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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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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!

Milwaukee, WI – February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day and Gwen and I decided to try someplace new for dinner.  A quick flip through our entertainment guide and I found The Eatery on Farwell in Milwaukee’s Eastside neighborhood.  It turned out to be a great find!

As usual, before ordering dinner we had a cocktail.  I was pleased to see a number of original cocktails on the menu (and none of them incorrectly termed a martini!).  After perusing the list I settled on the Hot Dan.  I was eager to try it because it used Roaring Dan’s Maple Rum from local distiller Great Lakes Distillery.  I love to see local restaurants supporting local providers!  In addition to the rum, the Hot Dan is made with house made allspice, simple syrup, cloves, a squeeze of orange and hot water. 

My first impression was the maple from the rum with an added sweet component to the flavor.  There was a hint of citrus on the back end, thank you orange slice.  A nice drink to chase away the chill of a cold Valentine’s Day evening.  The farther I got into this drink, the more the allspice took over.  By the time I was done with the cocktail the allspice was a bit too powerful – I’d like to see a little less of that in the drink and either a bit more orange or perhaps even a dash of Agnostura bitters. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Hot Dan is a good cocktail.  Gwen had the KK Smash, another cocktail featuring a spirit for Great Lakes Distillery (Kinnickinnic Whiskey in this case) that is a twist on the whiskey sour.  It was delicious!

As for dinner – it was fantastic.  The Pig in a Pot was absolutely fantastic, with mushroom duxelle providing an absolutely wonderful base for the pork tenderloin.  The presentation, in a terra cotta flower pot, was terrific and the potato galette was a fantastic accompaniement.  The Braised Short Ribs were also excellent and the root vegetable mash that came with it was every bit as good as well.

The next time you find yourself hungry or thirsty and in the vicinity of Farwell Ave. in the Eastside, you can’t go wrong with The Eatery on Farwell!

Cheers!

Granville, OH – February 7, 2012

I figured I needed to get this post up ASAP.  The last time I was in Granville and had a great cocktail that I wanted to post I never quite got arounjd to it…and then the place went out of business.  I definately do not want Emily George’s Bella to suffer the same fate!

Bella has always had a good selection of base spirits and a few original recipe cocktails on the menu.  However, when I perused the bar last night after arriving I couldn’t help but notice the bottle of Aperol sitting there.  Now, that’s a liqueur you don’t see in any ‘ol bar (heck, I don’t even have it at the Twilight Lounge!).  So I asked the bartender what she made with it…and the answer was, I’ll have to ask Emily.

A few moments later Emily George, appeared at our table.  As we talked it quickly became apparent that she knew her stuff.  After she got an idea of what I liked she suggested a cocktail that was similar to a Manhattan in construction, but totally different in ingredients.  She didn’t have a name for it, so I’m going to call it the Bella.  Two parts Appleton Dark Rum, 1 part Aperol, a dash of Fee’s orange bitters and garnished with a flamed orange peel.  And it was fantastic!  The familar and tropical flavor of the Appleton, with its sweet, cane sugar overtones was the perfect foil for the somewhat bitter Aperol.  The Fee’s orange bitters (always a favorite) pulled it all together in perfect package.  This is a quintessential cocktail – simple, to the point and great flavors!

As we got to talking I learned that Emily is quite accomplished.  She asked me if I wanted to try something really new and I said sure…she left for a moment and came back with a pre release bottle of … well, I promised not write about it.  Let’s just say that I was impressed (for once) by a flavored vodka.

As dinner progressed I did a have second cocktail that was equally delicious, although in totally different ways.  Uncharacteristically, I did not record all the ingredients.  It did feature Barenjaker Honey liqueur and ginger beer with orange flavors as well.  I do love the ginger beer – so much more flavorful than ginger ale!  This one was served in a pint sized glass and was very refreshing – it would be perfect for those hot summer days poolside!

So, if you find yourself in Granville, OH, be sure to stop in at Bella for great food and even better cocktails!

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!

June 30, 2011 – Fargo, ND

One of the benefits of my job is getting to find neat cocktail lounges in places I’d never otherwise visit.  The HoDo Lounge in downtown Fargo is just one of those places.

It is located in the historic Hotel Donaldson and draws a crowd as eclectic as the drink menu.  The band added to the fun, playing a mix of original music and covers that kept the crowd moving all night long. 

The first drink that I had was the Firetruck.  It was an amazing cocktail that consisted of St. Germain, seltzer water, and (drum roll please) 10 year old Laphroaig.  Even though there was just a 1/4 oz of the Laphroaig in this drink it comes through loud and clear.  The St. Germain sweetens this up just a bit and softens the peaty flavor of the Laphroig, while the seltzer makes this a tall glass sipper that is refreshing.  An inventive and very interesting cocktail.

The second cocktail of the night was the unusually named Cucular Caley (pictured).  A melange of pomegranate vodka, Hendricks gin, Sailor Jerry rum and cucumbers, all topped with a bit of seltzer, this was an amazing drink.  It was slightly sweet, slightly spicy and slightly fruity, yet still boozy enough to remind me that it packs a punch.  Kudos to the staff for this fantastic cocktail!

With that it was time for me to head back to my hotel and get a good nights sleep before my drive back to Milwaukee.  You can be sure, though, that I’m looking forward to my next visit to Fargo!

Day 365, Cocktail 364

It’s Easter Sunday and the last day of my year long cocktail journey (by the way – I didn’t plan it this way, but it did just happen to work this way!).  Since I need two to finish my quest, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing – a day / night doubleheader if you will.  The first cocktail was one that I wanted to be able to enjoy with our Easter Dinner, which was Polish sausages, potatoes, cabbage and more, followed by Gwen’s chocolate birthday cake.  As I flipped through my recipe books a drink I’ve had bookmarked for some time now looked it would fit the bill.

  Palm Beach

  • 2 oz white rum
  • 2 oz gin
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a rocks glass with an ice ball.

Very nice blend of pineapple, rum and gin, although a bit strong.  In fact, I ended up adding about another ounce of pineapple juice to keep this from knocking on my butt.  However, the rum and pineapple flavors of this drink complimented the sausage and sides with our dinner very well.  I just may have a new Easter cocktail!

So, with the Palm Beach, I’m down to my last cocktail.  I’m contemplating what to drink, but if you have a suggestion for my grand finale, I’d love to hear it!

Cheers!

Day 354, Cocktails 357 & 358

Friday night and both Gwen and I were ready for a fun evening.  I had been in Texas for the bulk of the week and it was hectic getting started up on the new job.  It had also been a busy week for Gwen with lots of activities for the girls that had to be taken care of.  So when Friday rolled around we were ready to celebrate our birthdays in style (Gwen’s is coming up next week). 

Our first stop of the evening was the Firefly Urban Bar + Grill for dinner (using my trusty Groupon!) and a drink.  Firefly is located in Wauwatos and has a very hip and slightly upscale vibe – so definately wear your best t-shirt when you go, as the one of the girls at the table next to us did.  The food is varied and ranges from appetizers to sandwiches to full dinners that are twists on traditional comfort type foods.  The pork chops that we both ordered were good, and the speciality cocktails were very good.  Gwen had the White Cosmopolitan, which I won’t report on (since I only tasted it) while I went with the Metaxa Side Car.  Consisting of Metaxa, a greek brandy that is a blend of brandy and wine, Patron Citronage, orange and lemon juice, this was a very nice, mellow cocktail.  It’s flavors were multilayered with the orange and just a hint of lemon made dark, silky and almost chocolatey by the Metaxa, with a hint of the Patron lurking in the background.  Very smooth and not too sweet but not boozy either.  I definately recommend this cocktail if you visit Firefly.

After dinner we headed back to Germantown and stopped by the Klavier Lounge.  We both had their special for the night, a Berry Mojito.  Consisting of Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, simple syrup, grapefruit, lime and garnished with a mint sprig this was propietor Kris Peters’ twist on the classic mojito.  This cocktail had a nice, sweet flavor that goes over big with the girls.  I also enjoyed mine, but one was enough for me on the sweet scale and I moved on the a Rusty Nail and then Monterrey Mules for the rest of the night.  As usual though, it was a lively time at the Klavier and we enjoyed ourselves immensely!

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!