Living in the dessert I don't have much of a garden. I keep a few herbs on the back deck protected from the deadly Arizona sun but fresh veggies and fruits are more work than I have time for. The one thing I do have in abundance are a variety of cactus and one day it occurred to me that I do have at least one fruit in my yard that could be used in a cocktail and other goodies. I grabbed my barbecue tongs, gloves and went a-harvesting.

Prickly pears protect themselves from the fauna of the desert with long, nasty spikes so you don't want to attempt to pick them with bare hands. If you just use gloves the gloves will get impregnated by the stickers and you'll be stuck sooner or later, so tongs are the perfect answer. You simply grab the fruit completely in the tongs and twist them off the nopales (the "Leaf").

My prickly pear fruits had a decidedly watermelon/kiwi flavor to them with, to my palate at least, a hint of cucumber. The fruit is heavily populated in the center with tough, black seeds which are supposedly edible but I strained them out along with any pulp. The fruit is a wonderful, dark magenta if perfectly ripe which brings a great amount of color to your cocktails.
According to the U.C. Small Farm Program, the flavor of the fruit “depends on the variety but includes strawberries, watermelons, honeydew melons, figs, bananas, and citrus. You can eat them raw, at room temperature or chilled, and alone or with lemon juice. They can be cooked into jams and preserves or cooked down into a syrup as a base for jelly and candy. This syrup can be reduced even further into a dark red or black paste that is fermented into a potent alcoholic drink called 'coloncha'. The fruit pulp can be dried and ground into flour for baking into small sweet cakes, or stored for future use.”

The reddish-purple prickly pear fruit (tuna) is high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and is purported to be prized as a hangover cure. Also known as the Cactus Pear and Indian Fig, the Prickly Pear is a part of the genus Opunti.

Here are the steps I took to get my Prickly Pear Juice:
First I washed all the pears in a strong stream of water, to clean them and remove as many of the soft glochids* as possible. Put on gardening gloves to do this! Grab the pear by both ends in several layers of paper towels and scrape off the rest of the glochids with a sharp paring knife.
Rinse the pear again to wash any of glochids off everything.

Slice off both ends, split the fruit down the middle and scrap the fruit out of the skin.
Puree all the fruit in a blender or food processor.

Strain this into a container through a fine metal strainer to remove seeds and pulp.
Have some tweezers and a magnifying glass handy in case you missed any glochids and they found their way onto your poor body.

I got one ounce of fresh juice from about eight small, ripe prickly pears. The darker purple the fruit the more ripe it is. Try to get to them before the critters do, we have wild javelina out here and they love prickly pear fruit.

While it was a fun and educating experience, after the day long, painful process with its disappointing yield, I have come to the conclusion that the javelina can have the prickly pear tunas in my yard. I'm just going to buy ready made cactus products.

A Little Bit of the Arizona Desert in a Cocktail Glass

1-1/2 Oz. Vodka
Juice of 1 Fresh Lime
Juice of 1/2 Fresh Lemon
1 Oz. Prickly Pear Juice
(If using Prickly Pear Syrup instead of juice, use 1/2 ounce and leave out the agave syrup!**)
1/2 Tsp. Dark Agave Syrup
Several Drops of Chipotle Sauce
1/8 Tsp of Lime Salt

Garnish: Jalapeno (Spicy) Chili Gummy Candies, Lime Wedge

Tools: Cocktail Shaker

Glass: Cocktail (Martini)

Chill your cocktail glass in the freezer.
Fill your cocktail shaker with ice, add the ingredients and shake until well chilled.
Strain into your chilled glass, garnish and serve.

A few days later I also made this fun, loaded Cactus Pear Margarita.

I found this lovely Cheri's Prickly Pear Syrup at the Tucson botanical gardens, but it is available on Amazon:

* Glochids are those teeny, fuzzy little stickers you can barely see and they are most irritating as they seem to be able to travel to unsuspecting areas. (When I was scrubbing, scraping and scooping out my fruit, several of the little buggers ended up in my fingers but one even ended up in a toe! There are so fine that you have to backlight them just to see them so you can grab the tops with tweezers and get them out. Nasty little buggers.)



HOMEMADE BERRY LIQUEURS, Raspberry and Blackberry

Today's Infusions? Raspberry and Blackberry!

Homemade berry liqueurs are a great addition to your bar and they are so easy to make there's no reason not to start adding a collection of your favorites to happy hour. It's just a matter of picking your favorite berries, adding 2 more ingredients and giving them some time to infuse.

You can use fresh or frozen berries, pick one or make some combos, it's your creative choice. My two choices this time were individual bottles of raspberry and blackberry. Primarily because berries were on sale and I can only eat and cook with so many before they go bad!

If you're using fresh berries, just make sure that there is no mold or soft spots and they are properly cleaned and dried. Frozen berries, without added sugar, are ready to use as is. All you need next is some good quality vodka. 100 proof spirits are best because the higher proof draws more flavor out of the berries quicker, but 80 proof works too. I find the 80 proof makes a milder sipping liqueur.

You can also infuse rum, whiskey and brandy and a vodka base with a bit of brandy added can be a nice touch as well. 


3 Cups Vodka (Whiskey, Rum, Brandy)
2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Berries, your choice
1 Cup Rich* Simple Syrup

Add the berries to a large, sterilized mason jar or capped bottle.
Pour in the spirits.
Shake daily and allow to infuse for 3 weeks.
Add the simple syrup, continue to shake daily and allowed to infuse for another week or two, taste testing for flavor.
Strain through cheesecloth (save the berries!) into a sterilized, caped bottle.
For extra depth of flavor and smoothness allow this to infuse for another week or two.

Remember I told you to save the berries? That's because these beautiful alcohol-infused berries are great as toppings on ice cream, pound cake and even pureed as a sauce. One tip, while infusing you will notice that the color might get drained from the berries along with the flavor so add some fresh or frozen berries to the boozy ones to put that color back in.

* Rich simple syrup is simply two cups of sugar and 1 cup of water heated until the sugar dissolves to create a syrup. Once the sugar has dissolved remove the simple syrup to cool then bottle. This will keep in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.




BLOODY CAESAR Cocktail Recipe

Everybody knows about the Bloody Mary, but many folks aren't aware that Canada has its own special version made with clam juice added to the tomato juice. Rumor has it the Bloody Caesar was invented by bartender Walter Chell who created the drink for the 1969 opening of Marcos restaurant.  It became such an instant hit in Canada that Mott's even came up with a juice inspired by the Bloody Caesar - Clamato.

Originally called simply a Caesar by Chell as a tribute to his Italian heritage, it took a patron at Marco's who exclaimed, "Walter, that's a damn good bloody Caesar" to mix in the Bloody.

BLOODY CAESAR Cocktail Recipe Ingredients & Directions


1–1½ Oz. Vodka
6 Oz. Clamato Juice
2 Dashes Hot Sauce
4 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce
Celery Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Garnish: Lime Wedge, Crisp Celery Stalk
(I am personally VERY fond of tossing is 3 or 4 giant garlic or pimento stuffed olives)
Glass: Highball

Add the ingredients to an ice filled highball glass, stir gently, garnish and serve.

P.S. if you really want to have some fun with this cocktail, especially on the Ides of March, smear some ketchup on the blade of a steak knife and lay that across the rim of the drink.


National Caesar Day, May 18th.
The Ides of March, March 15th.

Updated 3-2021





Okay, here's the deal. If you were too young to drink in the seventies then you shouldn't be writing anything about 70's cocktails. You weren't there, you don't know what most of us were drinking in the seventies or why we were drinking it. I was there, I was of drinking age, I know what people were drinking in the seventies and it wasn't drinks like Pink Ladies, Brandy Alexanders, Grasshoppers, Manhattans or Rob Roys. So all you under-60 booze bloggers out there, quit saying those are 70's cocktails.Those drinks were libations of prior decades, in the days when bars were spoken of easy or were dark, burgundy boothed (primarily male) bastions* of a quiet belt or two after work.

In those olden days your friendly neighborhood bartender had all the time in the world to carry on personal conversations and to flip a fancy "girly" drink or two to placate the few female patrons who dared enter the lion's den. Before women's lib, and the influx of disco balls and fern bars, most drinks sliding across the bar were macho glasses of whiskies, draft beers or the ever powerful gin martini. When the XX chromosome invaded Hoochville the bar scene DNA was altered permanently. Instead of an escape from family life and work pressures or an XY men's club of the hale and hearty, bars became the precursors to Tinder. They were where you went to hook up because, all the sudden, that's where all the dateable women were. Yes, there was a brief invasion during prohibition and the flapper era and a few wild moments during World War II, but until the seventies a woman alone, without a male escort, was pretty much missing, sometimes even barred** from the bar scene. Then boom, in comes the bra burning, convention busting, card carrying women's movement and the mating game had moved from the ice cream social circle and into the drinking establishment.

Back in the seventies, a few older people might order a dry martini, an Old Fashioned or a Pink Squirrel at their local watering hole before dinner, but those of us in our twenties were out at crowded meeting (meat market) places, dancing and partying for hours, hoping for a love connection. We were mostly unsophisticated drinkers, prone to sweet drinks, light alcohol coolers and beers that we could balance in one hand while doing the Hustle. We were circulating the crowded discos, cruising the hip, new fern bars* and drinking (and possibly taking a few hits on doobies) through the whole night. No drinks in coupes or martini glasses could withstand the Bump or being bumped in crowded discotheques and you couldn't belt down liquor only duos or guzzle sweet, booze only trios for hours (on top of, maybe, being stoned) and not end up with a raging hangover or worse, landing behind bars after not being able to touch your nose.

If you had the audacity to order something blended or complicated like the aforementioned Pink Ladies, Pink Squirrels or Grasshoppers (all popular 50s and 60s cocktails, by the way) at trendy venues that were serving tons of hot pants and bell bottom clad party animals every weekend, the so-called bartender(s) would most likely have shined you on. Not many craft cocktails were lovingly built by hand back in those days and blenders gathered dust in the back room, the bartenders were way too overworked (not to mention most were completely untrained and uninformed in the art of cocktails). The few exceptions were signature drinks served up with burgers and fries at a few eateries with liquor licenses, and those were usually premixed then sloshed into glasses just before being assaulted by a toxic cherry and tiny umbrella.

In what most cocktail historians rightly call the Dark Ages of Cocktails, we were subjected to some of the worst drinks a venue could mass produce at breakneck speed. Bottled and powdered mixes were a bartender's friend, draft beer their favorite order and a glass of rosé with a splash of soda reigned supreme. Bartenders hired for their youth and looks, not their cocktail expertise, were more interested in tips and scoring than in serving a proper cocktail. Multiple ingredient drinks, like Piña Coladas, were popular in the 70s, but those were mostly served up at in-vogue faux Tiki bars as lightweight booze icees from premixed containers, much like their fellow frozen margaritas and daiquiris were churned out at restaurant/hang-out chains like Houlihan’s from giant slurpee machines. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, had ever heard of artisnal bitters, farm to bar or bespoke booze. It was chaos in a cocktail glass and we didn't care as long as it was palatable and didn't make us too dizzy to dance.

If you preferred a stronger libation while quietly sitting out the fray, you might be sipping a Godfather, a White Russian, a Stinger or a Rusty Nail.  Whiskies on the rocks, 7 and 7's, and gin martinis were the drinks of our parents, we wanted nothing to do with them.

If you were out to get drunk instead of getting some booty or doing the Bump you had your choice of bad to worse there as well. Shots of layered sweet liquors topped with over-proof floats, like Kamikazes or B-52s, were tossed back with abandon while gyrating to Abba. Alcoholism in a glass swills like Long Island Iced Tea were gulped down, usually as a dare, to Donna Summer. There was no booze finesse to recreational drinking or to getting drunk in the seventies. We were after all, the generation of Annie Green Springs, Boone's Farm and Coors. We also had an affinity for dangerous shoes and silly drink names like Sex On The Beach, Fuzzy Navel and that friendly surfer dude Harvey Wallbanger.

There's been a resurgence and a new interest in 70's cocktails in recent years. It's been nearly fifty years but I guess everything old is new again. Barkeeps and mixologists, myself included, are cycling back to the drinks of the disco decade, bringing a 21st century sophistication and love of quality ingredients to the mistreated drinks of the Watergate and platform shoe era. After half a century maybe it's about time we attempted to apologize to the world of cocktails for a decade of disrespect.

All that being said, were the seventies a good time for cocktails? Hell, no! Did we still have a good time? Hell, yes! We didn't know any better, we were young and the only thing we cared about was enjoying ourselves. Are cocktails better now? Hell, yes! I'm older and wrinkled, but at least I can make and get a good cocktail now. And, if I miss the old days, I'll just hang a mirrored disco ball over my bar, dig out my platform boots and pop some KC and the Sunshine Band in my cassette player.

Staying Alive with the

(Recipes and Updated Recipes Linked In Titles)
Amaretto was big back East in the 70s, and the Sour was popular because, thanks to the sugar laden mixes used, there was nothing sour about it. If you want to experience this as a decent cocktail I've linked here to Jeff Morgenthaler's recipe.

Another East Coast seventies favorite, this was beef bouillon and vodka and a huge brunch favorite. I used the Bullshot as inspiration for my savory Thanksgiving Martini to great advantage.

A peach schnapps and orange juice nightmare. Just not worth investigating again.

Scotch and Amaretto. Actually one of the few 70's cocktails I still like.
Galliano was the one "exotic" liqueur that was embraced in the 70s, stocked primarily for Harvey Wallbangers. This fifties drink helped use up that bottle of Galliano.

With or without a salt rim, it was basically a grapefruit Screwdriver. Made with fresh juice and good vodka, it's still a worthy drink.

Probably THE drink most associated with the era and the reason Galliano could be found in nearly every bar in the seventies.

The deadly shot of vodka, triple sec and lime heard round the world, especially the morning after.

Maybe the original designer martini, the Lemon Drop was created in the seventies at the original fern bar, Henry Africa's* in San Francisco.

Though this is a tall drink, it was a sneaky, powerful punch of basically all booze and just a splash of cola that sent many an unwary disco dancer home with a DUI. Caution is called for here.

Churned out from pineapple coconut mixes, cheap rum and giant blenders with spigots. Here I link to several of my own variations made with quality rums and fresh ingredients.


The ubiquitous bar vodka and bottled orange juice. If you must, at least squeeze out fresh o.j. and use a good vodka.

This pre-prohibition cocktail of brandy and white creme de menthe lingered on into the seventies, probably because it was minty and sweet. It has a place as an after dinner cocktail.

This drink was HUGE after The Rolling Stones 1972 American Tour, aka “The Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour.” My version uses fresh juice, 1800 Tequila, homemade pomegranate syrup and a little kick from some fresh basil.

A leftover from the 60s, Collins drinks were a mainstay of neophyte boozers, basically they were lemonade made with vodka and Collins mix. I did a modern take with some hibiscus tea, hibiscus and rose syrup and, as always, fresh, quality ingredients.
Wine and soda spritzers were the graduation cocktail for the Mateus, Lancers and Boone's Farm aficionados. Sometimes fruit juice was added to make it a Wine Cooler. My updated version uses blackberry brandy, fresh juice and a bit of bubbly instead of the soda water.

A sweet sixties drink, made with coffee flavored liqueur and "cream" over ice, probably garnered its popularity because homemade Kahlua* was a big fad in the seventies. I do remember making my own homemade Kahlua, it was the first time I ever created an infusion. I like White Russians, I like Black Russians, heck, I like all Drunk Russians.

Now, if you must ... Disco on.
But do it with better cocktails!

* Norman Hobday, owner of the famed, original seventies fern bar, Henry Africa's, likened those pre-seventies bars to cocaine dens.
** As late as the early seventies women were barred from bars in some parts of the United States!

  Updated 2-2019




The word truffle immediately makes me think of decadence. From the naturally occurring mushroom-y truffle that is a costly, savory fungus to the delectable chocolate dessert confection more commonly associated with the term, both were originally foods of the wealthy only. The sweet, chocolate ganache versions were quite pricey as chocolate was a rare import and the savory, mushroom like truffle was a rare fungi, naturally growing on rotten logs that could only be sniffed out by specially trained pigs.


I'm surprised by the number of chocolate truffle lovers who are unaware that this candy was named after a mushroom like savory fungus. But maybe I shouldn't be, the price of the savory truffle (Tuber Genus, Ascomycete Fungus) is astronomical, sometimes coming in at $3,000 a pound or more. Not really something that can be picked up at your local A&P, so maybe it's understandable that when most folks think of truffles they first think of the more available dessert variety. But when you look at the original, classic chocolate truffle, a rolled ball of chocolate ganache covered in a fine cocoa dust, you can see the resemblance.


As for who invented the chocolate variety, some people credit August Escoffier in the 1930s while others claim it was Louis Dufour in 1895.  I tend to believe it was Louis Dafour, as Antoine Dafour, family relationship to Louis unknown, took the recipe to Prestat, the oldest confectionery in London, and started selling "Truffles" there in 1902. Plus, the earliest mention of chocolate truffles in print is in Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher, 19th edition published in 1920. Both these dates are prior to the purported Escoffier invention/discovery date.


I admit, myself, to a preference for the chocolate variety, possibly because they're affordable but also because I love chocolate more than I like earthy tasting fungi. Though a few shavings of that cost prohibitive fungal delight can send an average pasta dish straight to heaven. (And truffle salt ain't bad on popcorn, either.)

The traditional chocolate truffle was chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa powder. Modern chocolate truffles are also enrobed in chocolate, often with additional accents.

Below you will find mostly recipes inspired by the sweet truffle but I couldn't leave our at least one perfect, savory black truffle cocktail tribute.



National Truffle Day is May 2nd.

Updated 4-2019

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