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by Pink Lady and Hanky Pankymxmologo

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:

  1. of “first time” contributors: 5
  2. of posts disparaging the Cosmo: 1
  3. of posts recommending the Cosmo: 2

# of posts both disparaging AND recommending the Cosmo: 1

  1. of posts recommending the Mojito: 2
  2. of posts recommending the Corpse Reviver: 4
  3. of posts that say the Corpse Reviver is the LAST cocktail you should give your cocktail virgin: 3
  4. of posts recommending the Tom Collins: 4
  5. 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!

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I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

-Ron Burgundy

So, this week’s Dig column focused on the lovely Laphroaig, the distinctly smoky, peaty scotches the famed Islay distillery produces,  and the female distiller who helmed the operation for a generation, Bessie Williamson.

For more smoky scotch tippling, here are a few scotch recipes the ladies of LUPEC curated for an upcoming event hosted by the Boston University Scotch Club in honor of the Women’s Law Association at BU Law. Knock one of these back in honor of lady lawyers, distillers, and scotch lovers everywhere.

Cin cin!

PRINCE EDWARD

In a mixing glass, filled with ice, add:

2 oz Scotch

.75 oz Lillet Blanc

.25 oz Drambuie

Stir to chill, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

BOBBY BURNS (Try with Highland Malt, then another with an Islay)

In a mixing glass, filled with ice, add:

2 oz Scotch

.75 oz Italian Vermouth

.25 oz Drambuie or Benedictine

1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir to chill, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

GENTLE JOHN

In a mixing glass, filled with ice, add:

2 oz Scotch

.5 oz French Vermouth

.25 oz Cointreau

1 dash Angostura bitters

Stir to chill, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

BLOOD & SAND

1 oz Scotch

1 oz OJ

.75 oz Cherry Heering

.75 oz Italian Vermouth

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

THE MAMIE TAYLOR COCKTAIL

1 oz Scotch

.5 oz lime juice

ginger ale

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add Scotch and lime juice and top with ginger ale.

BALVENIE ROB ROY (Also try with an Islay)

In a mixing glass, filled with ice, add:

2 oz Balvenie 12 year Scotch

.75 oz Italian Vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

LOCH KATRINE

A LUPEC Original, by Hanky Panky

2 oz Scotch

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Lillet Blanc

muddled lavender

In a mixing glass, muddle lavender with Cointreau until fragrant. Fill with ice and add Scotch and Lillet

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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MxMo Update…

Pink Lady

Thanks to everyone for playing! What a stellar turn-out – last count we had over thirty participants, which means the LUPEC ladies have had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, we are stout of heart and have excellent liver function.

‘Til then, here’s a gem from Amelia over at Felicia’s Speakeasy to remind us of those blissful days of cocktail innocence. It’s not a cocktail photo, but as Amelia writes, represents “the essence of the virgin drinker!” May we never be jaded.

amelia_1988_cosmopolitan

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mxmologoLUPEC Boston is honored to be hosting today’s Mixology Monday at our humble abode.  Inspired by a chance encounter that Pink Lady had with a cocktail novice, we’ve decided to consider those cocktails that would be suitably delicious for the first timer.

Obviously there are a couple things to consider when offering up advice to the amateur cocktailian.  First off your suggestions need to be balanced.  Something too bitter, too sweet or too boozey results in our possible convert spending an eternity in vodka/soda purgatory.

And secondly we should consider accessibility.  Folks are afraid of words they don’t know or understand.  And rather than ask for guidance and clarification they will often just turn and run.  Cocktails for the first timer should be relatively simple and incorporate common ingredients.  Not only do we want the cocktail newcomer to enjoy and understand what they’ve just imbibed, we want to be able to write down the recipe and make it clear that it is something they can easily create for themselves at home!

Let’s hear from some of lovely ladies of LUPEC Boston.  How would they pave thelupec_logo72 way to cocktail glory for an amateur?

Pink Lady is a firm believer in the power of the Jack Rose.  “I think in sweeter incarnations and made with a little Peychaud’s, it could easily trick booze-fearing drinkers into swilling back something made with a brown liquor.”

Bourbon Belle chimed in with the Sidecar.  She describes “the combination of the bold and interesting flavor of brandy that is juxtaposed with the sour kick of fresh lemon juice and balanced with the sweet orange flavor of Cointreau” as a great well-balanced cocktail that goes down easy for the novice drinker.

Pink Gin agrees that the brown spirits tend to be an easier sell to the cocktail beginner.  She suggests a Mint Julep (hopefully served in the proper vessel) or perhaps her father’s favorite, a Bourbon Manhattan.  If Pink Gin gets her charm from her father I’m sure he could successfully put a Manhattan in the hands of any teetotaler!

Pinky Gonzalez pipes in with some options to help a newbie recover from any previous gincidents.  She’s used the Left Bank (Gin, St Germain and Sauvignon Blanc) to make “gin-drinkers out of many an unwitting soul.”  She also recommends the Vesper, saying “it’s good for vodka drinkers/gin fearers; the idea that there is vodka in there is enough for some to ‘go there.’  The Lillet offers the vermouth-fearer an alternative and the James Bond reference is a good hook for some folks.”

As someone who spends a big chunk of my life behind the stick making drinks for the general public I’m constantly considering gateway cocktails.  There is nothing more gratifying than introducing someone whose “usual” is a vodka and soda to the wonderful world of flavorful, balanced cocktails.  For this reason I’ve taken to calling them my greatway cocktails.  For our purposes today we will be focusing on gin and whiskey, the two base spirits that seem to be most misunderstood by the masses.

Let’s start with gin.  There is an erroneous fear of gin running rampant through our society that LUPEC is attempting to quell.  Gin is delicious and according to our good friend Patrick Sullivan it makes you smarter.  Armed with this fact and a few cocktails conversion is imminent.

Fine and Dandy Cocktail (from the Savoy Cocktail Book)

1/2 Plymouth Gin

1/4 Cointreau

1/4 Lemon Juice

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

The Fine and Dandy is a greatway cocktail for many reasons.  Like Bourbon Belle’s suggestion of the Sidecar, the sweet and sour aspects of this cocktail are wonderfully balanced but do not overwhelm the nuances of the gin.  In addition this cocktail gently introduces bitters, a cocktail ingredient that unnecessarily frightens the cocktail neophyte.

imagesThe Stork Club Cocktail

1.5 oz Gin

.5 Cointreau

1 oz Orange Juice

.25 oz Lime Juice

1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Orange juice equals breakfast, the start to one’s day.  Why not start one’s cocktail journey with the juicy house cocktail of one of Manhattan’s most historic hot spots.

As a lover of all brown spirits I can’t imagine not enjoying a perfectly made Manhattan.  But as I know this is not the case for all let’s consider a couple of whiskey based greatway cocktails.

The Scofflaw Cocktail

1 oz Rye Whiskey

1 oz French Vermouth

.5 oz Grenadine

.5 oz Lemon Juice

1 dash Orange Bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This delicious cocktail is perfect for introducing someone to the joys of whiskey and vermouth.   It’s sure to make a newbie ooo and ah.

The Algonquinothers_46780_8

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey

.75 oz Dry Vermouth

.75 oz Fresh Pineapple Juice

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Another juicy option for introducing folks to the joys of marrying whiskey and vermouth.  Encourage the newbie to raise her or his glass to Ms Dorothy Parker, one of our favorite forebroads and member of the Algonquin’s famed round table.

Thank you to all who have participated in our Mixology Monday saluting First Timers.  Check back in the next couple of days for our round up!

Cin Cin!

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By Pinky Gonzales

roffignac2Of course it is the week of Fat Tuesday and Lent, and the good city of New Orleans is on our minds and so are it’s drinks. LUPEC Boston’s column in this week’s Dig is on the Roffignac cocktail, a kind of elegant, no-frills, tasty highball. Its exact story is fuzzy, but its origins seem to go back to the early part of the 19th century, when cocktails were fledging. The drink is named after a French Revolution refugee-turned-progressive New Orleans Mayor and state Senator, Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, who may have liked to drink ‘em. It’s a Cognac or Brandy, raspberry, and soda water concoction, and personally, makes me pine for summer. Not a bad Winter blues beater (take it from me!) The original used a now-extinct raspberry syrup called Red Hembarig. I don’t know what our best store-bought choice is today as there are a number of them but I made a fresh raspberry simple syrup and that was not only good enough for me it was delicious.

So as Mayor in the 1820s, Roffignac, perhaps more of an “Obama” of his day than say, a Bush (ouch it’s hard to type his name), introduced and implemented a fistful of forward-minded ideas to make the Crescent city what it is today. According to Ryan Mayer in Where Y’At magazine, “He seems to have been the first official in New Orleans to appreciate its dawning commercial importance, and set himself earnestly and laboriously to prepare the city for its coming greatness.” Cool. He paid great attention to keeping the streets clean, planted trees, paved the streets, spearheaded some early levee planning, and lit the lantern-carrying Quarter with streetlamps in 1821. Pittoresque, no?

The swell little tome, Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Them by Stanley Clisby Arthur is a fun source for the recipe and a bit of history. It instructs:

untitled1“1 jigger whiskey

1 pony sirup

seltzer or soda water

raspberry sirup

Pour ito a highball glass the jigger of whiskey (or use Cognac, as in the original drink). Add the sirup, which may be raspberry, grenadine, or red Hembarig, the sweetening used in New Orleans a century ago [that would be 1837.] Add the soda water. Ice of course.

Cheers to progress, cheers to the swampy city.

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Screwdriver in search of fortune and good spirits

Screwdriver in search of fortune and good spirits

This month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Rowley’s Whiskey Forge is all about desperate times.  In these days of economic downturn how do we tipplers keep ourselves fully saturated?  For the ladies of LUPEC Boston its through an understanding that quality hooch doesn’t have to carry a hefty price tag.

Now don’t get us wrong.  We are more than willing to splurge on a delicious bottle of 20 year old bourbon every now and again.  It takes a lot of care to shepherd a barrel of bourbon through 20 years of aging and we will happily empty our wallets to enjoy that labor of love.  But all too frequently a bottle sports a hefty price tag due to the producer’s million dollar ad campaign.  So what about the bottle next to the $40 bottle of bourbon, the one that is only $20 and has a name with which you’re unfamiliar?  With a little research you just may find a gem. Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind as you explore:

RULE #1: Skip anything packaged in plastic.  These aren’t the desperate times of college.

RULE #2: Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your favorite cocktail bars and liquor stores.  We are fortunate to have several establishments here in Boston that stock unconventional brands in their wells and on their back bars.  If your bartender appears to have some time next time you visit your favorite local, ask a few questions about what they’ve chosen to stock and why.

RULE #3: Don’t be afraid to take a chance.  It’s doubtful that $20 bottle will be completely  undrinkable.  Take it home and taste it next to some of your higher priced bottles.  You may decide that one bottle was enough – or you may have found a diamond in the rough.

51sm2n55mgl_sl500_aa240_

A favorite affordable bottle for the LUPEC broads is Old Fitzgerald bourbon, a quality spirit with a distinguished history.  According to the Heaven Hills web site John E. Fitzgerald started producing his bourbon in 1870 for rail and steamship lines.  Around 1900 he released his bourbon to the public and was able to continue distilling through Prohibition, thanks to the national medicine trade.  It’s also around this time that the famed Pappy Van Winkle took over Old Fitzgerald and introduced the “whisper of wheat” formula.  Today the fine folks at Heaven Hills distillery continue the tradition of Old Fitz.

The final stamp of approval for Old Fitzgerald comes from one of our favorite saucy broads of yore, Dirty Helen (aka Helen Cromwell).  A woman who wore many hats, including prostitute and madame, Dirty Helen was known far and wide.  Her bar at the Sunflower Inn in Milwaukee, WI was frequented in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s by gangsters, millionaires, society, famous sportsmen and just plain people.  With no furniture to speak of guests plopped down on the plushly carpeted floor sipping one of two options: House of Lords Scotch or Old Fitzgerald Bourbon.  And if you dared to order something else, Dirty Helen’s salty sense of humor would turn you into the spectacle of the bar.

brands_oldfitz_bottleIn 1946 her dedication to Old Fitzgerald earned her a personal invite by Julian Van Winkle to attend the three day annual sales meeting of Stitzel-Weller distillery.  In true Dirty Helen style she eschewed the offer of a free plane ticket and traveled by taxi from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY with an unsuspecting cab driver named Harold.

So in honor of hard times and salty broads, grab a bottle of Old Fitz, pour yourself a shot and raise your glass to Dirty Helen!

Cin Cin!

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elit_midnight_millionaireValentine’s Day is just around the corner and folks are clamoring for reservations at romantic locales all about town.  With the state of the economy and the big event falling on a Saturday many, however, may be choosing to spend the night at home.  That would be my choice as nothing is dearer to me than cooking, cocktailing and enjoying with my sweetie at home sweet home. 

Now the ladies of LUPEC are no slouches in the  kitchen, but that it is not our expertise.  If you are deciding to spend a romantic night in with your honey there are a plethora of great ideas for delicious treats at blogs such as Married…with Dinner or in the lovely pages of Bon Appetit.  But if you need help with some lovely bubbly libations to start your amorous evening, we are the broads for you!

This week’s column in the Dig features the Champagne Cocktail.  To us this is the little black dress of sparkling cocktails.  Simple, elegant and fitting for almost every occasion.  If simplicity is what you are searching for you can also try a Kir Royale.  This French classic is named after former mayor of Dijon Count Felix Kir who enjoyed drinking the local Bordeaux wine with a touch of Cassis.  For a Kir Royale drizzle between 1/8 and 1/4 of an ounce of Cassis in a glass of Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist.  

One of our favorite women behind the stick, Audrey Saunders, is the source of the following delicious rum based bubbly cocktail.

shak184The Old Cuban

1.5 oz Bacardi 8

1 oz Simple Syrup (or less to taste)

.75 oz lime juice

1 dash angostura bitters (we like 2)

Mint

Champagne

Muddle mint, syrup and lime in a mixing glass.  Add rum and bitters and shake with ice.  Double strain into a larger cocktail glass and top with Champagne.  Garnish with a mint leaf.

If you’ve finished a dinner and still have some of the bubbly in the bottle the Seelbach is a bitter filled sparkling cocktail that’s perfect as a digestivo.  The Seelbach is named after the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  According to Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails the restaurant director found this forgotten pre-Prohibition recipe in 1995.  He began serving the cocktail in the hotel but kept the recipe a secret.  He finally divulged the full recipe in 1997 at the urging of Gary and Mardee Regan.

The Seelbach Cocktailsbhhotelgroup18851

1 oz Bourbon (Old Forrester was specified)

.5 oz Cointreau

7 dashes Angostura bitters

7 dashes Peychaud bitters

Champagne

Stir Bourbon, Cointreau and bitters briefly over ice.  Strain into a Champagne flute and top with bubbles.  Garnish with an orange twist.

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Great Molasses

by Pink Lady

If you checked out this week’s column in the Dig, you know the ladies of LUPEC have molasses on the brain. As mentioned in broad strokes in print, this dark, sticky sugar by-product and the rum that it produces are about as tightly woven into the history of New England as the American Revolution. Here are a few more facts and great resources to continue reading about them, for the history buffs among us:

  • As Pink Gin mentioned in last week’s column, “History reminds us that we once had a thriving rum industry that was buried along with any acknowledgment of our role in the slave trade.” Indeed, rum in New England has a distinctly checkered past. As Stephen Puleo summarizes in Dark Tide,

It was from Salem, as well as from Boston, Newport, and Bristol, Rhode Island, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and New London, Connecticut, that the slaving ships set sail for the coast of West Africa, their holds laden with barrels of rum. Once they arrived, they traded the rum to African coast merchants in exchange for black slaves, whom they sold, in turn, in the West Indies for local products – most notably molasses. These ships then transported molasses to New England to be used as a cheap sugar substitute, and to distill into rum. The cycle then began all over again. The “Triangle Trade” was born and became the backbone of New England’s economy and prosperity before the American Revolution.

For an more in-depth exploration of the history of rum in the United States, you can check out Wayne CurtisAnd A Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, or Ian WilliamsRum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776.

  • A neighborhood decimated, 150 people injured, 21 people killed – the details of the Great Boston Molasses Flood are pretty shocking, even to disaster-weary modern minds. But the scandal surrounding the flood is a fascinating, David vs. Goliath story in itself that is deftly recounted in Stephen Puleo‘s Dark Tide. 119 separate legal claims were brought again United States Industrial Agriculture, which the Superior Court of Massachusetts decided to consolidate into a single legal proceeding, “creating in effect, if not by strict legal definition, the largest class-action suit to date in Massachusetts history and one of the largest ever in U.S. legal annals.” The USIA tried to blame anarchist bombers for the tank explosion, but were ultimately held responsible and paid hundreds of thousands of damages to North End residents. To learn more, pick up a copy of Dark Tide – it’s a compelling, well informed read that will teach you tons about early 20th century Boston history and culture.

And now for some more molasses cocktails!

Adapted from David Wondrich’s Imbibe:

BLACK STRAP (a.k.a. BLACK STRIPE)

2 oz. Santa Cruz rum

1 tablespoonful of molasses

“This drink can either be made in summer or winter; if in the former season, mix in one tablespoonful of water, and cool with shaved ice; if in the latter, fill up the tumbler with boiling water. Grate a little nutmeg on top.” (Source: Jerry Thomas, 1862)

Writes Wondrich: “The Nutmegs [New Englanders] so loved theif Black Strap that, according to the memoirs of Henry Soule, a New England parson, bowls of it were even circulated at weddings. One shudders.”

Here’s a modern one, which we located on Trader Tiki’s Booze Blog. It comes originally from Martin Cate of Forbidden Island, and was named Trader Tiki Most Officially Excellent and Outstanding

Original Drink for Tales of the Cocktail 2008.

PAMPANITO

1 1/2 oz Pampero Aniversario (rum)
1/2 oz Mild (aka first boil) Unsulfured Molasses
1/2 oz Simple Syrup (2:1)
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Dash Angostura Bitters
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 1/2 Charged (fizzy) Water

Combine all ingredients except fizzy water in an ice-filled shaker; strain into a Collins glass. Top with fizzy water, stir to combine, garnish with mint & serve.

Yum! Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Trader Tiki!

Cin cin!

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Here we come A-Wassailing

by Hanky Panky

Hopefully in the midst of the holiday hustle you were able to snag a copy of this week’s Dig in which the LUPEC ladies unraveled the mystery of wassailing.  Who knew that the phrase that has been confusing us for years could actually be pointing to a delicious libation that can warm us throughout this festive and hectic season.

Thankfully making Wassail is not complicated.  It can, however, be a bit time consuming.  For this reason we decided to feature a recipe for Wassail from one of our favorite books, Jigger, Beaker, & Glass: Drinking Around the World by Charles H. Baker Jr. Mr. Baker is best known for traveling the world over to write about all things related to food and drink.  Those who are fortunate to own this tome know that his prose is as remarkably delicious as the recipes featured therein.  So who better to walk us through the ancient ritual than Mr. Charles H. Baker Jr.  Enjoy!

THE ANCIENT WASSAIL BOWL FROM AN ANCIENT ELIZABETHAN FORMULA, CIRCA 1602, & TRULY NOTABLE FOR ITS EXCEEDING MILDNESS

In Saxon times this custom of the Wassail Bowl at feast days was an important ceremony, and later it became an accepted custom at Christmas Eve, when minstrels or choirs, or village singers went about singing carols where there was a candle lit in the window.

In the Feudal castles, and manor houses, the Wassail Bowl was borne into the banqueting Hall with songs and carols, and crowned with garlands.

Nutmeg, 1/2 grated; or 2 tsp powdered

Powdered or grated ginger, 1 tsp

Cloves, 6 whole

Cinnamon, 1 inch of stick

Sugar, 1 cup

Eggs, yolks 6; whites 3

Apples, 6 cored, but not pared

Mace, 1/4 tsp

Water

Sherry or Madeira, 2 qts

Take spices and cover with a cup of cold water.  Fetch to a boil; adding wine and sugar.  Let heat up…Meanwhile in the Wassail Bowl (Punchbowl) previously warmed:

Break in six yolks and three whites.  Beat up.  When wine is warm – not boiling – mix a teacupful with the egg.  When a little warmer, add another cupful, and repeat until five cups have been used…Now let the rest of the wine boil up well, and pour it into the bowl also, stirring well all the time, until it froths in attractive fashion…Fill cored apples with sugar, sprinkle on a little of the spice and roast until nearly done.  Time these to suit the end of the wine-pouring process.  Throw them into the bowl, and serve the whole thing very hot…Some stout hearts add a tumbler full of good cognac brandy to the whole – and we, after testing the business, heartily agree with them; since sherry of itself isn’t potent enough to make any Saxon defend his native land, much less a 20th Century wassailer, with all we have been through during one and a half decades that Saxons never even considered as drinkable fluid!

wassail_song_37b1

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If you checked out this week’s Dig column, you know we are hot for Hot Toddy’s this week. This is for several reasons:

1. The weather has been sucking.

2. Some of us have been battling colds and still believe the toddy, when made with brandy or a peat-y scotch whisky, to be actual medicine.

3. Hot Toddy is the chosen cocktail moniker of one of our newest members! Welcome to the Lady Lush club, girl!

We also mentioned in this week’s column that the Skin, the Sling, and the Sangaree are cousins of the Toddy (which could be taken hot or cold back in the day.) Such names! In a nutshell, here’s what makes each drink, and what makes them a little different (as explained in great, enlightening detail in David Wondrich’s IMBIBE):

  • The basic Toddy recipe, as given in David Wondrich’s IMBIBE, was believed to be of Scotch descent and was quite simple: 1 teaspoon sugar, 3-4 oz water, 2 oz spirits, stirred with a spoon. Writes Wondrich, the toddy “is a simple drink in the same way a tripod is a simple device: Remove one leg and it cannot stand, set it up properly and it will hold the whole weight of the world.”
  • The Whisky Skin is little more than a Hot Toddy + a strip of lemon peel, minus the sugar and is believed to be of Irish origin: 2 oz whiskey, 1 piece of lemon peel, fill the glass half full with boiling water. Bostonians also called this drink a “Columbia Skin.”
  • The Sling is little more than a strong, cold Toddy with nutmeg: 1 teaspoonful of sugar, 1 oz water, 2 oz spirits, a lump of ice, topped with fresh grated nutmeg. In the early- to mid-1800s, the Gin Sling was the drink to have, imbibed by all, and recommended for consumption morning, noon, and night.
  • The Sangaree derives from the Spanish term Sangria, and is little more than a cold Toddy made with strong wine: 1.5 oz port wine, 1 teaspoonful of sugar, fill tumbler 2/3 with ice, shake well and top with grated nutmeg.

So go forth and make copious amounts of delicious drinks this holiday season, wherever it is that you end up. Because no matter how dismal things might seem when you open Grandma’s liquor cabinet and find a bunch of dusty bottles staring back at you, the moral of the story is: some booze in a glass with a little water and some spice and is probably going to taste pretty damn good.

And for you culinary folks, why not try a Hot Buttered Rum? Yum. Here’s Dale DeGroff’s recipe:

HOT BUTTERED RUM
1 oz dark rum or spiced rum
1 oz light rum
.75 oz simple syrup
.5 tablespooon Holiday Compound Butter (below)
Cinnamon stick for garnish

In a goblet glass, combine the dark and light rums with the syrup. Add the hot water and stir to mix. Add the butter, stir a couple of times to start to melt it, and garnish with the cinnamon stick.

HOLIDAY COMPOUND BUTTER

The yield here is huge – scale/adjust accordingly*** depending on how many of these you want to drink.

Soften 1 lb unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground allspice, .5 tsp cloves, and .25 cup dark brown sugar. Mix well to thoroughly combine. Using a sheet of wax paper, form the butter mixture into a log or rectangle – your choice – and place in the refrigerator to set. When the butter is firm you can slice it into individual serving pats of .5 tablespoon apiece, or just cut up as needed to serve. Either way let the butter soften and warm up before serving.

***I have the vague sense that you could add some amount of baking powder, egg, flour and vanilla to the leftovers and make some sort of cookies. Maybe something like these?

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