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Day 284, Cocktail 282

Today was back to normal around here…schools open, roads cleared…and mountains of snow everywhere.  It was kind of fun to see just how much there was.  It also gave me the opportunity to play around with yesterday’s Blizzard cocktail after a reader (yes, you Sally) suggested dropping the grenadine and trying bitters.  So that’s just what I did.  I figured that Peychaud’s would be a good choice because it has a slightly spicey quality.  I was also tempted to try the orange bitters, but after sniffing both several times I settled on the Peychaud’s.  It seemed like a better match for the cranberry that’s in this cocktail.

  Blizzard Revisted

  • 1-1/2 oz bourbon
  • 1-1/2 oz cranberry juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/4 oz bar syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Combine the ingredients with 5-6 ice cubes in a shaker.  Shake to combine and chill.  Pour into a rocks glass.

Sally, I have to say, this is pretty good.  Different from the original in subtle ways, and good.  It’s not as sweet, and I did add the 1/4 oz of bar syrup after removing 1/2 oz of grenadine – I knew I’d still need some sweet to offset the lime juice.  Without the grenadine to help reinforce the cranberry against the lime, the lime flavor is more predominant.  However, the spicy flavor of the Peychaud’s compliments it very nicely.  I like them both equally.  For you, it will be a matter of your personal taste. 


Day 250, Cocktails 248 & 249

New Year’s Eve at the Twilight Lounge, and it was quite an event!  You can check out my about page for pictures of the festivities, so I won’t get into the details here.  Suffice it to say that the night finally ended at about 4am, give or take a few minutes. 

In addition to yesterday marking the end of the year, it was also my first chance to try out my bourbon balls.  I know, you’re thinking, what the hell are bourbon balls?  As a Maker’s Mark ambassador I get a freebie every year around the holidays.  This year’s gift was a mold to make ice balls – and was I ever excited!  Being able to have a solid, round ball of ice about the size of a baseball in my glass keeping my bourbon or scotch cold is fantastic.  The size of the ball keeps the drink cold yet it melts much slower than individual cubes.  You’ll be seeing more of my cocktails using the ice balls, just like yesterday’s cocktail (artfully posed on the Twilight Lounge poker table).

So, what to do with my ice balls and get ready for the party?  My first attempt featured 2 oz of Maker’s Mark bourbon, 1/2 oz Cavados, 1/8 oz maple syrup and 2 drops of my root beer extract.  I wanted to get a bit of root beer flavor and thought it would work well with the apple flavor of the Calvados.  Hmmm, not so much.  The root beer flavor I was shooting for was barely there and Calvados gave this drink a real rough edge.  So, back to the drawing board, and in a totally new direction.

  Ball Drop

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1/8 oz maple syrup
  • 3 drops root beer extract

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake.  Strain into a rocks glass with an ice ball.

This was nice – and it looks great too!  With just hints of orange, maple and root beer with Maker’s this ends up being a very complex cocktail.  This is a great sipper and with the giant ice ball, it stays nice and cold without getting watered down.  In fact, it took me about an hour to drink this and there was still half of the ball left!


Day 231, Cocktail 230

If Snoop Dog can have his gin and juice, then I can my gin and bourbon, right?

After Saturday’s movie night and the several Manhattan variations I had tried, I had the brilliant idea to combine bourbon with orange juice and Luxardo maraschino liqueur.  Actually, I used a clementine for the juice instead of an orange.  I had bought a box of them last week and this seemed like a good way to use one up.  Besides, since they are so much smaller they fit very nicely into my juice press!

  Cherry Orange Manhattan

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/8 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange peel.

This was a very nice cocktail.  I’ve enjoyed orange and maraschino with rye on several occasions, so its not a big suprise that the transition to bourbon with these flavors works well.  There was just a hint of the maraschino in the background and the Peychaud’s really helps pull this together in a tidy little package.


Day 230, Cocktails 227, 228 & 229

Saturday night was another Christmas movie night – the weather forecast here was just too lousy to plan anything else. 

We watched a couple of movies, including on of my all time favorites, “A Christmas Story”.  I just love the whole leg lamp scene, from the moment the major award arrives to the ignominious end, a shattered relic of its glory.  “Not a finger” is all poor Darrin McGavin can blurt out when he sees what’s happened to his prized lamp, and that just cracks me up every time!

Of course, nasty weather outside, a roaring fire and Christmas movies inside all lend themselves to cocktails being mixed with care in the Twilight Lounge!  We ended up with a lineup of three new cocktails, so let’s get to it.

  Gwen’s Red Carpet

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2 oz pomegranate juice
  • 2 oz Pinot Grigio
  • seltzer water

Fill a collins or highball glass with ice cubes.  Add the ingredients in the order listed, topping with selzter water.  Give a quick stir and serve.

This was a recipe that Gwen found and originally called for champagne.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any about, so I improvised with the Pinot Grigio and seltzer water.  This was a nice starter cocktail, and I could easily enjoy several of these since they are not too sweet.  In fact, Gwen did have a second while I moved on to my next cocktail for the evening.

  Maraschino Manhattan

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/8 oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

Fill a shaker with ice cubes and add the ingredients, bitters first.  Shake, shake, shake to combine and chill.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

This was very, very good.  You know how I love the flavor of Luxardo’s Maraschino liqueur and there was just a hint of it evident along with the bourbon and vermouth.  It was a very nice, slightly drier version of a sweet manhattan.  As much as I liked this I think it is the new house manhattan of the Twilight Lounge.

Finally, cocktail number three was an off the cuff mix prepared after I ran out of Pinot Grigio for the Gwen’s Red Carpet. 

  Not a Finger

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2 oz pomegranate juice
  • 2 oz lychee fruit juice
  • lemon lime soda

Fill a collins or highball glass with ice cubes.  Add the ingredients in the order listed, topping with lemon lime soda.  Give a quick stir and serve.

This one really hit the spot, especially for Gwen.  In fact, she labelled it the best of the night!  The lychee adds a really bright, fresh flavor that I have a hard time describing…somewhat pear like, but it is a unique flavor that is really good.  If you can find lychee fruit juice in your local market pick up a can and try it out, you’ll love it!


Day 227, Cocktail 225

Wednesday night found me at Buca di Beppo for dinner with a few of the guys I work with.  I have to tell you that I was extremely disappointed to learn that the place is part of a chain.  I’d thought it was a charming, local Italian place.  Knowing that it’s not local takes away from the charm in a big way for me.  *Sigh*

Fortunately, the cocktails were still good.  I hadn’t had a Manhattan in a while and then realized that I have yet to post a Perfect Manhattan here.  Viola, my choice was made.

  Perfect Manhattan

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • dash Agnosturo bitters

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

This and the straight manhattan have been favorites of mine for years.  The Perfect Manhattan is not quite as sweet since dry vermouth is substituted for 1/2 of the sweet vermouth.  The dry vermouth adds another very subtle flavor dimension and actually helps showcase the bourbon.  Do you have your own variation of a Manhattan?  If so, let me know so I can try it out!


Day 225, Cocktails 222 & 223

Nothing like watching Monday Night Football with a win for your fantasy football team already in the books.  Except watching Monday Night Football with the number one seed already locked up for my fantasy football team!

As I watched the game I contemplated what to drink.  I was in the mood to use the Stirrings Peach Liqueur I had recently acquired, but didn’t know what.  I quick check of the Stirrings website didn’t really anything that excited me.  They had a few cocktail recipes that used the peach liqueur, but not very many and nothing that looked simple.  Not that complicated would normally deter me, but I was tired and wanted this to be easy.

So after a few minutes of thought I decided on Maker’s Mark as my base.  Peach flavors and bourbon work well together, so I knew this would be reasonably safe.  But I did want to push the envelope a bit and after a lot of bottle sniffing (doesn’t everbody sniff bottles of booze?) I settled on Domaine de Canton for my third flavor. 

My first effort was 2 oz of Maker’s Mark, 1 oz of Stirrings Peach liqueur and 1/8 oz (one bar spoon) of the Domaine de Canton.  My first sip was nice – the peach was out first with bourbon just behind it.  The ginger flavor of the Canton was a subtle note on the tail, but it was there.  My first impression was, mmm, not bad.  However, as I sipped this over the next 30 minutes or so the sweetness of the Stirrings Peach began to overtake the cocktail.  By the time I was done it was too sweet and syrupy for my taste.  A reformulation was in order.

  Just Peachy

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Stirrings Peach liqueur
  • 1/8 oz Domaine de Canton liqueur

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to chill and combine.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I liked this version much better.  The sweet component of the Stirrings Peach never takes over and the ginger of the Domaine de Canton actually comes through a bit more. 

As for my bottle sniffing, I do owe an explanation.  Taste is a matter of smell.  You taste what you smell (if you don’t believe me take a mouthful of whatever you want while holding your nose – you won’t taste a thing).  So, by holding two bottles together and smelling them I can get a pretty decent idea of how they will taste together.  Try it – you’ll be glad you did!


Day 215, Cocktails 209, 210 & 211

Ahh, the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s Black Friday (a day that sounds like the plague) and like lemmings, Gwen and I got up at 5:40 to head to the local Menard’s for their 6am opening and a $100 TV.  We figured who would be at a home improvement store that early?  Well, as we drove up, the parking lot was full and the line at the door extended for several hundred feet.  We kept right on driving and went back home.  Thus, for the 3rd time now I’ll again vow to never shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The day after Thanksgiving also means putting up the exterior decorations.  (The inside stuff is also going up, but that takes Gwen the whole weekend and then some).  It was a brisk, but sunny day as I pulled out the lights and ladders.  With Cookie’s help we banged it out in just a couple of hours and then admired the lights from the curb after it got dark.  It’s my first year replacing my old fashioned C9 bulbs with LED C9 bulbs.  I know I’ll save a ton of electricity, but they are just not the same.  I’m sure I’ll get used to them, it’ll just take some time.

With the lights up and a movie on after dinner, it was time for a cocktail.  Since I had just finished putting up the outdoor lights, Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold seemed like the perfect inspiration for a new drink.  Bourbon seemed like the ideal base.  Remember the scene after the squirrel attack when Clark asks his dad how he got through the holidays and his answer was that he had a lot of help from his friend Jack?  Well, I don’t have Jack but I do have bourbon.  But what to add with it?  Peach is a flavor that works well with bourbon.  I tried a mix of 2 oz Maker’s Mark, 1 oz Stirrings peach liqueur and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters.  Hmmm, even Gwen thought that this was too sweet.  We also agreed that this wasn’t very emblematic of Clark.  This one will go back in the hopper and I’ll play around with it in the future.

So, what would a Clark Griswold taste like.  We batted around a few ideas and decided it would be cherry and chocolate flavors.  Back to mixing I went and tried 2 oz Maker’s Mark, 1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur and 1/4 oz Kahlua.  I know, Kahlua is coffee flavored, but it ends up tasting like chocolate to me when mixed with bourbon.  I tested this out on Gwen and she though the maraschino was too strong and that it was still too sweet.  I enjoyed it (big suprise there) but did agree that the maraschino overpowered the rest of the drink.

The third time was the charm.

  Clark Griswold

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 3/8 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz Kahlua

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cherry.

We both enjoyed this one.  Even my mom thought it was good.  Just the right blend of bourbon with cherry and chocolate overtones from the maraschino and Kahlua.  So now every time we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation we’ll be able to enjoy our very own Clark Griswold.


Day 212, Cocktails 205 & 206

Yesterday was filled with anticipation.  My mom Paula and step dad Cookie were due to arrive from Pennsylvania in time for dinner.  The whole family was looking forward to their arrival since we hadn’t seen them since Paula’s birthday celebration in August.  The girls in particular always enjoy Grandma’s visits.

After an excellent dinner of Gwen’s homemade lasgana we headed to the Twilight Lounge for cocktails and a chance to get caught up.  Paula was very impressed with the new floor and then settled in at the bar with Cookie and Gwen.  I mixed up a Caramel Apple for Gwen and a Greg’s Kringle for Paula.  She thought both of them were delicious but chose to stick with the Kringle.  Meanwhile, I began to experiment with another of the flavorings I had picked up at the bake shop a couple of weeks ago.  Here’s what I came up with.

  Maker’s Root Dram

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Drambuie
  • 2 drops root beer flavor extract

Combine in a shaker and shake, shake, shake to mix.  Strain into a chilled coupe.

I really liked this one.  Inspired by the Charles Hires Old Fashioned from a Bryant’s Sporting Fraternity event, it has a subtle root beer flavor behind the Drambuie and Maker’s Mark.  There are several layers of flavor that give this drink a nice complexity.  I’ll probably tinker with it a bit more, but I did like it.  The next cocktail was a classic from the Ultimate Bar Book.

  Waldorf Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Pernod
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters

Combine in a shaker and shake, shake, shake to mix.  Strain into a chilled coupe.

This classic is a variation of the Sazerac.  I enjoyed it, but the Pernod is a bit strong for my liking, making this a one and done for me.  I just wouldn’t be able to drink these all night long like a could a martini or manhattan.

By the time I finished this it was getting late and we were all ready for bed.  I’m sure that there will be more cocktail fun this weekend though!


Day 202, Cocktail 198

Last Saturday found us meeting friends in front of the local bake shop before the Germantown Christmas parade.  I was aimlessly wandering through the store looking at all the cake decorating stuff, wondering if I would find anything that would make an interesting garnish or decoration for cocktails.  I didn’t really see anything I liked until I hit the flavorings aisle.  There they were, tiny, shiny bottles filled with extracts and flavorings…pecan, almond, root beer…on and on they went.  Forget the garnishes, I’ve found a whole new world to play with!

On to the parade, which was fun (although just not the same without Andrea and her hot buttered rums) and then to the Twilight Lounge for some experimenting.  I love pecan pie but don’t like to bake.  But then again, why should I bake when I can mix?

  Pecan Pie

  • 2 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 2 drops of pecan flavor extract
  • 2 bar spoons of bar syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Admittedly, it took several tries to get this right (fortunately, Gwen helped drink the experiments!) but when I did, it was Wow!  A slightly sweet, nutty pecan flavor comes through with a backdrop of orange.  What I like is that the bourbon also shines in this, adding it’s own layer of flavor and complexity.  This one will definately be on the menu when we have friends and family over for Thanksgiving dinner!


Day 197, Cocktail 191

Wow, I can’t believe that I’m now 6 cocktails behind!  The weekend was spent putting the new floor in the Twilight Lounge – pictures will be coming soon as I still have some trim work to do.  It does look pretty good and (drum roll please…) I now have a dance floor for all those late night parties!

The downside was a lack of new cocktails this weekend – hard to believe, I know.  I’m actually pretty sure I had something new on Friday, but for the life of me I can’t find my notes or recipe – the Lounge is still a mess!  However, I’m back in the saddle with a new one for you tonight.  Actually, I think this will be first in a series for this week…

  Bourbon Buck

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 5 0z ginger ale

Fill a highball glass with ice and squeeze a lemon wedge into the glass, dropping the spent wedge in.  Add the bourbon and then top with the ginger ale.  Stir and enjoy!

This was a much tastier drink than I expected.  The interplay between the ginger ale and the lemon is very nice with the bourbon as a mellow backdrop.  By the way, I used my favorite, Maker’s Mark for this one.  I have to admit, I’m constantly impressed by the versatility that ginger ale and ginger beers offer when mixing cocktail.  Maybe it goes back to when I was a kid and my mom would make me drink warm ginger ale to settle an upset stomach.  It’s amazing how much better ginger ale tastes when it’s mixed with some booze and ice!