Vanilla Rum

Today's drink in my calendar calls for 2 ingredients: creme de banana and vanilla rum. This is my first go-round with vanilla rum. I used Admiral Nelson's.

You coat the glass with the banana, dump out the excess, pour in the chilled rum, and plunk in a vanilla bean for garnish. I had some neglected vanilla beans in the bottom drawer of my fridge, so I broke my usual no garnish rule, split one, and put it in the drink.

The drink was much better than I though it would be. The banana was subtle, not overpowering, and I liked the vanilla rum. I like vanilla in general. It's my favorite ice cream flavor, no topping.

I decided to go a second round, so I made a Havana daiquiri from one of my bartender's guide: it called for white rum but I used the vanilla, banana liqueur, lemon juice (I wonder why not lime for a daiquiri?), and simple syrup.

The banana was a little too much in this one - I'd use 3/4 of an ounce instead of an ounce next time, but in general the flavors blended really well. And it didn't taste too citrusy from the lemon. Good drink. If I hadn't hit my limit for the day, I'd try it with lime juice. Hell, limits are made to be broken.

Dubonnet Was a Lady

The recipe in my calendar yesterday was for a drink made with Dubonnet, brandy, and lemon juice. Simple enough, but not my favorite. I'm not big on fortified or sweet red wines, though the brandy punched it up and the lemon cut the sweetness a little.

I decided to try a second Dubonnet drink since the bottle was out, and I saw online that the Blackthorn Cocktail is often made with it: Dubonnet, kirsch, and gin (I used Plymouth). Looking around later for alternate recipes, I discovered that it's usually made with sloe gin, since it's made from the berries of the blackthorn bush. Shrub. Small tree. Whatever.

I liked this one even less. After the first sip I wondered if I should introduce it to the drain in the sink, but I hate to waste good gin. The flavors together just didn't work for me. Maybe a professional mixologist would know how to tweak this to get it to taste better?

Champagne Weekend

This weekend I've been catching up on champagne cocktails. The lost weekend has stretched into today, so it's a long lost weekend.

Sunday and today most of the cocktails used raspberry puree. I defroze a bag of berries and pureed them in the blender, which I then just stuck in the fridge (yes, minus the base; thank you, sis). The instructions in my calendar said to strain it, but what's a few seeds.

The first recipe called for champagne, creme de banana, cointreau, and the raspberries. It tasted better than I thought it would. The banana flavor didn't overpower everything, nor did the cointreau. I bet another fruit liqueur would work well too.

The second one has as ingredients the champagne, ginger beer (or ale), and a splash of apricot brandy. This one was less successful. The ginger ale tends to overpower the other flavors, and I didn't get much raspberry flavor. Just a hint of the apricot brandy came through, which was nice.

I winged the next one: an ounce or so of melon liqueur, a teaspoon of lemon juice, topped with champagne. OK, not great. It tasted like champagne with, well, melon liqueur. Not complex flavors at all and sweet. A little cognac might help this one.

Today I tweaked the recipe in my calendar slightly for this next one:

1 oz rum (I used Appleton's)
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz creme de peche (peach)
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 oz raspberry puree

Shake these on ice, pour into a chilled goblet or flute, top with champagne (I've been using Korbel Chardonnay). See the picture to my right (your left?). This is my first cocktail picture, so don't go run and grab Cartier-Bresson for his opinion.

I'm not big on rum with champagne, so this didn't put me over the top. And the peach flavor got a little lost with that much rum and lime.

I drank it with supper: steamed broccoli and some pork meatballs that I cooked in my convection toaster oven: pork cutlet pulverized in the food processor, drizzle of cream, panko, an egg, herbs de Provence, a little ancho powder, and a soy sauce dipping sauce. A nice meal. The dogs liked it too.

Champagne Day 1

I'm ahead of schedule with my calendar drinks, so I'm using this weekend to catch up on some champagne cocktails.

The bubbly I'm using is a Korbel Chardonnay, which I've never drunk before and costs twice as much as my usual Korbel from Sam's, but it was on sale so I decided to live dangerously. What's one more late mortgage payment for Wells Fargo these days. It's good. I'm not a sparkling wine aficionado, but I could drink this with a ham sandwich.

Drink #1 was a variation on a cosmo: cointreau, lime juice, another ingredient that I forget so it'll stay a secret, and pomegranate juice in place of the cranberry juice I finished up the other day. Topped with champagne of course.

It's OK. I'm not a big cosmo fan, but I got my antioxidants and vitamin C for the day.

For the second drink, I winged it, saving the raspberry puree drinks for tomorrow: tangerine mixer (they're still not in season) and a drizzle of Mandarine Napoleon, topped off. Sort of a slightly tarter mimosa. I liked it: a nice alternative to a usual brunch drink.

I winged it again for version #3 tonight: passion fruit liqueur, a drizzle of Rose's, topped with Korbel. This was OK; I liked the tangerine better. This might be really good with passion fruit puree and a little of the liqueur for a kick.

I knew I should have ordered that caviar from iGourmet.

Orange Fizzes

While moving liquor bottles from one side of the Titanic to the other today, I took off the mini-recipe booklet hanging around the neck of my bottle of Mandarine Napoleon and looked through it.

All the names were Manda- this or that: Mandarito, Mandatonic, Mandafizz, Mandarocks. I'd never thought of tonic with anything besides gin, so I tried it with MN, proportions roughly 1 to 5.

I thought MN would go better with the quinine in tonic, but it wasn't a match made in heaven. I didn't like it. I'm betting curacao might work because it's so sweet.

I wondered if another orange liqueur would work better, so I tried Grand Marnier in the same proportions with tonic. I liked this one much better; maybe the brandy makes a difference. I had to avoid UV light the rest of the afternoon so I wouldn't fluoresce.

This evening I made one more try, but using MN and club soda, same proportions. This one tasted better than the Mandatonic, like an orange soda. A squirt of lemon or lime might punch it up. It's a good drink for this last heat wave of the summer. I hope.

Lemon Drops

My recipe for today in my calendar was a "lemon drop": lemon vodka (I used Tanqueray) and lemon juice (in equal proportions), orange juice, and orange liqueur (I used Mandarine Napoleon).

I'm confused: why would you use so much orange, both the juice and the liqueur, in a 'lemon drop'? It tasted pretty orangey, and an ounce and a half of straight lemon juice needs more sweet something to balance it.

I wondered if I could do better, so I shook up equal parts of lemon vodka and limoncello with just a drizzle of MN. Much better, and it tasted almost exactly like a lemon drop (though limoncello straight out of the bottle tastes like lemon candy). Maybe the vodka came across a little strong; the proportions could use tweaking, and a little lemon juice would really punch it up. If you're a lemon head, like I am, it's a great drink.

What Do I Wear in Bed?

Not Chanel, like Marilyn Monroe said she did.

Today's drink in my calendar is a 'Coco Chanel', in honor of her birthday. Shirley MacLain is going to portray her in a biopic on Lifetime next month. She probably knew her in her previous life.

This is a simple drink: gin (I used Gordon's), kahlua, and heavy cream. I needed a few groceries today so I picked up a pint, donating my heart as well as my liver to science today.

Alle gute Dinge sind drei, so I made 3 variations on Miss Chanel. The first, with kahlua, was the best: a pleasant, spiked chocolate milkshake. I'm not big on sweet cocktails, but this worked for me. Heavy cream makes everything taste better. Plymouth gin or Bombay might take it over the top.

Second drink, I used Tia Maria. This was my least favorite: it doesn't have much taste, not nearly as chocolatey as the kahlua version.

Last drink, with Starbucks liqueur: this one, not surprisingly, was very mocha latte, a new drink to flag their sagging earnings. It was good as coffee drinks go, but the kahlua version was still the best.

Actually, I wear Chanel to bed too, but Egoiste Platinum. Or I did - till the dogs complained about the smell. Wonder if Bobby ever did.

Pink Drinks

I'm trying to double up on drinks with a similar theme or liquor base so I'll be able to catch up on champagne-based cocktails that I've fallen behind on, along with a couple pousse cafes - not that that thought thrills me: my liqueurs always blend together, no matter how carefully I drip them in.

The first one is in honor of the creator of the Pink Panther animated sequence in the Blake Edwards films: pink grapefruit juice (I picked up a bottle of the overly sweet stuff at the Shell quickie mart), gin (I used Gordon's), and Mandarine Napoleon. (Yes, I've been leaving the -e off on that in recent posts; damn French, always writing words differently from how they sound.) (right? write? rite?) With a strip of lemon twisted over it and dropped in.

Verdict: I like pink grapefruit juice, so this was OK; the real stuff would be better. Maybe a little too much orange; half an ounce instead of 3/4 would work better.

Today is the anniversary of the publication of Lolita, and so the second cocktail is pink with heart-shaped sunglasses (actually not worn in the movie, just the famous promo shot): vodka (I used Tanqueray Citron), cranberry juice, orange juice, lime wedge (which I forgot), and peach schnapps. I already have 4 bottles of schnapps taking up room in my fridge and I wasn't about to run out and buy another one, so I used creme de peche instead. Maybe I need to buy that mini-fridge for my office after all.

Verdict: better than the other drink. It didn't taste like spiked orange juice, and the peach adds a lot to it. Absolut Pear might work well too. I may just have to try that. I felt like James Mason, one of my favorite actors. Thank God Shelley Winters wasn't hovering nearby.

Galliano Drinks

My calendar's drink for this weekend calls for Rhum Barbancourt, which I haven't found locally, so I'm catching up on 2 Galliano drinks from June.

The first one calls for cachaca, Galliano, cointreau, lime juice, cranberry juice, and honey. My first recipe this year that's called for honey. This is a very Brazilian drink, assuming they have cranberry bogs there. For honey, I always buy from Flying Bee Ranch on ebay. Their honey is the best (especially the pumpkin, though I'm using sage today), and the proprietors are very nice folks. My oldest nephew likes their honey sticks.

I liked the drink. Very citrusy, you get a subtle hint of the honey, the cachaca just gives it its kick (the less expensive stuff I buy, at any rate; though I was eying a better, aged bottle at the liquor mart yesterday). I'm not sure you can really taste the Galliano, which you should be able to for what it costs. A nice cocktail. I bet another juice substituting for the cranberry, maybe passion fruit, would be great too.

Report on drink #2 upcoming this evening.

And here it is: boy, did I screw up. These were supposed to be Frangelico drinks, not Galliano drinks. All these Italian names ending in -o look alike. I'll remake the first one if I have a chance, but it wasn't bad made with Galliano.

So drink no. 2, calling for a cast of thousands: dark rum (I used always reliable Myer's), light rum (equally reliable Tommy Bahama's), Frangelico, Kahlua, pineapple juice, lime juice, and maybe another ingredient or two that I'm forgetting. I had to pull out a larger shaker.

I expressed my misgivings about pineapple juice in cocktails a few days ago, but it actually worked in this one. With all the other flavors, it blended and didn't overpower the rest of them. The Frangelico and Kahlua worked surprisingly well together too. I'm guessing the light rum really isn't needed, but a little extra alcohol never hurt anything. I'm betting orange juice would work as well as the pineapple juice, and most people are more likely to have some sitting around. Good drink.

P.S. Sunday afternoon and I've remixed drink no. 1, using the right liqueur this time. I also substituted Mandarin Napoleon for the cointreau. Also a surprisingly good drink, and it doesn't taste hazelnutty. With better cachaca and another juice taking the place of Splendaed cranberry, it would really rock. And when have you seen me say that?

Fortifying Myself

My calendar's recipe for today, in honor of Indian Independence Day or some such holiday, is a cocktail with pineapple juice, brandy (I used E&J), cointreau, and a dash of regular bitters ('regular' being easier to spell than their Agn-something name).

I'm not sure what makes this 'Indian' other than it doesn't have gin as an ingredient, associated with the subcontinent's former occupiers. I like pineapple in cocktails on occasion, but I always feel like I should have a little paper umbrella to stir it with. This was ok, nothing special; the pineapple overwhelms everything else. I pulled out my little statute of Ganesha to up the Indianness.

Since my bottle of E&G was about empty and I needed a good excuse to stop by the liquor mart, I tried this again, but using some pomegranate lemonade I got at Target yesterday. I liked this one better, but it didn't blow me away either. Brandy seems like a logical spiker for lemonade; maybe another brand works better?

Fizzy

The drink for today in my calendar was a Kamikaze, which I've made before: vodka (I used Tanqueray citron), cointreau, and lime juice. I eyeballed the last two ingredients. Not bad, sort of a Cosmo without the red stuff. Maybe too much cointreau in mine, but still good. I have more flavored vodkas cluttering up my freezer, and gin, but can you ever have too many?

Catching up from a couple weeks ago was a New Orleans Fizz: gin (I used Gordon's), lemon juice, lime juice, orange flower water (hiding in the back of the back shelf of the fridge), vanilla extract, cream (I used half and half, half of which ended up on the floor), and an egg white at your own risk. Why not; you only live many times. Shake - for 2 or 3 minutes according to the instructions, but I have weak wrists so I gave it my usual brief but thorough shaking. Top with 4 oz or so of club soda.

Not a bad cocktail, one of my favorites to date. I liked the citrus in it, and the vanilla. Sort of like a spiked smoothie. Now I feel guilty about not going to the gym first. Or for 6 months. If it had had maraschino in it, thus pink, I might have watched pink elephants parading across the ceiling. It's not as hard to make as all the ingredients would suggest, and a nice summertime drink.

The Worst Drink Ever

I've had 2 drinks and 2 sips today. The first was my drink du jour from my calendar: orange juice, gold rum, triple sec, something else that I forget. Not my favorite rum drink: rum and orange juice with not much else doesn't do it for me. A few more citrus flavors would make a difference.

Second was a drink from a month ago called a "Moon Shot". Clam juice and gin in 2 to 1 proportions (that's right, twice as much clam juice as gin) and a dash of hot pepper sauce. And that's it. I finally got around to buying the clam juice last weekend. It doesn't smell fishy.

I mustered all my courage, which ain't much, and sipped. And sipped again. And threw it out, fortunately not up. Yuck. Whoever came up with this mess? Probably someone from Maine. Whatelse can you do with clam juice? That and creme de noyaux.

Since that drink was a washout, I had a good excuse to catch up on another one: a blender drink (and I just washed the damn thing) with ice, tequila (I used reposado), orange liqueur (Mandarin Napoleon to splurge), cherry tomatoes, garlic, green onion, splash of Worcestershire sauce, and I added a splash of pepper sauce. Pulse.

Well, I'm getting my vegetables for today. I didn't have the lime the recipe called for so I just used a little juice. Lime would definitely help. Garlic apparently doesn't pulse very well, so your last slug is pretty garlicky. I'd just as soon have a Bloody Mary if I'm going to do this sort of thing.

As an aside, my friend and neighbor (not always the same) sent her little boy off to kindergarten this morning (13 years of terror ahead), and when she came over later to walk dogs I had two Sponge Bob paper cups with the rest of my Korbel from the weekend to celebrate. She needed it. And thought it was funny (thank God).

Joyeux Creme de Noyaux

Christmas in July a month late.

My recipe for today calls for creme de noyaux, which is an amaretto-like liqueur made from apricot pits, but very sweet and with lots of red dye no. less than 10, higher than 1. Much sweeter than your regular amaretto (I slugged a little from the bottle to check; it's a guy thing).

Just for kicks I made a taste test against parfait amour, another highly colored liqueur. Parfait amour is just purple, with not much taste. Maybe another brand - I have Marie Brizzard; Bols makes it too - would have more flavor.

I looked around for recipes using creme de noyaux (now that I have a big bottle of the stuff), and there aren't many. One is the 'pink squirrel', what you see if you've been eating nutmegs: a whole ounce of the stuff (creme de noyaux, not nutmeg), creme de cacao again, and cream. It would sure be pink and nutty.

Today's concoction calls for 2 oz of gin (I used Plymouth), a dash of creme de noyaux (which I'd noticed in one of my smaller local liquor marts when I'd been in there, the only out-of-the-ordinary liqueur on their shelf), a dash of white creme de cacao, a dash of lemon juice, and a couple splashes of orange bitters.

It was tastier than I thought it'd be. I'm not sure I liked the chocolate/cacao flavor all that much, but it wasn't bad. Maybe another liqueur (passion fruit?) would work better.

A similar drink I found online, the 'Old Etoninan' (where DO they come up with these names for drinks?), calls for equal parts gin and lillet (blanc, I assumed) and splashes of orange bitters and noyaux. Only three-fourth ounce each of the gin and the lillet, which hardly makes drinking worthwhile, so I upped those quantities.

Verdict: not too bad, but I like Lillet by itself on ice; this brew just hides its flavors. Maybe I can use my creme de noyaux in a few months in a baked something de noel.

Champagne Cocktails: Part 3

This topic is starting to sound like a Naked Gun movie.

I had a bottle of Korbel brut in the fridge, so I decided to both catch up on and anticipate champagne recipes.

All the recipes are pretty much identical: shake up an ounce of a base spirit, half ounce of lemon juice, teaspoon of sugar, then pour a few ounces of champagne over it.

The first one, from next month in my calendar, used cognac as the base. For my first try, I used Remy Martin Grand Cru champagne cognac. I like cognac-based champagne cocktails, and this one lived up to expectations.

I just bought a bottle of Hennessy Privilege, and I used it for my second drink. Better than the Remy Martin in a champagne cocktail - much more subtle, not as strong of a cognac taste, but bringing its flavors to the party.

I did a little reading up on Hennessy to see what I was drinking: it was founded by an Irishman, Richard Hennessy, who'd been a mercenary to Louis XV. And that's about the only exciting fact in the company history, except that North Korean leader Kim I Am favors it. Maybe I could put some in a flash and fasten it to my dog Maddie's collar; she's about as big as a St. Bernard.

Today (no, I didn't drink all these in one evening) I made a champagne cocktail with Jim Beam Black label. This one didn't do it for me, the taste of bourbon with champagne didn't work. Maybe another bourbon would be better. My favorite is Woodford Reserve but I didn't have any of that on hand.

Last, I went back to the original champagne cocktail recipe from January and used gin. This time I pulled out the Tanqueray 10. I wondered how its strong herbal flavors would work with champagne. Surprising, but I like it. I'm not sure it would meld with a sweeter champagne, but the bay and lime and whatever else blend nicely with a brut champagne. I'll have to make this one again. As an aside, I'd recommended Tanqueray Rangpur to a friend as great in a gin and tonic, and he picked up a bottle. He agreed. But he's ex-navy: gin, rum - you know how those guys are.

On a Sour Note

I've mixed a couple more drinks tending towards the sour side in the last few days.

The first was a daiquiri: crushed ice, gin, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and maraschino juice. I've given up for now trying to find the elusive maraschino liqueur. When I get to Chicago this fall I'll check a couple full-service liquor emporiums I know there, but I sure haven't been able to find it in either Indianapolis or Louisville. I'm not going to worry about it for now, just use the juice off maraschino cherries.

This one was a bit too sour for my taste. It's supposedly close to the recipe Hemingway liked, but if he drank these all the time, he had either a peculiar or a very specialized taste in mixed drinks.

Grapefruit juice seems to be one of those juices that you really have to use the real thing, right out of the half fruit. Even the 'natural' stuff at the store doesn't come close for me. It seems more tart, tending towards even being astringent. Juiced pink grapefruit are even better.

The second (I already reported on the gin, grapefruit juice, and Campari concoction from earlier this week) is called a 'double sour': bourbon (I used Jim Beam black), gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a splash of grenadine.

Gin and bourbon is another combination I never would have thought of, like champagne and cognac. I'm not sure the gin, at least the Gordon's I used, brought much to the taste palette, but it's always good to shake up a sour and not rely on sweet and sour mix. Not a bad drink though I'd skip the grenadine

As a p.s.: this evening I mixed a drink from February that called for Parfait Amour, which I finally found a few weeks ago. I shouldn't have waited ... Hopefully I'll have a recipe later this year that shows off that liqueur better.

Grapefruit Juice Again

I haven't been drinking much this week (which means I'll have to schedule a marathon one weekend to catch up), but last night I shook up a nice recipe from my calendar: reposado tequila, grapefruit juice, just a little campari, then all this topped with club soda. The campari was a surprising touch, and you don't get the overwhelming bitter orange taste. I've had other recipes with tequila and grapefruit juice; they go well together, and I like the combination better than the tequila with coffee-flavored liqueur drinks.

As a P.S.: the recipe from a week or so ago was for a simple tequila shot, with the lime wedge and the salt. I'm sorry, but I still don't get the attraction of silver Patron. My perhaps rapidly fading taste buds just don't suck (or whatever verb taste buds do) much taste out of it. Their marketing's certainly effective though - it's everywhere.

Cachaca Drinks

Tonight I caught up on two cachaca drinks from a couple months ago.

The first called for turbinado sugar and lime muddled, then passion fruit juice (I used liqueur), cream, and cachaca. I didn't want to buy cream just for this, so I got a can of whipped cream instead and whizzed some of that into the glass.

Not a bad drink. The lime didn't curdle the cream, and it tastes like a tropical milk shake with the rum, lime, and cream.

The second option is called a 'spiced mandarin caipirinha.' This one muddles sugar, limes, mandarin orange segments, and cinnamon, then add the rum and mandarin Napoleon liqueur. The recipe didn't give proportions, so I used about a half teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 ounces of cachaca, and 1 of the mandarin Napoleon.

I'm not a big cinnamon fan, and this was a tad too cinnamony for me, and you end up with cinnamon all over the ice cubes. Maybe cinnamon schnapps would work better. The orange and cachaca go well together, though, and I bet it'd work with another spice taking the place of the cinnamon.

Tangerines in the Air

I had a recipe from May 30th for a sidecar made with tangerine juice. The problem was finding tangerine juice or the little buggers themselves. No luck anywhere.

Friday I hit the big liquor mart in Louisville and found a quart bottle of tangerine mixer: tangerine juice from concentrate and cane syrup. I figured that was close enough. I went to Whole Foods later and hoped I might find the real thing there, but no luck. I did find some nice dry aged strip steaks though. Next best thing.

Tonight I shook up the sidecar: Jim Beam black, the juice (which straight from the bottle is tarter than orange juice), lemon juice, and Cointreau. Verdict: OK, not great, orangey-tasting bourbon.

The magic calendar gives a couple alternative recipes. The first one says to make it on ice in an old fashioned glass and add a splash of club soda. I liked this one a lot better. I also upped the tangerine juice to 1:1 with the bourbon, so that may have helped. I'm not sure why diluting it with water helps, but it does.

Number 3 was over ice, no lemon juice, 1:1 tangerine to bourbon, and a splash of orange flower water. This version was too orangey, like the orange vodka concoction from a few weeks ago.

And now I have almost a quart of tangerine-sugar mixture taking up space in the fridge.

Gott im Kümmel!

Today I found a bottle of kümmel so I can make a recipe from a couple weeks ago in my calendar .

Of course, you've all drunk kümmel regularly at South Beach clubs. If you haven't, kümmel is a caraway-based liqueur. Yes, that's right, caraway. The original recipe was brewed up by a firm in Berlin, but today it's made in Cleveland. How the mighty have fallen.

I love caraway in bread and sauerkraut. The cocktail recipe called for gin, kümmel, and lemon juice. Verdict: not so great. The caraway goes well with the juniper in the gin (I used Gordon's), but the lemon juice just complicates the taste palette.

I decided to give it another try, so I shook up Tanqueray 10 with the kümmel. I thought the herbal flavors in the 10 would go well it. Verdict: wrong again. The 10 overwhelmed the kümmel. Not good at all.

One more try: vodka (Stoli), triple sec (since it's very sweet and orangey), and kümmel. Better than the other two but still not great. Surely there's a good kümmel out there. Or, if nothing else, pour some in next time you're cooking a nice Alsatian dish.