Melon Liquor

I had a recipe from a day or two ago that called for melon liqueur, so I picked up a small bottle of Midori. My first impression on tasting it straight up: lots of green food coloring, sweet, doesn't taste that much like melon.

My first drink came off the back of the bottle: Midori and vodka in equal parts and a splash of sweet and sour. It sure is green (and would have been even more Ozian without the s&s). The taste was nondescript: sweet with a bit of a pucker from the s&s.

Second, from my calendar, called for melon liqueur, grapefruit juice, and tequila. I used cheap tequila and bottled pink grapefruit juice. Not too bad, still no melon to my taste buds, but the tequila gives it a nice kick. Probably better with real grapefruit juice.

And off to the shelf in the closet goes another bottle of seldom-used liqueur until my calendar summons it forth. At least it doesn't cost much, like its green cousin Chartreuse.

Leaving Indiana

Last night I watched Leaving Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage for the first time. I like dark movies, but it's almost too dark for me. If you don't know the plot, in a nutshell, Cage is a failed alcoholic screenwriter whose wife has left him, so he goes to Vegas to drink himself to death. There's a romantic angle too, with a hooker, as those things go in Vegas.

One of the drinks he orders on his way to self-obliteration is a double kamikaze, which I wasn't familiar with, so tonight I devoted my liver to science and investigated the science of kamikazes.

A kamikaze is basically vodka, an orange liqueur, and lemon lime soda or sweet and sour mix. You can go from there with various versions: apple schnapps, blueberry stuff, goldschlaeger, etc. Seems like a frat boy cocktail to drink yourself to death on, but Cage was drinking lots of harder stuff to speed the process along.

Recipe no. 1 was basic: almost equal parts vodka, cointreau, lime. It wasn't my favorite; the cointreau seemed a little strong. I used Absolut Pears for all these (only because I'm out of Absolut Absolut).

Second was vodka, triple sec, and lime. I liked this one best. The triple sec was more subdued than the cointreau, and I could taste more lime.

Last, and Men's Health will shake their toned finger at me for having more than 2 drinks a day, was 1 part vodka, 1 part triple sec, and 2 parts sweet and sour mix. With the 2 parts sweet and sour, it was a lot more frat than the other two, too sweet for me.

These three drinks were good ones to end a muggy holiday with, but I sure wouldn't use them to do myself in unless I was diabetic.

Catching Up II

This weekend for a cookout I made a sangria from my calendar from the first week of January. Why they thought anyone would be making sangrias that time of year... I'd also put off making it because it calls for Licor 43, which I finally found a month or so ago. My sibling, who's much better drunk than I am (you know what I mean), said she'd never even heard of it.

The recipe is a dry red wine (I took the path of least resistance while doing some grocerying and bought Shiraz), Licor 43, lemon juice, sugar, sliced lemons, peaches (I got frozen after shuddering at the thought of buying canned), and the usual topping of club soda.

I liked this one better than the white wine sangria I made a couple weeks ago, and so did my sister and her husband. It was on the sweet side, so next time I'd cut or maybe even eliminate the sugar. And I'm not sure it does the Licor 43 justice. A vanilla bean and some brandy probably would be an OK substitute.

Another concoction from January that got made was gelatin shooters. The active ingredients were energy drink (I used Monster) and Southern Comfort. Didn't like it. Even in Sponge Bob paper cups (that's all the store had; the rest of the box goes to a 5-year-old friend). And the recipe was math challenged at that: it seemed to think you could get 40 1-oz cups out of a 32-oz brew.

This afternoon I'm skipping ahead to tomorrow's drink because I don't have the ginger beer I need for today's. (I'll probably substitute ginger ale, but I don't have it either.) The one I'm sipping is brandy, a little sweet vermouth, a little creme de menthe. Creme de menthe has a tendency to overpower anything you mix it with. This drink is OK, it probably would be even better with some chocolate or coffee liqueur in it, but it's not my thing.

Yo ho ho Department

Last night while I was watching Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (not a bad movie, but didn't quite live up to its reviews, for me), I caught up on two rum drinks from this last week.

The first is called a Blue Marlin. No omega-3's called for. Citron rum, blue curacao (so it's, well, blue), and a little sweet and sour. Not too bad. Blue curacao seems only to be good for color, not taste, but the sweet and sour added a bit of a tart note to it. The citron rum, on the other hand, has potential for lots of good drinks.

The second is called an Atlantic Breeze or some such name: light rum (I poured Bacardi, trying to use up my old bottle of the low-end stuff), apricot liqueur (I pulled out the apricot brandy), pineapple juice, lemon juice, and a splash of Galliano to float.

I was afraid this would taste like pineapple juice, since it calls for 2 1/2 oz. But it really didn't. The lemon and apricot brandy helped cut the sweetness, and the slight anise flavor of the Galliano was nice with the other fruit flavors. A good drink, though I bet other juices like Mango would be even better in it.

Amaretto 101

The drink for yesterday on my calendar was a "London Fog" in honor of the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: equal parts amaretto and creme de menthe with a lemon slice floated on top. No paper umbrella for the London murk. I'm not a big creme de menthe fan, and I would have never thought of mixing amaretto with it, but this drink wasn't bad. Not something I'd down every night, but better than I expected - without the lemon slice, of course; who wants their alcohol sullied by nasty old vegetative matter?

Since the bottle of amaretto was sitting out for the cats to try to accidentally knock on the floor (flick; oops; scatter), I figured I'd mix up an amaretto sour. To make it more interesting, I did it with amaretto and limoncello to see how that would work. And ... it didn't. Too sweet, not tart enough. I gave it a splash of lemon juice, which helped a lot. Next time I'll stick with sweet and sour mix, or lemon juice and simple syrup. No use wasting perfectly good limoncello.

Absolut Perfection

Well, today I found bottles of Absolut Pears and Vanilla on sale at a bigger CVS in a nearby larger city. Who'd ever think I'd be going from CVS to CVS looking for vodka? They also had Peach. I love fresh peaches, but I can't see that I'd ever use Absolut Peach for much. I just wish they'd had Peppar or New Orleans.

So I decided to try a few drinks today. The first was Absolut Pears with green Chartreuse. This wasn't successful. Maybe too much Chartreuse, 1 oz to 2 oz vodka. The Chartreuse overpowered the Pear, and it made the drink too sweet. I didn't drink it all. Yellow Chartreuse might work better with Absolut Pear.

More successfully, I decided to give a black Russian another try, with the Absolut Raspberry but using Tia Maria this time. Much to my surprise, it was the favorite of my 3 tries. It was smooth, it didn't have the strong coffee taste of the one made last night with Starbux, and it didn't taste like caramel like the Kahlua one did. Good drink and easy to make: 2 to 1 Absolut Raspberry to Tia Maria.

Since I had an unopened bottle of Absolut Vanilla screaming to be opened, I thought I'd try a black Russian with that and Starbux. This drink disappointed me; it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. The Starbux left a bit of an overroasted taste in the back of my mouth (like much of their coffee) and it overpowered the vanilla. Other drinks are waiting out there that will show the Absolut Vanilla to better effect.

Black & White & Red Russians All Over

I skipped my calendar's drink for yesterday (a rum drink that I'll mix up this weekend with an upcoming rum drink). Instead I played around with black Russians, a drink I've liked from time to time.

CVS has various flavors of Absolut on sale this week, and I'd picked up a bottle of Raspberry (only because they didn't have Pear, which I really want to try). I figured raspberry would go well with the coffee liqueurs that black Russians call for.

For my first try I finished up my bottle of Kahlua: 2 to 1 proportions of vodka to Kahlua. Watching TV occasionally bears educational benefits: while I was watching Great Cocktails on the FLN network last week, the host emphasized shaking your drink until it's good and cold. I keep my vodka in the freezer, so I shook my concoction till the outside of the shaker was good and frosty.

Verdict: I've had that bottle of Kahlua forever, so maybe all the coffee taste was at the top of the bottle, but it gave more of a caramel than a coffee flavor to the black Russian. Not bad, just not what I wanted.

For my second try, I used Starbux liqueur and just freehanded the proportions, giving it a good until frosty shake again. Verdict: better, and the raspberry does go well with the coffee flavor. A little sweet and not a drink I'd have every night (though I'd like to try Tia Maria in it), but a nice alternative to the usual plain vodka black Russian. I'm not a fruit in my drink kind of guy, but a raspberry or two would be great too.

No Bang, Just a Whimper

Two drinks to report on today. The one from yesterday is called a Volcano Blast or something like that in my calendar. It's in honor (memory, maybe) of the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

It's supposed to be a layered drink, but my layering technique leaves a lot to be desired. I need a pro to show me how to do it properly. Blond, blue eyes, in shape, real age, not AOL age, applications will be available online. First Kahlua, but I substituted Starbux liqueur since it has more kick, then cointreau, then Captain Morgan's spiced rum, then papaya juice, then 150 proof rum flamed.

I bought one new taste sensation, the Capt. Morgan's, for this drink, so I wasn't going to get the high proof rum too just to pretend I was doing a 7th grade scientific experiment and scare the dogs. I don't think I've had spiced rum before. The Capt. Morgan's seemed a little tame to me (tasted right out of the bottle; my drinking habits have progressed in the last 5 months); I'm betting there are better spiced rums out there. (Oh, and raspberry syrup too: I picked up the little bottle in the coffee aisle, then discovered when I got it home it's made with Splenda.)

I went to a local "saver" grocery where I've seen a lot of Hispanic foods to look for the papaya juice; I thought I'd spotted it there. I found mango and guava nectars, but no papaya, so I used the mango. I'm not a big mango fan, I usually end up throwing them out when I buy one and try to cut it up, but the juice wasn't bad; it tastes a little bit like pineapple. With all the Mexican groceries popping up all over town, if I'd been a little more adventurous I'm sure I could have found the papaya juice. Maybe next time.

Verdict: it wasn't layered, or flamed, but not bad. Coffee and raspberry always work for me. Not a bad shot for a party to entertain your friends who've already had a few.

The second drink I mixed up was the imitation Pimm's Cup in the form of a margarita from a couple weeks ago. I used the good reposado tequilla, cointreau, a little superfine sugar, lime juice, muddled cuke in the bottom of the glass. I dug out my plastic but sharp mandolin (scar on my hand from several years ago to prove it) to slice the cuke, so it was paper thin and got well muddled with the sugar and lime.

Verdict: Good. Sweeter than the margaritas I made a couple weeks ago. I don't usually like sweet, but this margarita was closer to the ones I'm familiar with. And you get the subtle flavor of the cuke. I bet some herbs would work well in this in place of the cuke (lavender maybe?). Good drink. I'll have to try the muddled cuke with some Pimms, instead of just sticking a slab on the rim of the glass, and see how that works and let you know.

Preakness Browns

The recipe in my cocktail a day calendar for this weekend is a Preakness Cocktail; a couple weeks ago it had a Churchill Downs Cocktail. Today's is Canadian whiskey, a little sweet vermouth, a little Benedictine. The Churchill one was a little less inventive: bourbon, brandy, triple sec, topped with ginger ale.

I like Benedictine, and it gives this drink a good sweet but spiky edge to it. I even ran a lemon twist around the edge of the glass like it said to - unusual for me.

I read up on Canadian Club, and it's pretty interesting. Canadian blended whiskeys are lighter than U.S. whiskeys, and a mix of corn, barley, and rye. They have to be aged 3 years or longer. Hiram Walker of, well, Hiram Walker fame started Canadian Club here in the U.S., but with his finger to the wind and seeing it was a dry wind that bode no good, he moved his company to Canada. In 16 Blocks (my favorite Bruce Willis movie), Willis's character has a thing for Canadian Club (and even drops and breaks a bottle, as I recall, but to save someone's life, so I suppose that was worth it). Canadian Club is aged 6 years.

Just to experiment, I made it again but with Drambuie. Not as spiky, sweet but in a good way too, not too bad. Probably a nice after-dinner drink. I'm feeling a nice fuzziness on the back of my throat.

I've begun getting press releases from media agencies for restaurant openings, for which I thank you guys (and ladies). It's nice to be noticed and taken seriously. I received one today for a new Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in Chicago called L2O (the 2's a subscript, like in H2O). This one specializes in seafood and sounds like it will be great. The decor should be fab. They also have a nice selection of sakes available in half bottles and by the glass. (The wine list frankly didn't pique my interest, but I'm not much into French wines.) I used to eat at LEY restaurants when I lived in Chicago, and they're a lot of fun. My sister still goes to Ed's when she takes travel groups up there. If you get to Chicago, try out L2O, on the rocks.

Big Browns

I had a couple cola drinks the last few days so I mixed them up last night.

The first one was a shooter that called for Galliano, the yellow liqueur in the funny-shaped obelisk bottle. The vivid yellow color reportedly comes from a "lemon-yellow azo dye"; that's reassuring. Star anise and other anises are main ingredients, but it doesn't taste licoricey like Herbsaint or Sambuca do; Galliano has a lot of vanilla and other flavors to tone it down. And, if you've ever heard of the Harvey Wallbanger (not that guy in the next condo), Galliano is the main ingredient.

When I tasted it, it was very herbal, not licorice at all, more like root beer. And, in fact, the shooter's called a Root Beer shooter: Galliano, Kahlua, topped off with cola. Not bad. You can taste a little of the coffee from the Kahlua, a little of the root beer from the Galliano. Sort of a collegiate drink.

The second drink was a Cuba Libre, Spanish for rum and coke, but with a whole half a lime squeezed in the glass. I drank them in my 20s but got tired of them - too sweet - and moved on to Budweisers. For the first go, I used Bacardi gold. It was a little strong, or maybe my pour was a little heavy. Not that I threw it out. For the second try, I used 10 Cane rum. Much smoother, a good drink, and I liked all the lime in it. I'll have to give rum and cokes, whatever you call them, a second chance.

One Short Day

When you're drinking martinis, you start getting time dilation. I think Einstein left that part out in his theory of relativity.

My recipe the other day was for a Ruby Martini, in honor of the birthday of Frank Baum, author of You Know What. The little brat's slippers are silver in his book, not ruby, but a niggling detail. A silver martini just doesn't have the same ring to it or value when you're trading it for gas.

Recipe: vodka (I used Mandarin Absolut), cranberry juice (I had pomegranate juice), and blue curacao. Now, I wonder if whoever wrote this recipe is color blind, because the final product looks like you're drinking ink. It's an indigo color. I doubt the difference in color between pom and cran juices would make the difference. Not bad, in spite of the color, though the orange in the vodka came on a bit strong.

Second try, using an idea I got reading the drink menu at Tumbleweed's waiting and waiting and waiting for my seafood burrito (which was pretty good for Middle Americanized Mexican food): vodka, pom juice, and a splash of lime. The orange didn't overpower this one, but the taste was a little on the sour side. Pom juice isn't as sweet as cranberry juice, so that and the lime probably puckered it up.

Third time's the charm: gin (Tanqueray with the lime in it), pom, and Rose's lime juice. Much better. You don't get the orange, the Rose's brings sweetness, the gin adds a little more subtle lime kick, and it doesn't look like ink. Though those sippers sure still don't look like rubies.

Really Catching Up

Last night I needed an aperitif, so I made a Bloody Mary recipe from my calendar (yes, I know that's not officially an aperitif, but it did the trick) dating back to Jan 2nd, one of their series of New Year's hangover cures. This one called for anisette, my reason I'd put off mixing it.

I still don't have anisette, though I was eying a small bottle behind the cashier at the liquor mart the other day, but since I'd bought the Ricard and the Herbsaint, I figured one of those should be a close approximation. I still had most of my bottle of Clamato juice I'd gotten to mix Bloody Marys a month or so ago, so I shook one up.

It wasn't bad. The recipe calls for only half an ounce of anisette, or Herbsaint in my case, and with all the other flavors in a Bloody Mary - lemon juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, Tabasco - it was almost hidden, but you still got a very subtle hint of licorice. I might try this again sometime, not that I make Bloody Marys very often.

I suggested in my last post that the 'luxury' recipe I'd made with Pimm's might work with Campari, so I tried it. (By the way, the show Great Cocktails on the FLN network showed how to make a Pimm's Cup last night, complete with a cuke wheel; was that a freaky coincidence?) I wanted to use something other than banana liqueur and dithered over what to substitute; I finally decided to up the lime factor and use KeKe lime liqueur along with Rose's.

Verdict: I wanted to like it, but it really wasn't very good. The drink wasn't overly sweet, surprisingly, but the Campari is so astringent that it just didn't go well with the sweet. I think Campari has potential for making a good cocktail, I just haven't found one yet.

Here on the Lawn at Glyndebourne

Actually I used to love opera, but nowadays I listen to it pretty rarely. I've reverted to my childhood and would much rather investigate the cast album (or CD) from a Broadway musical I've never heard of.

All this personal blather is a way of getting around to discussing Pimm's, which is a popular drink with the hamper picnics on the lawn at Glyndebourne, at the Henley Regatta, and probably at Ascot for all I know.

I bought a bottle of Pimm's (not available locally; I had to drive to the big/ger city to get a bottle) because I have an as yet unmixed recipe for a cucumber margarita that's supposed to be an update of Pimm's Cup, which calls for Pimm's, lemon-lime soda, and a cucumber slice. In the margarita recipe you muddle 1/4 cup of cukes, which seems like a lot of cucumber. I have a couple English ones sitting in the fridge waiting for just the right, or most desperate, moment.

When I got to looking at Pimm's recipes after I brought the bottle home yesterday, I saw that in Pimm's cup you just use the cuke as a garnish. They used to use borage, a herb, but supposedly that has minute amounts of a liver toxin in it (and alcohol doesn't?), so the English with their thing for root vegetables decided to substitute a cuke, which, well, looks like a root vegetable. You could probably use a slice of Yukon Gold.

My first stab at my bottle of Pimm's was just a dab on ice. It's a gin-based drink; Pimm's still makes small quantities of other versions based on brandy and vodka; at one time they sold a whole line. It reminded me a less astringent Campari.

For drink #2, or #1, depending how I'm counting, I made the recipe on the back of the bottle: some Pimm's on ice, then top it with lemon-lime soda. I used a bottle of lemonade from the quicky mart. This wasn't bad, tastes like, well, spiked lemonade.

Drink #2 1/2 is called a turbo Pimm's: Pimm's, gin (I used my limey Tanqueray), topped off with the lemonade again. Now, that really packed a punch. I'd only eaten a bagel for breakfast and some bean soup with cottage cheese at lunch, so there wasn't much down there to absorb it. I enjoyed a very happy evening until my roast beast from summer got my innards back to something resembling sobriety.

Just before bedtime while I was watching the bitch fight on Top Chef I mixed what is billed the Pimm's luxury recipe: equal parts Pimm's, Rose's, creme de banana, sweet vermouth, and double part gin. (I forgot the dash of bitters.) Not a bad drink; I might almost consider drinking it on a somewhat regular basis. The banana wasn't as overwhelming as I thought it'd be; it was pretty subtle. And I couldn't taste the sweet vermouth, which kind of surprised me. The Rose's delivered a nice kick to the back of my throat. I bet this drink might be good made with Campari instead of the Pimm's, pack a little more punch. If I get around to trying that, I'll let you know how it is.

Oz Juice

I finally sprang for a bottle of green Chartreuse so I could make a few recipes dating back to January that call for it. One also calls for yellow Chartreuse; I'm waiting for another drink with that before I fork out another almost $50.

Chartreuse is one of th0se 10, 432 secret herbs and spices drinks, made by monks from an age-old recipe known to only them and God. With the value of the dollar as low as it is, buying a bottle is like ordering a very nice burgundy when you go out for a steak at Morton's or Ruth's Chris. No wine captain though included in the price, though, but I bet the liquor store clerk would have come over and opened it for me if I'd bought bottles of both green and yellow.

For my first taste, I poured a little into a sherry glass (only a little at that price). James Villas, the well-known food writer, raves about it in a book of essays I've been reading, but I felt like Elmer the Cow getting my meadow in liquid form. Chartreuse really is very herbal. And sweet, and you know how I feel about sweet drinks. But it undoubtedly would make an excellent aperitif before a fine French meal or to help the cud go down through however many stomachs Elmer has.

The drink recipe I made with it dated back to St. Patrick's Day: Irish whiskey (Jameson's, of course), Chartreuse, and creme de menthe (I used the clear stuff instead of green). Verdict: not bad. Sweet but not cloying. Anything with Jameson's works for me, especially the second and third glass.

Last night I had another Irish cocktail concoction calling for Irish whiskey, a "Blarney Stone": Jameson's, cointreau, a little licoricey Ricard, maraschino liqueur (I used juice out of a jar of cherries since I can't find the real stuff), a dash of bitters (Peychaud's instead of Angostura), and a lemon twist, which I actually went and whittled off a lemon I have sitting around. Verdict: not too bad. The licorice was subtle, the drink was sort of a variation on a sidecar. Although I didn't drink every drop (I did suck the lemon peel), so I can't give it my highest recommendation.

Speaking of the Ricard, since I've discovered that I don't detest licorice/anise tastes as much as I thought I did, I put a little of the Herbsaint on some root vegetables with a roast I was cooking the other night. (Again, at the price of a bottle of that, only a little.) You couldn't really taste any anise when everything was done, but it all tasted pretty good.

Wet Weekend

I spent the weekend catching up on a few recipes. The first was a recipe for sangria from a couple months ago. It called for mint; I needed mint for juleps, so it was a good chance to down two drinks with one stone. I finally found a package of mint at a Kroger, so I could start mixing.

The sangria was white wine, sliced strawberries and mint left soaking in it overnight, and club soda. I'd bought a 6 pack of 10 oz club sodas so I wouldn't have a liter bottle taking up a shelf in the fridge. My sister liked it at a Mother's Day cookout this noon; she drank most of it. I thought it had a little too much club soda in it, though I overcame my usual aversion to fruit in mixed drinks; the strawberries were good.

My sister's had extensive drinking experience, more than me (she's a Lutheran after all), but this is only the second sangria she's had. Must not be a hot summer drink here in the Heartland. We had chicken on the grill, and it went well with that, but I think I'd prefer a red wine sangria. I liked the hot dogs they grilled for the kids better too. No bun, just mustard; finger food.

Then I moved on to the juleps from last weekend. The first was bourbon and simple syrup with mint as a garnish. I took a few sips, said that's nice, and tossed it down the drain. Not much of a cocktail, sort of a half-mixed Old Fashioned (which my calendar hasn't gotten around to yet this year).

The second was what I consider a typical julep: mint leaves and simple syrup muddled (with a pestle; why buy a muddler?) with bourbon. Better, not bad at all. I'd like to taste one made by a Southerner with years of experience mixing them on the veranda.

Last, a "Churchill Downs cocktail," according to my calendar: bourbon, brandy, triple sec, topped with ginger ale. Not as good as the ginger ale topped-drink from a few weeks ago, but OK. A good drink to sip while watching the horses.


Before starting on margarita week, a brief postscript to anise flavors week. I've had a recipe from a few weeks ago that calls for Sambuca, and yesterday I noticed a small bottle at my little neighborhood liquor store, so I bought it. Boy, does that smell like licorice when you open it! According to wikipedia, sambuca was being produced in Italy in the 1800s, so this isn't another absinthe substitute like Ricard or Pernod.

This drink calls for brandy, sambuca, a little lemon, very little simple syrup. It wasn't bad. Lemon goes well with the brandy, the sugar helps cut the lemon, and the anise flavor is just enough, though I'm still not a big fan. Now let's see how many more recipes my calendar his this year that call for sambuca, now that I have a bottle.

On to margaritas. The recipes all week are for margaritas in one form or another in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I wondered where the margarita came from (old Mexican favorite?), so I looked it up. No one knows for sure, but it seems to date no earlier than the late 1930s or 1940s. By 1953 it was Esquire magazine's Drink of the Month, so it sure caught on fast.

The margaritas in my calendar are drunk straight, no crushed ice, no margarita mix. I skipped the salt on the rim of the glass, just because I was lazy.

Last night I made two of the recipes: a classic margarita, and the cadillac margarita. The cadillac calls for reposado tequilla (very high end), so I splurged on a bottle and used it for both. The classic calls for cointreau and the cadillac grand marnier; I used grand marnier in both so I could judge how much difference the proportions make.

The proportions for the classic are 1 1/2 oz tequilla, 1 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 oz orange stuff. For the cadillac it's 2 oz tequilla, 1 oz lime, and 1 oz orange. I don't know if it's the reposado (I wasn't keen on the higher-end silver Patron a couple weeks ago when I was mixing drinks with it, either), or not having the salt to help cut it, or what, but I didn't care for either one very much. They sure don't taste like the ones at Applebees (which may be a good thing). I liked the classic a little better than the cadillac, which I wouldn't make again, either straight up or over ice. One of the recipes says you can use a little simple syrup if you want, so that might help.

I have 2 more recipes to mix up, and I'm still looking for fresh mint to make the Derby drinks from last weekend, so this weekend should be a pretty liquid one.

Election Day

Today's the shootout between the Hillaryists and the Obamamamas here, so I'll probably need a stiff drink or two tonight no matter who wins. There was a 55-60-year-old white woman ahead of me who said she was voting for the first time in her life--here where primary turnouts tend to be around 20 percent. Let's hope she likes voting and makes it a habit.

Oh, I forgot to mention: we can't buy liquor until after the polls close here today. I bet you didn't know Indiana thinks it's still 1903, did you? Harold Hill just rang my doorbell peddling boys' bands.

Last night I finished getting caught up on my champagne cocktail recipes, and managed to finish up the bottle of bubbly in the process. The first one from a couple months ago was called a Casanova in my calendar: champagne, apple juice (I used the 100% stuff), and raspberry puree (I bought frozen and schmushed a few around in a bowl). I'm not sure what that combination has to do with old roués or lots of women, except maybe he needed lots of champagne to lubricate his way through them all.

Verdict: champagne by itself is better. The apple juice didn't bring anything to the table, and the raspberry mash just sat in the bottom of the goblet, to bottom off the drink. Now I have a bottle of apple juice in the fridge, not my favorite.

Recipe #2 was an 'Old Cuban'. Sort of like an old roué, but with an accent and revolutionary fervor. Rum (I used the zillion cane version), lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, something else maybe (not the secret ingredient, just the forgotten one), champagne.

Do you know how hard it is to find fresh mint in the grocery stores here in the Herbland, uh, Heartland? Nowhere locally. It put a damper on my making Derby-appropriate juleps over the weekend, let me tell you. I have a just planted mint plant in my herb plot, so I tore a few baby leaves off that for this drink. They wouldn't work for a proper julep though.

Verdict on this one: I liked it. The lime doesn't overpower everything, maybe because the sugar syrup helps tone it down, and I got just a whiff of mint. Not a drink I'd make with top quality champagne, but maybe a good substitute for a margarita to go with a South of the Border meal.

As a postscript, in the first of my Other Things You Can Use This Stuff For informational bits: I was making scrambled eggs last night (with shredded cheese, so not proper scrambled eggs), and I threw in a couple dashes of bitters on a whim. The eggs were good. I could get just a hint of the herbalness of the bitters. I recommend it.

The Day They Invented Champagne

I had several champagne recipes to catch up, so on a sunny, cool spring Sunday, I figure there was no time like the present, or some other justifying cliché.

The first one is called Lady Macbeth, in honor of The Bard's birthday a few days ago. Champagne and port, so it looks, well, bloody. I used Cockburn's ruby port. Verdict: it's OK, but champagne by itself would taste just as good.

Second, after an appropriate interval, called, first, for a sugar cube saturated in bitters, then crushed. I had a rock masquerading as a sugar cube. Then an ice cube or two and bourbon, and topped with champagne. It was surprisingly better than I thought it'd be, though I didn't drink it all. Bourbon and champagne don't seem like a natural combo. There was a sliver of sugar cube rock left in the glass when I poured the rest out, so I ate it. My idea of food with alcohol.

Third, a sake mimosa cocktail. Sake, Grand Marnier, Mandarin Absolut, OJ, shaken together, topped with champagne. Sake and champagne are another combination I wouldn't have thought of, but after an initial "I don't think I'm going to be able to drink all this," it grew on me. I'm not sure I'd drink it all the time, and it needs something (gray salt?), but not bad.

And I still have half a bottle of champagne to drink.

Me vs. the Anise Tree

(Actually, it's a bush, and I only know that because I watched The Thirsty Traveler the one night on the FLN channel, and Iron Chef America's Ed McMahon, Kevin What's His Name, was talking about ouzo.)

I've said before here, probably more than once, that I hate licorice, and I'm not a fan of licorice and anise flavors. I do like fennel and fennel seed a lot, though, for some strange reason.

So on my shopping spree a few weeks ago I finally found Herbsaint (I also found absinthe, but passed on having green fairy moments for now) and picked up a bottle of Ricard as well.

Ricard is a pastis like Pernod; both were created after absinthe was banned in the early 20th century, and both are now part of the same company. They're apéritifs, and usually you mix them 1:5 with water, or else just plop a jug of water down in front of the drinker to let her add her own.

My first go was a Pernod cocktail (using Ricard): the anise stuff, water, sugar syrup, something else maybe?, on ice. It wasn't as strong as I thought it would be. The taste was pretty mild, especially as the ice melted and watered it down a little more and I got to the sugar syrup regions (yup, not mixed well).

Last night I made up for lost time in my calendar and mixed two recipes for Sazeracs. I used bourbon instead of cognac, so purists would say I wasn't making the real thing. I had more bourbon on hand than cognac, so one of these nights when I'm looking for a drink, I'll try again for authenticity.

The first called for bourbon or cognac, about 1/2 oz of lemon juice, 1/4 oz of Herbsaint (a good New Orleans liqueur for a New Orleans drink), and Peychaud's bitters (and M. Peychaud reportedly created the drink). Verdict: the anise didn't offend me, but there was too much lemon. It overpowered everything else.

Recipe no. 2 was bourbon, Peychaud's, just a drizzle of Herbsaint in the glass first to coat, and squeeze a bit of lemon peel over it at the end. Sort of like an Old Fashioned with a faint hint of licorice.

So the upshot is: I like these anise-based drinks better than I thought I would. I can see sitting on a terrace somewhere in Provence sipping one before dinner. Any invitations?

May Day

April 22nd was Lenin's birthday. I didn't have any sweet and sour mix sitting around, so I put off mixing the drink in his honor till today. Now I have a big bottle of s&s that's a bit tall for the fridge taking up room, but I'm sure I'll find a use for it.

The drink in my calendar of his birthday is a 'Leninade': vodka (I used Absolut Mandarin), sweet & sour, blue curacao (the first recipe in a while that's called for that), and topped with 7-Up.

When I was a kid I liked 7-Up, but it's a bit bland for me anymore; I bought a 20-oz bottle of Sierra Mist instead. Verdict: not bad. Another nice mixed drink, a little on the sweet side, but a good mix of flavors. It might make a good punch with a little tweaking.

Trying to catch up on my drinking, I also mixed the whiskey fizz from yesterday: blended whiskey (I dusted off a bottle of Canadian Club from the back of the shelf), lemon juice, simple syrup, topped with club soda. A good whiskey mixed drink that packs a bit of a punch, but too much water for me.

As an aside, today, May Day, or thereabouts, is my little black guy Darwin's birthday. I almost named him Che, and as crabby as he gets when he's decided he's been petted enough, I probably should have.