Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big Red Cocktail

In honor of the Big Red basketball team reaching the Sweet 16, Leah created the Big Red Cocktail, including antioxidant superfood to make you Ivy League smart.

We're offering nerd specials at the Lounge this weekend: bring in a Rubik's cube for $1 off any drink; solve it in under three minutes and your drink is free. Yes, I went to Cornell. A long, long time ago. Yes, I can solve a Rubik's cube, but it usually takes me a few weeks (I majored in social work).

The New York Times gave this weekend's discounts in Ithaca some press, but they didn't mention the name of our celebratory Big Red Cocktail. Sure, we could have called it the Big Red Martini, or maybe Big Red Punch, but Big Red Cocktail has such a nice ring to it, and it will likely cause a pile of unintended hits on my blog, increasing readership and impressing publishers who will then beg to get their hands on my witty memoir and pay me a sizable advance. Go Big Red!

Big Red Cocktail

1/2 ounce Lillet
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice
1 ounce champagne
orange twist

Shake Lillet, Cointreau and juices with ice. Pour into martini glass and top with champagne. Garnish with an orange twist.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gertrude Stein Cocktail

This Saturday, Felicia's is hosting its first Writers' Cafe. The theme for this curated reading, chosen by yours truly, is drink. Because I like to drink. And you like to drink, too. That's why we're friends.

Leah is working on some special cocktails for the event, including homemade chai for those writers and readers who prefer to write and read sober, strange as that sounds. I'll be spiking mine.

Because I am creative in the two-dimensional world (writing) and lame in the three-dimensional world (everything else), mixing innovative cocktails is not my forte. I leave that job to Leah who looks totally hot in 3-D.

Occasionally, though, I steal, um, borrow someone else's cocktail recipe and tweak it. The Gertrude Stein cocktail below is our take on a drink served at Cinq 01 in Toronto.

It tastes kinda like iced tea, but better. I'm going to drink one on the porch in the sunshine right now while I write something totally awesome.

Gertrude Stein Cocktail

1.5 ounces of Pimm's No. 1 Cup
3/4 ounce chamomile syrup (equal parts strong chamomile tea and sugar)
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
club soda
lemon-lime soda
lemon wedge

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add Pimm's, chamomile syrup and lime juice. Top with equal parts club soda and lemon-lime soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fernet Branca: The Toronto

First, you need to know that Fernet Branca is one of the scariest liquids I’ve put in my mouth in a long, long time; second, that it is a liqueur highly regarded by the cocktail community.

I warned Leah,“Only buy one bottle,” but, ever-vigilant of quantity discounts, we've got three. Fernet Branca is an amaro, which doesn't come from the Latin word for love, but rather is Italian for “bitter and tragically disgusting yet for some reason we are compelled to drink it.”

Describing Fernet Branca as medicinal and herbal with notes of eucalyptus and mint is a serious understatement; that would be like describing gasoline fumes as earthy and peppery. Think camphor meets green Nyquil. Or, have you ever used Alkalol? Alkalol is a “natural formula” brown menthol liquid that you snort into your sinuses, which both cleanses them of pollen and burns all the flesh off of your nasal passages. Alkalol and Fernet Branca: separated at birth?

If I haven’t scared you away yet, then on to the cocktails! With much trepidation, I poured our first drink: Fernet Branca and Coca-Cola, wildly popular in Argentina.

The responses from the elite panel of judges: Dad says it tastes like Vicks VapoRub meets birch beer. Leah says, "I wouldn’t dump it out," but I notice she doesn’t drink any more of it, and later, she dumps it out. I like the bitter finish, but I simply can’t stomach the menthol edge.

Take two. I mix Fernet Branca with something bolder than Coke: Finger Lakes Distilling’s McKenzie rye whiskey. The resulting drink, the Toronto, is a classic reminiscent of an Old Fashioned, but with an invigorating smack in the nostrils and a bitter finish. The three of us agree we can almost appreciate this cocktail.

Supposedly, Fernet Branca is an acquired taste that develops only with regular drinking. Stay tuned: We’ll revisit this one in a second column and see if the Fernet Branca lands on the bar beside the Campari, or on the bathroom counter next to the neti pot.

The second - more hopeful - post in the Fernet Branca series can be found here:

The Toronto

2 oz Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie rye whiskey
¼ ounce Fernet Branca
¼ ounce simple syrup
twist of orange peel

Pour all ingredients over ice. Stir for twenty seconds. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions

People assume that bartenders know things. Facts. Stuff about life. Secrets. Today, I’ll share some answers* to a few questions frequently asked in bars:

Are you open?
Was the door unlocked?

Does bourbon have to be distilled in Kentucky to be called bourbon?

Shake or stir?
Oooo, good one. When you shake a drink, the ice melts more than if you stir it, watering down the cocktail as it melts. A good rule of thumb is if a cocktail is pure liquor, stir it, and if it contains mixers, shake it (unless the mixers are carbonated).

Some people say shaking "bruises" gin.
What does "bruising" mean?
It means it hurts if you press on it, or if a friend who thinks he/she is being funny presses on it.

I have a really bad cold/flu/stomach bug. What cocktail do you recommend?
I used to say “water,” but that answer surprisingly does not go over well with thirsty bar patrons who want to imbibe. Besides, alcohol kills germs, right? Personally, I recommend a hot toddy with some fresh grated ginger added. My mum suggests you could try nip of apricot brandy or blackberry liqueur.

Why do I attract so many crazy people?
Um…why do you think?

I’m wondering about that “beer before liquor” rhyme. How does that go and is it true?
Usually, the people who ask this question introduce it with “I just drank two bottles of wine and a twelve-pack of beer. Is it safe to add couple of vodka gimlets into the mix?” To my knowledge, a couple versions of the rhyme exist. My favorite, and the one I stand by, is the version that goes like this: “If you drink too much of anything, you’re probably going to throw up at some point.”

Do I drink too much?

Where’s the bathroom?
Back of the bar and to the right.

Are you sure I don’t drink too much?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop™?
One…two…three....Three licks.

How do you know so much?
*I make it up. When I’m drinking.

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