Getting My Mojito Back

I didn't take last week off from writing because I was gone or sick or in love or sick or whatever. I just wasn't drinking much. None of the recipes in my calendar looked especially appealing, though I'll have to mix them up at some point to make my goal of drinking every one this year, and most evenings I just didn't feel like a drink. Maybe it was the heat.

Saturday night I went over to my sister's and started with a couple of beers (lites; oh, well), then took a sip of one of her strawberry wines (running home afterwards for a quick shot of insulin), then a sip of my brother in law's cloudy 'martini' made with the bottle of Burnett's I'd taken over there and some lemon (no vermouth), then moving on to a Campari and gin. I was feeling pretty good while we watched The Bucket List. And I still knew the answers to Morgan Freeman's Jeopardy questions.

Tonight I tried to get back in the groove. Before dinner, a drink called 'Love Potion" or something equally silly from the calendar: lemon-flavored vodka (I used Stoli with some sweet and sour), chambord (I used a raspberry liqueur), and cranberry juice (I used pomegranate). Verdict: sweet, but not bad. I'd bet the pom was better in it than most commercial cran juices would've been.

Second, today's recipe, a mojito. After I'd seen Sex and the City yesterday, I should have made a Cosmopolitan, but this was the next best thing. You all know what goes in a mojito. I used some mint from my herb patch and citron-flavored Cruzan gin. Not bad, especially after I stirred it up. I wouldn't say it's my favorite drink in the world, but a nice summer drink, and I can see (or taste) why it's taken off like it has. I bet a better sugar than the plain ol' white stuff I was using would make it really swing.

One of my goals for the second half of this year of drinking is to make vittles, as we call them around here, to go with the drinks. I'd been planning to make hummus, one of my favorite finger foods, for a long time, and I'd picked up a jar of tahini over the weekend. The plastic bag split and the jar fell and broke, so I really did pick it up (the grocery munchkins did, actually). I whirled up a batch in the food processor and had some of that with blue corn chips and my mojito: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice (I was too heavy handed with that), olive oil, salt, cumin and smoked paprika, which I toasted on the stove. I forgot the pine nuts until five seconds ago as I was writing this. Good stuff to nosh with a mojito. And the dogs liked it too. Rosie liked it on the chips. Maddie got it as finger food - paw food from her point of view.


I caught up on a few more recipes today. One was the infamous creme de menthe one, with gin, grenadine, egg white. I don't worry much about raw eggs; I've read that most of the bad ones turn up in industrial restaurant settings; if I'm going to catch salmonella, it's going to be from eating my spinach and other vegetables.

Anyway, the verdict on this: 2 sips, and I tossed the rest out. A drink with creme de menthe really has to be good for me to like it.

Second was one in honor of the Belmont: vodka, gold rum, strawberry liqueur, lime juice, a little grenadine. It was OK; my main complaint is that none of the ingredients really stood out, they just turned into one more sweet cocktail.

Third (yup, I was busy; ain't done yet either) was a daiquiri: white rum (I used Bacardi, trying to use up my bottle), superfine sugar, lime juice, a dash of maraschino juice off some cherries in lieu of the liqueur, which I haven't been able to find. Not a bad drink, tasted like, well, a daiquiri, but not a very big one, since it called for only a cup of crushed ice.

Wolfgang Puck has been on HSN this weekend. I like watching him (hiding my AmEx card first) to get ideas for things to cook or just sit and watch and have a cooking orgasm (a new psychological term). One item of his that I didn't hide my AmEx card fast enough before I saw it was the immersion blender. I already had an immersion blender. I can probably count on two hands the times I've used it in the almost 25 years that I've owned it (actually, this is a 2nd generation, cordless model, that replaced the original corded one; long story). But, Chef Puck's has a neat little chopping bowl that you can attach the base of the blender to. The way he chopped and diced avocados and tomatoes and all types of foods in it, I thought the bowl would make the blender usable. So I ordered one a month or so ago. (Albeit not on HSN; I found a refurbished one, cheaper, on Overstock; it's already crashed once, so what's the odds it's going to do it again?)

And the point of this long boring story? I used the immersion blender and the bowl to crush the ice and mix it with the booze for my daiquiri. Worked like a charm. Easier then lugging out my blender, and just the right size for mixing a drink for one person, who usually wouldn't be drinking more than one.

But, I thought it was so neat, and it is a Sunday evening after all and I have to gird up my loins for the workweek, that I decided to make myself another one. A bigger one. Just eyeballing everything: more ice, Malibu rum this time (for some reason the author of my calendar rarely has recipes calling for that), Rose's, and strawberry liqueur. Again, it's great. I like the coconut and strawberry; it could stand a little more rum. Or I could stand a little more rum. I guess I could just pour some in, no? I've finally found something that Sundays are good for.

Mix & Match

A brief review of a few drinks I'm mixed the last few days. I'm still avoiding the creme de menthe one from my calendar, and I haven't found tangerines anywhere for the one with tangerine juice.

A few days ago I had a recipe for a sloe gin cocktail, by some other silly name, but the classic sloe gin and sweet vermouth. I wasn't keen on it; I liked Campari and sweet vermouth better. The sweet vermouth takes over from the sloe gin.

While I had the sloe gin out, I mixed a sloe gin fizz (not in my calendar): sloe gin, gin (I used Tanqueray with lime), lemon juice, club soda - the usual stuff. It wasn't bad, a good summer drink, but a bit tart for me. A little simple syrup or sugar or even Rose's would make it better. I made a 3rd sloe gin drink (a boozy night), but I don't even remember the details now. As I said about boozy...

Last night I mixed up a cocktail from my calendar with mezcal, simple syrup, lime juice, on ice topped with ginger ale (I used the spikey, all-natural stuff). The more I drink mezcal, the more I like it, and I really dig it with the ginger ale. I hadn't eaten much yesterday, and this packs a punch.

Not to be put off by a Mexican jumping bean with a punch, I tried it again, but this time with a little Absolut Vanilla. I thought the vanilla might go well with the smokeyness of the mezcal. Wrong. It overpowered it. I didn't drink more than a few sips. Don't try this at home. I wonder about Absolut Pear though.

This afternoon, another recipe from my calendar, this weekend in honor of the Belmont. Bourbon, Benedictine, bitters, a lemon twist (I used a teaspoon of juice), shaken, poured over ice, topped with the rest of the ginger ale from last night. My local so-called drugstore had Jim Beam Black on sale (and I had a $4 off coupon) that I'd bought a couple days ago. I cracked it open today.

I'm a Bourbon fan, and a Benedictine fan, and a ginger ale fan (esp. with chips and dip). This is good. I can't judge the Jim Black from this drink, but I'm ready to use it again.

Ginger, no Mary Ann

I had a recipe from a week or so ago calling for ginger beer. A couple months ago I had a ginger beer recipe, and I found it at Target, but I didn't want to drive 25 miles to the nearest Target this time, and none of the local stores (including WalMart) carry it.

Today, while at another grocery (where all the celery wasn't brown, like it was at Wally World, but it didn't have either parsley or cilantro: this is the great Midwest, after all), I found a natural brand of ginger ale: pure cane syrup, no additives, etc. I figured this might have more kick than the Canada Dry stuff, and I was right: I drank a can this afternoon, and it packs a nice ginger punch.

So this evening I mixed up the cocktail. It called for a couple pieces of fresh ginger, which I'd bought for the occasion. And ginger syrup. Who has ginger syrup sitting around? I still have a recipe from early in the year calling for ginger liqueur; I can't find that anywhere, and I'm not about to make it myself. So I used simple syrup and muddled the fresh ginger and a piece of candied ginger in it. (Inventive, no?). Then dark rum, a squeeze of lime juice, and top with the ginger pop/soda/whatever you call it.

Verdict: I liked it. The dark rum goes great with the ginger, and I've gotten so I like lime in most of my drinks. It's one of the best cocktails I've made from this calendar, and actually one I might make again. Maybe by then I'll have found ginger syrup or liqueur or whatever. Or just rely on the candied stuff, which I usually have sitting around.

One Worm or Two?

Yesterday I tried mezcal for the first time. Sipping a little straight out of the bottle, uh, well, I mean, out of a shot glass (what guy would ever drink right out of a bottle?), it has a nice earthy flavor to it. I already like it better than tequila, even the pricer bottles like Patron.

According to the liquor wizards at wikipedia, mezcal differs from tequila in that mezcal has to be made with 80% agave, as opposed to about 50% for tequila, and tequila uses blue agave. There's also regional issues, a French sort of thing, and single village versions, and all that kind of stuff. Mezcal also comes with a complimentary worm in the bottle. Mine came with two. I'm just glad it isn't a scorpion, which wikipedia says is done occasionally. Talk about a sting in the tail.

So after the initial glug, uh, sip, of it straight up, I tried a recipe from my calendar: 2 to 1 mezcal to Grand Marnier, with instant coffee sprinkled on top. I used espresso powder. Not bad at all. The orange and coffee and smoky mezcal-ness were a good combination.

Second, after my liver had time to process those 3 ounces of alcohol, I made one from, the Del Maguey company site, which has lots of really interesting mezcal concoctions. This one called for chilled espresso (I needed a good excuse to go to Starbux anyway), mezcal, Kahlua, and Tia Maria. I may have gotten a bit more than 2 ounces of espresso because the it tended to overpower everything else. The sweet liqueurs helped tone down any potential bitterness, and I could still get a sense of the mezcal. Cut down on the espresso, maybe use a little more mezcal, and this would be a great after-dinner drink.

Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano

Tonight I was still ignoring my drink of the day calendar and exploring the imported contents of my cupboard.

Last night I mixed up a Campari and gin, which went down smoother and smoother as I worked my way through it. Tonight I went for an Americano, which is just a negroni without the gin. Somewhere I read that Bond, James etc., orders one in Casino Royale. I'm assuming they mean the Daniel Craig version, not the Woody Allen-David-Niven-Peter Sellers-Cast of Thousands version. In my excitement I forgot to splash some club soda into my campari and sweet vermouth (I forgot to check if he takes it shaken or stirred), but I didn't want a quasi sangria without the fruit anyway.

I liked it. It wasn't as sweet as I thought it might be with the vermouth. You still get the bitterness of the Campari in the back of your throat, but drinking herbally Campari and vermouth, I felt like something alcoholic might actually be good for me.

Then I tried a Pimm's cup, with the cucumber muddled instead of just plunking a chunk of cuke on the edge of the glass. I didn't have any 7-Up or Sprite or similar lemon-lime soda (I only buy it when I need it for a drink recipe), so I relied on sweet and sour mix, just eyeballing it and a generous slug of Pimm's.

I liked this one too. The cuke brings a nice flavor to the drink; a light sprinkle of sea salt (the good stuff) might accent that. The sweet and sour wasn't overwhelming and has a bit more kick than most lemon-lime sodas (though Mountain Dew might be interesting in this). Next year at Glyndebourne I'll have to get a real one made up for me.

Yesterday Notte

On a liquor buying expedition the other day, I was looking for gin to supplement my bottle of Tanqueray with lime. That's good but just too fragrant for some drinks. I picked up a bottle of Burnett's; I'd brought one home a few months ago and drank my way through it pretty fast. It was good for an inexpensive brand, and, well, inexpensive, if not cheap. But once I got it home, I started to think, maybe I should try something new. I know, not a typical male. So on my next trip out I went whole hog and bought a bottle of Plymouth. The NY Times gave that a good review a few months ago when they surveyed several different gins.

I looked up Plymouth gin and found a few interesting factoids: Ian Fleming drank it, so you can assume Bond, James etc., did too. It can only be made in Plymouth, England. It's sweeter than London dry gin. The stuff I bought is 41% alcohol, but they also make a 'navy strength' at 51%. If you have any gunpowder in the cellar and spill some gin on it, it will still explode. Good to know.

Somewhere I recently came across mention of gin sours, so I decided to use those to take Plymouth through its paces. (And the drinks in my calendar the last few days haven't been all that interesting; I'll mix those up one of these days.) The first sour I made was 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar. I used almost a spoon full of sugar, and the gin still didn't go down all that well. The drink was awfully sour; the lemon overpowered the gin.

For drink no. 2, I used gin and sweet and sour mix and just eyeballed the proportions. One thousand one, one thousand two, ... Better: not as sour, and I could taste the gin. Though I'm not sure Burnett's wouldn't have been just as good in it.

Later last night I was watching La Notte, a film by Michelangelo Antonioni with a young Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau. Midway through it I mixed up a Campari and gin in the spirit of the flick. The first couple sips were like taking medicine for malaria or something, but the taste grew on me, similar to drinking retsina, though I had that bitter Campari taste in the back of my mouth until I went to bed I can see drinking this as an aperitif before a nice dinner out somewhere. But one 1960s Italian movie goes a long way.