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

Before And After Moscow Mule Mugs

How To Brighten Your Copper Mule Mugs

Summer is still here which means simple and refreshing drinks headline cocktail hour. One of the most versatile summer coolers is any variation of the “Buck.” Most people are familiar with the vodka version, a Moscow Mule.

And this is exactly where I was last week. Experiencing the Northwest’s unusually hot summer, I longed for a refreshing break from unpacking after an arduous move. Box cutter in hand, I slashed through cardboard to locate the booze and my Moscow Mule mugs. But they looked so dingy. And depressing. So, instead of unpacking my office, I scurried down the block to the grocery store and picked up some ginger beer, limes and lemons.

My procrastination had a purpose. I halved a lemon, then dipped it liberally in margarita salt (because I didn’t have my box of Kosher salt handy — it was hiding in some other random moving carton). The salted lemon magically transformed into a copper polisher. There’s some chemistry involved, and maybe if I cared, I’d research it, but I don’t. I prefer to think of it as magic.

With very little effort, I spiffed up my mugs and with even less effort I crafted my favorite version of the Buck, the Burro which is made with tequila, ginger beer and lime. For idea and recipes, check out my blog from last summer.

Cheers! Keep the drinks flowing and the serving vessels sparkling this summer.

  • IMG_1483Cane Garden Bay, home to Callwood Distillery
  • IMG_1487Callwood Distilery
  • IMG_1488Yes, it's really old.
  • IMG_1489The Arundel Rums
  • IMG_1490Who can resist the Panty Dropper?
  • IMG_1491Ready to drink, any time of day.
  • IMG_1492The pipes used with the still.
  • IMG_1493Oak casks used for aging.
  • IMG_1494The oldest copper pot still in the Caribbean.
  • IMG_1495The Caribbean's oldest pot still!
  • IMG_1496Rum kitty.
  • IMG_1497I didn't go in.
  • IMG_1498Cane from their property ready to be cooked. The first step to making rum.
  • IMG_1504Melanie Callwood keeps the tourists in line.
  • IMG_1508Master distiller Matthew Callwood and master drinker Thirsty Jane.

Callwood Distillery Keeps Rum Flowing

Nestled in the corner of Cane Garden Bay in Tortola, BVI, a tiny limestone building houses the Caribbean’s oldest continuously operating pot still. The Callwood Distillery has made its way into tourist guidebooks, but visiting this unique place is unlike any other distillery tour.

Our taxi driver dropped us off and showed us where to walk to the beach afterward. The haphazardly painted sign on the small stone building announcing we were at Callwood Distillery gave me pause. No guard booths. No massive signs. No tour trams. No gift shops. And no one else was there, except for a friendly tabby cat.

We ventured inside to meet Melanie Callwood, daughter of the owner, who introduced us to the Arundel rums her family has made for the last two hundred years. Before the Callwoods bought the distillery, it had already been operating for two hundred years! For a few bucks, we bellied up to the bar and Melanie poured us a shot of each of their rums, the white rum, the golden rum, the 10-year aged rum, and yes, the “Panty Dropper.”

Unlike most Caribbean rums, the Callwoods distill their rum from pure cane juice, not molasses. A quick walk around the building revealed a stack of cane next in line for cooking. They use cane grown on their property and cook it in vats they’ve been using for centuries. The juice is then naturally fermented in oak barrels from 8 to 21 days. The fermented cane juice is then distilled in the copper still outside the building. The family distills with the help of several family members during the months of March through September. Unaged rum is stored initially in the hand-blown glass demijohns and cowboys and the aged rum is put away in the oak casks. On average, they produce 25 gallons a day for around 300,000 gallons of rum each year. All of their rum is distilled at 80 proof. The rum is sold on property and at stores only in the British Virgin Islands.

During our sampling, a tall young man whom we’d spied the night before at a local bar wandered in. Melanie introduced us to her brother, Matthew, the master distiller and heir to the Callwood distillery. Matthew shyly introduced himself as a master drinker. Hmmm…. my kind of guy. After checking in with his sister, Matthew headed out to work on the rum, but agreed to a few photos.

As for the rums, cane rum is definitely different than the typical mass-produced molasses rum we are used to. There’s much more flavor and a sweeter, smoother end. The unaged versions are intended for mixing and would do justice to a Cuba Libre or rum punch. We enjoyed the 10-year aged for sipping. A light amber color, the aged rum has a smooth caramel smell with notes of spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Over ice, it’s a refreshing treat, especially after dinner while on a sun-kissed beach. As for the “Panty Dropper,” that is a sweetened rum which allegedly appeals to the ladies, although not this Thirty Jane. Who can resist the risque label, though?! We took a bottle home for one of our favorite booze hound who was thoroughly impressed with our find.

My trip to Callwood Distillery was one of the highlights of my week long sail through the Virgin Islands. Melanie and Matthew were delightful and their family’s commitment to producing rum is admirable. Once Tortola boasted 27 distilleries with 7 located in Cane Garden Bay. Today, only Callwood remains, and rum drinkers and adventure seekers are grateful.

Find out more about Callwood Distillery at www.vicanrum.com and at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CallwoodRumDistillery.

Special thanks to the Captain and crew of Marauder Sailing Charters for suggesting a visit to Callwood.




Keeping It Simple for Summer: Insanely Easy Cocktails

The kids wave buh-bye to school. The mercury rises in the thermometer. Everything about this picture says “happy hour.” But no one wants to spend an hour getting a drink ready for happy hour. You’ve got to keep it simple for summer. Many of the drinks in my Three Ingredient Cocktail book will get you exactly where you need to be, but don’t be afraid to experiment, too.  Tonight, I used up the pineapple tequila taking up valuable bar space.  I mixed in a little triple sec and some lime juice for a pineapple marg. But the best part of the equation was that I turned said cocktail into an adult sno-cone. Refreshing and therapeutic.

Here’s why:

Making your own crushed ice for adult sno-cones is super easy. If you have a Lewis bag (just got one a few weeks ago), then you use that because the canvas keeps the melting ice from leaking all over your freshly wiped kitchen counter. But, if you are like me and you like to save your pennies for a new bottle of bourbon instead of blowing it on the latest gadget, then just use any clean kitchen town. Place a scoop of ice in between layers of the towel, or in the Lewis bag, and then hammer away with whatever. I use a rubber mallet from the garage shop area, but imagine that a can of creamed corn would work just as well. Fill your glass with the crushed ice, mounding up sno-cone style, then add you drink of choice.

Here are a couple of easy summer drink recipes shared by Thirsty Jane fans:

Hop, Skip and Go Naked

3 (12 fluid ounce) cans or bottles beer

3 (6 ounce) cans frozen lemonade concentrate

1 cup and 2 tablespoons vodka (aren’t those last 2 tablespoons of vodka just a precious addition?)

Mix all together and serve cold. Makes 12 Servings

Amy’s Libation

1 1/2 ounces Absolute Mandarin

Splash of Diet cranberry with lime juice

4 ounces Fresca

Build in a tall glass with a lot of ice.

Lawn Lounger

2 ounces Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Key Lime Rum

4 ounces Crystal Light Fruit Punch

Build in a tall glass with a lot of ice. (I had this once but used Bacardi 151. Mistake. Big mistake. Very big mistake.)

So, go out and make a drink, but keep it simple and when in doubt, just add crushed ice and dip your toes in a blow up baby pool.



Spring Cleaning: Keeping Your Bar Clutter-Free

Throughout the ages, the coming of spring has brought a frenzy of activities inside and outside the home. People throw open windows, let the fresh air circulate, and perform their annual spring-cleaning.  The ritual’s original remains unclear, but two traditions in the Middle-East and a more recent tradition explain why spring-cleaning exists. One ritual belongs to Iran where the new year falls on the first day of spring and people “shake the house,” meaning clean it from top to bottom to prepare for the new year. Another possibility is the Jewish tradition of cleaning before Passover, which falls in the spring. Because leavened bread may not be present in a household, families clean thoroughly, getting every speck of leavened bread out of the house.

The explanation that makes the most sense to this Midwesterner who impatiently waits the first warm day of spring is that prior to the invention of the vacuum an central heating systems, home shut all winter accumulated dirt and grime from wood and coal stoves. Sweeping and airing out the home was impractical given cold climates. When spring’s fresh and warm breathe hit, families would open doors and windows to sweep and air out stuffy and musty quarters. I agree that even with today’s conveniences, letting in the first gusts of warm air each spring breathes new life into me and my home.

Over the years, spring-cleaning has come to connote more than just thoroughly washing and uncluttering one’s home. Office workers might perform a spring-cleaning on their files to purge old and unnecessary information to make way for the new. And, cocktail aficionados might perform a spring-cleaning on their spirits collection to open shelf space for the newer more interesting liqueurs and rid themselves of that bottle of Irish creme liqueur that has hardened into sludgy goop.

Thankfully, I inherited genes that allow me to discard without distress. Whether it’s my closet, kids’ papers from school, cards, or that specialty bottle of mustard languishing in the back of the fridge, I use it or lose it. You might call me an anti-hoarder, even. But my liquor collection…I can’t throw away that perfectly good, but dusty, bottle of blue raspberry vodka waiting patiently in the back corner of the bottom shelf for a girls’ night out event. Is is perfectly good, though? Do I risk poisoning a guest or just making a bad cocktail if I use that 2-year old creme de menthe? No arguments allowed on whether creme de menthe ever makes a good cocktail, either! To each his own when it comes to cocktails!

After researching shelf-life of liquors and talking to a few industry experts, I think I need to call in my professional organizer friend for an intervention. Or, there’s going to one heck of a booze-fest at my house next week. The reality is that some, but not all liquors, last for a very long time. Even indefinitely, some would say. But, many of those specialty liquors I’ve accumulated for swanky cocktails need to go.

IMG_1423How old is too old? Because most distilleries do not includes an expiration date on their bottles, the percent of alcohol and the type of flavoring provides general guidance on shelf-life. First, most spirits, like vodka, rum, tequila, gin and whiskey, are at least 40 percent alcohol by volume, or 80 proof.  Recall that a spirit’s “proof” is always twice the percent of alcohol by volume. Although some deterioration and evaporation will occur over time, these can be kept indefinitely. If you are using something older than 5 years old, you might was to take a small sample first to ensure the deterioration in flavor isn’t too great.   High proof (80 and above) liqueurs should also theoretically last indefinitely, but again, take a taste of something more than a few years old.

The tricky choices, especially for booze-hoarders, like myself, are for those liqueurs between 60 and 80 proof. Examples of these are most of the orange liqueurs and some herbal ones. These should last about two years. Lower proof liqueurs (between 30 and 60 proof) often have significant sugar in them and tend to deteriorate quicker. Probably a year is a good time to let go of these. Chocolate, coconut, and fruity flavored liqueurs comprise much of this lower proof category. Creme liqueurs, such as Irish cream, typically last around 2 years, but check the label and website and these do vary widely. Finally, vermouth needs to be replaced often, about once every month! Essentially, vermouth is wine and it will go bad very quickly.

Ways you can lengthen the longevity of your alcohol include keeping it in a stable environment with a cool temperature and not exposed to unnecessary light. Also, always keep the original caps and tightly cap bottles after using them. For sweeter liqueurs, wipe the end of the bottle before sealing to prevent build-up of crystalized sugar. If you have a small amount left of a liqueur, consider transferring it to a smaller bottle to reduce the amount of oxygen available to the contents. Buy little bottles! Unless you have a Manhattan or a wet Martini every night, get the smallest bottle of vermouth. Above all, use common sense. A good friend with an amazing bar admitted that he doesn’t hold fast to the shelf-life guidelines, although he does agree with them. Use your discretion, but do not let the booze-hoarder made the decision.

How to keep track of it all? Put a small sticker on the top a bottle noting when to throw it out, that when you don’t have to recalculate the date every time you pick it up. And next time you think you need to do some spring-cleaning, don’t forget your bar!

The Buck Buck Is Open

The Buck Starts Here: A DIY Easy Summer Cocktail Party

Having a signature drink at a party doesn’t require you to spend the entire night behind a bar or to hire the local college-aged student to play bartender for the evening. Creating a DIY cocktail bar not only frees up your time as host, but also engages guests and gives them the takeaway of  knowing how to make a simple, and delicious, drink. One of the best ways to set up a DIY bar is to pick a drink which can be made with only a few simple ingredients and for which various spirits can be interchanged. The “Buck” will kick off your summer and keep it going through Labor Day.

Guest in Action at the Buck Bar

Guest in Action at the Buck Bar











A classy classic, the Buck was first made with gin, but other spirits horned in, with the vodka version, also known as a Moscow Mule, perhaps being the most famous. Another famous Buck is the Dark And Stormy and Jamaican Buck. The distinguishing characteristics of a Buck are simple to remember and to mix. Easy on the brain and the wallet, two of my most cherished traits in a cocktail. Here’s all you need to know:

1. Get a tall glass

2. Add a lot of ice

3. Squeeze in 1/4 of a lime or lemon and then drop the rind in the glass

4. Pour in 2 ounces of your favorite spirit

5. Top off with ginger beer or ginger ale

Got it?

Yes, it is that easy. At a recent gathering at my home bar/lair, we sampled gin, dark rum, light rum, tequila, and bourbon. But, don’t forget Scotch and brandy bucks, too. I made a simple instruction sheet (placed in a plastic page protector, lest a sloppy mixer ruin my careful explanation), and then laid out the ingredients in the order listed above. Then, I let my guests go at it. Always timid at first, after the first round, everyone was experimenting, mixing and matching spirits and citrus and ginger beer vs. ginger ale and debating over who’s Buck packed the most punch.

Create your own favorite and make it your summer sip. What’s not to like about citrus, booze and ginger? Speaking of ginger beer and ginger ale…

I got creative for this party and brewed my own ginger beer based upon the instruction in the May/June 2014 edition of Imbibe Magazine, a wonderful magazine and online resource for anyone, from beginner to expert, who is interested in “liquid culture.” Here’s what I did:

Ready to make ginger beer

Ready to make ginger beer


4 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped roughly

2 quarts water

1 cup demarara sugar (I didn’t have this handy, so substituted the Turbinado sugar lurking in my pantry from some obscure recipe used last year)

1 tbls. molasses

3/4 cup fresh lime juice (yes, that cost a pretty penny given the lime shortage)

1/4 tsp. champagne yeast (found at a local home-brew supply shop)

1. Puree ginger and 1 quart of water in a blender

2. Combine ginger-water, sugar and molasses in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves (around 5 minutes), then remove from heat and let cool. You want it a little warmer than room temperature, but not boiling so you can activate the yeast, but not kill it.

Cooking the ginger and sugar with water

Cooking the ginger and sugar with water








3. Strain the sugar-ginger-water mix through cheesecloth into a 2-litre plastic bottle.













4. Add the lime juice and enough of the remaining water until the bottle has about 3 inches left at the top. Sprinkle the yeast on top.

5. Squeeze the bottle until the liquid comes to the neck and then cap. Let the bottle sit at room temperature until it is hard. The recipe said 12 hours, but my house was chilly and it took about 18 hours. Be careful because it will explode. DO NOT use glass because that will shatter under the pressure.

Contents Under Pressure! Ferment in a Safe Zone

Contents Under Pressure! Ferment in a Safe Zone











6. Once the bottle is hard, put in the refrigerator to stop any more fermentation. Drink within a week.


That’s all! The Buck might have stopped with Harry S. Truman, but it starts with Thirsty Jane!  Enjoy your summer and let me know your favorite Buck.


It’s Cookie Cocktail Time — Simple Cocktails for Your Sweet Tooth

It’s cookie cocktail time. About this time of year, you might find yourself wondering how many boxes of cookies did you order from those cute little girls in vests and beanies? What are you going to do with all of those sweet delights? Or maybe you didn’t get any ordered and are craving something minty and chocolatey. Each of these recipes is simple to make, using a minimal number of ingredients which are also easy to find at most liquor stores. If you don’t have cookies to rim your glasses, never fear, just channel Thirsty Jane and make the drink anyway! The neighborhood lushes taste tested each of the drinks against the real deal cookie and gave their enthusiastic guzzle-worthy stamps of approval.


Chocolate Mint

The chocolate minty delight that cookie hoarders stock pile in their freezers every year grows up in this perfect cocktail version. And, it’s easy!
1 oz. white rum
1 oz. creme de menthe
1 oz. creme de cocoa
1/2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream

Rim glass, using simple syrup, with crushed chocolate-mint cookies.  Combine ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

Triple-C Threat

Coconut. Chocolate. Caramel. ‘Nuf said.
1 oz. coconut rum
1 oz. caramel vodka
1 oz. creme de cocoa
1 oz. Caramel Bailey’s

Rim glass, using chocolate syrup, with unsweetened coconut. Combine ingredients in shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

Nutter Lover

A friend challenged me to make a peanut butter cookie cocktail. After getting over the initial “eeeuuuuwww,” I went to work. The peanut butter simple syrup is easy and adds the perfect amount of nuttiness to the drink. You could add some half-and-half if you like creamier drinks, but I like this straight up simple cocktail.
2 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. Frangelico (Hazelnut) liqueur
1/2 oz. peanut butter simple syrup

Rim glass, using peanut butter simple syrup, with crushed peanut butter cookies. Combine ingredients in shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into cocktail glass.

Peanut Butter Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbls. smooth peanut butter

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter.  Let cool.

From left, clockwise, Golden Glove, KC Royal Ice Water, Royal Passion

Simple Cocktails for KC Royals’ Opening Day

Opening Day at the K is only a day away, so get your shakers out for simple cocktails to celebrate the Kansas City Royals. Each of the drinks is easy to make and will keep you chilled through the hot summer season when the games get heated. Who needs a beer when you can have a Golden Glove? I’ve been a life-long fan and am looking forward to seeing the team win this weekend while I’m at the ball park with my family. “Let’s go Royals, let’s go!”

Golden Glove

This classic drink is essentially a daiquiri with the addition of Cointreau. It is included in the Royals’ cocktail club in honor of the THREE 2013 Golden Glove winners from our team: Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer.

2 ounces white rum

1 ounce Cointreau

1 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Shake with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Drink after any spectacular double play!

KC Royal Ice Water

This drink is a variation of the Kansas City Ice Water, which is actually a drink and not just tap water from the Mighty Mo.

1 ounce gin

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce wild berry simple syrup

1/2 ounce lemon juice

3 ounces club soda

Mix together in a highball glass filled with ice. Creat one of these in about ten seconds if we’re heading into extra innings.  Sip with caution.

Royal Passion

2 ounces Crown Royal

1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup

1 ounce lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. A perfect toast for any die-hard fan like myself.


Let the Madness Begin

Seven years ago, my church social club asked me to host the gathering for March. Instead of sitting in a bar watching that annual basketball event (which shall go unnamed lest anyone violate any trademark rules), I invited everyone to my home bar and we did some bracketology magic of our own. The first Martini Madness event was born. The event has grown and contracted and grown over the years. This year, we’re looking at 16-20 entries for the amateur mixologist smackdown. What better way to host a party!  All I do is send out the invite, make the bracket, and provide the space and mixing tools.  The guests do all the work and supply all the booze and food! This year’s theme is based on TV shows, so entries must fit within the categories of girlie drinks, tropical libations, prohibition-era concoctions, and cool cat classics. IMG_0610I suppose I should go clean the house. Or maybe make a martini to get in the mood.  Cheers and may the best drink win.  I’ll be tweeting winning recipes at #martinimadness tonight.

No Snakes, But Lots of Wiggle from Good Food and Drink on this St. Patrick’s Day


Photo copyright 2013 Lisarae Photo Designs

The saints come marching in Monday, March 17, as another St. Patrick’s Day is cause for celebration.  The real St. Patrick lived at the beginning of the fifth century. Born in England,

Patrick was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a child where he worked as a slave. He eventually escaped and, after reuniting with his family, entered the priesthood. Called back to Ireland, he returned to the place of his enslavement with a mission to convert the Irish to Christianity. He worked in Ireland for the remainder of his life.

After his death on March 17, 461 A.D., myths surrounding his life evolved and his status in Ireland as its patron saint emerged. So did he actually drive snakes out of Ireland? That would be a myth. Scientists tell us that snakes never inhabited Ireland.

Although March 17th marks the Catholic Church’s feast day for St. Patrick, Americans have transformed the day into a secular holiday when everyone wears the green and drinks prodigiously. Starting in New York in Revolutionary War times, the Irish and those of Irish heritage came together on March 17th in a show of solidarity. These celebrations spread throughout the country as the Irish immigrant population exploded in the 1800s. Now, even the river runs green in Chicago for St. Paddy’s day.

Not to be outdone by the Irish, Poles and Italians wear their red on St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th, which is the Catholic feast day for St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Having attended Catholic school in an ethnic Polish neighborhood, do I ever recall the playground battles on March 17th and 19th relating to which color someone wore! Now, I like the attitude that we can all be Irish for a day, and let’s say we can also be Polish or Italian for a day, too.

Here are a few featured cocktails and appetizers from the month of March in my book, “12 Happy Hours” (available in paperback and e-versions.)


Does this look familiar? It should. The Emerald, also known as the Paddy, is simply a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey instead of rye.

2 ounces Irish whiskey

1 ounce sweet vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitter

Stir with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.


Irish Coffee Cocktail

Combine all of the decadence of Irish coffee into a cocktail for this after-dinner drink. Feel free to use instant espresso if you do not have an espresso maker.

1 ounce Irish cream liqueur

1 ounce Irish whiskey

1 ounce espresso

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.


Black Velvet

On St. Patrick’s Day, the consumption of Guinness Irish Stout is over double that of any other day of the year! Combine your stout with sparkling wine for a fancier salute to a famous beverage.

4 ounces stout beer

4 ounces sparkling wine

Pour sparkling wine into a champagne flute and top with beer.


Pepper Jelly Cheese Puffs

The savory version of a thumbprint cookie, these foolproof puffs will make you look like a pro in the kitchen. You decide whether to wear your green, red or both.

2 cups sharp cheddar, finely grated

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper jelly (green for Irish; red for Polish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except jelly, and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll into walnut sized balls and put thumbprint in center. Fill with teaspoon of jelly. Bake for 10 minutes.


Green Goddess Dip

This version of the classic Green Goddess dip is lower in fat thanks to the yogurt. The variety of fresh greens gives it a vibrant color and powerful punch of flavor.

2 cups trimmed watercress (about 2 bunches)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse 8 to 10 times or until

just combined. Chill for 8 hours or overnight. Serve with crackers or veggies.


Candied K

Why settle for little hotdogs in barbeque sauce when you can have Candied K? We’re going to overlook the meatless feast part of St. Joseph’s Day. You may use a slow cooker for this recipe. Cook on low for 3 hours, uncovering for the last hour.

3 pounds kielbasa sliced into 1/4 inch pieces (like coins)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup prepared horseradish

Combine in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until mixture boils.

Lower heat and cook covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and continue cooking for another hour until the sauce reduces to a thick, sticky coating on the kielbasa, stirring often.


Rolling my own version of a Clover Club, by tweaking the amount of gin and changing the raspberry flavoring to pomagranate

Do Try This At Home

I recently read an article about new trends in cocktails and several recipes from famous cocktail joints were featured. Always eager to try something new, I read each with great intrigue only to be disappointed by complexity of the ingredient list. The one I was particularly interested in had one ingredient that said: see additional recipe. Okay, I cook from scratch five to six nights a week, so I can handle an additional step. But, then that recipe had another “see additional recipe.” Sigh. The Sochi Olympics were over, but I had run into the Matryoshka nesting dolls again. This time the nesting dolls of cocktail recipes. A recipe for a recipe for a recipe.

Never mind.

So I went to another recipe. This one called out French absinthe. Hmmm….I actually had absinthe. But it was made domestically. I wondered it if would do. Certainly at over $50/ bottle for absinthe and the sparing use of the liqueur, I wasn’t going to buy another bottle. So, I fired up the lap top to begin researching if I could substitute my very high quality domestic absinthe for a French  version and not ruin the drink.

Never mind.

I made a martini. And  damned good one. I had all the ingredients on hand, and it took about thirty seconds to whip up that little piece of heaven. All of that reminded me of exactly why I started writing about cocktails. I’d been making good money as a corporate lawyer.  The work was interesting, challenging, and financially rewarding. But when I left the practice of law to devote time to my family, I was bored. And, no I didn’t start drinking. I started writing.

One day, I asked my guy to make me a cocktail and he just couldn’t. Of all the recipe books I had, he felt paralyzed by the recipes within recipes and the requirements for specific types of vodka (yeah right). That’s when I started collecting simple three-ingredient recipes. My initial research lead me to David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948. Embury, a lawyer by profession, like yours truly, proclaimed in the preface to his book:

My practical experience with liquors has been entirely as a consumer and as a shaker-upper of drinks for the delectation of my guests. This book is, therefore, purely and distinctly a book written by an amateur for amateurs.

Yet, that amateur demystified cocktails for his generation and for many to come. His amateur’s book is now required reading is some of the most famous bars in the country!

Empowered with Embury’s basic instructions on how to “roll your own,” I started experimenting. Researching more, I eventually began a career writing about cocktails and creating user friendly recipe books. Don’t get me wrong about the complex stuff. I absolutely love it all and have the utmost respect for those bar tenders and establishments that make their own bitters and shrubs and cordials and whatnot. They have resurrected the art of the cocktail and I am grateful for that. I enjoy visiting those types of joints and chatting as much as possible with the bar tenders, culling any secrets I can.

The bottom line is that we all can’t be Julia Child or Emeril or whoever your favorite celebrity chef is. That doesn’t mean we should be relegated to a life of frozen entrees and stuff from cans for our supper. We look to the complex for inspiration, for new flavors and combinations. And so we should also with our cocktails. You don’t have to drink your cocktails from a can or pre-mixed bottle, nor to you have to slave for weeks perfecting recipes within recipes. And heaven forbid, do not spend $50 on a bottle of absinthe unless you are very very serious about creating a home bar or have money burning a hole in your wallet.

Instead, invest in a few bottles and learn to make three or four classic cocktails that you enjoy. Then, when you hear of new trends, you can start experimenting and rolling your own. Embury suggests that all cocktails are essentially three components: your base spirit, a modifying agent, and a coloring and/or flavoring agent. Take one of my favorites: the Side Car. Cognac  is the base ingredient, the lemon juice is the modifying agent (it smooths or enhances the base spirit, but shouldn’t over power it) and finally, the Grand Marnier is the flavoring agent, adding some sweetness (but not too much) and some orange to the bundle. Take a recipe like that and change one item, and you can roll your own. Say, change the cognac to tequila. Oh my, that’s almost a margarita! See what I mean?!

I raise my glass to the innovators, but I happily remain an accomplished and passionate amateur. Need a drink? I’ll be back in 30 seconds!

Pictured is my version of a Clover Club. I increased the gin and substituted the raspberry syrup with pomegranate syrup (because that’s what I had). Also, I’ve seen the recipe with either lemon or lime juice. I used lime juice. Here’s my recipe:

2 ounces gin

juice from 1 lime

1 tsp. pomegranate syrup

1 egg white

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass.


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