Sweet Drinks

I caught up on two more drinks from my calendar today.

The first is a walnutini (I think the calendar calls it something else): Nocello, tuaca, and vodka. I think (and hope) Nocello is the last new liqueur I have to buy for my calendar's drinks through the end of the year. Huzzah!

I tasted the nocello before I mixed the cocktail: it's OK, but it tastes a lot like hazelnut liqueurs to me. I could have used my bottle of Frangelico and saved $22. And the walnutini wasn't all the great: the vodka overwhelmed the other flavors; it needed more nocello. Or more something. I did leave out the orange peel it called for.

I looked for other nocello recipes online but found Nada. The only recipe I came across was for a walnut cake, which sounded pretty good. I also found a recipe for a pasta with walnut sauce that I bet you could add some nocello to, and it'd be pretty damn good.

The second cocktail was yet another appletini - the usual mix: apple pucker, butterscotch schnapps, lemon juice, but vanilla vodka as a twist - with caramel sauce coating the cocktail glass.

The recipe calls for a chilled cocktail glass, but when I poured the room temp caramel into the glass, it suddenly firms up, and you can't coat the glass with it. It just sits there in the bottom of the glass. I'm beginning to wonder if my calendar author tested all her recipes.

But it's a good drink nonetheless. The vanilla vodka brings a nice plus to it, and I had dribbled caramel on one side of the glass, so I drank from that side, getting some of the sweetness. And there are these metal things called spoons you can use to get the caramel out of the glass. When I make appletinis again, this is the recipe I'll use, minus the chilled glass.

Boilermakers, Go IU!

Or Purdue, whatever.

I didn't drink much over the weekend; trying to watch the calories since I go into chipmunk hibernation mode every fall and store every gram of fat I eat. I'd almost caught up on my cocktail calendar recipes, but I'm falling a bit behind again.

The first drink I made today was cognac (I used Hennesy), cointreau, anisette (I finally bought a bottle), and vodka. I'm not a big anise flavor fan, but it works well with cognac and brandy. This drink, though - I took a few drinks and said "That's nice" and tossed out the rest. Not my favorite. The vodka doesn't bring anything to it that I could taste.

The second was a boilermaker: I followed option 2 in my calendar and dropped the shot glass with whiskey in it (I used JD Black) into my 'frosted mug' of light ale (I used Bud's American Ale). This wasn't bad, but I think I like my ale and my Jack separately. I guess I'm getting too old for frat boy drinks.

Two Quick Drinks

So I don't go too far between posts, a couple quick updates on drinks. I haven't been drinking as often the last few days, but an oversized gin (Tanqueray 10) and tonic Wednesday night could still be felt Thursday morning.

One drink was vodka with hazelnut liqueur, approximately 5 to 1 ratio. The recipe called for an orange strip twist dropped in; I used a few drops of orange flower water instead. I like hazelnut and this wasn't bad, but it could have used another flavor or two. It was just a tad bland.

The other drink, equally bland, was a 'Scotch mist'. Scotch on crushed ice with a twist of lemon. I got a bottle of Cutty Sark to use for this and another recipe. I'm not a big Scotch guy; my liqueur consultant told me people don't buy the Scotch like they used to. This was ok, but a better Scotch (not sold in a plastic bottle) would probably be a lot better.

Tangerine Season

It may not be blackberry season anymore, but I'm glad tangerines are finally coming into season so I can make recipes from my calendar calling for fresh juice. One of them was from late summer, not the best time of year to be looking for freshly squeezed tangerine juice.

I bought a bag the other day at my local Save A Lot. Boy, they have a lot of seeds. There were almost as many seeds as juice when I got done juicing most of the bag, though I had a Mickey juice pitcher half full of juice.

I went back through my calendar looking for recipes calling for fresh tangerine juice, and I discovered the one recipe they'd accidentally duplicated, for a Kentucky sidecar. It's bourbon, cointreau, lemon juice, and tangerine juice. Not bad, but I think the tangerine juice in a bottle that I bought a month or so ago is almost as good (all that cane syrup in it).

I also tried the two variants, one topped with club soda, the other increasing the juice and cutting out the lemon juice. The club soda version would make a good summer cooler. The last one was awfully citrusy for me, especially as it calls for a splash of orange flower water too.

Then I tried my Damiana recipe from a couple weeks ago again, with quartered lime, honey, Rhum Barbancourt, and tangerine juice. This was as good or better this time as with the bottled tangerine juice. I'm not sure the spiceness of the Daminana comes through, and any light or gold rum would work just as well, but it's a good - and nicely potent - cocktail.

So now what do I do with the rest of this tangerine juice ...

Blackberry Season

Actually blackberry season around here was a couple months ago. I bought a couple quarts, but all my plans for making a cobbler came to naught. I ate them with cereal or with sugar for breakfast instead, which is almost as good as in a cobbler.

My calendar has a couple recipes this week calling for blackberry brandy, so I had to go out and buy a bottle. I asked my liquor consultant at the local Kwik-E-Mart which is better: De Kuyper or Hiram Walker. She said the latter and it's cheaper too (I didn't double check).

The first one calls for brandy, bb brandy, dry sherry, dash of lemon juice (restraint on the part of my calendar's author; she's a lemon juice fan), and orange bitters. Not bad: you can't really taste the sherry (at least I couldn't), the dash of lemon is just enough, and the sweetness of the bb brandy comes through. Not a bad drink.

The second cocktail is a twist on the sidecar, calling for cognac (which I used, Remy Martin) or brandy, bb brandy, cointreau, lemon juice. I liked this one even better; I'd push it up to my Drinks I'd Make Again list. I'm not a big sidecar fan, but the flavors in this really do it for me; using a better quality cognac probably helps. Look this one up on the internet; I think you'll like it.

Hahvahd, Not So Square

My cocktail a day had recipes associated with Harvard on two consecutive days. The first is a "Harvard Cocktail": brandy, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine, bitters. I'm not a sweet vermouth fan, but it's a good cocktail otherwise. The sweetness of the grenadine and the lemon juice balance each other out, almost a sidecar crossed with a Manhattan.

The second is a "Harvard Cooler": apple brandy (I used Calvados), lemon juice, simple syrup, topped with club soda. A nice summer cooler (in October). It was a bit tart and needed a tad more simple syrup, but the apple brandy-club soda combination works well. This comes close to my Cocktail I'd Make Again category.

Mulled Wine

Tonight for the Project Rungay finale I made a mulled wine recipe from last March in my calendar.

The recipe calls for 2 bottles of dry red wine, orange zest, lemon zest, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and port and sherry at the end. My friends, although Catholics, aren't big drinkers (wait, did that come out wrong?) (no), so I decided to make a half recipe.

I used a bottle of Newman's own Cabernet to honor the late blue eyes. The little neighborhood grocery I ran to this afternoon didn't have any oranges for sale individually, but tangerines are finally in season, so I bought a bag and used one of them. Damn, now I have to remake those recipes that called for fresh tangerine juice.

When I tasted it before adding the last bit of alcohol it seemed awfully, well, dry. Not very sweet. Having to add sherry reminded me of the hot rum punch I made a few weeks ago that was so lethal. So I added ruby port, but instead of sherry I added Punt e Mes, which calls itself a vermouth on the bottle but I think of it as midway between vermouth and Campari. Just add gin and you have a negroni for Mrs. Stone. I also added a little more sugar (turbinado).

It was good. Only one of my hosts drank some, and he said it was good too. We were eating crackers and brie (Charlie the dalmatian said that was good) while we watched the final Runway moments, and it all went well together.

Yo Ho Ho and Several Bottles of Rum

Today's recipe in my calendar is one of the champagne cocktails that I mixed up over the weekend, so I decided to catch up on an old recipe or two. Actually one; I meant to make two, and I am making two, but only one from my calendar. I'll explain.

As part of my mail-order shopping extravaganza a few weeks ago, I ordered a bottle of Demerara rum, which I can't find it locally. Demerara rum comes from the country of Guyana in South America; it's sort of a generic term. Like most rums, you can buy it in various proofs and aged various lengths of time. 151 proof demerara rum is the only 151 proof rum that Internet Cocktail Database recommends. I bought a bottle of El Dorado Special Reserve 21 year, 80 proof. A rare burst of splurging and not going for the cheap stuff, but it'll last me forever, unless, with my champagne tastes, I develop a liking for it.

This recipe calls for equal parts Demerara, light rum (Tommy Bahama), and gold rum (cheap Bacardi, which I'm trying to use up to make more space on my shelf), orgeat syrup (the first recipe calling for that in quite a while; I have a bottle of Fee's), OJ, lime juice, pineapple juice, and passion fruit juice (I used the liqueur). I usually hate recipes that call for a dozen ingredients, but this one wasn't bad.

And it's good too. I'm not a big rum fan, but the molasses flavor really comes through in this drink, almost like it has brown sugar in it. On the first swig I wasn't sure I liked it (I could taste the pineapple juice, not always a turn-on unless I"m licking it off someone), but the cocktail grew on me. It's on my list for one of the handful of recipes from my calendar that I'd make regularly.

For my second cocktail I had planned to make a second recipe from August calling for Rhum Barbancourt, which hails from Haiti. But while looking around the net for info on Demerara rums, I found another Demerara recipe with many of the same ingredients and looked awfully good. The recipe was on the great Kaiser Penguin cocktail site: www.kaiserpenguin.com

It calls for OJ, lemon juice, passion fruit nectar (I used liqueur), Demerara, light rum, dark rum, maybe another ingredient or two. I wasn't as crazy about this cocktail. The OJ and lemon juice came through a little too much, and the Myers's dark rum gave it a pure alcohol taste that I often get from that.

I did make the Rhum Barbancourt recipe after all: you quarter a lime, muddle it with some honey (the best is from Flying Bee Ranch, available on ebay), add Damiana, RB, and another mystery ingredient or two. (I had all these recipes written down to refer to; the cats must have been getting mischievlous and used my notes for paper hats). This is my first cocktail with Damiana and I liked it. It gives a cocktail a spicey, cinnamon-like taste. This cocktail is sweet, but the Damiana and the lime help cut it and give it a nice south of the border flavor. Good drink.

More Stout

Today (Sunday) I'm remaking some champagne cocktails now that I have finally found the elusive maraschino liqueur. Nothing new and extraordinary to report. I did discover that the large liquor start I frequent, well, shop at, has carried maraschino all along. I just didn't realize that's what the bottle was since most of the front label is in Italian, and 'maraschino' is in vertical type along the side. Oh, well. A chance to make drinks a 2nd time. I have a daiquiri weekend coming up one of these days.

I did make a couple more recipes calling for stout (I'm using Guinness Extra Stout). The first is a stout version of the ale and hard cider cocktail (it's too simple to call it a recipe): half stout and half cider. I liked the ale version better. The stout is just too overwhelming and bitter, and the hard cider I'm using (Woodchuck Draft) doesn't pack a lot of flavor. My WalMart apple cider almost has more taste.

The second is a cocktail calling for simple syrup, stout, ruby port floated, and cinnamon and nutmeg. I skipped the spices, mainly because I didn't want to mess with grating the nutmeg. My calendar says this is a 'sangaree. Wikipedia, surprisingly, doesn't have an article on the sangaree. In some circles it's an archaic name for a sangria, and it seems to be associated with cocktails of the West Indies.

But the author of another excellent cocktail-related blog, the Cocktail Chronicles, reports that it's a base liquor of your choice (I've pulled up recipes for both brandy and gin sangarees) shaken with a little sugar, and nutmeg springled on top. I guess should have gone with the nutmeg. He also reports it's traditional to throw in a couple wheels of lemon, which had occurred to me as a nice future addition to this recipe. Several of the recipes I found call for port floated.

I liked this better than the cider and stout cocktail. The port adds a nice sweetness to the bitter port, and it's robust enough to make a statement on its own (whatever that means in a cocktail). But, what it means is, it's a good drink; I'll try other sangrees when I have a free cocktail day and report back.

Stout

I've drunk stout occasionally, very occasionally, but it's never been one of my favorite drinks. My calendar has several stout drinks this fall, so I'm working my way through a 6 pack.

One is the famous black and tan: ale (I'm using Bud's American Ale) and stout (Guiness Extra Stout), in a perfect world layered on top of the ale. I'm not good at layering, so I just poured it in. My friend Bonnye said when she was in college her parents drank black and tans because it was 'cool'. OK ... you party-late-30-somethings.

I didn't get the point, or the coolness, of it, except that the ale cuts the heavy stout. Wikipedia, in a very good article, says that I shouldn't be using Guiness Extra Stout, so I'll try the black and tan again sometime with another kind.

Tonight I poured a chilled glass of stout with an ounce of gin. My calendar likes beer drinks like this one; they had some back in the spring. It wasn't bad actually (I used Bombay Sapphire). With a 'lighter' stout, or even the ale, the combination might go better. Tanqueray's Rangpur gin, with its lime and other flavors, would probably be successful too. I just had a (small) Milky Way bar, so no more stout tonight or I will be too.

Memories of WIld Youth

A quick, short post since I haven't been posting as often lately. My excuse this week is I have several recipes in my calendar calling for hard cider, stout, and ale in various combinations, and I'm trying to keep my calorie intake down to 2 bottles a night, which usually means one actual drink combination.

Last night I made what they call a 'snakebite' (I'm not sure why): equal parts ale and hard cider. The combination was better than I thought it'd be. It reminded me of when I was in my 20s and went to Munich a few times, and in the summer in the English Gardens they sell flagons of beer mixed with lemonade. It sounds ghastly, but it's good (or at least it was then). I don't remember what food they sold to go with it - pretzels and radishes, if it was like the Hofbrauhaus.

Anyway, this cider-ale combination reminded me of that. No radish needed to complete the memory.

Fall Appletini Festival

A friend was going on about the joys of appletinis a couple weekends ago when we went to the Bardstown Ky Bourbon Festival, so I decided to pick up a bottle of Apple Pucker (which is just a quasi sour apple-flavored schnapps) and try a theme and a few variations.

On the first one, I just winged it: some of the Sobieski vodka that I reviewed yesterday, with apple pucker 2 to 1, and a little lime juice. Good, but the lime juice, even though I used only half an ounce or so, made it a tad tart.

Second try was straight vodka and apple pucker, 2 to 1 again. Better than version no. 1, but a little bland and uninteresting.

Third try: version 2 with a splash of apple cider (from WalMart, but not bad as WalMart produce goes - and I rarely buy WalMart produce, or anything else not in a can or a box). This one worked better for me: the cider spiked the apple flavor, but I still got the sour apple from the pucker.

Version no. 4 was the recipe from my calendar for this weekend, and I didn't know the recipe was going to be for appletinis until after I started mixing these. Vodka (still Sobieski), pucker, lemon juice this time, and butterscotch schnapps. My friend was extolling his version made with Buttershots (which I didn't see in my local liqueur mart), but schnapps works just as well. I liked this one best. I'm a big butterscotch fan anyway, and it brings a nice sweetness to the drink. I'd skip the lemon juice; again, I don't think you need the tartness. Maybe a splash of the cider would make this one even better, or a sprinkle of cinnamon or allspice.

Version no. 5 was off the internet: raspberry vodka with apple pucker. Interesting, but just that. I wouldn't call this an appletini. Like my second attempt, it was bland and uninteresting.

Last, another version off the internet, your basic recipe but with a splash of cointreau instead of citrus. Maybe I should have used half a splash, but the cointreau overwhelms this one; I could hardly taste the apple pucker.

So, summing up, the best version was the one with vodka, apple pucker, lemon (if you want), and butterscotch schnapps. A good fall drink.

Sobieski Vodka

I haven't posted much this week because I've been busily and happily trying out a bottle of Sobieski vodka, generously provided by their marketing people here in the U.S. Sobieski is reportedly the leading premium brand in Poland, the birthplace of vodka. Boy, if Russians only knew - but then what would they get snookered on to while (wile? e coyote?) those long bitterly cold nights away?

Sobieski is reasonably priced; no Grey Goose or Belvedere prices here. It's made from rye and spring water. The name comes from a Polish king, Jan III Sobieski, who helped push the Turks back from the gates of Vienna in the late 1600s.

OK, end of history lesson. I tried it in just about every 'simple' vodka cocktail I could think of, drinks that wouldn't just use it to kick up 5 other ingredients: on the rocks with a twist, martini, thumper (with Tuaca; this just tasted like vanilla vodka), gimlet, vodka tonic, vodka stinger (this one was simple but good), a quasi-Cosmo but with raspberry liqueur (give me the cranberry version), kamikaze (not my favorite), and black, uh, Russian? Pole?, using Starbucks coffee liqueur (next time I'll stick with Kahlua - Starbucks is too strong for this drink; just like I do with their coffees, I had to add some cream: so I guess I had a white, uh, Polish Russian).

Sobieski is very, very smooth. Although it's 40 proof, I could drink 2 or 3 drinks made with it in an evening and not be significantly worse for wear, like I might be if I'd drunk an equal number of gin drinks with 2 oz of gin in each. (I checked my bottle of Bombay Sapphire; it's 47 proof). I had an appletini evening last night, which I'll report on later this weekend. Despite 4 (or was it 5?) versions made with Sobieski over the course of 6 hours or so, I wasn't feeling any ill effects.

You should drink responsibly, only drink 5 appletinis at home, don't drink and drive, don't let your dog taste it, etc. (There, legal disclosures and finger wagging covered.)

In short, I'd buy Sobieski regularly as my go-to vodka. It's a great value and a great vodka.

Champagne Sangria

Last night I made a champagne sangria recipe dating back to March from my calendar to take over to friends for our weekly Project Runway viewing party. Why didn't Heidi and Michael and Nina and Pinta and Santa Maria just flip a coin and kick one person off if they couldn't decide, instead of repeating their little stunt from last year and telling all 4 go home to sew for 6 months? But I digress.

The recipe called for kumquats muddled with turbinado sugar, Tuaca (the Italian vanilla-ish liqueur), and a broken up vanilla bean with champagne added at the last minute.

I made a couple itsy bitsy mistakes. The recipe said 'kumquat'. My brain saw 'kiwi'. I thought it was strange it said you can substitute tangerines. Why is a tangerine close to a kiwi? And you don't need 20 kiwis to get 2 cups sliced up. Anyway, I was stirring the champagne in when it hit me that a kiwi isn't a kumquat. I couldn't have found kumquats locally any time of the year anyway. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head what they even taste like, though I've had a few.

The second was that the recipe called for brut champagne, which I thought was what's been in the fridge for a couple weeks. But when I went to get it, I discovered I had a bottle of Asti. Oh, well, extra sweet with the sugar. And my vanilla bean was old - goof no. 2 1/2.

Despite being pretty sweet, I liked the sangria. The kiwi worked well with the champagne, despite the little black seeds floating around in it being a tad offsetting. I couldn't taste much vanilla, and I'm not sure how much a fresh vanilla bean would have helped in that regard. If I get to a Whole Foods and see a mound of kumquats and a mound of vanilla beans and a mound of brut champagne, I'll try it again sometime, but it's good with kiwis (and maybe a cut-up lemon or lime next time).