Drinks

Pisco what now?

Posted on Updated on


It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m sick again.  So I’m here on the sofa drinking tea and watching Martha Stewart.  And for whatever reason I start thinking to myself, “Waterlily, we certainly have a lot of Pisco.”  Now what else can you do with Pisco that isn’t a Pisco Sour?  If you don’t know, Pisco is essentially a brandy made from grapes that is particular to Chile and Peru.  Kinda like champagne, there is debate about what can be called pisco, depending on the origin of the grapes.  According to Chilean law, for a spirit to be called pisco, it must be made from muscat grapes from particular regions of Chile (regions 3 and 4 to be exact).  Anything else will not be recognized as pisco.  Of course, don’t tell that to any Peruvians since there is an actual town called Pisco, which is the origin of the brandy.

After a trip through the kitchen, I came up with some rhubarb syrup, pisco, cognac, rum, and lime juice.  What I can up with is kinda like a Sidecar.  And since it’s Valentine’s Day, I christen this drink the Rhisco Kiss.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 oz. Pisco
  • 2 oz. Rhubarb syrup
  • 1 oz. brandy
  • 1 oz. rum
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • ice

Line the rim of a martini glass with some sugar.  Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker to combine.  Strain into the glass and drink up!

Rhubarb syrup
I just like to colors of the drink and the rhubarb syrup

Notes — I get a lot of my booze know-how from drinking experience and from the program Three Sheets.  It aired on the Mojo network a few years ago, and after that network went belly up, it made the rounds on several other channels.  I lost track of it after that, but what I liked about the show was that you got a chance to actually learn about different cultures, traditions, and the booze that they drink.  I’ve seen a couple of newer versions of the program, but they focus more on drinking than on culture.  I haven’t been as enamored about those shows as I am with Three Sheets.  If you get a chance check them out.  It’s on Hulu and YouTube and the like.  I’ll post a video of the Chilean show on my Facebook page, so go visit me there and like my page.  I’m up to five likes now!

Rhisco Kiss

Slow’s BBQ and the North American International Auto Show

Posted on Updated on


Although I love the new production and concept cars, my favorites are the classics like this 1934 Model 40. My other favorite was the 1952 Mercedes 300 SL. Both are gorgeous cars.

I was hoping to post this sooner, but I was having some problems with editing.  For whatever reason none of my revisions were saved and I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Eventually I figured it out so I apologize for being behind on posts.  But I digress. . . On to my story. . .

I am a car nut.  Not a gear head, mind you, because I can barely change a tire.  I can do stuff like switch out headlamps, but adding some forced induction to boost performance is way, way, way over my head.  I just love driving them (one of my favorite pastimes [I think that’s spelled wrong] is going out for test drives of new cars).  I like seeing what’s new and improved, seeing what sexy concepts are coming, and following all the latest automotive news.  And one of the great things about living in SE Michigan is that the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is held every January right in downtown Detroit.  Luckily I got a chance to go on the last day of the 2012 show on Sunday, January 22nd.  Now if you love cars, this is one of the best shows in the country, if not THE best.  Over the past couple of years, the NAIAS saw a drop which coincided with the economic downturn.  Automotive companies withdrew from the show, major debuts and premieres were shifted to places like Chicago, New York, or Geneva, and attendance dropped.  But from the looks of everything, the show has come back in a big way.

Another great thing about SE Michigan is Slow’s BBQ.  For the past couple of years, our new tradition has been to go to the auto show and afterwards head on down to Slow’s for some beers and a meal of barbecued deliciousness.  Slow’s has generated a big name for itself not just among locals, but across the country.  There was even a nice article in the New York Times about how Slow’s is helping to revitalize downtown Detroit.

So let’s get down to business. . . after hanging out at the auto show for a few hours, we got in around lunchtime (like around 1:00), so it was packed with an hour wait (the crowd does thin out around 3:00 so that could be a good time to go).  You could try and get a seat at the bar, but I wanted a table and didn’t mind the wait.  Besides, it gave me a chance to look over all the pics from the auto show.  Plus, I get a chance to figure out what beers I want to try — they have about 60 bottles and 20 beers on tap.

Here are today's available bottles

We started out with the Fried Catfish Appetizer and a couple of beers — specifically Bell’s Hopslam and Short’s Sour Puss.  These are two of my favorite breweries and if you come across either of these two I definitely suggest you try them.  The Hopslam is hoppy, and bright, and has strong flavor of grapefruit (especially on the aftertaste).  This is another one of the Bell’s beers that has a cult-like following, especially since it’s available for only about one month out of the year.  It is a lot stronger than your average ale, with a 10% alcohol rating.   Now, as for the Sour Puss, I was not familiar with it and I couldn’t find any info about it at all on their website.  So I had to drop the brewery a line; I haven’t heard back from Short’s so your guess is as good as mine.  But I will be scouring stores in my area to see if I can get my hands on some.  No surprise, but there is a very strong sour flavor and it was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before.  It was layered and complex, but I have no frame of reference for me to compare.  I just know that I loved it!  Unfortunately for a lot of y’all, Short’s beers are available only in Michigan, and they don’t have any plans to change that any time soon.  But hey, that’s a great reason to come and visit the state and visit Short’s Pub in Bellaire, MI.

Bell's Hopslam and Short's Sour Puss

So, on to the catfish. . . these morsels were perfectly cooked and served hot with a side of remoulade.  These were described as having a “tempura” batter, but that really wasn’t the case.  It was a lot more substantial than you would find in a tempura, but it didn’t overpower the fish.  I think that the cornmeal in the batter helped out with that.

Fried catfish morsels

Another round of beers. . . another Hopslam and this time I wanted to try the Firkin of Pineapple Ale.  Again, I don’t know much about this one and didn’t think to ask.  I’m still learning how to be a restaurant critic so I will try to remember to be more inquisitive. . . and to bring a pen and paper because using the notepad on my phone is a pain!  Now I’d say that this ale is closest to an IPA but on the sweeter side.  I didn’t quite catch flavors of pineapple, but I did get apple and citrus notes.  Since it was served closer to room temperature, the other flavors were easier to pick up.  Now this is definitely a better choice for the meal, because the Sour Puss might probably overpower the rest of the meal with its intensity.

Hopslam's in the background and the foreground is the Pineapple Ale

And now for the main course. . . we got the Longhorn sandwich with a side of waffle fries and the Big Three entrée with a side of green beans and the delicious Mac and Cheese.  The Longhorn is a sandwich with sliced beef brisket, onion marmalade, and shredded smoked Gouda.  The Big Three is pretty much a sampler platter of their barbeque offerings — pulled pork, pulled chicken, and the brisket.  Honestly, I think the brisket is the star.  You can get some of the crispy charring on the outside coupled with flavors with some of the fat on the beef (the fat is where the flavor is at!).  So not only do you get the layers of flavors, but also layers of texture which add a great deal to the experience.  I definitely think the brisket could stand on its own without any additional sauces or additions, but of course, that didn’t stop me from trying different combinations!  Don’t get me wrong — I love the pork and the chicken, but they can be a little bit on the lean side which means they are perfect vehicles for Slow’s selection of sauces.

Just a light lunch!
The Big Three
The Longhorn sandwich and some Mac and Cheese

There’s a selection of four sauces — Apple, Sweet, Spicy, and North Carolina.  In my opinion, the best all-arounders would be the smokey, sweet Apple and the vinegary North Carolina.  I think the Spicy works best with the pulled pork, and the Sweet goes well with the chicken.  Keep in mind that there are other dishes there, like the ribs, salmon, jambalaya, even vegetarian options, so these sauces could strut their stuff with other pairings.  Maybe one of these days I’ll opt for the ribs and a side of the black-eyed peas.  And maybe one of these days, I’ll remember to leave room for dessert.

Sauce selection

Slow’s BBQ is quickly becoming an Michigan culinary institution, if it isn’t one already.  I think that over hour wait that you’re likely to encounter when you get here attests to that.  But if you can wrangle up 5 of your friends, you can call ahead for a table because they take reservations for parties of 6 or more.  I love Slow’s and I recommend you checking them out.  If you’re careful, your bill doesn’t have to be exorbitant like mine tends to be.  But I get here once a year, and what can I say? —  I’m a sucker for great food and great beer!

Too much pie to eat? Just drink it up!

Posted on Updated on


Alright, so this idea might be due to too much booze.  Or too little booze.  Whatever the case, it’s not the exact amount of booze that I needed.  But I started thinking that after the holidaze, sometimes you have just had your fill of pastries, and sweets, and candy, and — well, you get the picture.  So I think this is what brought this recipe about.  That, plus booze.

I’m sure some folks have thought about something like this.  Whether it be some hazy lapse of judgement, or hunger, or boredom, or you might just be reminiscing about the “Super Bass-o-matic ’76“, or maybe you just got a blender for Christmas and are just looking for stuff to pulverize. . . or all of the above.  To me, coming up with something like this isn’t too weird.  For example, I’ve made “cake soup” before — that’s where you mash up some slightly melted ice cream and a slice of cake together (don’t judge!).  After my post on Cheez-its and Rum, are you surprised?

So again, this isn’t all that scientific.  I had a couple of slices of my Apple-Rhubarb-Ginger Pie, some milk, and I added some yogurt and oatmeal to make it healthy. . . at least healthier. . . or rather, less unhealthy.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2  slices of pie, whatever you have around is fine
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. yogurt
  • 2 T. steel-cut oats

Place the oats in the blender and blend until fine.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  You can adjust as you see fit.  A little kiss of bourbon is nice in this, but then again, when isn’t it 🙂

Martha’s Eggnog

Posted on Updated on


It's got bourbon, cognac, and rum! Nothing wrong with that!

This is one of several “holiday menu” installments, so brace yourselves!  Alright, so let’s start the holidays off right with some eggnog.  The recipe that I’ve been using for the past couple of years has been adapted from Martha Stewart.  Now I was looking on her website a couple of weeks ago and I really couldn’t find the right recipe.  I found one for her “Classic Eggnog” but the amount of booze seemed a lot lower than I remember; even if you made a double batch it still didn’t sound right.  Luckily I found one on Food.com which was a lot closer to what I remember.  Of course, I changed it a little — I changed it from 1/2 c. rum to a full cup because why would you just put 1/2 c. of rum into anything?

In addition to a nice large serving bowl, here’s what you need:

  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 c. superfine sugar
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 1/2 quarts heavy cream
  • 3 c. bourbon
  • 2 c. cognac
  • 1 c. dark rum
  • freshly grated nutmeg
If you drink too much, then chaos ensues!

1.  In a very large bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow.  Gradually add sugar to the yolks, whisking to combine.  Gradually whisk in the milk and 1 qt. of the cream.  Now add your bourbon, rum, and cognac, stirring constantly.  You can make this base of the eggnog a day or so in advance.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff (you can add a little bit of sugar if you like).  Gently fold that into the mixture.

3.  Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and dollop or fold into the mixture.  Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!

Notes  — There is a caution at the bottom of the recipes that I found stating that “raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.”  It’s probably a not to let pregnant women, babies, or young children to drink something this boozy!. . . supposedly this serves 24.

Champagne cocktails, part 2 — Peter Venkman, Camilla Parker Bowles, and a Tic-Tac

Posted on Updated on


Peter Venkman, Camilla Parker Bowles, and a Tic-Tac.  Sounds like the punchline to a bad joke.  It could be, but it’s not.  This is round 2 of my experimenting with my liquor cabinet and some sparkling wine.  By this time in the “trials”, I am starting to get tipsy, so the names of these drinks might be a little weird, but I swear they made sense at the time.  Now these names are not original, so hopefully they won’t cause any troubles.  I’m not making any money off these things, so I guess it should be okay.

For the Peter Venkman:

  • 5 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. Midori

Pour the Midori into a flute.  Top off with the sparkling or champers.  Now this one isn’t all that difficult to explain how we got to this name.  Originally, I was going to call it a Romulan Ale (and yes I’m a big Star Trek nerd).  Problem was that Romulan Ale is blue (if you follow any of the Trekkie lore).  There is another Star Trek drink that is green called Aldebaran Whiskey, but that didn’t seem to fit at all.  So what’s the next thing that popped into my head — Ghostbusters!  The color is definitely that of Slimer, but I couldn’t call it Slime, so Peter Venkman seemed like the next logical choice.

For Camilla Parker Bowles:

  • 5 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. raspberry liquor
  • dash of bitters

There was all that buzz about the royal wedding, I thought to myself that maybe I should make something that reflected all the hub-bub.  Plus there was all that rioting in London, I think over an increase in fees for students and they attacked the car that was carrying Prince Charles and Camilla.  Personally I don’t get the big deal over the hike in fees.  Maybe it’s because tuition in this country is redonk — I gots $50,000 in student loans after 2 years of school.  But I digress. . . the recipe is simple enough, but I added a dash of bitters. . . because I think Camilla has a dash of bitters herself.

For the Tic-Tac:

  • 4 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1 oz. mint syrup
  • 1 drop peppermint oil

This recipe packs a wallop.  All because of the oil.  I recommend closing your eyes when you drink this one.  Or try it with your eyes open, then you’ll know what I mean.

Champagne Cocktails, part 1 — a Classic and Nelson’s Blood

Posted on Updated on


I hosted a wine tasting recently with a focus on whites and sparkling wines.  So I thought it might be nice to see what recipes are out there for drinks that use sparkling wines (champagne, cava, prosecco, spumante, etc. . . ) as a base.  Probably most everyone knows about mimosas and bellinis.  But I am looking for something a little bit different from even a sparkling sangria (which will probably be my fall back).

Now my booze cabinet isn’t the most well-stocked, but I do have a couple of mixers that I could use, plus there are some things that I have already stocked in the refrigerator.  So here’s what I have:

Mixers, liqueurs, syrups, etc:  Midori, raspberry liqueur, cranberry mix, sour apple mix, Angostura bitters, rhubarb syrup, mint syrup, Apple Pie liqueur (luv this stuff.  it really does taste like boozy apple pie!), and sugar cubes.

Booze:  Appleton VX, Appleton 12-year-old, Pisco, Cachaca (actually two types), Bison Grass vodka, Apple Jack, Yukon Jack, Bulleit Rye, and Woodford’s Reserve.

I am not using my good Appleton rum (If you are ever lucky enough to try some 30-year-old Appleton, by all means get it.  Exquisite stuff!  Too bad the oldest available in Michigan is the 12-year-old.), the vodka, or my bourbon.  No sense in wasting those on something that may or may not work.  Plus, no sense in using a bottle of Krug in making champagne cocktails.  I am using prosecco from Cupcake Vineyards.  Not a bad wine, especially for the price — about $8!

So for this first post I did find some recipes for a couple of traditional cocktails.  I apologize for the picture; the cocktails looked a little ominous for some reason.  One of them is just a Classic Champagne Cocktail.  I guess it’s been around forever.  The other one is called Nelson’s Blood.  Now if you don’t know the story behind the name, it’s not a pretty one, but more on that later. . .

For the Classic Cocktail:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • bitters
  • 5 oz. champagne

On a plate, place the sugar cube and splash on a couple of dashes of the bitters in order to soak the cube.  Now transfer the cube to a champagne flute and top off with the champagne or sparkling wine.  The sugar cube has lots of nucleation points for the sparkling so this will be extra bubbly (think about sodas and Mentos, but not as violent. . . if you don’t know what I’m taking about, click on this).

For the Nelson’s Blood:

  • 1 oz. Tawny Port
  • 5 oz. champagne

In a champagne flute, pour in your Port.  Now top it off with the champagne.  I do confess though — the pic does not have port in it, but some of the Appleton VX instead.  Although most recipes I found just have the port and sparkling in it, there are some which have rum.  These are more complex and have better ties to the provenance of the drink.  So here’s a cultural nugget and a little bit of history. . .

Picture it — Trafalgar, 1805. . . The British fleet has just scored another victory against the rival French, but the victory would cost Admiral Horatio Nelson his life.  Admiral Nelson was a war hero beloved all over England and a burial at sea would just not sit well with folks back at home.  The problem was that getting him home could take possibly months.  So to keep his body, er. . . fresh. . . it was preserved in a casket of brandy where it was essentially pickled.

It has been reported that since he was so beloved by the people and admired by his crew, some of the sailors aboard Nelson’s ship secretly stole a sip of the pickling brandy to hopefully take in some of his qualities.  So this has given life to numerous concoctions paying homage to him.  Check out this one which has brandy (to symbolize his “preserves”), tawny port (to symbolize his spilt blood), rum (because he was a sailor), and blood orange juice (since he died just off the coast of Spain).  Tasty!

Pink Martini with Bison Grass Vodka

Posted on


I love Pink Martini!  It is hard to really describe the sound of the band.  Even with only 12-members, they still achieve the big band sound which is why they have been called the “Little Orchestra”.  They do some jazz standards, as well as original material, and different interpretations of classical music.  They also do a whole range of world music and have recorded songs in multiple languages.  For example, their most recent holiday CD has a Japanese version of White Christmas, a Chinese New Year carol, a song from a Verdi opera, and a couple of songs for Hanukkah.  I know I can’t really describe their music all that well so you should just check out their website or look them up on YouTube.

I was just at their show just this past weekend which closed out our Summer Festival.  So in honor of the concert, I thought I’d try to conjure up a Pink Martini recipe!  Here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 oz. rhubarb syrup
  • 2 oz. bison / buffalo grass vodka (or gin)
  • splash of raspberry liquor
  • splash of cranberry nectar
  • dash of bitters
  • ice

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well.  Strain into a glass.

Notes — If you wanted to substitute some gin for the vodka that should be fine.  I do not like gin, so that’s why I use the buffalo (bison) grass vodka.  It is similar to the gin in that they both have that organic, botanical taste.  The one that I have at home is Bak’s, but if you come across some others, I definitely recommend it.  It used to be banned in this country so that might make it a little tricky to find.  I guess the grass has a certain chemical that is a little bit toxic and, um, anti-coagulant-y.  They use that same chemical in rat poison. . . . yay!  But that does give it a certain “forbidden fruit” allure to it.