New Flavors

I finally nailed the elusive maraschino liqueur. I found a store in NYC that's willing to risk the wrath of Evan Bayh (sort of like the wrath of a pomeranian) and ship to Indiana, so I got 2 bottles of maraschino, a bottle of punt e mes for a recipe coming upthis fall, some lillet blanc (which I've found semi-locally, but since I was placing an order...), and creme de violette, for the many times I'll ever drink that. It sure is purple.

I wondered how they would ship bottles of liqueur. The company uses rectangular white styrofoam holders with bottle-shaped indentations. The creme de violette leaked just a little, but the packaging is remarkably inventive.

So I mixed up again a recipe from early in the year for a quasi-sidecar: brandy, maraschino, cointreau, and bitters. It's not my favorite sidecar, but you can definitely taste the maraschino - it's like the essence of a cherry imbues your cocktail, but you're not using use the real thing, like I usually don't.

The second drink I tried was my standard campari and gin (Bombay), but using punt e mes. As wikipedia correctly puts it, punt e mes sits between a sweet vermouth and campari. I could taste the bitter orange/quinquina in it, but it also tastes like 2/3 of the ingredients for a negroni. Just add gin. I order specifically campari and gin with lime instead of a negroni because I don't like the sweet vermouth.

So my concoction tasted like a negroni, not bad, but give me my campari and gin. A nice substitute for sweet vermouth when your cocktail needs just a little extra bite.

As a p.s.: last Wednesday evening I made a hot rum punch from my calendar to take over to friends to watch Project Runway: a whole bottle of gold rum, a bottle of brandy, a cup of sherry, 6, count 'em, 6 lemons zested and juiced, simple syrup, I don't know what all else. Boiling water.

This was the most lethal concoction of the year. (It needed more simple syrup to offset the lemons too.) I'm getting a reputation with my friends for making strong cocktails, and this surely set it in stone. I'd like to say I fell asleep on the couch (my own) later, but more accurately, I probably passed out. Whew!

Grapefruit Cocktails

Grapefruit juice is one of favorite juices. The last few days my calendar has had a couple recipes that call for it, so I saved them up for today and actually bought the real beast and juiced it, instead of buying a bottle of sugary pink stuff that's mostly apple juice at the Quickee Mart, like I usually do.

The first called for G juice, gin (I used Bombay), and Benedictine. This tasted nice, with lots of secret herbs and spices from the Benedictine and the gin. I would use maybe a tad less Benedictine next time (it called for half an ounce to 2 oz of G juice), but I wasn't complaining.

The second cocktail is G juice, a splash of grenadine, apricot nectar (available in the Hispanic section of your grocery most likely if you don't see it in the juices), and pear brandy. I used real pear brandy, "Black Forest", not the pear-flavored stuff.

This one is a wee bit on the nice but bland side. I got more of the aroma of the pear brandy than the actual taste. Absolut Pear might work better than the brandy in this (if I hadn't slugged down the rest of my freshly squeezed G juice, I'd be able to tell you; maybe I should make a Quickee Mart run). A good drink if you don't want to get too snookered before 2:00. That's p.m.

You Say Tuaca, I Say ...

Well, tuaca, I guess. I didn't realize till I brought the (small size) bottle home and read the label that it's an Italian liqueur. I thought it was Mexican. Tuaca, Damiana - who can remember.

According to wikipedia, legend has it that the recipe was created for Lorenzo the Magnificent. This is beginning to sound like an Antiques Roadshow provenance. It's still made in Tuscany, and the recipe includes citrus, brandy, and vanilla.

Vanilla was the first taste I got. It reminds me a lot of Licor 43, the Spanish liqueur, and Internet Cocktail Database lists Licor 43 as its first substitute if you're out of tuaca. The bar at Vincenzo's in Louisville that I reported on the other day had a large bottle, but I didn't get a chance to ask the ladies what they use it for. Getting guys drunk and tipping. But besides that?

The first drink I tried was a tuaca martini - gin and tuaca. I probably made a mistake pulling out the Tanqueray 10. It was just too herbal, and I couldn't taste much of the tuaca at all.

The second one is something called a Thumper, one of my favorite Disney characters: roughly 2 to 1 gin to tuaca. This time I used Bombay Sapphire. This cocktail played together much more nicely, and the vanilla melded well with the BS, a good blend of flavors.

I needed Godiva white chocolate liqueur for a drink today (it wasn't a big hit among my taste buds, so I won't be reporting on it). I'd just bought a bottle of the regular Godiva liqueur and didn't need another one taking up space in my liqueur cabinet, so I thought I'd get a mini-bottle, to go with my mini-bottles of Jaegermeister and Goldschlager. My local liqueur mart didn't have the white chocolate, but they had the caramel. Close enough.

I decided to try my hand at a concoction: Absolut Raspberry, a little of this Godiva for a chocolate-raspberry mind meld, and a splash of tuaca for some vanilla and citrus (though I'm not sure I've tasted the citrus in it yet).

This drink was only so-so. The Absolut predominated, the Godiva didn't bring that much chocolate to the party, and I only got a whiff of the tuaca. If I try it again, I'll use the regular Godiva and maybe pour half an ounce. Nice try though.

Before I put this posting to bed, I compared Licor 43 and tuaca. Licor is much sweeter and overwhelmingly vanilla. Tuaca has an obvious brandy base, with more bite, less vanilla (I still didn't get the citrus). I guess Lorenzo didn't want his guests to taste the arsenic.

Katie Didn't Have to Go to Haiti

My calendar of the month has been calling for more 'exotic' rums in the recipes lately: agricole, demerara, Barbancourt. Yesterday down in Louisville I found Barbancourt. The store had one aged 4 years and another aged 15. Being frugal and not wanting to pay $35 or so, I went for a bottle of the 4 year.

Rhum Barbancourt is from Haiti, manufactured by the company of the same name. It's made from sugar cane juice, not molasses, from cane grown on plantations owned by the company, and is double distilled.

The first recipe I tried calls for Barbancourt, grenadine, a splash of apricot brandy, a splash of orange curacoa, and an egg yolk. Yup, a yolk, not a white - the first recipe this year. I'm more comfortable making drinks with egg whites than with egg yolks, but why be a sissy, so I lived dangerously. (Actually, a little of the yolk froze to one of the ice cubes.)

It better than I thought it would be. It was pink, from the grenadine, and sweet, from everything else, and the yolk gave it body while not making it taste like an egg cream. Not a bad drink. I think Myers would have overpowered the other ingredients.

The second recipe, skipping ahead a couple weeks, was for a spiked cider: apple cider, raspberry syrup (found in the coffee syrup aisle), Barbancourt, whole cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamon, and grated orange peel. I didn't have ground cardamon (I think I do - somewhere) so I tossed in a few green pods. You let this just warm up, not come to a boil.

This was good too. Next time I'd use a little less of the raspberry syrup; it tended to stand out. I couldn't really taste the rum, so I might use more than an ounce per cup of cider. For my second cup, I fizzed some whipped cream on it per the recipe but skipped the cinnamon on top. Not bad either, but the drink's great without it.

A nice spiked cider for a fall evening - though it was in the low 80s here today.

On the Town, Dodging Golf Balls (or Golfers)

Last evening I found myself wandering downtown Louisville looking for a place for dinner with a friend visiting from Memphis.  The Ryder Cup is happening there this weekend, so you're dodging golf balls and golfers flying everywhere.

We were looking for a bistro, but the first place we came across was Vincenzo's, an Italian restaurant in the Humana building.  I took one look in the door and could tell it was too high end for me (I'm a bistro kind of guy), and I wasn't dressed for it, nor my pal (denim shorts and Crocs).  I was headed back out the door when a very pleasant waiter told him we could eat at the bar.  I still wasn't keen on the idea, but went along.

Vincenzo's has a beautiful marble bar  in the lobby.  A  talented pianist was playing behind us.  Anyone who knows "Have you Met Miss Jones" is my kind of pianist.  We were waited on by two pretty and friendly ladies behind the bar (I didn't get their names), one a short blonde in a striking blue dress, and a tall, thin black-haired young lady in black.  They didn't have much to do when we first got there and we chatted with them a bit, but when the golfers started ricocheting into the restaurant 20 minutes later, they got very busy.

While we were looking at the menu, my friend ordered a Tanqueray and tonic.  I asked for a campari with gin and a lime.  "That's my father's favorite drink," the blonde said.  Note to bartenders everywhere:  don't tell patrons of the opposite sex (or the same sex; they tip well) that a drink is one of your parents' favorite drinks.  But that's OK; I didn't mind.  I expect they don't get many orders for quasi-negronis. And the drink was really good.

A brief digression on the food:  the blonde told us that Vincenzo's is known for their veal and that it's very good.  I love veal, especially veal piccata, but wasn't in the mood last night.  I ended up ordering a spaghetti with South African lobster tail, asparagus spears, sun dried tomatoes, I don't know what all else.  My friend ordered a shrimp dish; his presentation was very nice.  The chef himself brought our entrees to us, which was very nice too.  Maybe Aaron Eckhart was in the kitchen singing Puccini and the chef needed to get away.

For an appetizer we shared a split of tortellini in a cream sauce and the special, which was the seashell tightly rolled-up pasta (I don't have a chart of pasta shapes at hand to remember what that one's called) in a tomato sauce.  He liked the tortellini so much that he ordered an entree-sized portion to take back to his hotel. 

How was the food?  Good.  The ambiance was better, but that's half of any good restaurant.  Our only complaint with both of our entrees (I didn't taste his) was that they were just a  bit bland.  I'm not saying Could We Get a Salt Shaker?, but a little lemon juice or herbs or something would have helped.  Not that I didn't eat all of mine.  (Though have you ever tried eating spaghetti with people looking over your shoulder?  It's hard to be graceful.)  Likewise with the appetizers:  the tortellini was great (though, honestly, how difficult is tortellini in cream sauce?), but the tomato-based pasta, though it had some subtle heat, needed an Emerilesque kicking up a mini-notch.  Pehaps a slight dusting of a hard, sharp Italian cheese would have done the trick.

The food was good, though, and even eating at the bar with mobs of golfers congregating in back of us as dinner progressed, Vincenzo's was a nice place and I'm glad I got dragged in.  For an after-dinner drink, my friend ordered a white Russian.  I asked the blonde her recommendation for an after-dinner drink: she said she likes a white Russian, or a chocolate martini (or maybe she said a coffee martini).  Neither one really appealed to me.  They had quite a collection of bourbons behind the bar, so I asked for a Woodford Reserve on the rocks with just a little water.  That hit the spot.

Listening to other orders as the golf crowd poured in (most dressed not much better than us; we really didn't need to worry - and I was wearing a coral-colored cashmere sweater that outclassed any polo shirt), it's interesting how mundane most of the drink orders were.  4 Bud Lites for one group.  A rum and (diet) coke for someone else.  One fellow asked for a gin and tonic and specified Tanqueray 10.  He knows what he's doing.  Towards the end of the evening they pulled out a bottle of Basil Hayden from somewhere.  I tasted that at the Bardstown Bourbon Festival a couple years ago and didn't particularly care for it; I'll have to give it another try sometime.  But, anyway, my ordering a campari and gin right off the bat (and in an Italian restaurant at that) was probably a welcome change from the usual order.  And reminded her of her dad.

In short:  a very nice evening at Vinzenzo's, great cocktails, good food, wonderful ambiance, and my friend picked up the check.  Woo hoo!

The Ugh Factor

Today, according to my cocktail a day calendar, is Talk like a Parrot Day. I would say that for many people around here every day is Talk like a Parrot Day, but that would be uncharitable.

The drink is a Yellow Parrot: equal parts apricot brandy, yellow Chartreuse, and Pernod (I used Ricard). I thought the combination sounded strange, and it tastes as weird as it looks. I braved 3 sips and then gave up on it. Maybe it tastes too much like real licorice with the sweetness of the brandy and the Chartreuse; that's one of my least favorite flavors, next to raw oysters.

So I shook up another recipe from a few days ago: Galliano, vodka (I used Citron), and pineapple juice. I like Galliano in some cocktails; you've read (and if not, why not?) my musings on how pineapple juice tends to take over a drink.

This was OK, but nothing special: I could taste mainly the pineapple juice, but the Galliano came through. I've had better Galliano cocktails.

One from a few more days ago substituted OJ for the pineapple juice and added light rum (I used 10 Cane) to the vodka and Galliano. This one looked funky but it tasted good. The OJ doesn't overpower everything like pineapple juice does, and a little extra alcohol, in the rum, never hurts. This would make a nice brunch drink, or early evening cocktail.

Maybe Another Vodka Stinger after All

The recipes in my calendar haven't been exciting the last few days, so I continued my exploration of the wonderful world of stingers. Bumble bees, hornets, yellow jackets, carpenter bees ...

The next one that I made after my last batch was a rum stinger. I used Tommy Bahama white rum. The drink was OK, nothing special - it tastes like fortified creme de menthe. You don't get much from the rum except the added kick. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Next one was a brandy stinger, which I made with Korbel. This was the best of the bunch. I didn't have much hope after my disappointment with the Courvoisier, but this cocktail tastes really smooth. The brandy and the creme de menthe blend perfectly. I'd make this one again - and how often do I say that?

Last, the ubiquitous vodka stinger. But which one to use? I figured Absolut Raspberry probably wouldn't be too great. I haven't done much with my bottle of Absolut Vanilla since I bought it a few months ago, so I pulled it out of the back of the freezer.

This one is surprisingly good: it tastes like a spiked mint milkshake. If this tastes like licking the center of a mint Oreo, I wondered how it'd be with chocolate.

I pulled out my Godiva, and shook up half ounce of it and creme de menthe and an ounce and a half of Absolut Vanilla. Good, but maybe not as good as I'd hoped. Upping the Godiva to 3/4 ounce or even an ounce (maybe the Absolut up a little smidge too) would make it a more chocolately cocktail. A nice drink after dinner.

And now I'm all stingered out.

Not Another Vodka Stinger

I've been getting my cocktail ideas from TV lately. Most recently, on HBO's new vampire and rough sex show True Blood Sunday night, a middle-aged lady sitting at the local redneck Louisiana bar (is that redundant?) (just kidding! cancel the hate e-mails, please; one of my best pals is from Morgan City, before the remains of it blew up here) orders a stinger made with cognac.

Huh? That's what I said too. I got to thinking, has my calendar has a stinger yet this year? I didn't go through the last 9 months, but I flipped through the pages through March and I didn't see one. No Tom Collins, no stingers. What is the author thinking? She goes for the exotic ingredients drinks.

A stinger, of course, is just a base liquor with white creme de menthe. Mint - white or green - isn't my favorite liquor flavor, but I figured I'd give a few versions a whirl.

I screwed up the first one, using Jim Beam Black, bitters, and creme de menthe - supposedly. I accidentally grabbed the white creme de cacao bottle instead. I didn't think this tasted very minty. But it wasn't bad. The combination of bourbon and creme de cacao may sound weird, but it was good.

So, option 2, made with the right stuff, was Bombay Sapphire and mint. I didn't hate it after 2 sips and I drank it all, but I wouldn't make it a usual.

Option 3 was made with Jose Cuervo. This was my favorite of the afternoon; I was surprised that the mint-tequilla combination worked so well. I bet it would work with mezcal too.

Last, staggering to the cocktail shaker, was one with cognac (I used Courvoisier), as seen on TV. This was my least favorite; it was pretty bland. But I've had this bottle of Courvoisier for a long time, so it may have oxidized or whatever cognac does when it doesn't age gracefully.

I'd like to try a rum or a brandy stinger, and of course a vodka in honor of Elaine Stritch, but those will have to wait for a slow day in my calendar.

My New Friend Mr Collins

I was watching Mad Men tonight, and Don Draper has his 7 or 8 year old daughter make a guest a Tom Collins. Ah, for the early 1960s. I got to thinking that I didn't remember my calendar having a recipe for that yet this year. Since this is one drink I'd heard of before I started this cocktail tutorial, I figured it's one I should get familiar with.

Don (can I call you Don?) reminded his daughter to use gin in it. It shows how seldom I've ever drunk one (or how long it's been) that I said, or thought, Huh? (And a cherry, not muddled. Huh?) Sure enough, gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, topped with club soda.

The first recipe I used called for 2 oz of gin (I used Bombay) and 1 1/2 oz each lemon juice and simple syrup. Good. Tastes like a spiked Sprite, though. It was awfully sweet, even without the cherry.

The second recipe called for only an ounce each of lemon juice and simple syrup. This time I used Tanqueray 10. With all its herbal underbrush, this drink didn't taste like a Sprite, and only an ounce of simple syrup didn't make it as sweet. Good drink; I like it better than gin and tonic, though it won't do me much good in the malaria zone.

Cheesecake Drinks

My calendar's recipe for a few days ago called for Godiva liqueur, which I haven't had before, so I went out and bought a bottle. Godiva has three versions, but I bought the regular chocolate.

My recipe was basically a black Russian (I used Stoli) with a little orange (Mandarine Napoleon). Not too bad; the orange was a nice touch.

I got to looking for other recipes on the internet, and I found one that was basically a spiked chocolate milk shake: Godiva, coffee liqueur (I used Starbucks), Irish Cream (Carolans), and Butterscotch schnapps. I decided it would be a waste to milk it down, so I just splashed in a little cream.

I'm not a sweet drink fan, but this one is good. It would be great with a sweet dessert like cheesecake. I was surprised how strongly the butterscotch came through, though, but I could still taste the Starbucks.

I decided to give this another spin. I thought of using raspberry liqueur instead of the butterscotch, but figured that would be predictable. So, instead, I went out on a limb and used creme de peche (that's peach to use, with or without the ^ over the e).

I couldn't taste peach at all - which surprised me because creme de peche usually comes through strong - but the drink had a nice overall sweetness to it. This one's worth a try too.

Calvados Success

I haven't had much luck with cocktails made with Calvados. I'd read how good the real thing is (not the lesser apple brandies), and I was expecting to be blown away when I bought my first bottle. I wasn't. It isn't as toxic as applejack, but it didn't do anything for me, or the cocktails I made with it.

Tonight that changed. My calendar has a recipe for today calling for a base of Calvados, with cointreau, benedictine, and an ounce of lemon juice. When I was making it I thought, Boy, I bet this is going to be lemony.

It is but it isn't. I really liked it, maybe because the orange and benedictine and lemon mute the Calvados. I might use a little less lemon juice than the recipe calls for (the author of that calendar seems to like lemon in her drinks), but it it's the best one in a while.

Guava, not Guano

My calendar had a recipe yesterday for what it calls a 'pink martini': "good quality gin" (who'd use bathtub?), half ounce of guava nectar, and half ounce of freshly squeezed OJ, or as we call that in our house, Tropicana. So why is it guava nectar and not guava juice?

I tried 3 different gins. The first was my new bottle of Bombay Sapphire, which left me distinctly uninspired when I tried a little straight on ice. But, to my surprise, it made the best of the 3 cocktails. You could taste the sweetness of the juices (nectars, whatever), and the gin wasn't overpowering.

Drink no. 2 used Gordon's. This one didn't strike me as having much taste at all. I didn't get the sweetness; it could be I didn't use quite as much of the OJ and guava as the first time.

The last one was Tanqueray 10. It's a pretty herbal gin, and the cocktail was pretty herbal too, but the sweetness of the juices came through again. The Bombay was still my favorite, but this was a close second. Not a bad cocktail recipe, even if it isn't really a 'martini'. I bet you could use those little cans of peach and pear nectars/juice and get a pretty nice tasting drink too.

Vampire Drinks

Tonight's the premiere of HBO's much publicized new series TrueBlood, about vampires living openly, having come out of the coffin, among the mortal kin in Louisiana. Only in Louisiana.

So, in their honor, I decided to mix a couple vampire cocktails. The recipe in my calendar for this weekend isn't all that interesting.

The first one is equal parts raspberry liqueur, vodka (I used Tanqueray citron), and cranberry juice (no sugar added). Not too bad. It sure looks bloody enough, sweet from the raspberry, and packed full of vitamin C.

The second drink calls for an ounce each of gin and dry vermouth and a half ounce of lime juice. I ran out of Plymouth, so I filled its spot in the freezer with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. I think BS was the first gin I ever drank. And got very drunk on.

I tried a little BS straight on ice, and frankly I thought it tasted like rubbing alcohol, without most of the herbal tastes I like in other gins. It's 47% alcohol, vs. Plymouth's 41.2; it certainly packs a punch. After just a few sips I was feeling it. I sure didn't get the 10 not so secret herbs and spices they reportedly make it with. The bottle's pretty. Maybe it'll grow on me.

I'm not sure the drink will though. Too limey. I wonder how it'd be with orange liqueur instead of the lime. To life.

Monkey's Mother's Milk

My calendar yesterday had a recipe, in honor of the anniversary of the last episode of Gilligan's Island broadcast on this date, calling for coconut milk - and for some reason I had a can in my cupboard that I'd bought at time unknown - Malibu rum, and Goldschlaeger, with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Not too bad: this is a clever use of Goldschlaeger with its cinnamony taste. Cinnamon is one of my least favorite spices for some reason, not that I dislike it; I'd probably skip the sprinkle if I was making it just for me.

So what is the difference between coconut milk (big can) and coconut cream (little blue can)? you ask. According to wikipedia, coconut cream contains less water than coconut cream and has a paste-like consistency, whereas coconut milk is a liquid (unless you put it in the fridge, then it starts to firm up - personal experience). According to CocktailDB, which I've started consulting a lot because it's a great site with lots of info on ingredients and very well designed, coconut milk is "Generic for the liquid made by twice steeping & twice straining the combination of coconut water, found inside the coconut fruit, grated coconut meat (the white, mealy interior of this hard-husked fruit of the coconut palm) in hot water or scalded milk." There will be a test.

Now I have an opened can of coconut milk, and you have to keep it cold, and my fridge is quite cluttered already without that too. This means I have to make drinks with it to use up the damn stuff.

I just received a nice little book I'd ordered with recipes and anecdotes from the bar at the Paris Ritz. One day soon I'll post a picture of the cover, and I'll be making some of the recipes when I'm bored with the ones in my calendar.

Its recipe for a pina colada calls for white rum (I used Cruzan citron for a little more citrus kick), cream (half and half - not that my arteries are opposed to using cream, just that I don't have any on hand), coconut milk, and pineapple juice (one little 6 oz can hiding in the back of the fridge).

This book's recipes call for everything in 1/10's of a drink, which is a real pain. What I've done is just figure that 1/10 is half an ounce (which is what, ladies and gents? right, a tablespoon) and go from there. That seems to work pretty well and makes adequate size drinks.

So, their pina colada is, well, just ok. The pineapple juice flavor comes through as if I'd put a few dashes of worcestershire sauce in it. Maybe Malibu rum would have subdued the wild pineapple better. I'm not a big Tiki drink with paper umbrella fan, as I've blathered on before, and this recipe goes in my list that I won't shake up again real soon.

I tried two more drinks later. One was equal parts dark rum and coconut milk on ice, topped with soda water. I took two drinks and tossed it out. Maybe I used too much soda - I don't think so - but it tasted like an unpleasantly watery mess. I tried adding a little more rum, but that didn't help.

The second was equal parts coconut milk and Galliano, shaken on ice, and strained. This wasn't half bad, an herbal smoothie. I wonder how it'd be with some yogurt or ice cream in it, maybe some fruit.

And the rest of the can of coconut milk went into the garbage. Enough for one weekend.

Sake Drinks

One of my calendar's recipes over the weekend called for sake, so I've been trying a few sake-based cocktails. There doesn't seem to be a ton of them out there, not that I've done an extensive search. Sake is so mild that it gets easily overwhelmed by the other flavors in a drink.

The most successful was a sake 'Manhattan': sake, Dubonnet instead of sweet vermouth, a dash or two of bitters. I think if I'd used a higher-end sake I would have liked this one better, but it wasn't bad. The Dubonnet brings flavors that sweet vermouth wouldn't.

The second one was the recipe from my calendar: citron vodka (I used Tanqueray), lemon juice, sake, ginger syrup. I soaked some candied ginger in vodka, which dried up into goo on the bottom of my pan overnight, so I just plunked in a few pieces of the ginger. I used a little less lemon juice than the recipe called for, but with the citron vodka, the drink was still awfully lemony. I should have added a little simple syrup to make up for the absence of a real ginger syrup; as I got to the bottom of the glass where the ginger was lurking, it got sweeter. Probably not a bad drink if you have ginger syrup, and I'd skip the citron vodka and just use regular.

The last one was one I made up, a version of my calendar's: pear vodka, a teaspoon of lemon juice, sake, and a drizzle of grenadine. Here again, the lemon was a tad too much, but I liked it. You couldn't taste the sake (at least I couldn't), but the pear and the lemon and the sweetness of the grenadine work well together. Try it.

Sour Puss

I've been making sours off and on over the weekend. Amaretto sours used to be one of my standbys when I ordered something out, but I'd like to think I've outgrown them this year.

My first sour from my calendar for Friday was a straightforward whiskey sour (which I think has been featured before this year, but I'm feeling too lazy to go back through 200 days worth and check): whiskey (I used Jim Beam black), lemon juice, and simple syrup. Good: your usual whiskey sour without relying on sweet and sour mix. has lots of great sour recipes; my next one came from there, a New York sour: pretty similar to a whiskey sour but a lot more lemon: Beam black again, lemon juice, and sugar. I misread the recipe and put in 1 1/2 oz of sugar instead of 1 1/2 tsp; hey, only 5 times too much. This drink tasted like a bourbon-spiked sweet and sour. Not that there's anything wrong with spiked lemonade.

Yesterday, as I reported, was spent on sangria and syrah as a chaser (and a very stiff gin and tonic when the neighbors got rowdy and I had to call twice). Today I started with a gin sour. Being a naive good (former) Baptist lad, I didn't know such a drink existed. I finished up my bottle of Plymouth, with lemon juice and sugar. It was OK; I wasn't overwhelmed. I'm not going to try the rum sours because they look like a daiquiri masquerading under another name.

Then there was the Ward 8, a sour under another name. Rye (Jim Beam), lemon juice, triple sec (the recipe called for OJ, which I'm out of), and grenadine. Grenadine is an interesting touch: the sweetness but with flavor too. Rye isn't my favorite liquor, I must admit, so this cocktail will never make my top 10 list, but it's drinkable. I bet with some bitters it could be really good.

Yet More Sangria

Today's recipe in my calendar is the last one for sangria. Let's hope anyway. I still have one from January (yup, January, the perfect time for sangria) that I need to mix up before the weather turns too cool for sangria.

This recipe called for a dry white wine (I used a Sonoma County 2006 Fume Blanc), orange liqueur (Mandarine Napoleon), brandy (Korbel), sugar, and fruit: I used a lime, orange, peach, and a couple kiwis instead of the apple in the recipe. Club soda before serving.

I took it to a cookout at my former neighbors' where we had filet, corn on the cob, and asparagus, and I brought some vanilla ice cream and fresh pineapple. Not a bad menu.

The sangria was OK, but I've decided I prefer red wine in sangria. My host said the sangria was strong, and he's a Republican (albeit from Pennsylvania, not a native Hooooosier). So we proceeded to polish off a bottle of syrah between us. A nice way to spend Labor Day weekend.