Thursday Night Loaded: The Curse Of The Yellow Monkey

When you have a bottle of creme de cacao kicking around, the temptation to use it is nearly irresistible. Tonight, we did not resist one of these….

The Yellow Monkey
1/2 oz light rum
1/2 oz creme de cacao
1/2 oz Galliano
1 oz cream
Shake well with ice. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a banana slice.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the drink itself is not very yellow. The Galliano does give it an ever so slight lemony hue but in the wrong light you’ll miss it. Also, beyond the arbitrary choice of garnish, there is nothing particularly monkey-like about The Yellow Monkey either. Or maybe there is. I’m no monkey expert.

Moving on….

This drink very much resembles the Alexander, and like it’s better known cousin, the Yellow Monkey packs a well hidden punch. The cream mellows the other ingredients and even though there’s a full ounce and a half of booze in there, the cocktail comes off tasting like a slightly spiked milkshake.

“I am just a harmless little tipple,” it will whisper so convincingly. And as you dally with the Yellow Monkey you will drift along, following its gentle chocolate logic, it’s benign vanilla wisdom, all the while blithely unaware of its dark magics subtly dementing your senses.

On that note… about that creme de cacao I’ve been using…. You’ll note from the picture that it’s Meagher’s brand. I’m not a big fan of any of Meagher’s liqueurs. Their bottle design is ridiculous and, worse, the spirits themselves have an artificial flavour to them that puts me off. Unfortunately, I’m told that the SLGA has recently delisted the far superior Bols creme de cacao.

A tragedy. Nay. An outrage.

Thursday Night Loaded: Alexander The Great

The Alexander was the first cocktail recipe to shake my faith in the wisdom of the bartenders of old. In every tome of mixological lore I’ve opened, on the side of every vintage cocktail shaker I’ve shook, the standard recipe for this classic dessert drink goes like this….

3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz crème de cacao
3/4 oz cream
Shake well with ice. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg.

Gin and chocolate hardly seem a natural match, know what I mean? And worse, gin with cream? The mind rebels.

Still, having some species of creamy chocolate cocktail on one’s boozing set-list is a must. So for a very long time I always opted to mix up a variant: the Brandy Alexander. Same 1:1:1 proportions as in the recipe above, just with the gin swapped out for brandy (naturally). Something about that combination seemed more… wholesome. And sure enough, it has always been a hit.

My guests have loved it. I’ve loved it.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Alexander The Great”

Thursday Night Loaded: The Final Nog Of The Season

Seen through a half-consumed bottle of Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, that little ceramic Christmas village sure looks cozy. See how the lights are still on in the church. Must be a little ceramic temperance meeting. (“The demon rum, it looms over our fair village like a tower of sin! We must drive it from our borders! Expel it from the credenza and send it crashing onto the Devil’s own hardwood flooring below!”)

Man, free rum goes down nicely. Especially in that eggnog recipe I included in the Xmas issue.

Yep, a goodly portion of the so-far-consumed press-kit rum was sacrificed to the nog gods. And it turned out better than expected. I did make a couple adjustments to the recipe I cribbed from Dale DeGroff. He called for equal parts bourbon and rum but I’m not a huge fan of bourbon at the best of times and I didn’t want it, with all its icky corn mash, mucking up my drink.

So for spirits, I went with two parts white rum (Bacardi) to three parts Cruzan. Glad I did. The Cruzan has a mellow, butterscotch flavour to it that worked really well. Most eggnog recipes I’ve read call for a spiced rum, though. So, just to be on the safe side, I grated about a teaspoon of cinnamon into the mix.

Beyond that, I stuck to the DeGroff recipe — the folding in of beaten-to-peaking egg whites and everything. It was the most work I’ve put into a drink in… well… ever. But the result was well worth the rigamarole.

Best. Nog. Ever.

Hmm. It’s just occurred to me that most of you will be reading this on Dec 31 and maybe you’re expecting some kind of appropriate drinking advice for New Year’s Eve. Sorry. I’ve always found New Year’s to be a bit of a letdown and, drinking-wise, it’s strictly a lowest-common-denominator affair.

Really, all I’ve got for advice is: Beware the Baby Duck. Cheap sparkling wine beverages give really nasty hangovers.

Thursday Night Loaded: Last Minute Gift Ideas

Christmas Eve has always been the most frantic of shopping days as it’s when all those last minute gifts are purchased. Often they’re gifts for people you may like very much but not so very much that you’re going to go out of your way to plan a gift for them weeks or even days in advance. No, you have mere hours.

And that’s when a trip to liquor store is called for.

Now, I think the impulse often is to get these sorts of second- or third-tier giftees a bottle of “nice wine.” Unfortunately, wines are very subjective and the field of choices is so very large, your odds of actually picking something suitably nice is slim at best.

That’s why, at times like these, I recommend turning to spirits (to buy as gifts, although a quick snort before braving the Christmas Eve queues wouldn’t hurt, either). With a minimum of effort, you will be able to come up with something curious and unexpected — you may even fool the lucky recipient into believing you worked very hard on their gift.

So, here are six spirit routes you can take towards getting a nifty, last-minute gift….

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Last Minute Gift Ideas”

Thursday Night Loaded: An Xmas Cocktail I Missed

When I took on the task of writing that story about Christmas cocktails for the current print issue, I was under orders to include our editor’s favourite holiday beverage. The piece kind of got away from me, though — veered into territory I hadn’t planned — and things didn’t quite work out. So, here, to placate Whitworth, is that missing cocktail….

Peppermint Schnapps and Hot Chocolate
1 oz peppermint schnapps
hot chocolate
Pour schnapps into a coffee mug. Top with hot chocolate. Stir.

Okay. I get it. It tastes like you’re drinking an After Eight. I suppose that’s about a Christmassy as they come, cocktail-wise. Still, I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m sure it’s delicious. But I have trouble endorsing any drink that involves schnapps. Dr McGillicuddy was the ruin of far too many reputations in my high school.

So, instead, I’ll counter with this….

Mocha Mint
1 oz Kahlua
3/4 oz creme de menthe
3/4 oz creme de cacao
Shake well with ice. Serve in a pre-chilled cocktail glass.

Thursday Night Loaded: No Column This Week, Busy Changing Diapers

Not much time for a full-blown cocktail blog this week as, on Tuesday at 11:30 am, my wife gave birth to our second kid. He’s a boy; 8lbs 5oz. And, as we’ve been threatening family and friends, we named him after one of my favourite mystery writers. You’ll just have to guess which.

In lieu of a round of cigars, here’s a sparkly tipple based on the Champagne Cocktail to celebrate….

It’s A Boy Cocktail
1/4 oz  blue curaçao
2 dashes orange bitters
4 oz iced champagne
orange peel
Swirl curaçao and bitters in a prechilled champange glass. Add champagne. The effervescence of the champagne should be sufficient to mix the ingredients. Twist orange peel above drink and drop into glass.

A big thanks from me and my family go out to all the people who made the whole birthing experience pretty damn pleasant. All of the doctors, nurses, and admin staff we encountered were friendly, supportive and highly competent. And, the new maternity wing at the General Hospital is fantastic. Very comfortable and worth every penny the province and other donors have spent on it.

Actually, I can’t stress enough how above-and-beyond the care was we received. Our first child was born in Ontario and we thought things were pretty sweet there. The birthing experience here in Regina was far more civilized and even my wife, who had to endure all the contractions and the pushing and the what-have-you, says it was about as enjoyable as such a thing could be.

I’ve heard all these tales about our medical system being in hopeless disrepair. We saw zero evidence of that this week.

See you in seven. I’m going to sneak in a nap.

Thursday Night Loaded: Intruders Into The Man Cave

I had long been planning a Thursday Night Loaded about scotch and manly spaces — the idea being that, of all the spirits, whiskeys in general and scotch in particular tend to be the object of male, rather than female, affection. The Expensive Scotch Tasting, for instance, is a rite of passage I’ve been through many times, in many provinces and always with chaps — while any attendees representing the distaff side, when threatened with some peaty bottle of burnination, have recoiled at the suggestion and retreated to the safety of their vino, beer and fizzy vodka beverages.

My plan had been to look through a whiskey-clouded lens at the shifting nature of male space. How it’s moving from the garage and the workshop into the realm of First Person Shooters, online sports forums, genre film discussions and action figure collecting. How entire industries exist solely to supply a range of predominately male obsessions. It begins with Pokemon cards in childhood. And works its way up to single malts in middle age.

It would have been an excellent blog post.

Then along comes the Globe and Mail to declare that whiskey isn’t just for lads anymore. (And, as it happens, Aidan has already taken note of this.)

Now, I concede I’m a tad disappointed that my planned TNL has been derailed by the intrusion of “facts” about the non-exclusivity of whiskey consumption along gender lines. But I’ll get over that. In fact, it got me thinking. I’m willing to bet there are more than a few men out there who feel a little threatened at the idea of womenfolk making whiskey their beverage of choice. That they see this as an annexation of a revered corner of the Man Cave for use by the Ladies’ Cotillion. That in short order Glenmorangie and Talisker will be synonymous with lambs and pink chiffon.

Not me.

I heartily welcome women up to the oaken bar of scotch enthusiasm. It is long overdue. In fact, I can’t see how having large numbers of whiskey-swigging women at one’s elbow can be understood as a bad thing. Bring it on, I say.

Moreover, it would be damn hypocritical of me to feel otherwise. You see, as a S.A.D. (which stands for Stay At home Dad — although I much prefer the term “idler”), I am frequently in the position of being an interloper into female spaces.

I can’t tell you the number of times a mom-and-tots drop-in or library nursery-rhyme program has gone quiet the second I walk in.* Often, I’ll catch the last few seconds of some conversation about clothing or breast feeding and then I’ll round the corner and…. awkwardness.

Now, once I linger long enough** to become an established quantity,*** the stay at home moms I have met have been entirely welcoming. And a huge help and support. I am very glad to know them.

The least I can do is share my whiskey.

* This was way more common during that first year when we lived in Waterloo.
** On more than a few occasions, I’ve been told things like, “Oh, I’ve seen you around. Everybody knows you. You’re stay at home dad guy.”
*** Over the last four years, I’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of SADs I run into. And by that I mean men who’ve quit their jobs to raise their kids and don’t have some guaranteed career safety net to fall back on. (So, no, if you’re just some guy taking your six months pat leave, you don’t count. You pussy.) Have to admit, I’m feeling considerably less the maverick these days.

Thursday Night Loaded: Hot Cheer

I was going to continue with the theme of the last couple weeks and write about something with bitters in it. But I’ve been cold all day. The furnace has been working extra hard. I think I may have come very close to losing an earlobe to the walk back from breakfast at the Novia this morning.

I need restoration so I’m going to mix up something hot to dispel these arctic temperatures. If I awake tomorrow and discover the bone-chilling weather has moved on, I’ll know this drink has worked….

Playboy’s Hot Buttered Rum
2 oz dark rum
1/2 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 oz lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp butter
boiling water
1 slice lemon
freshly grated nutmeg
Pour rum, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice into a large mug. Add sugar and butter. Fill with boiling water. Stir until butter and sugar are disolved. Add lemon slice. Grate nutmeg on top.

This recipe comes courtesy of Thomas Mario and is the Hot Buttered Rum that was served at the lake Geneva Playboy Club-Hotel in the 70s.

Update, Friday morning 9:30 am: And voila! The thermometer outside my window says it is now a perfectly acceptable -10°C while the radio says we are headed towards a positively balmy -4°C. Behold the warming powers of Playboy’s Hot Buttered Rum!

Thursday Night Loaded: Bitters Part Two — The Pink Gin

If you went out to buy a bottle after last week’s column, I bet you’re wondering about Angostura Bitters’ oversized label?

Well, the story goes that at one point a batch of labels were ordered that were too large for the bottle and instead of disposing of them, they were used. The error wasn’t fixed on the next batch of labels, or the next and eventually the oversized-label schtick became a trademark for the brand.

Everything I’ve read, including the Angostura website, chalks this all up to a “laidback Caribbean attitude” on such matters — the bitters being manufactured in Trinidad.

Now, Angostura Bitters weren’t always a product of the Caribbean.

They were invented sometime before 1830 in Angostura (now Ciudad Bolivar), Venezuela by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, a German soldier, surgeon and adventurer.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Bitters Part Two — The Pink Gin”

Thursday Night Loaded: Bitters Part One — Angostura The Survivor

Time was, for a mixed drink to be considered a cocktail, it had to contain bitters. And there were dozens of them on the market, orange bitters being the most popular.

Nowadays, about the only brand widely available is Angostura Bitters.

Like all bitters, Angostura is a mixture of the concentrated essences of certain roots, berries and herbs — the exact composition being a closely guarded secret.

As the name suggests, they taste intensely bitter and as such, they shouldn’t be drunk straight. Undiluted, they make Brio Chinotto seem like watered-down Fanta.  Generally, just a couple dashes are added to a cocktail to enhance the overall flavor — they fill in the gaps and add a bit of spiciness to the background.

Think of them as the salt of cocktail mixing. Just as you wouldn’t add so much salt to a soup so that it would taste salty, similarly, you shouldn’t add so much of a bitters to a cocktail to make it actually bitter. Conversely, if you leave salt out of your cooking, your dish will often taste as though some vital constituent has turned fugitive. Leaving the bitters out of a Manhattan or a Champagne Cocktail will leave you with a similar feeling of inadequacy — as though you’ve been swindled out of a better drink.

While their potency in cocktail mixing is nothing short of amazing, what is most astonishing about Angostura Bitters is how easy they are to come by. Even though nowadays they are only used in a few cocktail recipes and occasionally as an ingredient in cooking, you can pick them up in most any supermarket in Canada.

To the uninitiated, their ever-presence in the fizzy drink aisle is a mystery but I think that I have intuited the secret of their ubiquity. But seeing as it’s a secret, I will save it for after the jump.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Bitters Part One — Angostura The Survivor”

Thursday Night Loaded: The Manliest Cocktail

At left, is Jerry Thomas, author of what is arguably the very first cocktail guide. He is preparing the Blue Blazer, a drink he invented.

And, yes, it involves a great deal of fire.

At it’s heart, the Blue Blazer is simply a fancy hot whiskey toddy. By adding combustion, however, Thomas created the most terrifying and most awesome cocktail of all time.

Someday I will have to devote one of these columns to Jerry Thomas. But not tonight.

Tonight, I will simply leave you with this recipe….

The Blue Blazer
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 oz Bookers Bourbon (it is flammable)
2 1/2 oz boiling water
2 heavy silver-plated mugs
Pour water and sugar into one mug. Pour bourbon into the other. Ignite bourbon. Pour flaming bourbon into the other mug and mix drink by pouring the flaming liquid back and forth between mugs. If well done this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire. Serve in a mug with a twist of lemon.

In his 1862 Bartender’s Guide, Jerry Thomas advises:

The novice in mixing this beverage should be careful not to scald himself. To become proficient in throwing the liquid from one mug to the other, it will be necessary to practise for some time with cold water.

“Scald”? No. I think that is an understatement.

I must confess, I have never attempted this cocktail. I have seen too many drunkards in dance clubs scarred by flaming sambuca shots. I can only imagine how much worse the damage of a poorly tossed Blue Blazer.

And I’ve a wife and child to think of. Now, if I were a young man….

Thursday Night Loaded: Grenadine Season

It’s that time of the year again when the grocery store has ripe pomegranate in stock. And that means you can start preparing your grenadine stores to get you through the holiday season.

I know I went over the making of grenadine back in our Drink! issue but I thought I’d go over it again for those who missed it. And this time, I’ll include handy-dandy visual aids for those who can’t read. (All photographs were taken by my daughter, by the way.)

Step One: Acquire a ripe pomegranate from your friendly local grocer.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Grenadine Season”

Thursday Night Loaded: The Boston Shaker

When it comes to cocktail shakers, most home bartenders kit themselves out with a Classic Shaker, also known as a Cobbler Shaker. These have three pieces: a tumbler, a cover with a strainer embedded in it and a cap for on top.

Most professional bartenders, however, will use what’s known as a Boston Shaker. In the pic at left, you can see famed 19th century bartender Harry Johnson using one to strain six drinks at once.

A Boston Shaker consists of two tumblers, one glass and one of stainless steel. The former typically holds 500 ml, the latter 900 ml. The trick here is that, if they are of decent quality and the right size, the glass half will form an airtight seal with the stainless steel half when they are tapped together.

To mix a cocktail using a Boston Shaker, build the drink in the glass tumbler first. Then add  ice to the steel half and pour the cocktail over it. Place the glass half into the steel half and give it a firm tap (more of a whap, really) with the palm of your hand. Shake in a vertical arc with the stainless steel tumbler on the bottom and a hand on each.

Shake hard and vigorously. A Boston Shaker should sound like a tommy gun.

Once the cocktail is sufficiently cooled, hold the shaker in one hand — I find this part works best if you keep most of your fingers wrapped around the stainless portion but keep one or two on the glass part to steady it. Give the spot on the stainless half where the two tumblers meet a good solid whack with your free hand. That should break the vacuum and you’ll be able to separate them and strain the cocktail.

As for the strainer, the one you’ll need is called a Hawthorne Strainer. You’ve seen these. They look like a metal ping pong paddles with holes and a spring around the top edge.

Now, you’re probably wondering why bother going to all the trouble of a Boston Shaker? Well, the chief reason is that a Boston Shaker is much easier to clean than a Cobbler. Also, the glass half can be used as an attractive serving vessel on its own as these are often embellished with fetching, comical or, occasionally, racy illustrations.

But more than anything, the prime attraction of the Boston Shaker is that machine gun rattle.

Thursday Night Loaded: A Craft Project

I can’t remember where I learned this trick. But it’s a good one.

Take an empty milk carton and cut off the top. Fill it with water then submerge a bottle of liquor in it. Place the carton in the freezer and let stand over night. When the water’s completely frozen, tear the carton away and voila! You’ve a bottle of liquor in a block of ice.

Why would you want to do this?

Because it will impress your guests with your liquor ingenuity. Do you need a better reason?

Best to use spirits you want to serve cold and straight. Vodka is the obvious choice. In fact, I used to kick off cocktail parties by offering everyone a shot of frozen Zubrowka. But this will also work well with any liquor — gin and aquavit especially.

Stay away from any lower proof liquids like liqueurs. You run the risk of freezing the contents.

To serve from your frozen bottle, you’ll have to wrap it in a tea towel. And don’t make the same mistake I made the first time I tried this out and leave it on the counter then wander off to join the party. It’s not just messy. It’s embarrassing.

Thursday Night Loaded: The Problem With Vodka, Part Two

In my entire life, I have only tasted two really superb vodkas.

The first was in Prague on New Year’s Eve 1999. I was there with my then-girlfriend (now wife) to ring in the new millennium (yes, I know the millennium started a year later, but that’s not what it felt like at the time — the roll over from ’99 to ’00 seemed so much more momentous than ’00 to ’01) and also because her sister was going to get married there. Her sister’s fiance (my now brother-in-law) was living in Ukraine at the time and when he arrived in Prague, we all got together in their hotel room and he pulled out a bottle of vodka and we proceeded to have a few shots to toast… well… everything… their nuptials, the new year, being together in one of the greatest cities in the world. All of it. The vodka included.

And that vodka tasted marvelous. It was silky, smooth, pure and perfect. Even at room temperature, just pulled from an overstuffed backpack, it was every adjective I’ve ever read describing a good vodka. It was liquid silver. Distilled aether. It was the Platonic ideal of vodka.

I said something to that effect to my eventually-to-be-brother-in-law, and he replied, “Seriously? I picked that up at the train station. I paid like two bucks for it.”

What treasures you can find in Ukrainian train stations, then. Tragically, I don’t recall the brand name.

But here’s my theory on why this humble spirit tasted so extraordinary: A decent vodka is a cipher. It’s nothing, a blank, an empty space and onto it you can scribe pretty much anything you like. For me, that train station vodka became an adventure in Prague at the end of the 20th century. It was transubstantiated into me jetting off to Eastern Europe on a whim with a girl I was sweet on.

That’s good vodka.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: The Problem With Vodka, Part Two”

Thursday Night Loaded: The Problem With Vodka, Part One

Here’s the thing: Despite what I may have suggested in earlier posts, I don’t hate vodka. But I do resent it.

What can I say? When taken side by side, a shot of Smirnoff and a shot of Beefeater, the gin is a more compelling spirit. It lays hold of the senses, sends them off to explore the juniper forest, elephant guns at the ready. The vodka, on the other hand, simply goes down. Served cold (as it must be), it’s as featureless and desolate as the prairies in winter. And there’s a good reason for that. Let’s let Thomas Mario explain:

By federal definition, vodka must be so treated “as to be without distinctive character, aroma or taste.”

Later on in his Playboy’s Host and Bar Book (1971), he continues:

Vodkamen have two ways of eradicating flavor. The first is to distill it with such artful care that only the smoothest, purest fraction of spirits from the still is accepted for vodka; the balance of the run is rejected. The second is a finishing process wherein the liquor is sent through columns of charcoal until it emerges clean, satiny and as tasteless as technology can make it.

Leached of flavour. Sterile. Neutral. Subtle to the point of being inconspicuous. Vodka is the beige of spirits — a damning label to lay on anything. Despite this, in any liquor store you visit, vodkas will occupy an entire wall. Gin, on the other hand, will be lucky if it’s granted a couple thin shelves.

As a gin fancier, therein lies the source of my resentment.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: The Problem With Vodka, Part One”

Thursday Night Loaded: Cough Cough

I’m ill. Not seriously. Not yet, anyway. Runny nose. Headache. Sore throat. Gloomy outlook. Shouldn’t be surprised, really. I was warned about this. My daughter started school last week and children are filthy. She was bound to drag some pestilence home with her.

In casting about for relief, I recalled a home remedy my long-dead Nana would brew for me when I was a wee tot. I’ve given it a go, feel slightly improved and as flu season is impending, I thought I’d share it with you….

Nana’s Sore Throat Remedy
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tbsp honey
1/2 oz Canadian whisky
Combine in a heavy mug. Fill with hot water.

As you can see, I’ve come by my interest in cocktails honestly (whatever that turn of phrase means exactly) as the nostrum administered me by my dear Nana is, in fact, a Hot Whisky Toddy.

A weak one, I grant you, but I would have been five.

I phoned up my father to verify that I remembered this correctly and he assured me that, yes indeed, Nana regularly administered honeyed Crown Royal to her ill grandchildren. More: he noted that my mother actually cleared this with our family physician. “Whisky’s the best thing for a sore throat,” she was told.

Ah, the seventies. It was a different time. I’m sure Ol’ Doc Fisher was sloshed when he imparted that pearl of medical wisdom.

Now, if you will excuse me, I feel a cough coming on. I’d best do something about that.

Thursday Night Loaded: Sourness Over Pisco

Pisco is a peculiar spirit. Distilled from grapes, it’s technically a brandy but it’s colourless and tastes quite different from what you’d generally expect from something with that name. I’ve only tried two brands — in some parts of the world there’s a vast array of piscos to choose from — but I find it tastes a little cleaner and has a more wholesome fruitiness to it than, say, a Courvoisier or Remy Martin. Mind you, I confess my palate isn’t especially discerning and were you to blindfold me and wave a bottle of pisco under my nose (saucy girl) I’d probably just call it brandy.

Pisco is made in only two countries, Peru and Chile, making it something of an exotic liquor and as a result it hasn’t always been so easy to come by in Canada. Fortunately, it’s coming back into fashion and that means you can enjoy….

The Pisco Sour
2 oz pisco
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
egg white
Dry shake to emulsify the egg white. Add ice then shake vigorously to chill. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass (or pisco glass if you have one). Sprinkle a few drops of Angostura Bitters onto the cocktail’s surface.

The recipe above I’ve taken from Robert Hess, author of The Essential Bartender’s Guide and one of the founders of the Chanticleer Society and the Museum of American Cocktails. He’s an advocate for lime in a Pisco Sour and this runs counter to what I’ve read in other bar guides.

Continue reading “Thursday Night Loaded: Sourness Over Pisco”

Thursday NOT Loaded: Appeasing The Abstainers

A quick disclaimer: By writing this week’s column I am in no way endorsing sobriety.

Nor am I condemning it. I’m merely acknowledging that every good host must make allowances for those among their set who choose to abstain for whatever reason.

In fact, back in the days when we were hosting regular cocktail nights, there were enough non-drinkers attending that I was encouraged to step up my bartending game and find something more interesting to offer them than merely fruit juice cut with ginger ale. Off I went to the library and came home with a book of “mocktails.”

The use of that term alone should have warned me off but when I cracked the spine and discovered the recipes were compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I should have tossed the thing in the bin.

Oh, I know, one is not to condemn MADD (nor destroy library property). The drunk driving rate is serious business indeed and certainly, discouraging such reckless behaviour is a worthwhile goal. But there is working for society’s betterment and then there’s being all Anti-Saloon League about it and if I had any doubts about these “mothers” being an imperious bunch of joy killers, here was proof.

Continue reading “Thursday NOT Loaded: Appeasing The Abstainers”

Thursday Night Loaded: Blue Comfort For Summer’s End

Labour Day is looming. School’s back in session. Summer is winding down. And while the lifestyle mags in my grocery store are recommending flamboyant coolers for the long weekend, trotting out their endless variations on the mojito, the sangria, the margarita, I rebel.

The waning of the warm season always leaves me a bit moody.

Tonight, I need something safer than a Basil Cucumber Rickey, a Black Pepper and Strawberry Rum Frappé. Something leaning just a tad to the sad side.

Something a little blue….

Blue Angel
1/2 oz brandy
1/2 oz blue curaçao
1/2 oz Parfait Amour
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz cream
Shake well with ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.

Bring this out at a cocktail party and expect more than a few comments on the colour. That powder blue is achieved through the admixture of Parfait Amour, blue curaçao and cream.

We covered Parfait Amour in an earlier column but blue curaçao is worth a mention because it’s an often maligned liqueur — and perhaps with some reason. Even though it is merely an orange-flavoured spirit not unlike triple sec or Cointreau, whenever I’ve hauled it out for use in drinks, anyone who samples it refers to it as something along the lines of florescent Kool-aid or windshield washer fluid. Certainly, I’ve always felt it has a more astringent or artificial flavour than some of its cousin spirits. But I can’t say if it’s actually the chemical dye offending my tongue or if it’s rather the taste-centres in my brain revolting at the prospect of having to process something coloured such an unnatural shade.

Certainly, between the curaçao and the lemon juice, there lurks in this cocktail a certain amount of tang. But thanks to the cream’s mellowing influence, what could have been an unpleasantly tart cocktail is smoothed out and becomes dreamlike. The citrus becomes a distant flavour. The Parfait Amour’s floral notes become faint. In fact, there is something rather insubstantial about the Blue Angel. As though it’s merely a cocktail ghost, trapped by proton throwers and reconstituted in a glass. A fitting drink for a dying season.

Farewell, summer 2010. I feel like I barely got to know you.