Friday, May 28, 2010


Now that we're nearing the summer, every decent television show is wrapping up their season.  It's time to turn to other pastimes as we all do when the summer rolls around.

Every year I hope to read a little more, though I always find it difficult to read books in the face of all the periodicals to which we subscribe.  I did however recently finish a book that I recommend.  It's called "Safe From the Neighbors," by Steve Yarbrough.

"Safe From the Neighbors" is a story about a local-history teacher in a small Mississippi town, the affair he has with a fellow teacher, and the relationship between the 1960s Civil Rights movement, his family, and those around him.  Yarbrough manages to weave historical anecdotes into the modern melodrama of the main character's life, all told in the first person.

It's a pretty short novel - maybe around 300 pages or so.  Yarbrough manages to make good use of the space. When you finish that last page, you'll wonder how he fit the story into such tight quarters.

And, after reading some of the story's sadder plot developments, you'll need a stiff drink.  What do you know - we're drinking one today!  It's called the Rosemary cocktail, equal parts bourbon and dry vermouth.  Simple to make, and strong.

This recipce can be found at's cocktail section


1 1/2 oz bourbon
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth

Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.  Stir well.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

For this cocktail, I'm using Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey and Martini and Rossi Dry Vermouth.

The website for this cocktail says that the Rosemary is also called a Dry Bourbon Manhattan (dry of course because it's made using dry vermouth). 

Admittedly, this is not my favorite use of bourbon, particularly good bourbon.  The dry vermouth doesn't add flavor to the bourbon that compliments its sweet tones in the same way that a normal Manhattan's sweet vermouth might.  Know too that I often find Manhattan's to be on the sweet side all their own, and to use sweet vermouth sparingly. 

Here however, the bourbon is drowned out by dry vermouth, losing a bit of its flavor profile without a complimenting component.  Think of a piece of pie, whose sweetness was zapped by an addition of a certain amount of flour in the place of sugar.  The dry vermouth has the same dulling effect, in my opinion.

So I don't love the Rosemary, but I do love bourbon.  Maybe next time, I'll just stick to a Manhattan.

Have a great weekend folks...enjoy the holiday!

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Petite Fleur

Last evening, the US Men's Soccer Team played a friendly match against the Czech Republic.  Most of the US stars sat the game out.  Guys like Landon Donavan, Client Dempsey, they weren't even on the bench.  Instead, they sat in a suite somewhere high above the field, as the TV cameras zeroed in on them eating chicken wings and other stadium fare.  Not a big deal that they sit, they finished the European soccer leagues in recent weeks and needed the rest.

I'm ready for the World Cup to start.  I love watching soccer, and subscribe to every DirecTV channel that features the game.  I can't say that JB is thrilled on a typical Saturday or Sunday morning, when I'm watching the week's Arsenal match (that is the great thing about subscribing to Setanta - now called Fox Soccer Plus - because the Arsenal match is always televised). 

I know though, that when the World Cup rolls around, it will be a tour de force on my schedule, causing all other things going on around me to play second fiddle.  When a tournament comes around once every 4 years, it's something to be celebrated.  There's often talk of taking holiday on the first weekend of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  It's a worthy reason to do so.  But I think the same can be said for nearly all facets of the World Cup, and not merely its first rounds of group play.

We'll talk more about the World Cup in the coming weeks.  Today though, we drink a cocktail with an international name, Petite Fleur, French for petite flower.  Which flower you ask?  No one knows, and it doesn't matter - it's good!  That's what counts.

The Ultimate Book of Cocktails, page 155

Petite Fleur

1 oz white rum
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz grapefruit juice

Shake all the ingredients well with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.  Add a twist of grapefruit rind.

For this cocktail, I'm using Bacardi Rum, Cointreau (obviously), and Indian River Ruby Red grapefruit juice.  I debated whether to go with a non-Ruby Red graperuit flavor, but decided I'd go with what I like. 

This is a tasty cocktail, nicely combining the flavors of its three ingredients.  I think the Cointreau is the most prominent flavor of the bunch, but after all it is an orange flavored alcohol with a nice 80 proof pop.  In other words, it's not going to play the role of a wallflower in this recipe, it's going to make its presence known.

If there is any complaint, and this a small one, it's that this drink is a little sweet.  I'm OK with sweet cocktails (Fireman's Sour is a good example), but I find this cocktail a little too much on the sweet side.  Perhaps it's the grapefruit juice, I did use Ruby Red after all.  For those playing at home, I'd try standard grapefruit juice in the place of Ruby Red. 

The Petite Fleur would be perfect for any occasion, but I think it'd make an excellent aperitif, drinking it before your meal to whet your appetite.  Something about the grapefruit juice makes me want to consume, and then consume some more. 

On Friday, we're drinking the Rosemary cocktail.  Until then, enjoy the weather!  Cheers!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tequila Sour & What We're Drinking This Week

Finally, some sunshine!  Wow, in what seems like months, this weekend quelled any doubt as to whether the sun in fact still existed.  I was beginning to have misgivings.

After playing 9 on Saturday, and 18 on Sunday, I'm happy to report that my golf game is terrible.  I'm happy to report this because even if my game is terrible, it means that I'm playing, which is half of the battle.

In other news, Lost ended last night.  I need some time to digest the last episode.  Its end though leaves me a bit melancholy.  I've watched it for 5-6 years now, investing a lot of internet reading time, parsing through people's theories and things that I otherwise missed on first viewing.  No show has captured my viewing interest in quite the same way.  So it is with some sadness that I will no longer see Lost on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday nights (pretty sure it's appeared regularly on each at one time or another).

In any event, let's check out this week's activities:

Soundtrack of the week:  Local Natives Gorilla Manor - This Los Angeles band just came out with their debut album in February of this year.  It's an excellent first effort.  The vocals are a bit ethereal in the way Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses or Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes is ethereal.  And not to pigeon hole them, but, Local Natives will remind you of both BOH or Fleet Foxes (quick sidebar: had AmMix existed when Fleet Foxes debut dropped a couple years ago, it would have remained the soundtrack of the week for about five months in a row).  Anyway, to top it all off, I believe Amazon is selling the MP3 album for a mere $5 - a steal. 

What We're Drinking This Week

Today: Tequila Sour - today's featured drink - you can see the recipe just down the page.

Wednesday: Petite Fleur - white rum, Cointreau and grapefruit juice.  A carry-over from last week - and one that I'm looking forward to, as the ingredients seem prime for an excellent cocktail.

Friday:  Rosemary - Bourbon and vermouth.  We're taking to the internet on this one, after I found a nice review of this recipe here.

American Bar, page 185

Tequila Sour

3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 - 3/4 oz sugar syrup
1 1/2 oz tequila
stemmed cherry

Shake well over ice cubes in a shaker, strain into a sour glass, garnish with cherry.

I'm using 1800 Tequila, Nellie and Joe's Key West Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup from Fresh Market, and in the place of a stemmed cherry, I plan on dropping a maraschino cherry in the glass.

This is an excellent representation of a sour cocktail.  Mix a base liquor with a sweetner, and either lemon or lime juice and you have a sour. 

This has a nice balance of tequila and other ingredients.  It's going to remind you of a margarita because of the tequila and the juice (even if it is lemon and not lime).  And as is often the case with mixed drinks, when following the recipe, it doesn't appear to provide you with a huge amount to drink. 

Remember though, that you're drinking a fair amount of high proof alcohol, and a drink like this can be downed at a very fast clip.  Double the recipe, and you're knocking back about 3 shots of tequila (one ounce shots).  Don't let the small glass contents fool you.  Sours especially, can knock you on your ass.

Looking forward to more drinks this week - see you all on Wednesday!

For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Taking Stock

It's been a whirlwind of a week at the office of late.  New things seem to be going on at a really fast clip, all of which require immediate attention and immediate turn-around.  Such is life. 

As a result though, I had no time to drink.  I know, I know, wipe away the tears!  Sometimes work and life gets in the way of drinking.

I figured though, that in the place of a drink today, we'd take stock of where The Amateur Mixologist is at, 3 months into the venture.

We've made a little over 40 cocktails, purchased countless bottles of liquor and liqueurs, and made plenty of friends along the way.  There's still more to come too - with video, yes, that's right, video - on the horizon.  Sidebar: The videos will feature me talking with a friend or two about cocktails, and then we'll whip one together - simple, easy, and educational (that's what we're here for, the education).

So let's recap the last few months...all information is based upon pageviews and visits:

Most popular cocktailViolet Champagne d'Amour

Who knew that it would so swiftly rise to the top?!  It was one of the first drinks featured on the website, so it's had more time for viewing than say the Michelada (which, in fact, is the 2nd most popular drink, believe it or not).

Least popular cocktail (it's a tie): Dia Del Amour and the Fireman's Sour

This is a travesty of epic proportions!  Both cocktails are outstanding.  The Fireman's Sour is one of my favorite drinks that we've made thus far.  And the Dia Del Amour is simply a brilliant concoction. 

Our visitors:  Most of the site's visitors are Americans of course, but we have a huge following in Chile of all places.  Why?  No idea!  But welcome one and all!  I love Chile, and plan to visit one day.  We'll have to showcase a Chilean cocktail in the near future.

Those visitors stateside are typically from Indiana, New York, California or Illinois.  A nice mix of the midwest and the coasts. 

As mentioned first above, we have some cool features we plan to add to the site in the next few months.  We've changed the tags a bit, to feature drink that we've made, but we'll also be adding a tag cloud related to the liquors - so that if you're a vodka fan, you can click on the link and find everything with vodka in it.

Thank you as always for the readership and feedback - the last few months has been a ton of fun.  I'm looking forward to what's ahead.  If you want to get a hold of me, the e-mail is amateurmixologist(at), and our Twitter account is @IMakeDrinks. 

And, just for the hell of it, here is a picture of our intrepid mascot, Barca:

Until next week!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bee's Knees

Last night, I had a soccer game that started at 10pm.  I don't know about you, but by 10pm, the last thing I want to do is sprint and run around.  Perhaps the worst part is the brief opportunity to cool-down before trying to go to sleep.  It never quite works.

Some friends have recommended drinking a beer before heading to bed.  That might work for someone else, but it doesn't sound too appealing to me.  If the game were earlier, a beer might go over well, but just before turning in, I'd just assume pass. 

Today's drink though, doesn't sound half bad. The Bee's Knees is the drink, named after a phrase that is meant to describe something that's top shelf.  Also, it's a nice little allusion to the use of honey in the cocktail. 

The Ultimate Book of Cocktails page 129

Bee's Knees

1 1/2 oz gin
1/4 oz honey
1/4 oz lemon juice

Shake the ingredients very well with ice to integrate the honey, and strain into a cocktail glass.

For this cocktail, I'm using New Amsterdam gin, Nellie and Joe's Key West Lemon Juice, and locally produced honey.

This is a very easy, very good cocktail.  If you like gin, this is an especially good cocktail that yields good gin flavor, while also leaving the door open for the rest of the ingredients to enter the mix. 

The drink will sometimes taste like a strong alcoholic lemonade, but for the most part there is exceptionally clean gin flavors that are both refreshing and at times, lip-smacking.

I'm a big fan of this cocktail, and would pair it with something spicy, as it would be the perfect cocktail to counterbalance any heat.  And, if you have a late night soccer game, think of it like the alcoholic version of orange wedges you used to get after Little League games. 

See you on Friday!

Monday, May 17, 2010

White Russian & What We're Drinking This Week

Jam packed first post this week - we'll of course talk about what we're drinking this week, we listen to some relatively new music, and we'll be drinking the White Russian.

First though, I feel compelled to write something about the oil spill in the gulf.  60 Minutes, as it always does, scored the best interview available in the last 6 months, with a survivor of the oil rig explosion.  Not only was he a survivor, but the man was a high-level technical engineer on the rig, with knowledge of the operation and the events leading up the disaster.

This spill is catastrophic.  Recent news is that BP successfully built a mile-long pipe that can remove some of the oil spilt.  One of the BP reps said that the pipe would capture upwards of 80% of the oil.  Forgive me for being skeptical.

It's hard to put any faith in a company that is both accepting and disclaiming responsibility for this disaster.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has been on the airwaves, loudly pronouncing that everyone else is at fault.  Meanwhile, BP has said that they will cover the costs of clean-up, while also having sought out legal waivers for whatever destruction may arise to homeowners near the water.  It's a big jumbled mess; a confluence of half-baked PR and legal strategies. 

And I don't need to see pictures of the poor animals washing up on shore to know that this spill will be devastating on the ecosystem of the Gulf.  Whatever the projected losses are at this point, double or triple them, because it's likely that whatever spillage information BP has shared to date is a fraction of the actual amounts.

I'm hoping that this accident shines some sunlight on drilling operations, putting worker and environmental safety ahead of profit driven enterprises willing to cut corners for an extra hundred-million. 

Soundtrack this week
:  Broken Bells, Broken Bells - Broken Bells is James Mercer lead singer from The Shins, and Danger Mouse the DJ.  The first track, "The High Road" is a hell of a song.  I was telling some friends though that I think the rest of the album is good, but not great.  Like many other Danger Mouse efforts (apart from Danger Doom, which was an incredible rap album) about half of the album is really good and the other half is just so so.  It's worth a listen though, for the first track alone - it's an excellent song.

What We're Drinking This Week:

- Today: White Russian - the classic drink of Big Lebowski infamy, which we drink today. 

- Wednesday: Bee's Knees - gin, honey, and lime juice.  I love the name of the drink, as it portends good things to come.

-  Friday:  Petite Fleur - white rum, Cointreau and grapefruit juice.  I'm a big fan of grapefruit anything, so this one is likely to be a winner. 

Without further ado, let's have a White Russian!  Cue obligatory picture of the Dude holding a White Russian:

American Bar, page 197

White Russian

1 oz vodka
3/4 oz Kahlua

Stir liquors over ice cubes in a mixing glass, strain into a sherry glass, top with light whipped cream.

For this cocktail, I'm using Ketel One vodka, Kahlua of course, and canned whipped cream. 

This drink doesn't really need much of an introduction.  The White Russian is a cocktail that even non-drinkers enjoy.  It is smooth, flavorful, sweet, and delicious.  The coffee notes are perfectly counterbalanced with the heat of the vodka - kind of in a similar way that an Irish Coffee imparts a nice bite to the mix of the cocktail. 

The White Russian was so good in fact, that I forgot to take a photo of the drink before taking a sip.  Hell, I finished the drink off before realizing that I didn't have a photo of the cocktail itself.

While the White Russian is served over ice, I find it to be a relatively warming drink because of the vodka.  As a result of its warming tendencies and the use of ice, the White Russian can be consumed in the winter or summer and seems to fit in nicely no matter the weather. 

As you no doubt noticed above, I used canned whipped cream in the place of lightly whipped cream, as the instructions call for.  I did a quick blast of the canned stuff and it worked flawlessly.  Know though, that if you attempt to impart it into the drink out of a can, you might not get an appealing looking mix.  It will taste fine, it just might look as though the cream has coagulated.

Looking forward to the other cocktails this week - until then, cheers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Today we are drinking the Venus cocktail.  And thankfully too, I will not be discussing anything on television, or my DVR!  Yay!  Small victories!

Before proceeding to the drink, I do want to list out some events worth checking out, depending on your area:

NYC: The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, May 14 to 18.  From the NYT listing, it is "a series of tastings, gatherings and seminars covering topics like absinthe drinks, craft spirits, vermouth, rum, gin, traditional punches, sherry and single malts, as well as how to photograph cocktails, the best glassware to use, the art of distillation and cocktail myths and legends."

San Francisco: CUESA's farmers' market cocktail tastings at the Ferry Building next week.  Learn more about it here.  And, grab lunch at The Slanted Door while you're at it.

Also in San Fran, check out this list of Top 10 sandwiches in the city.

Sydney: It's world cocktail week, and throughout the city, there are places to go imbibe.  And, if you are a kind soul, please forward me a 6 pack of VB, it's not available in my neck of the woods - all we have is Cooper's and random other offerings.  And I miss it so!!  I can forward you my address, if you're one such kind soul.  :)

Alright, three major cities - hopefully to the benefit of some of you readers.  Now, we drink the following:

Alright, I'll be the first to admit that this cocktail isn't the most appealing looking drink, at least not to me anyway.  Raspberry bits don't make for a quality look (full raspberries are a different story).  But lest we judge too quickly, or on aesthetics alone, let's look at the recipe.

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 206


2 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz simple syrup
Dash of Peychaud's bitters
8 fresh raspberries

Shake the liquid ingredients and 6 of the raspberries vigorously with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the remaining 2 raspberries.

For this cocktail, I'm using New Amsterdam gin, Cointeau, Simple Syrup, and in the place of Peychaud's I am using Angostura bitters.

Unfortunately, for all the raspberries in this drink, the overwhelming flavor is that of an orange.  In many ways, this cocktail tastes like a shaken orange flavored vodka, with a couple raspberries thrown in as a garnish.  Obviously, the Cointreau is a big reason for a prominent orange flavor, though I am surprised that the other ingredients do not impart their own flavors into the mix.

This is a good but not great cocktail.  It's not easy to pull together all of its ingredients, and the end result is an orange flavored drink with little nuance.  I expected more raspberry notes, but they never arrived until I ate the actual raspberries at the bottom of the glass.  This cocktail may require some tweaking to make it something special, but in its current incarnation, I'd give it something like a 6 out of 10.

Until next time, have a great day, and drink one for me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ring of Kerry Cocktail

Today we're drinking a cocktail called the Ring of Kerry, a drink named after the southwest coast in Ireland.  We will of course be discussing the drink in greater detail, but before proceeding ahead, I have to talk about Lost.

I don't want to post over and over again about television shows, but I just watched this week's Lost episode, and I feel like I have no choice but to write about it.

I've been with this show since day one.  I liked the pilot episode, and was hooked thereafter. 

This episode threw more sci-fi stuff into the equation than ever before, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  You always figured that this day would come, that one day there would be an episode with questionable special effects, and even more questionable explanations of island events.  But I almost wanted to believe that with such little time left, they may gloss over such things, and neatly explain the island here and there in the episodes that remained. 

I'm conflicted.  I appreciate trying to tie the island into something greater than say, generic mysticism, but isn't that what they're doing with a beam of light emanating from a cave?  And what's the mother's backstory?  I suppose it's as the mother says in the episode, every question will lead to more questions.

Maybe what troubles me most is that when the light emanates from the cave I feel like I'm watching Star Trek.  I know that Lost was a sci-fi drama from essentially day one, but, the producers and writers played it cool and never used special effects in such a way that I checked-out mentally.  This episode provided me with such a moment with both the cave-light, and the terrible generic description of what the light meant. 

I still love the show.  I still think it's the best TV series I've seen (I haven't seen The Wire yet, which I always hear may be better).  I'm still going to watch the last couple shows with great interest.  I just wish that this past episode dealt with the cave, the light, and whatever it represents in a better manner.

From Lost's island realm, we now turn to another island, Ireland. 

I love Ireland.  It's easily accessible from the east coast, and cheap flights are always available.  It's culturally rich, has excellent drink and food selections, and has some of the most beautiful pastoral scenes this side of a Giorgione's Fête champêtre.

I was last in Ireland in 2006, and took the following photos while at the Ring of Kerry, to give you an idea of the landscape (and one self-evident sign that I found humorous).  It's a beautiful place, and well worth your time when there.

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 169

Ring of Kerry

1 12 oz Irish whiskey
1 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
1/2 oz Kahlua

Shake all the ingredients well with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Sprinkle 1 tsp grated chocolate over the top.

For this cocktail, I used good old Jameson, the highest selling Irish whiskey in the world.  Use whatever you like, but if you have good Irish whiskey, something that's worth drinking neat, save it.  I also realized I had no chocolate in the house, or at least, nothing I could shave.  I used cocoa powder in its place, and it turned out great.
This is an outstanding cocktail.  It's not too sweet, not too rich, and has just enough alcohol to give it a little bite.  It will remind you of all the Bailey's or Kahlua cocktails you've had in the past - the White Russian in particular.  The difference though, is that this cocktail isn't made with any cream or milk, and as a result, there less more of a pronounced flavor. 

Consider this cocktail a nice choice in the event you have some leftovers from your St. Patrick's Day party.  Or, drink it for a late May Day holiday treat.  May Day is an Irish holiday occurring on May 1st.

Tomorrow, we're going to check out the Venus cocktail - a cocktail that includes fresh raspberries that are shaken along with the rest of the drinks contents.  I'm looking forward to checking it out. 

Until then, cheers!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

French 75

Today we're drinking the French 75, a gin, lime juice, and champagne combination that is an outstanding cocktail choice for any occasion.  But first, I want to quickly talk about a television show that wrapped up its season on Sunday.

There are only a handful of television shows that I watch, and try to pimp out to my friends.  The only reality show in the bunch is the Amazing Race, which finished its season on Sunday evening.

For those who don't watch, the Amazing Race features various teams of two people traveling all over the world performing tasks that tie into the local culture.  It's a great show for anyone who enjoys travelling and foreign culture.  And, there is far far less reality show gimmickry on the Amazing Race, compared to other shows that play up the melodrama.  As always though, the real reason to watch are the surroundings. The teams traveled to some really interesting places, like the Seychelles, Singapore, Chile, and Malaysia.

This season featured one of my favorite teams of all time, the cowboy brothers, Jet and Cord.  They were always in a good mood, even under the most trying of circumstances.  They came in second, next to another set of brothers, Dan and Jordan.  I liked Dan and Jordan up until the finale, when they started playing ruthless with Jet and Cord.  Aside from the last episode, they were likeable. 

The real drama this season was between Caite and Brent (dating models, and Caite by the way is the infamous Miss South Carolina of YouTube fame) and Carol and Brandy.  These two teams hated each other.  Brandy, the alpha dog on her team, seemed to find reason to dislike everything and everyone on the Race, at one point or another.  She was, at times, unwatchable.  She made a point, time and again, to make statements and utterances that could be boiled down to: "Look at me, I like fancy things."  It was rough to witness, and embarrassing.

Caite and Brent were no angels either.  They bordered on verbal domestic abuse frequently, and Caite tried a bit too hard to make the Amazing Race her chance to show "the world" that she's smart.  On the one hand, I empathize with her because she went through a horrible public experience.  On the other hand, she still needs a few more years of maturity.  Case in point: I think she said to Brent "Shut up before I hit you in the face" maybe a dozen times on the show.  Not classy.

Congrats to Dan and Jordan for winning this season's Race.  Looking forward to the next go-round, which likely begins in the summer. 

In honor (not really) of their victory, we drink the French 75!  I found an excellent recipe in a recent Wine Spectactor:

Wine Spectator Magazine, May 31, 2010, page 83

French 75

3 oz gin
3 oz fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
8 oz Champagne

In a shaker, dissolve sugar in the gin and juice.  Add ice, shake hard, and strain into chilled flutes.  Add Champagne to top.  Serves 2.

For this cocktail, I'm using New Amsterdam gin, Korbel California Champagne (don't buy something fancy, this is $8/bottle, and will do just fine), and Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice.

The French 75 is an excellent sparkling wine cocktail.  It's sweet, but not too sweet.  The gin adds just enough spice to the mix so that it's not a sugary mess. 

You can taste the lime juice, to be sure, but it balances itself well with the other ingredients.  At times in fact, this drink tastes like many other sours, as well it should because under most definitions of the sour family, the French 75 would make the cut.  It has a base liquor, lime juice, and a sweetener in the sugar.  Surprising that the French 75 might be grouped in with the Sidecar or Daiquiri, but so it is.

Notice too, that the recipe is intended to make 2 cocktails - this is a drink meant to be consumed with friends or better-halves. 

I'd suggest this cocktail under any occasion.  I mean that - truly any occasion.  This could be a brunch cocktail, and wedding shower cocktail, an aperitif, a post dinner cocktail, and any other moment deserving of celebrating the good life.

Tomorrow, we're going to try the Ring of Kerry, named after the southwest coast of Ireland - a beautiful and scenic area that I hope, due to its namesake, means good things to come for this cocktail.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week of May 9, 2010

Welcome back my friends!

After a nice long weekend out of town with the extended family, it's nice to be back home.  We were in Florida from Thursday to Sunday, and my time down south ran the gamut, from pure family time to visiting old friends, from family friendly beach scenes in Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton to the more urban and hip South Beach, Miami.

I don't know what to make of Florida.  I like the state, but I find it hard to identify with at times.  I love beaches, but don't love commercial beach areas, overrun with t-shirt stands.  I suppose no one does. 

Still, when I think of Florida, that is what first comes to mind, commercial beaches.  So too do retired folks (my grandparents travelled to Florida in the winter back in the day).  Neither commercial beaches nor retired folks make for the most desirable destination, for me anyway.

I know this is unfair.  As often discussed with JB, there are likely many places in Florida that would be right up my alley, I've just not found them yet.  My visits to the state are few and far between, and admittedly, the spring break visits are only prime examples of my and my friends' sophomoric behavior, and not the locale to which we ventured.

By comparison to the t-shirt shilling beach areas, I visited a friend's condo in South Beach.  His place reminded me of a nice hotel one would stay at, with a gorgeous view of the city (and beautiful sunsets).  Miami appears to be a fantastic place to live and work.  It's the rest of the state that's hard to figure out. 

Florida's sun is nice.  The warm weather in the winter is lovely.  The summer?  Probably not as much.  It's too hot, even for Floridians. 

I suppose this aimless rambling leaves me wondering whether there is a place in Florida for me outside of Miami.  Maybe not.  Just as I would probably not live 30 minutes outside of my current city, perhaps the same holds for living in Florida.  Once outside the gates of the main city, the cultural hub, I believe I'd be as lost as Jack and Sawyer are in the Pacific (that was my quick shout out to Lost fans).

Soundtrack this week:

The National High Violet - the new album drops tomorrow.  I posted a link to The New York Times streaming audio of the album on my Twitter feed a couple weeks ago.  Hopefully you were able to listen to their new work.  I think this is one hell of a disc, from front to back.  The National are dark, moody, but overwhelmingly soulful.  Listen to the 9th track, entitled "Conversation 16", and tell me you don't get chills when Matt belts out "I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I am evil."  Put this one on the short list of my potential favorite albums of 2010. 

What we're drinking this week:

After having taken the tail end of the week off, we're back this week with three stellar cocktails.

Tomorrow: French 75 - it has gin, it has champagne...sign me up!  As previously mentioned, this cocktail has been heavily featured in print of late.  Good thing too, it's an excellent cocktail.

Wednesday: Ring of Kerry - Irish whiskey, Bailey's and Kaluha.  Sounds good, right?  And, it's named after arguably the most beautiful part of all of Ireland, the southwest coast.  I'll hunt down some photos I took while there, so you can see the area, if you've not had occasion to visit yourself.

Thursday: Venus - Some gin, some Cointreau, and fresh raspberries.  Umm, yes please.  I think I'm most excited about this drink, as you shake the cocktail the raspberries before straining the contents into a glass.  Sounds unique and delicious. 

Friday, we may pull in one more cocktail if we have time.

One last note:  We had some really good questions sent in last week, and I may pull together a mailbag in the next week or so.  Our e-mail is amateurmixologist(at) - feel free to write with comments or questions, and we'll try to get to all of the questions in the mailbag post to come.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Michelada & Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  This holiday celebrates the Mexican army's surprise victory over the French back in 1862.  But you knew that, right?  Of course not!  I didn't either!  No one does.  That doesn't stop us from celebrating - nor should it - I say.

In honor of the occasion, we're drinking the Michelada, pictured here:

The great thing about Cinco de Mayo is the introduction, bit by bit, of Mexican culture into the everyday lives of average Americans.  Maybe your office merely celebrates the holiday with a Mexican-food pitch-in, likely featuring bad Americanized versions of Mexican dishes at that.  Still, it's a start.  Americanized chips and salsa could mean full blown al pastor tacos 20 years down the road.  Progress, right?

Too often, our only exposure to our neighbors to the south are by way of news stories of the bad.  Drugs, immigration problems, smog in Mexico city, gang violence.  This is a travesty.  There is much to celebrate from Mexico culturally, and each state has its own unique character. 

As much as we here at The Amateur Mixologist like to try drinks of various cultures, we should take a brief moment to read about various cultures too.  In this case, learn something about Mexico that we didn't already know.  I will gladly assist you in this regard by offering you the following options to read into a bit further (who said The Amateur Mixologist wasn't a full service operation):

-  Did you know that Mexico has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world with 29?  You can read all about them - here.

-  Mexico celebrates its independence day from Spanish rule on September 16th.  Maybe it's worth making a variation of the Michelada on that day.

-  Academy of San Carlos is the first art school and art museum in all of the Americas.  It's a beautiful building too.

-  Mexico has an incredibly diverse range of musical styles and traditions - in other words, it's not just ranchera music.

Check one of the above out - it'll be your cultural mitzvah for the day.

Alright, like any good moment of culture, it should be closely followed by alcohol!  What, you don't drink after museums too?  Maybe it's just me.  Next trip, go musuem-then-beer combo, and you'll be well rewarded.

The Ultimate Bar Book, page 95

Michelada #1

Lime wedge
Kosher salt
12 ounces chilled Mexican lager (such as Pacifica or Corona)

Rub the rim of a chilled Pilsner glass with the lime wedge and rim with kosher salt.  Fill the glass with ice, squeeze the lime wedge over the ice and drop it in.  Slowly pour in the beer.

I'm so confident that you know what the above recipe would look like that I'm not even going to bother with a picture of beer, salt and lime.  Instead, I'll show you a picture of our intrepid Official Mascot, lying on the floor.

There are many other Michelada recipes available, both in The Ultimate Bar Book and elsewhere around the publishing world and internet.  This one though, is the basic, most commonly available recipe of the bunch.

For this recipe, I used Sol beer, a light Mexican lager.  Use whatever Mexican beer you like, and don't get hung up on finding a lager if you'd prefer something else.  Hell, if Mexican beer isn't at hand, use whatever lager is nearby.  The beer is poured over ice, so whatever subtle nuances exist between the beers won't really matter. 

This Michelada tastes exactly as you'd expect - like a refreshing beer with a salty sweet addition to the mix.  It's very refreshing, and extremely easy to make, again and again.  There's something to be said for the ease with which one can make a particular drink.  Sure we could wax poetic about 20 ingredient drinks, but why bother if it only takes 3 to make something that tastes great (or two, in the case of Parfait Amour and lemon juice - or for that matter - one, with scotch).

Enjoy the holiday today, and if you see a Frenchman, rub it in their face with a "Viva el México!"  I kid, I kid.  We love the French!  So much so in fact, that we're planning on making the French 75 in the very near future.

Until then, salud!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Parfait Amour & Lemon Juice

If you read the Violet Champagne D'Amour post from a while back, you probably finished reading the entry wondering when you'd see Parfait Amour again.  You were not alone.  I wondered the same thing. 

Parfait Amour was not consumed at the frat parties I attended, nor at the post-college bars I frequented, nor at anyone's home when friends gathered together to hang out.  Parfait Amour just does not appear on our collective shelves.

Why is that? 

I see random liqueurs on all of my friends' bookshelves: a litany of schnapps flavors, a random creme de menthe, a bottle of After Shock.  Among this random mix of alcohols, I've never seen Parfait Amour.

I'll grant you that most people are not making mixed drinks beyond the whiskey/coke, gin/tonic, vodka/soda variety.  And whatever liqueurs your friends may have on their shelves are probably all nearly as full today as the day they were purchased.  But Parfait Amour does seem to be noticeably absent. 

In any event, here's what Parfait Amour is: "A sweet, violet liqueur made from and tasting of spanish oranges, vanilla, rose and almond."  Cite.  Also, "[the g]eneric [name] for once-popular 19th century liqueur of spices, vanilla, orange, and flowers."  Cite.

The name, and flavor evokes sensuality, but let's not get too carried away down that line of thought.  Parfait Amour is not the Barry White of alcohol, nor the Viagra of alcohol, but it's a hell of a lot closer to those things than say, Montezuma tequlia:

P.S. I just shuddered at the thought of Montezuma tequila.  Even in college, my friends and I should have known better.

Parfait Amour tastes of sweetened violets, even if you've never consumed them, and oranges in the same way that certain wheat beers might taste of oranges.  In other words, it's subtle. Yes there are hints of vanilla, and I suppose almonds as well, but you'll have to search for them.

Its texture is velvety, smooth, and chalky (yes, I realize chalky is not an adjective one would love to read before diving into a bottle purchase, but I mean chalky in the best sense of the word).  The liqueur is inexpensive for the most part, with bottles costing anywhere between $15-25 for around 750ml. 

I looked around, high and low, for recipes containing the liqueur, and kept coming back to the following recommendation:  Parfair Amour should be consumed on its own, or with a small splash of lemon juice.

So here's what I did. 

1 1/2 oz Parfait Amour
Splash of lemon juice

Pour over rocks, stir.

Done.  Easy peasy.  And it's a nice, sweet cocktail.  Imagine the velvety texture, the smooth flavor of the sweetened violet, and then imagine that you turned the house lights up just a touch with the lemon juice.  The lemon juice brings out some dormant vibrancy, and adds a pleasant kick to the laid back Parfait Amour.

And while this is by no means the only way to consume Parfait Amour, it is an entirely suitable aperitif, in the event you find yourself with 3/4s of a bottle lying around after having made the Violet Champagne D'Amour

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, and in honor of the day, we'll be making Micheladas, the classic beer-based cocktail.  Until then, cheers!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Balalaika & Week of May 2, 2010

Today we'll be drinking the Balalaika, a refreshing vodka-based cocktail that will likely remind you of the Sidecar.  First though, let's recap the Derby, take a quick look at a new cocktail book we'll be using, and talk about what we're drinking this week.

Balalaika cocktail

How about that Calvin Borel, eh?  He's one hell of a jockey.  From now on, I'm picking whatever horse Calvin rides. 

My choice, Ice Box, came in second place.  He made the late charge that I expected, and had there been another quarter mile he would have likely pulled ahead, but alas, it was not to be.  It was another excellent Derby, though the telecast needs some improvement. 

NBC needs to limit the cross-promotional garbage that comprises a fifth of the Derby program.  For example, in the midst of the multi-hour program, NBC showed a Top Chef competition.  I like Top Chef, a program that appears on Bravo under the NBC/GE umbrella.  However, Top Chef contestants, as talented as they may be, have no relationship to the Kentucky Derby.

The brief cooking competition was ridiculous, and poorly thought out.  The competition was purported to be about the food at the Kentucky Derby, and the featured ingredient was mussels.  Mussels?!  What relationship do mussels have to the Kentucky Derby?  Nothing at all!

So not only is NBC blatantly cross-promoting shows on their affiliated networks, but some producer chose mussels as the ingredient that showcases the cuisine of the Kentucky Derby.  Completely baffling.  The entire production reminded me of the 2nd hour that NBC added to the program The Biggest Loser.  One hour was sufficient to show the dramatic weightloss of the contestants.  The added 2nd hour meant more filler, and more emotional nonsense.  I no longer watch the program as a result.

Enough kvetching!  Let's talk about drinks, specifically, what we're drinking this week. 

What We're Drinking This Week:

Today, we're drinking the Balalaika, a vodka based cocktail that, as mentioned above, is reminiscent of the Sidecar.

Later this week, we're going to delve a little deeper into the liqueur Parfait Amour.

We're also going do something fun for Cinco de Mayo.  I'm not sure what we're drinking just yet, as I'm still trying to score a particular liqueur, Viuda de Sanchez, and it's not widely available in my area.  Not to worry though, I have a good man on the lookout for a bottle as I type.

If time permits, we'll also check out the French 75 cocktail - a classic that has been receiving a lot of well-deserved hype of late.

Soundtrack this week:  The soundtrack this week is the new Gorillaz disc, Plastic Beach.  If you're already a fan of Gorillaz, you'll like this album, and if you're unfamiliar with their work, expect a mix of rap, funk, beats, and crooning from former Blur frontman Damon Albarn.  The music is often dark and bouncy at the same time.

In an exciting addition to the cocktail book collection, I snagged a copy of the now out of print The Ultimate Book of Cocktails.  It's likely available at discount book store locations near you, and if you can't find it there, Amazon has it listed in its used section for cheap.  I bought mine for $7.  Go to the nearby Half-Price Books and you should be able to find it cheap.  Amazon has copies listed for as little as $3 or so, before shipping.

This book contains really nice pictures of each drink.  There are some interesting twists on each recipe, as well as a brief description of the cocktail itself, its origin, etc.  For as little as the book costs, I think it's a good addition to the collection.

Today's drink comes from the book, so let's check out it out in greater detail: the Balalaika.

The Ultimate Book of Cocktails, page 138


1 1/2 oz vodka
3/4 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz lemon juice

Shake the ingredients well with plenty of ice, and stain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add an orange-and-cherry garnish.

For this drink, I'm pulling out the Ketel One vodka, and in addition to the Cointreau, I'm using Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice.  Feel free to use whatever vodka you have on hand.  In a pinch, you could sub out Cointreau for either triple-sec or Grand Marnier.

The Balalaika has a stronger alcohol taste than most of the cocktails we've made over the last few months.  In my opinion, vodka can often taste harsh at first in certain cocktails.  After one or two sips, the harsh nature of the liquor fades and becomes less noticeable.  I relate this to the fact that vodka adds little by way of flavor in this type of mixed drink, and with no additional flavor added, it's just adding alcohol content.  Sometimes, more alcohol content can be a little harsh.  This is not a hard and fast rule by any means, and the vodka fans may think I'm speaking out of turn.

This drink though, is both refreshing and lip-smackingly tart.  The Cointreau and lemon juice both add a vibrant citrus kick to the muted vodka flavor.  It's excellent. 

Between the Balalaika and the Sidecar, a cocktail with brandy instead of vodka, I do prefer the Sidecar.  The Sidecar is a smoother cocktail, plain and simple.

Looking forward to another stellar week here at The Amateur Mixologist.  Quick shout-out to a couple Indianapolis friends, and one friend out in NYC:

Indianapolis Amy, whose blog provides excellent insight into the "city that never sleeps; only has time to Nap"

Would I Buy It Again, a blog devoted to determining whether Indianapolis cuisine is worth a revisit (as well as some fast food reviews that are always entertaining)

-  NYC reader Tom who has written with interesting questions and commentary over the last few weeks.  It's always more fun when drinking with friends, so I do appreciate your support and readership.


For more drink links, random musings, and my attempts to be witty, check us out @IMakeDrinks on Twitter.
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