Archive for the ‘Bartending’ Category

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?


Drink Carefully

August 9, 2017

Moscow Mules have become a major thing in the three years or so since I first encountered one in a little bar in San Francisco.  Now you can buy copper mugs at the grocery store, to say nothing of places like Cost Plus World Market.

And while I’m normally a fan of authenticity, be careful if you’re planning on drinking a lot of Moscow Mules from those mugs.  Unless they’re lined with another metal on the inside, copper could be leaching into your drink.   I suspect you’re OK if you don’t drink a ton of these, and if you don’t let your drink sit around for hours at a time before consuming it.

Wet Bar Wednesday – Kyoto Dream

August 9, 2017

There is a comfort in settling in with a set of drinks that you know you and those around you like and enjoy.  It takes a certain amount of pressure off.  But there is always a joy and thrill (at least for me!) in learning something new.

I was blessed by Ruth in the gift of a bottle of Genzou Haguro Honjyozo sake, a gift to her late father from some university students grateful he didn’t want to press charges or file insurance claims after they accidentally backed into his car.  It’s a beautiful corked crockery bottle with a matching sake cup on top.  I haven’t done much with sake, so this was an opportunity for experimentation!   I knew that I wanted to serve it chilled rather than warm, so I went to the Internet for inspiration.  I found it in a beautifully illustrated but woefully inadequate (ration and quantity-wise) recipe for a drink I am now claiming as my own and dubbing (thanks to my wife) the Kyoto Dream.

Kyoto Dream

  • 1-inch piece of chopped lemon grass
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh, chopped ginger
  • 1.5 Tbsp raw sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz chilled sake
  • Club soda to top

Muddle the first four ingredients together (mash them up together – you can do this in a glass with a spoon, some folks use a food processor, I prefer a mortar & pestle). Pour into a glass.  Add the chilled sake and stir briefly to make sure all the sugar has dissolved.  Add ice, and then top off the drink with club soda.  Stir again to thoroughly mix and combine the liquids.

This is an amazingly bright and light drink.  Get a good quality sake that is not too overbearing in taste (overly rice-y, to use a technical term).  This one was very clean and crisp tasting on its own and blended very well with the other ingredients.  Lemon grass is an incredibly pungent grass, but also very coarse.  While you could blend the lemon grass, ginger and lemon in a food processor, I still think the result will leave unpleasant chunks of fiber in the mouth and teeth.  By just chopping and then muddling, people can either leave these on the bottom of the glass or munch on them as they like.

This is a great summer drink that requires a little extra work but provides a huge payoff with that first sip.  Since you’ll likely want to make several of these at a go (you should be able to get 8-9 drinks out of a single bottle of sake), prepare the lemon grass and ginger in advance, mixing them together in a bowl and then using about a tablespoon and a half for each drink.  Enjoy!


August 6, 2017

I had to ask the last of our happy hour attendees to leave about an hour ago.  One (the one who doesn’t drink!) was falling asleep on the couch with the dogs .  But the wife and kids are getting up early in the morning for a birthday boat ride to and a day of hiking on Santa Cruz Island, so I needed to empty the house and get them to bed.  People started arriving around 6pm this evening.  This isn’t everyone who was there, but it gives you an idea:

Our daughter tells us there were 21 people here tonight (including our five family members).  We didn’t know most of them.  Six are weekly regulars.  Of the rest, one or two have visited once or twice over the past year and a half.  The others were first time visitors.

There were actresses and actors fresh from small indie performances in town and trying to figure out how to position themselves for a Big Break.  Missionary kids from Eritrea the Ukraine.  Aspiring doctors, a sailing captain, a future lawyer, two Swiss exchange students, several talented musicians previewing songs from an upcoming debut album, a future professor and a few undecideds.  All in their early 20’s, all a long way from family.  A cross spectrum of ideologies and personalities, but our friends knew that they would be welcomed and honored in our home, greeted by our kids and our dogs, handed some AMAZING cocktails (thank you to Ruth for the sake!!!), and welcomed to just be.  I probably didn’t converse with a third of them more than to get their drink order.  Talking with everyone every Sunday isn’t always feasible.  But I conversed with one guy on the difference between Lutheran and Reformed theology.   I planned with another couple I’ll have the privilege of marrying in two weeks.  I received updates on short-term work and travel plans from another person.  I watched my kids help keep the food supplied and deliver drinks.  I heard my oldest son joking and telling stories.  I washed a lot of dishes.  Some of them twice.

I may have misgivings and feel inadequate in describing what happens on Sunday evenings to other people.  I may be exhausted at the end of an 18 hour day.  But it’s a beautiful place to be.  A bit chaotic at times, but that’s sort of the nature of Christ’s love.  We always know what we’re getting with Christ’s love, but we never quite know where that will lead us or how it will change us or who it will connect us with, whether for an evening or a lifetime or, by His grace, an eternity.



Wet Bar Wednesday – Experimenting

July 5, 2017

Sunday night happy hour, and the request was for something different.  Light, refreshing.  A bit sweet.  Oh, yeah.  And bourbon.

The result – the ratios below are approximate – was delicious.  I need to try it again!

  • 2 parts bourbon (I used Bulleit Rye)
  • 1 part amaretto (I prefer Disaronno)
  • splash Gran Marnier
  • splash limoncello
  • club soda to top

Mix the first four ingredients and pour over ice.  Top with club soda and stir.  Sweet, but not cloying-ly so.  Bourbony, but the amaretto comes through in a delightful way.  Gonna try this again tonight to see if the ratio is right.  Let me know if you experiment with it, and enjoy!


Wet Bar Wednesday

May 31, 2017

Our recent family trip to Europe cemented this reality in my mind – that whether traveling through Europe, the Middle East, or the Orient, cocktails are far more of a rarity than here in the US.  But one cocktail advertised heavily throughout the many countries we passed through in Europe is the Aperol Spritz – sometimes just referred to as a Spritz.  We loved it there as a refreshing and light drink in the midst of a hot day of sightseeing.  We continue to enjoy it now that we’re home, despite the fact that it’s not a very common drink in the US.

Aperol Spritz

  • 3 parts Prosecco
  • 2 parts Aperol
  • 1 part club soda

Combine the ingredients over ice and stir.

Aperol originated in Italy early in the 20th century but took a while to catch on.  It was developed as a before-dinner drink (aperitif), designed to stimulate gastric juices in anticipation of food.  It has a bitter orange base but also includes rhubarb and several botanicals.  It is lighter, sweeter, and has half the alcohol content of Campari, a close cousin.  You can purchase Aperol at a well-stocked liquor store, but likely won’t find it in the average supermarket liquor section.

Prosecco is an Italian white wine.  Generally it is thought of as a sparkling wine and a cheap alternative to champagne, but there are still (non-bubbly) versions of Prosecco as well.   While wine referred to as Prosecco is referenced as far back as the 16th century, it is likely the wine has been produced far longer under different names, with Roman historian Pliny the Elder praising Italian wines from the regions associated with Prosecco for their health benefits.  It is generally served chilled.  Trader Joe’s has two very tasty (and inexpensive) Prosecco options, or you can purchase better pedigreed Prosecco at a good wine or liquor shop.

The drink has a light, sweet taste, but the sweetness is not overwhelming and it is very well balanced by the bitterness inherent in the Aperol.  It’s a pretty drink (I serve it in a wine glass, though a champagne flute could also be used), and it really is very refreshing when the weather heats up.  Enjoy!

Wet Bar Wednesday – Acalpulco

April 12, 2017

It isn’t that I haven’t been drinking, I just haven’t taken the time to do anything compellingly different in a while.  However Billie kindly provided me with an amazing bottle of aged dark rum for my birthday, and it seemed only fitting to find a good use for it (other than just sipping it straight and smelling it!).  This led me to the Acapulco, which is quickly becoming a go-to alternative to the Manhattan for my wife.

As with most drinks, there are plenty of variations.  Generally the recipe calls for light rum but I used the delicious dark rum instead.  It adds a more complex, mellow tone to the drink rather than the crispness of light rum.  I think it has a similar flavor to the pisco sour, but the dark rum really adds a different tone from pisco, which is usually unaged.  (Holy cow – I just realized that I’ve never blogged about the pisco sour before!  I guess I’ll have to do that next!)

  • 1.5 oz dark rum
  • .75 oz Gran Marnier
  • .5 oz fresh lime juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • mint sprig for garnish

Place all the ingredients together in a shaker and shake vigorously for at least 90 seconds.  If, like me, you run out of simple syrup and just add equal parts water and granulated sugar, then you want the sugar to dissolve completely.  You also want to make sure that the egg white becomes nice and foamy and takes on the flavor of the other ingredients.  Pour the drink over ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.

This is a top shelf version of the Acapulco.  You don’t need to use Gran Marnier – most recipes just call for triple sec.  You can use white rum instead of dark – whichever you prefer.  Adjust the lime and simple syrup proportions to your particular sour/sweet preferences.  Most importantly, enjoy!