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The Twilight Lounge – February 12, 2017

I wonder, if my bottle of Malibu was that big, would I have girls like that coming over all the time?

Unfortunately my bottle isn’t that big, and it’s been sitting in my liquor cabinet for far too long, leftover from a previous party.  I finally decided I’d need to drink it since the Malibu girls still haven’t come by.  The difficulty is that I don’t like coconut flavors or Malibu.  So what to do?

I realized I’d need to essentially mask the flavor of the Malibu.  I know, that is an anthema to what I typically do when creating cocktails, but it was the only way I’d be able to drink it.  The first decision was what to use for juice.  Orange or cranberry would have been the easy choices.  Pineapple made sense, but I thought that might be too sweet.  While perusing the juice aisle at the local grocery store I stumbled upon a blend of mango, pineapple and orange juice that sounded intriguing.  So into my cart it went and I was on my way.

Back at the Twilight Lounge it time to put a cocktail together.  I had my Malibu and I had my juice.  I could have just done the rum and juice (my apologies to Snoop Dogg), but that was pretty bland and a bit sweet.  After a little tinkering and a couple of trials, here’s what I came up with:

Snoop Dogg

  • 1-1/2 oz Malibu rum
  • 1/8 oz lime juice
  • 3-4 dashes Bittercube Blackstrap Bitters
  • mango pineapple orange juice
  • soda water

Add the Malibu, lime juice and bitters to a collins glass and stir to mix.  Fill the glass with ice and then add a 50/50 mix of the juice and soda water.  Stir and garnish with a lime slice.

This is a nice, refreshing cocktail that I and the Malibu girls can enjoy.  The taste of the Malibu is barely discernable and the bitters add a nice, smokey depth to the drink.  The lime juice helps cut the sweet factor of the juice.  This will be a nice way to finish off my bottle of Malibu!

Cheers!

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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!

 

Madison, WI – July 12, 2012

I found myself in Madison, WI for an evening recently – and for the first time in my various travels around the midwest.  Being just 90 miles from home was different, but I still managed to hunt down a good cocktail lounge to while away my evening.  The Opus Lounge was my target for the evening.

After reading a few of the Yelp reviews and seeing the menu when I first arrived I was concerned that this would be a menu driven cocktail lounge lacking any real creativity.  Boy, was I wrong, and am I ever glad I was!

The decor is urban chic with a soundtrack to match that ranged from hip hop to acid jazz and many alternative formats in between.  As I scanned the booze behind the bar I saw what I thought were too many flavored vodkas, but then, who doesn’t have too many flavored vodkas these days?  The menu was also full of what sound like fruity, girly drinks and, my pet peeve, is called a martini menu (a martini is a cocktail, and this was a cocktail menu!).  

Fortunately, Marilyn, the bartender on duty, came to the rescue and patiently demonstrated that she and Opus have real cocktail chops.  I ended up sampling three of the menu items, the Dill Collins, an interesting riff on the classic Tom Collins which was very refreshing on a warm summer evening.  This cocktail featured Death’s Door gin over muddled cucumber, dill, lemon and a sugar cube.  Club soda and ice finish off this drink.  It was delicious – the dill was just barely there and added a nice dimension to the drink.

 
Next was the Royal Highness featuring Plantation rum, cassis, bolivar bitters, lime, Domaine de Canton and egg white among its ingredients.  Yes, I said egg white, and when a bar is mixing cocktails with egg white they get my full attention!  This drink evoked visions of tiki torches and tropical beaches for me.  There was a slight coconut flavor, which I could not figure out for the life of me since this drink had none in it.  It did have a smooth, creamy texture courtesy of the egg white and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
 
The third menu item was the Pimm’d Up Bondurant.  Only the second cocktail I’ve seen anywhere using the venerable Pimm’s No. 1 and it was delicious.  This is basically a Pimm’s sour with Domaine de Canton in it.  The ginger of the Canton played off the Pimm’s perfectly.  This sipper was served up in a cocktail glass, but would have worked equally as well in a collins glass on the rocks.
I finished the night with an off menu drink from Marilyn that featured Laphroiag scotch, ginger and lemon flavors.  Again, a homerun that has me wishing I had written down the recipe – but unfortunately, didn’t.  

Bottom line is that if you’re looking for good cocktails in Madison, look no further than Opus Lounge.

The Twilight Lounge – February 27, 2012

Yes, the age old question, Coke or Pepsi, finally comes to the Twilight Lounge.  Of course, I don’t really care which is better by itself.  Who drinks just plain Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola?  No, for this taste test I’m going to drink Coke and Pepsi the way it was meant to be drunk (no, not with cocaine), with rum!

For this face off I made two rum and colas using the same recipe.  2oz of Sailor Jerry spiced rum, 1 lime wedge, a 12 oz rocks glass filled with ice, topped with the cola.  So how did our competitors fare?

The rum and Coke has that very familiar, syrupy taste, which is not surprising since probably 98% of the all rum and cola’s I’ve had in my lifetime used Coke.  So this was a very comfortable drink, kinda’ like meatloaf with mac and cheese.  It tastes good because I’m used to it and have been drinking it all my life.

The rum and Pepsi was very good with a brighter, lighter flavor.  I think this actually allowed the Sailor Jerry to be put on better display and add more to the flavor profile of the drink, especially the spices.  It’s different, and that’s good in this case.  Kinda’ like getting that mac and cheese made with smoked gouda instead of cheddar.

So, the verdict?  I liked them both.  The rum and Coke is familiar and comfortable.  But the rum and Pepsi just was a bit better as a cocktail.  I liked that the rum was more prominent.  After all, that’s I why I drink cocktails!  In my book, Pepsi is the winner!

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!

 

Has it really been four months since my last post?  I guess there was just way to much gin, bourbon and scotch during the last 120 days.  However, the good news is that I’m tanned, rested and ready!  A week in Puerto Vallarta will do that for a guy!

Of course, there was more to the vacation than family, sun and beach.  There was tequila!  One advantage to renting a house for the week was the opportunity to mix up cocktails for everyone using great, fresh local ingredients.  One of those cocktails was the above pictured Avocado Margarita.  It’s more like a cross between a smoothie and a margarita.  But with fresh limes and avocados at my disposal, I couldn’t pass this one up.

      Avocado Margarita

  • 1-1/2 oz silver tequila
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup diced avocado
  • 1 oz half and half
  • 1 tsp sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a blender with one half cup ice and puree until smooth.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lime wedge or lemon peel.

I used Patron silver since that’s what we had, and used Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau (again, that’s what we had – and, oh, by the way, makes excellent margaritas!).  This was served with a dinner of grilled shrimp, mahi mahi and rice with poblano pepper and chorizo.  It was delicious – smooth, not to sweet, not to avocado flavored and just a hint of tequila.

Unfortunately, I only had enough avocado for one round the night we did these, but I’m sure this will find its way into my glass again!

Adios amigos!

June 17, 2010 – Wauwatosa, WI

A week ago Friday Gwen and I (with daughter number 2 in tow) went the Firefly Urban Bar & Grill in Wauwatosa to use our Groupon.  We’ve been to the Firefly before, and enjoy the casual atmosphere, good cocktails and some pretty good food.

Of course, I started with a cocktail, and ordered up the Pearly Cucumber off their cocktail list.  A straightforward and refreshing drink, it consisted of cucumber vodka, fresh lime juice and a splash of seltzer water.  The cucumber and lime flavors complimented each other well and this was a great alternative to my traditional summer gin and tonic.  My only quibble with the cocktail was the garnish.  That big, lengthwise slice of cucumber looks awfully cool in the glass, but actually makes it hard to drink.  I ended up using the straw, which I really don’t like to do when sipping a cocktail.  What can I say, it reminds me of being a kid slurping down a fast food soda.

Shortly after the drinks arrived our appetizer followed.  I had ordered a the smoked gouda and cheddar fondue.  It was delicious.  The texture was nice and silky and the flavor was awesome, with just a hint of smokiness.  Lightly toasting the bread cubes was a nice touch, and the granny smith apple slices were a nice contrast to the cheese.

Fondue at Firefly

All in all, another nice night at the Firefly.  I’m sure we’ll return again soon!

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 362, Cocktails 361 & 362

…but it turned out I was mistaken.

So tonight’s mea culpa is that I had a miscount on my days.  I’ve actually been off by two days, and it’s two days the wrong way, meaning I have 2 less days to complete my journey.  Fortunately I was ahead of the count in terms of cocktails, so all is well.  However, I’m sure Andy will have something to say about all this!

Now, back to the fun stuff – the cocktails!  I did two last night, the first a recipe from Dale Degroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail” that I selected for its ease of mixing and cool sophistication.

  Black Rose

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 1 dash grenadine

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a rocks glass over an ice ball.  Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

For this drink I used Knob Creek bourbon and it was a winner!  The deep, charcoal flavor of the bourbon was mellowed ever so slightly by the grenadine and Peychaud’s.  It was reminiscent of a Manhattan, but without the sweetness and allowed the bourbon to still be the star.  I really liked this drink and will definitely be having it again!

Unfortunately, Gwen didn’t really appreciate the Black Rose.  She asked me to make something with cucumber, so here’s what I put together for her.

  Cucumber Mule

  • 2 cucumber slices, about 1/4″ thick
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup
  • 2 oz Cazadores tequila
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1-1/2 oz Old Ballycastle ginger
  • Seltzer water

Muddle the cucumber and bar syrup in the bottom of a collins glass.  Add the tequila, lime juice and ginger and stir.  Fill the glass with ice and top with seltzer water.

Mmmm, a nice variation of the Monterrey Mule that lets the hint of cucumber compliment the ginger and tequila.  I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing cocktail and can’t wait to have it on a warm summer evening – assuming summer does show up around here sooner or later….

Cheers!

Day 341, Cocktails 344 & 345

Saturday night and it was, yet again, another NID night.  This month’s theme was Brazilian food, which meant cachaca was on the cocktail menu.  I’ve never had cachaca before, so I lost my cachaca virginity last night, as did everyone else there!

Cachaca is known as Brazilian rum, although the similarity to the rums we are used to from the Caribbean ends with the fact that it is distilled sugarcane.  It is generally distilled in pot stills and is not aged, leaving it fiery bite.  In fact, when I tasted the 51 brand of cachaca I was reminded more of pisco than I was of rum.  Extremely popular in Brazil, you can start to find cachaca in local liquor stores here in the US.

I was assigned the task of making two cocktails that used cachaca.  Here they are:

  Caipirnha

  • 4-5 lime wedges
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 oz cachaca

In the bottom of a rocks glass muddle the lime and sugar until the sugar has dissolved in the lime juice.  Fill the glass with ice and then the cachaca.  Stir and enjoy.

This cocktail has a definite bite that the sweetened lime juice doesn’t completely tone down.  It has a fiery element, just like the dancing in the streets you’d see during Carnivale!

  Batida de Coco

  • 2 oz cachaca
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • coconut milk

Combine the cachaca and bar syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a collins glass filled with ice cubes.  Add the coconut milk and stir.

To my suprise, the coconut taste is mellowed out nicely by the cachaca and sweetness of the sugar (I am not a fan of coconut and this is the first recipe I’ve done with it).  Sweet and creamy, this was a nice compliment to the bite of the Caipirnha, and went much faster among the diners.

These two cocktails, along with some great Brazilian food made for a fun evening…in fact I seem to remember Gwen and Jenny on the bar (again) before the night was over!

Cheers!