Bulleit Bourbon: Frontier Whiskey No Less!

My first experience with bourbon was less than pleasant. In fact, the smell of bourbon made me feel distinctly uncomfortable for about five years afterward. But as athletes push through the pain to a higher plateau, so did I. And it was worth it!

Bourbon is a distinctly American drink; no other country makes anything like it, and that is good. Because the tradition is wonderful and makes me think that America can compete on the world booze stage. In reality, we make some of the best wine in the world, so for all you Francophiles:  Bronx Cheer. And, come to think of it, Continue reading “Bulleit Bourbon: Frontier Whiskey No Less!”

Cold And Red?

It is officially hot, and time for all of those wonderful summer drinks that go so well with sitting on the patio, doing absolutely nothing. The usual suspects (and I say that lovingly) are gin and tonics, margaritas, gimlets…and about a dozen other fun, hot-weather drinks. But they all have distilled spirits, and sometimes I feel like drinking something different. Yeah, yeah, what about Sangria? Well, what about it? I think that it is disgusting, a crime against nature, and there ought to be a law against it. Continue reading “Cold And Red?”

A Chick Drink That’s Actually Good!

A recent commenter mentioned Schiller’s Liquor Bar, and it reminded me of an excellent mixed drink that I had there recently. It was a simple concoction, nothing more than lemonade, lemon-flavored vodka, and strawberries. But the bartender muddled the strawberries so most of the flavor was extracted by the alcohol. Good stuff, and something that I am going to try.

The proportions? I am going to guess, but really, it is all to taste.

3 oz. Lemon Vodka

3 oz. Lemonade

2 oz. Seltzer

3 strawberries stemmed, and then muddled in bottom of glass.

Add ice, pour everything in, give it a bit of a stir, and serve.

A Different (But Still Great) Margarita

During my exhaustive research into the perfect margarita, I found a recipe that called for no Triple Sec or Cointreau, but used agave nectar for the sweet component. Intrigued, I gave it a try. I also wanted to know something about margaritas that  Tommy:eats didn’t know.

Agave nectar can be found in many specialty food stores and places such as Whole Foods. It looks a bit like maple syrup, and it is just as sweet, but it has a fruitiness that makes it less cloying. It is made from the juice of the agave plant, although my guess is that the blue agave is reserved for tequila and they use the other varieties for agave nectar.

The margarita recipe that I found called for a tequila:fresh lime juice:agave nectar ratio of 6:4:1. That worked pretty well; the drinks were a hit with everyone who tried them, even my sister’s yappy little dog. He calmed down nicely after a few laps of my sister’s drink (she didn’t know).  I found that the agave nectar became very thick and didn’t mix well with the other ingredients if I tossed everything into the shaker with ice. So, I mixed the nectar with the lime juice first, and then shook everything with ice.

I liked this variation; the lime flavor really comes out, probably because there is no orange from the Cointreau to mask it. However, the Cointreau version is a more complex, interesting drink. I would use agave nectar to correct the sweetness of the classic margarita. That may be the best of both worlds — and will be an experiment for another time. Given the choice, I would have to go with the classic. But on a balmy summer night, with no Cointreau in the house? You can’t go wrong with this drink.

The Test Results

It was grueling; two rounds of margaritas in a blind test. Not double-blind, since I was making them and didn’t want to bother trying to hide the Cointreau from myself. I used the same recipe and technique for both rounds, including the same shaker, the same number of ice cubes, and even approximately the same number of shakes! My expert panel was enthusiastic, and even sober (I made sure to do the test at the beginning of the evening). And judging by the stories shared toward the end of the evening, they were all experienced drinkers.

The consensus of the tasters was that the Cointreau made a smoother, more balanced margarita. But they all liked the “layers” of taste in the Triple Sec version. The choice was unanimous: Triple Sec! But they also said that both versions were very good. I liked the Cointreau drink, but since my tasting wasn’t blind it is less valuable data. In fairness to the Triple Sec, I think that it made a very nice margarita.

I think that the Cointreau‘s extra bit of alcohol and more pronounced orange flavor smooths the tartness of the fresh lime juice. And tasting the Cointreau against the Triple Sec showed clear differences.

So, Tommy:Eats is correct, at least for me. But my expert panel thinks otherwise.

The Perfect Margarita

Margaritas are very simple drinks. And there is nothing difficult about making them. What is difficult is finding a good one in a bar. The problem? Most bartenders are too lazy to squeeze fresh limes; they would rather open a bottle of ersatz lime juice. Or the bar owner doesn’t want to spend a few extra dollars on top quality ingredients. Either way, you get a lousy Margarita. I am not going to debate the merits of the many excellent tequilas that are available. I use Hornitos in my Margaritas, but I am sure that there is someone out there who is aghast at my poor choice. I don’t care. My Margaritas are really good, so if you don’t like my choice of tequila; don’t drink it. Don’t worry, I’ll find someone who will be glad to drink the extra.

2 parts good quality tequila
1 part Triple Sec                                  (Cointreau is best)

1 part fresh squeezed lime juice.          This is not debatable. Either use fresh squeezed or don’t bother making the drink.

Simple syrup* to taste
Thinly sliced lime as garnish 

Toss everything into a shaker with a lot of ice. Shake for several seconds until it becomes frothy, then pour into a chilled martini glass. Taste, then correct the sweetness with the simple syrup. You will find that this recipe makes a tart Margarita, so don’t worry if you use a bit of the syrup. I vacillate wildly between no syrup and about ½ teaspoon per drink.

If you want salt, wet the rim of the glass with lime juice
and rotate it in a plate of kosher salt.

*Simple Syrup is equal parts granulated sugar and water.
Just use hot water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Refrigerate before use.