Superfluous holidays such as Sweetest Day, National Grandparents Day and Boss’s Day are often referred to as “Hallmark Holidays,” because many believe they exist primarily for commercial reasons such as increasing the sales of greeting cards and not to truly appreciate significant people. There are other celebrations that seem downright silly, such as International Pancake Day (Feb. 21), National High Five Day (April 19) and Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept. 19). In the country of Peru, there is one holiday that may appear excessive at first, but is truly a celebration of national pride. This is National Pisco Day, which is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in July. Pisco, which is considered a symbol of Peruvian nationality, is a type of grape brandy or Aguardiente, distilled from Muscat grapes. Pisco is produced and exported from both Peru and Chile, and both countries claim to be the original producers. It has become a fierce source of contention between the two nations. According to SouthAmericanFood.com, the Spanish conquistadores brought grape vines to South America in order to make wine for their own consumption and export. Distilling Pisco was an easy way to use leftover grapes that were undesirable for wine making. The patriotic spirit surrounding National Pisco Day is amplified because the holiday falls very close to Peruvian Independence Day, celebrated on July 28, often with a toast of pisco. I was fortunate enough to be in Cusco, Peru, to take part in the festivities for both holidays. To kick off the merriment, I was given a shot of Pisco from Lizardo Valderrama Gilt, my host in whose home I was staying. The shot had a strong and powerful grape nose to it, but it went down surprisingly smooth. Its dominate flavor was grape with notes of earthiness, spice and tart fruit with a clean and bracing finish. To further explore this spirit, I met up with my newly minted friends, Suzanne Harle and Sabrina for a few rounds of cocktailing. We started off with the most popular Pisco tipple, the Pisco Sour, a mixture of Pisco, lemon, bitters, a sweetener and an egg white. We headed to the Crown, a second-story restaurant with a gorgeous view of the Plaza Des Armas for their two-for-one happy hour. The egg white gives this cocktail a smooth, full body while tart lemon citrus flavor is a nice compliment to the woody pisco. So good that it is hard to detect the amount of alcohol in the drink. That may explain why we left the bar wearing balloon hats. Our second stop was the upscale Limo, one the most highly-regarded restaurants in Cusco, which boasts a three-page menu of creative pisco cocktails. Just watching the scene behind the bar proved to be entertaining, with men squeezing, pureeing, muddling, and juicing fresh ingredients. We sampled three concoctions, one forged from eucalyptus, another from lemongrass and one made with tumba fruit. The tumba is a relative of the maracuya fruit, which is commonly eaten in Peru. The eucalyptus had a cool soothing effect, while the lemongrass mixture was refreshing and uplifting. The tumba had an exotic tropical flavor similar to passion fruit but with a little more punch. The evening continued with more flavorful cocktails, including a fresh strawberry concoction, one blended with Peru’s potent coco leaves and a South American version of the classic Negroni with pisco substituted for the gin. The evening was capped off with a night of salsa dancing to burn off all the excess alcohol. If you cannot make it to Peru and would like to try pisco in Washington, I recommend whipping up a few Pisco sours at home. Most liquor store will carry at least one brand of Peruvian Pisco, such as Porton, or Macchu Pisco. This classic tipple is a great way to try this interesting and versatile liquor. If you would like to try something more exotic, Las Canteras in Adams Morgan has a full menu of delicious pisco cocktails. The Pisco Sour Place 4 cups ice cubes 1 cup pisco 1/3 cup lemon juice 1/3 cup white sugar 1 egg white A dash of angostura bitters Blend on high speed until finely pureed. Pour into two glasses and garnish with an additional dash of bitters.
Travelers have flocked to Latin America for years as a means of escape. As you head south of the border, the climate heats up, the beaches become more tropical and the party starts a little earlier in the day. In places like Rio de Janeiro, Costa Rica and much of Mexico, the clock always seems to read 5 o?clock. Many Latin American countries produce their own native liquors, which are as varied as their people. These drinks are a source of pride and nationality. Mexico?s tequila is probably the most well known. In Brazil, the most popular cocktail is the caipirinha, which is forged from cachaca. And anyone who reads my column should be familiar with pisco, after my posts from my Peruvian summer. Before Peru, I had the luxury of stopping for two weeks in Colombia. The most popular drink there is aguardiente. This local spirit is a somewhat sweet elixir made from sugarcane and flavored with anise. Aguardient is not aged, so it boasts a strong and robust flavor. Aguardiente literally means firewater in Spanish; the name combines the Spanish words for ?water? (agua) and ?fiery? (ardiente). Arriving in Medellin in June was a delight in itself. When I left D.C. earlier in the day, it was 104 degrees and humid. Medellin, perched in the Andes, is known as the city of everlasting spring due to its pleasant year-round climate, which averages in the mid 70s. Humidity is low, and fresh air rushes in from the surrounding jungle-filled mountains. In addition to its near-perfect weather, Medellin boasts a vibrant art scene, where Fernando Botero is a native. The city also has a thriving nightlife. Many of the fashionable bars and clubs are located around Lleras Park in the tiny Poblado neighborhood. I quickly find the locals have a very relaxed partying style. While the open-air watering holes that ring the park are filled with partygoers, so is the park itself. Folks gather together on the benches and ledges to enjoy each other?s company while sipping on a tipple. Open containers laws do not apply here. It is here I get my first taste of the local firewater. As I?m enjoying a beer on a park bench, my seatmates Carla and Roberto eagerly offer me a taste of their aguardiente. The flavor is strong and torrid. It burns and makes me grimace. I am happy to have my beer to chase it. In defense of the aguardiente industry, I don?t believe my first taste was of the highest quality. It came packaged in a box. I soon realized that aguardiente was a common thread between the people of Medellin, affectionately called paisas. During my visit, I sampled aguardiente in small bars, people?s homes, trendy restaurants and my favorite hangout, Periodista Park. The flavor, after I had the chance to taste some of higher quality brands, grew on me. The same way the licorice taste of ouzo grows on you in Greece. Aguardiente is generally served straight up neat in a glass. But when I ventured to Cartagena on Colombia?s Caribbean coast, where rum is the preferred beverage, I noticed that it was also used in cocktails. The most interesting one I indulged in was a variation on the mojito with aguardientes substituted for rum. While at first the idea of anise mixed with lime and mint sounded a bit odd, I must admit that the combination came off as multilayered, refreshing surprise. Somehow the spicy anise balanced itself with the mint, while the lime provided a pleasing tart background. The most popular brand in Colombia is Aguardiente Antioque?o, which has won several international awards. If you?d like to experience aguardiente for yourself, the most readily available brand in the Washington area is Cristal. Try it straight up, first but if the taste is a little too overwhelming, mix it in a mojito. *Aguardiente Mojito* 2 oz. aguardiente 8 fresh mint leaves 1/2 lime in wedges 2 tablespoons simple syrup or sugar Club Soda Crushed Ice Sprig of fresh mint Muddle mint leaves and lime in a glass. Add simple syrup or sugar; top with ice. Add aguardiente; top with club soda. Stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
The French Quarter of New Orleans conjures up visions of raucous partying, 24-hour fun and all-out craziness. While this can be a great way for the 20-something crowd to blow off some steam, those looking for a more sophisticated and tasteful drinking experience will have to veer a few blocks away from Bourbon Street. Unlike Washington D.C., New Orleans wears its quirkiness like a badge of honor. A classy bar does not necessarily mean stuffy or uptight. One of my favorite Crescent City spots to grab a drink is the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. Tucked away on the corner of Royal and Iberville on the edge of the quarter, the Hotel Monteleone is steeped in history. It has been a preferred haunt of many distinguished southern writers including Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Truman Capote used to brag that he was born at Hotel Monteleone, but the truth of the matter was that Capote's mother had stayed at the hotel during her pregnancy and was transported to the hospital by hotel staff for the birth. The Carousel Bar itself is an attraction. The circular 25-seat bar is actually a rotating carousel, which makes a complete revolution approximately every 15 minutes. While I will admit that I’ve felt the room spin after one too many cocktails, I assure you that one drink, alcoholic or not, will do the same for you here. The carnival-like motif reminds visitors that despite the Monte Leone’s lofty setting and noteworthy past, they’re still in New Orleans, a destination that is able to combine history and fun with a shot of jazz and spice shaken up and served in a martini glass. Literary beasts aside, this bar has it earned a spot in the cocktail hall of fame. According to the Hotel Monteleone 1938, during the height of the Great Depression, head bartender Walter Bergeron introduced the Vieux Carré Cocktail at the Swan Bar, which was the original bar on site before the Carousel bar was built. The name Vieux Carre translates to “Old Square" the official name of the neighborhood known as the French quarter. The Vieux Carre is a mixture of rye whiskey, brandy, vermouth and Benedictine and bitters. Its formula closely resembles two other legendary New Orleans tipples, the Sazerac, (which was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans by the state senate in 2008) and the La Louisiana. All three feature homegrown Peychaud bitters as a staple ingredient. According to the Hotel Monteleone, “It was created as a tribute to the different ethnic groups of the city: The Benedictine and cognac to the French influence, the Sazerac rye as a tribute to the American influence, the sweet vermouth to the Italian, and the bitters as a tribute to the Caribbean. Prohibition had been lifted only a few years earlier as a way of stimulating commerce.” The rye whiskey combines splendidly with the sweeter ingredients, like the cognac, Benedictine and vermouth, while the addition of two types of bitters, give it a nice spice. For me, a visit to the Big Easy is not complete without stop here. The bar serves as great meeting spot for locals as well as tourists. During my most recent visit in April, I was flanked on by a group of young professionals enjoying an after-office drink once one side and a professional native drinker on the other. For people watching, the bar has a magnificent big-window view of Royal Street. Because the bar rotates, you’re guaranteed a window seat every quarter hour. The Vieux Carre Recipe courtesy of the Hotel Monteleone ¼ oz. Benedictine ¼ oz. Cognac ½ oz. Sazerac Rye ¼ oz. Sweet Vermouth 3 Drops Angostura Bitters 3 Drops Peychaud Bitters Lemon Twist Place ingredients over ice in an eight-ounce rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist. [gallery ids="100949,130372" nav="thumbs"]
On a bitter and chilly night, nothing soothes the soul quite like a toasty warm cocktail. Cold days are not the norm in Washington during August and September, but I spent the majority of this summer in the winter of the Southern hemisphere, where I experienced plenty of recent nippy winter evenings that were heated up with a hot toddy. In Cusco, Peru, the days are filled with brilliant blue skies and powerful rays of sun due to its altitude of over 11,000 feet in the Andes. Once the sun goes down, the historical city center is illuminated with golden streams of floodlights, and the mercury drops to a brisk spot in the low 50s. While the tourist bars and salsa clubs near Plaza des Arms and San Blas get packed with party-goers downing pisco sours and Cusquena beers, my friend Suzanne introduced me to a mellow locals-only spot tucked away on a side street where we quenched our thirst and warmed our spirits with a steaming pitcher of coca tea and pisco. This combination blends two of the most popular beverages in Peru. Coca tea or mate de coca, is an herbal tea brewed with leaves from the coca plant, which is grown throughout Northwest South America. The tea can be made by steeping raw coca leaves or commercially made tea bags in boiling water. This Andean beverage has an earthy flavor similar to green tea but with a sweeter finish. The beverage has many beneficial effects. It is often recommended to combat the effects of altitude sickness. During my months in the Andes, I found no matter what my ailment ? cough, sore throat, hangover ? the locals would convincingly advise me, ?Drink coca tea!? Or, you can skip the drinking altogether and just chew on the raw coca leaves like many native Andean people do. The tea also works as a stimulant, for it is brewed from the same leaves that are used to make cocaine. Hence, it is illegal to import or sell in the U.S., although I found a few websites, including Amazon.com, where the tea bags were available. Pisco, which is the national drink of Peru, is a clear white spirit distilled from grapes that dates back to the 16th century. It is considered a brandy and has a distinctive grape flavor. According to SouthAmericanFood.com, there are numerous explanations for how this brandy got its name. Some say that the word comes from the Quechuan word ?pisqu?, which was the name of a bird found in the Inca valley region of Peru. Another theory is that it is named after the town of Pisco, a port city where pisco was shipped to Lima as well as popularized by sailors. The name is also said to come from the large pre-Colombian clay pots, called piscos that are used to ferment the grapes. When mixed together to make ?Te Macho? the coca and pisco combination results in a steamy yet potent tipple. Not being one who likes sugary cocktails I found this drink to be delightfully refreshing. The homey and robust tea combines brilliantly with the subtle sweetness and woodsy spice of the pisco. Soon after my excursion with Suzanne, I discovered that the pisco and coca tea formula was a popular way for locals to enjoy their national beverage and stay snug in their unheated homes. I spent many frosty evenings in the rural town of Huasao sipping pitchers of te macho with my Shaman, Illapa, his brother, Fernando, and their various followers. This easy-going down-to-earth punch, along with the company, had such a comforting and uplifting effect, that soon I felt like I had a home away from home. **Te Macho** 2 cups pisco 3 cups boiling water 4 bags mate de coca tea Add two cups of pisco to heatproof pitcher. Add two cups of boiling water. Step tea bags until the liquid turns a yellowish green color. Serve hot and garnish with coca leaves (if available) Serves 5.
The lively piano notes danced through the air as I walked into the Warehouse Theater. I was greeted with a cocktail, more specifically, a sweet and lemony Colonial punch made from Jamaican rum and cognac. As I took my seat, I recognized one of the tunes being played by Washington's piano virtuoso Dan Ruskinas, “Those Were the Days.” But this was no typical theater-going experience. The main act was not a famous musician or actor, but rather a storyteller who made his mark in the world of cocktails and mixology, Dale DeGroff. In addition to the music, we were about to hear all about “Those Days, ” the golden age of bars and bartenders. DeGroff came armed with an earful of stories about the history and his experience working at some of New York’s most legendary watering holes. If an evening of bar stories doesn’t sound exciting and entertaining, you’ve never seen DeGroff in action. Known as one of the pioneers of the craft cocktail movement, DeGroff has authored two best selling cocktail books, "The Essential Cocktail" and "The Craft of the Cocktail," and was the recipient of a 2009 James Beard award. He has held court at the famed Rainbow Room, where he used a gourmet approach to recreate many long-forgotten cocktails. DeGroff engaged the audience with his witty narrative, tracing the history of the drinking, from colonial-era taverns, through prohibition speakeasies, up to his personal favorites. His colloquial manner and charming personality took the audience back to a time when the local bar was an important part of the community and bartenders treated their customers like old friends. He opened the evening playing his guitar and singing a Hank Williams tune. And, of course, there was a great story behind this ditty. With the enthusiasm of screenwriter and monologuist Spalding Gray, DeGroff launched into a tale about the first neighborhood bar he discovered in New York, Paddy McGlades in 1969. At the time, DeGroff was living at the YMCA, hoping to get his big break on Broadway, when a friend of a friend, who had a room for rent, asked to meet him at McGlades. DeGroff arrived at the bar, with his guitar, suitcase and $2.50 in his pocket, which he quickly blew through before his friend arrived. When someone asked him if he could play the guitar he launched into a rendition of “Your Cheating Heart“ to which he was rewarded with a beer on the house. He duly played it three more times for three more beers, since it was the only song that he knew all the lyrics to. DeGroff reminisced about McGlades as if it were a long lost friend. Which it is, since a Starbucks now stands in its place. He continued with anecdotes about many storied bars, including P.J. Clarke’s (the original, not the D.C. outpost), McSorley’s Ale House, the 21 Club, the Blue Note and eventually the Rainbow Room, where in the 1980s he put together a menu of cocktails inspired by the great supper clubs of days-gone-by. Cocktails flowed throughout the evening, each one a delightful concoction perfected by DeGroff. The experience was akin to going to a fabulous bar where you luck out and find yourself seated next to the most interesting man in the joint. Having lived in Manhattan before moving to Washington, DeGroff actually made me a bit homesick for places like McSorley's, New York’s oldest bar, which was a few blocks from my apartment in the East Village or the Rainbow Room, my favorite spot to take out-of-town guests, which was located across the street from my office at the Associated Press in Rockefeller Center. Before I knew it, two hours had passed. It was time to call it a night. The evening was capped off with a Yuzu gimlet, a refreshing twist on the standard, jazzed up with Asian Yuzu juice and honey. DeGroff’s traveling show, which is being performed as a fundraiser for the Museum of the American Cocktail, will be making stops in New York and Philadelphia. For more information, visit KingCocktail.com/onthetown.htm or www.MuseumoftheAmericanCocktail.org YUZU GIMLET? 1 1/2 ounce Hendricks Gin? 1/4 Yuzu juice ? 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice? 1 ounce honey syrup ?Lime wheel garnish?? Assemble ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with thin wheel of lime. Adjust sweetness with honey syrup. [gallery ids="100737,121495" nav="thumbs"]
Cocktails, like food and fashion, are seasonal. While a properly made margarita, with fresh lime and quality tequila, is delightful and refreshing on a hot summer day, downing one while watching the snow fall, doesn’t have quite the same effect. Unfortunately for tequila lovers, many of the popular agave elixirs are warm-weather fare. While it’s true that a glass of complex, aged tequila can be a cultivated sipper on a frigid winter’s eve, a cocktail like the tequila sunrise, screams for a balmy beachside chair rather than a cozy seat by the fireplace. Dan Searing, a partner in Columbia Heights cocktail bar Room 11, has broken tequila out of its summer rut with his Conquistador Punch. I had the pleasure of sampling Searing’s chilly concoction at the Museum of the American’s Cocktail’s December holiday party. The recipe is also included in his book “The Punch Bowl – 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry.” Searing’s original creation of lime, orange, tequila and sherry, plays up the fresh citrus fruits of winter. The stars of this cocktail are clementines, the cute little oranges that start popping up in produce aisles in mid-December. Often referred to as “Christmas oranges,” these petit fruits pack a burst of concentrated orange flavor. During the colder months, punches forged from traditional brown spirits, such as brandy, whiskey and rum are popular refreshers. These wood-aged spirits, impart a spicy warming element to drinks. Conquistador punch takes advantage of reposado tequila, a spirit that has been aged up to a month in oak barrels, along with sherry, a Spanish wine that is fortified with brandy to give this beverage a refined spicy profile. Searing describes his creation as having “spice and sweetness, but a citrusy tartness as well.” The key to the drink’s robust flavor is Searing’s homemade-made clementine syrup. While most cocktails add a portion of plain simple syrup as a sweetener, Searing takes it up a notch by making his syrup from Demerara sugar, which has a darker, richer flavor and then soaking it overnight in the grated zest from two clementines. This custom syrup imparts a full-bodied, powerful orange smack. The name Conquistador Punch comes from the multicultural ingredients. Tequila is from Mexico, and sherry is from Spain. Searing says the punch was born out of a blend of the elements from two cultures. “As we all know the Spanish came and tried to conquer the native people of Mexico, and it didn’t quite work,” he said. “Mexican culture is derived from the blending of Spanish and native influence. It’s obviously a unique culture as a result.” And Searing has obviously created a special libation from these influences. Dan Searing’s “Conquistador Punch” 1 750-ml bottle of Corzo Reposado Tequila 1 375-ml bottle of Pedro Ximénez Sherry 1 ½ cups lime juice (about 12 limes) 1 ½ cups clementine juice (about 12 clementines) 1 cup clementine zest syrup () 1 ice block 2 clementines, peeled, cut into small, coin shapes Combine all liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, adding the clementine syrup last and to taste. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, place the ice block in a punch bowl and pour the punch over it. () Clementine Zest Syrup: Zest from two clementines 1-cup cold simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar – heat until dissolved, chill) Use a microplane grater to remove the zest from the two clementines. Add the zest to the cold simple syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the zest. Refrigerate any unused syrup. Ingredients to make Conquistador punch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor located at 3429 M Street, NW, in Georgetown. Readers may sample this drink or purchase Searing’s book at Room 11 3234 11th Street, NW, in Columbia Heights.
Just in time for the upcoming summer season, the Museum of the American Cocktail hosted an event last week at the Georgetown Four Seasons Hotel celebrating popular drinks from South of the Border. Three bartenders from Bourbon Steak?Duane Sylvester, JP Caceres and Jamie McBain?each prepared cocktails featuring spirits from Latin America and the Caribbean. Sylvester, whose family hails from Trinidad and Tobago, presented two rum drinks, a classic punch and mojito. Caceres, from Bolivia, presented two traditional South American cocktails, the caipirinha, made with cachaca from Brazil, the pisco sour, and the forged frompisco, a Peruvian grape-based spirit. McBain presented the only original cocktail of the evening?a crimson-red tequila and beet juice concoction called ?We Got the Beet.? Being a tequila lover, I am always on the lookout for non-traditional agave tipples. But for a person who doesn?t like beets, I approached this concoction with hesitation. I later learned that Jamie, himself, doesn?t eat beets either. He developed the recipe after receiving multiple requests as a bartender for flavored margaritas. ?I get asked to make flavored margaritas, which I don?t,? Jamie said sternly. ?This is my small concession.? The classic margarita is a simple formula. Consisting of tequila, lime juice and a sweetener?usually an orange liqueur like Cointreau or triple sec?it yields a pleasing sweet and sour and potentially salty profile if you enjoy a salted rim. Jamie?s five-ingredient recipe of tequila, beet juice, agave syrup, lime and Averna Amaro, creates a multi-layered complex cocktail. Amaro?meaning ?bitter? in Italian?is an herbal liqueur, usually enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. It is produced by macerating herbs, roots, flowers, bark and citrus peels in alcohol, mixing it with sugar syrup, and allowing it to age in casks or bottles. Averna has a distinct herbaceous flavor that tempers the sweetness of the beet juice and highlights the root vegetable?s earthy quality. The result is a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. For tequila, Jamie uses Partido Reposado for this cocktail. Reposado?meaning ?rested? in Spanish?refers to any 100 percent agave tequila, which has been aged between two and 12 months in oak barrels. Jamie enjoys the subtle smoky flavor the reposado tequila imparts in this drink. For those planning to make this cocktail at home, finding the beet juice can be tricky. A health food store that sells fresh juices may be your only pre-made option. Otherwise, you?ll need a juicer to make it at home. At Bourbon Steak, Jamie uses beets that have been steamed first. But if you would prefer a more pronounced earthy flavor in your cocktail, he suggests roasting the vegetables before juicing. In addition to their unique freshness, the beets, will give this cocktail a stunning scarlet hue. If you don?t have access to a juicer at home, you can sample the ?We Got The Beat? at Bourbon Steak located inside the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. For more information on upcoming seminars being hosted by the Museum of the American Cocktail, please visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org **We Got The Beet** 1.5 ounces Partido reposado tequila .5 ounce beet juice .5 ounces Agave nectar .5 ounce Averna .5 Ounce lime juice. Salt Salt half the rim of your cocktail glass. Mix four ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.Strain intoglass.
Maybe it’s the appealing pink color, the pleasing tart flavor or the swanky glassware. Perhaps it was the four liberated and stylish ladies of New York who adored them. But for one reason or another. the Cosmopolitan -- or Cosmo, for short -- was the “It” cocktail of the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s. This tipple hit its zenith of fame when it became the favorite drink of Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” But believe or not, the Cosmo pre-dates the prime time television show by years. It was also another trend-setting celebrity that lent her hand at influencing this drink ‘s destiny before Sarah Jessica Parker started to imbibe on this vodka, cranberry and citrus concoction. The Museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted a seminar on popular vodka drinks, which included the history behind the Cosmopolitan. Phil Greene, founding member of the museum and author of “To Have and Have Another : A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” hosted the event, which was held at the Warehouse theater inside the Passenger bar. Several recipes for cocktails similar to Cosmopolitan have been uncovered. One recipe for a drink named “Cosmopolitan” that Greene dug up dates back to 1934, from the book “Pioneers of Mixing Gin ?at Elite Bar 1903-1933.” While this early recipe uses gin instead of vodka, its remaining ingredients are comparable to today’s version. Using gin in a cocktail during that time was commonplace. Vodka did not start to get a stronghold in the American drink scene until the 1950s. Another similar recipe from the Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers from the 1960s, was unearthed by Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff which calls for one ounce of vodka, one ounce of cranberry and a squeeze of lime. The invention of the modern-day Cosmo is generally credited to bartender Cheryl Cook in Miami’s South Beach. According to Greene, “In the mid-1980s the martini was making a comeback, and many customers were ordering them, seemingly just to be seen holding the iconic martini glass. However, for many, including women, martinis were a bit too strong and powerful. So she came up with the idea to create a drink that was visually stunning and uses the martini glass. Using a new product called Absolut Citron, a splash of triple sec, a few dashes of Rose’s Lime and some cranberry juice to turn it pink, the Cosmopolitan was born.” The Cosmo further evolved when cocktail heavyweight DeGroff sampled it at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. DeGroff decided he could improve upon this formula and created his own version for the Rainbow Room in New York. According to Greene, he used Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, along with a flamed orange peel garnish. It was at the Rainbow Room where the Cosmo’s superstardom began. Its prominence skyrocketed when Madonna was pictured sipping one at the Rainbow Room Grammy party, when the award show was held next-door at Radio City Music Hall. Next came “Sex and the City,” which cemented the Cosmopolitan’s place in drink history. Soon, Cosmos were on cocktail menus across the nation along with various drinks with names ending in “ini” and served in the cone-shape big martini glasses. While the Cosmo’s place in the sun has faded somewhat, it has earned a spot on the list of classic cocktails. Even our favorite New York girl seems to have cooled on her Cosmopolitan. In the film version of Sex and City, Miranda asks why the girls stopped drinking Cosmos. Carrie replies, "Because everyone else started." Dale DeGroff’s Cosmopolitan: 1.5 oz. Absolut Citron Vodka .5 oz. Cointreau .25 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1 oz. Cranberry Juice Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel. The Museum of the American Cocktail will be sponsoring evening of stories, cocktails and songs led by Dale DeGroff on Thursday, April 12. For more information, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org
As the home stretch of summer kicks in, it’s time to throw that outdoor cocktail party you’ve been thinking about since May. Back to school ads are on TV, Oktoberfest beers are creeping into liquor stores and heavy jackets are on display at retail shops. Invite some friends over and mix up a batch of warm-weather drinks before the steamy evenings melt into fall. For a wealth of summer entertaining tips, I turn to my friend Jerry Lenoir, a classic cocktail buff and the Willie Wonka-like figure behind the enchanting Mr-Booze website. Jerry has quite an elaborate bar set-up inside his home, so I was curious about his outdoor entertaining style. “I have a little tiki bar in our carport.” Jerry explained. “I've brought a couple of fans out there, plenty of lanterns and colored lights. I've set out tiki totems and hung bad Polynesian art – it's fun.” The Mr-Booze Website is filled with tips for hosting your party - everything from setting up your bar, selecting the perfect party tunes and prep work that can allow you more time to mingle with your guests. “Decorating an outdoor space for the warm months can simply mean adding a string of lights, a few tiki torches and some sounds, all setting the mood for a removal from the mundane.” Jerry says. “You just want to be able to make someplace that is familiar a little special and exotic. You and your guests should feel, while drinking that cocktail, that you are somewhere whimsical, nostalgic and out of the ordinary.” To make things easier Jerry advises to batch a couple of your drinks before the party. If you want to go one step further, Jerry suggests plugging in a blender outside. “Have a tub of ice, some fresh fruit, sugar and rum.” He says. “You can blend up batches at a time.” On his website, Jerry describes frozen cocktails as akin to a swimming pool in terms of cooling off and relaxing. “When paired with a loose cotton shirt, shorts, no shoes and an Adirondack chair, angels should start singing ’cause you’re that close to Heaven.” He muses. “Like peaches, Christmas trees and pumpkins, the frozen drink is completely seasonal. You should feel like a fool sipping one after Labor Day. They call for hurricane glasses, whole fruit garnish, and plenty of awkward silences as you and your guests suck them down.” While many associate blender drinks with daiquiris and margaritas, Jerry’s website features an interesting variety of frozen cocktail recipes. Being a tequila lover, I was intrigued by the cactus colada- an alluring mixture of coconut cream, pineapple and tequila. While similar to a pina colada, the agave punch gives this refreshment an eye-opening smack. Jerry’s describes its flavor as a fistfight between tequila and coconut. For me it’s a cheery alternative to the standard frozen margarita. If you are concerned about hosting a backyard or rooftop party in the high heat, Jerry offers a simple guideline for determining whether to imbibe inside or out. “If the ice in my glass melts faster than it keeps my drink cold, I steer the gathering indoors. Good advice, Jerry! The Cactus Colada 2 oz. tequila (better is better) 2 oz. cream of coconut 4 oz. pineapple juice 2 cups ice Blend till creamy. Recipe courtesy of Adam Rocke’s book, Tiki Drinks. Ingredients to make the cactus colada may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. More recipes and entertaining ideas can be found online at Mr-Booze.com.
It’s a dark and creepy Halloween night in suburban Maryland. The young trick-or-treaters, gingerly approach their neighbor’s yard, a house usually occupied by the humble Mr. and Mrs. Lenoir. But tonight they can sense something is different. Maybe it’s the ghosts fluttering in the evening breeze, the ghouls lurking in the shadows or vampires waiting to pounce. Who or what should they expect? Before you can say boo – a squeal of delight is heard from the youngsters and their parents as well. They have stumbled on the Halloween house of Mr. Booze. Halloween is favorite holiday for Jerry Lenoir, the leading man behind the nifty Mr-Booze.com website. If you’re looking for classic cocktail recipes, mood music and tips for setting up your home entertainment center aka home bar, Mr-Booze.com is your go-to place. The site includes a special section on Halloween entertaining. Lenoir celebrates Halloween in a large way. “I do a big yard haunt,” he says. “Neighbors with children, and even some without, walk on over to check out the zombies, ghouls, and vampires I put out to thrill the kids. Of course, I also make a big batch of an autumnal libation for parents to carry on their rounds. It’s funny, because after the moms and dads bring their kids home for the evening, you’ll see a George Romero-esque, zombie pack of dads stumble back towards my garage by light of the moon, for an annual bending of the elbow. We’ll have a few more drinks and enjoy the chilly night engaged in silly conversation.” Halloween is one of the most popular holidays for hosting a party. The Mr-Booze website is full of ideas on how set a spooky mood. “October calls for unique and seasonal cocktails the whole way through,” Lenoir says. Spicy and seasonal ingredients such as ginger and apple will give your cocktails a warming punch for autumn. Some of the fabulous fall drinks on the website include Applejack rabbits, nutty monks and ginger daiquiris. Your decorating scheme doesn’t have to be over the top. “‘I’ll burn a cinnamon-apple scented candle and put some good old-school jazz on hi-fi,” Lenoir says. “I even have a list of Halloween-themed CDs and downloadable music on the site.” Autumn and Halloween are the perfect time of year for festivity. “The hot weather has blown away, the leaves are gorgeous, the food gets a bit richer and quilts go on the beds,” Lenoir says. “People’s moods change. I think Halloween is a culmination and celebration of comfort.” He says “ Adults, for the most part, are still kids deep inside. I’ve never forgotten how thrilling the night can be. I still love werewolves, The Monster Mash and caramel apples -- only now I’m in my 40s. How great is it to watch children get excited by the very same things that grabbed you at their age. Only now, you can have a cocktail and watch their fun.” Applejack Rabbit • 2 oz Laird’s Applejack • 1 oz lemon juice • 2 oz orange juice • 3/4 oz real maple syrup Shake all ingredients with cracked ice in a shaker. Serve up and ice-cold in a cocktail glass, garnish with an apple slice, light the jack-o-lantern up and enjoy. Ingredients to make the Applejack Rabbit may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street, N.W., in Georgetown. For more recipes, visit www.Mr-Booze.com.