Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the first day of Christmas, I sure could use a drink - The Advil Calendar: Year Two, Week One: The Drinkening

What are you looking at right now? What has been coming into your email inbox for a month or more - offers to buy the most beautiful tacky jewelry, the stinkiest holiday-themed candles, the dumbest, most stupid-ass novelty wine bottle caddies?

If you were thinking about buying someone a wine bottle caddy, allow me to talk you down off that ledge. Nobody needs a wine bottle caddy. By the time they get the damn thing fastened around the wine bottle, everybody will have gone off and fixed themselves a real drink anyway, and the wine will just sit there going sour and looking stupid all evening. I'm serious. Wine bottle caddies. That is possibly the only way to embarrass a decent bottle of wine to death.

On the other hand, I don't want you sitting around stressing about what to buy that sister-in-law for whom you were thinking about buying the wine bottle caddy, the one who has no interests, collects nothing, and refers to the stuff she already has as "dust-catchers". Buy her an umbrella from the museum gift shop. There. Done.

But while I am all about x-mas expedience, there is a time and place to slow down, a moment outside holiday time, a moment when no Christmas music is playing, a moment when you are not at wits' end.

That is the time that you spend with... The Advil Calendar.

The Story of The Advil Calendar
Because I am almost unbelievably lazy, I am going to copy this story from last year. So skip it if this is your second year accompanying me on my drinking journey to Santaland.

I cannot take credit for this idea. This idea was suggested by my friend Chris's little girl, Wendy Darling (she is surrounded by feral boys, including my two boys, so her blogonym is Wendy Darling).
Chris was setting up the Advent calendars she'd bought for her three kids, milk chocolate-stocked jobbies from Trader Joe's (um, the calendars, not the kids), when sweet Wendy asked, "But Mom, where's your Advent calendar?" Chris replied that she wasn't really interested in grainy milk chocolate tablets in the shape of snowmen and whatevers, and so she didn't need an Advent calendar.
Chris wearing the doting face.
But Wendy still wanted her mother to share this aspect of the season. She said, "Well you could have a grownup version."
Chris put on the thinking face. "What would a grownup Advent calendar be like, do you think?"
"Well instead of chocolate, your Advent calendar could have different kinds of liquor in it!" And Chris's face turned from the thinking face to the "that's just great, my kid thinks all I do is drink" grimace. Which morphed into the "wonder what she tells the teacher about us" wince.
Chris is doing better than I am anyway - I forgot about Advent calendars entirely, and now it turns out they make 
LEGO ones. My seven-year-old eight-year-old was outraged. "Why don't we have an Advil calendar?!"

And given my traditional Scroogey humbugginess, "Advil calendar" struck my fancy. Wouldn't you like an Advil calendar, filled with booze? I know I would.

Advil Calendar: Year One
In lieu of sending 24 bottles of liquor to all my friends - a pricey way to ensure lifelong devotion - I decided to showcase a different brand of booze every day of the festive goddamn season, and present a recipe for a cocktail made with that brand. Basically. There was a lot of fudging. There was an ode to Jagermeister. Who cares? It's drinking, it's supposed to be sloppy. I stole a lot of recipes from brand websites.

Advil Calendar: Year Two
And this charming quiz for women.
This year I have decided to do some actual reading on the subject. I cracked open my liquor cabinet and pulled out the small stash of bartending books I've collected over the years. My favorite is Esquire's handbook for hosts, a blindingly misogynistic set of instructions for how to get women to wriggle out of their intricate foundation garments and into the missionary position.

Originally published in 1949 and full of party games, etiquette, and food recipes as well as drinks, the author teaches the Esquire man how to cook such dishes as possum, shashlik, and Canteloupe Obolensky (a vanished recipe involving cutting a hole in the melon, pulling out the seeds, filling the poor thing with sherry, and letting it chill for about an hour, after which I guess you light it on fire and lob it at the neighbor's dog).

There's also a recipe for bouillabaisse: "While there are many women cooks who can prepare a fairly presentable bouillabaisse, the dish reaches the heights only in the hands of a man." Presumably it's only really good after the cook has dipped his dick in it? Who knows.

Then there's To Cook a Bachelor's Goose from 1969, which is actually more offensive than the Esquire guide. This book was no help at all, however, as the author, a Ruth G. Satzman, addresses the subject of alcohol thusly:
"If you have a good gin and a good vermouth, the Martini drinkers will be happy. Guests who prefer wine can have the vermouth, either straight or on the rocks. A name-brand Scotch will take care of whiskey imbibers. And for those who like a mixed drink, serve Whiskey Sours made with rye, lemon juice and sugar."
Honey, you're never going to get him to stay over that way.

A real standby, however, is my dad's copy of The Official Mixer's Manual, first copyright in 1934. In it you'll find the Buby, the Bunny Hug, and the B.V.D. Yuck. Thank god there's no drink called The Banana Hanger.

But there is the Third Rail, the Bosom Caresser, and the Weep No More. The Golden Dawn! The White Cargo! The Shining Path!

Just kidding. There's no drink named after Peru's most vicious crew of Maoist terrorists. There's a drink named after the Shriners though, and after South Africa's Transvaal district. They're both gin-based, of course.

Well. That's a sufficient warm-up, I'd say. Let's get to it.

With my accustomed randomness, on December first I'm invoking a trip to Target. At Target we will buy winter loungewear, a tacky-ass wreath, cherry Pop-Tarts, and lip balm light-up lightsabers - several of those, one for every stocking.

And since we are planning ahead, here is a make-ahead marvel from Treasured Armenian Recipes, published by The Detroit Women's Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Inc. and given, so the endpaper tells us, to Betty and Louie by their friends John and Rose Smith in appreciation of "several enjoyable dinners" in December of 1964. "Several," huh? Sounds like faint praise to me.
Sour Cherry Cordial
Pit cherries for preserve. Cover with sugar (1 cup cherries to 1 cup sugar). Let stand over-night. Bring to a boil. Drain off most of the juice for the cordial. Use 1 cup whiskey to 2 cups cherry syrup. To one gallon jug add 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, 2 whole nutmeg. A cup of whole cherries may be added to serve with the cordial later.
Ready in 1 month.

But I also have a job interview today, so here's a strong, flavorful straight-up alternative to drink right now, also with a cherry theme. Wish me luck, y'all.

Master of the Hounds
1 jigger rye whiskey
1/3 jigger cherry brandy
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir well with ice and strain into glass.

You're buying Pikesville Rye, right? Do I have to remind you why? As for the cherry brandy, Zwack, makers of the fine weird Hungarian black liquer of the same name, makes one, and so does Schladerer, if you can find it.

Today the UPS driver stops in front of your house to deliver your Century 21 order only to be hollered at by the jackhole in the white van who had come speeding up your quiet one-way street behind her. And it's raining. She's got to get back in the truck, start that thing, drive two doors up to where there's space at the opposite curb for her to pull over, and then hump your boxes back to your doorstep in the rain, all so that this nimrod can get by.

Here's the drink for my noble UPS driver, from Old Man Drinks by Robert Schnakenberg. I'll have one too.

1 jigger cute + a whooole bottle of weird.
The Dry Mahoney
2 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
lemon twist
Shake with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

In other words: What exactly can Brown do for you, motherfucker?

3 DECEMBER 2001:
The gift catalog from the wholesale club comes and guess what? You could have saved ten bucks on the ereader you bought for your husband this year! Do you:
  1. tear the office apart looking for the receipt so that you can return the reader to where you originally bought it, and then hope you have the wholesale club coupon in your bag when you finally get the time to run over there to buy the reader? 
  2. shut your eyes and roll your eyeballs up into your head for a long shuddering moment and then open them again, turn on some peppy music, and mix yourself a drink?

I know what I'd do. They're going to be out of that reader by the time you get over there anyway. For your peppy music I recommend Flansburgh and Linnell, the Johns known as They Might Be Giants. And for your drink I offer this juicy Cosmo variant made up by Flansburgh and published in the book I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands.

TMBG vs 007
The Countrypolitan
2 parts vodka
1 part Cointreau
1 part real cranberry juice
1 part pomegranate juice
a liberal amount of fresh lime juice
Shake with ice, and strain into a martini or champagne cocktail glass.

DECEMBER 4, 2011
Somebody brought a bottle of Tuaca to an extremely excellent wedding we attended this autumn down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Labeled as "vanilla citrus liqueur," boy is that stuff good. Complex, not supersweet, aromatic. The company claims that Tuaca was created for Lorenzo de Medici, and who am I to skepticize? After all, people like Tilda Swinton and Pam Anderson have perfumes made for them - it's kind of the same thing.

Smells like oranges and pumpkins and... baby. That's apparently what she said she wanted.
Smells like butterscotch and heaven.
Eau de antifreeze and baby powder.
On the brand's website, they mix Tuaca with warm apple cider or with root beer, both of which drinks sound good and not super-strong. The apple cider combo would be especially excellent for an afternoon addressing cards. For summer, they suggest Tuaca and green tea with lemon, garnished with mint.

And I know I'm going to try the Livorno:
1.5 oz old tom gin (Hayman’s)
0.75 oz Lillet blanc
0.25 oz Tuaca
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir over ice, strain into cocktail glass.
Lillet? I'm there for that. It also features old tom gin, which I've never known what... was. What it was. What was it. I swear, it's 3pm, I haven't even started on this stuff yet.

But the winner might just be the simple and appealing Tuaca Whiskey Punch:
Equal parts Tuaca, Jack Daniels, OJ, and cranberry juice, poured over ice and given a good stir.

That's the kind of thing you could mix up in a pitcher for a party, or mix up in a pitcher and drink all by yourself doing those damn cards. I mean, if you're not too picky about whose address the cards eventually end up at, or what they say. I could see, like, your aunt getting fifty in the mail at once, all signed, "WHAT THE HELL! MERRY XMAS! GOD!"

The Fifth Day of Christmas:
Monday is actually my Saturday night because of the way my work schedule coincides with my friends' workout schedule. Actually, I don't think those guys have exercised on a Monday night in years, but we keep meeting at the bar by the Lynne Brick as if they've just come from doing Body Pump.

Whatever that is.

Here is a drink for our estrogen-fueled bitch sessions, our evenings bragging about our kids and complaining about our husbands. Don't judge:

We look exactly like this when we drink

The Cointreau Teese
, named for, yes, Dita von Teese, the Cointreau "brand ambassador"
1 1/2 oz cointreau
1 oz creme de violette
1/2 apple juice
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Rim with fresh ginger
It's the ginger rim that sold me. Plus, it's purple, which - oy. I have to admit, even I am getting into Ravens football this year.

For my birthday this year an old friend sent me a polyurethaned plywood portrait of Malcolm X with a clock face in his armpit. Now, everybody knows that Malcolm X was a teetotaler - probably part of why he looks so pissed in his official portraits - but the old friend, an ex-cop in Cleveland, is not. Er, which I guess may be self-evident. Because he sent me a polyurethaned plywood portrait of Malcolm X with a clock in his armpit. The return address on the package read "Jerry Sherk".

Uncle Shawnie's Cocktail: The Paddy
I have to admit, when I looked this up I  assumed it had less to do with ingredients than with quantity and procedure: i.e. drink Irish whiskey at the cop bar until you see double (and as previously noted, Cleveland drinkers are not amateurs, so that is a lot of Irish whiskey), then drive over to your ex-girlfriend's house. Get out of the car and stand there unsteadily, staring at the house for about half an hour, then mutter, "Shit," and drive back to the bar.

1/2 Irish whiskey
1/2 sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir well with ice and strain into glass. I myself would serve this on the rocks just in the hope that Shawn gets a little hydration.

The Official Mixer's Manual has a small section at the back called Food To Go With Drinks. Here you'll find instructions for salting your own nuts, for mashing avocados, and for making Chex Mix. Challenging these recipes are not.

Except this one, for Raw Meat Spread, which is challenging in its own way:
Combine 1 1/2 pounds ground round steak with no fat (have it freshly ground), 1 egg, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 Tablespoon French mustard, 2 Tablespoons A-1 sauce, 1/2 cup chopped green onions, 1 clove garlic minced. Blend well and place in a large bowl and sprinkle with chopped green onions and parsley.
Serve with generous amounts of pumpernickel and hot toast.
And a flyswatter and a vomit bowl, I think.

But it's Wednesday, aka Weird Drink Wednesday, so here is a drink inspired by another old friend, a woman who claimed she saw waves of color when she had an orgasm. She said it was like the Northern Lights. I said she should probably not stick her thumbs in her eyes at that - or really any other - moment.

The Northern Lights (adapted from Gourmet magazine)
3 oz Scotch
1-1/2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau de Vie
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake over ice, strain into a couple glasses, and garnish with a lemon twist.

I have strong, fond feelings for St. Germain. It plays beautifully with blueberries and ice tea (and gin) in the summer, and equally well with honey and hot tea (and Scotch) in the winter. But this Douglas Fir Eau de Vie is a new one on me. Supposedly it's actually distilled from the Douglas Fir tree, and "recalls the scent of fresh pine needles." Well, I'll bet it does.

Coming up next week: more booze recipes by indie rockers, asshole bachelors, and one heck of a Bloody Mary. Plus Wendy Darling is proved to be dead-on in her assessment of parental priorities at her house, as her mom shares her recipe for a jalapeno margarita that is really really REALLY good.