"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
As the weather heats up and we slide into summer, our cocktail thoughts turn to cool, refreshing drinks. The kind of drinks you would enjoy while sitting out on an early summer evening watching the sun go down. Tall drinks with lots of ice and summer juices and fizzes that slide down just a little too easy. Tart, fruity drinks loaded with garden fresh goodness. Frozen, slushy, brain-freezing glasses of chillness.
Drinks made with gin and vodka, maybe a little rum or tequila, or perhaps a wine cooler or punch. Coolers, Mojitos, Sangría, Fizzes, Juleps, Collins, Cobblers, Bucks, Rickeys, Smashes. Yeah, like that.
So I've gathered together some of my favorites for you to enjoy this summer. Sit down, get comfy, this is a long list, I drink a lot in summer.
What's with all the red noses? What exactly is Red Nose Day? It's a campaign to "make a difference for kids in need" done with humor, comedy and fun. It's represented by wearing a big red clown nose, kind of a fun and playful version of the standard colored ribbon for other charities.
You might be asking what cocktails have to do with it, and that's a good question. Nothing. But not all beverages have to have alcohol in them and virgin cocktails, or mocktails if you prefer, are fun too. Especially for kids, because kids always want to rush to adulthood. When I was out to dinner with my parents I loved it when I got a Shirley Temple. Mom and dad would order that for me and a Roy Rogers for my brother when they ordered their Bourbon and Sevens and we loved them, those simple soda and Maraschino cherry drinks made us feel like grownups.
I love the idea and playfulness of the red nose to represent a charity for children, it's whimsical, funny and cheerful. I wanted to create a healthy, red drink for kids that incorporated that symbol and those qualities. It's for adults too, come on you don't always have to have booze to have fun!
Garnish: MUST have a Red Nose from Walgreens the kids (and adults) can wear! Plus; Watermelon balls (to mimic the red nose), A Lemon Twist, A Sprig of Fresh Mint, Tons of Bordeaux Maraschino Cherries, because that's the best part of the drink where kids are concerned! And Bordeaux Cherries aren't filled with food coloring and chemicals.
Oh, okay, if you legal drinking age folks MUST add some spirits, try adding in 1-1/2 ounces of good rum, vodka or tequila - but keep it away from the kids and donate an extra few bucks to Red Nose Day to assuage your guilt, you boozer! (Shhh, a little white rum did not hurt this drink at all!)
"Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness. We offer you these false gods. Take them and cast your light upon us. For the night is dark and full of terrors."
Melisandre, The Red Woman. Is she evil? Is she good? Let's do a quick checklist.
Good: she brought Jon Snow back to life. Of course she believes he's the reincarnation of legendary hero Azor Ahai, the "Prince That Was Promised", so this might have been a selfish move. Which she wasn't even sure she could accomplish. But she did and that's good. All I got for good so far. Except she looks really great in blood red.
Bad: In her effort to serve her God, R’hllor, the Lord of Light, she tried to get Stannis (whom she originally thought was the prince that was promised) a crown by creating murderous Shadow Demons and offering up Stannis' daughter as sacrifice to her quest, amongst other evil queen-ish maneuvers.
She also uses some form of magic to stay young. You might believe it's that ruby red necklace, I think she bathes in in the blood of newborn babies, or something equally Wicked Witch-ish.
To complicate things, there might even be another Red Woman making her presence known in upcoming episodes. A mysterious woman named Kinvara showed up in Meereen this season wearing the same ruby red necklace! Does she believe that Daenerys Targaryen is Azor Ahai?
Either way, I can't see any high priestess of R’hllor drinking anything but a spiced, blood red wine punch ... probably spiced with dried baby tears or desiccated bunny tails ...
Spiced Wine Punch
4 Oz. Malbec Wine
1/2 Oz. Kirschwasser
4 Large Strawberries, pureed
10 Fresh Raspberries, pureed
1 Oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 Oz. Spiced Simple Syrup*
Garnish: Frozen raspberries, A fresh strawberry and an anise pod
Tools: Cocktail shaker
Glass: Blood red goblet
Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake until icy cold.
Straight into your goblets, garnish and serve.
* Spiced Simple Syrup Recipe
5 Cardamom Seeds
1 Star Anise Pod
1 Small Stick of Cinnamon
3 Dried Orange Peels
1 Cup Cane Sugar
1 Cup Water
Bring all the ingredients to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer five minutes. Cool, strain and store, sealed and refrigerated, for up to a month.
This simple syrup can be used not only for cocktails, but for hot and cold tea, hot toddys and even for a spiced cocoa.
As for our Red Women, I leave it to you to work out who's good, evil or just plain fanatical, but keep this quote, from one of the good guys, in mind:
The Preakness is held every third Saturday of May at the Pimlico Race Track. Like all of the Triple Crown Races, it has it's own signature cocktail and that is the Black Eyed Susan, traditionally a vodka and citrus drink.
Named after the long-standing tradition of presenting the winner of the Preakness with a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, which is draped across the shoulders of the winning horse, this seriously maligned drink has changed recipes over the years, much like the Belmont Stakes cocktail. Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun said “like a racehorse that keeps changing jockeys, the Susan has changed recipes.”
From the original vodka, rum, triple sec, orange and pineapple juice version, the Susan has been served up as recipes that added peach schnapps or a shot of bourbon and even a splash of Elderflower liqueur. It all seems to depend on the bartender or which booze is sponsoring the race each year. Orange juice is a constant, while pineapple juice slips in every once in awhile. Even grapefruit juice was added at one time. The current official recipe calls for 1-1/2 ounces of Effen Vodka, 1 ounce of Maker's Mark Bourbon, with 2 ounces of orange juice, and 2 ounces of (ugh!) sour mix, garnished with a cocktail cherry and an orange slice. Two guesses who the alcohol sponsors are this year.
I don't like bourbon and vodka together and you all know what I think of sour mix. I've done my own cocktail versions for the Kentucky Derby as well as the above mentioned Belmont Stakes and, since no one seems to be able to make up their mind on the Black Eyed Susan, I figured I was well within my rights to toss my own recipe into the race!
Originally the cocktail started out with vodka and rum, then dropped the rum when vodka was having it's heyday at the turn of the millennium, then whiskey snuck in and sort of stuck along with the whiskey sponsor. Despite tradition, I'm just not into the vodka for this one. With the fruit juices I really want some alcohol with some muscle and a little age on it, so I'm going with rye and rum, both of which play very well with the pineapple and the orange. I also added a dash of bitters to cut the sweetness I've included with the coconut honey.
Garnish: Mandarin Orange Sections, Pineapple Chunks, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. (An edible yellow flower, like a calendula, is a really nice touch, if you can get a hold of them, mine are still in sprout stage. I was unable to find out if Black Eyed Susans are edible in any way, if anyone knows leave a comment.)
Robb ... Murdered at the Red Wedding, butchered by the Freys. I should have been with him. Where was I? I should have died with him."
When I decided to do a Red Wedding cocktail interpretation for Game Of Thrones all I kept seeing in my head was a New York Sour. Once known as a Continental Sour, later a Southern Whiskey Sour, the New York sour is a drink that starts out normal - as a Whiskey Sour - then just gets bloody as hell when the wine flows. Just like The Red Wedding when the wine is poured and the treachery begins.
A traditional New York sour consists of rye whiskey, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, an egg white then a dry red wine float. The bloody part is when you float that red wine over the back of a spoon and it floats on top of a cocktail slowly oozing down into the drink. Tell me it's not a perfect visual for the Red Wedding!
Every time I thought about the Red Wedding I kept seeing that wine flowing blood red onto the New York Sour, so I decided to go with it, only I pulled a little treachery of my own. I killed the whiskey off and replaced it with a beautiful aged rum making my variation more of a Peninsula Sour, then added a little spice to the sweet element by using a spiced honey instead of simple syrup.
The garnish of the long orange twist represents a Celtic knot, a tradition that symbolized the bond of marriage, a ceremony which preceded the exchanging of rings of modern weddings. It also represents the tangled web of deceit which wove itself through the machinations in Westeros before and during the Red Wedding.
The way I poured in the wine float represents the flowing of blood and betrayal over the purity of trust and union.
Take a channel knife and carefully start at the top of an orange and channel out a very long twist. Wrap this into knots and drape over a rustic wooden stick.
Dry shake (without ice) all ingredients except the red wine to emulsify the egg and create a foam. Shake again with ice to chill and dilute then strain into a chilled glass. Float the red wine over a spoon on top, garnish and serve.
"Not murder. It was vengeance, we had a right to our vengeance. It was war." ~ Merrett Frey
Wine is any alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. This includes sparkling wines like Champagne, fortified wines such as sherry, amaros or vermouth, distilled wines like brandy, cognac and Armagnac.
The oldest archaeological evidence of the existence of wine dates back 9,000 years to ancient china while other evidence suggests that the cultivation of grapes and wine making began in Mesopotamia and areas surrounding the Caspian Sea sometime between 6000 and 4000 BCE. The Bible states that Noah planted vines and made wine, the ancient Romans and Greeks were wild about the stuff and poets and philosophers waxed on about it throughout history.
What though youth gave love and roses, Age still leaves us friends and wine.
~ Thomas Moore
It's a fact, wine has been around a very long time, maybe as long as mankind itself. Who's to say some caveman didn't stumble into some "spoiled" (aka fermented) grapes and tie one on after barely escaping the jaws of a saber tooth tiger? Talk about a bad day at the office.
We have it a lot easier in today's world where kind and benevolent vintners provide us with all variety of the favorite drink of Bacchus and Dionysus. Thank the gods.
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
I admit it, I'm a Thronie. What's a Thronie? A ridiculously obsessed fan of George R. R. Martin's epic "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and HBO's series "Game of Thrones". Call me a geek and whip me with a Valeryian steel sword, I'm obsessed enough to do a whole slew of this fantasy world inspired cocktails. And I did.
As a history buff and fantasy fiction fan, it was the dragons and the Medievil, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Mongol hoard influences that sucked me right in. There's a little something in Game of Thrones for everybody, lots of booze, lots of sex, intrigue, drama, killing, mystacism, and even a bloody Red Wedding. And did I mention dire wolves and dragons? Love me some prehistoric, extinct canines and fire breathing bird ancestors.
And don't get me started on the banquets and drinking. I'm already there.
Several years back I created a berry infused Mother's Day Martini. In the years that have passed I have learned a bit more about cocktail preparation and I decided it was time to update the recipe a bit.
Normally I use fresh berries, but in this recipe I employed frozen berries to make use of the juice when they defrost. To get the berry juice you simply defrost the berries. In the bag will be all this lovely berry juice you can use in your cocktail. Set aside enough frozen berries for garnish. Yes, you can buy mixed berry juice, but garnish with frozen berries because they will help keep your cocktail chilled as you drink!
Why make Mom a special drink on Mother's Day? Because you're probably the reason she needs the drink.
Horse races and cocktails are made for each other. There's nothing better than a celebratory drink if you win, a consolation libation if you lose and a little liquid courage to make that bet. Having a drink while you cheer on your contender is all part of the race going experience and most of the major horse racing events have their signature cocktails.
Of course, I have done cocktail adaptations on each of the bespoke cocktails for the Triple Crown races. You know me, I can't leave well enough alone, I have to bring my own cocktail creativity to the racetrack. Below are my crafted cocktails created for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness & Belmont Stakes, as well as a few other race classics:
for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness & Belmont Stakes
In the mists of time of First Men and the Children of the Forest, from the Land of Always Winter, death and winter came to Westeros in the form of the White Walkers.
Que the present day Land of Ice and Fire and those buggers are back after a very long summer and all frozen hell is about to break lose on Game of Thrones.
We're going to need a magic potion and, fortunately, I just happen to have one, including a little magic trick and some mezcal.
That trick is one I use a lot in my frozen drinks and it employs a little blasting of extra cold. You can make a truly smooth, White Walker worthy iced cocktail by pre-freezing the cocktail mixture ahead of time. Because of the alcohol content the mix will not freeze solid but pre-freezing will help make a truly frozen drink, one with smaller ice crystals for a smoother drink. It's not absolutely necessary, you can simply blend the unfrozen ingredients with ice, but the cocktail will be more diluted and not White Walker level chilled.
Little Tip: You can store the frozen cocktail mixture for up to a week. Before an outing in my RV, where I didn't have a blender, I would often prepare frozen cocktails in my house ahead of time, pack them in baggies in my motorhome freezer, freeze them and then just take them out, squish them in my hands and pour them in the glass.
Tools: Large Ziplock Bag, Two Small Plates (to rim glass), Blender
Glass: Margarita or Cocktail
The night before, or first thing in the morning, of the day you want to serve your cocktails, combine all the ingredients, except the ice in the ziplock bag and zip it closed. Give the bag a couple of really good shakes and place it in the freezer.
Dip half the rim of the glass in some cream of coconut then into the coconut flakes then chill your glass in the freezer.
When you're ready to serve your cocktails, empty the semi-frozen mixture into your blender, add the ice and blend on the highest setting until smooth.
Pour into your chilled glass, create a big mound of icy goodness, drizzle the Blue Curacao over the top, letting it drip out the glass like the blood of the Night's King, and serve - with a straw so you don't get any White Walker blood on your hands.
This is an easy recipe to batch for multiple drinks, just multiply the ingredients times the number of drinks you want.
Yes, Bailey was on his Night Watch and got all up in my drink ... again.
"In that darkness the White Walkers came for the first time. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds." ~ Old Nan
Inspired by the classic Sidecar Cocktail, this is my version of a dessert cocktail based on the classic French dessert, Crêpes Suzette.
Crêpes Suzette is a French dessert featuring a crêpe with a sauce of caramelized sugar, butter, orange juice and zest, then topped with Grand Marnier or orange Curaçao liqueur which is then flambéed. I've taken the basic ingredients and weaved them into a classic Sidecar. For the famous showmanship of the flambéed sauce I tossed in the showmanship of a flamed orange twist!
If this doesn't impress your cocktail guests, then send them down to the local dive bar and give him a couple of bucks for a light beer, they are unworthy of your happy hour efforts!
Tools: Jigger, Cocktail shaker, Strainer, Matches or Lighter
Prepare your mini crêpes ahead of time.
Chill glass in the freezer.
Prepare your Orange Butter Simple Syrup (*Recipe below.) Set aside.
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until well chilled.
Strain into your glass.
Take 3 mini crêpes and soak them in the remaining orange butter simple syrup (taking care as the simple syrup will still be warm) then fold them in quarters. Drape one over the rim of the cocktail and serve the other two on a plate alongside.
Flaming an orange peel can be tricky. I warmed the orange peel a bit before flaming and got a bit too close but kind of liked that look of the singed edge:
I have to tell you, I am going to do melted butter simple syrups again for cocktails. This was absolutely delicious and the addition of salted butter just made this cocktail incredibly rich. It really was like drinking liquid Crêpes Suzette!
* ORANGE BUTTER SIMPLE SYRUP
1/2 Stick Salted Butter
Juice & Zest of 1 Large Orange
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
Melt the butter in a small sauté pan. Grate the orange zest over the butter then squeeze in the juice of the orange. Add the sugar and cook over high heat just until the syrup thickens, about a minute. Watch carefully, this can burn quickly. Stir in the Grand Marnier.
Set aside for your cocktail and allow to cool a bit.