Let's just say, I may have started the Cocktails Across America puzzle in the middle of the US simply to get some tequila in my belly.
New Mexico's drink - on the puzzle, at least - was one of the only ways I can stomach grapefruit juice: mixed with tequila. Who doesn't love that lip-puckering, jaw tightening tartness when it's mixed with a little smooth agave love known as the Paloma?
See, here's the funny thing about this puzzle. I seriously doubt the drinks depicted on this map are really THE drink of each state. As an example. Wyoming's is a boilermaker. Um, no. Not really. I've lived there for the majority of my life and I think if a beer drink was the state drink, it would be a red beer.
But it makes sense to have one of the best things about Mexico be in the drinks that border our neighbor to the south. A great combination for a Saturday afternoon snack is a Paloma (or two) and guacamole. Sensing a theme?
Paloma's can be as easy or as complicated to make as you want them be. Juice a grapefruit if you want to be fancy, like the above linked recipe suggests. Or pour grapefruit juice into a glass and top with tequila for those days when adulting is too hard. That's what I did. Because pandemic. I did get a bit fancy-pants like and used fizzy grapefruit juice I found in the liquor mixers aisle. Because fridge space.
Moving next door to New Mexico didn't mean I had to switch liquors. Texas likes to do things big and what better way to do big than to tequila. Tequila is all about going big or going home. And if you go big, finding home isn't that easy, but that's another post.
This was the second drink in my cocktail tour of the US but not the first one where I found multiple recipes. I thought Texas's Mexican Margarita was going to be more Bloody Mary-ish based on the red drawing with cherry tomato garnish. But I chose a recipe that is less red and has a different garnish. As you can obviously tell in the pic.
There are yummy tomato margarita recipes out there. And they sound pretty much like their name (tomato juice, sugar, lime juice, tequila). But the recipe I was lucky enough to Google had one of my favorite margarita additions: olives. And this is where I decided to take a little creative license.
Technically the recipe I used is for a Mexican Martini, but because it had (aka Mexican Margarita) behind it, and because I was feely saucy. I chose the below recipe, sort of:
Mexican Martini (aka Mexican Margarita)
I didn't use aged tequila because I had my loverly bottle of Hornitos plata in the freezer. And I didn't freshly squeeze the lime juice, ain't nobody got time for that. But I did garnish. Because olives are amazing. My go-to margarita in restaurants is an on-the-rocks-no-salt-with-olives one. I sometimes get a raised eyebrow or two, but trust me it's worth it.
So far so good on this jigsaw journey.
I think I'm going East next.
As have the majority of smart people, I’ve been practicing social distancing since March. It’s tiring. Groundhog Day isn’t fun after almost 4 months. We all know that. We saw the movie. Sonny & Cher at 6:30 a.m. wears after probably two days.
We've all found ways to avoid going too stir crazy. Binging "Tiger King". Baking. Gaining the COVID-19. Etc. Etc.
Jigsaw puzzles have been keeping me busy. I’ve done abstract art puzzles. Hamburger puzzles. Cartoon puzzles. But I’m super excited about the current one because it’s more than just a puzzle. It’s a game. A challenge really.
Can you believe my luck? A puzzle all about drinks? Jackpot!
A cocktail for every state? Oh man, oh man. Groundhog Day can come for 50 more days.
I decided to make as many of the drinks as I can while doing the puzzle. Talk about a match made in heaven, right? Jealous yet?
I mean, heck, what better way to self-isolate than to drink my way through the country. In PJs. Not needing to shower. And not having to smell the semi-rancid peanut smell from the local dive bar. Although, truth be told, I strangely miss that.
Looking at the map o' beverages, I'll admit some of them are new to me. I've sucked down my fair share of Mai Tais and Manhattans. And more than my fair share of Mint Juleps (at least for one sitting) but WTH is a Persephone? I thought she was a tragic Greek figure, but it appears she is also THE drink in West Virginia.
And Indy car driver Janet Guthrie. Well, according to Indiana's drink, she's refined now. I'm not sure why she has to have a modifier, but when I get to that state, I'll let you know if the Refined Janet Guthrie can go 0 to 60 - or at least down my gullet - in less than 5 seconds.
During this pandemic, I have been social distancing. My friends will tell you I have been social distancing my whole life and to stop pretending it's a new thing. My few chosen friends understand I am just not interested in human interaction, and they love me anyway, which is why I love them. This pandemic has benefitted me that way. I am not particularly fond of people, especially people who might have COVID not 1 though 18. I just have to say that the pressure of making plans and then cancelling them is now off; I don't even have to pretend to make them. I just say "Hey, there's a pandemic on - I won't be coming to your COVID gathering, you asymptomatic carrier, you." I don't actually say that; that'd be shitty. I just don't make plans. It's a huge weight off. I am completely off the subject; I'll try again.
Because I am neurotic and paranoid, the natural social distancing aspect of my personality has come alive. I rarely ever go out of my house. I do, however, sojourn to the liquor store when necessary, or I have someone else go for me. PotAto Potahto. Either way, my supply line has not been interrupted. I love Nicole at my local liquor store, and she knows I hate people, so it's a win-win to go there. She doesn't even mind that I wear my mask and act like she has the plague, which she might. Who's to know.
This past outing to the grocery and liquor store netted me another bottle of Aviation Gin. As D has said in the past, I adore gin. Not all gins. Just the ones I perceive as not horrific. Took me awhile to find some of them, but find them I did. Aviation is one of the select few. My drink of choice is a G & T, so the gin has to be good because that's what's important. Side note: One time I watched an episode of some show about addiction and the woman was an alcohol addict and her drink of choice was this incredibly awful, rock-gut, juniper-soaked, nasal-passage burning, throat-dissolving gin; and she drank 1.5 liters of it every day. EVERY DAY. I always wondered how she powered that past her gag reflex. Just ew. She recovered by the way. Just FYI.
I grab my new Aviation Gin, and it has a tag around the neck of the bottle with a picture of one of my favorite Canadians, Ryan Reynolds, on my American Gin. MimosA. MimOsa.
On the back of the tag are two suggested recipes for this gin. Neither are a G & T. WT literal F. Seriously? Anyway, I figure I have nothing to do for the next six months, so what the hell. I'll try them. Here's my experience.
As we roll into these last few days before Christmas, you may be realizing how very soon you will be spending time trapped by the love of your family. This may drive you to wonder what to do to combat the inevitable feeling of cabin fever that will descend upon you the moment your smiling relatives arrive at your door. Well, fear not, dear friends. D, PB, and I took it upon ourselves to create some Christmas beverages and recommend a few to ease your pain.
Mistletoe Margarita – This was by far our favorite drink, and indeed, it was the only one we could remember by name. Super good. We highly recommend it. Seriously, all three of us recommend it. We actually garnished it; that’s how good it is. Recipe courtesy of How Sweet Eats.
Rim each glass with a lime wedge and dip in the coarse salt. Fill each glass with ice.
In a cocktail shaker, add the Grand Marnier, tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice, and syrup and shake for 30 to 60 seconds. Pour over the ice.
Cognac. I hear that word and my pinky automatically extends. I develop a heavy, fake French accent. My pocketbook screeches in horror. It's unapproachable.
Imagine my surprise when, in Chicago in October, I wandered into Wine Riot 2018 and was handed a card to attend a Cognac class. My pinkie extended as I took the card and sidled past a Chicago dog vendor and the Jam Jar Wines booth and took a seat at a cloth covered table complete with a variety of fancy bar tools.
We were going to learn to make a French 75 substituting Cognac for Gin. I'm in. Gin is not my jam, but a fine brandy I am typically forced to not buy, is.
Cognac is basically fancified Brandy made specifically from grapes in the Cognac region of France. Hennessey - the brand sponsoring this class - makes 50 percent of all the world's Cognac, and has been since 1765.
It's known as the "Drink of Kings" and is considered by those in the know as one of the finest of spirits. I was pleased to be getting to taste my way through some of it. For free. Not only did we mix it into the French 75 (here's the recipe), we had a taste of the Hennessey VSOP neat, and the Hennessey XO with ice. Trust me when I say all three sips were amazing and different.
Cognac is not to be rushed. And it tastes like it. Complicated yet simple. Soft yet spicy. Hints of complexity. Vanilla. Apricot. Caramel. Coffee . . . to die for. And I'm sure people have.
The class helped me feel Cognac is approachable. I may talk my wallet into a bottle for a special occasion. My pinky will be extended and I will pronounce it with a horribly fake French accent.
“If you can make bread out of it, you can make whisky out of it,” said Really Smart Guy with the moussed hair at the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Festival. The RSG was a sales rep for The Macallan Scotch Whisky company.
He and RSG2, his partner who looked a bit like Adam Levine, provided us with a Scotch 101 lesson during the annual festival where it appears it’s OK to wear kilts and Crocs. Or kilts and Deadpool masks. Or corsets and flip flops. Anyway . . .
RSG2 talked a lot about the chemistry behind whisky making. Stuff like how yeast eats sugar and how if you spray water on barley it thinks it’s a plant. But no, they mess with the germination process and yada, yada, yada, it turns sort of porridgey … This is a great time to disclose Scotch 101 came after 3 hours of Irish Ales.
We had sips of five of their amber-colored liquid yum during the lesson. Here’s what we learned. Give or take. Apologies in advance for the disjointedness and most likely somewhat inaccurate translation of my notes. Reference the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
After becoming Scotch experts, like the RSG twins, J and I have determined we prefer The Macallan 12 year Sherry Oak to peatier (Highland Park Magnus) or the lighter Macallan Double Cask 12 year or smoky ones like Naked Grouse. But, as we always say: You do you. Just branch out and Scotch it now and again.
As I prepare to send my children (and myself) back to school, I was pondering lunch possibilities that would be quick and keep them from bitching too much. I know that a good mother would lovingly make their lunches with balanced food groups and a sweet note on their napkins. As I am not vying for mother of the year, to hell with that. The options for kids are abundant. I can find a prepackaged meal for my kids with all kinds of things they like in it, but I was unable to do so for myself. Nothing "fit" me.
Teachers have special needs. It is an incredibly stressful job that includes planning, teaching, not peeing when you need to, collaborating with people you don't like, dealing with difficult students and yelling parents, committee meetings, staff meetings, department meetings, etc. Teachers do all this plus deal with John Q. Public saying they are overpaid and under-skilled babysitters who get too much time off. How can there possibly be a lunch kit line that addresses those needs? It doesn't exist.
I discussed this with D, and she assisted me in finding the perfect meals for teachers. We call them Teacher-ables.
These delightful lunches come with your choice of beverage and a combination of snack foods to get you through an afternoon of apathetic students and quick drop-in evaluations. Each meal has Tylenol, Tums, and a mint in common. I shouldn't even have to explain why.
When we first started these hijinks, we had little understanding of how much we talk. It turns out we have a tendency to banter. Incessantly. We would have 30 minutes of video and when we reviewed it, we would giggle about how fabulous we are. Which we are. However, it took a couple of videos and a couple more friends with 25 second attention spans for reality to set in. We needed to cut stuff out.
This video is the second half of the one we did for National Gin Day in June. It involves Harry Potter and gin: two of my favorite things. Hang with us for nine minutes as we make a Harry Potter and the Gimlet of Fire from the book Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist by Tim Federle.
On this glorious day, we decided to bring together some friends and take a little international beer challenge. Let us explain our thoughts to you.
My job was to man the three cameras and pour the beer. It wasn't as easy as it may seem. Note to self: Tell people which camera to look at. Also, the wind was howling which was a lovely background noise.
Sometimes life just calls for a road trip. A delightful break from the norm. Now before I get judged for not even leaving my state, remember that Wyoming is quite large. I live in this part:
Doing a brewery tour also got us labeled as lushes because every post on FB was about beer. Sometimes food. The occasional Bloody Mary. I am sensing a pattern, but judgers be damned! It was worth it.
We have been friends for more years than we haven't. Perhaps because of that or simply because we both have jobs/family that seem to encourage escape, we often bond over an ounce or so of liquid magic. Through these experiences, we have discovered the joys that can come with a well-crafted cocktail, quality beer, and excellent wine. It's about quality for us, and we want to share that with you.