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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!

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AP BRITAIN NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATIONS I GBRThe Twilight Lounge – January 4, 2013

Happy New Year!  It was an odd New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day for me.  First, half the family (Gwen and daughter number 1) were in London for the New Year’s Day parade, which daughter number 1 was in.  Second, I was at Disney in Florida with daughter number 2.  Sooo, no holiday party this season at the Twilight Lounge (much to the chagrin of some of our friends) and, amazingly for me, no booze, no champagne, no beer, no nothing on New Year’s Eve.  I think I was 15 the last time that happened!

Finally, yesterday we were all back together.  Tonight was movie and cocktail night.  Hmmm…a new bottle of gin from London (Brokers), a case of fresh Indian River white grapefruit from Florida.  Yeah, you know where this is going.

London Calling

  • 3 oz Brokers gin
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters
  • 1-1/2 oz St. Germain
  • fresh white grapefruit juice
  • tonic water

 

Combine the gin, orgeat, bitters and St. Germain in a mixing glass without ice.  Stir vigoursly to mix.  Pour into a collins glass filled with ice, fill to nearly the top with grapefruit juice and add a splash of tonic water.  Stir and serve.

I loved this one – and nailed it on my first attempt!  The orgeat and St. Germain compliment the grapefruit and cut its tartness just enough.  It’s not sweet, but not bitter either.   The gin gives a nice base and just a hint of juniper comes through, adding a layer of complexity that vodka would not add.

So, the next time you take a split vacation between London and Florida, you know what to have to drink!  Mind the gap and stay calm and carry on!

Cheers!

Lincoln, NE – August 8, 2012

Another trip to the heartland (it’s pretty easy to see why Springsteen went to Nebraska to record “Nebraska”) and another opportunity to sample what Lincoln offers – which is a lot!

I had the evening by myself.  I’d walked by Dish on my earlier visits and decided to try it out this time.  I was there on a Wednesday night, and it was fairly quiet, which suited me as I pulled up a seat at the bar.

I was greeted by Teresa behind the bar and quickly learned that she had the cocktail mixing chops to go with the excellent selection of liquor and liqueurs behind the bar.  She made me a two speciality cocktails, with a Scapa single malt whiskey sandwiched in between, and all were excellent.

The first cocktail was their riff on a Manhattan that featured orange and allspice infused Maker’s Mark, just a splash of sweet vermouth and Agnostura bitters.  I had it on the rocks and enjoyed it.  Normally, I would consider infusing Maker’s with anything to be heresay, but this worked well.  Frankly, as I shared with Teresa, it was very similar in taste to a Twilight Lounge favorite, which is just to add a dash of orange bitters to rye whiskey on the rocks.

My second drink of the evening was the very straight forward Scapa with just a single ice cube.   I could almost taste the salt spray on my lips as I sipped this for the first time.  It wasn’t as smokey as I usually like in a single malt, but it was delightfully smooth with a hint of vanilla (which would have made the perfect after dinner scotch for me this night).  

 The last cocktail effort of the night was a blend of Hendrick gin and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur with a bit of lemon.  I nice way to finish the evening.

The off menu dinner and dessert specials that she suggested were also spot on.  The shrimp and scallps were perfectly grilled and served with jasmine rice, spinach and a pepper pesto type creation.  The portion size was just right.  Dessert was an amazing homemade vanilla ice cream on top of a pecan chocolate brownie with rasberries, black cherries and an incredible Bailey’s Irish Cream sauce.  It was awesome!

I”m looking forward to my next trip to Lincoln — Thanks Teresa!

The Twilight Lounge – February 3, 2012

Friday night was movie night around here and I had selected Patton to watch.  This definitely called for a cocktail, and I was in the mood for something new and different.  I also had a taste for St. Germain, so I went to their website to see what the had and found the Elder Fashion.  A twist on the Old Fashioned, and very straightforward to make, I decided to give it a whirl.

The original recipe called for rye whiskey, St. Germain and Angostura bitters, garnished with an orange slice.  I made the first one that way, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted – it was missing the orange/cherry components of the Old Fashioned.  So when I mixed up the second one I used orange bitters rather than Angostura.  That hit the spot!  I’ve always enjoyed the flavor of rye whiskey with orange bitters, and the St. Germain gave just the right level of sweet and that hint of elderflower.

  Elder Fashion

  • 3 oz Old Overholt rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz St. Germain
  • 1 dash orange bitters

In a rocks glass combine all the ingredients and stir.  Add 3-4 ice cubes or an ice ball, garnish with an orange twist and serve.

Much simpler to make than an Old Fashioned and just as tasty!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Cheers!

Twilight Lounge – December 23, 2011

“One martini is alright.  Two are too many, and three is not enough” – James Thurber

Back to my recurring series on gin, the stuff of legend.

Part of the series will be to review the various gins that I have and drink.  While I have made and enjoyed a number of gin cocktails (81 are listed in the index by my count), I decided to use my tried and true basics to conduct my taste tests – the classic martini and the gin and tonic.  Of course, I also sip and smell the gin unadorned as well to understand its unique nose and flavor.

Today’s review is New Amsterdam gin.  This is an 80 proof gin from The Amsterdam Spirits Company, which is actually a subsidiary of  E. & J. Gallo Winery.  This explains in large part the very innocuous nature of New Amsterdam, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

On its own the New Amsterdam has slightly floral and citrus notes on the nose, with lemon and orange being the most predominant.  The taste experience is also similar, with definite lemon and orange flavors coming through…and not much else.  There is barely a hint of juniper or other botanicals, and a sweetness to the flavor that, frankly, reminds more of a flavored vodka than a gin.

On to the martini.  I used my standard recipe of 3 oz gin, 1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth and 1 dash Angostura bitters and garnished with three unstuffed cocktail olives.  The New Amsterdam’s mild flavor really lets the vermouth come through, much more so than a typical London Dry gin would.  The citrus flavors do compliment the vermouth nicely.  However, I don’t drink a martini to sip vermouth and I missed tasting the gin.

Next was the gin and tonic.  I used a rocks glass (12oz) with 6 ice cubes (1-1/2 oz each).  2oz of gin, Shweppes diet (hey, I have to watch the weight!) tonic water and a lime wedge squeezed over the top complete the ingredient list.  A quick stir and it’s ready to taste.

By my gin and tonic standards this has a very mild taste.  The lime in the drink did play off the citrus notes of the New Amsterdam.  While refreshing, and suitable for a warm summer day, I missed the “bite” of my typical gin and tonic.  Again, the lack of a clear juniper component disappointed me.

The verdict?  I’m disappointed.  As I wrote early on, this strikes more as a flavored vodka than a gin.  I appreciate the attempt to widen the gin drinking audience, but it really should taste at least somewhat like gin.  On a scale of 1 to 5 I rate the New Amsterdam gin a 2.

Cheers!

 

Germantown, WI – December 17, 2011

I  met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola…

So Gwen and I hit Greg and Patti’s house tonight for cocktails and movies.  Greg was in the mood for something made with Sailor Jerry and so we did a quick check of the Sailor Jerry website.  And there it was, just waiting for us to make.

Well I’m not that dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man

A quick run down the ingredient list.  Sailor Jerry – check.  Sweet vermouth – check.  Agnostura bitters – check.  Cherry cola – check.  Get the glasses and ice out and start mixing!

Well I’m not the worlds most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my Lola

    The Lola

  • 1-1/2 oz Sailor Jerry rum
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Agnostura bitters
  • Cherry cola

Combine all the ingredients over ice in a highball glass and stir.  Garnish with an orange slice.

A neat alternative to the run of the mill rum and coke.  Both the sweet vermouth and cherry cola compliment the Sailor Jerry in a delightful way.  After three of these, you won’t care of if the boys are girls and the girls are boys!

Cheers!

Saturday, July 23, 2011 – The Patio Swim Club at the Twilight Lounge

Summer is in full swing at the Patio Swim Club and that means it was time to break out the smoker and BBQ some pork shoulder.  With Paula and Cookie here for the weekend, this was the perfect day to do it.

Producing my eastern North Carolina style pork butt is an all day affair.  I started at 8am, getting the smoker out and getting the fire going.  After years of experimenting I’ve settled on lump hardwood charcoal as my base fuel with chunks of hickory to provide the smoke and flavor.  With the fire going, it was time to get back into the kitchen and prep my butt. 

I unwrapped the pork (thanks to the Germantown House of Sausage) and patted it dry then went to work with my rub.  Yes, it’s my own recipe.  No, I won’t publish it.  Yes, it’s good!  This part is critical and I make sure I really work the rub into the pork so that I’ll end up with a great crust on the butt when I’m done with the smoker.

It's All in the Rub!

With that, all I had to do was wait for the smoker to get up to about 200 degrees – and I didn’t have to wait long.  With that, the pork butt went on the grill, the cover was shut and now it was 8 to 10 hours of patience and fire tending.

Patience is the Key Now

Of course, nothing helps the patience like a good cocktail and some poolside fun.  Normally when I smoke I have bourbon – with cola, or maybe Mountain Dew (that’s what we did in the Carolina’s) or just with some ice.  However, as I was reading the Wall Street Journal after putting the butt in the smoker, I found an interesting recipe that used Pisco.  I’ve had a bottle around since New Year’s Eve (thanks again Christian and Meredith) and this seemed like a great way to use some of it up.

 
  El Capitan
  • 2 ounces Pisco
  • 2 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash aromatic bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to combine and then pour into a rocks glass.

I used Cesar Pisco and Peychaud’s bitters in this drink, and enjoyed it immensely.  The flavor of the Pisco comes through, but there is a strong resemblence to a Manhattan, especially with as much sweet vermouth as is in this.  The orange bitters (from Agnostura) also make themselves known.  The whole cocktail comes together nicely, and since it was on the rocks, it was perfect for sipping as I tended my smoker and enjoyed the pool.

As for the pork butt – well, it was perfect if I say so myself.

A Little Bit of Carolina Heaven

Moist and spicy, but not too hot, we all enjoyed this along with beans, slaw and corn bread Gwen put together. 

 
Cheers and bon appetit!

 

Day 356, Cocktail 359

Tax season is over!  Hopefully you’re getting a modest refund.  If you wrote a check, well, you have my sympathy!

To celebrate the end of the tax season I pulled out a recipe from Colleen Graham’s blog that she had published a week or so ago.  How could I resist something called the Income Tax Cocktail?  This is basically a Bronx cocktail with the addition of bitters – perhaps indicative of the bitter pill paying taxes is?  We’ll never know for sure as the actual origins of this drink don’t seem to be known, at least not that I could find.  So let’s give this a try and see how it comes out.

  Income Tax

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes Agnostura bitters

Combine everything in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish, if desired, with an orange peel.

It was…alright.  Kinda’ like doing taxes, I’m more relieved to be done with this than enjoying the actual cocktail.  The sweet vermouth dominates the flavor, most likely because the Agnostura bitters are playing right into sweet vermouth at the expense of the other ingredients.  Kinda’ like our government, huh?

Cheers!

Day 343, Cocktails 348, 349 & 350

Monday evening found me at Ivee’s On Main to watch the NCAA basketball final.  While the game may have been lackluster, the cocktails were not!  Recently Colleen Graham had posted the Fancy Whiskey in her cocktail blog.  I thought it looked like a pretty good drink.  Plus, it easily lent itself to doing a multiple versions and some serious tasting comparisons based on the type of whiskey used.  So, in the name of science and to be able to give you a complete report I embarked on a fancy whiskey journey.

First, the Fancy Whiskey recipe is:

  Fancy Whiskey

  • 2 oz whiskey(of your choice)
  • 1 oz bar syrup
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • dash Agnostura bitters

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake to combine and blend.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

So, the recipe is pretty straightforward.  Let’s see how things worked out as I tried different whiskies.  The first was made with Maker’s Mark bourbon.  It was good, with the flavor reminiscent of a Manhattan, except orange flavored.  While 1 oz of bar syrup sounds like a lot, it did not overly sweeten the drink.  The use of triple sec helped with this cause since it is not as sweet as Cointreau is.  The bitters also help to keep the sweetness in line.  All in all, a good drink.

For the second variant I moved to Scotch and had Davey make it with Dewar’s.  It was very similar in taste to the Maker’s Mark version with a smokey peat element from the Scotch.  Depending on your specific taste you could amp up the smokey component of this drink by using a stronger single malt such as Laphroaig.  Again, a very good cocktail that I wouldn’t hesitate to order or make in the future.

Finally, for version three I switched to Canadian whiskey, Canadian Club to be specific.  This version was the least memorable of the bunch, probably owing to Canadian whiskey’s mellow character, particularly when compared to bourbon and Scotch.  It was a good cocktail, but didn’t have the heft that the first two versions had.  Think of this as the Fancy Whiskey lite!

All in all, three good cocktails.  Maybe those boys from Butler should have tried one of these, it couldn’t have hurt there shooting!

Cheers!

Day 336, Cocktail 341

Monday evening at the Twilight Lounge and I kept looking at the little bit of champagne left over from the weekend.  I needed a cocktail that would make use of my bubbly before it went totally flat on me.  But what to make?  A quick trip to the CocktailDB and a search on champagne gave me my answer.  The Americana cocktail called for champagne and “100 proof” bourbon, among other ingredients.  What better time to break out the Wild Turkey.  Not only is it 101 proof, but what could be more American for the Americana cocktail?  After all, none other than founding father Benjamin Franklin wanted to designate the turkey as our national bird.  So I gathered up the ingredients and went to work.

  Americana Cocktail

  • 1/4 oz Wild Turkey bourbon
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup
  • 1 dash Agnostura bitters
  • champagne

Combine the Wild Turkey, bitters and bar syrup in a mixing glass with a little cracked ice.  Stir to combine and strain into a chilled coupe.  Top with champagne and give a quick stir.

Basically, this is champagne with a kick.  There is so little Wild Turkey in this drink compared to the champagne and even the bitters, that I could barely notice it.  However, it was a nice way to use up the last of the champagne!

Cheers!