Posts Tagged With: liquor

National Vodka Day

October 4 is National Vodka Day! It’s also National Taco Day, but you won’t lose if you choose the booze. Really, there’s room for both around the dining room table!

Vodka comes from the Slavic word voda, which means “water.” Appropriate, given that many dismiss vodka for its lack of flavor. True, it doesn’t taste like a Christmas tree like some alcoholic beverages we know (I’m talking to you, gin!), but it sure does pack a punch. And really, isn’t that the point of a good spirit?! By definition, vodka is a combination of mostly water and ethanol, so if you’re out drinking in the middle of nowhere and run out of gas, fear not! Chances are good you’ll still make it home without having to call AAA.

There is some debate over the origin of vodka, with both Poland and Russia laying claim to its invention. The word first appeared in writing in a Polish court document in 1405, but Russians claim to have been distilling vodka since the 9th century. Not to be outdone, the Poles say they were producing vodka in the 8th century; this was called gorzalka and was used for medicinal purposes. Which just goes to show that getting sick back in the dark ages wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience. Both Russia and Poland have named vodka as their national drink, so it appears even centuries later this alcoholic cold war rages on with no clear winner.

Regardless of who actually invented vodka, it is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages around the world, praised for its universal ability to be used as a base for mixed drinks and cocktails. Or, you know, guzzled straight from the bottle if that’s your preference. We won’t judge! Vodka is usually made from either fermented cereal grains or potatoes, and in recent years, a wide variety of flavored vodkas have popped up. These range from the simple (cranberry, grapefruit, blueberry) to the unusual (whipped cream, cucumber, cola) to the what-were-they-thinking?! (gummy bear, peanut butter and jelly, bacon). It seems like everybody is trying to outdo everybody else in the crazy flavor department. 13620780_10209747854202031_7343375134862711107_n

After being diagnosed with diabetes, I was in search of “healthy” cocktails, and discovered a simple vodka and soda isn’t too terribly bad, relatively speaking. It’s got no sugar or carbs and only 96 calories per 1.5 mL, the standard “pour.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much flavor, either. But last year I discovered a local Portland vodka distiller named Wild Roots. Their vodkas are infused with flavor, and they have some rather delicious varieties available. Their Northwest Red Raspberry infused vodka is my favorite, and this evening, that’s how I chose to celebrate the holiday. On the rocks with a splash of club soda, though really, this one is perfectly drinkable straight up.

 

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“Healthy” Cocktails: No Oxymoron Intended

When I was diagnosed with diabetes, one of my first thoughts was so long, alcohol! Fortunately, I was jumping the gun just a bit. While booze will never top the food pyramid even if you don’t have a debilitating condition, there are ways to enjoy your liquor without completely sabotaging your health or diet.

Yes, moderation is key. This much is obvious: the less you drink, the fewer calories you will consume. But when you’re out for a night on the town, it can be difficult to stop at just one beverage. Or four. You can still make relatively healthy choices, though. Keep this in mind: all alcohol has the same amount of calories, 7 per gram, which translates to 96 calories in a standard 1.5-liter serving. Doesn’t matter if you’re drinking gin, vodka, rum, or tequila. A straight shot is just shy of 100 calories. It’s the mixers that can get you in trouble. Calories pile up once you start adding syrups, sugared rims, sodas, and more. A typical margarita can easily top 500 calories a glass; just a few will put you over your daily calorie allotment (and chances are, you’re enjoying those with a plate of nachos or some other heavy food). In addition to the margarita, some other notorious offenders include the Long Island Iced Tea, Mai Tai, Pina Colada, and Mudslide. All average 500-600 calories or more per glass (sometimes much more, depending on the size of that glass and how heavy handed the bartender is).

Avoiding the mixers, or limiting them, will “lighten up” your drinking and can save you a significant number of calories. Your best bet is to order a drink neat, straight up, or on the rocks – that is, without a mixer of any kind. That way, your only calories come from the liquor itself. Order a bourbon on the rocks, for instance, and you’re looking at about 100 calories per glass. Or if you’re in the mood for a margarita, opt for tequila with club soda and a squeeze of lime and orange. I promise your bartender won’t look at you funny, and you’ll save hundreds of calories per glass. Bottoms up!vodka-soda1

Here are some cocktails you can enjoy with a minimum of guilt.

  1. Vodka Soda. The soda refers to club soda, which is calorie-free, versus soda pop such as 7-Up. Club soda and seltzer are excellent options for mixed drinks, and the vodka soda is a classic. Liquor aficionados might scoff over such a “boring” drink, but you’ll have the last laugh when stepping on the scale the next morning. Besides, choose a quality, smooth vodka (or even a flavored version – most infusions add no extra calories) and a couple of freshly squeezed lemon and lime slices, and you’ve got a crisp, refreshing drink that will give you a nice buzz.
  2. Rum and Diet Coke. Diet soda has no calories, making it a guilt-free mixer. And with a good quality rum, you won’t even miss the “regular” stuff! You could also order a vodka and Diet 7-Up/Diet Sprite, gin and Diet Tonic, etc. (Watch out for regular tonic water, which is loaded with sugar).
  3. Bloody Mary. Hands down, my favorite alcoholic beverage. Vodka is mixed with tomato juice, tabasco, worcestershire, and sometimes horseradish for a tasty drink that only contains about 125 calories per 6-oz. serving. Bonus: the addition of celery, olives, cocktail onions, and other accompaniments can turn your drink into a “salad in a glass.”
  4. Manhattan. This classic blend of bourbon, vermouth, and Angostura bitters averages just 145 calories and is manly as hell.
  5. Sea Breeze. This blend of vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice can be a fairly healthy choice so long as you get the ratios right. You’ll want about a 3-to-1 ratio of grapefruit juice to cranberry juice; don’t be afraid to let your bartender know and you’ll end up with a refreshing, tasty beverage that averages just 180 calories.

Honorable mentions: Mojito, Sangria, Mimosa.

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

11/365: National Hot Toddy Day*

January 11th is devoted to two food holidays. Or actually, two beverage holidays. It’s National Milk Day and National Hot Toddy Day. Milk may do a body good, but it’s boring and requires no special effort. I downed my morning pills with a glass of milk, and then ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, while Tara took a few swigs to wash down her leftover brownie. Technically we could have considered this challenge complete and in the books by 6:45 AM, but the lure of the hot toddy was too strong to resist.

I can’t think of a more perfect time of year to celebrate a hot toddy. Winter is in full swing, and cold and flu season is upon us. In fact, the hot toddy was once prescribed by medical professionals as an ailment to treat the symptoms associated with colds and flu. The train of thought was that the vitamin C was useful for overall health, the honey to soothe the throat, and the alcohol to numb. Hey, it sure beats Nyquil! The exact origin of the hot toddy is unclear, but it is believed to have come from India, where a drink made from fermented palm sap (yum!) called the toddy was popular. Scottish members of the East India Trading Company returned to their native land and introduced a version of the drink to their country mates. Rumor has it sweet and citrusy ingredients were added to cut down on the harsh taste of Scottish whiskey. Odd, considering these are the same people whose national dish is made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, and served in the animal’s stomach casing. But who am I to judge?

Although there are many variations, a traditional hot toddy is a mix of liquor (usually whiskey), boiling water, honey, lemon, and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In other words, potpourri in a mug! Midwestern folk add ginger ale, while Wisconsinites substitute brandy. People in southern California make theirs using the tears of their fired agents. Err…tequila. They use tequila! Traditionalists that we are, Tara and I stuck with a recipe honoring the original presentation. (Not the palm sap version, the whiskey version). Here it is:

Ingredients

1 teaspoon honey
2 fluid ounces boiling water
1 ½ fluid ounces whiskey
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice lemon
1 pinch ground nutmeg

Pour the honey, boiling water, and whiskey into a mug. Spice it with the cloves and cinnamon, and put in the slice of lemon. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes so the flavors can mingle, then sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg before serving.

The verdict?

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Let’s just say, the Scottish should have added MORE ingredients to mask the whiskey.

And, I learned a valuable lesson on the economics of buying in bulk. We didn’t have cinnamon sticks or cloves, and when I went to the grocery store this evening to buy them, I almost choked over the prices. A jar of cinnamon sticks cost $5.89, ant the cloves were $4.99. I dutifully put them in my cart, and then stumbled across the organic foods section, where they were selling bulk spices. I grabbed a couple of bags, filled them with the amount necessary for the hot toddies, and ditched the jars. The cinnamon sticks cost me 30 cents and the cloves, 38 cents. I saved over $10 by purchasing in bulk. Whew! Who knew it was that cost effective?

Categories: Alcohol, Beverages | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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