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Tag Archives: wisconsin

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!

Day 327, Cocktail 333

Friday was a relaxing day for me, a time to recharge after the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.  No, I was not hungover (I’m a professional, after all).  I had just minimized my schedule so that I didn’t have anything that had to be done.

In Wisconsin, Friday’s are fish fry day, and that goes all year long, not just for Lent.  Gwen’s Newcomer’s group had put together a trip to a local bowling alley for their fish fry and bowling last Friday.  Being a former kegler myself I was more than happy to go along.

While we were bowling Gwen offered to get me a drink from the bar and I asked for my usual bourbon and coke.  I say usual because when I’m at a typical neighborhood tavern kind of place that’s what I stick with (unless I order an old fashioned, Wisconsin’s state drink).  So I was just a tad disappointed when she came back with a bourbon and seven, which is her drink.  It was an honest error, and the good news is that it counts towards my goal since I haven’t had one in I don’t know how long.  I am going to dispense with the recipe, however.  I’m sure you know how to make one of these already.  My next post will get back into the normal routine!

Cheers!

Day 307, Cocktail 309

On Saturday Gwen’s Newcomer’s group set up an outing to the Great Lakes Distillery.  GLD is the first distillery in Milwaukee since Prohibition and began operation a few years ago with their flagship Reehorst Vodka.  Since then they have branched out to include Reehorst gin, Roaring Dan’s rum (made with maple syrup) and absinthe.

We got a quick tour of the distillery, hosted by Jason Neu.  The tour was quick because essentially they have the still (pictured) and a few racks for aging (they are experimenting with bourbon and brandy right now), and … that’s it.  It really is booze production at its most elemental!

While I had the opportunity to sample the rum and absinthe I’m going to focus on the gin since I was able to enjoy a Reehorst gin martini while waiting for our tour to start.  The mix was pretty simple – a generous (probably 5 oz) pour of gin, a dash of cherry bark bitters and a twist. 

It was a pretty good martini.  GLD makes their Reehorst gin unique with the addition of Wisconsin grown gingsen and basil.  The addition of these flavors takes some of the edge off the juniper, making this a more accessible gin – several in our group who profess to not like gin enjoyed this one.

All in all it is great to see a local producer making high quality spirits from local ingredients.  I look forward to tinkering with the Reehorst gin and the Roaring Dan rum in the future.  Stay tuned!

Cheers!

Day 265, Cocktails 265 & 266

There’s a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes

And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin’ whiskey down
They say “Brandy, fetch another round”
She serves them whiskey and wine

The sailors say “Brandy, you’re a fine girl” (you’re a fine girl)
“What a good wife you would be” (such a fine girl)
“Yeah your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea”
(dooda-dit-dooda), (dit-dooda-dit-dooda-dit)

This 70’s classic by Looking Glass seems as good a way as any to introduce a week of Wisconsin’s favorite, brandy.  More brandy is consumed (by far) in Wisconsin than any other state (40% of Korbel’s total output of brandy ends up here), but the bar at the hotel where one of my friends stayed did run out of brandy, along with Miller Lite.)  So with winter in full swing and several bottles of brandy in the Twilight Lounge liquor cabinet it seemed like a good time to explore this Wisconsin favorite.

  Saratoga Cocktail

  • 2oz brandy
  • 1/2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/8 oz lemon juice
  • 1/8 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters

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 a cherry.

I amped the pineapple up from 1/4 oz to 1/2 oz after making my first one.  The pineapple just seemed lost without the extra 1/4 oz.  My modified drink was good with a very complex and layered flavor profile.  The brandy, maraschino and pineapple all blend harmoniously.  Towards the end it did start to get a little syrupy sweet the way some drinks with pineapple can get, but overall I thought this was a winner.  By the way, for those of you keeping score at home I used Korbel brandy and Luxardo maraschino liqueur.

The Saratoga on the left and Pisco Punch on the right.

For my next brandy drink I decided on the Pisco Punch.  Pisco is an acquired taste.  It is a brandy distilled from white muscat grapes and has a sharp flavor to it, somewhat similar to kirschwasser.  So why choose it?  Well, I had a bottle left over from New Year’s Eve courtesy of Christian and Meredith and had some pineapple juice left from the Saratoga.

  Pisco Punch

  • 2 oz Pisco brandy
  • 1/2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 dashes Angosturo bitters

Combine all the ingredients with 1/2 cup of cracked ice in a blender.  Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled wine glass.  Garnish with a cherry or lime slice.

I had to let this one grow on me.  This drink, although it looks frilly, is not.  Between the pisco and the bitters it is a sour son of a gun.  As I expected, it was a complete no go for Gwen.

Well, that’s it for today.  Off to watch the Packers with all my brandy swillin’ friends at Ivee’s!

Cheers!

 

Rye, Brandy, Sweet Vermouth and Gin?

Day 65, Cocktail 61

Woo Hoo!  First, the good news.  While catching up on some e-mail I was reading through Colleen Graham’s cocktail newsletter and saw that my blog has made her blog roll!  Of course, I wish I had spelled Twilight Lounge correctly, but, hey, it’s a link!  By the way, if you haven’t checked out Colleen’s blog, I highly recommend it.  I subscribe to her newsletter and it always has interesting recipes as well as great tips, contests and more.

Next, on to a new cocktail for today.  I know that I’m in the middle of this grapefruit jag, and I’ll be returning to grapefruit tomorrow.  For today, though, I just had a hankering for rye.  In fact, this is one of those days that I would have liked to mix up one the drinks I’ve already done, such as a Cooper Brothers.  However, I take my duty here seriously and so I went to the Internet Cocktail DB.  (By the way, this is another very good online resource for drink recipes that allows searches by name and ingredient – very handy.)  A search for rye whiskey yielded a number of interesting looking cocktails.  It was the Chauncey that caught my eye.  Rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, sure, this all sounds very Manhattan like.  Then I saw it…gin…really?  You add gin to this thing?  I did some research and learned that this is a classic cocktail that’s been around since at least the 30’s.  I find the classics appealing.  I also liked the fact that I had all the ingredients and wouldn’t need any special liqueurs (although if I wasn’t living in Wisconsin the odds of me having brandy would have been small).

  Chauncey

  • 3/4 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 oz brandy
  • 1 dash Agnosturo bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with 4-5 ice cubes.  Stir thoroughly to mix and chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

My mix of this cocktail used Russell’s Reserve Rye, Plymouth Gin, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth and Korbel Brandy.  As I was mixing this up I felt that the sweet vermouth would at the forefront, and I think I was correct.  The rye ends up providing the base while I get just a hint of the botanicals that are in the gin.  I’m sure part of this comes from using Plymouth, which is mild as far as gin goes.  The Agnosturo serves to help pull this together and ties it up into a nice little package.  Definately in the style of a Manhattan, I am enjoying this cocktail.

Cheers!