It has been a while since I wrote about my new, alcohol fueled, hobby. Since then I have gotten better at mixing drinks and the number of drinks I am confident with has grown. My family seems to be enjoying it. Now they seem more interested in what I have discovered than fearful that I starting a long term impersonation of W. C. Fields. I have worked on menus for holidays and special events, drinks that are possible with my limited skills and resources. My wife sends me photos of craft cocktails she finds on Pinterest that she thinks are interesting. I track down the recipe, any odd ingredients, then we try them out. One of my Christmas guests posted a photo of one of my drinks to Instagram. It was not as attractive as a professional would have done but for sitting around the living room with family it was, well, nice.
Finding new drink recipes is not difficult, there are apps, web sites, as well as books new and old, even the first book of cocktail recipes is available online, Jerry Thomas’ “How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion”. Finding the ingredients, some exotic, some just out of fashion. Until I decided to offer Champagne Cocktails for Thanksgiving I had not seen a sugar cube since Mom and Dad gave me a pony for Christmas.* The whiskeys, gins, vodkas, tequilas, and rums are easy to find and I found a website called Proof66 .com that helped me find quality ingredients that I could afford as well as learn what I could substitute and create something acceptable if not exactly the same.
I have learned a lot from investigating the history of cocktails. Remember the first time you saw Rocky drink a glass of raw eggs? That is how I felt when I learned that raw egg, sometimes just egg white, was a popular ingredient in drinks. Of course I had to try it, just like I did when I first saw Rocky. As you would expect separating an egg, the white from the yoke, is harder than simply breaking one into a glass. Drinks, like politics and fashion have fads and cycles. In the 1950s and 60s it was Tiki drinks, the 60s and 70s featured orange juice in almost everything. Today it is artisanal bases, local, small distillery whiskeys and all the rest along with drinks low or free of alcohol. Which is why I have tried to have a bottle of both sparkling wine and sparkling grape juice available whenever the family sits down for dinner.
Which brings me to the younger members of the family. The four year old boy is happy to be included with a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple in a glass served in a glass rimmed with red and green sugar sprinkles. The teenage girls have been getting low and no alcohol versions of champagne cocktails. One she really liked she calls the blue drink. It started as something called “Deep Blue”, a ½ ounce of Blue Curacao, 2 ounces of vodka and topping the glass off with champagne. I just eliminated the vodka and topped the glass of with sparkling grape juice which left about the same alcohol as in a ¼ ounce of whiskey or ⅓ of a bottle of beer. My one bottle of sparkling grape juice was finished off on Christmas Eve so when she asked for her “Blue Drink” on Christmas Day I told her I could only make it with real sparkling wine (even with her mom’s okay I was not going to put the vodka in it). Sh said that since she was now 16 years old she could have the wine, her mom agreed. By the end of the glass she was giggling quite at anything. I am happy to say she cut herself off. I hope that this exposure to alcohol is taking away its mystery and that if someone ever slips something else into her drink she will recognize it soon enough to get help. Such are the worries when you have young girls in a college town.
*Ponies are the meanest, trickiest, nastiest animals on the planet. If you want a child to grow up to be mean and ruthless give them a pony.