Tag Archives: cocktails

American spirits

Here’s a very American cocktail for your Thanksgiving holiday weekend: the Marconi Wireless.

Marconi Wireless cocktail

It’s pretty much a Manhattan but with applejack instead of bourbon. The applejack is what makes it American, and seasonal to boot. Find the recipe here, in a post by Paul Clarke all the way back in 2007. Fortunately, good drinks never go out of style.

This is a delicious cocktail. The applejack is a little sweeter than bourbon usually is, and the orange bitters complement it wonderfully. As I do when making a Manhattan, I use only a little sweet vermouth rather than the ounce the recipe suggests — I use maybe 1/8th of an ounce. And I double the orange bitters. A twist of orange or lemon peel would be a lovely garnish, but since I have neither, an apple seemed appropriate.

I think one or two of these will provide a pleasant diversion while I’m cooking our family turkey tomorrow. Probably not more than two though, or I might forget the turkey altogether.

Cause. Effect.

The upper eyelid of my left eye has has been twitching for a few days. I googled to find out why this started suddenly, and whether I need to worry about it. Here’s what I found:

Called myokymia in doctor lingo, these rippling muscle contractions in an eyelid can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Tiredness
  • Eye strain
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dry eyes
  • Nutritional imbalances
  • Allergies

OK, one question answered, and now I have a new one: Given the potential causes, why have my eyelids not twitched every day of my adult life?

Cocktail time in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood

On a day when things just aren’t going right, when every small step morphs into a major climb, when the sky is gloomy and dark, on such a day it can seem like what one needs is someone like Mr. Fred Rogers — someone kind and gentle who will say, “You are special. You are my friend. I’m glad you’re here.”

But when one is a grownup, one feels strange tuning into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood after work. Sure, the sentiment is right and maybe just what’s needed, but the delivery doesn’t quite work.

One those occasions, here’s the solution: Those well-known songs of Fred Rogers — warm and friendly lyrics and oh-so-familiar melodies — delivered in a swanky, grownup style. A jazzy, cocktail style.

What you need is “Mister Rogers Swings! Holly Yarbrough Sings the Fred Rogers Songbook.”

All the classics are here: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” “Please Don’t Think It’s Funny,” “You Are Special,” “It’s Such a Good Feeling,” and more. You can hear many of them on Holly’s MySpace page.

My particular favorite is “It’s You I Like,” which comes across a bit sultry but still wholesome enough to play at a preschool. I think of it as a counterpoint to the backhanded compliment of anyone’s version of “My Funny Valentine.”

Ms. Yarbrough was kind enough to send me a special edition copy of the CD to review, and the case and CD themselves are special too. The CD looks like a little vinyl album, and the case is a beautiful three-fold number. If you’re able to order one of this limited pressing of 5000, you’ll enjoy it.

Let’s make a snappy new day.

Mixology Monday: Spice — Cranberry Spice Sidecar

Cranberry Spice Sidecar

This month, Mixology Monday is hosted by Craig of Tiki Drink & Indigo Firmaments. The theme this time around is Spice.

I use spices and herbs often in cocktails, so this theme gave me a chance to explore variations in my favorite recipes. My first thought was a cranberry variation on the Blackberry Gin Daisy from this summer — a winter version of a late summer drink.

I love a gin hot toddy with lemon and a stick of cinnamon, and that was my other inspiration. Cinnamon works with cranberries; cinnamon works with gin; lemon works with all of them. Let’s bring them together for a party.

For cranberry syrup, I put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 2 cups fresh cranberries in a pot, along with about a half stick of cinnamon and 6 or so whole cloves. (Next time I might add even more spices, and maybe some dried orange peel too.) Simmered 4 minutes, let cool until just about room temp. (Here they are simmering and cooling.) Strained with finest available strainer.

First drink: a cranberry variation on the gin daisy. It turned out to be much too tart. Cranberries are not, in fact, berries. Eat one and you’ll discover how not berry they are. So the syrup was sweet but not so sweet as grenadine, nor as sweet as the blackberry syrup I made this summer. Additional sweetness was in order.

Obvious choice: Cointreau. it’s delicious in everything, and its orange flavor works beautifully with both cranberries and warm spices.

Cranberry Spice Daisy

2 oz gin (Plymouth)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass, top with spritzer. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was good, but the balance of sweet and tart seemed delicate. Hard to manage, too tricky for my taste.

Knowing how nicely brandy plays with Cointreau and orange, I tried a different tack.

Cranberry Sidecar

2 oz cognac or brandy (Courvoisier in this case)
1 oz cranberry spice syrup
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz Cointreau

Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh cranberries.

This was a much better drink.The cognac blended easily with the various flavors, and everything ended up warm and welcoming (yet nicely chilled by the ice). The spices are subtle, but there’s enough of them to change what might otherwise be a fruity beverage into something more special.

I still think a little spritz of seltzer isn’t out of place, to lighten the drink.

Important note: If you’re the type who likes to munch on your garnish, take care with these drinks. Even after they’ve soaked in booze for a while, fresh cranberries are tart little things.

Thanks to Craig for hosting MxMo this month and choosing such a terrific theme. Please check out his site for a full wrap up of creative drink ideas.


(Photo credit: Cranberry Spice Sidecar, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.)

Goodbye, and cheers

I’m saddened that PittGirl has closed up the Burgh Blog for several reasons, but the one that will linger longest is an unresolved issue: the creation of a Zima replacement.

As her readers know, PittGirl is/was a big-time fan of Zima, and Zima has recently been discontinued. Friendly mixologist that I am, I offered to create a replacement cocktail.

The project was made challenging in that I can’t locate any Zima for taste comparison, and we were forced to use as a target my memory of the last Zima I drank (in 1995, I believe).

Before starting, I asked PittGirl via Twitter DM what Zima tastes like.

"It tastes like heaven. With a hint of lime. Does that help?"

It didn’t, so I decided to guess.

Ingredients for Zima replacement creation


1.5 oz vodka
1.5 oz sour mix
1.0 oz lime juice plus half teaspoon sugar OR 1.0 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
Chilled Sprite to fill

Combine vodka, sour mix, lime juice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly to combine (at least 30 seconds). Strain into tall glass. Add Sprite in equal volume to mixture. Drink and enjoy.

I assume that one drinks Zima straight from the bottle, not over ice, so I created the recipe with that in mind. Serve over ice if you prefer.

The lime juice/sugar combo requires extra shaking to blend, so if you’re looking for a low-stress alternative use Rose’s Lime Juice (a pre-sweetened lime mixer) instead.

I think that rum makes a better base spirit for this drink, because it comes across as sweet be definition and works with the other ingredients. But vodka works well too and manages to disappear into the background altogether — might be more suitable.

And but so: I sent the recipe along to PittGirl. She posted it on the site and said she would try it. No word on the outcome.

So it will remain a mystery — until whoever has the last remaining Zima can compare and let me know.

In the meantime, if you’re feeling low about the end of the Burgh Blog, or if you want to raise a toast to PittGirl and wish her well, you might give this concoction a taste.

Best of luck, PittGirl. We’ll miss you.

MxMo XXXII: Guilty Pleasures — Lynchburg Lemonade

It’s Mixology Monday again, hosted this time by my Gold Coast buddy Stevi Deter. Our theme this month is “Guilty Pleasures.”

It’s tempting in these neo-Puritanical times to list all alcoholic beverages under such a category, but Stevi has something particular in mind:

…in the world of cocktail bloggery, we are often pronouncing certain drinks, categories of drinks, and even an entire base spirit to be the sign of a poorly educated drinker’s palate. There seems to be no room for comfort cocktails.

October’s Mixology Monday will be a tribute to our guilty pleasures. Write about that one cocktail that, no matter how many times you’re told it’s no good for you, is the one near and dear to your heart. Feel free to celebrate your drink in all its pre-mix glory. Or try to dress it up, show us that when made right, it’s a worthy drink, we’ve just misjudged it.

For me, this was an easy one. I started out my drinking life in the days of wine coolers and other predecessors to the alco-pop trends. I’ve since abandoned Bartles & James and the like, but I still find myself turning to one such option again and again: the Jack Daniels line of coolers.

The reason is simple: They’re both tasty and easy. You can bring a four-pack to a picnic with the beer-and-wine crowd without having to lug around a cocktail mixing kit.

More importantly, outdoor music venues like the dreaded Starlake Amphitheatre typically have Jack Daniels booths. In these booths, they’ll often up the fun quotient by spiking one’s cooler with an extra shot of JD. That’s a service I appreciate, especially when I’m surrounded by crowds of stifling humanity.

My preferred JD cooler is the Lynchburg Lemonade, which is basically an extra-sweet Jack Daniels sour with a bit of fizz. 

If it weren’t for MxMo, I’d not bother to mix up Lynchburg Lemonade at home — after all, the convenience is most of the value. But in the spirit of community and as an experiment, I thought it might be interesting to see whether there was an alternative worthy of making from scratch.

Most recipes you find for Lynchburg Lemonade employ both sour mix and lemon-lime soda, but that combo is silly. If you have sour mix and seltzer, and maybe an extra bit of sugar or simple syrup, why in the world would you need Sprite or 7Up? Get that high-fructose corn syrup out of here.

I added a bit of fresh lime and a little extra lemon to replace the Sprite, and doubled the sugar. Real lemon-lime soda would be even sweeter, so if you’re looking for authentic flavor go for 3 total teaspoons or more of sugar. Me, I like it a little tart.

The recipes also include Triple Sec. I substituted in Cointreau, because I like it more. And in tribute to that extra punch of Jack Daniels available at the outdoor music venue booths, I added a bonus splash of booze at the end.

Improved Lynchburg Lemonade

1 oz Jack Daniels whiskey
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
2 ts sugar (or more to taste)
additional 0.5 oz Jack Daniels

Fill pint glass with ice. Shake first 5 ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker. Pour into prepared glass; top with seltzer. Top with 0.5 oz JD and lemon wedge and serve.

Mix up a glass of this, put on a bootlegged recording of your favorite jam band, and suddenly it’s summer right in your living room. Get your muddy feet off my blanket.

Thanks again to Stevi Deter for hosting — check out her site, “Two at the Most.” Also visit the official Mixology Monday site in the next day or so for a peek into the comfort cocktails of booze bloggers everywhere.

Mixology Monday: Local Flavor

Blackberry Daisy

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday is Local Flavor. Our host is Kevin of Save the Drinkers, and while I don’t despise globalization as he does, I echo his affection for local flavors and specialties.

Living here in western Pennsylvania, particularly in summertime, I’m lucky to have delightful, fresh ingredients right at hand. Corn is the big crop here now; if you have any occaision to come through this area in the next few weeks, make a point of stopping at any of the gazillion roadside stands and picking up a few dozen ears. You don’t have to cook them. Just eat them raw. You’ll be spoiled for anything other than extremely fresh corn again, but it will be worth it.

Still, for MxMo purposes I didn’t think corn was the right choice. Interesting, but too complicated. Instead, I thought back to my childhood, and I headed to my parents’ back yard.

Their yard looks like this:


When I was growing up here, we picked blackberries every summer, right at the center point in that photo. In my memory, the summer weather was always ridiculously hot and humid, but for berry picking we bundled up in long sleeves and jeans because the bushes are studded throughout with thorns, and there were poison ivy vines mingled throughout as well.

Still, the effort wasn’t that great, because you could reach out and lift up one single branch. Underneath it you’d find great bunches of blackberries, hanging thick as bunches of grapes, and nearly as big.

Please note that blackberries aren’t the same as raspberries, or even black raspberries. They’re a bit more tart, and they hang onto a bit of stem inside instead of being kind of hollow like a raspberry. They go great with peaches (which we also used to grow at home). The plants grow like weeds (as Stevi points out), but they’re also a bit fickle about whether they’ll give you happy huge berries or sad little ones.

My mother had said there wasn’t a huge crop this year, and on my first pass around I thought she was right.

The thing is, blackberries are sneaky. You look at a bush, and you see maybe just a few berries. But carefully grasp a stalk and pull up, and you may find great globs of juicy goodness.

In all, I came away with about two pints of berries, huge and gorgeous and sweet/tart as blackberries could ever be, and as organic as anyone could ask.

As to what to do with them: I thought back to January and the homemade grenadine I cooked up for that month’s MxMo. I figured blackberries would be an interesting alternative.

But I’d also searched around a bit and spotted this recipe for a syrup of blackberries and rosemary.

So. I made two batches of syrup, one with rosemary and one without. They both took far longer than the listed 20 minutes to cook, but each was delicious and drool-worthy.

I mixed up two Brandy Daisies, trying the blackberry syrup and blackberry-herb syrup each in place of the grenadine. These syrups were not nearly as thick and sugary as my grenadine though. I had to fiddle with ratios to get it right (a task made harder by the ridiculously tart lemons I have).

The rosemary-enhanced syrup turned out to be vastly more interesting than the plain berry syrup — lots of complicated flavor, a little bit of surprise. Honestly, I was blown away by it. I want to put it on everything and eat it by the spoonful.

Then I thought the daisy cocktail recipe with blackberry-herb syrup might work well with gin instead of brandy, so I pulled out a bottle of Plymouth. The result is this, my suggestion for the month:

Blackberry Gin Daisy

2 oz gin
1 oz blackberry-rosemary syrup
.25 to .5 oz lemon juice (depending on tartness and taste)
sprig rosemary and additional berries to garnish

Shake gin, syrup, and lemon juice with ice. Serve in cocktail glass with rosemary and berries.

Even if you don’t have the berries to garnish, put a fresh rosemary sprig in the glass. It’s interesting to look at, and it adds an amazing scent to the drink.

Please check out the other ideas and inspiration in this month’s MxMo — watch Save the Drinkers for the summary post. Cheers!

Mixology Monday: New Orleans

Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard
, originally uploaded by Gary J. Wood

July’s Mixology Monday was postponed a couple of times, first to coincide with the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans — which city is the theme for this month — and then to coincide a little less, so that those who attended the conference could get home and recover.

It would be a complete lie to say that I’m not bitter. Not about the last-minute postponing of MxMo: that’s just an inconvenience. I was ready to write something last week, true, but my blogging of late is not highly scheduled. (As you have perhaps noted.)

But basing everything on the people who attended Tales of the Cocktail … well, there I confess that I feel perhaps just a bit bruised. One of these years, I’ll schedule my life such that I can travel to Big Easy for the big event. In the meantime, I’d like the privileged few to spare a thought for us poor souls back home.

The fact is that I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’ve thought that, should I ever go, I had best go on an off-week, when nothing else of import is going on. My (faint) worry is that I’ll get swept up into the excitement of whatever else everyone is doing, have a wild time, and wake up a week later in the far corner of a dead end alley wearing someone else’s clothes … at best.

Of course I know that eventually I’ll go, and I’ll have a lovely and alley-free time.

The thing is that I have listened to the many tales people have brought back of debauched trips they’ve taken during Mardi Gras, with the French Quarter full of people and booze in roughly equal volumes.

The drink that people tend to talk about in such tales is the Hurricane, originated at Pat O’Brien’s Bar.

So for this MxMo, I thought I’d experience a bit of New Orleans in my own home and remove my silly little fear all at the same time. I’d have a nice, safe little Hurricane.

Looking at the recipe, I wasn’t impressed. I like punch well enough, but I’m not a great fan of rum. I figured this would be an OK little fruit drink. Three ounces of rum made it a very respectable drink, but this struck me as basic bar efficiency: If you’re going to serve great crowds of people, and you have limited waitstaff, make the drinks big enough to keep people happy until they can be served their next round.

Here’s the recipe I found (this is the non-powdered, non-bottled version — I take it that Pat O’Brien’s has merchandised the hell out of this drink):

Hurricane Cocktail

  • 1.5 ounces light rum
  • 1.5 ounces dark rum
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice (NOT Rose’s or RealLime)
  • 1/4 cup passion fruit juice, or 1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • Cherries with stems, and orange slice to garnish
  • Ice cubes

In a cocktail shaker, mix the rum, passion fruit juice or syrup, the other juices and the sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add the grenadine, and stir to combine, then add ice and shake. Half-fill a hurricane glass with ice, then strain drink into glass; add ice to fill. Garnish with orange slice and cherries.


I found passion fruit juice at a big Giant Eagle, and I used Bacardi for the light rum and Mount Gay Eclipse Rum for the dark. I had used up my homemade grenadine, so I made do with the Rose’s red stuff. For a hurricane glass, I substituted an old beer glass — the drink looked quite pretty.

And it was delicious.

The secret was the passion fruit juice. This stuff is awesome!

I suspect people substitute in other juices (pineapple, primarily) or just up the booze when they can’t get passion fruit juice, but I doubt you’d have anything like the right flavor. Seek out the Hispanic section of your suburban super-grocer, find a can of passion fruit juice or punch, and make this up. If you can find real passion fruit and juice it, so much the better.

Anyway, so now I’ve discovered that I adore a good Hurricane. This should make me even warier of any trip to New Orleans, but in truth I think I will handle it just fine. I’m ready to tackle the Big Easy, if only I can relax enough to take a trip.

In the meantime, please check out the other MXMO: NO posts. They’ll be posted sometime in the next day or so at the new Mixology Monday website.

(You will definitely want to take a look at Dr. Bamboo’s summary of Tales of the Cocktail. There are wonderful illustrations as always, and some interesting observations. I’d love it all if I weren’t so envious.)