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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cocktails for your Valentine’s Day celebration

The Cosmopolitan is a classic favorite.

It’s Valentine’s Day again, and time to plan your cocktail strategy for the big day!  If you’re going out for dinner, you should only have one cocktail or glass of wine at the restaurant so you can safely drive home.  Or you can take a cab (that’s even better).  If you’re cooking a special Valentine’s Day dinner, you can always start with a pre-dinner cocktail and have some wine with dinner.  Either way, a good strategy for getting a Valentine’s treat later this evening is to finish with cocktails at home.  So here are a few fast and easy cocktails to help you achieve your goal.  Some are red (or at least pink), and others are chocolate (a good way to any Valentine’s heart).  Have a great Valentine’s Day, and an exciting date night.

Let’s start with a classic: the Cranberry Champagne Cocktail.  All it takes is a little Grand Marnier (or triple sec), a little cranberry juice, and some champagne.  If the cranberry juice is not cold, you might want to ice the juice and Grand Marnier for a few minutes to ensure your cocktail is fresh and cold.  You can build it in the glass: pour in the cranberry juice, add the Grand Marnier, and top it off with champagne.

If you’re in the mood for something a little stronger than a Champagne cocktail, try a French 75.  Named after the famous French cannon of World War I, this little beauty has a nice kick and never misfires.  The original French recipe only calls for four ingredients, champagne included, and no mixing or shaking.  I recommend that you either shake or stir the non-champagne ingredients (Gin etc.) with ice to chill them down so they don’t warm up your champagne.  Serve it in a flute or (if you want more room for champagne) a white wine glass. 

Now let’s switch to some chocolate-based drink for your sweetie’s sweet tooth on Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate-based drinks tend to be sweeter and heavier, just look at the way this one coats the glass; you can even use it as a replacement for dessert.  I found the Chocomintini at a bar in San Francisco long enough ago that its (the bar’s) name is lost in memory.  This one is a little stronger than it sounds, consisting entirely of liquor and liqueurs.  This one is good at Christmas, too, but skip the holiday garnish for Valentine’s.

And what would Valentine’s Day be without a Chocolate Covered Cherry? There are a lot of recipes for the Chocolate Covered Cherry floating around out there, and all of them are good if you like a sweet drink every now and then.  This recipe has the unbeatable combination of Baileys Irish Cream, coconut rum, and Amaretto, and while it’s a little sweet, it’s nowhere near as sweet as a real chocolate covered cherry.  This one is good at Christmas, too, but skip the holiday garnish for Valentine’s.  Note that the Chocolate Covered Cherry has three ounces of liqueurs in it, but don’t worry: it comes out to only about 20% ABV.

If you’re a Vodka lover looking for something a little stronger, where would Valentine’s Day be without the Cosmopolitan?  This classic from the seventies is nice and light and always popular.  Don’t have too many, it’s stronger than you think.  While a good Cosmo is pink, not red, adding more Cranberry juice can add color and flavor to your own (and your Valentine’s) taste. 

Cocktails for this weekend’s Mardi Gras party

A Sazerac may be served up or in a small
Old Fashioned glass.

Mardi Gras, with the possible exception of New Year’s Eve, is perhaps the premiere party justification occasion of the year.  Whether you’re in New Orleans or getting ready to party at home, everyone will understand your motivation.  The only problem with Mardi Gras is that (for some unknown reason) it’s always on a Tuesday ;-).  If you’re not in the Big Easy and you had to work Wednesday, you can still party this weekend.  Just invite some friends over, stock your bar, buy some beads, get some snacks, and you’re ready to “Laissez les bons temps rouler”.  Here is a fun selection of cocktails for your weekend party.  Find a cocktail that sounds good and find the link under “Labels” to the left.
Some are associated with New Orleans, some with Mardi Gras, and some are just great cocktails.

The Vieux Carré is a cocktail with six ingredients.  That might seem a little excessive, but since two of the ingredients are bitters, it may still pass muster.  This delicious cocktail was invented during the 1930’s in the French Quarter of New Orleans (where the physical Vieux Carré is found) at the Hotel Monteleone by bartender Walter Bergeron.  Vieux Carré recipes generally call for equal amounts of Rye, Cognac, and Vermouth, with half that of the Benedictine and a dash each of Peychaud’s® and Angostura® bitters.  If you give the Vieux Carré a try, it’s almost sure to end up on your short list of cocktails.

The Sazerac is reputed to be the original cocktail, first concocted in “partay central,” Nouveau Orleans.  Legend has it that the Sazerac was invented in New Orleans in the early nineteenth century by Antoine Amadie Peychaud, who also first developed Peychaud’s Bitters.  This brown beauty is almost straight whiskey and deserves to be treated with respect.  The drink was originally made with Cognac, but today Rye whiskey is most commonly used.  Use a good Rye, since you’ll be sipping it almost straight.  Bourbon can make a good Sazerac too. 

When I think of Mardi Gras and New Orleans, I think of Jazz, hurricanes, and the Hurricane.  The Hurricane is normally mixed as a double, but the rum is toned down a little in my recipe to encourage responsible drinking.  I love the difference the Amaretto makes in this drink.  If you’re out of passion fruit juice, you can substitute orange juice (I had to, that’s why the color on the photo may not look right to you).  It’s not quite as good as the real thing, but it still tastes great.  If you don’t have any Hurricane glasses, any tall drink glass will work, and you can always top it off with a little extra juice.  You can find a lot more Hurricane recipes online if this one doesn’t match your taste. 

The Sidecar is a venerable, World War I era cocktail that sounds like something your dad would order.  Everyone has heard of it, but few have tried it.  Its popularity has declined in recent times.  Its name seems to imply a good, stiff drink… exactly what you would need after bouncing down an unpaved road in France in a rickety motorcycle sidecar.  No one knows precisely where or when it was invented; it is first mentioned in print in 1922.  The Sidecar owes its longevity to simplicity and great taste.  Its winning combination of cognac (or brandy), orange liqueur, and lemon could be just what you are looking for in a cocktail. 

If you want to try a champagne cocktail, there’s always the famous French 75.  The original French recipe only calls for four ingredients, champagne included, and no mixing or shaking.  I recommend that you either shake or stir the non-champagne ingredients (Gin etc.) with ice to chill them down so they don’t warm up your champagne.  Serve it in a flute or (if you want more room for champagne) a white wine glass.  This cocktail is worth a little extra effort to get it right.  A guest once told me that this was her favorite of all the cocktails she had had chez moi.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why not make your Super Bowl party a cocktail party?

If nothing listed below works for you, try a Mai Tai!

Super Bowl Sunday is always a great excuse for a party.  While “beer” may pop into your mind as you plan your Super Bowl party, Utah cocktailians know that less filling cocktails are a better choice.  The secret of success is to offer tall (and therefore more dilute) drinks.  For Super Bowl cocktails, your best bet is to have ingredients for a variety of easy-to-mix, long drinks available to please all of your guests.  Select some cocktail recipes based on three or four liquors (e.g. Rum, Gin, and Tequila) so you have something to please everyone, invest in some citrus and mixers, grab some glasses and straws, and you’re ready for the kick-off. 

Cocktails or beer, you should keep in mind that four or five hours of drinking is too much. Pace yourself, have lots of soft-drinks and water available, encourage your guests (and yourself) to take it easy and alternate hard and soft drinks, and, of course, know when to stop.  Always drink responsibly…

Here are some simple, classic long drink recipes, check out the ingredients and find some that sound good, then stock up and enjoy your cocktail fueled Super Bowl party!  Find a cocktail that sounds good and find the link to the left.

Margarita Cooler – starts with the ingredients of your favorite Margarita, but you mix this Tequila-based cocktail cooler style. Think of it as a Margarita without the salt.  I recommend a Blanco or Plata (Silver) Tequila in this cooler.

The spicy tartness of this dark Rum cooler makes the Dark and Stormy one of my favorites.  The Dark and Stormy is a simple cocktail with only three ingredients: Gosling’s Black Seal® dark rum, ginger beer, and lime juice, and in Bermuda (home of the D&S) they generally leave out the lime.  I prefer lime in mine, but you should experiment to determine your preference.

El Diablo is a Tequila-based cocktail that counts Crème de Cassis and Ginger Beer among the ingredients is even spicier than a Dark and Stormy.  The combination of Plata Tequila with the heat of the Ginger Beer is, well, diabolical.

The name Gin and Tonic is a dead giveaway of what’s in this Gin classic, but don’t forget to serve it with a lime wedge.  The Gin and Tonic was invented by the British in eighteenth century India to offset the taste of the quinine they were drinking to combat malaria.

Rum and Coke is a long-time favorite that is simplicity itself, but don’t forget the lime.  I consider it an essential ingredient of a Rum and Coke, rendering the Cuba Libre non-existent.  (I used to make snap judgments of bartenders based on whether or not they automatically gave me lime with my Rum and Coke.)

For the Tom Collins I have a unique recipe; one taste of this cooler should overcome any objections your friends might have to the blue color.  You may consider the venerable Tom Collins to be too pedestrian for your tastes, but when made correctly it can be quite a treat. 

Gin Rickey: it shouldn’t take long to gather the three ingredients for this 100+ year old cocktail, and even less time to mix it.  Legend says it was invented by Colonel “Joe” Rickey who was a lobbyist in Washington, DC. Finally, a lobbyist does something useful for everyone.