Sometimes we get in a rut when it comes to what we drink. I am as guilty as the next person. When I go out I end up choosing the same drink time and time again for two reasons. One is that my drink of choice will taste the same no matter what bar I am in if the bartender measures it correctly. The second is when scanning the drink lists from cocktail lounge to night club they all end up looking the same; Margarita, Cosmopolitan, and various flavored Martinis.
When I bartend it is a fairly common occurrence for people to ask me for suggestions as to what they should have to drink. The reason; everyone gets into a routine. Before it becomes boring they want a shot of something new, but they just don’t know what to try. With so many choices out there, it can leave a person with their head spinning before they’ve even had their first sip.
Experimentation is the key to keeping our taste buds happy and our spirit sated. A fun way to do this is right at home with a handful of friends and a couple of first-rate cocktail books. Invite a few friends to the house, make a few finger foods, pass around a cocktail book or two and you never know what may happen. You may come away with a new favorite or at the very least have tried something new. This is exactly what friends and I did this past weekend. The result: unexpected, pleasant surprises, new drinks, and ultimate fun.
Take for instance the unexpected, pleasant surprise. One of my guests arrived with something to share that I’d never heard of before. It was a home brewed Cretan Raki infused with mandarin. Raki is a Greek liqueur sometimes referred to as fire water due to its alcohol content ranging anywhere from 35 to 65 percent. Although it is produced commercially it is readily available as a home brew everywhere in Greece. For a point of reference on taste, Raki has been compared to Italian Grappa, although it is not exactly the same. Always eager to discover something new, I dared to give the fire water a try.
The color of the Raki was pale peach, most likely from the infusion of the mandarin. The aroma seemed very dry with little scent at all leading me to believe that while it was a classified as a liqueur it could be bitter and potent such as Campari. I took a small sip while holding my breath. It was unlike anything I expected. It was smooth, light, very sweet, and extremely pleasant. This unexpected surprise opened the door to some drink experimentation. But the new drinks did not stop there.
Two cocktail books I find myself referring to frequently are The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff and The Bartender’s Best Friend by Mardee Haidin Regan. Both are fantastic books for entirely different reasons. Dale’s book is colorful with stories behind quite a few old style cocktails along with current day recipes. Mardee’s book has hundreds of alphabetized recipes cross referenced by ingredient making it quick and easy to look anything up. These are the two I left out for my guests to browse through to take them off the path of the ordinary.
Everyone dared to try something new; recipes I have made up, new brands of liquors they had never tried before, and entirely new cocktails they chose out of a book. The laughter, friendship, food, and drink made the evening quite the success. All in all, it was ultimate fun.
Below are a couple of the recipes from the evening. Maybe you will dare to invite friends over, muddle through a cocktail book or two, and try something new.
(Made especially for the gathering at the request of one of my guests and then tweaked to her liking once she arrived.)
1-1/2 oz Absolute Peach Vodka
1-1/2 oz Peachtree Peach Schnapps
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
Garnish: Pineapple Wedge
Place ingredients in a shaker filled 1/3 full of ice. Shake and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered pineapple wedge.
1 Pineapple Wedge (Without Skin)
1 Orange Slice
1 Lemon Wedge
3/4 oz Orange Curacao
1 oz water
2 oz Whiskey
Garnish: Pineapple Wedge, Orange Slice, Lemon Wedge)
Place pineapple wedge, orange slice, lemon wedge, orange curacao, and water in the bottom of a mixing glass. Muddle. Add whiskey and fill 2/3 full of ice. Shake thoroughly. Fill a double old fashioned glass 1/3 to 1/2 full with crushed ice. Strain contents of shaker into glass. Skewer the remaining pineapple wedge, orange slice and lemon wedge and garnish drink. This drink is just on the border between dry and sweet, so if you like, add 1/4 oz of bar syrup or up the Orange Curacao to a full ounce to give it just a little hint of sweetness.
Other drinks you’ll find on this site that we tried were the St~Germain Limon Blossom, Perfect Martini using The Tall Blond Vodka, Simply Perfect Margarita using El Tesoro Tequila, Caipirinha, and the Tequila Woo Woo using Milagro Silver.