist an orange peel and a lemon peel over the drink, but I try to avoid sharp objects, or pills.

Verdict: I used Maker's Mark, and it's awfully limey, almost a bourbon sour. A note says if you use blended whiskey instead of bourbon, you get a New York. No -er, so I guess that's the feminine New York form, or maybe the neuter. I have a several-year-old bottle of Canadian Club that I've never known what to do with, so I dusted it off and pried off the cap.

Verdict #2: I liked the blended whiskey version better. Not so citrusy, though I used a tad more sugar, so that may have made a difference. What else is there to do on a cold and snowy February afternoon than to have a third? This time I used a little more grenadine in it. Even better. Of course, it was my third drink. The grenadine adds a nick syrupy undertone. Not a bad cocktail (the blended whiskey version). One of Woody's characters should try one.

Do the Metropolitan

Is it a dance? Is it a museum? (well, yeah, actually) Is it what metrosexuals drink? (What do they drink? Microbrews?) Is it a Brooklyn version of the Cosmopolitan?

Today's cocktail in my calendar is the mysterious metropolitan, which seems to be nothing more or less than a very sweet Manhattan made with brandy. My recipe calls for equal parts brandy and sweet vermouth, a little simple syrup (which I cooked up the other day to have on hand for just such occasions), and a couple firm wrists of bitters.

I like it. I'm not big on sweet cocktails, and with an ounce and a half of sweet vermouth plus simple syrup this registers sweet on the insulin scale, but this tastes pretty good. As you also know, I'm not big on fruit or other formerly living things in my drinks, but a cherry might actually go good in this.

I saw this one coming (well, I have to look ahead to plan my trips to the liquor store), and I figured I needed a less pricey brandy than my old dusty bottle of Courvoisier for recipes calling for brandy. So while buying cat grub at Kroger tonight, I picked up a bottle of E&J. "Rare Blend". At $9.99, how rare can it be?

It's also "Aged in the finest white oak barrels." You can say that about most of the local Lutherans. My church (not Lutheran) invested in a lot of oak when they remodeled, and it's too light and, well, blah for me. Give me the dark Gothic cathedrals with flickering candles and aged dames in shawls saying the rosary any day.

But, all jabs at other religions aside, I think the E&J goes better than the pricey cognac for run-of-the-mill brandy cocktails like the metropolitan. Next weekend I'll have to play Anthony Blanche and line up a row of brandy Alexanders and see if I'm right. Aloysius will drink one with me, if not Charles Flyte.

Another Hallmark Day

Today is another industry holiday, National Chocolate Mint Day. I'm waiting for National Dog Food Day, though I hope there's not a cocktail recipe for it.

Today's recipe is another easy one: equal parts white créme de cacao, créme de menthe, and Kahlúa. 3/4 of an ounce of each, and you know my feelings on quantities of alcohol less than an ounce.

I got to thinking, surely there's a reason so many recipes call for 3/4 of an ounce. My jigger has an ounce on one side and 2 ounces on the other. But don't I have another jigger somewhere? Digging through the dusty glassware, sure enough, there it is: 3/4 ounce on one side, an ounce and a half on the other. So that's the jigger used by chinzy bars that tick me off because they wave the bottle over the glass. I'll stick with my ounce/2 ounce one. Or just an 1/8 cup measuring cup (= 1 ounce; or 2 tablespoons; or 6 teaspoons; or just a heavy hand).

Verdict on the drink: OK, another sweet chocolaty cocktail. You can't really taste the coffee in the Kahlúa, but that's not the point anyway. Not a bad Valentine's Day cocktail, 5 days late if you were waiting for the jewelry to go on sale.

Speaking of amour, an aside: I'm having the damnest time finding Parfait amour for a couple of the recipes. Liquor stores around here have every créme de this and de that that I can think of, and all those awful looking Pucker bottles of colored goo, but not this. Too purple maybe? I'm planning to go to Chicago soon; I'll have to take a list of potions I need that are too hot to handle out here in the hinterlands of the Midwest.

National Drink Wine Day

My calendar informs me that today is National Drink Wine Day. I wonder which industry thought that up. Every day is National Drink Beer Day. Hallmark doesn't have cards yet, but I'm sure they're working on maudlin poems for it. What rhymes with shiraz?

The cocktail of the day is a red wine cooler: red wine, lemon lime soda, and a lemon twist. the recipe calls for a dry red wine. I know what to buy for a dry white, but what's a dry red? Not a pink Zin, which is what my sister thinks of as a red wine. Most wines of any color sold around here are pretty sweet to my taste. My personal wine adviser Kim suggested a pinot noir, so I went with that as the path of least resistance.

This calendar has recipes for some screwy stuff in the middle of winter, drinks like one back at the first of January that called for fresh peaches and this one that I'd think of as summer drinks. Cooler = summer; I'm cool enough saving on the gas bill.

How was it? A good wine doesn't need to be mixed with Sprite. Winter or summer. Though I have drunk beer with lemonade in Munich on a hot summer day, but I was young then. I tried a second glass, this time eyeballing the proportions. My bottle of Cointreau was still sitting out from the other day, so I stirred in a capful. Not bad, sort of an easy sangria. This batch might not be bad on a June afternoon, though maybe something a little lighter than a pinot noir (a real Zin?) might be better. Maybe warming it up would make it a winter drink. But that would use gas. Drink it wearing a sweater.

Rye in Your Eye

A postscript to my posting yesterday. I didn't drink all 5 ounces of that High Hat cocktail. I'd drunk the Income Tax cocktail right before it, and after drinking about 2/3 of the High Hat, I was getting a bit too buzzed for my liking, so I kitchen sinked it.

I usually process alcohol pretty efficiently, but I'd only had a little popcorn for a Sunday night supper. So it's not like I was drinking on a full stomach. I tried the Readi-Whip trick that I told you about a few posts ago; that took a bit of the buzz off. Still no one's fingers etc. to lick it off though.

I got to wondering: what exactly is in this old bottle of Jim Beam rye that I mixed it with? (the High Hat, not the Readi-Whip) It's not something you see as often as, say, a bottle of Jack or Maker's Mark or even Glenlivet. In my mind, buzzing or not, I think of it as something you'd find in a dark woody men's club bar, or maybe something being held by a former denizen of one of said places looking up at you from his sprawl in front of a dumpster in front of the townhouse that his wife got in the divorce.

Wikipedia says that rye is the original American whiskey made in the Northeastern states and pretty much disappeared at Prohibition. Bourbon is a Jimmy or Jackie Come Lately. Rye supposedly makes a drier cocktail, supposedly is better for drinks like a Manhattan, and supposedly has a more peppery taste than bourbon. I didn't get a pepper taste, though the High Hat did seem pretty dry (I suppose). And it's said to be not as sweet as bourbon. I'll agree with that.

I think I'll continue to use Maker's Mark for my occasional Manhattan though. Back the bottle of rye goes into the liquor cabinet until the magic calendar summons it out again.

Exploring

My drink of the day calendar only has drink of the weekends for Saturdays and Sundays. Since I already mixed the one for this weekend, the chocolate almond thing yesterday, I'm without a new recipe for tonight. I still have about 10 recipes to catch up on, but the only one/s I have the ingredients for is/are the bloody Mary, and that's not a Sunday evening drink.

I have 2 bartender's guides, one a slim quasi hardbound, the other a thicker paperback, so I pulled those out and dusted them off and started looking for galaxies as yet unknown to explore, or at least a wormhole to get me where I want to go.

Last Wednesday I did my taxes, electronically for the first time ever and the earliest by months in many a year. Yes, I'm getting a refund (I hope). I'm not sure if doing them electronically was more accurate, since I file Schedule C and depreciation forms and all that dreck, but it sure was easier. If it costs me a few more bucks in taxes, it was worth it, and worth not having to deal with accountants.

Anyway, I found a drink called the 'income tax' in both books, so I figured it had to be somewhat 'standard.' Gin, sweet and dry vermouth, orange juice, and a couple dashes of bitters. A teaspoon each of the vermouths and juice. What's the use of drinking alcohol if you have to mess with quantities like a 3/4 of an ounce or a teaspoon? Or with pieces of fruit. For that matter, fruit juice or purée in general besides oranges, limes, and lemons?

Anyway, it was OK, not something I'd drink every night. It made such a tiny concoction you could almost drink it as a shot. The bitters are what stood out. It was almost like drinking mincemeat. I must confess, I'm one of the 3 people in the world who like mincemeat pies. Though I loathe fruitcake, of which my mom used to bake many every Christmas, so I guess that's my redeeming quality.

As I said, it made only a shot-size drink, so I went looking for something more substantial. Close to the I's are the H's (Cocktail Monster will be making an appearance soon), and I found something called a High Hat. Isn't that part of a percussion set? Rye, cherry Heering, and lemon juice. Four ounces of rye, no less! My kind of drink, a whole half cup of booze. I had the bottle of cherry brandy from the sling the other day, so I used that. The bitters were still sitting on the counter, so I figured a couple firm wrists of those might be good here too.

Verdict: sort of a rye sidecar with cherry brandy, but it isn't bad. As you know, I'm not big on alcohol and ice cubes cohabitating, but I'll make an exception here; it works. After I'm done slugging this down, I'm not sure how many of my brain cells will be.

Reverting to Childhood

Or at least the college years.

The first bottle of liquor I ever bought at age 21 (I was a late bloomer) was a bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream, which I hid in the closet of my room at the Southern Baptist college I went to. Most other students didn't bother to hide theirs. We could play cards and dance though. I don't remember now if I drank it neat or over ice, but I guess it must have been straight up since we didn't have an ice machine in the dorm.

Today is National Almond Day, according to my calendar, and the drink du jour is a Chocolate Almond Cocktail: equal parts Harvey's, dark creme de cacao, and Amaretto. The silly recipe called for 3/4 ounce of each, shaken and strained. Why not just say an ounce and make it easy? The cap on my shaker is about an ounce; I usually use it.

I'm not a big almond flavoring fan, though I like to eat almonds, especially coated with lots of faux-smoke flavoring or other chemicals that offset almonds' alleged wonder benefits for my arteries or neurons or whatever. But I've always liked Amaretto for some strange reason, especially in coffee.

The drink wasn't as cloyingly sweet and chocolatey as I was expecting, though it was pretty sweet. I seemed to pick up a caramel taste from somewhere; I'm a big caramel fan. It'd be OK as an after-dinner drink with dessert, but I wouldn't mix one up as a get-me-where-I-want-to-go drink unless I had a vial of insulin sitting nearby. They say dessert wines should be sweeter than the dessert, and this drink would sure be as sweet as or sweeter than anything I'd ever order.

I hadn't gotten a sufficient buzz from it (hey, it's Saturday afternoon), so I decided to pour some Harvey's over ice and see if I like as much now as I did, uh, well, some odd years ago. Alas, the love affair is gone. It really didn't do that much for me. My taste buds have gotten jaded. Or else I have more mature tastes in alcohol now, but who wants to be mature?

The Remains of Yesterday

Yesterday, Valentine's Day, called for two more champagne-based drinks: one with raspberries and one with creme de peche (peach), passion fruit purée, and aged rum. I had the raspberries; I don't tend to have passion fruit sitting around. Remember the absence of a Whole Foods next door.

Since this isn't raspberry season, they're actually thawed Kroger berries. The recipe called for only 2/3 of an ounce. That's hardly worth the effort. But I figured any extra puree could be tossed back in with the other mushy berries.

Verdict: the drink was OK, a good breakfast drink, or maybe an aperitif. I still had some champagne left, which shouldn't be allowed to go to waste, so I skipped ahead a week or two to something called Blue Champagne. This called for gin or vodka, a little blue curacao, a splash of triple sec, and some lemon juice, topped with champagne. I used the gin, since I figured it would bring more flavor to the party than plain vodka.

Verdict: not as good as the French 75 yesterday, which also used champagne. It went down better as I got down to the triple sec and blue curacao and things got sweeter.

Alas, I had a little champagne left, and there aren't anymore champagne recipes for awhile. I guess winter must be champagne season. So I improvised. I have a big bottle of strawberry liqueur bought for some drink a few weeks ago, so I put a little in a flute, spritzed it with a squeeze of lemon, and topped it with champagne. I liked this one best, though the French kiss was a close second.

After downing 3 bottles of champagne since the first of the year, I've gotta say, the allure of champagne still escapes me. I'm not drinking good stuff, so maybe therein lies all the difference. Or maybe it's because I'm not drinking it with food. Prosecco and Spanish cava are more to my liking. Next time I have a champagne cocktail recipe, I'll drink it with at least a cracker nearby or a hunk of cheese and see how I like it then.

Sekt or Sex

What better day for champagne than Valentine's Day? Even if it is Korbel from Kroger? I was at a Kroger subsidiary this noon, and it's amazing how many guys were buying flowers. One 20-something was handing a single rose to the cashier. Better than nuttin', I guess.

The recipe for yesterday is called "American Flyer," in honor of Right Stuff guy Chuck Yeager's birthday. Light rum, lime juice, a little sugar, topped with champagne. Verdict: I bet Yeager didn't drink this dreck. Yuck. It's about the worst-tasting brew thus far this year, though I've skipped the ones that call for anisette or Pernod.

I went looking for champagne cocktails, since I still had most of a full bottle of the Right Stuff on hand. I found a recipe for French 75, which I had a recipe for last month, that called for gin, lemon juice, and a little sugar, topped with champagne. I liked that a lot better. The junipery gin goes well with even cheap champagne.

The wikipedia entry reports that the French 75 was dreamt up by one Raoul Lufbery, a WW1 flying ace, who got no kick from champagne, so he mixed it with some cognac. Count on the French. The combination felt like the kickback from the French 75 mm Howitzer piece. Thus the name.

(An aside: got a champagne buzz? Eat/slurp/absorb a little Readi-Whip. The sugar, or maybe the fat, takes the buzz off a bit. Either from your hand, since the dogs refused to let me use their paws, or a direct delivery method right into your mouth.)

Anyway, I wondered what champagne and cognac tastes like, and if the kick is really like shooting off a, uh, big gun. I've mixed enough cocktails the last month and a half that I felt confident winging it: an ounce of Courvoisier, squeeze a lemon wedge into it, about a half tablespoon of sugar, top with champagne.

Verdict: I like it. More than the gin version. Of course, this is also champagne cocktail #3 for the day, so my taste buds are liking everything. The dogs are giving me a wary look. The cognac gives a nice depth of flavor to the champagne. (I've noticed in the last 2 drinks that the sugar doesn't dissolve, it sinks to the bottom of the flute; so use sugar syrup if you like it sweeter.)

I have 2 more champagne-based drinks to try tonight. I don't feel the Howitzer kick, so my liver should be up to it.

Head in a Sling

Catching up on recipes from last week, I made a Singapore sling tonite. It was my first sling. According to wikipedia, this concoction was first brewed between 1910 and 1915 in Singapore, so I'm only a century late checking it out.

I couldn't figure out at first quaff what the secret ingredient was. I finally remembered the cherry brandy (cherry-flavored brandy, not the real stuff). My recipe calls for orange juice, instead of the pineapple juice in the original recipe. Gin, Benedictine, Cointreau, lime juice, no bitters or grenadine, club soda.

The drink has a really complex flavor, more than any others I've made thus far this year. I drank two just to make sure it tasted as good as I thought. The second drink always tastes better.

I skipped the orange slice and cherry and whatever other fruit the recipe called for. They would have helped me hit my fruits and vegetables quota for the day, but I'm convinced that's all a government plot. Though maybe that's a good way to stay healthy--drink a cocktail with every meal that calls for fruit.

The Versailles (KY) Sidecar

My drink recipe for today is what the calendar calls a "Kentucky sidecar": small-batch bourbon, tangerine juice, cointreau, lemon juice, the bourbon and citrus in roughly equal parts. Wikipedia says the equal-parts sidecar is the "French school". The "English school" version uses a 2 to 1 ratio.

I didn't have a "small batch bourbon" on hand (though I like Woodford Reserve; I'll get a bottle one of these days), so I substituted Maker's Mark since that's sort of small batch. Nor the tangerine juice; who keeps tangerine juice sitting around? I don't have a Whole Foods next door to run over to. I used orange juice. I picked up a small bottle of cointreau last week, so at least there was one real ingredient in it (and the lemon).

Verdict: I can see why Mame in the movie (of the play, not the awful movie musical) drinks a sidecar for breakfast. It tastes like boozy citrus juice. I'm not sure a small batch bourbon (or tangerine juice) would improve it much. I can think of lots of other boozy citrus-based drinks I like better.

Life is a banquet, and banquets call for liquor, so I'd better go mix up something else to get through this evening's part of the banquet. Half of the town has the flu, so I need something to wait out, and ward off, the plague.

Do You Want Peanuts with That?

Monday was National Peppermint Patty Day, according to my calendar. Not a Hallmark holiday yet, but I'm sure they're working on lickable cards.

The recipe du jour was for a Peppermint Patty shot: creme de cacao and peppermint schnapps. Mint isn't one of my favorite flavors, though I like to grab a couple red & white ones on my way out of a Chinese restaurant. I'm already getting hungry again by that point.

This was the first recipe calling for shot glasses, a chilled one, so I dug out a couple I bought at the Jim Beam distillery gift store several years ago. The drink was OK, tasted like, well, a peppermint patty. Chocolate also isn't one of my favorite flavors, especially with mint. If I'm going to have a shooter, I'd just as soon it be a jalapeno one stuffed with cheese.

I was never much into shots or shooters when I was younger. I spent my fair share of evenings in bars gazing up at TV screens, but I tended to go for just a beer. I wonder if shots and shooters are a generational thing, if they became really popular among the guys (and ladies) of the generation after mine, or even the college class after mine. Now you see middle-agers drinking shots, but they're also playing dartball; who did that 20 years ago? Or got their porn online instead of from behind the counter at 7-11. I'll launch into my tirade about middle agers keeping up with their kids some other day, so you're forewarned.

Yo ho hum

I need to begin by noting that I did a count just now, and I'm 9 cocktails behind for the year, i.e., recipes I haven't shook up to date. I try to drink these recipes in order, though not necessarily on the day they appear on my calendar. Most of them get doubled or tripled up on the weekends.

Most of the ones I'm behind on call for ingredients that I don't have (yet) and don't want to put out the bucks for (yet), like both colors of Chartreuse at $48 a bottle. But 3 of them are bloody Mary's of one kind or another, and 2 call for a single malt scotch, so I'll get caught up on them without too much trouble or arm twisting some besotted weekend.

Today's is a peach daiquiri. I am just not a big rum fan. With coke or with anything else. Maybe if someone offered me a vintage one (note that I didn't say if I bought a bottle), I might change my mind.

The recipe called for light rum (I used Bacardi; is there any other kind?), lime juice, peach nectar (fresh in a can from Kroger), peach brandy (bought just for the occasion; when else would you drink peach brandy?), and simple syrup. Interestingly enough, this is one of only one or two drink concoctions thus far that's called for simple syrup. I didn't want to fire up the stove, so I just tossed in a little superfine sugar.

This daiquiri just gets strained into a chilled glass, no shaved ice. It was OK. Very peachy. (I love fresh peaches dripping down my chin, and peach pie is my favorite.) Peach juice with sort of an anonymous booze kick. I wouldn't order it on a cruise. If I were feeling cruisy enough to order a daiquiri, it'd probably be strawberry. Seems like a good breakfast/brunch drink though, to warm you up for something stronger. One of those 3 bloody Mary's maybe.

Mother's Milk

If you lived in lower-class Victorian London perhaps.

To recover from the cachaca stuff, the hair of the dog recipe for Ash Wednesday is bourbon milk punch. Yes, another good reason to drink milk with alcohol. I drink a lot of milk actually, 2%, not that 1% stuff masquerading as having swooshed out of a tit somewhere. I like it with popcorn. At home, that is. At the movies I usually go for diet Coke or smuggle something in. Diet Coke of course.

Bourbon milk punch calls for bourbon--I used Jack Daniels; I need a good excuse to finish up my bottle and buy a new one--dark creme de cacao, a splash of vanilla, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and milk. After I poured 2 ounces of Jack into the shaker and was feeling happier already, I wondered how much milk that would water down. Half a cup. I had some cream on hand I'd bought for a recipe, so I used half cream and half milk. My arteries won't thank me, but I'll eat some broccoli later to shut them up.

Verdict: tastes like milk with bourbon and a little chocolate and cinnamon. When would I drink it everyday though? Not with my popcorn. Maybe over my Cheerios? It's not my idea of a breakfast drink. If I'm into getting a buzz on at breakfast it might as well have more kick than this, without the milk mustache healthiness seal of approval. Jules (the gold cat) is picky about his milk, usually holding out for Carnation evaporated. Maybe he'll like it, as long as I don't find him slow dancing the Glamour Cat Waltz on the table later.

I No Go to Rio

I spent Mardi Gras at the neighbors', starting out with a bowl of jambalaya (just chicken, but nice and spicy), progressing to Ritz crackers and different cheeses and salami and a Yellow Tail Pinot Noir. (Too sweet for me.) And entertaining their striped gray cat and dalmatian when there were no other hands available or willing. Oh, and heckling Chris Matthews. It's hard to out-heckle him though.

One of my calendar's drinks for Mardi Gras is the Caipirinha, made with cachaca (little cedilla missing on the c, but Americans don't give a damn about those foreign diacriticals), sugar, and lime wedges all muddled together. I was surprised I could find cachaca locally. From the dust on it, I was the first person to pick it up in a while.

My recipe calls for turbinato sugar, which I had on hand. Initial review: this is the national drink of Brazeel? I like the sweet-sour clash, but the alcohol tastes muddy to me. It doesn't taste clean. Maybe it's an acquired taste and I need a business trip to Rio to acquire it.

Today I tried it again. The recipe online called for muscovado sugar. I had that too. Though it was a little hard. Like a f*cking brick. After banging it on the counter, the animals flying for cover, the chunks looked like I"d just pulled them out from under the back porch. I had a better idea: I used a teaspoon or so of brown sugar and some candied ginger.

Second review: not much change. The alcohol itself still doesn't do much for me. Plain rum would probably go down smoother. I could hardly taste the ginger, which was a surprise. At least I can console myself that I'm the only person in this neck of the woods with alcohol-induced visions of partying the night away in Rio.

I Had a Dream, 2 of 'Em, Not All about You

Part 2 of my champagne adventures is a drink called the Dream, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a couple weeks ago. As of the beginning of this year I'd never drunk Dubonnet, and now, since the first of the year, I've had, what 3 cocktails made with it? A friend in Chicago with far more experience with alcohol than me said he's never had it, so I don't feel quite so bad. Kind of superior, actually.

The recipe calls for grapefruit juice, cointreau or triple sec, and Dubonnet, shaken not stirred, topped with champagne. I had 2 real grapefruits, not the plastic fruit versions, so I whacked them in half and reamed them out in my citrus juicer. My body won't know what to do with all the vitamin C I'm getting today. Nor my liver, with all the alcohol.

On the first pass I followed the recipe pretty rigorously, like I usually do. Half ounce each of the juice and the triple sec, ounce of Dubonnet, top with champagne. Not bad. Another brunch drink. Next.

For further metabolizing of alcohol by my liver, which till now has only had to deal with Budweiser and the occasional glass of vino, so it's up to the challenge, on the second pass I used curacao instead of triple sec, almost a full ounce, a full ounce of the grapefruit juice (slugging the leftovers from juicing it), and the Dubonnet.

This one was better. Though it was my fourth champagne cocktail of the evening. A little on the sweet side but not bad. The curacao definitely works better than the triple sec. I wonder if Dubonnet blanc would make a difference over the rouge. It's still a brunch drink, but I'd mix this one as an apertif on a beach somewhere at sunset. Or noon. Or mid-afternoon. I think I liked it. The dogs are giving me a nervous eye. Is he about to sing or about to dance?

La dolce Apertif

This is part 1 of a 2-part adventure with champagne (cheap Korbel from Sam's, but that counts).

The recipes I'm mixing up today are a couple weeks old. I put them off for a weekend when I felt like a double decker of champagne. Today was warmer (40s), so I figured it was a good Sunday to dabble in champagne and fruit juice.

This first one is called the Fellini, in honor of the film director. Frankly his films usually give me a headache. Literally. I think it's something about the camera movement or the editing. I like 8 1/2, espeically the whip sequence. All men secretly admire that scene. I also like the Broadway musical 9 based on the movie. It's got a couple really beautiful songs. Maybe the film version that Rob Marshall is making of the musical will be called 10. But will there be an uncut version?

Anyway, the drink the Fellini calls for Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, which was over my budget, so I substituted triple sec; limoncello--that bottle's going fast; mandarin juice; and champagne. I suppose if I ventured 60 miles to a Whole Paycheck that I could find mandarins this time of year. I bought a nice box of clementines at Sam's a month ago and actually ate almost all of them, unusual for me, who usually throws out most of the produce he buys because it goes bad, and then I feel guilty and write a check to the starving children in China fund. I'm working through a bag of tangerines now, also from Sam's.

But the recipe called for mandarins, so I dug out the juicer that I told you about a few posts ago, cleaned it up (since I haven't used it in at least 3-4 years; I won't tell you about the suspicious brown stuff I found when I was reminding myself how it works), and shoved some mandarin segments through the feeding tube. The juice was thick and foamy; I suspect more than a few solids snuck through and I should have filtered it, but I was being anal enough as it was.

So, you shake the 3 ingredients, pour into a flute, top with champagne. It tastes a lot like a mimosa (I'm assuming, it's been so long since I've had a mimosa; I have a vague orange juice-champagne memory). The mandarin orange was a good change, an intense sweet taste, though I suspect if I'd used one of my tangerines it would have been equally good.

Summary of the Fellini: good breakfast/brunch drink. I bet the director himself would have reached for something stronger though. Or for a whip.

And a Drink for Aloysius

Tonight I reverted to my wild youth, or at least wild late twenties, and made brandy Alexanders. I was introduced to them in the novel Brideshead Revisited, which enthralled me when I was about 27. Actually, the Jeremy Irons TV version enthralled me; when I read the book I was sorta bored.

In the novel the louche character Anthony Blanche sets up Alexanders on a bar and downs them one by one. A friend and I promptly had to try it ourselves. I tried them again at home from time to time when I had some dark creme de cacao on hand. Back then I wasn't all that excited when I finally tasted one, but I probably used cheap brandy. Phil was the Anthony Blanche type. I was more a Charles Ryder.

Tonight I had better brandy on hand, Courvoisier, and the usual dark creme de cacao and heavy cream. I drank it down faster than I do most of the drinks in this calendar. I'm not a big chocolate fan, but it's sort of like spiked chocolate milk. Always one to seek out a second opinion, and I still had lots of that Metaxa brandy from last week, I mixed up a second one with that. That went down even smoother.

I don't know where or when I'd drink brandy Alexanders. They seem to be a gentleman's bar sort of drink, if the gentleman is wearing some lavender with poofy gray hair. I'll guess I'll have to slip into a tux and drink it in secret at home. Et in Arcadia ego.