02 February 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Drinks...

I was going to come up with lyrics for a parody of "My Favorite Things" from "The Sounds of Music" and end it with the title of this post, but I didn't manage to come up with something witty enough. Thought counts, though, right? ;)

So, what's a food and drink blog without posts about drinks? I've been planning this post for a while, but never got around to actually writing it because it's hard for me to pick out just a few "favorite" drinks. It's always down to my current mood, and I often don't decide what I want until I reach the bar when I'm out - and I don't always order something from the list below.

Having worked as a bartender for a bunch of years in a number of bars in a couple of countries, I have had plenty of time and resources to experiment and figure out what I like and what I dislike in the world of alcoholic beverages. I'm still not even sure what I think about certain products (fruit-flavored beer, for example) and some of my old favorites I hardly ever consume anymore (I used to order a shot of Bailey's and a glass of cider once upon a time...). What I do know, however, is that the list below is my go-to, won't-get-tired-of, incomplete list of drinks I like a lot.

These are not necessarily the classic recipes, but they are the way I make the drinks and they taste great to me, ok? ;)

The Dry Martini

2 oz gin. I prefer Bombay but go with whatever you like.
0.5 oz Vermouth. I like Noilly Prat
a twist of lemon peel

Tools: cocktail shaker, spoon
Glass: martini ("cocktail")

Start by putting ice in the glass and the cocktail shaker. You'll need to fill the glass, cocktail shaker should be about half full. Next add the gin and Vermouth to the glass. Stir. Do not shake. James Bond may like his "martinis" full of ice but I do not. If you don't have a spoon that is long enough or clean enough, you can put the lid on the shaker and slowly turn it upside down a few times, but stirring is preferred.

Once stirring is complete, discard the ice from the glass. Pour the liquid from the shaker without any of the ice. If you have a Boston shaker, this is achieved by using a separate strainer. If you're using a Cobbler shaker, use the strainer in the lid. Finally, garnish with the lemon peel. Some people like to rub the inside of the glass with the lemon peel, but I personally think you'll have enough of the lemony taste from just putting it in the glass. In addition, every second from when you place the liquid in the shaker until it hits the glass is precious - you don't want to water the drink down, but you do want to make it cold. Since there's no ice in the glass, you need to consume the drink within ten minutes unless you like warm gin (and since it's so good, you need to make another one right away).

Rusty Nail

2 oz scotch (blended whiskey)
1 oz Drambuie

Tools: n/a
Glass: Old fashioned ("rocks")

Put some ice in the glass, add the two alcohols, mix. It's simple and it's oh-so-good. Now, Drambuie is a whiskey liqueur made with herbs and honey. It's very smooth and relatively sweet, and has the same alcohol content as most whiskeys on the market (80 proof/40% alcohol by volume). Very much like the dry martini, this cocktail is made from alcohol mixed with other alcohol with only some ice added - no mixers here. If you do not like whiskey (or drinking any hard alcohol straight up), chances are you won't like the Rusty Nail. If you do, however, order one at a bar and prepare to feel the respect from the bartender (just kidding, although I'm sure a bartender would prefer the Rusty Nail guy over the four-shots-of-your-cheapest-tequila guy).

Black Russian

2 oz vodka
1 oz coffee liqueur (Kahlúa, for example)

Tools: n/a
Glass: Old fashioned ("rocks")

Another simple recipe: fill the glass with ice. Add the liquids. Stir, consume. The Dude in all his honor - and don't get me wrong, I really do love a White Russian - the Black Russian is where it's at. The coffee liqueur by itself is too sweet, the vodka by itself is...vodka by itself, which is fine as long as the vodka is decent. The mix? Fantastic. Yes, it's the third cocktail with no mixers, just booze, but it's so damn good that I can't really help putting it on this list.

If you do want to make a White Russian, prepare the above recipe and add 2 oz ice cold whole milk, or cream if you like that sort of thing.

Long Island Ice Tea

1 oz vodka
1 oz silver tequila
1 oz white (silver) rum
1 oz gin
1 oz Cointreau (or triple sec)
2 oz "sour mix" (equal parts simple syrup, lemon juice and lime juice)
dash of cola
slice of lemon to garnish

Tools: n/a
Glass: Highball

Oh, Long Island, how I love thee. If you go out and drink five of these, you'll wake up the next morning and your liver will sit next to you with a cup of coffee, going "you're an asshole." Yes, I stole that line from Denis Leary, thanks for noticing. The Long Island Ice Tea has been around since the late 70s and is the drink of choice for a lot of people, if I'm to believe my years behind the bar. I've served this potentially lethal mix of liquids to anything from high school students (where it's legal to serve high school students alcohol, of course) to old ladies out with their after-work social club. I've also consumed a fair amount of them, although I tend to limit myself to one a night, once every...month, maybe two. If mixed properly, it will taste like ice tea, but most places overdo the coke and it'll taste like alcohol mixed with coke and a splash of lemon.

First of all, prepare your sour mix. Place equal parts sugar and water (say, half a cup each) in a pot over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a container (made of glass, not plastic) and let cool. Keep in the fridge if you're not using right away. When it's time to make the sour mix, blend the syrup with an equal amount freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice. Keep in the fridge, should last a couple of weeks. Or, you could always buy some at the liquor store.

Next, assemble the drink. Take a large highball glass and fill it with ice. You'll want a glass large enough to only be about 2/3 full when you've added the ice and the 5 oz (total) of alcohol. Pour the alcohol in the glass, fill up with the sour mix (eyeball it - you want it to be roughly 2/3 inch from the top) and stir. Pour a dash of coke over the top. Garnish with a lemon, consume.

There are several things that can "go wrong" with this drink. If it's too sour, increase the simple syrup ratio in the sour mix - unless you bought the sour mix in the store. If that's the case, use less sour mix compared to the alcohol, not the coke. You're not supposed to use enough coke to color the drink brown, it should be yellow with a hint of brown.

See, I can make drinks with fruit in them too! ;)

Flaming Dr. Pepper (shot)

3/4 oz Amaretto (or similar almond liqueur)
1/4 oz 151 proof rum (Bacardi 151, for example)
1/2 pint lager beer

Tools: bar spoon (unless you're a pro)
Glass: 1 oz shot glass, pint glass (US pint - use a half pint glass if in Europe)

Let's do a shot then, shall we? Some innovative bartender invented the Flaming Dr. Pepper, and since you can't find Dr. Pepper in France, it became one of my shooters of choice when I lived there. Now, I rarely do shots, but when I do, I like them a bit fancier than "tequila with salt and lemon."

Fill the beer glass halfway up the rim. Next, fill the shot glass roughly 3/4 of Amaretto. Now comes the hard part: top the shot glass off with 151 proof rum. A seasoned bartender can easily do this by tilting the glass and slowly pouring the rum (through a bottle pourer) into the shot glass, thus layering the rum on top of the Amaretto. If you're not a seasoned bartender, you might have more luck slowly pouring it (still, using a pourer) over the back of a bar spoon.

Once layered, here comes the fun part. Light the rum, preferably with a lighter (a match is harder and you might get some phosphorus in the drink if you're unlucky). Let it burn for a few seconds, then drop the shot glass into the beer glass and drink it down in one big gulp. Bam! Instant Dr. Pepper!

The Matrix (shot)

1/2 oz white (silver) rum
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz blue Curaçao
1/2 oz grenadine
Strongbow cider (or similar English cider)

Tools: n/a
Glass: two 1 oz shot glasses, pint glass (preferably the European pint)

I have no idea who invented this shot, nor have I ever seen it outside the Paris bar scene. It was taught to me by the assistant manager at The Freedom, Dimitri, and it's...let's just say that if a shot of Jägermeister is "not for the seasoned drinker" (quote from Jacquie's dad), this is. It's also for the nutcase drinker. It's not a shot I'd recommend you take very often.

Start by putting vodka and grenadine in a shot glass, with a bit more vodka than grenadine. Next, put the Curaçao and the rum in the other shot glass, with more rum than Curaçao. This is not an exact science. Now, place the glass with the Curaçao and rum in the bottom of the pint glass. Stack the glass with the vodka and grenadine on top. Next, pour the cider down the side of the glass, making sure you don't directly hit the shot glasses. Fill 'er up.

What you have here is a drink with two "pills" - red and blue - and thanks to the cider mixing ever so slightly with the blue Curaçao, the drink itself will be green and green is a pretty dominant color in The Matrix.

Now comes the hard part: drink it all down in one go. It's a shot, even if it's a pint-sized shot.]

Not-so-Irish Coffee

1/2 oz Bailey's (or other whiskey cream liqueur)
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Irish whiskey (optional)
4 oz hot, black coffee
whipped cream

Tools: n/a (or a whisk, if whipping cream), bar spoon, straw (optional)
Glass: highball

A traditional Irish Coffee is coffee and Jameson's whiskey mixed up with sugar, topped with lightly whipped cream. While I enjoy that, I actually prefer this not-so-Irish Coffee because I like whiskey more on its own and it feels like a waste to put it in coffee. That being said, I like to add a little Irish whiskey in this just to give it some extra kick (there's not much kick in Bailey's or Amaretto, so why not?).

Recipe is quite simple: mix all the ingredients but the cream together. If you whip the cream yourself (as opposed to buying it in a can), make sure you whip it very lightly - it should still be quite runny - and slowly pour it over the drink. Put a straw and spoon in there first, so you don't mess up the look of the drink by having a strand of cream come down through it, caused by the straw.

If you want to make the drink even sweeter (and, as some would say, "girlier"), replace the whiskey with chocolate liqueur.

By request: Mojito

2 oz white (silver) rum
2 limes
brown sugar
mint leaves

Tools: muddler (pestle for you Brits out there), ice crushing device (see below)
Glass: highball

Luke, here's for you. I can't believe I didn't think to include this in the original post, so instead of making a whole new post called "Request: Mojito", I'll just sneak it in here.

Quarter your limes and place them in the glass. Sprinkle about 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar, and finally add about 15 mint leaves. Now go to town with the muddler. We're looking to release juice from the limes and flavor from the mint leaves, as well as partially dissolve the sugar. Don't destroy the mint leaves too much!

Once you've destroyed the poor mint leaves enough, it's time to add the alcohol. Once this is done, it's ice time. Now, you already have the muddler in your hand, so one way (the best way, of course) is to crush the ice with it! If you don't want to completely ruin your good hand, or any hand for that matter, feel free to use a mechanical ice crusher or even a blender. You're looking to crush the ice, though, not emulsify it. Amount-wise, you need enough ice to fill the rest of the glass.

Garnish with a slice of lime and why not a mint leaf or two?

Some people enjoy a splash or two of soda water to be added on top, I don't think that is necessary at all.



  1. Great list. I'd like to hear how you make the perfect mojito. I'm a sweet-tooth, mint-liking drinker.

  2. A gay drink: a drink that likes other drinks?

  3. Skönt att båda mina favoriter var med - Mojito och Long Island Ice Tea. Jag kommer gärna till Austin och dricker sådana vid poolen :)

  4. We should have a party where every guest is required to have one of each of these drinks hahahaha.

    That would be a terrible idea.

  5. i love the long island ice tea and i'l try to make it myself and see if i can make one.