With only three ingredients to wrangle, anyone can make a great cocktail.

Solar Eclipse Cocktail: Drink to Totality

I’m not a gimicky drink girl. I love simple cocktails and will take a neat pour of whiskey most days of the week. But, I couldn’t pass up a challenge from a college friend to make a cocktail in honor of the upcoming solar eclipse, which, by the way, I will be missing even though some of the primo viewing will be an hour from my lair. (Watch my twitter feed @ThirstyJane for hints on where and what I might be drinking in the next couple of weeks; prizes will be awarded too!).

On Monday, August 21st, a swath of land from South Carolina through Missouri and onto Oregon will be in the zone of totality for the solar eclipse.  According to NASA, a solar eclipse is when “the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.  For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds.  The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979.” I vaguely remember the last time when viewing was sometime during religion class at my Catholic elementary school.  ‘Nuf said.

So, this is a really really big thing. Whether you are in the path of totality or not, Thirsty Jane says take this opportunity to mix up a cocktail to toast this celestial show. Many options abound.  I went for the gimmick — the black spherical ice cube floating in the sunshiny drink. I made my black ice with food coloring and a nifty mold. Although activated charcoal is quite hip, after reading up on it, I got a wee bit scared of its detoxifying qualities.  Like it might make your antibiotics or birth control not work. YIKES!  I’ll take the food coloring, thank you very much. For the drink, do what you want. A martini would work just fine. But because the eclipse will be popping in Oregon in the morning, I opted for a slightly brunch oriented drink. (Code: anything with a decent amount of juice qualifies).

Cheers to the solar eclipse. I hope my man gets some spectacular photos while I’m imbibing liberally on another continent (it’s called research, my thirsty friends).

Thirsty’s Solar Eclipse

2 ounces gin

1 ounce orange  curacao

1 ounce pineapple juice

3 dashes orange bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a glass with a spherical ice cube dyed with black food coloring.

Sangria and Paella: Easy Summer Entertaining

Summer has arrived and if you are like me you are firing up the grill. But, when I’m tired of steaks and burgers and beer can chicken, and I’ve got a dozen people coming over, I put together a pitcher of sangria and scour the fridge for leftovers and assemble a paella.  Guests think I’m gourmet, but I know better.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.  Remember that with both sangria and paella, you do not need to follow the recipe exactly. In fact, when I make paella with my family, we do it authentically and toss in whatever leftovers look good and hope for the best.  For sangria, I roll the same way. To a bottle of wine, I add some juices, some sweetener, some hard alcohol, and some fruit and let it marinate. You then top off with club soda when you are ready to serve. We’ve yet to be disappointed.

Red Sangria

1 bottle of red wine

1/3 cup sugar

2 ounces lemon juice

2 ounces orange juice

1/2 cup brandy

8 ounces club soda

Mix all ingredients except club soda. Let sit overnight in the fridge.  Add in club soda to taste and serve with fresh fruit.

White Sangria

1 bottle white wine

6 ounces frozen lemonade

1/2 cup white rum

1/2 cup triple sex

1 can pineapple tidbits in juice

1 apple cored and sliced

8 ounces club soda

Mix all ingredients except club soda. Let sit overnight in the fridge.  Add in club soda to taste and serve with fresh fruit.

Pink Sangria

1 bottle dry rose wine

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup creme de cassis

1 cup water

1 1/2 cup assorted berries

2 ounces lemon juice

8 ounces club soda

Mix all ingredients except club soda. Let sit overnight in the fridge.  Add in club soda to taste and serve with fresh fruit.











4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

12 ounces Arborio rice

5-8 cups chicken broth

Pinch of saffron


Chorizo sausage (Mexican and/or Spanish style, we use both)

Chicken thighs, diced







Flank steak


Other veggies?!

Heat olive oil in pan on grill. Saute onion, garlic and pepper. Add in meats you are using and brown. Add in rice and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in saffron, salt and pepper, and enough stock to cover rice.  Simmer until rice is cooked (around 15-20 minutes), adding more broth if rice become too dry. Do not stir because you want the rice on the bottom to crisp up into the “socarrat” (the yummiest and most sought after part of the paella).  When rice is tender, add in your seafood and peas and tomatoes and cook until those are done (another 5 minutes).


Drink for a Cause: Negroni Week

Summer is here. Or for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost here. At least it’s not as consistently cool and wet. For me, summer means Negronis, that sinfully simple equal ratio three-ingredient drink which is both beautiful, stylish, and mighty tasty. And while making your Negroni at home is as simple as flipping through your pages of Three Ingredient Cocktails, you should also consider drinking out this week for a cause. Imbibe Magazine and Campari sponsor Negroni Week each year. For a week (June 5-11), thousands of venues participate in shaking up the drink that says summer is here and donating a portion of their revenues to charity. So, drink out this week at a participating venue, but then for the rest of the summer, feel free to enjoy your Negroni at home.



1 ounce gin

1 ounce Campari

1 ounce sweet vermouth

Mix (or shake if you do prefer) with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Sip fabulously!



Drink What You Like: Aviation Variations

Much to my embarrassment, I’m a bartender micromanager. I can’t help myself. If I’m paying $10+ for a drink, I want it to be a drink I LOVE, not something that someone who wrote the menu loved or thought others would love.

My most notoriously micromanaged drink is the Aviation. My guy cringes when he sees it on a menu because he knows what will ensue. You see, I love gin, lemon, and maraschino liqueur, and they combine in an Aviation as the perfect drink that works year round. But, things get dicey when the Creme de Violette makes an appearance. In the clutches of a heavy handed bar keep, this floral scented liqueur makes the drink mighty pretty, but for my taste buds, it harkens to my Grandma’s house (African violets, minus the cats).

I don’t like my food or my drinks tasting remotely like bubble bath or Grandma’s house. No honey lavender ice cream for me, for example. The thing is, if you LIKE how that stuff tastes, then fantastic, drink up. But I don’t. So, I often ask bar tenders to leave out the Creme de Violette. The reaction is always stunned silence followed by “are you sure?” They look at me like I’m crazy and that the resultant drink is going to be heinous. I concede that I probably fall somewhere between offensive and annoying. But, I’m not crazy.

There are several different recipes for Aviations, and while the history buffs can prove that the original recipe did have Creme de Violette in it, many subsequent renditions by famed bartenders did not, probably because the stuff was not available. Here’s a chart of some of the different recipes. None of the proportions are the same for any of them! So drink what you love, and love what you drink.

Note: in the photo the drink on the left is Embury’s recipe and the drink on the right is Wondrich’s recipe. FYI, 1 1/2 tsp – 1/4 ounce. So Embury is heavier on the gin, less on the lemon, same on the maraschino and no Creme de Violette, but Wondrich does have the historically accurate recipe, I believe. I admire both writers. Along with Ernest Hemmingway, Thomas Jefferson, and Julia Child, they’d be at my dream team cocktail party.

Jason Wilson, Boozehound David Wondrich, Imbibe! David Embury, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks Ted Haigh, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails Dale Degroff, The Essential Cocktail Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book
Gin 1 1/2 1 1/2 2 2 1/2 2 2 1/2
Lemon Juice 3/4 3/4 1/2 3/4 1/2 3/4
Maraschino Liqueur 1/2 1 1/2 tsp 1/4 2-3 dashes 3/4 2-3 dashes
Crème de violette 1/4 1 tsp

Space Dog: A New Frontier for Books and Booze

I fell in love with space as a kid.  Star Trek.  Star Wars. Cosmos. I went to college dreaming of becoming an aerospace engineer, but that lasted a little over one semester after spending one too many Saturday nights programming my HP calculator instead of partying. I still enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy, so in honor of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Conference this weekend in Pittsburgh, I’m paying homage to my love of space. And dogs. Which oddly enough haven’t mixed much in sci-fi literature.

Luckily, I know one writer in Pittsburgh who is mixing her sci-fi writing with dogs and humor. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Catherine Vignolini‘s novel which features a lovable German shepherd Otto. I won’t go into any of the details about dogs and space because Vignolini has got that one covered in her blog (read it — it’s fascinating!).  But I created the Space Dog drink in recognition of all the high flying dogs, real and fictional.

I started with the Space cocktail which combined gin, Frangelico and lemon juice. Space is weird, and that combination of booze struck me as weird too. So I dialed down the hazelnut and amped up the gin and then turned to the variations of the “dog” drinks — for example, the gray hound and the chihuahua (grapefruit juice and vodka or tequila, respectively).  The mashup resulted in the surprisingly palatable Space Dog, shown in my feature image with my own pup, Nelson (named after a famous naval admiral, not any space explorer):


Space Dog

2 ounces gin

1 ounce Frangelico liqueur (hazelnut liqueur)

1 ounce grapefruit juice

Shake with ice and strain into a class with ice. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

Cheers! And, woof!

Mothers’ Day Cocktails Made Easy With Lemonade

My 30-somthing and 40-something mommy friends always appreciate a refreshing and easy cocktail at the end of a harried day full of work, volunteer activities, and carpooling (let’s not forget laundry on domestic goddess day, either). One of the easiest quaffs my friends often turn to is a vodka lemonade. Two ingredients, ice, tall glass. Done. I’m not one to judge. You like it; you drink it. So I thought I’d do some riffs on this mommy-approved drink for Mothers’ Day.

Spring Thyme Lemonade

3 strawberries

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 ounces vodka

2 ounces lemonade

2 ounces sparkling wine

Muddle 2 strawberries with one sprig of thyme in a cocktail shaker. Add in vodka and lemonade and mix. Strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with remaining thyme and sliced berries. Sip in your jammies reading the paper or doing the crossword.

Show Me The Sun Lemonade

2 ounces coconut rum

4 ounces lemonade

1/2 lime squeezed

Mix all ingredients and pour over crushed ice in a goblet. Garnish with a lime wheel. Sit by the baby pool.

Orange You Glad Lemonade

2 ounces bourbon

1/2 ounce Aperol

1 1/2 ounces lemonade

3-4 leaves of mint

Bruise mint by slapping it in your palm. Mix bourbon, Aperol and lemonade with the bruised mint. Strain into a glass with ice (I like the big cubes for this drink). Garnish with fresh mint and a lemon wheel. Enjoy on the patio by the firepit.


DIY Bourbon Tasting Party

I have my bourbon drinking friends, and the rest of my friends. So, recently, I hosted a happy hour for mostly the “rest of my friends” and served nothing but bourbon. Neat. Luckily, they were an adventurous group, but many vehemently disclaimed upon entering the soiree, “I don’t drink bourbon.”  What got everyone tasting and many converting to bourbon lovers was the structure of the event as a blind tasting competition with prizes. The over achievers bit like carp on a dough ball.

I selected 3 bourbons, each of which represented one of the common types of bourbon, and all in about the $25-30 range:  (1) rye heavy mash bill (Bulleit); (2) wheat heavy mash bill (Larceny); and (3) traditional mash bill (Knob Creek).  The mash bill is the combination of grains used to produce bourbon. To be bourbon, there must be at least 51% corn, but what makes up the remaining 49% of the grains is up to the distiller. Typically, there is a combination of rye, wheat and barley. And of course, corn can be in the remaining part, too.

For the tasting, I covered the bottles in paper bags and numbered them. Then I passed out tasting cards which allowed guests to note their impressions of the bourbons. I gave some hints as to what each type of bourbon would taste like. Wheated bourbons are typically smoother and sweeter. Rye heavy bourbons are all about the bite and the spice. And traditional are somewhere in between. That is a gross generalization that will make the experts on bourbon jump up and down and scream, but I was dealing with novices, okay? I also gave everyone a taste of a straight rye to compare.

Out of 20 tasters, 3 accurately guessed the mash bills and 3 got none of them right. And I don’t recall anyone hating the experience. In fact, several people commented that it was their first time they enjoyed bourbon. The best part of the night was that people made new friends, talked about bourbon and more, and did it in a safe non-judgey environment.

Host your own tasting party. You can try different mash bills, or maybe the same bourbon, but different ages. Or try rums from different islands. Or different types of gin. Or compare bourbon to scotch to Irish whisky. But the bottom line is have fun.


Kentucky Derby Daily Double Drinks for Non-Julep Drinkers

The mint julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. It’s a fine looking drink if made properly, the crushed ice frosting the silver cup. But, here’s the deal, I don’t like it. I’ll drink it, of course, especially on Derby Day. And I own a sweet set of julep cups. But it’s not one of those drinks I ever make just to quench my thirst.  Like I’ve said many times before, cocktails are too important to drink something you don’t like. I don’t care how famous the drink or the bartender, if you don’t like it, do not drink it. So, here are two drinks I have made for fun and do like to drink, and they have enough connection to the Derby to give you credibility.

p.s. For anyone who wonders what happens to the photo drinks….hello! I am THIRSTY Jane! Cheers.

The Oaks Lily

This is the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, which is the race run the day before the Derby. If you are going to the Oaks, make sure you get yourself a fascinating fascinator! The Middleton sisters might have a few tips.

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce sweet and sour mix

splash triple sec

3 ounces cranberry juice

Mix and serve over ice in a stemless wine glass. Garnish with lemon and fresh berries.


The Brown Derby

Although nothing to do with the Derby race, the fact that it has the name “derby” is enough for this Thirsty Jane. And, it’s really good.

2 ounces bourbon

1 ounce grapefruit juice (please, I beg you, squeeze it fresh)

1/2 ounce honey

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.



Simple Sips For Your Easter Buffet

I’m all about DIY, especially on busy days like holidays when you’re slaving in the kitchen getting the massive buffet ready. Make cocktailing easy on yourself and your guests by setting up a booze and juice bar this Easter. The combinations are endless, but I recommend picking two of the clear spirits, like vodka, gin, tequila, or rum, all of which mix nicely with juices. Then, spend a little extra time squeezing fresh juices, like grapefruit and orange.  Unfortunately pomegranante is out of season and I have no idea how to squeeze cranberries, so pick up nice versions of those.  Then cut up a few garnishes and let your guests channel their inner bartender. Some common combinations are:

Screwdriver: vodka + orange juice

Greyhound: vodka (or gin) + grapefruit juice

Salty Chihuahua: tequila + grapefruit juice

Cape Codder: vodka + cranberry juice

The bottom line is, have fun and empower your guests to experiment.

So, who’s making a lamb cake? I am!

A Salute to USNA ’89 Women

July 2, 1985, I stood in the humid Annapolis afternoon and raised my hand with 1374 others, of which 135 of us were women, and took the oath as a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. It’s not a fact many know, or that I share often outside of those uncomfortable and awkward getting to know you bingo games featuring personal trivia. (Which I always win because no one EVER associates US Naval Academy with me.)

I’m not embarrassed of my time at the Academy. I am proud. But when I left after a year and a half, and watched so many friends tough out their college years there and then serve honorably in the Navy or Marine Corp, my eighteen month stint seemed trivial. Plus, I had moved physically beyond the corridors of Bancroft Hall, the Academy’s massive dormitory which houses all 5,000 or so Midshipmen. And with the physical move, I also needed to embrace psychologically my life choices, thus forever identifying myself a Virginia Wahoo.

But, recently I have thought often about those eighteen months, which were without a doubt the most difficult of my life. This weekend, the women of the class of 1989 are gathering to celebrate our forthcoming significant birthdays — you do the math. Although I’m not attending the reunion, I have been included in all of the communications and feel welcomed to this event.

At the Naval Academy, once a Middie, always a part of the family. That is only one life-long lesson I learned at the Academy. I correctly decided that the Navy was not the best career path for me, but I experienced friendships and teamwork there which I’ve never seen replicated in the civilian world.  The sense of mission. The unwavering commitment to pull together as a unit. The ability to multi-task to the 89th degree. How to be crazy and zany and laugh because it is the only way you’ll get through the day. How to keep going when you don’t think you can. Finding out the answer when you don’t have a clue. Allowing yourself to be pulled along by a shipmate (for me that meant on any run), and then doing the same for him or her when you were the stronger. And the pervasive, unbelievable trust.

To all the women of the USNA class of 1989, I salute you!  GO NAVY!!

In your honor, here is a recipe for an ’89er Blue and Gold, a  concoction reminiscent of Navy grog (usually rum with some lime and maybe pineapple juice), but good enough for an 89’er Woman:

2 ounces Sailor Jerry rum

1 ounce pineapple juice

2 dashes grapefruit bitter

1/4 lime

1/2 ounce blue curacao

Mix rum, pineapple juice, bitters and juice of lime in shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into cocktail glass. Using a funnel set into bottom of glass, add blue curacao. Enjoy the blue and gold, but stir gently to get the color of the sea before enjoying.

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