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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

March

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.)

 Emerald

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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Alcohol Inspired Play List for Cool and Safe Cruising

I love cars. I was the little girl who loved Barbies AND Hot Wheels. And every year, I watched the Indy 500, dreaming of the day I would zoom around the track. Then I hit adult-hood and the childhood dreams faded faster than you can say “zoom zoom.” I tried to maintain a little cool zipping through traffic in my Saab. Even my son who was in a car seat at the time accused me of being “a hard driving momma.”

Well….. Maybe…..

But, until I recently got a new car, my ride for the last decade had been pretty pedestrian. The good old Honda Oddy. I sexied the van up a wee bit with some stickers, but tooling around the ‘burbs even in this epic terrestrial version of the USS Enterprise’s transfer shuttle seriously detracts from my cool factor. Of course, cocktailing and cruising the ‘burbs (or anyplace) do not mix. So  I  enjoy the spirit of the drink through my alcohol-inspired play list.

Vote for your favorite Cruisin’ Tune or volunteer your own and I’ll put your name in a drawing for an Original Thirsty Jane Prize Patrol Package.

In no apparent order:

1. LMFAO — Shots

2. Don Ho — Tiny Bubbles

3. UB40 — Red, Red Wine

4. The Champs — Tequila

5. Snoop Dogg — Gin & Juice (this one stuck in my head for days once!)

6. Janis Joplin — What Good Can Drinking Do

7. The Dead Kennedys — Too Drunk to F@#$

8. George Thorogood — One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

9. Guadalcanal Diary — Whiskey Talk

10. Beastie Boys — Brass Monkey (did you know that’s actually a drink?)

Show Me the Chocolate

Feb. Valentine Drinks

copyright 2013 Lisarae Photo Design

The theme for February in my book, “12 Happy Hours,” is all about chocolate.  Dark, white and in between. Chocolate sweets, chocolate savories, and chocolate salty snacks. Ladies and gentlemen, mix up a chocolate cocktail and drizzle some bacon because the night is young.

Before we get to the recipes, let’s ponder a minute about how chocolate and February’s holiday for lovers struck up this perfect marriage.  To do that, we need to recap the history of Valentine’s Day in all its hedonistic, and, later, holy glory.

The mid-February celebrations originate in early Rome, where revelers commemorated the empire’s founders, as well as the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. This fertility festival included a sex lottery where men pulled names of mates out of a box. The randomly matched lovers often ended up marrying. Talk about fodder for reality TV.

Hoping to redirect the masses from their depraved carousing, the Catholic Church institutionalized February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in the fifth century. The day commemorates an early Christian martyr named Valentine. Interestingly, three different martyred Valentines hold sainthood, but the Church didn’t spell out which one bears the honor of the February 14 feast day.

Not until the Middle Ages did the saintly feast day become paired with romance. At the time, people believed February 14 signaled the beginning of the mating season for birds. Riffing on that theme, important historical figures such as Chaucer, the Duke of Orleans, and even King Henry V began sending love notes or poems to their beloved mates.

Even before chocolate gained the reputation of a food with aphrodisiac qualities, the marketing genius of a chocolatier in England in the 1840s, kicked the sweets race off.  Richard Cadbury had recently improved his company’s chocolate making technique to produce varieties of what was then called “eating chocolate.” He recognized a great marketing opportunity for the new chocolates and started selling them in beautifully decorated boxes that he designed; one supposedly was the heart-shaped box, which became an immediate hit on Valentine’s Day.

Is chocolate’s love-inspiring power myth or fact? Scientific research confirms that chocolate does contain some chemicals that contribute to feelings of joy or euphoria. For example, tryptophan in chocolate increases serotonin levels, which can produce feelings of elation. It also contains anadamide, which can also bring about blissful sensations.

Unfortunately, no one has been able to prove that the chemicals in chocolate are strong enough to produce a physiological, sexually stimulating response. Who cares! The stuff is good and if eating it makes me feel giddy and playful, then bring it on.  These are only a few chocolate-inspired recipes from “12 Happy Hours.”  Enjoy!

German Chocolate Cake Cocktail

Chocolate and coconut create a divine combination regardless of the form they take, but especially in a cocktail.

3/4 ounce coconut rum

3/4 ounce dark crème de cacao

1/4 ounce hazelnut liqueur

1 splash half-and-half

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass rimmed with cocoa powder.

 

White Chocolate Raspberry Delight

1 ounce vodka

1 ounce white chocolate liqueur

1 ounce raspberry liqueur

1/2 ounce white cream de cacao

White chocolate shavings (for rim, optional)

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass rimmed with white chocolate shavings. Garnish with fresh raspberry.

 

Chocolate Covered Bacon

1/2 lb. bacon, cut in thirds and fried crisp

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Drizzle onto bacon strips laid out on waxed paper. Let cool.

 

Chocolate Covered Popcorn

2 quarts popcorn (I use pre-made from local popcorn company)

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Lay popcorn out in single layer on waxed paper. Melt chocolate in double boiler.  Drizzle heavily over popcorn.  Let set. Lay another layer of waxed paper on top of popcorn and flip over.  Drizzle chocolate heavily over other side of popcorn.  Let set.  Break into chunks.

 

 

 

Between the Sheets on Thirsty Jane's Desk

Around The World In Eighty Drinks: A Journey Begins

What do you get when you mix classic science fiction (Jules Vernes’ Around the World in Eighty Days) with classic cocktails (Charles Baker’s Jigger Beaker & Flask) and add in a few dashes of Thirsty Jane? My current work in progress: Around the World in Eighty Drinks — A Cocktail Travelogue guaranteed to help you leave your life’s woes behind as you adventure to exotic locations with equally exotic drinks. My research “officially” begins today. I made a drink from Baker called Jerusalem’s Between the Sheets a la Thirsty Jane. Although Phileas Fogg didn’t stop in Jerusalem, he might have encountered this drink while en route between Italy and Egypt. As Baker says of the drink, “Like the American Side Car, and other truly worthwhile cocktails this invention is totally sound.”  Indeed! This recipe is a great example of how I love to experiment with cocktails.  Take a classic and either switch out an ingredient or add in an ingredient.  Here, the addition of gin completely changes the drink, yet the classic hints of a Side Car still remain. Dry, boozy, and full of citrus. This gem is perfect for any time of the year.

1 ounce cognac

1 ounce gin

1 ounce orange curacao (Baker called for Cointreau, but I switched to a dry orange curacao to pull back on the sweetness of the drink without changing the orangey balance)

1 ounce lemon juice

Shake a long time with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Get Your Super Bowl Party On Here!

July punch

Copyright 2013 Lisarae Photo Design

Super Bowl Sunday 2014 is almost here, and although it promises to be cold weather outside, I’m including a few of my favorite alcoholic punch recipes for the inside gang. Great for a big crowd with a pitcher on the counter.  Also, ham and biscuits as a simple buffet main item are ideal.  Add a fruit and veggie tray, and you’ve got yourself a party. These come from my new book, “12 Happy Hours,” only I’m choosing to rename them in honor of the event.

Unless it’s changed because of the weather, the contest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy takes place with a kickoff time set for 5:30 p.m. CST on Sunday, Feb. 2, with Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos facing off at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Super Bowl game will air on CBS in the United States.

Huddle-Up Punch (Jane and Jerry’s Gin Punch)

 Most punches are rum-based, with brandy or whiskey added. Being a gin lover at heart, I wanted to include a gin punch. “Professor” Jerry Thomas, the father of the American cocktail, included a few gin punch recipes in his 1862 book. This is my variation on one of them.

1 750 ml bottle of gin

4 ounces raspberry liqueur

12 ounces pineapple juice

6 ounces lemon juice

2 lemons, sliced

2 limes, sliced

2 oranges, sliced

1/2 pineapple cut into chunks

1 pint raspberries

1 liter club soda

Combine all ingredients but club soda in a container and refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, add club soda and a decorative ice block.

New Jersey is Freakishly Cold Punch (Martha Washington’s Rum Punch)

This recipe supposedly comes from the First Lady’s personal notes. Whether that’s truth or urban myth doesn’t matter. This traditional planter’s punch features the typical sour, sweet, strong and weak (citrus, sugar, spirits, water).

4 ounces lemon juice

4 ounces orange juice

4 ounces simple syrup

3 lemons quartered

1 orange quartered

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

3 cinnamon sticks broken

6 cloves

12 ounces boiling water

In a large bowl, mash lemons, orange, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add syrup, lemon and orange juices. Pour boiling water over the mixture. Let cool. Strain out solids. Heat juice mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. In a punch bowl, combine:

3 parts juice mixture

1 part light rum

1 part dark rum

1/2 part orange curaçao or triple sec

Serve punch over ice. Top with grated nutmeg and cinnamon.

Seattle Pork Way of Virginia

1 1/2 pounds Virginia ham (buy thick sliced at the deli or go whole hog and cook yourself a Virginia ham for a true adventure)

24 biscuits

Cut apart biscuits and place a few slices of ham on each. Serve with assorted mustards.

Bronco Biscuits

Feel free to use your own recipe, or in a pinch, get the premade biscuits in a can from the grocery store, but try the following for easy Southern-style biscuits.

2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup shortening, chilled

2/3 to 3/4 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat baking sheet with no-stick cooking spray. Cut shortening into flour using a pastry blender or 2 knives until crumbs are the size of peas. Blend in just enough milk with fork until dough leaves sides of bowl. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead gently 2 to 3 times. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut using floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet, or almost touching for soft sides. Brush melted butter over tops of biscuits. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Thirsty Jane Mixes Non-Alcoholic Drinks on Better KC Thursday

We welcome KCTV5’s “Better KC” back from its hiatus. Sporting a jazzy new set, the show just started back up this Monday and now is on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for entertainment, fashion, recipes and a whole lot more.

Thirsty Jane (J.K. O’Hanlon) will be among this week’s guests helping with the new launch. On Thursday, Jan. 9, she’ll join staffers Alexis Del Cid, Dave Hall and Lisa Holbrook to discuss delicious non-alcoholic drinks that are perfect for taking a little break from the hard stuff in January.

From the January chapter of “12 Happy Hours,” here are three easy and delicious non-alcoholic drinks that Jane will be demonstrating Thursday on Better KC:

Non-alcoholic Fizz

1 ounce fruit flavored syrup

1/2 ounce lemon or lime juice

4 ounces club soda

Shake fruit syrup and citrus juice with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda.

 Non-alcoholic Margarita

1 1/2 ounces lime juice

1/2 ounce orange juice

1 1/2 ounces Thirsty Jane’s sour mix

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice. (Salted rim is optional)

Thirsty Jane’s Sour Mix

Use equal parts sugar, water, lemon, and lime juices. Mix sugar and water in a pan over medium heat and cook until thickens (about 5 minutes). Add in lemon and lime juices and let cool.

 Non-alcoholic Sangria

2 cups boiling water

2 black tea bags

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup sugar

3 cups pomegranate juice

1 cup orange juice

1 orange, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 lime, sliced

3 cups club soda

Pour water over tea bags and cinnamon sticks and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags. Mix sugar into tea and stir to dissolve. In a large pitcher, combine tea, cinnamon sticks, juices, and sliced fruit. Refrigerate until cool. Add club soda and serve over ice.

 

 

 

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Three French 75′s

Like a little black dress, it’s hard to go wrong with a French 75. And, like so many great cocktails, no one knows exactly who invented it or why, but the 1920′s and Harry’s Bar in Paris seem to pop up frequently. Essentially, the drink is a Tom Collins (a Thirsty Jane fave) using Champagne instead of soda water. So, the next time you’re feeling the creative juices flowing behind the home bar, take a classic and change one of the ingredients.  You might invent the next great classic cocktail.

French 75

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce lemon juice

Approximately 3 ounces Champagne

Combine the gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake.  Strain into a champagne flute and top with Champagne.

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Day”

logo from Gay List DailyA review from Gay List Daily Staff, National Edition, December 6, 2013

We must be seriously dehydrated.

Because we’re always thirsty. Not for water, but vodka sodas. Or just a simple pineapple-agave-basil margarita shaken in a fresh coconut served flaming for elegant notes of roasted chestnut.

That’s why we love Happy Hour. So many new drinks to explore, always at a discount.

But nothing is less expensive than creating the Happy Hour experience at home. And in 12 Happy Hours, the latest book from J.K. O’Hanlon (of 3 Ingredient Cocktails fame), the author guides us through a year’s worth of DIY cocktail parties based on seasonal ingredients and holidays.

For each month, she presents a trio of appetizer recipes, as well as three easy-to-mix cocktails that will thrill every guest. Or just yourself if it’s a Happy Hour of One kind of day.

There are also tips on entertaining so that the party can be stress-free for everyone.

We’ll drink to that!

Then again, we’ll drink to just about anything.

12 Happy Hours by J.K. O’Hanlon, $5.99 (Kindle), $10.31 (Paperback)
www.amazon.com