The Cocktailery Affair: The Drink From U.N.C.L.E.

It’s been a long time since the last Cocktailery installment, and I apologize. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been drinking a pretty good bit since the last issue of Cocktailery, and I do hope you have been, too. This month’s Cocktailery is an homage to one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite shows.

Act One: Her Birthday, My Cake

A good friend of mine celebrated a birthday recently. I got her a bottle of Jamaican white rum (nothing like having Mr. Wray and his nephew sing Happy Birthday, right?), but I bought myself a bottle of Pinnacle Cake vodka. I love birthday cake in all its forms, so I’ve been dying to conduct some bartenderly experiments with this.

I love the cakey twist Pinnacle’s put on all my vodka beverages. Appletinis have turned into sort of a tarte-tatin-apple-crisp-crumble flavored drink. Screwdrivers are more like Creamsicles. Pineapple juice goes to upside down cake in one simple step.

But of course, I have two favorites. I named them both for another favorite of mine.

Act Two: Like Siberia, but Lighter and with Soymilk

You all know that a White Russian is made of Kahlua, vodka and cream. I personally prefer a lighter beverage, something with less alcohol and fewer calories. After a lot of experimentation, I came up with something I call the Illya Kuryakin.

(When I was younger, I had quite the schoolgirl crush on David McCallum. Now I have a huge fangirl crush on him.)

Here’s what you need to get cozy with a Kuryakin of your very own:

Instant coffee. This might require a bit of pre-prep, but you’ll thank me later.

Pinnacle Cake vodka.

Light vanilla (not unsweetened, and not plain) soymilk. You could use the Silk Very Vanilla soymilk, too, but that vodka is already pretty sweet. Just be careful.

Ready? Let’s get to drinking.

Act Three: Stirred, Not Shaken

Prepare the coffee. I used hot water and a packet of Starbucks Via (thanks to Tina Glasneck for my Christmas present!), and then I mixed them in a jar. I put the jar in the fridge the night before Kuryakin Time. If you’re in a hurry — like you want to drink right now — you could put it in the freezer. I imagine you could use it warm, but I think coffee should either be really hot or ice cold. Either way, you will have enough coffee for about 8 Kuryakins.

Put a shot of the vodka on the bottom of your glass, hit it with a shot of the instant coffee, and fill the glass with the soymilk. You could put this in a shaker, but then you’d have to wash the shaker. I just stir it with a spoon.

I call it the Illya Kuryakin because it’s not a real White Russian. It is lightweight, delicious fun, just like Mr. Kuryakin. A variation, made with light chocolate soymilk, is equally delicious. I call it the Mocha Kuryakin. Use two shots of vodka for a Double Kuryakin. Two shots of coffee? Well, I don’t know. I was going to call it an Ivan Drago, but I found out there’s already a drink with that name. It’s an extra large White Russian. That made me laugh so hard, I forgot what I was researching.

Act Four: Happy Hour on Channel D?

The D in Channel D is for “drinkee drinkee!” Enjoy.

Cocktailery: Living with Consequences, or The Hangover Remedy

Very short post in Cocktailery this month. I’m having an exciting month, but with everything going on, there’s not much time for the drinking. There’s not much time for anything, really. I’m trying hard to make time for the day job.

This month, as we’re torn between celebrating and wanting to start fresh, healthy new years, I wanted to quickly share my favorite hangover remedy. I learned it in bartending school, and with all the celebrating for New Year’s Eve, the sale of my first novel, and a milestone birthday coming up fast, I have had – and God willing, will continue to have – lots of reasons to use it.

According to my bartending instructor, who is wise indeed, much of the unpleasantness that comes with the standard hangover is caused by dehydration and low blood sugar. Repairing the consequences of our actions, then, is really about getting hydrated again and restoring something close to normal blood sugar levels. It’s all about the pre-planning.

Step One: Before you go out, buy yourself a couple of packets of Kool-Aid. Prepare it according to the instructions, but put in just a tiny bit more sugar than required. I use hot water to dissolve the Kool-Aid and the sugar faster. It’s going to be in the fridge all night long anyway.

Step Two: Put the Kool-Aid in the fridge. Then go out and drink as usual. Cheers!

Step Three: Come home. Or at least to the place where the Kool-Aid is. You’re going to need it kind of soon.

Step Four: Go to bed. If you did this right, it should be late.

Step Five: When you get up for the first time to use the bathroom, drink a nice tall glass of the Kool-Aid. Then go back to bed.

Step Six: The next time you get up, you should feel a lot better. You may not even feel hung over. If this is not the case, and you still feel a little used up, repeat Step Five.

Step Seven: You really ought to feel better when you get up again. If you need three glasses of Kool-Aid, there’s a chance you’ve got alcohol poisoning, and you should behave accordingly.

A couple of quick words about the Kool-Aid cure.

I prefer to use actual Kool-Aid, made with actual sugar, rather than my usual bar standby, Crystal Light lemonade. You need the sugar to get the job done. Don’t use iced tea – the caffeine isn’t doing you any hangover favors. Kool-Aid is uncomplicated and cheap, plus there’s some nostalgia value, right? My bartending sensei said sugar water will work just fine if you don’t have Kool-Aid, but I don’t think of sugar water as a beverage. If I don’t finish all the Kool-Aid, I can always have it with dinner later. What are you going to do with a pitcher of sugar water?

Neighbors, get your Kool-Aid on! May you have many occasions to drink it.

Cocktailery: Spiced Rum, Merry!

Last week, on the W3 blog, I mentioned that this can be a tough season for single people. Truth is, the holidays and the start of a new year (or, depending on what you believe, the end of the world) can make this time of year hard for any sane person. In my favorite holiday movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold experiences an emotional breakdown of sorts before asking his father for advice about how to survive a “full-blown, four-alarm” family Christmas.

“How did you get through it?” Clark asks.

“I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels,” his father responds.

(Two quick observations: ABC Family is comfortable with Clark’s dad saying that Clark has “cocked up” Christmas but doesn’t want him to mention Jack Daniels. And this dialogue between Clark and his dad is a genuinely touching moment in this coarse, goofball comedy.)

Jack’s a good guy to have around, certainly. He never has any conflicting plans. He’s willing to do whatever you’re doing. Some of your relatives already know him. Jack’s a good bet.

I, however, prefer the company of the Captain. Blame my uniform fetish.

The little bottle of Captain Morgan – the one you can get into your purse or the inside pocket of your sports coat – that guy’s going to get you through the thick of the holidays. Keep the Captain close by, and he will smooth over all the rough spots this holiday season. You’ll smile and chuckle through the Annual Recitation of Grievances. You’ll shake off the Intrusive Holiday Questions. Unjustified Criticism will feel like just another conversation. A teensy bit of help from the Captain might not eliminate all those holiday tensions, but they will soften just enough around the edges.

Let the Captain join forces with these three merry mixers for a happier holiday!

Splash a little Captain Morgan into the bottom of your mug before pouring eggnog into it. The weight of the nog should mix it up nicely, and unless you used more than a little, the smell won’t give you away. You can try this with hot chocolate, too. If you’re using instant cocoa, you might be best off to let the Captain lower himself into your cup after stirring in the chocolate but before adding the marshmallow. For your heavier, milk-in-a-saucepan hot chocolate, proceed as you would with eggnog; the same principle applies. Finally, hot apple cider just loves the Captain. Cider is fragrant enough to effectively conceal the Captain’s distinctive scent, but it’s not terribly heavy, so there’s not much between you and the buzz.

Big plans for the holidays? Let the world know in the comments.

Cocktailery: Drinking and Writing and Writing and Drinking

Hemingway (supposedly) urged us to “write drunk [and] edit sober.”

I don’t work while I’m drunk. Being drunk tends to make me talkative, flirtatious, and sleepy, in that order. But I do enjoy a little something to help me shake off the so-called real world before I get set up with the characters.

It’s hard to choose the right libation sometimes. For me, the key is to find a drink large enough that I can sip at it without frequent refills but not potent enough to make me drunk if I have more than one. Then there’s the matter of food. I may not always drink while I’m working, but I do typically have something on hand to eat, so whatever I drink has to go well with food.

What’s an erotica writer to do? Our senses need indulging. It keeps us and our writing sharp.

Some of my favorite cocktails – the Crystal Light Midori Sour, for instance – fit the bill with no trouble. I just use a little more lemonade. The pineapples thaw out as I’m working, and I love having that nice little treat waiting for me at the end of the drink. But this month, for NaNoWriMo, I tend to lean toward wine. It’s good for marking the transition between “work” and work, and there’s a bit of a ritual involved in opening the bottle and pouring into my favorite glass.

For NaNo, I like to have two bottles of wine on hand. I was introduced to Genoli Blanco, a white rioja from 2010, at a tasting, and I fell for it pretty hard. I don’t typically care for white wine because it’s so sweet. But this is kind of a departure from white wines, I think. It’s not as full-bodied as a red, but it’s very complex. It’s lightweight and goes down so, so nicely when it’s cold.

As far as reds are concerned, I rarely turn down a shiraz. It’s bold and powerful, sometimes lacking in nuance. Like me. This month, I’ve made a switch to the 7 Deadly Zins. It’s a blend that manages real complexity without tasting like an identity crisis. Is it sweet or spicy? Is it fruity or smoky? Is it playful or mellow? Yes. Yes, it is. It also plays well with almost everything I eat during NaNoWriMo – slow cooker chili (JL Wilson’s recipe is my favorite), slow cooker chicken soup, and of course, deep dish pizza. I’d like to think all this is true of me, too, but I do tend to be my own biggest fan.

I celebrated my submission with a good friend and a bottle of Bordelet Poire Authentique. Wow. If it were at all feasible for me to drink that every day, I would totally sign up for that. I could definitely taste the pear, but its delicate undertones kept that from being overpowering. It made everything sing – from the paprika sausage to the buffalo cheese to the prosciutto. I may even go for another bottle once NaNoWriMo is over … or maybe I’ll stash one in here for the next special occasion.

I know some of you are Writing While Intoxicated. I don’t judge. Just tell me what you’re having!

Cocktailery: Drinks of the WEIRD!

This month’s Cocktailery celebrates Halloween with (cue the theremin) Drinks … of the Weird! I’m going to give you three drink recipes that are going to sound kind of strange. I’ve field tested all three of these, and they taste pretty good, once you get over the weirdness.

First: Beer with grenadine.

One of my bartending school classmates popped by my place of employment once, looking for something she called a “Dirty Birdie” (a very dirty Grey Goose martini). When I didn’t have any Grey Goose (that’s the sort of place I work), she said she’d like a Corona with grenadine.

I thought she was kidding. She said she’d tell me when to stop. I popped open her Corona and let a thin stream of grenadine slide into the bottle until the beer was quite red. Then I put the lime in the bottleneck, as is customary, and watched the fun.

She enjoyed it a great deal. I figured I’d learned something new but could not conceive of actually drinking such a thing. Some time later, on a business trip to Virginia Beach, I made a hot new friend who was attending a wedding at the hotel where I was staying. He and his fellow guests were in the ballroom trying to empty a keg, he explained. It was already paid for and shameful to waste, he said. Would I care to join him for a beer or two?

(BTW, before this exchange, when he asked me what I did for a living, I told him I wrote erotic romance. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that doesn’t open doors.)

In the ballroom, I met some of his hot (and inebriated) friends, all of whom were enjoying beer with grenadine. They all offered me one to try, so I took the plunge for the sake of exploration.

It’s really very tasty. I’d thought it would be sweet and cloying, but it’s not, if it’s mixed correctly. The grenadine adds a pleasant counterpoint to the more savory taste of the beer. Definitely worth repeating.

Want to try one? Take your bottle of beer (a bottle’s easiest, I think, but you can pour a can into a glass just as easily, and the keg is always an option), and take a sip from the top before doing anything else. This is like taking a sip from your water bottle before adding Crystal Light. You need the space. Then let the grenadine stream slowly into the bottle. My experience is that this is nearly impossible (or at least DAMNED FRUSTRATING) to do without a pour spout. Seriously, go buy some of those. Stop every so often and taste this. You want more grenadine than it takes just to change colors, but it is kind of easy to put in too much. Be bold carefully.

I have seen this called grenabeer and Christmas beer. It’s not a Monaco – you have to add lemonade for that. Enjoy!

Next stop: Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper and Grape Soda.

It didn’t take long for me to develop a post-shift routine for the transition period between closing up and going to bed. For months, I wound down with some late-night television and one of those big cans of grape soda. For some reason, all that sugar – and there is a LOT of sugar in grape soda – would ease me down toward bedtime. Since I heart my grape soda so very much, I started looking for beverages I could mix with it.

I ran across this blog post from Thirsty South, in which the blogger mentioned that he caught the faintest whiff of grape soda when he enjoyed his SoCo Fiery Pepper. I love the way regular SoCo smells – it’s a beautiful, herbaceous scent, a breath away from being a lovely cologne – but I don’t smell grape soda in it.

He did give me an idea, though.

One night, I resolved to try SoCo Fiery Pepper mixed with grape soda. Just to see. I still don’t smell grape soda in my SoCo, but they mesh together perfectly. The Tabasco isn’t salty at all, but it’s not sweet, either. Trying to get my taste buds around the pure bloom of the spice … that’s weird in the best way.

Try it sometime with a regular can of grape soda and a minibottle (around 1.5 ounces) of Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper.

End of the Line: Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum.

This isn’t really a weird drink. It’s just going to make *you* weird. Ready?

First, head out to your purveyor of spirits and ask him for exactly what is in the header. He may lead you right to it, I don’t know. For years, I had to go to Jamaica to get mine, and when it was finally here, I was able to find it in the store. Some folks will try to give you the rum cream, though. That isn’t what you want. You want this.

Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum is known among Jamaicans (like my family) simply as “white rum.” It is 63% alcohol, so don’t lose the cap. Few things evaporate like 126 proof liquor.

Start everyone with a half-shot. I have entertained some pretty seasoned drinkers at my salon. They all agreed to humor the little lady by starting with a half-shot, and every one of them later said that was plenty for them.

I myself have never done more than a half-shot. That’s plenty weird for me.

Seriously, when you’re done, put the cap back on. You’re about to forget where it went.

This is perfect for girls’ night parties or any other occasion where people want to get to know each other but might be feeling a bit shy. Have everyone shoot at the same time and then exhale on a shared exclamation (try “DIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!” from Flash Gordon for kicks). Once that’s done, everyone will become more voluble and talkative – I’ve never seen anyone made mean by white rum.

The next morning, even if that’s really all you had, you’re going to feel kind of odd. Because the fermentation by-products that often cause hangovers have been distilled out of white rum, you will feel kind of weird, like you’re in a dream sequence with a high production value, but you will not feel hung over in the traditional sense. That moment of ‘wow, is this Earth?’ is kind of nice sometimes, as long as you don’t have to go to work that morning.

You put the cap back on, right?

Nunc est bibendum, friends. What are you having?

Cocktailery: Say Goodbye to Summer with a Michelada

There’s still a bit of summer left, still time for an exotic drink. Something that makes one think of watching the sun set over the ocean, or hanging out by the pool before dinner, or spending a lazy late afternoon on the balcony. I’ve got just the thing: the michelada.

I first learned about this recipe from Rick Bayless on his PBS show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time. At the end of an especially challenging bar shift, I made a couple of these for myself and the chef. I don’t use any specific measurements, but if you get the proportions just right, the flavors bloom together in a very refreshing way. Don’t get scared off by the ingredients – it’s going to taste terrific!

Here’s what you need to make one:

One bottle of light beer (I mean, light-colored beer – I prefer to use Corona to keep this true to its heritage, but I have also used Rolling Rock and Miller High Life if that’s what I have on hand. I wouldn’t use a dark beer. That’s bound to overpower or disagree with the other ingredients.)

Half a lemon (use the other half for a friend’s drink)

Worcestershire sauce (Edited to add: see my notes below!)

Hot sauce

Black pepper

And here’s how you make it:

Grab a nice glass. The bar I work at serves beer in banquet goblets, which make sense for these. The curved bowl of the glass lets the ingredients swirl and mingle as you work. Use whatever you have. My preference is to use something big enough to accommodate the whole bottle of beer.

Squeeze the half lemon into the bottom of the glass. If you cup it, cut side up, in your hand, you won’t get any seeds in the glass.

Put a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce into the bottom of the glass. If you’re using the bottle, give it three or four good shakes.

Give the hot sauce a couple of shakes into the glass. You won’t need much.

Pour the beer slowly into the glass. See? All the ingredients are mixing themselves down there, aren’t they?

Stand back and admire the drink long enough for the head to come down just a bit. It’s going to make a nice savory fragrance. Then hit it with a couple of shakes of pepper – maybe a twist and a half from the grinder – and you’re done.

Now have a sip. It’s going to open with a little sparkle from the pepper, and then it gets nice and rich as the lemon and Worcestershire open up through the beer, and then the hot sauce finishes everything off with a little bloom of heat. It’s a pleasantly complex drink, great for sipping as you watch the seasons change and celebrate these last days of summer. I’m planning on watching the sun set on the equinox with one of these in hand.

Happy autumn!

**Edited to add: Last night, I learned something important when I made my michelada. I learned that it was time to throw out my bottle of Worcestershire sauce. Tonight I made one with soy sauce instead, and it is DELICIOUS. Use one packet of restaurant soy sauce — surely you’ve got one lying around. Enjoy!

Cocktailery: A Summery Take on the Midori Sour

You know that quote from City Slickers? “Women need a reason to have sex; men just need a place.” My cocktail philosophy is similar. Some people need a reason for a little drinkee. I just need a place.

Well, that’s not altogether true. I guess I’m just willing to settle for a lot less reason. “Gosh, it’s hot” is a good enough reason for me. Today, I want to share my favorite “Gosh, it’s hot” cocktail. It’s a nice way to celebrate the oppressive heat, the beginning of school, the upcoming television season, or every day’s opportunity to savor all the summer fun the dog days have to offer.

My favorite summer drink is a variant on the Midori Sour. I don’t like the sensation of being horribly drunk in the heat of the day, so I use a fairly lightweight alcohol. I even include a little fruit, so you can call it a health drink. (Aw, you’re welcome!) Here’s what you’ll need.

  1. Crystal Light Lemonade. I don’t get anything from the Crystal Light people for mentioning this here. I like to use it because it’s sweet without being cloying, low on calories, and easy to make. I also think it pays to use a mixer you can drink by itself.
  2. Midori. The Midori people aren’t giving me anything either. Midori has a light, sweet flavor like honeydew melons. There’s not a tremendous amount of alcohol in Midori – it’s about 20% alcohol by volume. That’s about half what you’ll get in Bacardi Superior, which weighs in at 40%. You can use Apple Pucker if you find you want more flavor with less of a kick; Apple Pucker runs about 15% alcohol by volume. I often use the DeKuyper melon liqueur, which is a touch stronger at 30%. (Note: I am not talking about Pucker Vodka. Pucker Vodka runs a bit stronger at 35%.)
  3. Frozen fruit. I freeze my own – I’ll cut up a pineapple or pluck grapes and freeze them in a container. If you want you can buy some frozen fruit from the store; it’s popular for smoothies. I like to keep the pineapple in tidbits for snacking and in little spears for stuff like this, but you can put a couple of tidbits into the bottom of a glass, too.

Let’s begin.

Pour about an ounce-ish of liqueur into the bottom of the glass. I’m a bartender, so I keep pour spouts in my bottles. I know when I’ve poured an ounce. Pour spouts are a good investment; they will keep your home beverages nice and uniform. If you don’t have them yet, an ounce is more than it takes to wet the bottom but about halfway to “hey, isn’t that kind of a lot?”

Fill the glass up with the lemonade, and then drop the frozen fruit into the glass. As you’re sipping, the fruit will thaw out and you’ll have a nice little surprise when you’re done.

You’ll want to tweak this for your personal use, of course. Are you using a tall glass? Try a little extra liqueur. Not about the lemonade? Crystal Light has some seasonal mocktail mixes that seem tailor-made for things like this – I have popped a little Apple Pucker into their Appletini mixer. How about a little soda on top to give it a little glimmer? Whatever works.

This is typically not a strong drink, but when it’s hot outside, I don’t want a lot of alcohol in my beverage. Either I’m hot and tend to drink faster, or I want to gradually consume a couple drinks. Neither situation (drinking faster or drinking more) is ideal for a strong drink, unless you just like feeling all sloshy in the hot, hot sun.

I’ve suddenly got a taste for one of these! What’ll you have?