Monday, December 26, 2011

ALL THE DRINKS: Index to The Advil Calendar, 2010-2011

I know, I know. Right about now you are thinking in terms of a water-only diet. A detox so comprehensive that not only will your liver be restored to a childlike state, but your skin will glow, your hair will begin to grow out of your head as transparent floss like the hair of angels, your feelings toward all mankind will be tolerant, your actions motivated by kindness and unmarred by ego.

Me too. Really.

But just in case you wanted to see a comprehensive list of ALLLL the cocktails in The Advil Calendar, 2010 and 2011 (there are eighty-two), with links to each post, click the “Read More” thingie.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2011, December 25: BREAKING THE TAPE

IT's Christmas Day and what's in YOUR stocking? If it ain't a prince, an astronaut, Tommy Lee Jones, a secret agent and a Jedi... YOU'RE DOIN IT WRONG

Two-Face and his dual girlfriends, Sugar and Spice

Thanks for sticking with me this long and dark month, this season of insanity, this winter of our discontent and lost items and near misses. Today is Christmas, and those of us who have to do Christmas stuff will either be relaxed and happy, and so we could use a sweetly refreshing, sparkly drink that will enhance our already-effervescent buzz... or we will be secretly, blackly seething, slipping out to the back porch "for a breath of fresh air" far more often than is strictly polite.

And we will be in need of a drink in that case too.

So whether your xmas dinner will be Spice's menu of "a charred heart of black boar, a side of raw donkey meat, and a sterno and grain alcohol cocktail, straight up, baby!" or whatever Drew Barrymore offers Two-Face in Batman Forever (pretty sure there was champagne involved), I've got you covered:
God I hate Radko.

The Moon Walk
Created in 1969 by legendary barman Joe Gilmore at the Savoy Hotel in London to commemorate the first lunar landing, it was the first thing the astronauts had to drink upon returning to Earth. Now that is honoring our servicemen.
1 part fresh Grapefruit Juice
1 part Grand Marnier
2 dashes Rosewater
Shake well, strain into wine glass and top up with Champagne.

Doesn't that sound lovely? Although I might ease back on the Grand Marnier if we are having these with the morning pastries, or if I'm serving one to Mom.

Granted, even Connery could
not have worked that outfit.
We had The Talented Cousin Rachel and her husband, Equally Talented But in a Completely Different Way Tim over for dinner a couple Sundays ago, and Rachel brought a bottle of St. Germain. As is her wont. She kind of doesn't go anywhere without it - we should all aim to be that kind of fabulous. When she gets older she'll probably carry her elderflower liqueur in an ermine purse.

So we tried substituting half St. Germain and half Cointreau for the Grand Marnier in The Moon Walk, and it was LOVELY. Sweet but not sugary, floral but not so girly that Tim and my husband felt their manliness threatened by drinking it. In fact, Rachel renamed the thing The Moonraker, and we all know that there's nothing unmanly about James Bond. Except Roger Moore. So that kind of fouls that up, in a way... but you know what? I may be overthinking this. I'll stop.

But chances are, on Christmas Day I'll have a pot of this warming on the stove:

What? When I hear 'hot ginger' I think 'Prince
Harry with his shirt off.' Doesn't everyone? 
Enraged Cider 
2 quarts apple juice or apple cider1 two-inch piece of ginger, halved lengthwise
2 chili peppers
1 lemon, sliced thin
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup dark rum
Everything but the rum goes in a medium saucepan. Warm slowly, then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the flame and add the rum, ladle into cups.

I adapted this last year from a recipe I found on the Sailor Jerry website. I didn't think their Hot Apple Jerry was spicy enough, so I sifted through the fridge and plonked in all kinds of things. The ginger chili lemon combo was the best one for me. Also, I find that the cider gets weird and separate-y if it's on the stove for too long, and I've had success with apple juice instead.

And for the spectators, the bachelor uncles and ancient aunts, those family members who are neither over the moon nor simmering with rage on Christmas day, I offer one from Danny Meyer's book Mix Shake Stir.

And when I think 'kilt' I think Ewan McGregor
hugging a rooster.

The Guilty Kilt
1 1/2 oz blended Scotch
1 1/2 oz brewed English Breakfast tea, chilled
3/4 oz sweetened condensed milk
smoked tea leaves for garnish (no I don't know where you get smoked tea leaves)
In a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake the Scotch, tea, and condensed milk. Vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass full of ice and garnish with smoked tea leaves.

That's it! Is that it? Oh my god I think that's it. Twenty-five days of ranting and alcohol, and it's all over now. Thank you for dropping in, or sticking with me, or even leaving in disgust.

A special thank you to all my guinea pigs and researchers, the commentators and people whose brains I have picked. Or pickled. Guess what? You're going to write this thing next year, because it has nearly killed me.

To your health, boys and girls. Let's have a good year - vote Democrat, eat high fiber, avoid excess packaging, and don't pee in everyone else's pool. I'm out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2011: ONE: CUT A HOLE IN A BOX Edition


The funny thing about all this is I'm really more of a beer drinker.

I'll be drinking beer at the Browns game today. They're playing at M and T Bank Stadium, so I guess you'd have to call it the Ravens game, but my poor husband is a Browns fan so we're humoring him. Do you know how long it's been since any Cleveland team has won a championship? Here's a hint - you google "Cleveland championship" and the first link that comes back is the Wikipedia entry for "Drought (sport)."

The Browns won the NFL title in 1964, the year of my husband's birth, and before that had won the World Series just after the end of the SECOND WORLD WAR.

Miller Lite? Yeah I'll even go there.
But I'm no football fan. I don't hate it, but it's not my thing. My thing really is beer. I love a hoppy old I.P.A. like Dale's or the Green Flash or Long Trail; a caramel-y Belgian abbey ale like Corsendonk or Rochefort; Mexican lager, Sapporo at sushi, and Baltimore's own crap beer National Boh for when we have crabs.

Some of my favorite friends are the friends who homebrew - Lui, Charlene and Roy are automatically on my list of people who get hot sauce when I make hot sauce, just on the off chance they'll reciprocate with homebrew.

Speaking of Roy... Roy's in a band. It's called Pulaski now but it used to be called Sick, and when they were Sick they recorded a version of a traditional Christmas song that I think perfectly distills my reaction to the holiday. Roy has graciously agreed to... shit, graciously? no, not graciously. He's a punk rocker, he doesn't do graciously. And I respect that. Roy has said he doesn't give a shit if I put the song up on the Advil Calendar as the soundtrack to a montage to the greatest and/or most random images I have used this month in these posts. Yeah, that's more like it.


And I'm working on an index to all the drinks featured in this year's and possibly last year's Advil Calendar - that'll be up probablyyyy.... well maybe by Christmas night.

Meanwhile, I know you're busy, god knows I am. I mixed up a batch of that Scrumptious Coffee featured on December 23, and my friends Paula and Cheryl helped me drink it. It's good. I might make more. The caffeine is helpful, and there's not so much sugar in it that you'll get that sick old sugar hangover. Hopefully.

Oh and one more funny thing courtesy of my high school classmate Mary Kay, former cheerleader and current competitor for Tim Riggins's luscious brooding love. This is John Denver singing "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk on Christmas)," a seasonal favorite in the Mary Kay household. Fat chance, Little John. I've got some good stuff lined up for the Big Damn Day.


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2011, Christmas Eve Eve: LOCALIVOROUS LOVE EDITION


"Localivorous" YES I JUST MADE THAT UP. Shut up. It's the adjectival form of "locavore." I am working very hard on this stuff so give me... ooh look there's a squirrel on the deck!

Ok, so I'm not working that hard. I'm mostly hanging out at the coffee shop, pecking out jokes and trivia in between gossipy visits with the neighborhood retired people, at-home moms, part-timers, baristas, and college students who are fortunate enough to have the time during the day to hang out in the coffee shop.

Fortunate indeed. For there are a few things about OUR coffee shop that make it better than YOUR coffee shop:

  • The coffee is freshly roasted just down the road in a little warehouse space that periodically catches on fire from all the bean chaff in the roaster chimney. 
  • You can get bacon on anything there.
  • All the guys who work at Zeke's are frequently bearded, variously burly, non-emo, and all named Zeke. This is true: most of their delivery customers and plenty of the shop customers just figure they're talking to the original Zeke (who in fact is like 12 years old), and the boys don't bother to correct them.
  • Excellent merch. "Can you draw a coffee bean with a crab on it?" asked owner Thomas Rhodes one day, calling his go-to graphics man, Todd Brizzi, from the road. "Uh, sure," said Todd. "Any particular reason why I would?"
  • Once a year Zeke's buys a big batch of catshit coffee and charges people like ten bucks a cup to try it. This is the marketing genius that is going to pay for Thomas and Amy's kids to go to college anywhere they like.

In honor of Zeke's (and all the Zekes), and because you, like me, may be having a little trouble focusing, what with the kids home from school and all that goddamn wrapping upstairs waiting to be done, not to mention the cards the cards THE CARDS. GOD. I took a marvelous picture of the children and uploaded it and did up the card and ordered them and picked them up and signed the whole stack of them, and I did this all by about December 18th. Of last year. And never managed to address them and send them out. I hate wasted effort, so I plan to change the date on them from 2010 to 2011 and send them out this year. But it's beginning to look less and less likely, isn't it?

Coincidentally, I shot our xmas card photo at the coffee shop.
Huh. Talk about having trouble focusing. Look what happened to that last paragraph. I never said what I was going to do in honor of Zeke's. In my defense, I also have a chest cold and have lost my voice, and also have two brand-new kitties in our house, one of whom is affectionate and fluffy, while the other is 12 weeks old and likes to ambush my hands while I type.

And I can't seem to stop making candles.

So look, this is my solution. Coffee drinks. All these feature the Poor Man's Speedball combo of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and are guaranteed to keep you awake to wrap presents after the kids go to sleep. No guarantee, however, that you won't get so hammered that you just throw up your hands, slap bows on everything and call it a night.

Enjoy these hot cocktails, cold cocktails, punches and a toddy, and while you're at it you may admire the Toddfather's cool logos for some of Zeke's signature blends. 'Coffee bean with a crab on it.' Yeah, he can draw that.

That's the Bromoseltzer Tower.
Monk's Coffee, sometimes also called The Monk's Rope:
1/4 oz. Amaretto
1/4 oz. crème de cacao
1/4 oz. Frangelico
1/4 oz. orange liqueur (Cointreau is fine, but I have heard amazing things about Clément Créole Shrubb, which is supposed to be less sweet, and to have notes of vanilla and cinnamon as well as the orange)
Zeke's coffee
Mix the liqueurs in a snifter and add hot coffee.

Named for a famous B and O line.

Here's one for iced coffee devotees, The Coffee Cocktail:
1/3 brandy
1/3 Cointreau
1/3 cold black Zeke's coffee
Shake well with ice and strain into glass. The Mixer's Manual recommends serving this after dinner, but I would very much drink this on the rocks in a tall glass in the afternoon. Possibly all afternoon.

Nobody calls us that with a straight face.

And a hot punch that's far too much trouble to make, but sure fun to read about:
Café Brûlot
1 orange
12 whole cloves
1/3 cup brandy
1/3 cup Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
3 (2-inch-long) strips of lemon zest
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoons sugar
3 cups hot very strong brewed Zeke's coffee
Remove zest from orange in a single spiral with a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife. Stud orange zest with cloves. Add to a wide heavy medium saucepan with brandy, liqueur, lemon zest, cinnamon, and sugar. Warm through over medium heat, stirring. Tilt pan over gas burner (or use a long match) to ignite carefully (flames will shoot up). While flames subside, slowly pour in hot coffee. Ladle into small cups (preferably demitasse).
I read about this spectacular item in my Mixer's Manual, but apparently they've been doing it for over a century at Antoine's, where they call it Café Brûlot Diabolique - i.e., not just burned coffee, but devilishly burned coffee!

Ok and this one is not a coffee drink, but that suck-ass cold I caught turned into a blazing sore throat and I have lost my voice completely. Which everyone but me finds verrrry amusing.
Black Stripe
2 oz dark rum
1 teaspoon molasses
a drizzle of honey
lemon wedge
Put the dark rum, molasses and honey in a coffee mug. Twist the lemon wedge over the cup and then drop it in. Fill the rest of the mug with hot water and stir.

Todd's wife Heather found me this next one while I was mixing up that miserable toddy above (if I had to make it again I'd double the honey, halve the molasses) (but honestly I'd prefer to just warm up a jigger of Nyquil, shoot it, and pass the fuck out). Scrumptious Coffee sounds like eggnog, except with way less dairy and 100% less eggwhite beating. I am pro- anything that reduces the sum total of eggwhite beating in my life.

(Unless said beating results in little meringue cookies, ooh I love those things. Paint the inside of a pastry bag with stripes of peppermint flavored goo and then put the meringue in it and then you get little starlight mint striped cookies. And you bake them in, like, the hot air that comes off the back of the fridge. You practically put them in the sunlight coming in the kitchen window and they bake. Science!)

And that's the tower of the sewage
treatment plant, if I'm not mistaken.

Scrumptious Coffee 
48 oz strong black Zeke's coffee
brown or raw sugar
10 oz brandy
8 oz dark rum
8 oz white rum
2 cinnamon sticks
16 oz whipped cream
orange peel
Sweeten the coffee with the sugar to taste. Mix coffee, liquor, and orange peel in a pan. Heat gently, but do not boil. Let infuse for a couple of minutes. Pour into pre-warmed heat-resistent glasses. Float whipped cream on top. Garnish with thin strip of peel of orange and nutmeg.

Now that one has Christmas day potential, yes sirree.

TOMORROW: Oh my god you guys I am totally tapped out. Seriously. I outlined almost all these posts in late November / early December, before the damn holidays ruled the world and before we got two new cats and Bob and I both caught debilitating colds. But somehow I never lined up anything for Christmas Eve. So things might get a little raggedy-endy around here tomorrow. Ahem. More so, that is. Like I might possibly get one of the kids to write it. THAT would be INTERESTING.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Advil Calendar 2,011 WINTER SOLSTICE EDITION: Get Your Druid On

Given all the hardship I encountered finding Hanukkah cocktails (still haven't recovered from the Eight Nights, Eight Reasons to get Shitfaced Hanukkah Marathon post), I thought finding a suitable cocktail for Winter Solstice might be its own kind of difficult. I was prepared to adapt some Halloweeny thing made with black vodka into a drink for this, the darkest day of the year.

But I was wrong - there are a ton of them! Stick with me, because this post starts kind of icky and twee and then goes seriously south:

Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky , Credit & CopyrightDanilo Pivato


The fixiest and most precious of our short day drinks is The Winter Solstice from Danny Meyer's book Mix Shake Stir.

Start by making rosemary-infused pear nectar:
In a jar, combine 1 1/2 cups "good-quality pear nectar such as Kern's" and 5 sprigs fresh rosemary. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. Remove and discard the rosemary before using. The infused nectar will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.
Still Life with Pears by Paul Cezanne
Then the cocktail:
1 1/4 oz brandy
1 3/4 oz rosemary-infused pear nectar
2/3 oz Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the brandy, pear nectar, and Grand Marnier and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with the rosemary sprig, and serve.
Ahem. Yeah. Rosemary-infused pear nectar. What's onomatopoeia for *snort*? MOVING ON:

The Return of Persephone
Frederic Leighton, 1891
Janice Mansfield, a personal chef in Vancouver, BC, posted this Solstice Cocktail on her blog, Real Food Made Easy:
2 oz. Forty Creek Whiskey (Canadian whiskey)
0.5 oz. Maraschino liqueur
0.5 oz. hibiscus grenadine
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 3 cherries.
She's rather symbolic about it, evoking Persephone's pomegranate seeds with the hibiscus grenadine, and the three cherries for the 3 months of winter.

And of course Martha weighs in, because there's not a holiday on the great wheel of our species' calendar that she can't somehow own:

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Johannes Vermeer, c. 1654-1655 
1 1/2 ounces orange vodka
1/2 ounce orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons
Ice cubes
Club soda, chilled
1 mint leaf, for garnish
1 raspberry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and ice; shake until well combined. Strain into a chilled martini glass; add a splash of soda.
Carefully fold mint leaf in half lengthwise and place the stem end into the opening of the raspberry. Float on top of cocktail and serve immediately.
Credit for Martha's cocktail goes to Charles Corpion from The Four Seasons. Aren't you glad you don't work for Martha? "Carefully fold mint leaf in half lengthwise"? Kiss me where I pee, you Type-A megalocrat.

You got all that?

I am actually feeling rather expansive and celebratory, almost like I deserve a drink myself! I ticked two things off my to-do list today - I got the teacher gifts to the teachers and I made my yearly megatrip to the post office. Oh my stars do I hate going to the post office.

The Wright Brothers would have been a nice option
Why is my post office so awful? It always has been. When my second son was born, I sent my husband to buy stamps for the birth announcements. But my lovely husband bought the wrong stamps. Instead of something with a nice flower, or breast cancer awareness, or Henry Mancini for Christ's sake, he came home with the Korean War Veterans commemorative stamp.

Now ordinarily I might have shrugged and stuck em on the envelopes anyway, but a couple of days later I just happened to be near the post office with the stamps in the car, and I figured I'd just pop in and switch them with Legends of Jazz or The Year of the Ram, something less evocative of conflict and sacrifice.

Oh my god. Oh no you won't.

The ladies at my post office looked at me as if I had suggested they sign their paychecks over to me in red lipstick, naked, when I asked to exchange the stamps. "Not without a receipt!" the lead clerk retorted, aghast, as if I might have sneakily obtained these stamps, which are after all a form of U.S. currency, at some discounted rate on some stamp black market, and was now trying to make a profit on the incremental difference by exchanging them for a set of stamps with the same face value.

Or Cesar Chavez: 
¡Sí, se puede! 

Which... even that doesn't make any sense.

Anyway. I wanted to burn the place down.

Next time I was in there, I had to fill out a form, take it to the counter, find out it was the wrong form, fill out the right form, and go to the back of the line to wait again, all with two children under four. You know, par for the course at the post office. I sat my older child on the counter for a minute and bent to get something out of my bag.

"You can't put him there!"
"Oh he can't reach anything. He won't be any harm."
"He could fall."
I turned to look at her. She had stopped what she was doing, holding up the line, and fixed me with an accusatory glare.
"If there was an earthquake, ma'am, he might fall. Otherwise, he's not going to just dive off the counter. He may be little, but he's not a moron."

Maybe not this one
So today, when I had to mail fourteen little packages to fourteen family members across the U.S.A., I wasn't looking forward to the How Can We Make Your Day Suck Just a Little More Squad at the P.O. I knew they were going to force me to double-tape, or black out a prior barcode, or storm out of there swearing to deliver the fucking mugs myself, even if it meant a complex compound road trip to Arizona, Buffalo, Tallahassee and Kalamazoo.

Luckily, my friend Kate reminded me of the NICE post office, the one near school, where you don't mind standing in line because the counter clerks are joking with each other and the customers, and who try to figure out the cheapest way for you to send things, and when they ask if you have liquids or perishables in your packages don't crank an eyebrow at you as if you are STUPID, like perhaps you don't know what a "liquid" is, or as if you are LYING, and in actuality, instead of sending dumb ceramic mugs with pictures of your kids on them to half the Irish-Slovak-Americans in the United States, you are really mailing a cocktail of nitroglycerin and HIV-positive blood directly to the U.S. Postmaster General.

Oh great. Now Homeland Security is going to be busting down my door. IT WAS A JOKE OKAY? I don't even know who the Postmaster General is. In fact, the only reason I think there is such a person at all is because I read The Crying of Lot 49. And I only read that because I thought it was about Biblical apocrypha. God I love that book.

So anyway. The nice lady at the NICE post office accepted my packages with nary a flinch of disapproval, weighed them and stickered them up, commented on how patient my kids were, and sent me on my way.

Which is why, Malvina at the nice Post Office - ma'am, this one's for you.

The Ray of Sunshine on a Dark Day Cocktail, by me:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
a piece of ginger about an inch long
When it's cold outside - I've got the month of May
Simmer the juice, sugar, and ginger gently until the mixture reduces by at least half, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.
Shake together:
1 ounce of the stuff you just made
1 1/2 ounce golden or white rum
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce orange juice
splash ginger liqueur
Serve in a rocks glass.

UPDATE: Ok we've spent RATHER an EVENING in the kitchen here, with special guest Laurel Snyder trying a few of our housemade schnepsls, and we've discovered an alternate, easier, oranger, more drinky drink:

The Ray of Sunshine on a Dark Day Partez Dos, by us:
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce mango nectar (optional, some people kind of hate mango nectar)
hefty splash Campari
Shake with ice, serve on the rocks.

Tomorrow is going to be just a little bit brighter, but you might be just a little bit hung over. God knows we will be. So keep the rest of that pomegranate juice in the fridge for use first thing tomorrow morning. You, like Persephone, will need your antioxidants. And I've got a couple of coffee cocktails for you, to get you up and get your buzz on.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


All right, I was wrong. At the end of yesterday's MARATHON HANUKKAH POST I bragged that today I was going to offend the pagans. But no. The solstice is tomorrow. Today it's...

21 12 2011: A Day to Offend All Fanboys
Because, yeah, you can imagine Vader
gets pretty chapped under that helmet.

I started this month off with a trip to Target with my friend Heather. Two of Heather's six-year-old triplets (Heather has six-year-old triplets, y'all. That means that a couple of years ago she had FOUR-year-old triplets, and two years before that she had THREE TWO YEAR OLDS tearing her house a new one. Bow down, boys and girls. BOW THE FUCK DOWN.) Where was I?

Oh. When we were at Target, we picked up all kinds of Star Wars branded items as gifts for our kids. PJ's to cover the triplets' cute little heinies at night. Water bottles to keep 'em hydrated. Lip balm to unchap their tender pieholes.

You see, two of the three trips have just discovered Star Wars, and they have fallen hard. They sleep with their toy light sabers. They wake their parents at 5:30 AM with news like, "Hey mama? Hey mama? Hey! When Luke was in the cave? He was SCARED."

We must blame the patriarch in this case: Heather's husband Todd, aka the Toddfather, is something of a nerd. Giant nerd, actually. He's an N to the ERD power.  Oh my gosh he's a nerd.

Of course, my sons are well versed in the politics of Empire as well, but that's my fault. My husband Bob's a different kind of nerd - he can tell you what high school just about every player on the Cleveland Browns went to. (OH MY LORD CAN HE) But he couldn't tell you what species the monster in Jabba's pit was, much less what planet it is native to. (It's a Rancor, but I don't know where it's from. Todd does. 'Cause he's a NERD.)

Nice, huh?
(Todd also is an extremely talented illustrator and graphic designer - he drew the illustrated version of the banner for another blog I am involved with, and does all the graphics for a number of businesses in the area, including Zeke's Coffee, mentioned in yesterday's uhhh make that this coming Thursday's post.)

(I am getting all wonged up with my days - the 25th can't come soon enough.)

(Except it better not, because after a surprise day wasted in the Baltimore City Courthouse jury room on Monday, I have yet to decorate, wrap, address cards, or do the MASSIVE post office run that I should have taken care of last week. ARG.) (And now on top of everything I have a terrible suck-ass cold.)

Anyway, that dissection of Heather and Todd's home life (sorry guys) was just an excuse for the drink that I'm about to perpetrate here. Oh man. This thing is... well even the name of it is vile. And then you get to the ingredients list: 

Jabba the Hutt's Cumshot Express
1 gallon tequila
1 quart yogurt
7 cubes beef bouillion
1 stick butter
1 box Tang
Mix together with crushed ice in a glass and garnish with mint leaves

I didn't make it up, of course. Me + dairy = ewwww. Me + tequila = lock up your car keys. And this recipe is clearly a joke. It does sound like what Jabba might have been sipping while he watched that poor slave girl do the hootchie dance, but after all Jabba was a fictional character of a fictional species.

This next one, however, sounds just as terrible, and it is a drink apparently meant to be drunk by humans:

"You want to take your shirt off."
Jedi Mind Trick
1 oz. Cinnamon Schnapps
1 oz. Irish Cream
1 oz. Melon liqueur
1 splash 151 Rum
Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks or low-ball glass. Top with a float of rum

Really? Midori and Irish cream and cinnamon schnapps? I'll take the Dark Side, thanks!

But you know the real Fanboy Significance of this day - the total nerdleptic fit rippling across Facebook and on Pandora - relates to today's date. First of all, you have to do the Euro thing where the day comes first, and second, you have to be me (or possibly Todd) or definitely the curly-haired guy in that photo trying to get the hooker to take her shirt off via his awesome Jedi mind control skillz. That's Brooklyn boy Dan Fogler as Hutch in the movie Fanboys. One of Hutch's defining characteristics - and there were kind of a lot, including going as a stormtrooper on Halloween every year, an unwarranted faith that Boba Fett was truly badass, and "just the one testicle" - was that in his van, it was "Rush. All Rush, all the time. No exceptions."

So um, today is 21/12, just like the title of arguably the greatest Rush album of all time - YES I SAID IT! Yes! The rock opera 2112 in my opinion eclipses Moving Pictures, Hemispheres, even Caress of Steel and the not at all pretentious-sounding A Farewell to Kings.

Wow those are the most epically awful album names aren't they. I think the talented minds behind Spinal Tap may have been inspired by Rush when they recorded Break Like the Wind.

Maybe it was the double-neck guitars that triggered your
episode. That bass is kind of disturbing.

And I know, sure, I am well aware that there's a lot you can say about Rush. Like:

  • "Ooh poor me, I had a serious dysphoric episode when I was fourteen and it was triggered by the way Alex Lifeson's crotch looked in his stretch satin bellbottoms on the back cover of the 2112 album," or, 
  • "God, there was this guy who lived in our house in DC when I was an EPA intern who listened to Rush ALL THE TIME. He never came out of his room except to walk down to the health food store to buy almond oil. We had no idea what he was doing with the almond oil, but to this day whenever I hear 'Tom Sawyer' I swear I can smell it," or 
  • "Geddy Lee's voice causes my balls to retract into my body and I don't even have balls."

Listen, whine away... but I have a little wisdom to drop on you: they're from Ontario. Ok? The fact that they ever got out of Neil's mom's garage is worthy of admiration. Also, they are just behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in terms of the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band. I got that from Wikipedia. I think it's a lot like "most successful prog- or hair-related rock band not affiliated with a reality show with no more than three lifetime lineup changes," but any time any band can be named in the same breath as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, you must acknowledge that band.

I mean. It's not like having triplets, sure. But. Bow down. BOW DOWN I SAY. And drink a glass of really nice wine or a peaty old Scotch while you contemplate the life story of three Canadian music nerds who do nothing but play, and have played for thirty-five years. Because, as befits the elder statesmen rockstars they are, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are the kind of rich old guys who both own serious wine cellars - and Neil takes a wee dram of The Macallan when he climbs out from behind that magnificent drum kit and revs up his motorcycle to ride to the next gig.

I think that's my brother in law Joe climbing the barrier in front of the stage at the Cleveland Agora.

TOMORROW: Drink to honor the sun's cowardly retreat from the whole holiday shebang - it's the Winter Solstice! (For real this time.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advil Calendar 2011 BONUS JUDAISM EDITION: Eight Nights, Eight Little Shnepsls

I am an atheist - a from-the-ground-up atheist, not a "I was raised Catholic and those guys are jerks, man!" atheist, although those people are no less atheists. It's just that their mental background noise includes a lot of Christian information. You can not believe in something and still be stuck with it, culturally. I mean, we kind of all are, here in the U.S., but I mean... Hoo boy. Why don't I stop. I think I just pissed off half of everyone I know.

I'm just trying to say that although I may seem to be not at all qualified to do a cocktail calendar for the eight nights of Hanukkah, the fact is, I'm barely qualified to do a Christmas one either. Maybe I should aim to be truly profoundly offensive and do a cocktail calendar for Ramadan! Think I could earn myself a fatwa?

Christ in the Eucharist by Vicente Juan Masip, 16th c.
He looks like he knows I'm not buying it.
He also looks like Chris in Marketing. Weird.
Maybe if I'd been raised in a religious sect with some actual culture, I might have taken an interest. My mother is Presbyterian, and dragged me to her church for a while when I was a kid, but Presbyterian practice is rather polite - it barely even registered as I sat in the choir loft reading a novel I'd smuggled in under the robe. I got through all the Conan books that way.

(I mean, symbolic Eucharist, please. If you're not going to go for full-on it's-a-miracle-because-I-said-so transubstantiation, why bother?)

In the interest of covering all the spiritual bases, I have done a fair amount of reading about various religions. I thought that maybe I would read something in the Koran that would inspire a belief in the unseen. Possibly the Bhagavad Gita would ring true to me.

But nope. I never found myself likely to suspend my disbelief, so as it turns out, I am a tourist in all of Jerusalem's precincts.

Because in all that reading what I learned is that I like most religions. I love the iconography and symbolism, the way that abstract concepts are communicated through story and reflected in ritual. Like I said, tourist.

I love the every-day-is-Halloween quality of Hinduism, for example. Holi, when people throw colored powder at each other, has got to be one of the most inventive ways to worship I've ever heard. And lighting little lanterns and floating them out on the water at Diwali? Adorable and contemplative at the same time!

The website of the Tulleeho Bartending Academy, Bangalore is one of my new favorite cocktail sites, for Holi cocktails like Boozy Woozy Thandai and Alcoholic Gola Sherbet.

I am sort of charmed by Catholicism in all its gory splendor - virgins! martyrs! Latin! lighting shit on fire! My husband's family had an Advent wreath with real candles which totally caught the dining room on fire one year. Plus I have always been delightedly appalled at the presumptive prurience of a religious leadership that expects its adherents to do what it says even unto where they put their dicks and how. Although I guess most religions have restrictions on dick usage.

Islam, well... the call to prayer is one of my favorite sounds in the world, I can say that at least. Whether the muezzin is flat or hoarse, croaky or nasal, when you hear his voice floating out above the city you know you're not in Kansas anymore. Beyond that - a religion that bans alcohol is sadly out of place on Your Neighborhood Librarian, at least this time of year.

But oh how I love Judaism. The food, of course. The traditions of hospitality and gratitude. The seemingly inexplicable tribal behavior - there were neighborhoods in Brooklyn in which every family drove the same model of car, every kid wore the same style of glasses, and all the moms wore tam o'shanters. Klezmer. Hebrew, which looks marvelous and sounds better, and not only uses a different script, it's backwards! And Yiddish. Love Yiddish.

I slipped a Hanukkah cocktail into last year's Advil Calendar - the Gelt Martini (Goldschlager and potato vodka) - but this year I wanted to find a whole suite of Hanukkah cocktails, one for every night.

But guess what.

Despite there being no Judaic prohibition on alcohol - in fact, taking a glass (or four) of wine is part of many observations and rituals - Jewish cocktails are as thin on the ground as Hasidim at a clambake. I have spent more time on these eight nights of the calendar than on all 24 of Advent (this year and last, I'll bet - last year was pretty thrown-together) combined.

I mean, given the absurd number of drinks associated with the Christian holiday, including cocktails incorporating flavors associated with Christmas - gingerbread martinis and candy cane coolers - as well as excruciatingly twee explicitly Christmas crap like The Drunken Elf and the Santa's Sleigh, the White Christmas and the Silent Night, one might expect at least a few Hanukkah cocktails. A Tipsy Dreidel, for instance. A Menoratini.

Come with me on my journey...


Well actually, those things kind of exist. The Menorah Martini is a vodka martini with a splash of blue curacao. It's blue, get it? "Lame," I thought to myself. "Maybe if it glowed in the dark."

Which led to a brainstorm. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights, right? When one night's worth of oil miraculously fed the temple lamps for eight nights? So the answer is...


Haaa ha ha ha ha ha haaaa! YES. We are going to light shit on fire after all.

Ok here are the tips:

  • You're going to make a shot of something but only fill the shotglass 3/4 full. You'll need to float a puddle of a very high proof liquor (like Bacardi 151) on top, something that will light on fire readily. You can use a booze of a normal proof, but have it on hand at room temperature or even slightly warmed.
  • Do not fill the shotglass all the way up unless you don't mind the table catching on fire when you blow the shot out.
  • Neither must you underfill the shotglass, lest the glass crack.
  • You may use a snifter, but roll the liquor around the interior before you light it.
  • BLOW THE THING OUT BEFORE YOU DRINK IT. You are not the God of Fire. You search "flaming shots" online and you'll get far more videos of drunken daredevils lighting their faces on fire than you do drink recipes.

If you want to try that thing you saw at the engineering frat when you were in college, when they inverted the pint glass over the burning shot and then carefully maneuvered the fume-filled glass over to a buxom Alpha Phi and encouraged her to huff it... well it's called The Backdraft. The brain damage is not my fault, and the instructions are here.

And if you want to try the fancy shit with the sprinkle of cinnamon (or black pepper) that will spark in the flame, go right ahead. Apparently that is nicest with Sambuca. But DON'T do THIS:

Although if you do, send me the video.

The Flaming Doctor Pepper
6 ounces Beer
1 ounce Amaretto
1 dash 151 Proof Rum

Pour about 2/3 of a can of beer into a glass. Fill a shot glass almost full with Amaretto and use the back of a spoon to layer the Bacardi 151on top of the glass. Ignite and quickly drop the shot glass in the beer glass. Drink quickly.

1 part Absolut Peppar
1 part Everclear, 190 proof
6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 pinch Salt
How to MIX it
Put the tabasco sauce in the bottom of a shot glass, pour equal parts Absolut Peppar and Everclear then add salt. Set on fire and serve.

1/2 oz Grenadine
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz 151 proof rum
How to Mix it
Layer Grenadine first, Amaretto next, and 151 on top. Light the 151 and let it warm for about 3 seconds. 


Unless you're partial to leaving scorchmarks on the Formica or trimming your nose hairs the hard way, you have known for a long time that flaming shots are for bachelor parties and ... well pretty much just for bachelor parties. Maybe comic cons.

So let's keep looking. Next I turned to my bibles: the Official Mixer's Manual and Esquire's Handbook for Hosts. The Mixer's Manual had some possibilities: The Volga Boatman (equal parts vodka, cherry brandy and OJ) sounded ok, and the Mah Jongg (gin, rum and Cointreau) had promise (it's strong, though - those mahjongg ladies are not fucking around). But ehhh. And while the Esquire book mentions women all the time (we are fussy, myopic and clingy, except in the cartoons, where we are slutty and clueless) there is not word one about Jews.

Esquire cartoon women come to life:
Slutty Jewish Girls, photo by Flickr user Kosher Howey
Then I asked my friends. I asked a bunch of friends, but I had my hopes pinned upon Marjorie Ingall, who reviews children's books for The New York motherfuckin Times and who writes for Tablet, among other things... and Laurel Snyder, author of this year's Bigger Than a Breadbox and the Edward Eager-inspired Any Which Wall, among others. Laurel always has her antenna up about Jewish characters and themes in children's literature, and last year wrote a picture book called Baxter, the Pig who wanted to be Kosher.

Which is funny cause I'm totally writing Eat Me, The Shrimp Cocktail That Lived Forever Among the Jews.

And they didn't disappoint. Marjorie reminded me of a Tablet article she wrote about a cocktail Seder (the six Sipping Seder cocktails are wonderful) which includes a recipe by Zachary Sharaga of Louis 649 called the Mah Nishtanah (the four questions), a Negroni made with Cynar, its bitter taste evoking the bitter herbs of Passover. This is totally just what I was looking for, but for Hanukkah.

So here's what I heard back from my best Jews:

Laurel: I have heard of people making vodka martinis with a little manishevitz mixed in for flavor. I myself do not like sweet drinks, but I know people who do this.
Marjorie: i ordered a maneschevitini at a lower east side bar a few years ago and it was the most heinous thing i have ever put in my mouth. (write your own joke.) the thing is maneschevitz and slivovitz (the only two jewy starting points i can think of besides random impossible to find israeli liqueurs) are both gross!
Laurel: How about you just take a slug of scotch from a bottle in your desk drawer and call it "Zaide's Ghost."

Nobody who answered my question had anything nice to say about Kosher for Passover wine. I even found a cartoon in which the statements accompanying the four cups of wine included the addendum, "I will buy a decent Cabernet next year instead of this syrupy stuff." So on the second night of Hanukkah, we are going to go with...

Zaide's Ghost, by Laurel Snyder:
Open bottle of scotch, raise to lips, drink. L'chaim!

Or with the Jell-O Shot recipe from the Manischewitz website (I AM NOT KIDDING):
2 cups berries (raspberry or strawberry), thaw if frozen
½ cup Manischewitz Blackberry Wine
½ cup unsweetened apple juice
1 envelop Knox gelatin
½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 egg whites, beaten until stiff
Purée berries in blender or put through a sieve to make fruit pulp. In mixing bowl, combine berries, Manischewitz Blackberry Wine, and apple juice. Sprinkle gelatin on top and stir until dissolved. Add sugar. Blend well. Refrigerate until jellied (about 4-6 hours).
Add milk and blend thoroughly. Fold in egg whites. Pour into 2 cake or pie pans and freeze mixture at least 6 hours.
30 minutes before serving, remove from freezer. Serve in dessert glasses.
Serves: 6.

Eli Roth and Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds

Marjorie also pointed me to the Guns and Moses, a drink invented by bartender Kate Grutman for a bartending competition in L.A.
1-1/2 oz Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 Maraska Maraschino
1 oz Cherry Manischewitz
Scant 1/2 tsp. rose water
Garnish with rose petal.
Maraschino, Maneschevitz, lime and vodka? I'm with Marjorie, it sounds awful. Very Jewish, but awful. We are nearly halfway through the Festival of Lights and I am still looking.

Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino's WWII movie, was kind of a wreck despite the presence of some fine (and fine looking) actors. Mostly it just made me want to watch The Dirty Dozen again. But it did give us Eli Roth as Donny Donowitz, the most prominent Jewish action hero we've seen in a while.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Actually, Werner, we're all tickled to hear you say that. Frankly, watchin' Donny beat Nazis to death is is the closest we ever get to goin' to the movies. 


Continuing my own research, I found a very nice rundown of Yiddish terms related to drinking by Michael Wex, the author of Just Say Nu: Yiddish for Every Occasion, Born to Kvetch and The Adventures of Micah Mushmelon, Boy Talmudist (which I kind of have to get my hands on). He offers these observations and one cocktail recipe:
"The single most Jewish liqueur ever known — at least back in my youth, when it was all the rage with the ladies who bar mitzvah — is Cherry Heering, a brandy-based cherry liqueur with a name that inspires confidence at any event at which Yiddish might conceivably be or have been spoken. Real cocktails, though, have never been developed. There is but one: 
Alter Kaker (invented by Paul Lewis of the Joffrey Ballet)
1.5 oz. Old Grand-Dad
5 oz. Prune Juice
Pour into highball glass over ice cubes."
"Alter kaker" means "old fart" in Yiddish. I kind of love that Michael Wex didn't feel the need to translate that phrase. And I love that he appears to be personally acquainted with ballet dancers.

Our friend Sinclair reports that her grandfather, truly an alter kaker by the sound of him, was mighty fond of a 50:50 mixture of Clamato and orange juice, with vodka added. Sinclair's husband visibly dry-heaved when Sinclair mentioned this concoction - apparently the old guy got Alex to try it once. Once.

*I worked with approximately a jillion immigrants from all over the former Soviet Union when I worked for a software company in New York. We called them all "Russians" which they thought was pretty amusing. "Not only am I not a Russian," my friend Vadim would rumble, his voice deep, dark, implacable, and full of boulders - I always thought the 1919 Molasses Flood must have made a sound like Vadim reading compiler errors aloud - "but in Ukraine, I'm not even a Ukrainian - I'm a Jew!" We non-immigrants were often treated to aphorisms like the one above, usually having to do with death, but sometimes on the subject of alcohol, gambling, or bodily functions. Man, I miss those guys.


And then Marjorie found a new restaurant in Tribeca named after an old-time Catskills family resort, Kutsher's. Their drinks menu is something that I would take to bed and recite to myself as a beautiful bedtime story. It's very summery, though, befitting a restaurant named for a vacation spot, and I don't really see what's Jewish about the cocktails except some of the names. But I'll take it!

I like the look of the Route 17, named after the state road that shoots the motorist through Catskills resort country. I'm sure visitors to Kutsher's spent a whole lot of time on that road, and I think that's where my husband and I were one night on our way to a camping weekend on our friends' property in Delhi.

We had gotten a late start and realized that by the time we got to Chris and Jenny's it would be long past dark and camping would be a mess, so we decided to stop for the night. We saw a sign for an old-fashioned looking bungalow-style hotel thingie and pulled into the driveway. Immediately, curious faces appeared in our headlights - silent, curious faces in extremely Orthodox garb. It was a little unnerving. Actually, it was like Children of the Corn. Children of the Kasha, say.

This resort - perhaps more accurately called a compound - may have been The Derfl ("the name speaks for itself!") (it means "small village" in Yiddish) or maybe Oppenheimer's Regis Hotel ("free wifi, fully-stocked bais medrash"), but the manager made it clear that there was no room at the inn, so to speak. Not for us.

ANYway, the Route 17 has these ingredients:
orange liqueur
lemon syrup
grapefruit bitters
absinthe rinse
Instructions weren't on the website, so I winged it:
Rinse the glass with the absinthe. Then I tried 2 parts tequila and 1 part Cointreau, a thimblefull of simple syrup and a pretty heavy dash of grapefruit bitters, and a big lemon twist, which I ran around the rim of the glass before dropping in. 
I had no lemon syrup, although it would be easy to make. 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, zest of one whole lemon. Heat these things, stirring, over medium high heat, until mixture boils. Strain into a jar, throwing out the cooked zest.

VERDICT: Next time I'll skip the absinthe rinse.


Listen, I am so relieved to find an actual Hanukkah cocktail, and so exhausted by my search, here it is:
The Dreidel is much more like it:
2 ounces plum brandy
2 ounces apple juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce cherry flavored liqueur
1/2 ounce egg whites
1 dash Angostura bitters
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients.
Shake very hard for 30 seconds and strain into a small wineglass.
Plum, apple, cherry - sweet but not sickly. Nice. And the egg whites are a kosher staple. Remember, when you're working with egg whites, the "shake very hard" part is key. Shake until your arm feels like it's going to come off. Shake some more. The credit for this drink goes to Nopa Bar in San Francisco.

SEVENTH NIGHT OF HANUKKAH: Presenting the House Cocktail at the Governor William J. Le Petomane Memorial Gambling Casino for the Insane*

Drank this stuff by the pint
when I was pregnant.
My friend Tracy came home from a trip to Kansas City Missouri with news of Der Schmutzige (The Dirty One), something they invented at an Austrian joint called Grünauer. All Tracy or I could get was the ingredient list - black pepper / mustard infused vodka, beet brine, pickle water and kraut juice - but I am willing to experiment until I figure out the proportions!

WIRED magazine wrote a good set of instructions for how to infuse vodka - it's one of those projects that combines the fixy aspects of craft with the sensory pleasures of cooking. (That means boys or girls could do it - oh now I'm being catty, ignore me.) Plus it's hard to fuck up.

I combined about 3 tablespoons each of multicolor peppercorns and mustard seeds (I heated the mustard seeds in a frying pan for a couple minutes first) and then added about two cups of vodka. I set this up on December 6.

That's some schmutzy damn vodka wouldn't you say?

We drank it on December 11th or so. Boy, that vodka got STRONG. I may have overdid it on the peppercorns.

I mixed:
one part infused vodka
1 part kraut juice (siphoned off a bag of kraut - they don't have Frank's down here)
1 part okra pickle brine
1/2 part beet pickle brine (I just happened to have pickled some beets this summer)
I shook these hard with ice and poured into chilled martini glasses. I took a sip. Bob took a sip. "Do you want me to take that back?" I asked him. "Please," he said.
I took them back to the kitchen and added more okra pickle brine, until the thing was possibly as much as half brine.
Then I drank them both, because Bob wasn't going to touch that shit again.

*Basically this entire 8-night post has been inspired by a long stretch of too many Mel Brooks movies. Can you have too many Mel Brooks movies, you ask? I answer with three words: Men in Tights.


Cochineal bugs feeding on a cactus
And the last night of Hanukkah happens upon Weird Drink Wednesday. Before Marjorie and Laurel came to my rescue with their Hebetastic drink advice, I had contemplated inventing something myself in a desperate last-ditch response to the dearth of Judaic tipples.

("Judaic tipples." That sounds funny. Judaic tipples are all you get to see when you go to a striptease bar on Route 17.)

I thought of The Fuzzy Pupik, which is just a Fuzzy Navel with a kosher salt rim. Or the Parveh Manhattan - made with rye whiskey, of course. Watch out for that maraschino cherry, though - as I learned from Zushe Yosef Blech in his book Kosher Food Production (available in Google Books), some are colored with carmine, which is made from ground-up cochineal insects and therefore not kosher. Wow. A whole new reason to never eat a maraschino cherry EVER.

But this discussion wanders into Weird Drink Wednesday territory because of a drink name my husband came up with: The Klutzy Mohel.

You know what a mohel is, right? The guy who performs the bris. The circumciser. Laurel had a run-in with a real putz of a mohel when her first son was born, and I swear if I ever meet that schmuck I'm going to punch him right in the pupik.

So The Klutzy Mohel. I put my inventing hat on.

I started out thinking in terms of a clear or amber cocktail, with a drizzle of Grenadine and an evocative garnish, kind of like the Bloody Brain shot we used to do in college (right). For the garnish, I thought a wide twist of lemon peel while my husband assumed we'd use a smashed cherry. Sinclair thought something suitably disgusting could be concocted out of a button mushroom. Depends how klutzy this mohel really is, I guess.

I thought of red drinks like the cherry lime rickey. I took a side road into Kümmel territory when I happened upon the Tovarisch (vodka, Kümmel, lime) in the Mixer's Manual. There's a cocktail blogger in New Zealand who has done a lot of work with Kümmel and who kind of talked me out of it. His blog is called Bunnyhugs (don't ask) and I think he invented the clear-ish drink I want to use:

Unnamed Bunnyhugs Creation:
1 ½ oz pisco
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz St. Germain
½ tsp grenadine
1 tsp maraschino (the liqueur, not the juice from the potentially treyf embalmed cherries)

We haven't hit pisco yet this Advent/Hanukkah season, and it's too good to skip. You add my boyfriend St. Germain to the mix and that will make me willing to take a chance on a little bit of maraschino. We even own a bottle of Luxardo - Bob likes to put it in things (usually to the detriment of those things) because he thinks the straw-wrapped bottle is festive.

To turn Seamus's delicious pisco drink into The Klutzy Mohel:
Mix pisco, lemon juice, St. Germain and maraschino in a shaker with ice. Shakey shake. Come on Pilgrim, you know he loves you. Pour into a chilled martini glass.
Drop in - and this is my moment of genius - a fat curl of apple you have gouged out with a melon baller.
Then drizzle the Grenadine in slowly and carefully so that it does that thready bloody thing.

Et voilà

TOMORROW: Tomorrow? Seriously? I did eight days in one post and I'm still at it tomorrow? Well of course I am! Tomorrow is the solstice, and I don't think I've pissed off the pagans yet! Tomorrow we have solstice cocktails full of pomegranate juice and champagne and all kinds of hippie crap. It's the shortest day of the year, which means it's the longest night. SKOAL, brother.