How To

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.

For The Gentlemen: What Should You Get Her?

Today’s post is for the men. I don’t know how many men just pop by here. It’s possible that you lady readers might have to point men to this post. I know that’s asking for something, but I think everyone will be happier in the end.

There is apparently some confusion about what to get ladies for the holidays. I’ve never understood why. Gentlemen, if you’re doing what you should, and getting to know what your woman wants, buying her a gift should be easy. Still, in the name of holiday romance, I want to kick in a couple of suggestions.

  1. You must actually purchase the gift. This is a two-part suggestion. It must be a gift – not a gift card. A gift card is an invitation for the recipient to buy her own gift. Similarly, you must be the one to buy it. If you take the recipient to pick out what she wants so that you can buy it, you’re basically giving the recipient the gift card without the actual gift card or the freedom to shop on her own time. Yes, choosing a gift is hard. A good woman respects a man who makes an effort.
  2. Don’t buy yourself something. This applies to things like lingerie. I would never tell you not to buy your woman lingerie or a sex toy or something intimate like that – sometimes the best gifts are the ones that are just between the two of you. I will tell you, though, that if you are buying something like this for her, you must be absolutely sure it suits her tastes perfectly. This is not the place to bring your own fantasies to life. Don’t buy her something she has no interest in, but which you think she’ll “get into” once she gives it a chance. Guys, you are buying something for HER. If she has to give it a chance or get into it, guess what? SHE DOESN’T WANT IT. It’s a gift. It is not an opportunity for her to do something for you.
  3. Don’t buckle under peer pressure. No one knows what to get your woman better than you do – if you’ve been paying attention. Don’t let commercials pull you off course. Let me illustrate with a heartwarming story about the best Christmas present a man’s ever given me. I met this man through newspaper personal ads; my ad referred to Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (love me, love the opera). Our first Christmas together, that man gave me the graphic novel adaptations of the Ring Cycle. It came to about 18 beautifully drawn comics. I was really touched. As badly as that relationship went, I still take those books down, fifteen years later, and I remember how good things were, when they were good. His present was 50% How We Met Story and 50% What I Dig About You, with just a bit of Just Between Us on top. He could very easily have gone to [Insert Popular Jewelry Store Here] and gotten whatever the commercials said to get. Outsiders might tell you to get Something Chicks Like, but I ask you, sir: Are you trying to impress outsiders, or are you trying to do something good for her?
  4. When in doubt, have a talk. If you are totally at sea, or if you don’t really know each other that well yet, ask your woman for guidance. My heart goes out to people in new relationships, facing the inevitable questions of what to get or whether to get anything. A good conversation – “I want to get you something special” or “why don’t we do something together instead” – will get you farther than guessing every time. If you’re finding that she thinks you should “just know,” it’s better to find out about this now, rather than later. Don’t just ask what she wants – that’s like asking for answers to a test. Try to sort out what sort of person she is, and then you can figure out what that sort of person wants.
  5. Start planning now. Regardless of where you are in this relationship, it’s a good idea for you to make the most of the time between here and when you have to make with the presents. Do you need to do research? Are you working through alternatives? Still trying to figure out what she really wants? You’ll want to do the legwork early. Things have a way of selling out – even Ring Cycle comics – and starting early will keep this from turning into a stress-inducing ordeal.

Watching any loved one open the perfect gift is a magical experience, something you’ll both carry with you forever, even if the relationship doesn’t last that long. A little concentrated effort can really bear fruit! Further advice? Awesome gift stories? Seek out the comments.

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?

Something Sexy This Way Comes: 23 Hot Costume Ideas for Women

October is my very favorite month, with my very favorite holiday holding the place of honor right at the end. Yay, Halloween! Yesterday, on the group blog I share with my crew, I set out some practical hints about how to put together that sexy costume you have in mind.

Today, I want to talk to my friends who don’t have a costume in mind yet. Now is the time to start looking around and putting your outfit together. If you wait until a “reasonable” time, you’re going to be stuck with whatever’s left. Sometimes that actually works out. Sometimes you end up dressed like a crayon. It’s always better to have more choices, right?

So just for kicks, and to get those candy-coated juices flowing, I wanted to list as many costume ideas as I could think of and how to pull them on (pulling them *off* is up to you, haha). Hopefully, I can help out those of you still looking for ideas and start a discussion about things to try.

I tend to lean toward a classic, understated brand of sexy, and the suggestions reflect my preferences, so you’re not going to find many silly or outright scary ideas below. Just be warned.

Last year, I actually scored a storebought Storm costume and learned the hard way not to machine wash those things. The wig and the hairband are all that survived, but they are enough to make me Storm. (She would say that to you herself, using a very grand voice and her impressive vocabulary.) Seriously, if you see a black woman out on Halloween wearing a white wig, who else is that? The hairband will reassure doubters that you are neither Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj, but if you want to seal the deal, pick up a Xavier School T-shirt (there’s still time if you Google it).

You can try this with all your superhero outfits, really. This year, I have my eye on the sensible but short-lived Wonder Woman costume, which would just require the bustier (or a logo T-shirt) and the accessory pack with the tiara and the bracelets. Sure, I’d love to wear the classic bustier and panties outfit, but that’s a lot of money to shell out for the chance to spin around in a circle, sing the song (“Stop a bullet cold! Make the Axis fold!”), and come down with a nice November cold. You can still spin around in a circle and sing in the sensible outfit. (If Wonder Woman were sitting next to me right now, my only question would be whether it is at all uncomfortable to fight crime in a bustier and panties.)

Logo T-shirts make your superhero life easier. Play on Clark Kent with a Supergirl shirt under your white-button down shirt (you’re Kara Zor-El now!). Some of the logo shirts even come with a cape, so it’s easy, and less expensive, to be Batgirl or Robin. The Green Lantern shirt doesn’t have a cape, but it does come with the ring (so you could theoretically make your own cape, right?).

I wore a schoolgirl outfit for years and years; it’s a classic you can put together with ease from your closet. You need a white shirt, a blue blazer, Mary Jane shoes, knee socks and a plaid skirt that is knee length at its longest (or what’s the point of the socks?). You can score a striped tie at the thrift store (I actually stole one from my brother, even cheaper), and seal the deal with gum, a lollipop, a lighter (cigarettes are expensive), and something to pull your hair up with.

With a white button-down shirt and a pair of jeans, you can start to pull on the following easy outfits:

  1. Red Riding Hood (add a red cape, sold separately this time of year anywhere from the grocery store to Wal-Mart, and a little wicker basket from home)
  2. Cowgirl (add a straw cowboy hat and a bandana from the thrift store)
  3. Biker (add a thick black leather belt, a bandana for your hair, a nice washable tattoo, and your sunglasses – a leather or dark denim jacket seals the deal)

Dress it up a little and switch the jeans out for suit pants. Now you can be

  1. In the Secret Service (wear your sunglasses and your earbuds – keep one in your ear and let the cord trail into your collar – and look absolutely humorless to seal the deal)
  2. An undercover cop (I believe you can still get a badge and handcuffs in one nifty set for very little money, although toy handguns are harder to find nowadays, with the world the way it is)

Switch the suit pants out for knee pants (I use gauchos) or even capris and you can go steampunk for the night. Bare calves are like an international signal for steampunk. Score a vest from your closet or the thrift store, and pick up some goggles, a pocket watch, and a bandolier to finish it out. Steampunk girls don’t wear flat shoes for some reason. I think it’s related to the bare calves rule.

Switch out the pants for a pencil skirt, and now we’re really talking.

  1. Pinup girl – add pearls, open the shirt, wear the reddest lipstick you can pull off, and style your hair with soft 40’s waves. Be assured that pinup girls are sexy – they are the subject of very popular tattoos.
  2. Gangster’s moll – button your shirt, lose the pearls, add a thrift store hat and a toy tommy gun.
  3. That librarian everyone quietly talked about – add some glasses to the pinup girl outfit, pull your hair back, and stop all that flirty grinning!

Be a doctor without all that pesky education – scrubs cost very little at Wally World, and if you can’t get a stethoscope from the toy section, the Halloween store has them for cheap. To me, scrubs are like the warm-weather version of sweats. You will definitely wear them again.

Don’t underestimate the power of the wig. A wig – all by itself – can take you anywhere from Marie Antoinette to Nicki Minaj. Ignore the label on the wig. Elsa Van Helsing’s wig looks just like Wednesday Addams’s hair. I wore a Jack Sparrow wig with a suit to be Unfrozen Cavewoman Lawyer. That long white wig labeled as “ghost hair” or something? That’s Storm’s hair. You also do not need a wig cap. Head to the drugstore and buy either a wrap cap from the ethnic hair area or a box of knee highs. I have always used the wrap cap to hide my hair under the wig. If you cut the bottom off a knee-high stocking, you can usually use the cuff for the same purpose. Neither of these will cut into the scalp, and they both breathe fairly well.

Even easier, try using just the accessories. I wore a pair of devil horns one year with a blue dress. I have a pair of cat ears that goes with any of my black shirts and black jeans. It only takes a little to get the job done. The year I wore the red cape over my white shirt and jeans … well, the wolf knew exactly who I was.

Let’s make this Costume Idea Central, home to all your costume suggestions, questions and quandaries! Let me know what’s on your mind in the comments!

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!

Birds, Bees … and Fantasies

Today I’m writing for the ladies. I’ve got a question for you.

Are you paying enough attention to your fantasies?

I’m asking because I have kind of a bad feeling about this. I can’t point to a specific reason for thinking this, but I think that not enough of us are paying attention to our fantasies.

That’s not good, ladies. Not good at all. Not good for anybody.

See, if we’re not paying attention to our fantasies, people start to get the crazy idea that we don’t have any fantasies. And then there’s all kinds of wide-eyed wonder when it turns out that women are interested in reading erotica and have been interested in it for years.

It may be that everything is okay, and all you ladies do in fact have active, thriving fantasy lives unburdened by guilt or shame or excuses or any of that. But for whatever reason, I’m getting the impression that a lot of us are not investing in our imaginary worlds.

Maybe everyone’s just being discreet. What a concept, right?

Maybe it’s just my chosen line of work talking – after all, my office is in the imaginary world. I just think that all of us should be able to slide into a nice little sexual fantasy whenever we have a minute or two to spare. When? How about anytime when you’re not driving the car?

It doesn’t have to be something out of Femme Productions or Wicked Pictures. It doesn’t have to have huge production values or expensive sets or any of that stuff. It can if you want, that’s fine. We’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s start with a little quickie.

Do you ladies have a quick little fantasy you can pop into when you have just a couple of minutes?

At the outset, let’s find those couple of minutes. I guarantee that you have two to five minutes to yourself at some point during the day. You’re in the shower. You’re washing the dishes. You’re on the elevator or shopping for groceries or walking from the parking lot. That’s enough time.

In the space of two to five minutes, you can come up with an imaginary location, an imaginary partner (or partners), and an imaginary situation. It doesn’t take long to transport yourself to a beach or a sleazy hotel or a dive bar or the Playboy Mansion or wherever you want to go. Hell, since I wrote last week’s post, the elevator has been one of my favorite places. And I bet you kind of already know who you want to come with you, right?

Sure, you can bring your man if you want. But you know what? You don’t have to. You do not have to take the man everywhere. You can bring a celebrity or an athlete or that good-looking UPS guy. I honestly don’t think FedEx and UPS hire unattractive men – I’ve never seen one who was anything less than model-hot.

I keep talking about bringing a man because that’s the team I play for, but it’s your fantasy! Bring another woman into your fantasy if you want. No one has to know what goes on at the little party in your head.

So what do you want to happen at the little party in your head? Here’s where it gets interesting. Because if you’re put off by the idea of having sex in your fantasy, that’s okay, too. It can be just as powerful to imagine proximity to your partner – what he feels like and smells like and sounds like. Is he whispering? Is he just standing too close to you? Is he just staring at you … like that?

That’s nice, right?

What if you have more than a couple of minutes? That’s good news. You can run the two-to-five-minute fantasy over and over again, or you can come up with brand-new scenarios. You can switch partners or locations. You can add all sorts of wonderful details. You can experiment with lots of stimulating ideas. If the world was your oyster in two to five minutes, imagine what you could do if you had unlimited time.

How does your garden grow, neighbors? Do you dare to leave me a little of the who, where and how in the comments?

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?