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Tag Archives: vodka

Honey Boo Boo MartiniWisconsin Dells, WI – November 20, 2012

….and I don’t feel fine!

I had remained blissfully unaware of the existence of that overweight and underbrained miscreant knows as Honey Boo Boo until she was brought to my attention last fall, by my boss, of all people!  Since then I’ve lamented her as a sure sign of the apocolypse and have worked hard to avoid her and her “family”.

Frankly, I had been doing a pretty good job of that avoidance…until I walked into the bar at the House of Embers in Wisconsin Dells…and was greeted by the sign at left.  Arrrrgh!  I wanted to poke my eyes out!  And no, I did not have one!  You all know my disdain for flavored vodkas – and this has two of them!  In fact, I had to order a double Bombay martini to wash the taste out of the mouth.  In fact, just writing this has brought back horrible memories that will require another Bombay martini to wash away!

Cheers!

The Twilight Lounge – February 25, 2012

A quiet evening at home after the week in Vegas is just what I needed last Saturday.  A couple of movies and cocktails were the order of the day.  However, I wasn’t content to have the same ‘ol same ‘ol, so I started rooting around in the Twilight Lounge amongst the drink recipes.  What caught my eye was this little number called the Melon Patch (yeah, I know, they caught your eye too, didn’t they?).  With vodka as its base, I knew it would be strong enough for me, yet with melon flavored Midori and orange flavored Cointreau, I knew that Gwen would also enjoy it.

  Melon Patch

  • 1-1/2 oz Midori
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz vodka
  • soda water

 

In a shaker with ice combine everything but the soda water and shake.  Pour, ice and all, into a rocks glass and top with soda water.

The vodka and soda water do a nice job of cutting the sweetness of the Midori and Cointreau, leaving a nice, refreshing cocktail.  The combination of the flavors evokes a hint of bananna along with the orange and melon flavors of the liqueurs.  This one would be perfect for warm summer evenings or pool side on a hot day.  It’s a good thing summer isn’t that far away!

Cheers!

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!

Milwaukee, WI – January 27, 2012

Friday night and in no mood to cook…so what to do?  A quick flip through the entertainment book and viola, there it was, a coupon for Kiku.  Kiku is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of downtown Milwaukee and was voted Best Sushi in The Shepard Express reader’s poll for two years running.  Not a sushi fan?  No worries, they also have a complete tempura, teriyaki and noodle menu as well.

As usual, Gwen and I had a cocktail before our dinner.  I tried the TyKu Tini (at least it wasn’t called a martini – I can live with that!).  It was pretty basic, consisting of Ketel One Citroen and TyKu.  Mostly TyKu at that.  I enjoy TyKu, having created a number of cocktails that use it.  This was a bit on the bland side.  It tasted like TyKu (which is fine) with a dash of lemon.  I would have liked a third flavor component as well (sake?  a bit of ginger?  lychee fruit?).  However, it did make an agreeable compliment to the sushi we had for dinner – which was very generous in portions and very good.

I definitely recommend Kiku, the sushi and the cocktails.  Give ’em a try!

Cheers!

Milwaukee, WI – January 26, 2012

“Feeling different feeling strange
This can never be arranged
As the light fades from the screen
From the famous final scene”

My apologies to Mr. Seger and the rest of the Silver Bullet Band.  However, having played the “Stranger In Town” album until I wore it out as a teen, how could I resist a drink named “The Famous Final Scene”? 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mark Stoffel and I decided a Men’s League night was long overdue and headed downtown for a man date and a few good drinks.  We started at Umami Moto where I had their Shanghai Mule.  A twist on the classic Moscow Mule, this cocktail substituted TyKu Soju for vodka.  It was mild and refreshing cocktail, and actually would be a great poolside sipper on a warm day.  My original notes called it innocuous, which may have a little harsh, but there wasn’t a lot memorable about it (actually, if it were not for my notes, I wouldn’t be writing about it here because I did forget about it).

After our start at Umami, it was on to Distil, our primary objective of the evening.  Distil is one of Milwaukee’s latest hip cocktail lounges, serving up true cocktails, including several that are homemade, along with a great selection of hard to find and rare bourbons and other assorted spirits.  “The Famous Final Scene” was the cocktail that caught my eye, and not just for the name.  Consisting of Bulliet Rye, sweet vermouth, HUM Botanical liqueur and orange bitters, it reminded me of some of the rye cocktails I’ve conjured up at the Twilight Lounge.  I’m a fan of rye and orange bitters, and was really looking forward to trying this out.  Unfortunately, this cocktail (pictured above) was overwhelmed by the spicey ginger flavor of the HUM liqueur.  I couldn’t detect the rye or the orange bitters, and the vermouth helped sweeten it, but also wasn’t really discernable.  I’d love to try this drink with half the amount of HUM in it, but unfortunately, this cocktail is mass produced by the bar manager and stored in jugs waiting to be ordered, so the bartender on duty couldn’t tinker with the recipe to see if we could get it right. 

Fortunately, not all was lost for the evening.  Mark and I also ordered up a taste of the George T. Stagg 15 year old.  This cask strength bourbon clocks in at around 140 proof, but you’d never know it by how smooth and mellow it was.  Nice notes of charcoal and vanilla to my nose made this a delight.  Adding just a drop of water mellowed it even more so and allowed cherry notes to emerge as well.  All in all, an excellent sipping bourbon!

So, 1 out 3 got Albert Pujols $240 million … and all it did was keep me from getting a hangover!

Cheers!

December 7, 2011 – The Twilight Lounge

‘Tis the season to be merry and make merry.  What better way to do that than a good cocktail or two (or three).  If you agree, then you’ve come to the right place.  So fire up Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy”, get the shaker out and enjoy.

My original Christmas cocktail was the Sleigh Wreck.  Originally called the Sleigh Ride it caused more than a few hangovers, thus earning the change from Sleigh Ride to Sleigh Wreck.  Similar to a Cosmpolitan, it is a favorite of the denizens of the Twilight Lounge.  As long as I’m here, another interesting tidbit for you.  Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride was not orginally written as a Christmas song (don’t believe me, just listen to the lyrics).  Nope, Leroy got the inspiration on a blazing hot day in 1948 when all he wanted to do was cool off!

Second on my list of Christmas cocktails is the White Christmas.  Inspired by the Danny Kaye (Danny F—ing Kaye for you fans of Christmas Vacation)/Bing Crosby/Vera Ellen/Rosemary Clooney holiday extravaganza of the same name, this cocktail features gin and peppermint schnapps.  When properly made it even looks white as it first hits the glass.  Similar in style and taste to the White Christmas is the cleverly named Christmas Cocktail.  Also made with gin and peppermint schnapps, this has the dry vermouth of a martini in it as well.

For the naughty set I suggest the Bad Santa.  This vodka based cocktail has pomegranate juice as its primary flavor, making sure it goes down nice and smooth – and is sure to put you on the couch if you’re not careful!  According to my former official Christmas cocktail taster, Andrea, this is just as good as the Sleigh Wreck!  Of course, that other Christmas bad boy is also represented with the Grinch cocktail.

If you’re planning on spending the holidays in Mexico then the Christmas Mule is a light, refreshing cocktail that will hit the spot when you’re belting out Feliz Navidad.  Just be sure you remember where you left your flip flops.

So there you have it, a primer on Yuletide cocktails.  Of course, there are many more out there, but these all have been thoroughly tested and have recieved the Twilight Lounge stamp of approval!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a Good Night!

 

December 3, 2011 – Germantown, WI

Last Saturday was the kickoff to the holiday season for me.  The decorations are all up (we’ll, OK, I’m still putting the finishing touches on the Twilight Lounge decor) and our first holiday party of the season was Saturday night.

Of course, I had to come up with Christmas themed cocktail to take for us to imbibe.  I seem to have a thing for green cocktails at Christmas, so when I stumbled upon a cocktail called the Grinch it seemed like a natural.  It called for Midori (very green indeed), lemon juice and bar syrup.  So I mixed up a batch and….waaaaaay to sweet.  The Midori is sweet enough as it is and with the additional bar syrup, well, there was just no way I’d be able to sip these all night long.  Factor in that Midori is only 40 proof and I knew I just had to do something.  And what was that something?  Vodka!

  The Grinch

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Midori liqueur
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/8 oz bar syrup

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

Alternatively, you can just pour this, ice and all, into a rocks glass.  In that case, just double all the ingredients and you’ll be good to go.

This turned out to be a nice holiday sipper – not to sweet, not too boozy, but just right.  The melon flavor of the Midori is cut down by the vodka and lemon and is in the background instead of in your face.  Of course, the green color certainly matches the Grinch’s face, and the cherry is a nice reminder that his heart went from two sizes too small to two sizes too big!

Chears!

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!

June 21, 2011 – La Crosse, WI

I’d been hearing about the Starlite Lounge for years from my buddy Greg.  His daughter Katie had gone to college at UW La Crosse and as a result, Greg and Patti had numerous opportunities to enjoy the retro and swinging atmosphere of the Starlite.  So, when I had the opportunity to spend a night in La Crosse on a recent business trip I knew exactly where I was headed.  As luck would have it, I even managed to select a hotel right next to the Starlite…it was fate!

Beca was behind the bar for the evening and proved to be an incredibley good bartender and host.  She took care of all her guests deftly and during the peak rush was banging out martinis and various assorted cocktails with no muss and no fuss.  Great job Beca!

The decor of the Starlite is exactly what you’d expect.  Plenty of 50’s style light fixtures and vinyl covered bachelor pad chairs down in classic Howard Johnson aqua and orange.  A mix of Rat Pack and other lounge music was in the background, loud enough to add to the atmosphere, but soft enough not to be intrusive. 

As I perused the cocktail menu, my eye immediately was drawn to the drink I knew I’d have to have first.  The Daddy-O martini just called to me, and I could not resist its singsong melody.  Made with four parts vodka and one part dry vermouth, and garnished with an olive, it was the perfect way to unwind from the days meetings and travels. 

As I contemplated what to have from the appetizer menu I next had a Rusty Nail (yeah, by now Beca was beginning to think I was old…).  Made with Macgregor and Drambuie, this was a nice follow up to the martini, was well made, and went with the seafood stuffed mushrooms perfectly.

For a night cap, I finally cajoled Beca into making me her favorite drink.  Given that it is Wisconsin, she popped out an excellent and authentic Brandy Old Fashioned, complete with muddled orange and cherries at the bottom of the glass and an extra dose of bitters.  I have to admit that the bitters through me for a bit and I originally guessed that it was whiskey, but Beca was delighted to correct me on that score.  It was perfect way to end my visit to this terrific throwback lounge!

June 18, 2011 – Milwaukee

Ahh, Polishfest weekend in Milwaukee at the Summerfest grounds!  What could be better than Polish food, Polish beer, Polish vodka and polka music all day long!  On this day, nothing!

As is our usual custom, Gwen and I took the girls down on Saturday afternoon to eat, browse the market and listen to some polka music.  The day was perfect, sunny with just enough breeze off the lake to keep us comfortable.  We picked up our lunch at Busia’s Kitchen and had a sampling of everything they had.  The pierogi’s stuffed with potatoe were excellent with a nice buttery flavor and the fried onions that they were served with were a nice touch.  I enjoyed the stuffed cabbage.  The filling was tender and the tomato sauce had a touch of sweetness that I liked.  The sauerkraut was also good, slightly sweet (again) and with a touch of caraway seed.  Finally, Gwen had the Polish nachos – homemade potato chips with a creamy cheese sauce, diced polish sausage and tomato.  They were delicious, if not truly Polish!  The only disappointment were the potato pancakes which were limp and very doughy.

During the afternoon, while we browsed the market, I enjoyed a Tyskie beer.  Although Tyskie is owned by SABMiller (I know, disappointing), it is a very nice pilsner that still has its Polish character and beats a Bud or MGD any day of the week (and twice on Polishfest!).  It’s a full bodied pilsner and goes down smooth.

With our bellies full, we headed home for a short siesta and a Stanski. Round two was Saturday night with our friends Greg and Patti (and a brief cameo by Mark and Sue).  We started off with polka lessons and within 30 minutes could do a passable Polish Hop.  Next was dinner – more pierogies, yum!  Then, the vodka tasting.

The vodka tasting was again sponsored by Sobieski.  However, I have to admit that the Sobieski brand has been diminished in my mind with their recent introduction of flavored vodkas.  I always had admired them for not jumping on the flavored bandwagon, so this was very disappointing. 

Fortunately, I got over my disappointment and enjoyed several Krupniks on ice as we polka’d the rest of the night away!