Tag Archives: cocktails

Cheers to Mom


Seeds of Love
Originally uploaded by m-p-g.

In addition to being Mother’s Day, Sunday is also World Cocktail Day.

My mom has a passion for raspberries, so I’m planning to mix up a Chambord-based cocktail for her. A little Chambord with prosecco and a ripe raspberry (as in this lovely photo) would be fabulous.

Or I may make this:

Les Trois Amoureux

2 strawberries
6 raspberries
6 blueberries
2 oz white cranberry juice
1.5 oz vodka
0.5 oz sugar syrup
several ounces Chambord

Places berries in air-tight container. Pour Chambord liqueur over berries until covered. Marinate from 15 minutes to overnight. Muddle marinated fruit in base of shaker. Add other ingredients and shake with ice. Fine strain into chilled martini glass.

(UPDATE: I forgot to thank Coudal Partners for the World Cocktail Day link.)

Spirited Cuisine: Rum

Yo ho ho and a bottle of....This is the seventh installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Why don’t people drink rum straight?

Dry Martinis made with gin and with vodka, bourbon on the rocks, whiskey shots, Scotch served straight, tequila shots: All are ordered every day in bars the world over. Meanwhile, rum is relegated to frozen daiqiris and pina coladas.

Rum is made the way other spirits are, fermented and distilled from sugarcane products — that is, molasses or sugarcane juice. By the end of the process there’s no sugar left in the beverage, although it still offers a sensation of sweetness.

And this suggests one reason why rum is served primarily in cocktails and not alone: It’s not seen as a manly liquor. Bourbon, gin, and tequila are clearly manly. James Bond drinks vodka. And the only notable guy who drinks rum is a long-haired, eye-liner-wearing, prancing pirate. Sure, he wields a mean sword, but is that enough to restore rum’s reputation?

But rum doesn’t make a drink girlie. People make drinks girlie.

But to my point: There’s nothing inherently girlie about rum. PeterB of Tea Leaves rightly says that "the real daiquiri will make a grown man fall over and forget where he left his brains." He also tells you how to make a perfect daiquiri, so there’s no need for me to say more about it.

Instead, let me tell you how to make a Mai Tai. After rum, the next most important ingredient in a real Mai Tai is Orgeat syrup (pronounced "or-ZHOT"), a sugary syrup flavored with almond and rose water or orange flower water.

I’ll hazard a guess that you don’t have a bottle of Orgeat sitting around. (I didn’t, and it took me days of searching to locate some.) Neither does the average bar. So if you order a Mai Tai at most bars, you’ll get a cocktail made from rum, sugar syrup, and a bunch of fruit juices — a girlie drink.

If you order a Mai Tai at a Trader Vic’s however, you’ll get something very different. The Mai Tai was invented by the original Trader Vic, so you’d expect his restaurants and bars to bemore precise about the drink’s implementation.

Made with Orgeat syrup, a Mai Tai is sweet and tart, swirling with lime and almond and a hint of something flowery. It tastes summery and strong.

Mai Tai

1.5 oz rum (preferably Jamaican rum, particularly 17-year-old Jamaican rum)
.5 oz orange curaçao
.5 oz Orgeat syrup
1 oz fresh lime juice (about half a lime)

Shake all ingredients in a mixer with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the squeezed-out half lime shell and a sprig of mint, and serve.

If you don’t have 17-year-old Jamaican rum, use another aged rum. Aged rum is golden in color, like a light whiskey or brandy. It’s not the same as dark rum. Dark rum is generally gets its color not from barrel aging but from caramel coloring, and it’s used more in cooking than in cocktails.

By the way: The International Bartenders Association says you can make a Mai Tai with half white rum and half dark, shaking the white rum with the other ingredients and floating the dark rum on top of the drink. Not only is this a fussier way to make a drink, it leaves the nasty-tasting dark rum unblended with the other ingredients. Avoid it.

Back to our original question: Why don’t people drink rum straight? My guess is that it’s because the rum that’s most readily available is white rum, which has little flavor of its own. Gold rum, particularly rum that has been aged, is smoother and richer, quite appropriate for leisurely sipping. If you find yourself with a bottle, pour an ounce in a snifter and sip away. (Pirate hat and eye liner not required.)

And if you have some dark rum, Sri has created an excellent recipe for it: coconut rum tarts. They are very yummy and nicely rummy, and I suggest you check them out post haste.

Spirited Cuisine: Scotch whisky

On the rocks -- Orkney Islands in ScotlandThis is the sixth installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Here’s a great cocktail made with Scotch…..

Are you still here? Thank you for staying. You are a special, open-minded sort of person. People avoid Scotch-based cocktails for one of two reasons:

  1. They are "real Scotch drinkers" and would never pollute their beverage of choice with mixers — nothing stronger than an ice cube or a splash of water or soda.
  2. They despise the taste of Scotch and would never drink it in any form.

Scotch is the Champagne of liquors: It comes only from a particular region of the world, the government of a country regulates what may and may not use its name, and it’s surrounded by allure and confusion.

Scotch out-Champagnes Champagne in fact, because it somehow creates fierce loyalty in its drinkers. According to my source at the PA Wines & Spirits store at Moraine Point in Butler, Scotch buyers walk in the door and directly to their label of choice, never look at another brand, and walk out empty-handed if their Scotch isn’t in stock.

The real name for Scotch is "Scotch whisky" — note the absence of the "e." Quick definition:

Malt whisky must contain no grain other than malted barley and is traditionally distilled in pot stills. Grain whisky may contain unmalted barley or other malted or unmalted grains such as wheat and maize (corn) and is typically distilled in a continuous column still, known as a Patent or Coffey still, the latter after Aeneas Coffey who refined the column still in 1831. While there are scores of malt whisky distilleries, only seven grain distilleries currently exist, most located in the Scottish Lowlands.

Scotch, Canadian whisky, Irish whiskey, American whiskey, and bourbon are all made nearly the same way, but with different starting ingredients. You’d think this would mean they are easily substituted for each other in cocktails. You can swap Canadian whisky, American whiskey, and bourbon without much loss, but not Scotch or Irish whiskey — and the prime reason is the smoky peat flavor that’s characteristic to these two types.

The smoke flavor comes when peat is used in the fire that roasts the barley malt. It completely changes a drink — much the way that grilling over a mesquite fire imparts a distinctive flavor to the meat or vegetable. It’s distinctive, and many people like it. And many others find it awful.

The best Scotch cocktails use the peat smoke flavor to advantage. Three that I recommend are the Rob Roy, the Godfather, and the Black Watch. Why these drinks work is that the second ingredient (sweet vermouth, Amaretto, and Kahlua, respectively) is strong enough to stand up to the smoke of the Scotch. You get a blend of both flavors, plus some sweetness. Of the three, my favorite is the Godfather.

Rob Roy
1 part sweet vermouth
4 parts Scotch
Either chill a stemmed cocktail glass or put ice in a lowball/rocks glass. Fill a shaker with ice, add ingredients, stir or shake, strain into glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Godfather
3 parts Scotch
1 part Amaretto
Put ice in a rocks glass. Add ingredients, stir well, serve.

Black Watch
1 part Kahlua
1 part Scotch
splash of soda water
Put ice in rocks glass. Add Kahlua and Scotch, stir briefly, add splash of soda. Garnish with lemon twist and serve.

If you’re not familiar with Scotch, you may now be asking which type of Scotch to use for these drinks. If you do drink Scotch, you are probably still thinking that you’re never going to defile your drink with mixers and odd ingredients.

Here’s the thing: All Scotch is not created equal, just as all bourbons are not the same. If you give me a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 20 year, I will not be using it to make Old Fashioneds. Similarly, if you’ve got a bit of Aberlour a’bunadh, I’d suggest you serve it in a small glass with an ice cube or a bit of filtered water. You will need nothing else.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cocktail that combines rich flavor with sweetness but still has some backbone, grab a bottle of Scotch in the $20 to $40 range, mix up a nice Godfather, and enjoy.

Sri has strong affection for Scotch and was more than a little concerned when I suggested he devise a dessert with it. Yet he succeeded. Hop over to his site and check out "single malt whisky jelly with lemon sorbet." Mmm!

Next time: Spiced rum.

Spirited Cuisine: Galliano

Galliano and glass (photo from Wikipedia)This is the fifth installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Spirited Cuisine has been on hiatus for a while — or rather, I’ve been on hiatus while Sri has carried the weight on his own, creating not just a dessert but also a cocktail for our current featured ingredient, Galliano. At last, here is my contribution to the party.

You’ve surely seen the distinctive Galliano bottle, a super-tall, taped bottle of bright yellow liqueur. It’s usually on a high shelf, for two reasons: First, it won’t fit anywhere else, and second, no one drinks anything that requires it.

Good and Plenty -- so crunchy, so sweet!Galliano tastes almost exactly like Good & Plenty candy — a Hershey’s brand confection made of black liquorice pink and white candy coating. (Fun fact: Good & Plenty is "the oldest branded candy in the United States.") The candy coating has a sugary vanilla flavor, just as Galliano does.

Most anise flavored liquors stand up for themselves in a mixed drink, but the subtle vanilla and other herbs of Galliano are easily overwhelmed. For instance, here’s the recipe for a Harvey Wallbanger, the best-known Galliano drink:

Harvey Wallbanger

3 parts Vodka
1 part Liquore Galliano
orange juice to fill

Mix the vodka and orange juice in a highball glass, then float the Liquore Galliano on top. Garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry, and serve.

Even though the Galliano is floated on top, I find it’s almost completely obscured by the orange juice — especially if you’re using fresh squeezed juice, which you should for best taste.

Other Galliano drinks are a little better at highlighting the subtle charms of its flavors: the Golden Cadillac is just Galliano, creme de cacao, and cream. But I think Galliano is best served straight, in a cordial glass, as an after-dinner digestive.

Sri has concocted a lovely dessert that plays perfectly with Galliano’s flavorings: Galliano marzipans with dark chocolate ganache. The recipe and photos are so tempting you’ll have to buy a bottle — even though it’s too tall to fit on any shelf in your house. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Gin: the original flavored vodka

I’m not a big gin drinker, but I’m a fan of Bombay Sapphire. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s also crisp and has pleasing herbal flavors. Ten botanicals, to be exact: almonds, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper, orris, angelica, coriander, cassia bark, cubeb berries, and grains of paradise. The grains of paradise make the drink, of course.

How much do I like Bombay Sapphire? I have a spritzer of Bombay Sapphire perfume. No, it’s not just gin in a perfume bottle. The Bombay Spirits Company had a promotion a few years back, in which an internationally known perfume designer created a cologne that evoked the sensibility and scent of Bombay Sapphire. Or something to that effect. You could buy it for a limited time in certain international airport Duty Free shops, or you could fill in a form to try to win a bottle.

I filled in the form, and I won. It even has the signature of the perfume designer on it, in gold marker. So if you notice that I smell like a nice Martini first thing in the morning, now you know why.

But back to our current story. The main flavor of most gins is juniper berries — they’re the key difference between gin and vodkas, the simplest of the distilled spirits. Various gins blend in other herbs as well and this is what distinguishes one high-end gin from another. If you’re having a drink that uses a flavorful mixer, like a Gin and Tonic, a Tom Collins, or a Gimlet, then a middle of the road gin will do fine — you wouldn’t taste the subtles herbs anyway. But if you’re having a Martini or a Gibson, then it’s worth your while to pick a special gin.

As much as I enjoy my Sapphire Martini, sometimes I want variety. In this frame of mind, I recently picked up a single-serving bottle of Hendrick’s at the checkout counter. The bottle is practically medicinal-looking: dark amber, round and slightly squat, with a very old-fashioned label. It looks like something milady would call for when she’s overcome with the vapors.

Hendrick’s doesn’t smell much different from Bombay Sapphire, but boy, does it taste different. It’s distilled in Scotland, so one might expect it to have a bit of bite. What one might not expect is the massive pine flavor it carries. Kind of like chewing on a branch of Christmas tree, or maybe a sprig of rosemary. Once the pine calms down, the juniper comes in, and the drink tastes like gin again.

The offical website talks about cucumber and rose petals, and they might have been there but they aren’t the main players. The pine flavor, on the other hand, sticks around to the bottom of the glass. A Hendrick’s Martini is not one that goes down quickly; rather, it insists on slow sipping, savoring, contemplation.

Has Hendrick’s replaced Sapphire in my liquor cabinet? It hasn’t replaced it, but I’m inclined to keep Hendrick’s on hand, for thoughtful evenings. It could become my winter gin — an alternative not to other gins but to a bourbon by the fire.

Spirited Cuisine: Brandy

You're a fine girlThis is the fourth installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Brandy is the world’s oldest spirit — as old as distilling itself. It’s made by distilling wine or fermented fruit mash: Brandy made from wine is "brandy," while brandy from other fruit goes by the fruit’s name, like "cherry brandy." There are variants — for example, Cognac, which comes from the Cognac region of France. Oh, and don’t forget Armagnac (another high-end French brandy), and Metaxa and Ouzo from Greece, and Calvados (France again), and applejack (America), and kirschwasser (which I adore)…. On and on it goes.

Plus there are those crazy brandy snifters, which look cool but seem challenging to drink properly from. Am I supposed to cup it in my hand? Hold the base? Or maybe the stem? How long am I supposed to sniff? How goofy do I look while sniffing?

No wonder the average drinker is thrown off.

Our lack of familiarity with brandy is a real shame, because brandy is as flexible as liquors come. You can substitute it for bourbon, whiskey, vodka, or most other liquors in almost any cocktail for a neat twist on your standard drink. And it’s the best option for oomph in punch recipes like champagne punch, sangria, eggnog punch….

Brandy is the go-to-guy of the bar.

Brandy is also the main ingredient in two of the classic cocktails: the Sidecar and the Stinger.

The Sidecar is kicker of a drink. It has a balance of citrus tang and sugar sweetness — from a combination of Cointreau and either lemon or lime — backed by the smoothness of the brandy. People can debate whether it’s a "girly drink," but it has all the muscle any drink needs. I like mine mixed like this:

Sidecar

2 parts good brandy
1 part Cointreau
big squeeze of lime

Stir with ice, strain into chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Skip the garnish and start sipping … slowly.

As for the Stinger, it too is deceptively strong but still sophisticated. According to Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (published in 1949, "A Time-Honored Guide to the Perfect Party"):

Formerly a quiet member of the "horsey" set, an also-ran in the cocktail derby, the Stinger buzzed into popularity when wartime pilots discovered how well it lives up to its name. Even though Army-Navy plane clothes have been doffed for plain clothes, the ex-fliers still like to check out on the Stinger.

I like it after dinner, because it tastes of mint and seems to help digestion. Besides, if I have one or two before dinner, I find that the meal flies by without me remembering to eat.

Stinger

2 parts brandy
1 part white Creme de Menthe

Stir with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Get ready to buzz.

Brandy plays extraordinarily well in food too, as demonstrated by Sri’s culinary creation for this round: Brandy Bread Pudding with Apples and Spice. In addition to the recipe being tasty, the photo essay that accompanies it is a wonder. I promise your mouth will be watering as you read. Enjoy.

Our next inspiration for Spirited Cuisine: Galliano, that crazy yellow stuff in the too-tall bottle.

Spirited Cuisine: Drambuie, “the drink that satisfies”

Bonnie Prince Charles recommends Drambuie

This is the third installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each week or so I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Last fall on BBC America, I started to see an ad featuring a young man running across the rooftops of some foggy city, intercut with apparently the same man sporting much longer hair and wearing a kilt, dashing across the Scottish highlands. Eventually the kilted man throws a scroll, the rooftop man catches it and pockets it, and the rooftop man lands at a rooftop bar, calmly joins the party, and orders a drink that turns out to be Drambuie and soda. (Currently you can see the ad in the Advertising section of the official Drambuie website. Purportedly the rooftops are those of Edinburgh. )

I didn’t like the ad — I still don’t. Why is the guy jumping across rooftops? Why does he stop at the bar — where did his pursuers go? What does it have to do with the guy from hundreds of years ago throwing a piece of paper? What’s on the paper? But the ad did get me thinking about Drambuie, which I’d never tried. I hadn’t known it was from Scotland, and I’d certainly not thought of drinking it with soda. Maybe it would be interesting….

Sure enough, one evening at a happy hour I found myself ordering Drambuie and soda, and I really enjoyed it. Sweet but not syrupy, kind of like a leaner whiskey and cola, or an exotic alternative to rum and Coke.

And so we see that an ad doesn’t have to be likeable to be effective.

As it happens, Drambuie has a tough hill to climb to get attention. It’s made from Scotch whisky, but the average Scotch drinker is repelled by the thought of polluting Scotch with honey and herbs. Meanwhile, those who like sweet cocktails shake their heads at the idea of drinking anything that involves smokey Scotch.

All of which is too bad for a storied liquor. Drambuie was created over 250 years ago for Charles Edward Stuart — Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Rebel Prince — by his apothecary, as a way to fortify the prince and his top clansmen in battle. (That’s Charles in the advertisement — quite a snappy dresser, eh?) As to how the liqueur got from the Prince’s kitchens to bars around the world:

In 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled to the isle of Skye. There, he was given sanctuary by Captain John Mackinnon. After staying with the Captain, the prince rewarded him with this prized drink recipe. The Mackinnon family has been producing the drink since. (Wikipedia)

The name Drambuie comes from the Scottish Gaelic phrase "am dram buidheach," "the drink that satisfies." The recipe is secret (naturally), but is known to involve Scotch whisky and honey, plus possibly saffron, nutmeg, and other spices believed to be healthful at the time.

The most common ways to drink Drambuie are on the rocks and in a Rusty Nail — a simple but classic cocktail, 1 part Scotch whisky and 1 part Drambuie, stirred and served over ice. The makers of Drambuie have thought up lots of other ways to drink more of their product, all of which you can find buried within the foot-dragging Flash of the Drambuie website.

And if that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a bottle for your liquor cabinet, Sri has concocted a simple and yummy dessert that makes the most of Drambuie’s spicy seduction. Please hop over to his site and enjoy A Toast to Drambuie.

And as for next time: Our featured spirit will be brandy — the oldest spirit, and a great way to warm oneself on a chilly winter’s day.

Dessert in a glass

The original Pierrot by Francisco Tamagno

This is the second installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each week or so I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

In the summer of 1997, I traveled through Europe with friends and we stayed a few days in Verona. We were sitting at a table outside a restaurant, just finished dinner, and it was a beautiful night for sitting outside. I didn’t want dessert — too full — but I did want something as a finale to the meal, maybe something sweet. So I ordered Cointreau on ice, and it was perfect: like dessert in a glass, so lovely with the warm night air and the conversation and the people walking by.

It’s a really French drink, from the heavily-vowelled name to the square and awkward bottle to the tangy sweet taste. The longtime mascot of Cointreau was a strikingly French clown named Pierrot, featured in both the ads you see here. The original Pierrot (top image) was created by the Italian poster designer Francisco Tamagno. The face, including the lorgnon, is a caricature of company founder Edouard Cointreau.

The stylized Pierrot, by Jean Mercier

Over time, artwork for the company’s ads was taken over by Cointreau’s grandson, Jean Mercier. He simplified and stylized Pierrot, and his version is the one with which more people associate Cointreau. Pierrot appeared in a variety of posters and ads through the years (bottom image).

Edouard Cointreau was a master marketer. To distinguish his liqueur from imitators he used a memorable square, amber glass bottle, and company trucks and booths were shaped to match. He also trademarked his brand name early on, and is credited with creating the first film commercial to be shown in cinemas. Some ads featured cross-marketing with TWA and other companies.

Cointreau is pricey compared with other triple sec options, but it’s tasty and smooth enough to be worth the cost. And it’s a versatile liqueur. The Cointreau website features a long list of cocktail recipes, including the Cosmopolitan, the Margarita, the Kamikaze, a very interesting thing called a Little Devil, and (my favorite) the classic Sidecar.

The site also has yummy-looking food recipes, but Sri has made all the desserts there obsolete with his creation: the Cointreau Dream. Like my Cointreau on ice it too is dessert in a glass, but it’s a whole other world of delight. Go see, and set your mouth watering.

Info sources: Cointreau website (international version and USA version) and CeruttiMiller.com. Artwork from and eBay.

Spirited cuisine: Frangelico

Hazelnut MartiniSri Bala has come up with a delightful adventure that combines cooking and drinking, photography and blogging. Each week, I’ll suggest a liqueur or alcoholic beverage, and Sri will create a dish that uses it as an ingredient. He’ll be blogging about the food part over at his fine blog, with photographs and recipes and other wonderfulness, and I’ll expand upon the boozy parts here.

For this week, I selected Frangelico, an Italian liquor. It comes in a distinctive bottle, shaped like a monk with an actual bit of rope tied around the waist. The flavor is primarily hazelnut, but you can also taste cocoa, vanilla, a bit of oak, and other spices.

Oh, and sugar — it’s sweet as all get-out, in the style of liqueurs like Amaretto and Framboise.

Typically one drinks it after dinner, on the rocks or in coffee, or as part of a cocktail like a Nutty Irishman. Frangelico is excellent mixed with a shot of espresso, and can be layered in a pretty pousse-cafe with coffee or espresso and whipped cream.

And you can mix a bit with vanilla vodka for a hazelnut Martini (pictured here — note that I need to improve my photo skills if I hope to keep up with Sri in this adventure). Lovely in chilly weather.

Frangelico doesn’t show up in recipes as often as amaretto does, which is a shame. It’s delicious, and of course the bottle is a hoot. So it was my clear choice for the first week of this intoxicating culinary adventure.

And now, without further ado, I invite you to hop over to Sri’s place and check out Drunken Rice Noodles — “rice noodles chilled in Frangelico and soy milk, with hints of vanilla and cardamom.” Mmm!

Sazarac

View from a hotel bar in Boston Saturday night in Boston, and I’m too tuckered to take advantage of it. Between late night discussions the last two nights and early morning start times each day (OK, 9am, but it felt early), I’m worn thin.

So I’ve settled for a few moments in the hotel bar. I love hotel and airport bars, the feeling of transience and the little ways we spoil ourselves when we’re away from home. I’m able to pick up the hotel wi-fi here, and I’m watching the various couples and groups, and the cabs and others cars struggling through the construction and pedestrian traffic outside.

The bar stereo is playing John Coltrane, but I also hear The Hollies’ "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" leaking down from a party in the mezzanine. A couple on a couch in front of me has had an argument and is trying to find common ground. A guy behind me is telling his female companion about what he does, explaining why it’s so very hard and how something he accomplished recently is important.

I’m sitting at a table by the window. A guy walking by just gave me the thumbs-up — I’m guessing because he saw the glowing Apple logo on my computer.

I’m sipping on a Sazarac.

Sazarac

1 1/2 oz. Bourbon (in this case, Old Overholt Rye)
1/2 tsp. Pernod
3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
twist Lemon
2 tsp. Sugar Syrup

Coat rocks glass with Pernod. In shaker (no ice) mix Bourbon, sugar syrup and Bitters. Shake and pour into glass. Add lemon twist.

It’s a classic New Orleans cocktail. I’ve never made it because I can’t easily get Peychaud bitters — so I was thrilled to see this drink on the menu. This is a perfect example of what makes hotel lounges great: they make the classic cocktails, and they make them right. In this case, I feel like I’ve found my ideal cocktail. It’s sweet (not too sweet), it’s tart, it’s spicy, it’s red, It’s eccentric, it’s grand. This drink is perfect, and every now and then I hear the bartender shaking up something else delightful for some other patron. So nice.

Outside, the trees around Faneuil Hall are clothed in lights — holiday season. At Starbucks yesterday I heard my first Christmas music for the year. It’s still too early for this stuff. Wait until next Friday at least.

Since I was cooped up in the Media Lab building for the last two days and missed walking through the MIT campus in daylight, for tomorrow morning I’m planning to head back over the Longfellow Bridge and wander a little. My back is a nest of knots, from the tensions of travel and from sitting in auditorium seats for hours on end, and I need to move around more. Then I’ll head to the airport, try to catch some of the Steeler game on a TV somewhere. Not likely though — the Patriots are sure to be playing at the same time. Then I’ll be back in Pittsburgh, then Butler.

Much to do in the coming weeks. Lots of work for clients, a new venture to move ahead, plus Thanksgiving and another trip — to Baltimore for another event.

Now from the event upstairs coming the unmistakable sounds of Numa Numa. I boggle at the convergences coming down on me. (Here’s a detailed history of the Numa Numa phenomenon.)

‘m listening to the conversation to my right: It’s a couple of generations, mostly sisters in their (I’m guessing) 60s, with a spouse and a child or two, describing a past event in classic Boston accents. I should know which neighborhood they’re from — I’m tempted to say South End but I’m unsure.

Now from upstairs we’ve got "You Shook Me All Night Long," and it’s clear that I need to wrap it up for the night.

But I feel a need to come up with a final thought.

(Now the upstairs DJ has mixed together Guns and Roses’ "Sweet Child of Mine" and something else that’ll come to me in a minute. It might even be a cover of "Sweet Child." Gotta wrap this and retire for the night, or I’ll have to crash that party for the sheer ridiculousness.)

The hotel lobby has made a transition from wayplace for the weary traveler to gathering spot for eager visitors. I dislike drawing a labored parallel with the discussions of the conference. but it’s so easy to see disparate groups of people within the same physical markets, ships passing in the night. The trick of this lobby is making everyone feel welcome, and to a great extent it succeeds. That’s what each online space wants to do too. And to make money along the way, if possible.

But that’s not a final thought … because each time the environment changes, our expectations change. The key skills become agileness, nimbleness, adaptability. Great companies are those that are able to focus on the bottom line while fully supporting their clients.

Is that different from the rest of the world? No. My lasting thought for the night is that everything has changed, yet I need to continue on the current course. The thoughts can’t be reconciled, but they have to be.

The fun bit is that this is a world in which I’m completely comfortable. For me, that’s the best result of all.