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Tag Archives: sour

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.

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Las Vegas, NV – February 23, 2013

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a trade show in Las Vegas week before last.  It was a fun and busy 4 nights between the show, customers, peers.  Of course, I did find time to have a little fun as well, like the night I ended up at the Foundation Bar at the top of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

I did have one interesting cocktail while I was there.  This was an original creation of one of the bartenders at the Eyecandy Lounge, located right on the casino floor at Mandalay Bay.  It was a rare quiet moment at the bar and we were able to chat a bit.  He calls this the Sunshine Sour, and it’s kinda’ a mash up of the tequila sunrise and a whiskey sour. 

It starts with Finlandia grapefruit vodka.  If you know me you know that I am not a fan of flavored vodkas.  However, I’ve had the Finlandia grapefruit before and it is very, very good and one of the few flavored vodkas that I do like.  Added to the Finlandia is orange juice, sour mix and a splash of Aperol.  The use of Aperol really caught my eye since you don’t see too many bartenders playing around with it.  It added a nice, bitter undertone to all the sweet in the drink and really rounded it out.  I enjoyed this one thoroughly and am going to try to recreate it here at the Twilight Lounge.  All I need to do is get the vodka and Aperol!

Cheers!

Day 326, Cocktails 330, 331 & 332

Ahh, it was finally here.  The day that separates the professionals from the amateurs.  The day that is our biggest excuse to consume prodigious quantities of alcohol (as if Wisconsinites needed an excuse).  The day that is always 65 plus degrees in the middle of freakin’ March (yep, its true – at least for the last three years).  And finally, the day I do the all day St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl with Mike and Brett (even though Brett bombed out on us this year). 

Mike and I got a relatively late start, getting to Bub’s Irish Pub in Germantown at about 7am.  Not only is Bub’s an Irish pub, but they are hardcore – the kind of place that has the count down clock to St. Paddy’s day going year round.  Erin (how appropriate) was our bartender (and no, that’s not her in the picture), and she was able to serve up two tasty Irish themed cocktails for my enjoyment.

The first was the Irish Float which consisted of Bailey’s Irish Cream, Captain Morgan rum and root beer (I believe it was Sprecher).  This was very tasty with a creamy consistency.  The root beer complimented the Bailey’s very nicely and, somewhat to my surprise, the Captain Morgan added a level of complexity that complemented the drink.  As Erin and I were talking cocktails I asked if she had added any chocolate liqueur to this to add more complexity.  She hadn’t, and, unfortunately didn’t have any.  However, Kahlua often lends chocolate notes, so we tried and splash of that and it did add a nice chocolate dimension as a variant of her original drink.

The second of Erin’s drinks at Bub’s was called an Irish Flag and was served as a shooter.  This consisted of green Creme de Menthe, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Midori.  The color turns out to be the minty green of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and so does the flavor, much to my delight.  This would be an excellent shooter to have around for next St. Patrick’s day or as a chilled shooter on a hot summer day out by the pool.

Our second stop of the day was the old Rusty’s in Richfield and is now something Ed’s.  In addition to the Irish Buck I sipped on there I also had my first corned beef meal of the day, opting for a deconstructed sandwich.  The beef was very tender and tasty and complimented the Irish Buck.

Our third stop was Sheryl’s Place in Ackerman.  Nikki was our barmaid (yes, that is her in the picture, holding my Twilight Lounge business card, if you can pull your eyes away from her shamrocks) and she sold us on a cocktail with the delightful name of Leprechaun Piss.  Now, I’ve never had leprechaun piss before, so if it really tastes like this, then it’s not half bad.  Not great, but not bad either.  It consists of Island Punch Pucker, UV orange, 7 up and sour mix.  The color is this iridescent green that looks like it might have leaked out of the cooling system of your car.  Fortunately, it did taste better than that!

After finishing our piss and leaving some of our own behind it was on our ultimate destination for the day, the Tally Ho in Erin (the town, not the bartender).  The Tally Ho sets up a couple of tents and draws hundreds after the Erin parade, especially with the weather as mild as it was.  At this point I pretty much stuck to … well, I’m not sure what I stuck to.  Mike was driving, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  I do know that I stopped taking notes and just concentrated on having fun and not falling down (which is more than I can say for some of the folks who were there). 

So there’s the St. Patrick’s day report – and I promise, no more Irish drinks until next March!

Cheers!

Day 222, Cocktails 219 & 220

You didn’t really think that just one cocktail would be enough while we watched White Christmas on Friday night, did you?  While Gwen stayed with the White Christmas, I decided to continue my exploration of the whiskey sour theme.  I went back to The Ultimate Bar Book and perused the options that Mitte Hellmich presented.  The first one that caught my eye was the Double Standard.

  Double Standard Sour

  • 3/4 oz whiskey
  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • 1/8 oz grenadine

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake to chill and mix and pour into a rocks glass.  Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

I like this one.  The whiskey (Jim Beam rye) and gin (Plymouth) interacted well (somewhat to my suprise).  The grenadine added a very nice flavor dimension as well.  However, I found this to be just bit a sweet – probably because it only has 1-1/2 ounces of booze, 25% less than the other sours I’ve been mixing.  With this in mind, I decided to try my own version.

  Gold Standard Sour

  • 1 oz Jim Beam rye
  • 1 oz Plymouth gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • 1/8 oz grenadine
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters

If I liked the Double Standard, I really liked this one.  The extra booze cuts into the sweetness and lets the gin and rye flavors be more readily available to the palate.  The Peychaud’s adds another dimension of complexity that makes the flavor profile more interesting as well.  It’s a nice twist on a classic sour – give it a try and let me know what you think!

Well, after three sours, my sour exploration was done for the night, along with the movie.  Do you have a favorite Christmas movie that calls for a cocktail?  If so, share it with us!

Cheers!

Day 222, Cocktails 218

Friday night turned into home movie night for Gwen and me, with both the daughters out of the house.  We took advantage of the evening by watching one of our favorite Christmas movies – White Christmas with Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.  Man, can that Vera Ellen dance!  We also love all the cocktail lounges that are part of the movie and how the women wear cocktail dresses and the men suits.  I swear that I should have turned 30 in about 1952!

When watching a movie like this we like to sip cocktails ourselves.  I wanted to stay within my sour theme of the moment and also wanted to create a cocktail that would be emblematic of White Christmas.  So, down to the Twilight Lounge I went and started tinkering.  This is what I came up with:

  White Christmas

  • 2 oz Death’s Door gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz bar syrup
  • 1/2 bar spoon peppermint schnapps

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake to mix and chill.  Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with 3 fresh cranberries.

This was delicious!  Using the shaker and really shaking vigourously left bits of ice that came through the strainer and helped froth up the cocktail a bit.  This gives the drink a very nice, white, almost snowy appearance.  I did have to be careful with the peppermint schnapps to be sure not to overpower the gin and lemon juice with it.  Too much and it just takes over!  You can, however, adjust the amount of schnapps to your taste.  For instance, I do like mine just a bit more minty than Gwen did.  The Death’s Door gin is a local product made from wheat and juniper berries grown on Washington Island.  It’s not quite as strong on the flavor as a typical London dry gin.  If you don’t have Death’s Door in your area I would substitute Plymouth in its place.

With our cocktails in hand we settled in for the movie and had a fun evening!

Cheers!

Day 217, Cocktail 215

Ugh, these guys are gonna’ be the death of me!  I went to Ivee’s, as usual, for the Browns game on Sunday.  What made it different, and a lot more fun, was that Cookie was with me, there to cheer his Steelers on.  We were both feeling pretty good when our teams jumped out to big leads then nearly had heart attacks as the Browns won when the Panthers missed a field goal as time expired and the Steelers won in OT as a Bills reciever dropped a game winning TD pass.  Whew!

To celebrate the twin victories Cookie ordered up a variant of the classic vodka cranberry that I’d never had.  He had a splash of sour mix added to the drink – and I liked it.  The sour cut the sweetness of the cranberry just a bit and made it a very enjoyable cocktail.  Thanks Cookie!

Cheers!