At long last, the ladies of LUPEC Boston present: MxMo XXXVII, THE ROUND-UP.
We thank you all for contributing your witty, funny, expertise on the topic of “First Time”. This was no “desert island cocktail conversation” – as we mentioned in our intro, these cocktails will be culled, vetted, and sent off to the real, live Cocktail Virgin who got us into this mess. (He thanks you in advance, too.) He’s in for a real treat: since none of you seem to agree, the cocktail list is going to be wicked long.
While some suggested cocktails came up time and again, there was great variety in your suggested gateway drinks. In some cases, your viewpoints on flavor profile were so diamterically opposed, we only wished we were hashing this out together publicly in some bar. Here’s a little glimpse of MxMo BY THE NUMBERS:
- of “first time” contributors: 5
- of posts disparaging the Cosmo: 1
- of posts recommending the Cosmo: 2
# of posts both disparaging AND recommending the Cosmo: 1
- of posts recommending the Mojito: 2
- of posts recommending the Corpse Reviver: 4
- of posts that say the Corpse Reviver is the LAST cocktail you should give your cocktail virgin: 3
- of posts recommending the Tom Collins: 4
- of posts recommending the Sidecar: 5
Without further ado, here’s the synthesis. And don’t forget to skip over to eGullet, where the lively thread on the topic favored the Sidecar and a darling little drink from PDT called the Vieux Mot.
PayStyle over at Umami Mart was a first-time contributor to MxMo and gets special awesome points for being the first to post on the topic. We enjoyed reading his thoughts on his own cocktail awakening: “Although I’ve been drinking for quite a long time, and am thankful and somewhat surprised that I haven’t yet developed a problem, I feel that in the past few years I’ve started to drink for the first time all over again.” To help shepherd others through the same experience, he suggests the L’Amant, a drink named after a Margeurite Duras novel about the awakening of passion and “the transformational journey that life beholds for those willing to take on new experiences, which ultimately enable us to view our world in an entirely new way.” Welcome aboard, cocktail neophytes.
Samantha over at Drinks for the House was also a first-time MxMo contrib – we’re delighted to note that our newbie focused theme inspired her to play. This “cocktail moderate” was looking for a drink with “a bit of the cocktailian touch, without being too intimidating.” Her exotically garnished Spring Blossom cocktail is as approachable as it sounds, which she blames largely on the St-Germain: “If one ingredient could bring the cocktail enthusiasts and cocktail masses of the world together this one would be it.”
One the exact opposite end of the spectrum, fellow Bostonian Frederic from Cocktail Virgin Slut breaks in newbies with the brandy-based Hoop-La. Frederic lists the brandy base as a great place to start because “Brandy, unlike vodka, has a flavor; however, it is not as initially objectionable to a novice drinker as gin, tequila, or whiskey, so it is a good way to teach someone that boozes themselves can taste good and are not something that they should try to mask with various mixers.” Good call, Frederic. Additionally, the addition of Lillet Blanc “can teach drinkers that similar products, namely vermouths, can make drinks taste better and not worse.” Getting people to drink vermouth is a constant battle, and we’ll take whatever help we can get. Frederic also suggests an Elephants Sometimes Forget, which features gin and Cherry Heering in a pleasing tart cherry combination that could easily seduce a vodka drinker.
Two at the Most‘s Stevi Deter thinks the best gateway cocktail for the cocktail virgin is “the simple, elegant, and oft-abused daiquiri.” As Deter explains, the drink is easy to make (lime, rum, sugar), easy to drink (and hard to screw up), easy to play with (she subs whatever her rum du moment happens to be), and a great introduction to cocktail geekery (thanks to the many competing stories of how the daiquiri got its name, and the great variations that lurk just yonder, like the Hemingway Daiquiri and the Papa Doble.) The ladies of LUPEC sampled these at a meeting in honor of Jackie Kennedy, as it was allegedly her favorite drink during her years in the White House.
Jay at Oh Gosh! can name a gateway cocktail for every spirit – and reasons why they might put off the virgin drinker. His final prognosis is that the “fresh, tasty and very easily approachable” Oh Gosh cocktail lands well every time. He happily notes that, “It’s been a while since I drank an Oh Gosh!, but trying it again tonight reminds me why I like them so much. I could have named this site after plenty of other cocktails I liked at the time, some of which I wouldn’t be so pleased about now, but happily the Oh Gosh! still tastes pretty decent to me.”
Max Watman of The Ocean of Intemperance invokes the cautionary tale of Robet Benchley, a contemporary of Dorothy Parker and founder of the Algonquin Round Table. He was a teetotaler ’til his 30s, much like the Cocktail Virgin that inspired this month’s MxMo. Benchley’s gateway cocktail was an Orange Blossom: one night, seemingly out of nowhere, he had another and another and another of these, and eventual;y drank his way to death’s doorstep. As Watman reminds us, “there is a certain amount of responsibility called for when introducing a neophyte to the drinking life.”
Coming to us live from Sweden, Tiare Olsen at A Mountain of Crushed Ice presents a Tom Spicy Ginger Collins, a gussied up Tom Collins with cardamom and ginger. We particularly appreciated her suggesting “a cocktail that I still feel nostalgic about when I think about it the drink”, as nostalgia is a key draw for many of us to cocktail culture. Packed with exotic, culinary flavor, this would be an especially perfect gateway for any “newbie” who is also a “foodie.”
The Alpha Cook underscores the ever present problem of non-drinkers being a tricky bunch, as they are riddled with preconceived notions about all manner of otherwise lovable liquors: “Someone who might never have tried whiskey before will certain not hesitate to tell you that they “don’t think they’d like that sort of thing.” And how, Alpha Cook! To combat this, a Singapore Sling seems to be in order: sweet and fruity, with nice acidity, and it doesn’t skimp on the booze.” Plus, as Alpha Cook points out, “people are easily seduced by small paper umbrellas.
At Edngbrg, Jon invites us to step back in to the newbie’s shoes, likening the first time you pick up a cocktail list to standing at the edge of a terrible swamp, wondering how the hell you’ll get out of it while ” up to your ankles in liquid you don’t want to think too hard about, swatting away flies the size of staplers.” He extols the virtues of berries, vanilla, and fresh fruit in coaxing a convert past the Gatekeeper.
The Aviation is the drink Cocktailians recommends to help fledgling cocktailians take flight. “It only has three (or perhaps four) ingredients,” writes Vidiot, “but offers a wealth of interesting tastes.” This is a truly delicious cocktail, and one we could see Cosmo or Pomegranate martini drinkers slinging back with ease.
As Michael from My Aching Head reminds us, “Like all great cooking and mixing the most important thing is letting the ingredients speak for themselves, fresh fruit and juice in cocktails, great garnishes and most importantly quality spirits are paramount.” My favorite part of his philosophy concerns the need to introduce these drinkers to the joys of drinking booze for booze’s sake: “these first drinks need to drive the point home that near pure alcohol can taste great.” The Gin Gimlet and the significantly brighter Japanese Slipper do the trick.
Dennis at Rock and Rye likes to let his guest’s taste buds guide him to the perfect first drink: “Are they a big beer drinker? Do they prefer wine? White or Red? Are they feeling adventurous, or just looking for a little refreshment.” When I asked the Cocktail Virgin who inspired this post the same question, I felt utterly befuddled by his answer: “I like white wine, but I usually drink red because white wine is for girls. Actually, most of the time, I’ll just have a beer. For the same reason.” Dennis also suggests a Tom Collins for newbies, and in light of the Cocktail Virgin’s gendered views of cocktails, I think this drink, with its refreshing fizz and masculine nomenclature, could do the trick.
Rum Dood‘s Matt considers rum the ultimate gateway spirit. “It seems that just about any 21 year old that finds themselves in front of my home bar tells me how much they love rum, followed by the long list of “jungle juice” style concoctions that they seem to adore.” He suggests countering this with a well-made Mojito, finished with a few surreptitious dashes of bitters, as per Dale DeGroff.
When posed with the quandry of the cocktail virgin, Jennifer at The Bon Vivant’s Companion (another MxMo first-timer) says, “Let them drink lemonade. Everyone past the age of five has had a glass of the stuff, and lemonade is a resilient mixer.” When she vetted her drink with her book club ladies, “a group of women whose feedback on literature, poor life choices, and cocktails is always appreciated”, they declared even the Preggatini version “good for the soul.” Drinking, literature, poor life choices? This sounds suspiciously like the stuff of our LUPEC Boston meetings. Maybe your group should change its name to LUPEC Beverly Hills?
Sonja from Thinking of Drinking has three profiles of cocktail virgins in mind when approaching the topic: The “I Don’t Drink” (Much) type who, for a variety of reasons don’t drink, but on occasion they might be open to trying something; the “I’ll Have a Bud” type – who drink beer, American big-brand beer, like Budweiser or maybe MGD; and the “I Only Drink Wine” type, who prefer to “take it easy” with wine, even if they have several glasses (or more) in a night. Sonja also recommends a Tom Collins for luring these folks out of their drinking (or not-drinking) rut.
Pavel from The Science of Drink has worked out the ultimate or “gold” proportions of
two rum-based classics, earning them decidedly souped up names: The SupreMai-Tai, garnished with a beautiful flower, and the SupreMojito. Pretty tropical for the Ukraine – I wonder, does the winter drag on there as it does here in Boston?
Michael at A Dash of Bitters shares a own charming story about the day he had his first cocktail – a gin and tonic at a joint called Buffalo Wild Wings – and continues with the gin theme by recommending the Hail Mary Fizz for your cocktail virgin.
Marshall at Scofflaw’s Den advocates a ‘take the bull by the horns’ approach to handling cocktail neophytes who eschew gin or anything brown based on mental biases: “The trick for me is making cocktails that are flavorful, complex, balanced and uses the ingredient they supposedly don’t like. I’m completely up front with what I’m serving them, and in most instances they have enjoyed the drinks.” Non-gin-drinking friends of Marshall, beware – he plans to bring you back to the fold with a Shanghai Gin. We’d expect nothing less from a Scofflaw.
Amelia at Felicia’s Speakeasy gets super bonus points for supplying this photo of herself circa 1987 to represent “the essence of the virgin drinker.” She suggests a Pomegranate Cosmopolitan for the cocktail neophyte. We are thrilled to note that her shirt is not only tie-dye, but it is also, in Hanky Panky’s words, Cosmopolitan pink.
At Art of Drink, Darcy O’Neil advocates throwing cocktail neophytes into the breach: “just because they are new doesn’t mean you need to treat them with “kid gloves”. Give them something to talk about, without making them barf.” His Filby cocktail, with Amaretto, Campari, gin and dry vermouth will certainly be tough to forget.
Drink of the Week suggest general pointers for how not to overwhelm the first timer, extolling the virtues of small pours, premium spirits, muddled anything, and lots of good ice. The Berry Caiprinha sounds like a great way to trick liquor phobes into drinking cachaca.
Poor Drinksnob wrote his post while suffering a terrible bout on insomnia. His Basil Gimlet is nevertheless a favorite, “Without doubt, the drink that has made the most first-timers beg for seconds.” He also recommends an Americano as a great, adult-soda like introduction to strong Italian bitters that is actually quite refreshing. He warns, “The only problem with the Americano is that everyone will assume you are making them coffee – there is no solution to this problem.”
Paul from Ganymeda is another first-timer, came to the cocktail fold when his palate changed after he quit smoking (I think RumDood had something to do with it?) He invented Mom’s Sidecar as a gateway drink for his light beer- or white wine-drinking matriarch (awww!) It worked: mom went out and purchased both the ingredients AND equipment required to make them herself. And we all know the family that drinks together stays together.
Sean Mike, the other law-scoffer at Scofflaw’s Den, reminds us that when dealing with the neophyte, “It’s not useful to give them what YOU think is good – you need to give them what THEY will think is good.” He offers three different gateways: Matt’s Cocktail, Cathy’s Cocktail, and the Sazertif. The former two were vetted by real live neophytes; the latter by Pink Lady. Delicious.
Meghan at Spirit Me Away recommends a Gold Rush cocktail, a drink she uses to win guests over to the dark (spirits that is!) side, time and again. “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard ‘I don’t drink brown liquor,’” but she tricks them into bourbon with this drink, similar to a Bourbon Bee’s Knees Pinky Gonzales sampled at Drink on Monday. Meghan is also a first time MxMo-er – welcome!
Mixology Monday founder Paul Clarke recommends a Corpse Reviver No.2 over at the Cocktail Chronicles, and makes a strong case for it as great way to give “a glimpse of the delicate complexity inherent in a well-made cocktail without steamrollering [newbies] under a wave of Campari, Chartreuse or rye whiskey.” The easily digestible story is also a great selling point. Many MxMo-ers cited this drink as far too advanced for the newbie, but we’re with Paul on this one – why not give them something to talk about?
Paul at Cocktailiana advocates the Margarita for a first-timer, reminding us that “The Margarita is second only to The Martini in terms of how often it is bastardized. Nearly every bar has a version that could be said to be dramatically different from one another.” His dialed down recipe could be a revelation for drinkers accustomed to the frozen version at Chilis. And the addition of agave syrup in light of orange liqeuer is decidedly thrifty in these tough economic times.
Tristan at The Wild Drink Blog has also been faced with the challenge of concocting a cocktail for a reformed religious teetotaler. He doesn’t share the drink he invented for the defected nun’s (please do! my Cocktail Virgin might be intrigued) but advocates the Tom Collins, stirred so as to demonstrate “to the drinker how simple and wonderful cocktails can really be.”
Stephan at The Learned Banqueter brings a tall drink to the table with the Roman Cooler. A combination of gin, Punt e Mes, lemon and bubbles it is “ice-cold, carbonated, alcoholic orange soda, with a hint of ‘botanicals.’” Sounds perfect for patio sipping, if this Boston winter ever goes away.
At Liquidity Preference Jacob suggests the Pegu Club. “People who are accustomed to basic sours like a Cosmo or Margarita will find some familiar tastes here, while the gin and bitters will introduce them to new flavors.” As the Pegu Club is a favored cocktail of the LUPEC broads we were thrilled to see it’s inclusion in the roundup. And don’t forget to check out Jacob’s recipe for the Earl of Pegu using earl grey infused gin.
Kevin at Beers in the Shower brings his version of the Green Swizzle to the table. In P.G. Wodehouse’s “The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy” the original rum based Green Swizzle was tasty enough to have Betty Wooster promise to name her first borne son in it’s honor. Kevin’s offering swaps the green fairy for green creme de menthe and dubs it the Green Swizzle Wooster. We’ll take two!
At A Jigger of Blog, Matt suggests challenging the cocktail newbie to think outside the box: “What really will make a non-cocktailian into an aspiring cocktail snob is giving them something that they already think they won’t like or would never want to drink on their own.” The Mai-Tai is a perfect foil, “likely to leave novices with the task of cleaning up the mess left by their blown minds.”
And finally, we have Steve and Paul at the Cocktail Buzz, whose standard answer to the “what to drink” question is always The Oriental. So decisive! Made with whiskey, lime, triple sec, and sweet vermouth, this drink is what would happen if the Manhattan and a Margarita had a baby.
Thank you Mixology Monday, and Good Night.
Cin – cin!