Archive for the ‘Bartending’ Category

Wet Bar Wednesday

November 25, 2020

Cocktails are always evolving and new concoctions are constantly introduced. Considering the variety of liquors, the sheer number of possible combinations is more than enough to collectively keep creative bartenders busy all their lives and well beyond. And for the home bartender there is a continued joy in discovery of what you can do with the ingredients at hand, whether that involves following someone else’s recipe or doing a little innovation of your own.

The Paper Plane is a newer cocktail, introduced in 2008. Some celebrity bartender at some fancy bar or hotel. Yahda yahda yahda. I was introduced to it last week at a great cocktail bar and I’m going to continue jiggering with it to get it just how I like it. It’s good in that it uses liquors you are likely to have on hand, including Aperol, which is an absolute necessity for one of my favorite summer cocktails, the Aperol Spritz.

  • 1 part rye whiskey*
  • 1 part Aperol
  • 1 part Amaro Nonino Quintessentia*
  • 1 part lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)

Put all the ingredients together into a shaker with some ice and shake until condensation forms on the outside of the shaker. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Aperol is technically one form of amaro, so this drink is heavy on the herbal notes. But it balances nicely. I’d personally suggest you start with slightly less than the full amount of lemon juice suggested as the lemon can quickly overwhelm the other flavors.

* In full disclosure I’ve yet to have this drink exactly as noted above. The first one I was served used tequila rather than rye. And when I replicated the drink at home (using rye rather than tequila) I didn’t use Amaro Nonino Quintessentia but rather the locally sourced Margerum Amaro I had on hand already. The tequila version I first had was very lemon heavy and I need to try replicating it with less lemon. Frankly I think it would be better with orange or perhaps even grapefruit, but lemon is the universally accepted norm. That being said, you’re the bartender. Experiment. See what you like. And feel free to comment here on variations you’ve found enjoyable!

Wet Bar Wednesday – La Paloma

October 24, 2018

Crafting delicious cocktails can be a lot of fun, but it can also lead to a certain snobbery.  What, after all, is a basic rum and Coke (never Pepsi!) compared to a beautifully balanced Sazerac (here is my version, and here’s another)?

Well for starters, it can be delicious.  Complicated is not always better, and sometimes a good, refreshing drink is great weather it’s basic or not.

But still, the snobbery can persist.  So it was that while I was in Las Vegas this summer playing pool, I walked to a well-reviewed Mexican restaurant for a late lunch and relaxing afternoon one day.  The bar was large and well-appointed with a variety of tequilas, and as I have enjoyed doing for  decades, I asked the bartender to set me up with a recommended tequila-based drink.

Her immediate response was La Paloma (the dove).  It’s just Squirt (grapefruit flavored soda) and tequila.  I was disappointed once I understood properly what was in the drink.  I was hoping for some complicated and impressive drink to enjoy and impress others with.  Instead I get a gross soda messing up my tequila.

But, it was tasty.  And tasty is more important than complicated.  I’ve mixed some very impressive looking drinks over the years, but if they don’t taste good, all that effort (and money!) is for naught.

La Paloma

  • 1 part tequila (I suggest a basic one rather than a nicer/pricier one)
  • 3 parts Squirt (I would like to try this with Fresca instead, as I think the flavor is better)

Pour into a glass over ice and stir.  If you want to make it look prettier, put a wedge of lime on the rim of the glass.  It’s light and refreshing either way, so enjoy!



What Are We Really Mad About?

October 24, 2018

Last night I was  able to follow up with the bartender I wrote about a while back, the atheist who asked for prayers for her friend suffering from breast cancer.  She remembered me this time, and what I do for a living – something she likes to broadcast very loudly to whomever happens to be around us, while also laughingly shushing them if they happen to swear when I’m in the area.  I told her last night that if I was able to deal with her, then there wasn’t too much that I was likely to hear from anyone else in the place that would need to be shushed.

Her shot for the night was that she either doesn’t believe in God or is angry at God if there is one, because if there is one, then He let her mom die of cancer, and that’s a pretty lousy God.  She had at least one of her three sheets in the wind at this point, and so it wasn’t appropriate to try and actually have a conversation with her on the topic.  I’d like to think there will be a time when I can do so, but it’s going to take a miracle.

But should the Holy Spirit provide an opportunity for us to talk honestly and privately and without her being overly intoxicated, I might try to steer the conversation in this direction.

She’s obviously hurt and angry at the loss of her mother.  I can’t fault her for that.  It’s hard to have someone you love die.  I don’t think it matters much if it’s cancer or something else.  Death stinks.

If she denies that there’s a God or any other creative, deliberative, willful force behind our existence, then she can pretty much give up the anger.  There’s no point in it and there’s no basis for it.  Anger indicates some feeling that things have been done incorrectly or unfairly.  Her mom didn’t deserve to die from cancer, or didn’t deserve to die at the age she did, or any number of other variables.

But if we’re all just the results of blind chance and randomness, then ideas such as anger or unfairness or incorrectness lose all meaning beyond the meaning we may arbitrarily assign them.  And if we assign them that meaning they really have no meaning at all because our meanings and definitions are prone to shifting and swaying.

If you’re going to be angry, and if you’re going to make some sort of appeal to morality or ethicalness as a basis for being angry, then you need to have a rock-solid baseline on morality and ethics from which to hold such a higher power accountable.  Oh, and by the way, in the process you consign yourself to the same baseline and the same accountability.  That may come in handy later.

So  either you give up your anger and recognize that all of this has no meaning, no purpose beyond what we arbitrarily choose to assign it, or you acknowledge that deep down inside – whether you like Him/Her/It or not – there must be a higher power responsible for all of this who is somehow acting inappropriately.

Either the conversation is over at this point because the other person recognizes that they are not being consistent in their understanding of reality in denying a higher creative power and agrees to try and be more consistent (probably also with a few unrepeatable words about how rude and uncaring I am) or they acknowledge – at least for the sake of argument (and to hold on to their anger and indignation) that there might be a higher power that might have some explaining to do (or to whom, perhaps, we have some explaining to do).

If they’re talking to me, we’re going to talk about the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.  If they don’t want to talk about that God they’re going to have to talk to someone else and their god.  But you have to determine which god you’re talking about in order to understand how to proceed, and sometimes the simple fact that they’re talking to a Christian theologian will take the conversation down that road.  If they’re willing to acknowledge a higher power but not the God of the Bible, I’ll send them to the local mosque/ward/temple/etc. to talk to somebody there, as there won’t be a point in us continuing our conversation.  But hopefully an important acknowledgement will have already been reached – that either they’re truly an atheist or they’re really not.

If she’ll agree that it’s the God of the Bible that she thinks likely exists and who she is angry at, then we continue the conversation.  It might be helpful at this point for her to reiterate her basic points – God is bad and a jerk because He allowed (or caused) her mother to die of cancer, which presumes that a God should be good, and if they are good (or claim to be good) then one sign of such goodness (all other things being equal, which they never are) is that we wouldn’t have to deal with death.

After she has another chance to express her feelings, we can proceed.

First we have to lay out the ground rules so we know we’re talking about the same God.  Which means we can only judge him based on what He’s told us about things, since as creations we would have no other means of either knowing of or assessing God’s behavior.

So do we have a basis in who God tells us He is and we are for feeling that death is a raw deal?  We sure do.  Does He acknowledge and explain this predicament and how it came to be that a good God would have a creation with death in it?  He sure does.  Where does the blame lay for that?  According to the Bible, with us.  We’re to blame.  Not just some primordial ancestor but me personally as well.  I inherit a mortality, but I also perpetuate and continue it so that my mortality is not simply an unfair imposition but actually what I deserve (there’s a moral component – I knew that would come in handy at some point!).

There is a baseline (which God, by definition, defines).  We’re the ones to blame that things are messed up.  But surely a good God would have known all of this in advance, right?   Everything in Scripture would lead me to think that this was and is the case.  God was/is not shocked by my sinfulness or by the first sinfulness of Adam and Eve.

But surely a good God wouldn’t just leave us in this predicament.  Surely a good God would have a solution.  Does God say that there is a solution?  Actually, yes.

So God has revealed what the problem is and has revealed that He has a solution to that problem – the problem that means that we die.

Does this have pertinence to my bartender friend’s mother, and to her as well?  Yes, actually.  It pertains directly and completely to them.  Our faith and hope are turned towards God rather than away from him.  We can recognize him as the source of hope and joy and life, rather than as being absentee or abusive.  God has not left us alone.  Quite the opposite.  He continues to seek us out to draw us into relationship with him.  But only on his terms.  Because He’s God, and we aren’t.

Ultimately, if we acknowledge that God is there, we don’t have a right to our anger.  He takes that away from us at best, or redirects it towards ourselves at worse.  But we aren’t left with nothing.  Rather, He amazingly gives us hope.  Joy.  Peace.  Forgiveness.  Grace.  Everything we weren’t – in our anger – willing to give him, yet everything we understand to make life worth living and that invariably characterizes to one degree or another the people we are most drawn to and impacted by.

It would be a long conversation.  Feelings are powerful things.  But feelings are also made to be guided and mastered and directed, rather than directing us.  When we simply allow our emotions to drive us, bad things tend to end up happening whether short term, long term, or both.

It’s not a perfect discussion, but a start.  What would you add?  What would you omit?


Wet Bar Wednesday – The Gremlin

October 10, 2018

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t consider myself to be wildly creative and innovative when it comes to mixing drinks.  I prefer to follow well-worn and appreciated paths, favoring classic cocktails that have withstood the test of time rather than opting for the latest flavored gimmick.  But inevitably, as you develop a sense of what sorts of flavors go well together, you’re going to do a little innovating just to utilize what you have on hand.

My sister-in-law is in town this week and she prefers the sort of sweet & fruity drinks as opposed to cocktails where the flavor of the alcohol is most pronounced.  Somebody has probably already combined these ingredients before, but I don’t know about it and therefore I’m christening it the Gremlin.

  • 2 parts pineapple juice
  • 3 parts orange juice
  • 1 part Malibu rum
  • .5 parts Amaretto
  • .5 parts blue curacao

Shake ingredients together well and pour over ice.  Pineapple and orange flavors go well together.  Opt for the real  deals rather than artificial flavors whenever possible.  Amaretto pairs really well with orange juice and mellows out the acidic taste of the citrus.  The blue curacao is pretty much just for the look – giving the drink a vibrant green hue.  You can substitute spiced or dark rum for the Malibu if you prefer, but the coconut flavor of Malibu plays well with all these other flavors.  Enjoy!


Wet Bar Wednesday – Black Manhattan

September 5, 2018

It’s been a long time.

Almost a year since my last cocktail posting.  Some of that had to do with nothing new to share.  Some of that had to do with some pretty damaging conversations.  Needless to say, I maintain there is a sizable difference between having a drink and either engaging in or intentionally promoting alcoholism and substance abuse.  If cocktails aren’t safe for you, move on from this page.  You’re no less of a man or a woman for doing so, and frankly, much more of one.

I was in Vegas at the end of July for the national billiards tournament, and with some free time on my hand (as I’m not nearly as good a shot as many of the other folks who attend the tournament!) I ventured out to older areas of Vegas to see some of the tamer sites.  One of which was Atomic Liquors – the oldest free-standing bar in Las Vegas.  And while the Manhattan has long been a go-to drink for me, I was introduced here to the Black Manhattan.

Black Manhattan

  • 2 parts – Rye whiskey
  • 1 part – Averna Amaro
  • 1 dash – Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash – Orange bitters

Mix the ingredients together well with ice and strain into a glass.  Garnish with a brandied cherry or whatever else floats your boat.

Amaro means bitter in Italian, and is an herbal liqueur traditionally drank as an after dinner drink to settle the digestion (digestif).  There are many different varieties, so feel free to swap Averna out with another variation.  Ideally, the color of the Black Manhattan is, well, black.  Some variations of amaro are not as dark, however, and the result may be a drink that not black.  Don’t stress.  Adjust as necessary.  The drink is likely going to be slightly heavier and more fruity than a regular Manhattan, so hopefully you will enjoy!


Curious Community

August 26, 2018

Saturday night we were blessed to pass perhaps the most singularly curious evening my wife and I can remember in some time.  Given the number of people in and out of our lives in any given week, this is no small statement.

On the tail end of a vacation we spent a night in a place described as a Euro-mansion.  It was massive – 7+ bedrooms in the main building.  Library, bar, music room, formal dining room, entry hallway, massive kitchen, full basement – not  to mention a separate cottage rented out to two people.  Built nearly 100 years ago by an apparently eccentric person, this home was unique not only  architecturally and historically and decoratively, but first and foremost for the people there.

We arrived and entered through the main gates to find a band warming up and people wandering around the grounds.  We though these were  other AirBnB guests but it turned out they were there for an impromptu fundraising event that showed up for the afternoon and evening.  We eventually met the owner and her late-teen/early 20’s son and daughter, along with at least five of the other people who live  more  or less full  time on the premises.  The connections are some family, some professional,  some simply coincidence of time of life and other matters.

Most of them seemed pretty quiet and introverted, with the exception of one obviously extroverted woman.  After perusing the truly stunning bar they had, I offered to put together a small cocktail tasting after we returned from dinner.  The offer was eagerly accepted.  I put together small tastings of three different drinks – my Almond Tequila mainstay, a poor variation of a Manhattan using questionably ancient vermouth and equally questionable vanilla-flavored bourbon, and a simplified version of a Melon Ball (Midori, orange juice, vodka) that omits the vodka.

We sat together for over  an hour, sipping the drinks, sharing stories and a bit of background.  We learned a lot about these people that we never would have had there not been a pretext to sit down together.  There’s a tentative offer for me to return to provide bartending services to a private movie screening in the near future, which of course means an opportunity to meet more people, hopefully have  more  conversations, and ultimately hope to build more relationships where I can be shown how to love my neighbor and show them Christ’s love.

I’m still processing the evening and all of the nuances and dynamics.  But I pray there will be further opportunity for to build relationships with these curious community of friends and family.


Wet Bar Wednesday – Vesper Martini

October 18, 2017

I didn’t grow up on James Bond.  I wasn’t allowed to watch the movies until I was a teen, and even then it was only the edited-for-television broadcasts on ABC.  I may have seen one James Bond film in the theater, and I watched Skyfall on Netflix a few years ago.  But in general the films have been too over the top for my tastes, whether on the scale of explosions and car chases or in the realm of drop-dead gorgeous femme fatales.  I’ve never even read any of the books.

Ian Fleming created a character idolized by men and desired by women in part for his self-confidence.  A secret agent who always uses his actual name.  A man who always knows what he wants and goes after it.  Not surprisingly this is true of his signature drink.  Bond is famous for ordering a martini (vodka or gin, according to the books) “shaken not stirred.”  The first iteration of this drink, however,  is provided (according to Wikipedia) in Fleming’s Casino Royale.  Here’s a guy who never has to think about what he’s in the mood for.  He knows what he wants, and he knows how he wants it.  Muy sexy, n’cest pas?

The official Fleming version of what becomes known as the Vesper or the Vesper Martini (named after the undoubtedly beautiful Vesper Lynd):

  • 3 parts Gordon’s Gin
  • 1 part vodka (preferably grain-based rather than potato-based)
  • 1/2 part Kina Lillet

Shake the ingredients vigorously together with ice, serve in a deep champagne glass (a margarita glass is not as glamorous but substitutes well!) and garnish with a large, thin slice of lemon.

I tried this drink tonight.  Predictably, I didn’t care for it since I don’t like gin.  I don’t think it makes me less manly, but I considered the possibility for a moment.  Perhaps it just reaffirms what I already knew – I’m not British.  I may try this drink again, reducing the gin to two parts and increasing the Lillet to a full part or even a little more.  The idea is that the Lillet softens the impact of the two very strong liquors.  It does, but not nearly enough to hide the fact that there’s a ton of gin in there!

I used Bombay Sapphire gin instead of Gordon’s and I don’t feel at all bad about it.  If you’re a stickler for details and accuracy then get Gordon’s.  But frankly I think Bond would sneer at your slavish consistency.  To my mind, if I’m going to lick a Christmas tree (which is what I liken drinking most gins to – except for Hendrix gin), then I don’t much care if I’m licking a Douglas or a Noble.  If you really have strong feelings about what Christmas tree you most prefer to lick, go for it.  My rule of thumb stands – don’t buy the most expensive stuff in the store, but don’t buy the cheapest, either!

Lillet is a sweet French wine mixed with citrus-based liquors and quinine-producing botanicals.  It was first developed in the late 19th century, and is considered an aperitif – a before-dinner drink intended to stimulate the appetite.  It is sweet and heavy as an offset to the bitter (gin) and more neutral (vodka) liquors.

Oddly enough, it is actually tastier when served cold.  I shook mine with ice (which results in more meltage and a dilution of the drink.  It can also sometimes make the drink a bit cloudy, something martini purists abhor.  If gin is your thing, than enjoy.  If it isn’t, try something else!


Sharing Community

October 9, 2017

Last night we had three new people come to Happy Hour.  Friends.  Former roommates.  Classmates.  The connections weren’t always clear to me in the blur of looking after 13 or so guests.

Happy Hour continues to grow and evolve.  We’ll be losing our two founding members before the end of the year, a prospect that none of us are happy with, yet we’re also excited for them as they continue to discover the trajectories in their lives.  But we have plenty of other folks stepping up and stepping in.  More people are bringing food items to share which broadens the experience further and adds to that sense of belonging.  It is becoming less something that they show up at, and more something that they participate in.

One of our stalwarts brings a variety of musical instruments with him each week, whether it’s a banjo or a mandolin, an electric guitar and amp, a miniature steel drum – there’s always something new to throw into the mix with our bongos and guitars and ukuleles.

The evening wrapped up about midnight when I kicked the last 3-4 folks out after they  finished up the games our kids taught them (Jungle Speed and Dobble – lots o’ fun!).  Watching our three kids play games and laugh with these people who are becoming more like older brothers and sisters is beautiful.

Change is hard, but so is remaining static.  It will be fun to see what the coming months hold with this group!

Wet Bar Wednesday – Negroni/Boulevardier

October 4, 2017

My wife’s friend and daughter have been staying with us for the past few days, and tonight is her last night here.  Even though I got home late after a(nother) twelve-hour day, they decided they should have a celebratory final cocktail.  Her friend likes gin as well as bourbon, while my wife doesn’t like gin.  I opted for the Negroni, a classic gin cocktail, and the Boulevardier – heralded as a bourbon version of the Negroni.  Despite an unpleasant experience with another Negroni alternative nearly a year ago, I decided to take the chance.  After all, I’m not drinking it!

Both drinks balance sweet (sweet vermouth) and bitter (Campari).


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz gin (I use Bombay Sapphire)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (I use Noilly Prat currently)

Shake the ingredients together well and pour over ice.  You can garnish with a twist of orange peel for a little additional class.


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz bourbon (Woodinville Bourbon – a gift from our friend!)
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth (again, Noilly Prat)

Shake the ingredients together well and pour over ice.  You can garnish with a twist of orange peel for a little additional class.

Beware, these are pure alcohol cocktails – nothing to tone them down or mellow them out other than ice!  The flavors are very well balanced in each, with an initial sweet taste finishing with slightly bitter and citrus tones.  I prefer the bourbon version to the gin, but I even found the gin version to be palatable, pretty impressive given my general avoidance of gin!  Enjoy!

Mixing Up the Mixers

September 4, 2017

Last night was a wonderful happy hour.  One of my concerns about the community that has been forming on Sunday nights at our house is that it is almost completely made up of graduates from the local private Christian university.  Thus a lot of those stories and experiences form a major portion of the conversations that go on.  It’s more of a historically oriented discussion about who people were and what people did, which makes it difficult for my wife and I and others to join in.

But last night the mix was more even, with almost half the folks not coming from that school.  These weren’t regulars but folks that are part of our church community about half the time.  Plus one of the folks there last night is new to our area and worshiped with us for the first time that morning.  I invited he and his wife and he showed up.  It was cool to see him comfortable mingling, so much so that he stayed over four hours, until things started wrapping up!

The Epistle lesson for yesterday was the final sections of Romans 12.  Verse 13 includes an exhortation to show hospitality.  I never know how hard to emphasize this.  Obviously, our family is tuned in to this particular spiritual gifting and find it both beautiful and important.  It’s also exhausting – particularly after a week filled with people.  But it’s part of who we are.  But as a culture we seem more isolated, more fearful of people we don’t know well.  Less inclined to open our homes to someone that we don’t know.

I don’t know how hard to push people on this.  There are many types of giftings, after all, and certainly hospitality is not one that everyone will share.  But it’s also one that rarely if ever gets talked about in our larger culture or even within Christian community and church.  It seems like something we ought to be examining more closely since it’s not part of our larger cultural practice.  Welcoming the stranger and showing love to people is intimidating but also so rewarding.  Every week we’re reminded of how important this simple thing is – being available, being willing to welcome people into our home to show them love with food and drink.

How many people out there have this gift and are using it?  And should we be talking about it more?  Not in the sense of pressuring others to do likewise, but in terms of reminding the body of the value of this seemingly simple act?