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MV5BMTk5MjI4MzIxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwODU1MDQ5__V1_UY268_CR6,0,182,268_AL_Milwaukee, WI – March 28, 2016

It was an unusually warm spring day that found me in Milwaukee’s Eastside at dinner time not too long ago.  I have to admit that when I first moved to Milwaukee and heard people talk about the Eastside I really thought they were pulling my leg – I mean, c’mon, there is no east side to Milwaukee, it’s the lake for crying out loud!  I finally asked a coworker one day and received the explanation that it was the area east of the Milwaukee River.  Now that made sense!

Soooo, being in the neighborhood early evening for business led to staying there for dinner and then a cocktail (well, maybe two) at Fink’s.  I enjoy the combination of neighborhood, slighty dive atmosphere (including the pinball machines at the back), friendly bartenders and the great craft cocktails.  So while watching old black and white episodes of The Twilight Zone on the TV behind the bar I ordered a Big Trouble in Little Cynar from the seasonal drink menu.

What drew me in initially to the Big Trouble was the Old Overholt Rye (it’s been too long since I’ve had that) and the Cynar.  I’m on a bitter kick these days and Cynar, the bittersweet artichoke liqueur fits the bill nicely.  Rounding out the Manhattan style cocktail was Carpano Antica, a deep and luxurious sweet vermouth.

So, how was it?  Delicious!  So much so that I had two!  The whiskey is there on the front and complimented with a slightly bitter and deep, smokey flavor on the back end.

The next time you find yourself on Milwaukee’s Eastside, definitely check out Fink’s!

Cheers!

_tiajuana

The Twilight Lounge – March 27, 2016

Ok, so it’s a not a true Tia Juana, but it’s pretty close…

I’ve continued to look for cocktails to use my bottle of Suze in and often find myself substituting the Suze for Campari since they are so close in flavor and taste.  So last Sunday I found myself doing so with a cocktail called the Tia Juana.

Suze Tia Juana

  • 1/2 oz Suze
  • 1-1/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 1-1/2 oz tequila

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I used Noilly Prat vermouth and Cazadores tequila.  The yellow Suze combined with the Noilly Prat and Cazadores provides a deep gold color that is delightful to see in the glass.  The vermouth was front and center with the first sip, with a slightly bitter finish provided by the Suze.  As the cocktail warmed over the 30 minutes or so that I sipped it the vermouth did fade a bit.  Interestingly enough the tequila stays very subdued throughout, so if you are looking for something that tastes like tequila, Tia Juana isn’t for you.  In fact, for an all booze drink, this one does not taste boozy at all.

What drinks have you substituted ingredients for and how did it turn out?

Cheers!

Shamrock

The Twilight Lounge – March 12, 2016

Continuing on the Irish whiskey theme I stumbled upon the Shamrock while thumbing through The Ultimate Bar Book this afternoon.  In addition to being a whiskey drink, it would help use up the Crème de Menthe I’d been sitting on for far too long.  It’s not often outside of Christmas that I get to use it!

The Shamrock

  • 1-1/2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Crème de Menthe
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • maraschino cherry

Combine all the ingredients except the cherry in a shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously and strain into a old fashioned glass filled with ice.  Garnish with the cherry.

It is minty and it is creamy…and the whiskey is well hidden behind those two.  Aside from it being green and sweet, I’m not sure what else to think about this cocktail.  If we weren’t heading into St. Patrick’s day I’m pretty sure this would not have ever found a way into a glass raised to my lips.  But I suspect if you are a fan of ice cream drinks then you’ll enjoy this one.

Cheers!

shamusderp1

The Twilight Lounge – March 12, 2016

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and as is usual, I’ll be pub crawling all day with my pal Mike.  We’ve been doing our St. Patrick’s day drink fest for 6 or 7 years and this year will be no different.  We’ll start at 6am at Bub’s Irish Pub in Germantown, work our way to Erin for post parade fun at the Tally Ho and then work back towards town.  There will be plenty of Irish whiskey, Guinness, corned beef and fair lasses in green to be sure!

As a prelude to the glorious day itself, I’ve been enjoying Irish inspired cocktails.  This one in particular caught my eye as I perused the Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich.

Dancing Leprechaun

  • 1-1/2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Drambuie
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • ginger beer

Add the whiskey, Drambuie and lemon juice to a shaker with ice.  Shake then strain into an ice filled Collins glass.  Add ginger beer to the top, stir and garnish with a lemon twist.

I used Tullamore Dew whiskey, which I like as much for it’s reasonable cost as I do it’s slightly smoky flavor.  Irish whiskey and ginger beer has long been a favorite of mine, and this cocktail is a nice twist on the typical Irish and ginger beer.  The Drambuie gives a bit of sweetness and a spicy, nutty flavor that I enjoyed.  It’s a refreshing cocktail that would be fun on a warm summer day (soon to be here) as well as on St. Patrick’s Day.

Cheers!

 

hes back

The Twilight Lounge – March 5, 2016

It’s been a long and winding road…but I’m back and ready for more cocktails, fun and who knows what else!

I have been itching to get back to work here for awhile now.  I finally was pushed over the top this week while at Half Barrel in Rochester, MN (which I highly recommend checking out – a great selection of whiskies, great cocktails and very good food).  I started to chat with Kelsey, who was also there on business, about craft cocktails.  Finally, the bartender, whose name, regretfully, I did not get, joined in our conversation.  One thing led to another and the topic of my blog came up.  The bartender, based on the conversation, said he’d seen my blog.  I was stunned and said no way!  So I pulled it up on my phone and he said yeah, I’ve been on here a lot and read it and liked a lot of your cocktails!  I was blown away!  And resolved to return, so hear we are…

A few weeks ago I hosted a small gathering at my home and a friend brought me a bottle of Suze.  It is a liqueur made from gentian, a pretty tropical flowering plant.  The color is bright yellow, similar to Galliano, and the flavor is bitter with floral and spice hints.  It’s not unlike Campari although not as bitter.  Katie had seen it a local liquor store and it was new to her (as it was me) and she figured if anyone could make cocktails with it, it was me.

It took several attempts.  I started with vodka as a base, but that just didn’t have enough flavor to balance the Suze.  At the suggestion of my cocktail buddy Mark I switched to gin, using Beefeater, my go to London dry.  We got close with Beefeater, Suze, lemon juice and bar syrup, but it wasn’t quite there.

Finally, last night, with a light snow falling outside and me deciding to come home early I went back into the Twilight Lounge and took another crack at it.  This time I decided to use it more like bitters and did a mashup of a Martini and Manhattan.  Thus, the Inspiration was born.

The Inspiration

  • 2oz Beefeater gin
  • 1/2 oz Suze
  • 1/8 oz Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

On the first sip there was a smoky, velvety texture with a slight bitter aftertaste from the Suze, pleasing to my palate.  The Suze is evident but complimented by the botanicals from the gin.  After a few more sips a slightly nutty flavor was also evident adding a little more depth to the taste profile.  It’s a nice sipper and definitely something your friends have not had!

Cheers!

 

Gloom LifterRockford, IL – December 2, 2014

Business recently took me to Rockford, IL and there I discovered Alchemy.  It’s part craft beer, part craft cocktails and part craft pizza.  While I enjoyed the pizza I had, I really enjoyed the cocktails!

First was the Gloom Lifter.  It starts with Tullamore Dew as the base, but what really caught my eye was the egg whites.  It also has lemon juice, raspberries and flamed bitters in the mix.  Served in an elegant coupe this was a very well balanced and proportioned cocktail.  Cinnamon and cardamom on the nose the cocktail was light, slightly sweet and smokey.  I was a little disappointed that there was no spiciness in the taste, but it was overall an excellent cocktail and will be sure to lift the gloom of winter!

The second cocktail I enjoyed was the Cold & Heavy Snow.  Using Milagro silver tequila as its base I was drawn to it with the house made ginger beer.  Finishing off the cocktail is lime juice, cider and cinnamon.  I really enjoyed the this cocktail – the ginger beer was spicy and well made and the cider and cinnamon added a bit of holiday cheer.  Another winner.

If your travels take you to Rockford, Alchemy is worth a stop!

Tequila ShotMinneapolis, MN – May 14, 2013

A couple of weeks before a team meeting scheduled for Minneapolis, my team leader called me and asked me if I could help with a very important assignment that would be right up my alley.  I was excited as I wondered what did he have in mind?  A market study?  New technology?  Ha!

No, the assignment was to put together a tequila tasting at the Mexican restaurant we would be going to for dinner one of the evenings of our meetings.  OK, so he was right, this was right up my alley!

The dinner was to be held at Barrios, a very nice Mexican restaurant in downtown Minneapolis that features small plates and hundreds of tequilas.  I the bar manager a week or so before the dinner to find out what they did have and select two for our tasting.  While difficult, I did manage to select two that covered the broad range of tequilas that are available.

The first was Herradura Anejo.  Herradura represents the tradition of tequila.  The distillery has been in operation since 1870, although is, unfortunately, no longer a family operation, having been sold to Brown Forman in 2006.  However, the old ways are still followed with this lowlands tequila.  It is aged for 25 months in oak, is 80 proof and is a wonderful example of a classic aged tequila.  During our tasting it exhibited a vanilla and oak character with a touch of agave on the finish.

The second tequila of the evening was the Milagro Barrel Select.  Milagro (Spanish for miracle) is a new comer to the tequila scene and has only been in operation since 1997.  Founded by Danny Schneweiss and Moy Guindi, the objective was to have a tequila that retained the character of Mexico.  This is a highlands tequila and was aged in oak for 35 days, although is still considered a Blanco (silver or white tequila).  It is triple distilled which helps create the smooth character and leaves a charcoal flavor on the palate.  Agave, herbal and vanilla notes on the back end round out the flavor profiles.

All in all it was an educational experience – we had an aged and new tequila, we had an old family product and one from a new upstart and we had a highlands and a lowlands tequila.  Only 138 left to go on Barrio’s menu!

Cheers!

grapefruit-jimmy-cagneyThe Twilight Lounge – February 12, 2013

As reported in my last post, I was recently in Florida.  And what do I do when I come home from Florida?  I bring home a case of Indian River grapefruit, of course – doesn’t everyone?  And just what the heck do I do with a case of grapefruit?  Make cocktails, of course!

So on the first day of spring training workouts for my beloved Cleveland Indians I thought it would be appropriate to come up with something new using all that grapefruit I have (yeah, I know, the Tribe is in Arizona, but I didn’t have any cactus laying around the Lounge).  As I thought about how to use the white grapefruit I pulled out the gin and St. Germain.  A bit of orgeat seemed in order as well as the Agnostura bitters.  Wow!  It’s not often that I hit one out of the park on the first try, but today I did.

Grapefruit League

  • 1-1/2 oz London Dry gin
  • 3/4 oz St. Germain
  • 1 bar spoon orgeat
  • 1 dash bitters
  • grapefruit juice

Combine all the ingredients but the grapefruit juice in a collins glass with a couple of ice cubes and stir.  Fill the glass the rest of the way with ice and then top with grapefruit juice, stirring again.

Very well balanced with the orgeat and St. Germain sweetening the tart grapefruit juice just enough so that the grapefruit still shines through.  The gin provides a nice base with a bit more punch than vodka would and the bitters help tie it all together into a nice, refreshing package.  The perfect sipper while contemplating dreams of World Series titles for my Indians – shhh, don’t spoil the moment for me!

Cheers!

Broken Down Golf CartOrlando, FL – January 30, 2013

Late January and I found myself at a trade show in Orlando.  Orlando is as about exciting for trade shows as, well, let’s just say it wasn’t Vegas (sight of last year’s trade show).  I mean, the bars actually close!  On the flip side, I did actually get some golf in on this trip, which is always nice considering golf in January is a non starter in Wisconsin.

Sooo, late one night, as the bartenders were shutting down the hotel bar I found myself with two of my peers and staring at the green goo you see to the left.  We had just watched someone else order a Broken Down Golf Cart, and one of us (not me!) decided it would be a good idea if we had a round of them as well before calling it a night.  Being the team player I am, of course I went along for the ride.

Broken Down Golf Cart

  • 1/2 oz Amaretto
  • 1/2 oz Midori
  • dash lime juice

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Strain into a shooter glass and down it in one shot.

Despite the green swamp water appearance, this actually is a decent shooter.  The melon of the Midori plays well with the almond of the Amaretto.  It has a good beat and I can dance to it, so I’d give it an 8.

Cheers!

 

Honey Boo Boo MartiniWisconsin Dells, WI – November 20, 2012

….and I don’t feel fine!

I had remained blissfully unaware of the existence of that overweight and underbrained miscreant knows as Honey Boo Boo until she was brought to my attention last fall, by my boss, of all people!  Since then I’ve lamented her as a sure sign of the apocolypse and have worked hard to avoid her and her “family”.

Frankly, I had been doing a pretty good job of that avoidance…until I walked into the bar at the House of Embers in Wisconsin Dells…and was greeted by the sign at left.  Arrrrgh!  I wanted to poke my eyes out!  And no, I did not have one!  You all know my disdain for flavored vodkas – and this has two of them!  In fact, I had to order a double Bombay martini to wash the taste out of the mouth.  In fact, just writing this has brought back horrible memories that will require another Bombay martini to wash away!

Cheers!