Glee vs. Freaks and Geeks…with booze.

The winner of  Teen Drama Dropout‘s 2nd matchup: Glee vs. Freaks and Geeks was decided this week, so naturally that means it’s time for more themed cocktails. Last week, I went classy with both The Roswell and The One Tree Hill. Sure, I could have gone with Everclear and Mountain Dew and gotten that same alien-slime green color for The Roswell. But I didn’t. I went with Green Chartreuse because, well, Everclear is disgusting. This week’s cocktail matchup was decidedly more lowbrow.

In the TV matchup, Glee never stood a chance against fan favorite Freaks and Geeks. Mine was the lone dissenting voice advocating for Glee. For the second week in a row, however, the underdog show has the favored cocktail. It’s probably not hard to see why.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Glee  follows the trials and tribulations of a high school show choir as they navigate their awkward teenage years by spontaneously bursting into song and dance. Glee kids being the lowest of the low in the social hierarchy means they get doused with slushies pretty much every day by the jocks and cheerleaders, so naturally the theme cocktail is slushie-based. It is also an homage to my own youth. One year in college, my best friend and I moved into an apartment across the street from a 7-11. Not only was it terrible amazing because it gave us 24-hour access to junk food, but it lead to the creation of our then-favorite alcoholic beverage, the “Ghetto Daiquiri.” Basically we’d walk over to the 7-11, buy a Big Gulp sized Slurpee, add vodka or rum or whatever we happened to have around, and drink it through a straw. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve made it more refined. Sort of.

The Gleek:

1 cherry Slurpee (or other preferred slushie brand and flavor)

2 oz vodka

1 chilled martini glass (or other fancy glass of your choice)

Pour vodka into a chilled glass. Top with slushie. Stir.

Slushie Cocktail

Don’t dump these on any Glee kids unless they’re over 21.

 

Freaks and Geeks follows the decidedly non-singing/dancing lives of the Freaks (stoners who hang out under the bleachers) and the Geeks (nerdy freshman boys who still have Star Wars sheets). This cocktail (if you can call it that) is a reference to my favorite episode, where the Geeks swap out a keg of real beer for a keg of fake beer at a party, and everyone gets fake drunk. This drink doesn’t actually taste good, but it might help you win all the games of quarters.

The Freaky Geek:

12 oz non-alcoholic beer

1 chilled pint glass (wide-mouthed mason jar preferred)

Pour non-alcoholic beer into chilled glass. Ditch the bottle immediately so nobody knows it’s fake beer.

Non-alcoholic Beer

When poured into a frosty glass, it almost looks like a legitimate beverage. Almost.

The Verdict: The alcoholic slushie won unanimously. It wasn’t really a fair fight, but then again, neither is life. Tune in next week when the Texas football players of Friday Night Lights take on the orphans in Party of Five in cocktail form. Cheers!

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More TV Themed Cocktails!

I know it’s been awhile since my last post. What can I say, I’ve been busy! I’ve been performing in a 1920s-themed show called The Speakeasy, which has spurred some experimentation with prohibition-era cocktails. Look for a couple of posts on them at a later date. In the meantime, however, this is what’s been taking up most of my time. You will recall from my previous post about cocktails based on the characters of Pretty Little Liars that I’m a little obsessed with teen dramas. So are a bunch of my friends. Said friends are all highly educated and very articulate, which makes our conversations about TV shows more like intellectual, pop-culture philosophy debate than trashy indulgence. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

In any case, for quite awhile we’ve been talking about doing a blog together that pits the various iconic teen drama TV shows against one another in a March Madness bracket style elimination challenge, and it has finally come to fruition. Vital questions shall be answered such as: Which petite blonde girl is more of a badass, Buffy or Veronica Mars? Who has the best use of the supernatural as a metaphor for teenaged angst,  Smallville or Roswell? You know, the pressing topics of the day.

Since my thing is cocktails, I decided to to a tandem post for every matchup where I create a themed cocktail for each show in a given matchup and pit them against each other in a taste test. Our first matchup pitted southern, basketball-themed One Tree Hill against southwestern, alien-themed Roswell. You can read all about it here. Roswell won by a unanimous vote. Ironically, however, when it came to cocktails, the One Tree Hill was the unanimous favorite over the Roswell. Go figure. Here are the recipes I used:

The Roswell:

1/2oz midori

1/2 oz Canton ginger liquer

1 oz green chartreuse

squeeze of lemon juice

ginger beer or ginger ale

Mix all the ingredients except the ginger beer  in a shaker. Shake vigorously and strain over ice. Top off with ginger beer (or ale)

The verdict: I think I like this better than anyone, but then again I love green chartreuse which is too herbal/flowery tasting for many people’s tastes. Most of my taste-testers liked it, but said they wouldn’t be able to drink more than one in a night. More lemon and using gingerale instead of ginger beer (which I used) will give it a milder flavor. You can also omit the Midori for something less sweet, but it won’t have quite as green a color (necessary for alien-themed cocktails).

 

Guess which one is the Roswell?

Guess which one is the Roswell?

 

The One Tree Hill:

2 oz sweet tea vodka (Firefly is best, but Segram’s is a decent, cheaper alternative)

juice of 1/2 a lemon

2 oz Kern’s peach nectar (or muddled fresh peaches if you want to get fancy)

peach slice for garnish (optional)

Shake all ingredients in a shaker and pour over ice. Garnish with peach slice.

The verdict: This cocktail  was the universal favorite and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s simple to make and refreshing. It’s like a peachy, alcoholic Arnold Palmer. Several of my tasters went in for a second round of these, and I will most certainly be making them again come stone fruit season.

So there you have it folks, good TV does not necessarily make for good cocktails and vice versa. Look for our second round matchup next week: Glee vs. Freaks and GeeksYou can bet that my Glee-themed cocktail will be sweet and fruity. Happy mixing!

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The Fall Manhattan

Well, dear readers, it’s been quite a busy month. Apologies to any of you who were waiting with baited breath to find out how my latest infusion turned out. It was finished soaking in all those lovely fall flavors a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t had time to write about it. After straining the mixture (cheese cloth is best for this, but you can also use a coffee filter and a funnel) into a large mason jar, I chilled it and tasted it. The results were undeniably delicious and very autumnal. The strongest flavors were cinnamon and clove, with the vanilla mellowing and sweetening it just the right amount, but I could hardly taste the ginger at all. Luckily I like cinnamon and clove! Next time, I might think about putting a touch less of those two and doubling the amount of ginger, or leaving the ginger out entirely since it didn’t have much effect on the flavor.

So, now that you’ve got this delightful fall concoction, what do you do with it? It’s great chilled or over ice all on its own, but seeing as how this is a cocktail blog, I couldn’t just leave it alone. This little autumn beauty works best in a simple, classic cocktail: the Manhattan. The Manhattan, unlike the Old-fashioned, has remained relatively pure over the years. Some people garnish it with an orange twist instead of a cherry, and some leave out the bitters, but other than that, the recipe doesn’t vary from bar to bar. There is a bit of controversy about where and when it was first invented, which you can read about here, if you’re interested.

Doesn't it just look perfect for those chilly fall nights?

Doesn’t it just look perfect for those chilly fall nights?

The Fall Manhattan:

2oz infused bourbon

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

3 dashes bitters

I prefer to shake my Manhattans over ice and then strain into a fancy glass, but some people like them on the rocks. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, an orange twist, or even a bourbon soaked cherry if you want to get all fancy about it. Happy mixing!

 

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TV Night Theme Cocktails

Ok, confession time. I’m really into the ABC Family teen drama, Pretty Little LiarsI’m not alone in my addiction, however. My friends and I have a message thread exclusively devoted to talking about the show. Is it weird that a bunch of grown women spend so much time discussing a TV show about high school students? Possibly. Should we be doing more productive things with that time? Probably. But let’s not focus such trivialities, because group TV watching provides the perfect opportunity to try out new cocktail recipes.

We all started watching the series at slightly different times, well after the first season started, so up until now, our viewings had to happen via Netflix or Hulu somewhat guiltily while our significant others were either out of town or rolling their eyes derisively from the other room. This week was the annual Halloween episode, and just happened to coincide with all of us being caught up, so we could finally watch it all together. Needless to say we were excited. I decided to come up with some themed cocktails based on the four main characters, with some collaborative help from my new friend Kelly. Fun fact: Until last night, Kelly and I had never met in person, but we bonded immediately over email based on our mutual love of PLL, cocktails, and snarky commentary. If you’ve never watched the show, the descriptions of each cocktail might not be as funny, so you should watch all of season 1 as quickly as possible before trying any of these recipes. Or you could just make the cocktails, but you won’t enjoy them quite as much as we did. Here they are in all their glory:

THE HANNA MARIN
handful of mint leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh watermelon
1 1/2 oz rum
juice of half a lime
club soda
muddle watermelon, sugar, lime juice and mint leaves in a tall glass
add ice, rum, and top with club soda
garnish with an umbrella and watermelon slice
Hanna Marin is a fashionista and lover of all things pink. She has a sweet tooth for both desserts and cocktails, but she’s weight conscious, so go easy on the sugar. Hanna thinks drinks taste better with a fancy garnish and a colored umbrella. The Hanna Marin takes longer to make than most cocktails, but Hanna knows she’s worth the wait.

Pink and sweet, kind of like Hanna. Fancy drink umbrella optional.

Pink and sweet, kind of like Hanna. Fancy drink umbrella optional.

 

THE ARIA MONTGOMERY
1/2 an organic grapefruit
7  organic mint leaves
1 teaspoon raw vegan sugar
6 oz champagne (preferably Aria brand)
muddle grapefruit, mint leaves, and sugar
strain into a champagne flute
fill with champagne
garnish with an organic mint leaf
Aria is a vegan. She is also a writer. She likes older men and fancy drinks. Her cocktail is simple, yet elegant, and of course, organic. Aria is also very tiny and doesn’t hold her liquor well. Her cocktail is champagne based, but you can always add a little vodka if you prefer a stronger drink. Aria would approve, as long as you use top-shelf vodka.
Classy and delicate, like Aria. Clandestine relationship optional.

Classy and delicate, like Aria. Clandestine relationship optional.

THE SPENCER HASTINGS
1 1/2 oz coffee liqueur
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 oz espresso
pour ingredients over ice, shake and strain into a martini glass
Spencer is so addicted to caffeine that she puts espresso in her cocktails. Spencer does not have time for frivolous things like muddled fruit or drink umbrellas. Spencer does not have time for more than three ingredients. This cocktail gets shaken vigorously, like Spencer shakes people down for information.
This cocktail, like Spencer, is not messing around. Drinking too many may lead to caffeine jitters.

This cocktail, like Spencer, is not messing around. Drinking too many may lead to caffeine jitters.

The Emily Fields
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz blue curacao
shake ingredients over ice and strain into a martini glass
After a shoulder injury put her on the sidelines, Emily is trying to see herself as more than just a competitive swimmer, but she would like nothing more than to sip a little pool water again.  She likes her drinks strong, so be careful not to wake up next to any open graves after trying her pool water inspired cocktail.  The Emily Fields is prepared by vigorously shaking the liquid ingredients with ice until well blended and cloudy, like Emily’s memory.
**SIDE NOTE: This was the one cocktail we didn’t make, mostly because nobody wanted to commit to buying (or drinking) blue curacao. We came up with a couple of alternatives for Emily’s theme cocktail: 1) Bud Light in a can, because Emily is by far the most boring character on the show. Also, ever since she came out to her parents, her wardrobe seems to consist entirely of sleeveless vests, most of them denim. 2) Bourbon straight from a flask, in homage to the episode where she lost her memory for awhile. If you are easily offended, please refrain from reading the caption in the next picture.
Emily drinking an Emily, complete with rolled up sleeves. Rufies optional. Too soon?

Emily drinking an Emily, complete with rolled up sleeves. Rufies optional. Too soon?

We made three of the four cocktails, and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but “toot toot,” they were delicious. Much like the Liars themselves they are all very different, so pick your poison and happy mixing!

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Bourbon Infusion #2: Flavors of the Fall

Fall is in the air! Well, actually it’s been 70 degrees here in San Francisco the last couple of days, but hey, a girl can dream. What better way to celebrate fall than with flavors like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and of course, bourbon. There used to be a cocktail lounge in the Bellagio, Las Vegas called the Fontana. It has been replaced with something much trendier, which makes me very very sad. It was very old-school Vegas, had the most amazing cover band with a lady singer who could do Shakira’s “Suerte” in Spanish, and (to get to my point) had a Manhattan on the menu made with Maker’s Mark that they infused in-house with “a secret blend of herbs and spices.” It was delightful, and I’ve been dreaming of recreating it for years. This week, I finally took a crack at it, and in keeping with my new mission of consistency, I wrote down exact amounts of everything I used. I made a big batch, because we still have some people to thank for all their help with the wedding, and what better way to thank people than with booze? If you re-create this recipe for home use, I’d recommend halving all the amounts, unless you throw a lot of cocktail parties. Here’s my recipe:

1.75L bourbon

6 whole vanilla beans (scored lengthwise)

2 large cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup fresh ginger (coarsely chopped)

20 whole cloves

dash nutmeg

teaspoon brown sugar

My ingredients. Aren't they pretty?

My ingredients. Aren’t they pretty?

The infusion process at work.

The infusion process at work.

Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart mason jar with a sealing lid. Then you just let it sit for 2 weeks or so and shake it up a few times a day. Usually I’m nervous about my ingredients overpowering the bourbon, but in the end the flavor turns out to be quite subtle. This time I decided to go bold. In addition to the usual fall spices, I added some ginger for a little bite. I didn’t have any whole nutmeg, so I just put a dash of the ground stuff in…we’ll see how that goes. I also added a little sugar to counteract the bitterness of the cloves and nutmeg, but you could leave that out. It’s got another week of infusing. Check back soon for the results. Happy mixing!

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Local Edition: The Minnesota Mischief

Before I get to the meaning of the title of this post, let’s talk for a minute about Fresca.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, Fresca is a diet grapefruit soda. It only comes in diet. There is no “regular” Fresca. The first time I ever had a Fresca was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, when I went to a two-month math camp (yes, math camp, we can discuss that later) at my mom’s alma mater, Mt. Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. What can I say, Fresca was not really a thing in California. The girls in the program from New England and the South were appalled that I had never had one, insisting that it was the BEST soda ever. I liked the grapefruity-ness, but was never all that fond of the fake sugar flavor of diet sodas. This has relevance, I swear.

Ok, so this past weekend we were at a wedding in Minnesota. Apparently the groom is obsessed with Fresca, a fact which I had hitherto been unaware of, but he’s from Boston area, so I guess it makes sense. In any case, there was a lot of it around. They even put cans of it in the welcome gift bags. The rehearsal dinner was at an amazing place called Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis, which you should definitely check out if you’re ever in the area. Aside from the crazy-amazing decor that included a huge ceramic Jesus, an entire wall of antique doorknobs, and a 70s jukebox, one of the great things about the venue is that they let you bring your own food and drinks in. There were four kinds of amazing home-brewed beer (made by the bride’s dad), red and white wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, including…you guessed it.

Right about now, you’re probably saying, “Wait a minute! This is a cocktail blog, not a beer and wine blog! I am confused. And offended.” Probably that’s not at all what you’re saying to yourself, but there is cocktail recipe coming. The wedding party took turns bartending at this shindig, and at one point when I walked up to the bar, I was asked if I wanted to try some “sangria.” My husband, who had been standing there for a while and seen how the drink was made, shook his head emphatically at me, as if to say, “You really really don’t want it,” so naturally I said, “Sure!” The recipe is very simple:

1 part white wine (preferably something crisp and citrusy, like Sauvignon Blanc)

1 part red wine (something lighter like a Pinot Noir is best)

1 part Fresca (Sprite/7up is a good alternative if you don’t like the diet soda taste)

Bartender Eric pouring "sangria." The home-brew beer menu can be seen in the background.

Bartender Eric pouring “sangria.” The home-brew beer menu can be seen in the background.

Always hold the product you're selling close to your face. I learned that in an acting class.

Always hold the product you’re selling close to your face. I learned that in an acting class.

Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good. It was light and refreshing, but I still don’t love that diet soda taste. I’ll likely swap out the Fresca for Sprite if make this at home…sorry Matt. Since it was a spontaneously created cocktail (I think credit goes both to Eric and Emily), we had to give it a name. It had to include “Minnesota,” as a tribute to the wedding locale, and we liked the idea of alliteration. A number of suggestions were thrown out such as “Minnesota Mayhem,” or “Minnesota Mishap.” That second one was from my husband, who remained unimpressed by the concoction. Eventually we settled on the “Minnesota Mischief.” I think this would make a great punch for parties. You could make it by the pitcher and spruce it up with some fruit slices floated on top. Happy mixing!

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A Good Old-Fashioned Controversy

Today’s post starts with a bit of cocktail history, as in my personal history with cocktails. I first started training to be a bartender when I was 19. I was hostessing at an old-school, Italian family owned seafood joint on the pier in Santa Cruz my sophomore year of college. The hostess stand was right next to the bar, so I ended up talking to the bartenders a lot. There was a bartender named Dave, who was the embodiment of the quintessential bartender: early 50’s, handsome yet a little grizzled, comforting and ready to listen, but didn’t take guff from anyone, could tell you the history of every drink he made while giving you solid life advice. At some point I realized that I wanted to be him when I grew up, and became obsessed with the idea of becoming a bartender. Since I wasn’t 21, technically I wasn’t allowed behind the bar, but Dave decided to take me under his wing. He gave me a couple of books to study at home, and started quizzing me every time an order came in. “What goes in a Singapore Sling, Sarah?” “What kind of garnish do you put on a Mai Tai?” “What’s the difference between a gimlet and a gibson?” He also gave me sage advice about love and encouraged my artistic pursuits. He was pretty much my favorite person at the time.

Fast forward a few years, and with a little fast talking and fudging of my resume, I landed a job bartending at a nightclub. The money was great, but the hours were terrible, and “bartending” really meant pouring beers, shots, and the occasional rum-and-coke. All I wanted in life was to mix fancy shaker drinks. I left that job to wait tables at a high-end restaurant, and after a few months I finally convinced the manager to let me behind the bar. This was the late 90s, the height of Sex and the City fame, so most of what I was making was specialty martinis: Cosmos, Manhattans, 007s, Appletinis. I became very adept with a cocktail shaker. One day, a gentleman came in to the bar and ordered an old-fashioned. I remembered seeing it in the bartender’s guide, but I had never actually made one. Luckily, I was working with another bartender that night, a veteran, but even she shot me a look like “Who orders an old-fashioned anyway?” This is how she made it: Put an orange slice, a maraschino cherry, a sugar cube (or one sugar packet) in a rocks glass, add 7 dashes of bitters, muddle all that together, add ice, and pour 2 oz bourbon over it.

And that’s the way I always made them. Granted, my last professional bartending gig was in 2004, pre-Mad Men, so I can count on one hand the number of old-fashioned cocktails I made in that time, but for some reason the recipe always stuck with me. Then along comes Don Draper and the resurgence of the “craft cocktail,” and suddenly every high-end bar has an old-fashioned on their specialty menu. And you know what? It turns out I’d been making them wrong all these years. Well not wrong, so much as the nouveau bastardized way, rather than the purist way. Apparently, the old-fashioned is somewhat of a controversial cocktail, especially amongst hipster bartenders and curmudgeonly old men who still wax poetic about the days when bread was 10 cents. In their eyes, a real old-fashioned is just sugar, bitters, and bourbon, and maybe an orange or lemon peel for garnish. The orange slice and cherry got added in sometime in the 70s/80s, when things started going from “less is more” to “more is more.” There’s an interesting Slate article written about the controversy, with some great recipes as well.

This old fashioned is so pure, they won't even let the orange peel touch the bourbon.

This old-fashioned is so pure, they won’t even let the orange peel touch the bourbon.

Maybe it’s because we’re a bourbon household, or maybe it’s because we watch a lot of Mad Men, but the old-fashioned makes a pretty regular appearance around here. Being a big fan of both experimentation and personalization, I’ve come up with my own old-fashioned recipe, and I’d encourage you to do the same. Here’s mine if you want to try it:

1 slice citrus (orange will make it sweeter, lemon will make it more tart, grapefruit and blood orange are fun too!)

1 sugar cube, sugar packet, or the equivalent amount of white sugar

7 dashes bitters

a few dashes of grenadine syrup (hard to measure, so I just use the cap)

1 1/2-2oz bourbon, depending on how strong you like it (use good bourbon…no cheap stuff!)

Those rocks glasses were a favor from a friend's wedding last year. Adorable and functional!

Those rocks glasses were a favor from a friend’s wedding last year. Adorable and functional!

Muddle the citrus, sugar, bitters, and grenadine in a rocks glass. You can use a wooden spoon if you don’t have a muddler, but really, you should just get a muddler right? Add ice. I highly recommend getting an ice tray that makes those huge cocktail ice cubes. We got ours at Crate and Barrel. Pour bourbon over ice and stir with a spoon. I usually take out the citrus peel, but some people like to leave it in. Simply delicious. Happy mixing!

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