Posts Tagged With: cocktail

258/365: National Creme de Menthe Day*

If you like your foods in mint condition, today’s your day. September 15 is National Crème de Menthe Day!

It’s also National Linguini Day and National Double Cheeseburger Day. We might have been inclined to celebrate double cheeseburgers today, but National Cheeseburger Day is coming up on Wednesday, and that would be some serious beef overkill. Since we’re staying at the Oregon coast one more night and already have a special dinner planned that does not involve linguini, we decided the easiest holiday to tackle was Crème de Menthe.

I originally thought this referred to those little green-wrapped chocolate-covered Andes mints that hotels like to place on your pillow, but Tara informed me that Crème de Menthe is actually an alcoholic beverage. Oops. Technically both are correct, but the holiday seems to refer to the booze and not the candy. This mint-flavored liqueur comes in two varieties: white (which is actually clear) and green. To make crème de menthe, dried peppermint or Corsican mint leaves are steeped in grain alcohol for several weeks before filtering and adding sugar. It’s the main ingredient in several popular cocktails, including the Grasshopper, the Stinger, and the Exploding Kermit. (OK, I made up that last one – but if there was such a thing as an Exploding Kermit, you can bet your ass it would contain crème de menthe. With a bacon swizzle stick, to represent Miss Piggy. Oh, the possibilities…)

The crème de menthe figures prominently in many works of literature. Kurt Vonnegut, D.H. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, and Ian Fleming all wrote books in which main characters favored the drink. (But never Bond…James Bond. He always stuck with his martini – shaken, not stirred).

To celebrate this holiday, we purchased a bottle of crème de menthe and brought it along with us. We weren’t really sure what to do with it, and after all the drinking we partook in over our wedding weekend, we weren’t exactly dying to “tie one on” again. I ended up brewing a cup of coffee and adding a shot of creme de menthe. It looked disgusting – it resembled avocado-colored coffee – but actually, didn’t taste too bad. We were pleasantly surprised!

National Creme de Menthe Day

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200/365: National Daiquiri Day

Don’t rum away if you’re a fan of classic cocktails: July 19 is National Daiquiri Day!200_members

It’s also the 200th day of the year, which means our food challenge continues to roll right along. Reaching our 200th challenge feels like a momentous occasion, much the way that # 100 did. We’re more than halfway there and loving every minute of this! And this weekend is tricky, since we’re going camping. Tent camping, too – no wussy cabins and stoves for us. Luckily, our food challenges over the next couple of days lend themselves well to the Great Outdoors.

National Daiquiri DayDaiquiris are considered one of the “6 basic drinks” listed in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. They consist of rum, lime, and sugar, and may be served blended (frozen) or on the rocks. In 1898, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders stormed the town of Daiquiri, Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The military’s greatest coup from this invasion turned out to be a cocktail recipe named for the town: it was given to the Army and Navy Club, and soon became a popular drink with U.S. soldiers thanks in large part to wartime rationing of whiskey, vodka, and other spirits in the 1940s. No such ban on rum existed, so our brave boys made do with daiquiris. The cocktail was also a favorite of writer Ernest Hemingway, who – let’s face it – never met an alcoholic beverage he didn’t care for. In his novel Islands In The Stream he wrote, That is what we are. No one in between. How could we be wrong? Sail away with me to another world, where we’ll rely on each other, uh-huh.  Oops…wrong Islands In The Stream. My bad. What HEMINGWAY wrote was, It reminded him of the sea. The frappeed part of the drink was like the wake of a ship and the clear part was the way the water looked when the bow cut it when you were in shallow water over marl bottom. That was almost the exact color. How poetic! Ernest even came up with his own version, dubbed the Hemingway Daiquiri. What the name lacked in originality it made up for in rum: Hemingway’s drink had double the alcohol and none of the sugar. The author once downed 16 of these in one sitting. The drink was also a fave of John F. Kennedy, which means it was also probably a fave of Marilyn Monroe and the mob, right? Frozen daiquiris made with a variety of flavors became popular over the years thanks to their convenience and versatility, but I’m thinking those Mafiosos prefer the good ol’-fashioned shaken and pulverized version, if you know what I mean.

Since campsites don’t usually come equipped with blenders, we had to get creative and buy a “pouch” from the grocery store. This premixed daiquiri is frozen in advance, and when you’re ready to drink, you simply cut open the package and suck it down. Mmm! Nothing screams “wilderness” like a roaring campfire, marshmallows on a stick, and a frozen daiquiri. I’ll have to add a photo of our actual beverage later. Bottoms up! (Which is probably something JFK said to Marilyn, but now we’re beginning to sound like a gossip column so we’ll just end things there)…

Categories: Alcohol | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

133/365: National Fruit Cocktail Day

Today we celebrate a mixture of fruit that comes in a can. May 13 is National Fruit Cocktail Day!

Fruit cocktail was invented as a way to use up scraps of fruit that were too bruised or damaged to be used in other cans of fruit. So basically, you’re getting the rejects when you pop open a can of fruit cocktail. The exact origin is unknown; fruit salads had been popular since 1893, and contained cherries and other dried fruits. A cookbook from 1902 explains where the name was derived: In these latter days, many American cooks make a mixture of fruit, sugar and alcohol and serve them as ‘salad.’ These are not salads … they are heavy, rather unwholesome, and will never take the place of a salad. I prefer to call them fruit cocktails and serve them as a first course at a luncheon or a twelve o’clock breakfast. The author, Mrs. Rorer, is now regarded as America’s first Food Snob. In 1930 San Jose canner Herbert Gray of Barron-Gray Packing Company began selling fruit cocktail, which grew in popularity over the years. To be labeled an official fruit cocktail by the USDA, it must contain pears, grapes, cherries, peaches, and pineapples. Most are packed in either heavy syrup or a lighter, less sugary mixture.

Tara and I bought a can of fruit cocktail to enjoy as a healthy (?) dessert after dinner. Sure enough, it contained the five requisite ingredients to properly be labeled a fruit cocktail!

Fruit Cocktail

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53/365: National Margarita Day

Ole! Today’s food holiday is one we were eager to wrap our lips around. It’s National Margarita Day! Both Tara and I love a good margarita. A few caveats, though: it’s got to be served on the rocks – never blended. And under no circumstances should you use a bottled mix from a grocery shelf, even if it’s got the word Cuervo on it. The best margaritas are made fresh, with tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and a salted rim.

We are very picky about our margaritas.

Almost as many people claim to have invented the margarita as insist they were at Woodstock, so while its true origin is up for debate, we do know that the drink was first served in the 1940s. Many believe a bartender in Ensenada, Mexico named Don Carlos Orozco invented the drink in 1941. One day Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German ambassador, stopped by for a drink. Orozco had been experimenting with some new creations and offered her the first taste of a cocktail he’d made with equal parts tequila, Damiana liqueur, and lime. Other stories give credit to Carlos Herrera, a Mexican restauranteur, who allegedly created the cocktail for dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to all hard alcohol except tequila; to Santos Cruz, a bartender in Galveston, Texas who named the drink for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee (“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”); and to Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, who made the drink for a house full of guests that included Tommy Hilton (hotel chain baron and unfortunate relative of Paris), who was so impressed he added the drink to the hotel’s bar menu.

MargaritaOthers insist the margarita is simply another version of a popular American drink at that time named the Daisy, and tequila was substituted for brandy because Prohibition drove people across the Mexican border for their alcohol (and pinata) fix. Indeed, “margarita” is the Spanish word for “daisy” (aha!) so this story is probably the most likely.

Really, who cares who came up with it first? The important thing is, somebody did. And that’s good enough for me. Margaritas were the first mixed drink I really got into, and are still the best part of any Mexican dining experience. I always judge a Mexican restaurant based on the attention they give to their margarita; invariably, the places with the best food always serve the best margaritas, too. I’ve had a lot of really good margaritas over the years; oddly enough, one of the best is available at Chili’s, and made with Presidente brandy in addition to the other usual ingredients. I was able to recreate this recipe at home, and now churn out a really good margarita whenever the occasion calls for it.

This being Friday, however, Tara and I weren’t sitting around the house, so we met up at a Mexican restaurant called Catedral Tapatia for margaritas. And dinner, of course! They were big…and tasted great, the perfect celebration to mark the end of another work week!

Categories: Alcohol | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

31/365: National Brandy Alexander Day

All we are saying is give today’s food holiday a chance: we celebrate the Brandy Alexander, which happened to be John Lennon’s favorite drink! (He referred to it as his “milkshake”).

Also, today marks the successful conclusion of our first month of food challenges! We still have a long way to go, and while the task seems daunting, taking it one day at a time is the key to success. While also planning ahead, of course. For January, our favorites were curried chicken and New England clam chowder. The ones we liked least? The hot toddy and the Irish coffee. I think we’ll do a brief recap like this every month.

The Brandy Alexander was supposedly created in honor of Princess Mary’s wedding to Viscount Lascelles in London in 1922, but there is some dispute over this because Lascelles’ name is Henry, not Alexander. SOME dispute? How exactly do you get Alexander from Henry?? (And for that matter, how do you get Dick from Richard? I’ve always wondered). Others say it was named after Russian czar Alexander II. Regardless of who it was really named after (I vote for Alexander Graham Bell, even though he’s not in the running), it replaced another cocktail called the Alexander, which was made with gin. It became quite popular after numerous pop culture references, and is featured prominently movies (Days of Wine and Roses, Too Much Too Soon), television shows (Cheers, Mad Men, The Rockford Files, The Big Bang Theory), books (Brideshead Revisited, Invisible Monsters), and music (Feist released a song called “Brandy Alexander”). As ubiquitous as this drink is, I’m surprised I’d never had one before!

It’s really quite simple to make.

1.5 oz. brandy
1 oz. creme de cacao
1 oz. half-and-half (or cream)
Dash of nutmeg

Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker half filled with ice, strain into a glass, and sprinkle with nutmeg. It’s a very dessert-like drink – and really good!

I don’t know that I’d call it “really good”, but definitely better than the hot toddy, buttered rum, and Irish coffee.  Funny that we started this challenge with a cocktail and ended our first month with one as well.  Too bad all the cocktail holidays can’t be as good as my beloved Bloody Mary!

Tara’s exact words were “still quite stout.” Which sums up the Brandy Alexander well!

Now, on to February…

Brandy Alexander

Categories: Alcohol, Beverages | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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