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Category Archives: Vodka

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I know that to some of my friends it seems like I just open up the liquor cabinet at the Twilight Lounge, pull out a few seemingly random bottles and whip up a cocktail that’s delicious and nutritious, just like that.  Alright, well, actually, it does sometimes work like that.  However, more times than not it takes several iterations to get a cocktail where I want it.  This week was an example of the latter as I worked on tonight’s cocktail over a span of several days, until finally I was able to say “That’s It!” to myself.

I started off with the notion that I wanted to recreate a root beer float.  That meant using the root beer flavoring from LorAnn Oils.  But what else to use?  I decided on a base of vodka, which provides pretty much a blank slate to work with.  My first crack at it was 2 oz of vodka (Sobieski, for those of you keeping score at home), 2 drops of the root beer flavor and 1/4 ounce of grenadine.  This effort was ok.  The grenadine was subtle but there, but the root beer was also subtle, and I wanted this to be bolder.  I also didn’t get the creaminess that a root beer float would have, but I didn’t want to add ice cream.  The second iteration kept the same amount of vodka and grenadine, but I bumped up the root beer flavoring to 3 drops and added 1 egg white.  Much better, as the egg white added the creamy texture that I wanted, but the root beer was still a tad muted.  Finally, version three came through when I bumped up the root beer flavor to 4 drops.  Ah yes, now I had a tasty cocktail that is evocative of the root beer float flavor I wanted to emulate. 

  Root Beer Float

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 drops LorAnn Oil root beer flavor
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • 1 egg white

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake to combine and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

When you shake this drink (as with any drink containing egg whites) give it as hard a shake as you can for 30 seconds.  This is about 10 seconds longer than I normally shake cocktails, but it is essential to get the frothy emulsification you want from the egg.  Also, as I’ve noted before, I use pasteurized egg whites purchases from my local grocer in the cardboard container (just like the milk you got at school as a kid).  It’s much easier to add the egg white to a drink when I can pour it from a carton, not to mention safer.  I use 1/2 oz of egg white when the recipe calls for 1 egg white. 

Cheers!

April 25, 2011 – Toledo, OH

Ok, stepping back a bit here, to Monday, April 25th.  One of my new colleagues took me to The Attic on Adams for dinner and a couple of cocktails.  Dive bar was the first description that came to mind as we walked up the outdoor stairs to the Attic.  It’s situated on Adams Street above Mano’s Greek Restaurant.  A large bar open to both sides of the room dominated the main bar area and there’s also a pool table in a side room.  New twists on traditional pub fare were on the menu, but what really caught my eye were the homemade infused vodkas.

Now I know, and before you go all postal on me, yes, I usually don’t like flavored vodkas.  But when it’s homemade flavored vodka, all bets are off.  And the Attic’s vodkas are both good and creative!  At the suggestion of our bartender, the effervescent Amelia, I started with a homemade apple – watermelon infused vodka that was served with lemonade and ginger ale, garnished with a lime.

  

Delicious is the only way to describe this cocktail.  Light, refreshing with the apple and watermelon clearly coming through.  It was fruity without being sweet and the kind of cocktail I could drink all day by the pool during the summer.  Amelia was dead on with this one!

Since she did such a good job with the first I was ready to follow her recommendation for the second cocktail of the evening.  This drink featured the Attic’s homemade salsa vodka.  That’s right, salsa vodka.  It was vodka infused with tomato, garlic, jalapeno, onion and cilantro.  It is served with pineapple juice and just a splash of lime juice and orange juice.

Damn, this was fantastic!  I wanted to grab a bowl of tortilla chips and dig in!  The salted rim (done at my suggestion) really finished off the presentation of this cocktail.  It truly tasted like liquid salsa – with a punch! 

If you find yourself near downtown Toledo, take the time to find the Attic and try one of their homemade flavored vodkas.  You won’t be disappointed.  I know they’ve inspired me to try some of my own this summer.

Day 359, Cocktail 360

While the new job has kept me busy, fortunately, there are opportunities to try new cocktails.  Last night was just one of those opportunities.  While at a local hangout in the Dells I had the chance to try a cocktail called the Cherry Drop.  Yes, it was made with flavored vodka, but….it was easier than try to teach the bartender to make something new…  Truth be told, it was nice, refreshing cocktail.  It consisted of white cherry vodka, lemon juice, bar syrup and was topped with seltzer water.  The sugared rim was a bit over the top, but it was a nice, refreshing sipper.  I’m sure this would have tasted even better on a warm summer day poolside!

So, I’m really into the home stretch now, with just five cocktails to go in the next six days.  Stay tuned as the journey hits its last few laps!

Cheers!

Day 328, Cocktail 334

Last Saturday our friend Jenny threw a surprise 40th birthday party for her husband Kevin.  They had just finished their basement, including a nice bar set up.  Naturally, our gift to Kevin was a variety of barware and a bottle of vodka, Cointreau, some ginger beer, lemons and limes.  To go with this starter package was a list of four cocktails that could be made from the box.  On that list were the Moscow Mule, Kamikaze, Lemon Drop and Caipiroska.  Another advantage of inviting me and Gwen to the party is that you get a built in bartender!

I actually started out the evening sticking with the Moscow Mule, which I’ve had before is in the index.  Simple and straightforward, it is the cocktail that turned America into a vodka drinkers in the 1940’s.  Using ginger beer instead of ginger ale really makes this a treat!  However, after a couple of the mules (and a Cincinnati loss to UConn in the tournament) I was ready for something different and tried out the Lemon Drop.

  Lemon Drop

  • 1-1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1-1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz orange juice

Rub the edge of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon wedge and then rim with sugar.  Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I used Luksusowa, a good Polish potato vodka.  This is a nice, girly cocktail, with the lemon and orange flavors sweetening the vodka.  If you like Cosmopolitans then you will like this one as well.

A word about vodka.  Please, please, please, don’t overspend on vodka!  You can easily spend $40 to $50 on premium vodkas.  However, unless you are a master distiller who has spent a lifetime tasting and comparing distilled spirits, you will not be able to distinguish the difference between a $20 vodka and a $50 vodka.  If you want to keep one premium around, and in the freezer, for shots (which I sometimes do), that’s fine.  My current selection of vodka includes two premiums, Grey Goose (given to me as a gift) and Chopin (purchased on sale for $30, $20 off the regular price).  The rest of my vodka selection is Sobieski and Luksusowa, both value priced at around $20 for a 1.75L. 

Cheers!

Day 313, Cocktails 314 & 315

Two new cocktails were created at the Twilight Lounge last Friday night.  You’ll be welcome to have the first, the Pear Tequila, anytime that you come by.  This was the first of the night and was inspired by my simple desire to play around with the Old Ballycastle Ginger and tequila.  I have no idea what put that idea into my head, but it was there so I went with it.

The second drink of the night was the End Of The Line (pictured).  I decided to use Kajmir, the vanilla flavored brandy – vodka blend.  And why did I name it End Of The Line?  Well, I’m almost out of Kajmir, and since it is no longer made, when its gone, its gone…of course, freeing up a space for a bottle of something else (hehe).  So, I’ll get back to this in a minute, but first I want to go back to the Pear Tequila.

  Pear Tequila

  • 1-3/4 oz Cazadores tequila
  • 1-1/2 oz Mathilde Poire liqueur
  • 3/4 oz Old Ballycastle Ginger
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice cubes and stir to mix and chill.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

This turned out to be pretty good.  The recipe above was the second iteration – I had too much tequila and not enough Mathilde and Old Ballycastle in the original attempt.  It’s a multi-layered cocktail, with the pear and ginger flavors both subtly intertwined and complimenting the Cazadores nicely.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

With my first effort under my belt, I turned my attention to my nearly empty bottle of Kajmir.  I really don’t know what led me to pull out … maybe it was just my desire to clear out a space for something new.  Whatever the reason, as I sniffed the now open bottle I started thinking about what else could I pair with this to create a cocktail.  I wanted to stick with the Old Ballycastle Ginger, but I’d need something else as well.  I finally settled on orgeat as my third flavoring ingredient.

  End Of The Line

  • 2 oz Kajmir
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1/4 oz Old Ballycastle Ginger
  • 1/8 oz orgeat

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice cubes and stir to mix and chill.  Strain into a rocks glass with an ice ball.  No garnish needed.

This is also a very nice cocktail…a hint of nuttiness from the orgeat, a bit of spice from the ginger and the smooth, slighty smokey vanilla of the Kajmir.  I added the extra shot of vodka (I used Sobieski) to give this drink at list a little heft since the Kajmir is only 40 proof.

I’d ask you to try this one out as well, but unless your one of the three people in the world who still have a bottle, you’ll have a tough time finding it.  Of course, if you get over to the Twilight Lounge soon, I still have enough for a couple more!

Cheers!

Day 293, Cocktails 291 & 292

Saturday night and daughter number 1 was hosting a boy / girl Valentine’s Party in the Twilight Lounge.  That means two things.  First, Gwen and I got to stay home Saturday night to chaperone.  Second, the liquor cabinets were locked for the night as well!  What to do, then?  Well, a little advanced planning and move a few key bottles upstairs to the kitchen, that’s what to do!

I had a full bottle of pomegranate juice that had been around a for awhile and decided it was time to put it to use.  I poked around Colleen Graham’s cocktail blog (see the links list below) and found something called the Blushing Geisha.  I didn’t have the rose water that it called for, but went ahead anyway with this variant (that is the beauty of cocktails – you can change ’em any way you want to!).

  Blushing Geisha

  • 2 oz Ty Ku
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/8 oz lemon juice
  • seltzer water

In a shaker combine the Ty Ku, pomegranate juice and lemon juice.  Shake to chill and combine.  Strain into a rocks glass filled 2/3 with ice.  Top with seltzer water. 

I was really suprised how well the Ty Ku flavors, especially the melon tones, came through in this drink.  I really expected the pomegranate to overpower the drink, but it didn’t.  This turned out to be a very nice showcase for the Ty Ku and would make a great cocktail for a warm summer night – and those aren’t that far off around here.

Next up was a totally off the cuff creation.  I had already figured to use vodka and the pomegranate in some type of cosmo type concoction.  Hmmm, I wonder how the Lillet Blanc would play with these?  And what about staying Asian themed by using some lychee juice?  Here’s what I came up with.

  Lychee Pom

  • 1-1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup
  • 1/8 oz lychee juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lychee fruit or leave ungarnished.

Wow, does the lychee ever stand clear!  It’s amazing the flavor that is packed into the lychee juice.  Sweet, and the closest I can come to describe it is pear flavors, but not quite as syrupy as pears are.  Either way, the small amount in this drink was still enough to have it become the defining the flavor, with notes of orange and floral flavors coming from the Lillet Blanc.  We enjoyed this one so much that we each had two.  By the time we were through with the second the party was also finishing up and we called it a night.

Cheers!

Day 257, Cocktail 256

Friday night was a date night for Gwen and me.  No kids, no friends, no worries, just the two of us (isn’t that a song?)  I decided to try someplace new and did a web search for Milwaukee bistro.  A number of interesting choices popped up and I chose one that was relatively close to home – NSB Bar and Grill.  Formerly known as the North Shore Bistro it has undergone a few changes, including the name.

When we arrived it was going to be 10 – 15 minutes for a table.  Fortunately, there were seats at the bar (I know, a shock that we’d wait at the bar), which ran the length of the dining room.  I was pleased to see that it was well stocked with liquor and liqueurs and also pleased to see a number of tempting selections on the speciality cocktail list.  While Gwen went for her usual dirty Bombay martini I opted to try out the Pear Flower.  This consisted of Grey Goose la Poire, St. Germain, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and bar syrup.  The result is pictured here and was delicious!  The pear flavored Grey Goose was a perfect match for the St. Germain and grapefruit juice.  The lemon juice added just the right amount of sour to offset the sweetness of the St. Germain.  Regular readers know that I’m no fan of flavored vodkas, but this cocktail makes a strong case for them. 

As for dinner, Gwen had the Pan Seared Tilapia with Pistachio Lemon Butter while I opted for the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Both meals were also very good and made for a great evening out for us.

Cheers!

Day 255, Cocktails 253 & 254

My good friend and associate Miles was in town Wednesday night and we got together for a few cocktails.  Getting together with Miles is always fun, in part because he is knowledgeable about wine, beer and spirits (I guess that part time gig at the wine store helps) and we always have some good conversation as well as good drinks.

Miles is a huge Bryant’s fan, but I suggested we try Cafe Lulu first since he had not been there and we could grab some food if need be.  The menu, cocktails and patrons at Lulu are an eclectic bunch, which makes the place that much more interesting.  The cocktail I had there was a Sweet Violet and consists of Rehorst vodka (a locally distilled product), Pages Creme de Violette and a splash of sour.  The attraction of this cocktail is the Creme de Violette, which until just a couple of years ago, was virtually unavailable in the US.  Fortuntately, it is back and is helping make tasty cocktails again.  This was a good cocktail, with the floral flavor of the Creme de Violette nicely accented by the sour.  Since vodka was the base, there was no disconcerting collisions in this drink.  Definately a winner!

After our drink at Lulu’s Miles was ready to head back to Bryant’s and I was happy to oblige.  John and Emily were manning the bar when we arrived.  I asked for something with bourbon and ginger flavors.  John obliged me with something he called a Dana and Dan cocktail.  It was bourbon, ginger beer and peach schnapps, served in a collins glass on ice.  It was delicious!  The strong and slightly spicey ginger of the ginger beer held up well against the bourbon and the peach schnapps provided a nice fruity note on the end of this drink.  Well done, again, John!

After a cocktail at Bryant’s we were both ready to call it a night (hey, it was a school night!).  You can be sure, though, that I’m looking forward to Miles’ next visit!

Cheers!

Day 254, Cocktail 252

Do not attempt to adjust your television…This is what happens when you have one too many.

OK, seriously, are there any Twilight Zone fans out there?  One, two, that’s it, just two?  Oh well.  At least my troll’s hair color matches tonight’s cocktail.

So, I concocted this cocktail on Tuesday, trying to use up my pomegranate juice after I realized it has a relatively short shelf life.  But that’s OK, because it’s good for you, right?  Well it is, but I just read a report today in Business Week magazine that states that the health effects of pomegranate juice have been overhyped, the company that makes POM Wonderful is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for making unfounded health claims and that pomegranate juice is no better for you than good ‘ol orange juice.  *Sigh”  At least it tastes good in cocktails.

  POM Wonderful

  • 2 oz rasberry flavored vodka
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake the night away.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime peel. 

Ok, ok, yes, I used flavored vodka!  It was purchased during a moment of weakness nearly 2 years ago and I’m trying to get rid of the stuff!  Other than that, this is a tasty little number, similar to that chick fave the Cosmopolitan (conscpicous in its continued absence from this blog).  In fact, Gwen asked for another one tonight, cementing its place in the chick cocktail section of my recipe rolodex.

It’s back to real cocktails in my next post (hmmm, must have been to Bryant’s again).

Cheers!

Day 247, Cocktails 244 & 245

New Year’s Eve is rapidly approaching and I’ve been getting ready for first ever New Year’s Eve party at the Twilight Lounge.  Not that it’s the first New Year’s Eve party we’ve ever hosted, just the first at the Lounge mind you.  Although we haven’t decided yet what to wear on Friday night, I think Josephine Baker has the right idea.  If there is ever a night to wear a tuxedo, it’s New Year’s Eve!

So, on Tuesday, I was idly perusing The Martini Book when I stumbled upon a cocktail called the Tuxedo.  Perfect for my needs, heh?  When I saw maraschino liqueur and orange bitters I just knew I’d have to try it.

  Tuxedo

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1-1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/8 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 4 dashes orange bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.

Mmmmm, this is pretty good.  It combines two of my favorite flavors, the maraschino liqueur and orange bitters.  However, as I sipped it I had a tough time really getting the maraschino flavors to come forward.  They were hidden by the vermouth, at least to my taste buds.  So, for round two I headed back to the bar and tinkered and came up with an improved (at least in my humble opinion) Tuxedo.

  Tuxedo Deluxe

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 4 dashes orange bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.

Now we’re cooking!  This was the just right blend of vermouth, maraschino and bitters, swimming in a pool of vodka.  I loved this drink and will probably have one on New Year’s Eve! 

Do you have a favorite that you’ve made your own by tinkering with it?  If so, let me know, I’d love to try it out!

Cheers!