Yo Ho Ho Part Deux

So before I put my bottle of 10 Cane away, I figured I'd mix up a couple more drinks.

First was a recipe for a Mai Tai on the 10 Cane Web site: white rum, Grand Marnier, orgeat, assorted other mixers. I ran out of Grand Marnier at about 1/4 of an ounce, so I made up the difference with Cointreau. Orgeat is funny: recipes always seem to call for so little of it (1/4 ounce here) that you can't really taste it. But maybe that's the point. Who wants to be drinking almond extract? The Verdict: (which I watched this afternoon, but the only thing Paul and I have in common are baby blues) OK. It would probably be better sitting on a Trinidadian beach eating kabobs oiled up. Me, not the kabobs.

I went looking for another rum drink in my bartender's guide and came across Planter's Punch. I think I've had it before, but many moons ago. My recipe called for Jamaican rum but said you could mix and match, so that's what I decided to do. And a good thing too; I ran out of Myer's at about 3/4 of an ounce. This is my day to start running out of stuff after 3 months of drinking. They also said you could substitute bitters for the sprinkling of grenadine, so I tried orange bitters, but skipped the club soda they said to use with bitters. This penchant for watering drinks down...

I liked it. Very citrusy with the orange and lemon juices, but better than the Mai Tai. A good party drink, and probably not a bad brunch drink either out on the veranda. Did Scarlett O'Hara do brunch?

10 Canes in the Fountain

In one of the too many magazines I subscribe to, I saw an ad for 10 Cane rum, "the best rum in the world" (or something like that). I'd noticed 10 Cane at one of the local liquor stores, so I figured that was a sign I should finally venture away from the ol' trustworthy Bacardi.

The bigger liquor mart where I found my bock beer didn't carry it, which surprised me. One of the smaller local ones did, however, for around $10 for what I'd consider a smallish-medium-sized bottle (though it's going fast).

10 Cane hails from Trinidad, and it's made from sugar cane, not molasses like most rums. I won't repeat the marketing blurb on the side of the bottle. Well, maybe a few words: virgin canes. handled ever so carefully. decadence unachievable with molasses. untouched. (I thought it was ever so carefully handled?) They apparently have fun in Trinidad.

For my first drink, I wanted to get as close to the pure rum taste without drinking it on ice or straight up like a sailor, so I made a daiquiri: rum and Rose's (instead of lime juice and simple syrup). Verdict: Not bad. I didn't do a taste test with one made with Bacardi's, but this seems smoother.

For #2 (last night; only 2 drinks a day is my new limit), I made a Havana daiquiri, which calls for rum, banana liqueur (and I still have most of a bottle from a recipe last month), lemon juice, simple syrup. Verdict: Even better. Of course, this was my second drink. It didn't taste especially banana-ey, just especially good.

I got on the 10 Cane web site and looked at some of their recipes. I was watching a movie about Meyer Lansky, so I decided to try their Flamingo in his honor. (If you don't get the connection, what happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas). My first drink tonight, it calls for pineapple juice (fresh, yeah, right, I'm going to squeeze a pineapple), rum, lime juice, and a dab of grenadine.

Verdict: I didn't like it at all. It just had an off taste. Of course, (1) I have a cold (though that didn't interfere with the ones last night - I think) and (2) I'd washed dishes earlier today, so a soap sud or two may have been lurking in the jiggers. But, at any rate, I won't bet on the Flamingo again.

I'll save my last couple of 10 Cane reports for tomorrow. The recipe for this weekend actually calls for key lime liqueur, and I'll wait for another key lime recipe before I fork out the bucks for that. Though it might go good with rum.

Vieux Carré

This is Tennessee Williams week on my calendar. The other day I had a drink commemorating the anniversary of the first production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Today is Williams' birthday, and the drink is an old 1930s-era cocktail from New Orleans called a Vieux Carré (Old Quarter).

It's basically a sophisticated Manhattan: literally a dab of Benedictine (1/2 teaspoon; you've read my feelings on minuscule quantities), a dash each of Angostura and Peychaud's bitters, cognac, rye, and sweet vermouth.

I like drinks like this one that have a mix of flavors and types of alcohol, and don't rely on lime or lemon juice or some orange-based liqueur for a kick. The Peychaud's sort of gets lost among the other flavors. If I made this again I might double the dashes and skip the Angostura.

It's a pretty potent cocktail. Drink too many and you may end up on that streetcar named desire.

Sidecar #3,658

I was griping just the other day about how my cocktail of the day calendar repeats drinks. Today's recipe is yet another variation on a sidecar. In honor of Greek Independence Day the version today uses Metaxa, the Greek brandy. That seems to be a favorite of the calendar's author; she's called for it a couple times already. Or maybe just once and it seems like a couple times.

The recipe calls for Metaxa, Grand Marnier (a whole ounce), lemon juice, orange juice, superfine sugar, and the secret ingredient, cassis. Instead of the sugar I threw in a half ounce of simple syrup.

Verdict: sweet but good. The cassis really adds a secret ingredient undertone to the drink, and there's a bit of astringency on the back of my throat from the lemon juice. I'm not a big fan of Metaxa (though I love Retsina, another Greek brew that people love to hate, especially with grilled foods). I might use another brandy next time. And leave out the sugar/simple syrup. Whenever a recipe calls for 'fresh squeezed orange juice', first I cringe, then I reach for the 'not from concentrate' juice that has more sugar in it than the real stuff.

You should try this sidecar. Toast Lord Byron. "Man, being reasonable, must get drunk. The best of life is but intoxication."

Cats on a Warm Red Couch

Yesterday's (Monday's) drink was in honor of the anniversary of the opening of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway many moons ago. My boys just rolled their eyes, or rolled over and snuggled up closer to a pillow, and asked why any self-respecting cat would want to be in a silly place like that. I'm beginning to think they're gay since they're always lying with their paws around each other, so maybe the Tennessee Williams connection is apropos.

But, more important, both the drinks were made with Southern Comfort, so you know spring is here and summer is a comin' in. Southern Comfort on the rocks has been my summer drink the last few years. Someone asked me one time what I mixed it with, and I said, Why spoil a good thing?

My bottle is the 70 proof stuff. I had a bottle of the 100 proof one summer, and it really packs a punch. Gotta find more of that. The first recipe was bourbon and SC. How very Tennessee; I'm sure he drank lots of those while he was writing. I used Maker's Mark. Verdict: I'd rather have a bourbon, or a SC, but not together. Just tastes like a sweeter bourbon. I'm a purist, what can I say.

Reportedly SC Reserve is a mixture of SC and 6-yr-old bourbon, so some people must like the brew. I'd always thought SC is bourbon based, but wikipedia reports that the brown is just caramel color #69; it's actually got a neutral grain alcohol base. They say it's got a tequila flavor to it. I've sure never picked up on that. Of course, I tend to buy cheap tequila, so maybe I don't know what a real one tastes like.

The second drink was basically a SC sour: SC, lemon juice, orange juice, simple syrup. I wasn't in the mood for a sour, but I'd bought a bottle of pomegranate juice a few days ago to use for a glaze for an Easter ham (verdict: excellent!), so I thought I'd try that instead of the lemon juice and skip the simple syrup.

Verdict: not bad. I'd not sure what I'd compare it to. Next time I'd skip the dash of orange juice and maybe try a squirt of lime, maybe even up the pom proportion a little. I guess I'll have to come up with a name for it. "Piece of Ass" is already taken as a SC cocktail, I see. Let me get back to you.

Blue Moon (not Lodge)

The recipe for this weekend in my calendar is a mimosa. A perfect holiday cocktail but I wasn't in the mood for champagne, so I decided to look around for an alternative.

I missed blogging for a couple days because I didn't have the ingredients I needed: a bock beer for a 'lemon top' (you float lemon-lime soda on it) one day. Surprisingly I couldn't find a bock beer at my local liquor emporium. I'll have to wait till I get to the bigger city to pick up a 6 pack.

Friday it was a white wine sangria. I'm about ready to give up on my resolution to make every (non-alcoholic) recipe in the calendar if it's a variation or a repeat. This is about the 3rd sangria recipe thus far this year. The calendar's had like 3 sazeracs, and I don't like Pernod/Herbsaint/etc. Sangria, especially a white wine one, seems like more of a summer drink anyway.

I'd bought a 6 pack of Blue Moon wheat beer when I was looking for the bock, so I got to thinking what I could do with that. One recipe on the Internet called for a little raspberry liqueur swirled in a glass and then the beer poured in. Raspberry works with anything for me, but I don't have any on hand, so I decided to try it with the cassis from the other day and a little lemon juice.

Verdict: Not bad. Raspberry would definitely be better, but the cassis went well with the light, wheat beer. It's probably a summer night's drink too, but it goes down pretty well after a big Easter brunch and a nap.

Evening on the Island of Grande Jete

Today's drink in my calendar is called the Ballets Russes in honor of the anniversary of Serge Diaghilev's birthday. That was the troupe that made Nijinsky famous, if you slept through ballet history class. Who's Nijinsky?

This cocktail uses pretty simple ingredients, it isn't a Bakst creation (you slept through that class too?). Vodka, creme de cassis (blackberry to you), lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup. Shaken not stirred.

Verdict: another one that's pretty sweet. That's what you get when you add an ounce of sugar water. And the lime juice in it doesn't quite work for me. It doesn't cut the sweetness and adds an off-taste. So I tried it again, without the lime: better, still sweet, though the lemon's good.

A bottle of creme de cassis is the only liqueur I've ever drunk all my way through. A splash of cassis in vodka used to be a favorite pick-me-up. But I've been out of that for a long while. Now I have another bottle, a big one this time, to drink my way through. So someone talk Russian to me, like John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda.

Ain't Easy Being Green

So I didn't try yesterday. My calendar summoned up a drink in honor of the holiday with an Irish whiskey base, but it needs green Chartreuse, and I'm waiting until I have 10 recipes that call for it before I splurge on a bottle.

So I cracked open my bottle of Drambuie instead. (Which cost almost as much as Chartreuse.) Scotland, Ireland - these botched centuries-long episodes of English attempts at genocide run together. At least there were no bagpipes or green beer.

I'm not sure if I've had Drambuie before, but I like it. Malt whiskey, heather honey, and another bunch of secret herbs and spices. This time the prince's, not the Colonel's, according to legend. No doubt some bees whispered it to Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he was hiding from the English in a tree. Or was that some other pretender?

Tonight I looked around for a drambuie cocktail recipe and turned up Sex with Venus. Better than nuttin. Or no one. Vodka, cherry brandy, and drambuie. It sounds weird, but how does it taste?

Like cherry brandy with a little drambuie. It was too sweet for me. Maybe a flavored vodka would give it a little more zing. Even Venus.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

This weekend's cocktail in my calendar is a Bloody Caesar, in commemoration of Julius Caesar's assassination. Basically another Bloody Mary, but made with Clamato juice. I had a few Bloody Mary variants saved up unmixed from the last couple months, so I decided today should be a Bloody Mary fest.

The first recipe was for your typical Bloody Mary, from January 1st (a morning after drink): tomato juice, lemon juice, vodka, horseradish, tobasco, Worcestershire sauce. It was OK. I put in a little too much horseradish or Worcestershire or something, but drinkable.

The second one - well, I decided to wait on mixing it. They call it a Bloody Marie, adding a little anisette to the New Year's Day recipe. I'm not a big anise fan. I thought about using a little creme de menthe instead, but I think I'll wait till my liqueur collection grows a little larger to introduce another flavor.

Number 3 was a nonalcoholic version. I'm not messing with most of the non-booze recipes in my calendar, but I've got all this tomato juice to use up, so I decided to give it a try. It calls for lots of citrus: lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, and then a vegetable garden - tomato juice, cherry tomatoes, garlic, scallion, cilantro, and the usual other stuff, with a little ice in a blender. I wasn't going to run out and buy scallions and cilantro just for this and end up throwing out the rest in 2 weeks, so I used some dried shallots and tarragon instead (the exception to my anise aversion).

Verdict: much better than I expected. It didn't taste like a cruise ship doped-up breakfast drink. You could taste the fresh tomatoes, but not the garlic, and maybe a hint of the shallots and tarragon. There's got to be a fully stocked fridge to make it, but I'd make it again for a special occasion or when I'd had had a long night.

Number - what number am I up to? - is your basic Bloody Mary made with Clamato juice. I don't think I've ever drunk Clamato juice before. I've led a sheltered life. I wondered if I'd be able to find it, but it was the first bottle on the shelf in the juice section of my local not so supermarket. And on sale too.

As is my wont, if not habit, I slugged a little first to see what it tastes like. This has clam something in it? The clams walked through it on stilts. It sort of tastes like an ancestor of V8 juice. And the Bloody Caesar - well, I have a bottle of Clamato juice to drink now. Hail Caesar!

Splish Splash

Yesterday's cocktail was something monikered The Brainstorm after Albert Einstein, who was born on March 14th. I don't think he had brainstorms, his were more like steady showers that eventually overflowed the pools of his mind.

Anyway it was a pretty simple recipe: Irish whiskey (with the Big Holiday coming), a little sweet vermouth, a little Benedictine. It tasted like a sweet Manhattan. Not bad actually, and the Benedictine lent a nice flavor.

The doses for the vermouth and Benedictine were 1/4 oz each. A fourth of an eighth-cup measurement. You've read my thoughts on anything calling for less than, say, half an ounce. What's the point?

I, of course, being anal retentive and a frustrated mad scientist (as my 5-year-old neighbor said when I asked him if he was a mad scientist, "I"m not a mad scientist; I'm a crazy scientist"), measured it out carefully. But, geez, 1/4 oz is like 1 1/2 teaspoons. More than a dash (who'd want that much bitters in a drink?). Or a squeeze. Why don't they call for a splash ad libitum and be done with it? It doesn't take a rocket scientist (mad or crazy or even old Albert).

Coke through a Straw 1 & 2

Yesterday was the birthday of Jack Kerouac, and for some perverse reason my drink of the day calendar celebrated it with 2 shots it calls Liquid Cocaine. I made no. 1 yesterday and no. 2 today, since today is another nonalcoholic drink day on my calendar, and that's pretty perverse too.

Both recipes call for dark rum (Myer's, of course), Jaegermeister, Rumple Minze, and for the fourth ingredient, yesterday, root beer schnapps, and today Goldschlaeger. This sentence 10 times fast read.

Wikipedia has a very interesting article on Jaegermeister. It's the market leader in herbal liqueurs in Germany, and they sponsor a lot of sports stuff. Even table tennis. Germans play table tennis? To work off aggression? The Poles introduced it to them. It was used as a field anesthetic in World War II (to dull the pain, if nothing else) and is used as a cure-all in German homes and American frat houses still today. I'm not a big licorice/anise fan, but it's not bad. I wouldn't drink it all the time, by any means, though it wasn't as bad as I'd been warned. My neighbor, early 30s and former party girl, told me she used to slug it though she wouldn't commit to what she thought it tastes like. Uh huh.

Goldschlaeger, on the other hand, is of Swiss origin (thus the gold flakes; why does that not surprise me?) but is actually made in Italy. I tasted a little first and couldn't figure out what the flavor was. Then I looked on the bottle and saw the magic words 'cinnamon schnapps'. Duh. OK, why are the Swiss making cinnamon liqueurs? Besides the fact they needed some flavor, any flavor, for a schnapps to float their Nazi gold in. Do municipal sewage treatment plants get rich on this stuff?

Rumple Minze, on the other hand, I didn't bother to buy. I found it at my friendly neighborhood liquor mart, but I saw on the side of the bottle that it's just another peppermint schnapps, and I already have a bottle of 100 proof. That'll work.

Verdicts: waste of good liqueur in general. Liquor is like chiles: you shouldn't gulp them down just for the heat or the buzz and not for the flavor. I know, I'm un (non-evangelical) American. Certainly non-Lutheran. The root beer schnapps one yesterday didn't do anything for me at all. Just too many flavors and too much alcohol. I'm supposed to gulp down a quarter cup of high-proof alcohol in one gulp? I'm still learning.

Today's, with the Goldschlaeger, I liked better. The cinnamon stands out, though after the 2nd or 3rd gulp the Jaegermeister started to burn the back of my throat a bit. I bought mini-bar size bottles of each of them. Hopefully I'll have another shot recipe or two later this year where I can use them up. Or use it to kill wasps and flies like they do in Germany. Why does that not surprise me?

Sex and the Village

I finished my Sex and the City, Season 1, Disc 1 marathon tonight. Can it be called a marathon if you take a 24 hour timeout? Anyway, in the ladies' honor, I tried a Cosmo. Two Cosmos, actually.

I guess the drink's too recent an invention to be in my bartender's guide, so I had to go looking for recipes on the web. The recipes ranged all over the place, but the basic ingredients (as everyone but me already knew) are vodka, orange liqueur, lime juice, and cranberry juice. One recipe calls for equal parts of everything, which seemed like a lot of lemon juice and cranberry to me. (Am I getting sophisticated after 2 months of drinking cocktails, or what?) At the other extreme is a version with just a dash of cranberry and lime. How can it be a Cosmo if you just get a hint of cranberry?

For try no. 1, I went for equal parts Stoli and Cointreau and half as much Rose's lime juice and cranberry juice. Actually, it was cranberry sauce. I didn't have any juice, but I did have some sauce left from a bag of berries I'd stocked up on at the end of the holidays. It was a little sweet and cinnamony, but it worked. I just used the liquid part, no mushed berries.

Verdict: too much Cointreau. It tasted like an orange cocktail. And it was awfully sweet. So I decided to try again: an ounce and a half Stoli, about half an ounce of Cointreau (maybe Triple Sec would be subtler), a capful of Rose's, and a couple spoonfuls of cranberry sauce juice. Verdict no. 2: better (of course, it was my second drink), but something was a little sharp in the back of my throat, maybe the Rose's. Not bad, but it's Kristin Davis's drink, not mine.

Ladies Who Nosh

I decided to watch Sex and the City from start to finish since I'm getting tired of watching the same 10 episodes on TBS at 11 o'clock every night, so I took season 1, season 1 from Netflix out of my mailbox today.

Of course, the iconic drink on the show is the Cosmo. I'm not a big vodka drinker, and I don't have any cranberry juice in the fridge - indispensable for a Cosmo - so I started looking through my bartender's guide for alternatives.

(By the way, my calendar's drink for today is non-alcoholic. I'm not messing with that. Yesterday's called for Pernod, and I haven't brought myself yet to put out $20+ for a flavor (licorice) I don't particularly like. But I'll have to one of these days. A lot of recipes call for Pernod.)

Anyway, my eye fell on the vodka stinger. Carrie Bradshaw and the other three ladies on the show who lunch lunch. I figured that would be a good substitute. Then I saw the ingredients: vodka and white creme de menthe. That's it? Not two of my favorite ingredients (not counting the Pernod). And in almost equal proportions.

I looked around at various recipes for a stinger online. The proportions run from equal parts to 2:1 vodka-creme de menthe. I decided to compromise and go with my bartender's guide recipe: 1 1/2 oz vodka to an ounce of creme de menthe, shaken, not stirred, straight up.

Verdict: it tastes like pimped out vodka. (I may be a David, but no Schuster.) I should be drinking a brandy Alexander if I want a sugar high. Elaine Stritch would drink this? Maybe it's her only calories for the day. As a friend says, it's like swilling toothpaste, minus the brush and floss.

I'll have to pick up the cranberry juice and go for the Cosmo in my next sex watching sessions. Not much else to do for fun here in the "Heartland."

An Empty Bottle is a Happy Bottle

I had one more drink (meaning cocktail, not direct slug from the bottle) left in my prosecco after my Champagne Cocktail Day yesterday. While I was looking online for the derivation of the 'frobisher' cocktail, I discovered another drink called the Monte Carlo Imperial that I decided to take a chance on.

Ingredients: light gin, white creme de menthe, and lemon juice shaken over ice, strained, then topped with champagne. I'm not a big mint fan - though I like fresh mint - but this drink wasn't bad. The lemon juice helped cut the mint, which was subtle enough not to overwhelm the drink. I still like the gin and orange bitters cocktail yesterday better, but I'd drink this one in a pinch.

Moral from my weekend spent drinking champagne to forget the pain of losing an hour of sleep: I've never been a big fan of champagne straight up, but I'm beginning to appreciate champagne cocktails. As noted, I've been using prosecco, which is sweeter than a lot of champagnes, so that may well be playing a big role. But the gin-orange bitters version was good, the mint one wasn't bad, even the cocktail using creme de banana was interesting. Or, then, maybe I'm just turning into a lush.

Toast a Storm

We had our first storm of the entire winter over the past 36 hours. By the time it ended midday today we'd gotten maybe 8 inches of snow, but the wind blowing constantly had whipped it into foot-high drifts. A pal in Hannibal MO is laughing at me that I'm calling this a storm because he's been shoveling every other day for the last 3 months, but it's big news for us. The dogs liked romping in it.

My drink of the day - weekend actually - is a Frobisher. It's a standard Frobisher recipe: gin, bitters, and champagne. (Anybody know where it got the name? I Googled for a few minutes but didn't find anything.) I used Peychaud's bitters instead of angostura. I don't tend to go for cherry flavors in stuff, but I like the cherry notes in Peychaud's.

Verdict: I like it a lot. The bitters and herbal taste of the gin went great with the champagne. (I was quaffing prosecco. It was on sale.) And as of January 1st of this year I don't know if I'd ever drunk a champagne cocktail besides an ill advised mimosa or two.

So I got to thinking: I wonder how it'd be with orange bitters. A good excuse for a second glass. I hadn't even battled to get the plastic off the caps of my new bottles from Keg Works yet. For this one I used West Indiana bitters. Verdict: This one's even better. The gin and orange bitters work great with the champagne. One of my favorite cocktails thus far.

I'd saved up my recipe from last weekend till this week knowing I'd have another champagne cocktail recipe to mix up. I need to get to the point where I'll use any opportunity to buy a bottle of champagne. I'm getting there. Last week's recipe was champagne with light rum, banana liqueur, and orange bitters. No ice, and this time I used the Regan's orange bitters.

Verdict: interesting. The banana is pretty subtle and the sweetness goes well with the prosecco. The taste of the rum comes out (a better rum - I'm drinking Bacardi 101 - would meld even better) and of course goes great with banana too. I frankly couldn't taste the bitters. I bet any number of interesting liqueurs would substitute for the banana in this recipe. But my favorite of the day is the champagne with gin and orange bitters. Better than an oversweet mimosa any day.

Not a 10

Today is the anniversary of the birth of French composer (one of my favorites) Maurice Ravel. He wrote Bolero, the piece used in the movie 10 with Bo Derek that scandalized my parents. Remember the tune? You hear it over and over and over. In the original piece. It's a French thing: repetition. Actually I was old enough to see the movie when it came out, but I was scandalized enough by Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Today my calendar had 2 recipes called Boleros. The first was apple brandy, light rum, and a little sweet vermouth. Calvados is impossible to find around here, so I resorted to Applejack. I tasted a little of it first to, uh, get a taste for it. I caught a little of the eau de apple, but I bet Calvados is better. I had Bacardi gold rum sitting out, so I used it. Verdict: a yuck factor of 10. It tastes a bit like drinking rubbing alcohol. Maybe light rum and a better apple brandy would reduce the yuck to 5.

The second recipe is already at a 5; it didn't blow me away but didn't leave my tongue numb either: dark rum, brandy, and a little lime juice, orange juice, and simple syrup. Thank god for the dark rum, but I wouldn't order it on a beach as a tall willowy blonde strides past. Wouldn't want to numb the senses.

Hair of the Chilhuaua

Today my calendar has two morning after recipes, one called 'South of the Border," the other 'Short Fuse'. Its excuse for these is that this is the anniversary of the Mexican victory at the Alamo, as well as the of the invention of aspirin. Davy Crockett Day, in other words. If there'd been a morning after to help him make it through the night.

I'm not big on hairs of the dog; I'd just as soon have strong black coffee, though I'm sure this week's medical research tenure article says that's the worst possible thing to drink after a few Buds and a shot or two or three.

The South of the Border calls for lime juice, tequila, and Kahlua. It tastes like a lime chocolate truffle with a buzz. This is supposed to help me feel better? The recipe might not be bad - certainly better for me, who isn't (am't?) a chocolate fiend - with something besides a chocolate-flavored liqueur. I'm not an expert (yet) on the wide variety of higher-end liqueur tastes and aromas, but something suitable might register on the taste buds in your mind.

Short Fuse is a little more complex: grapefruit juice (my favorite of all juices), lime juice, apricot brandy, tequila, and a dash of maraschino cherry liquid. This one might go down a little better after a long night of dionysian revelry, but it tastes a lot just like juice spiked with tequila. But I guess that's the point: another dog to forget the dog last night. I think there's something profound in that, but maybe it's just the dog talking.

Blood of the Orange

The British reportedly call their Spanish playgrounds "Sun, sea, sex, and sangria." None of which is found in England. I guess the sea can. Which is cold, like, well, at least one of the other three.

I've had sangria a few times. In my book it's another summertime, poolside drink. My calendar seems to be written by someone in San Diego. (Oregon, actually.) But I bought the fruit and the Syraz, mixed it up ahead of time, gave it time to chill out.

I broke my usual kosher rule of not mixing fruit with alcohol and sliced an orange, lime, and half a lemon. The recipe called for equal parts brandy and cointreau, club soda added right before drinking.

I didn't pour the club soda in the pitcher when I was ready to imbibe, which is what the recipe called for. I poured some of the mix in a tall glass over ice, then added a little of the soda. No fruit. Verdict: not the best sangria I've ever drunk. Not that I remember the other few times. The club soda just watered it down.

Wikipedia says the main ingredients of a sangria are red wine, a sweetener (sometimes OJ, after a hotel heist, sometimes honey), brandy and/or orange liqueur, and the orchard. Carbonation optional. Next time I'd leave the out and maybe try honey as a sweetener.

Postscript: I made another ale flip. Instead of, like last night, heating just a little of the ale in the pan with lemon juice to melt the sugar and ginger, I poured in the whole bottle. I also upped the ginger to a half teaspoon and used sugar syrup. Verdict: I still really couldn't taste the ginger, but it's good warm. If salmonella is in the yolk, though, I'm doomed.

They Call Me Flipper

Today I drank my first flip, specifically an ale flip. According to my calendar, almost 400 years ago some New Englander opened an ale house, so short of proclaiming this National Ale Day, it prescribes an ale flip in his honor.

As I've noted before, I'm a Budweiser man. (Not lite; yuck.) I'm not that big on Guiness or ales, but I love lagers. This afternoon I found a 6 pack of ale brewed in that beautiful shopping mecca of central Indiana, Greenwood (a southern burb of Indianapolis), and I shoved a couple bottles in my overstuffed fridge to chill. This afternoon, after most of the work for the day was done, I drank a bottle straight up. Verdict: Didn't like it. Too bitter going down the back of my throat. I began to have my doubts about trying a flip with it.

But no better man there ever was, so tonight I brewed one up. Let me digress first and flip you off. Bird not included. A flip is a type of mixed drink that usually contains egg. Eggnog is a flip. You can have a cold flip or a hot flip. I'm trying very hard not veer off into doubles entendres here. Cream is typical but not necessary. Cold flips are usually shaken and strained; hot flips are stirred. Daniel Craig is a cold flip. Damn, you, old debbil temptation. You made me do it.

My recipe calls for lemon juice, sugar, ginger, and a little of the ale warmed just enough so that the sugar melts. As usual, an unwatched pot overboils at my house. Or at least gets a little too hot. Meanwhile you beat an egg yolk, not white, into a little brandy. (Remember a few nights ago I had a cocktail with egg white; shells, why didn't I keep that yolk.)

Then you stir the hot stuff into the brandied yolk. Since I didn't want a scrambled egg cocktail, I poured the sugar syrup in slowly (tempering the brandy, as Saint Alton of Brown would say), then dumped in the rest. Next, into a tall glass it goes, with the rest of the bottle of ale (chilled) on top of it. No stirring.

Verdict: I like it. All the eye of newt etc. really softens the bitterness of the ale. The yolk certainly smooths it out. I can't taste the ginger, though; a little more of that (say, 1/2 teaspoon) would be better. I'll try another flip one of these days and let you know how that is. Cheers to that old Boston guy.

Make It Another Old Fashioned

The recipe in my calendar today was for mulled wine. March 3rd is supposedly National Mulled Wine Day, another industry holiday. The Mull Industry. Hmmm. The first of March, though technically still winter, hardly seems like the time of year to drink mulled wine. October or November maybe. Maybe this is the red wine industry's last gasp attempt at profits before a summer of white wine and white roses.

I wasn't in the mood for mulled wine anyway, especially since it was in the mid 60s yesterday and almost that warm today until the cold front finally slogged its way in with muddy dog feet. I haven't had an old fashioned in many a moon - maybe once before in my life, actually - so I decided to give one of those a swirl around my palate. No dentures yet, despite the birthday yesterday.

An old fashioned is about the easiest cocktail there is: bourbon, a little simple syrup, a couple dashes of bitters. I'd just got a bottle of Peychaud's in my care package of What You Can't Find in Indiana (want a list? it'd be as long as Leporello's). I wrestled with the middle-age-child-proof plastic on the cap. My bottle of Jack was almost empty, so I figured I'd deliver the coup de grace. I had just enough.

Verdict: I liked it. Close enough to bourbon straight up for my taste, but the simple syrup and bitters softened the edges a bit.

Nobody can drink just one, so I looked in my bartender's manual and found a recipe for an Old Fashioned cocktail: rye or bourbon, Dubonnet, a little curacao, bitters, absinthe, orange slice, lemon peel. Rye doesn't get enough attention these days; I went with that. And the Peychaud's again (though I might have used orange bitters to go with the other orange flavors). No fruit will be backstroking in my drink, so I splashed in a dash of OJ instead. I just juiced my last lemon; a little dried lemon rind went in to make up for it.

As for the absinthe - licorice is one of the few flavors I just can't take. A little fennel seed is as far as I go in that direction. And I don't have any of the green fairy sitting around the house - or blue fairy or any other Milton Bradley game piece - but I did have some star anise lurking in the depths of the freezer. I tossed one in for a nod toward a taste Gesamtkunstwerk.

Verdict: not bad. I'm sure using absinthe would give it a completely different taste; I got very little of the anise. The Dubonnet overwhelms the rye, so you end up with a sweet cocktail. I'll stick with the purist Option no. 1. Make it another, please.

Oregeat for 3?

Today's recipe called for champagne. Again. I've drunk more champagne in the last 2 months than I have in the last 2 years. I bought a bottle (prosecco actually), but I noticed that next weekend serves up a champagne cocktail too, so I'll just save it for then and double dip.

In the meantime, I got my hands on some orgeat, that mystical soul of the almond that's called for in Mai Tais and other Don the Beachcomber type drinks. I couldn't find it around here. Or orange bitters. How esoteric are orange bitters, for god's sake? I poked around on the internet and found a great place called Keg Works that carries all kinds of different bitters plus orgeat and a zillion other products for the cocktail connoisseur. I placed an order online, and within literally 2 days the box was at my door. I recommend them highly.

Since now I have the elixir d'almond, I decided to go back to the Scorpion that I brewed up a couple weeks ago. It's a Mai Tai type drink: gin, brandy, lemon juice, orange juice, orgeat. Last time I'd used a little almond extract and some orange blossom water. Verdict today: not bad for all the citrus juice in it. It doesn't taste like a brunch drink on a cruise ship. More sophisticated than that (the brandy, maybe?). But I really couldn't taste the orgeat. It wouldn't hurt to slosh in a double dose, I guess.

Since I couldn't let a whole bottle of the stuff go to waste, I decided to try the Mai Tai recipe on the side. Minus the fruit. You know my aversion to that sort of thing. So even more gin, cointreau, lime juice (I used Rose's to reduce the acidity a little), cointreau, orgeat. I doubled the quantities and worried about a half cup more gin and the effect on my liver.

Verdict on the Mai Tai: I can taste the orgeat a little bit in this one (postscript: a lot more than in the Scorpion; maybe less citrus and no brandy helps it come out), sort of the "what is that flavor" sort of thing like herbs in soup. But I'm getting a bit of a bitterness in the back of my throat. At this point I prefer the Scorpion, but I think the main issue is I need to upgrade from cheap Bacardi to better rum. It's amazing: I've been mixing cocktails for only 2 months, and already my tastes are getting expensive!

Leaping over the Shadow

I'm a day late with my leap day cocktail and report. February 29th is Sadie Hawkins Day, for all you aging boomers and your aged parents who remember the comic strip Little Abner. On February 29th ladies may propose to their gentlemen friend instead of the usual vice versa. Does the lady have to buy the engagement ring? I had that happen once (the proposal, not the ring), and not on Feb. 29th; I guess every day is a potential leap day for me.

Anyway, the cocktail is appropriately called The Maiden's Prayer. (Go gag, then continue reading.) It's basically a Between the Sheets (what every maiden prays for?), which I reported on yesterday. (My verdict: I didn't like it.) The Maiden's Prayer leaves out the brandy - good move - and adds a little orange juice along with the lemon juice.

My opinion: I like it better than the Between the Sheets, but it's a little citrusy for my taste. The orange juice gives it a breakfast on a cruise ship swing. Most of the cocktails thus far that have called for orange juice seem too mimosa-y to me. Maybe I'd like pineapple or grapefruit (my favorite in general) juice better. Lemon juice most of the time seems too strong in a drink, but I really like the nip of lime juice. So how did I get from Sadie Hawkins Day to a report on citrus fruit?