Archive for the ‘Bartending’ Category

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!




Reading Ramblings – February 12, 2017

February 5, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany – February 12, 2017

Texts: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

Context: I will preach on the lectio continua aspect of the assigned readings, focusing on the 1 Corinthians text again. The readings as a whole emphasize the importance of God’s Word in guiding our lives and keeping us from sin. Our tendency is to grade ourselves too easily in terms of obedience, or to grade on a curve where as long as we do better than others, we still end up passing. But Jesus won’t allow us such false conceptions. They are too dangerous, allowing sin to go unnoticed or even passed off without worry. Sin is death. It is always dangerous. Not because it is unforgivable but because we can eventually be led through sin away from Christ, to value our sin more than his forgiveness.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 – Obedience to God – living in the proper flow of his created order – inevitably enjoys the blessings of God. Similarly acting outside of our created purpose and nature inevitably will cause us suffering and loss of blessing. Creation is designed to function a certain way. Sin has made this impossible now, but the closer we adhere to how God has showed us to live, the better off all of creation is. This is even more the case for God’s chosen covenant people. They are to mirror to all of creation a closer relationship with God made possible by his special revelation to them of his Law. They will enjoy his special blessing and protection unless they choose to reject him, in which case they incur the penalties of the Mosaic covenant, losing the tangible blessings embodied in their promised homeland. Ultimately obedience leads towards life, and disobedience leads towards death.

Psalm 119:1-8 – The great acrostic poem of the psalms, with each section corresponding to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and unity coming from the theme of God’s Word. The psalm begins with the assertion that obedience to the Word of God results in a state of blessedness. Verses 1-3 summarize the obedient nature of such a person. Their way is blameless because they walk in God’s Law. They look after him wholeheartedly, and so their way is without wrong. Because God’s Word always leads towards life and obedience, the person who is devoted to it will be kept from wrong paths. Verse 4 acknowledges that it is for this reason that God has given his Law. However perfect obedience is impossible, and so the psalmist prays starting at verse 5 for steadfastness in following God’s Law. It is an aspiration, not a current reality. The result would be shamelessness, since the speaker would be free from any guilt or accusation. Does this imply that they are facing these things at the moment? The psalm concludes with the resolution to praise God, looking forward to the day when the speaker can offer such praise with a righteous heart, presuming they cannot do so at the moment and so offer praise that is tinged with sinfulness. The speaker resolves to obedience, but prays that in the meantime, God would not abandon them, a clear indication of the speaker’s sinfulness in the moment, but confidence of God’s love.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 – Paul begins to apply the ramifications of his explanations in Chapter 2. There is wisdom that is imparted through human sources but with spiritual origins, and this wisdom must be discerned by spiritual people, those with spiritual maturity (2:14-16). But the Corinthians, though they are in Christ, do not have spiritual maturity and therefore lack spiritual discernment and must be fed the basics of the faith. Unfortunately, two or more years later they still lack maturity as evidenced by the divisions between them. They are thinking in a human way rather than a spiritual way. They are obsessing over the wrong things. It is not the messengers who matter but the message, just as in the previous chapter it was not the delivery that mattered but the content. They are mistaken if they think that Paul is competing with Apollos in any way! Rather, they are (or should be) working together, assisting in building up what one another starts. What matters is the result – the field of growing seeds of faith that is the Corinthian church.

Matthew 5:21-37 – Jesus has come to fulfill the Law perfectly, but around him are undoubtedly people who think that they are fulfilling the Law, more or less. After all, they haven’t murdered anyone. They haven’t committed adultery with anyone. They likely feel that they are sharing with Jesus in his purpose of perfect fulfillment of the Law. Perhaps this is even why Jesus has called them as his disciples! But the Law is not a matter of externals, and Jesus destroys any notion of perfect fulfillment by teaching about the true nature of sin as a matter of the heart and mind rather than simply of the body.

The commandment against murder might seem the easiest one to fulfill. But Jesus shows this is hardly the case, because even anger or a dismissive and insulting attitude towards another person in thought or speech is equivalent to murder. Murder is not simply the elimination of the breath of life, but the internal dismissal of the other person, the refusal to see them as a creation of God and a brother or sister in Christ to such a point that we can insult them.

Adultery might seem the next easiest command to fulfill, but here again his disciples are mistaken. Adultery is not just an act of the body, but an act of the mind and heart. And we can’t make the mistake of thinking that somehow the sin of the mind or heart is less serious than the sin of the body – all sin is equally dangerous to us, and if we realized the truly seductive danger of sin we would treat it like a physical danger, like an infection in the body that has to be stopped before it endangers the entire body.

Jesus continues on to address lackadaisical attitudes towards divorce as well as oath-taking. There is no shortage to our sinfully mistaken notions about what obedience to the Word of God does or does not entail.

Our typical way of evaluating ourselves in comparison to others is an inaccurate understanding of obedience. Obedience is not simply being a better person than someone else. Obedience is obedience – total and complete in mind and spirit as well as our body. Only when we are able to perceive this and recognize our inability – and often unwillingness! – to obey God’s Word do we more clearly perceive our condition and need for a Savior.

Wet Bar Wednesday – Odwits

December 14, 2016

I was first introduced to mezcal when I inherited a half-bottle from my best friend who was moving away for work after college. I didn’t really know what it was, but it was cool because there was a worm in the bottom of the bottle.  I haven’t had mezcal in the last 20 years probably, but I happened upon a bottle of it at the local grocery store and picked it up for nostalgic reasons. Then I stumbled across this article in Slate on the burgeoning mezcal industry and figured it was time to do put that bottle to use.

Tequila and mezcal are kissing cousins. Tequila must be produced from the Jalisco region of Mexico, while mezcal comes from the area around Oaxaca. Tequila can only be distilled from blue agave, but mezcal can be distilled from a variety of agaves. Traditionally, mezcal is considered the equivalent of moonshine – a basic liquor for the working man. However a growing international market is changing all of that, and you might start hearing about it more often than before. Yours may or may not have a worm in the bottom (my current bottle doesn’t), but that’s not really a critical issue. Most folks believe the worm-in-the-bottle was invented in the 1940’s or 50’s by a mezcal entrepreneur as a marketing gimmick. Traditionally it is a moth or butterfly larva that feed on the agave plants used to produce mezcal.

If you like tequila, you may or may not like it’s close cousin, mezcal. Chances are if you like scotch, you’ll find some affinity with tequila’s smokier neighbor. But I say that, admittedly, as a non-scotch aficionado. Both have smoky flavors, but the quality of that smokiness is decidedly different and even a scotch neophyte like me can tell that. Mezcal is more complex than entry level tequilas, but I’m not sure if there is an aged mezcal that could rival an añejo or super-añejo tequila for complexity and subtlety. It sounds like a fun quest, though!

You won’t find a lot of cocktail recipes that utilize mezcal. You can try subbing it in for tequila in various drinks, and you’ll find it changes the character of the drink a lot. But you’ll have to decide if that’s a good thing for you or not. I don’t care for mezcal-based margaritas, but in other drinks it substitutes more favorably.

The drink below is a loose variation on a Harvey Wallbanger, but it has elements of other drinks as well, including a favorite of mine that I’ll try to remember to share with you next week. I found this recipe through the online bartending site A quick Internet search turned up multiple variations on this named drink, but this is what I made tonight:


  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 oz Southern Comfort
  • orange juice
  • Galiano

Shake or stir the first three ingredients together and pour over a glass filled with ice. Top the glass off with orange juice, stir, and then drizzle a splash of Galiano (which you have left over from the Harvey Wallbanger, of course!) over the top.

The smoky overtones of the mezcal will be obvious but the edge of the liquor will be muted by the sweetness of the orange juice and Southern Comfort. Frankly, I’d just as soon ditch the vodka and split the difference between the mezcal and the Southern Comfort. This drink is a good summer option as it’s refreshing and easy to drink. You may find mezcal popping up in your local grocery store liquor section, but you’ll more likely find it at this point in a well-stocked liquor store.

Wet Bar Wednesday – Brandy Alexander

December 7, 2016

It’s been another beautiful week here in the American Riviera, but clearly winter is coming. Temperatures hover in the low 70’s during the day and can dip down into the 40’s at night, all of which puts me in the mood for house slippers and something liquid to drive away the winter chill. Flipping through another of my bartending resources this week, I opted for the classic Brandy Alexander.

Brandy is made by distilling wine (though brandy can also be made from other fruits) to increase the alcohol content and is rated based on how long it has been aged. Aging reduces the alcohol content by allowing some of the alcohol (as well as water) to evaporate slowly each year of aging. A bottle should indicate the length of aging with either stars or letters (V.S., V.S.O.P, X.O., Napoleon, etc.) as well as with the price tag. I recommend staying with a X.O. (extremely old) or Napoleon rated brandy, as these have been aged at least six years. You won’t be disappointed if you’re using it only for cocktails and it will be reasonably good if you just want to sip it. However, if you prefer to sip brandy neat, you might want to upgrade to a pricier, longer-aged brandy (or buy Cognac for good measure).

One tradition has it that the Brandy Alexander was born during Prohibition, when the little brandy that was available was of pretty poor quality. Cream was added to disguise the inferior taste. Many recipes call specifically for Cognac but you can use a good brandy instead. Cognac is one particular type of brandy with specific requirements for aging, the type of casks used for aging, and the variety of grape used. Start off with a good brandy and upgrade if you find yourself partial to it.

  • 1 part brandy (or Cognac)
  • 1 part crème de cacao
  • 1 part cream
  • A pinch of nutmeg

Shake or stir the first three ingredients together vigorously. If you like it chilled, shake or stir with ice but serve without the ice (straight up). Sprinkle a bit of the nutmeg on the top of the drink. The flavor reminds me a bit of eggnog, though decidedly lighter. Some folks like to experiment with more refined liquors than the crème de cacao, and there are a variety of white chocolate liquors that could be substituted. Something to experiment with in the future. Enjoy!

Wet Bar Wednesday – Apple Fizz

November 30, 2016

I’m somewhat back into my normal routine after traveling to the other side of the world. Ready for something different, I checked out one of my cocktail recipe books for some new ideas the other night. What I came up with was a little something called the Apple Fizz.

I couldn’t find this same recipe anywhere else on the Internet, though there are plenty of other drinks with this name that also include actual apple juice. I like this version because it doesn’t, and there’s a very nice balance between the sour and the sweet elements while the soda water makes it light and sparkly.

Apple fizz

  • 1 part lemon juice (use the real stuff!)
  • 1 part maple syrup (use the real stuff!)
  • 1 part Calvados (or apple brandy)
  • 1 slice lemon for garnish
  • soda water to top off

Calvados is a particular type of apple brandy produced in Normandy, France. There are other variations of apple brandy, including the American knock-off known as applejack. Apple cider is processed through distillation or other processes to increase the overall alcohol content. Applejack is experiencing a bit of a renaissance here in the US after many years of decline and neglect. You can find Calvados or applejack at a well-stocked liquor store.

Mix the lemon juice, Calvados and maple syrup thoroughly. If you have the option of just squeezing a lemon, do it rather than use concentrate. Likewise, real maple syrup (as opposed to imitation maple syrup) has an amazing complexity of taste that you won’t regret the extra cost to have either in your drinks or on your flapjacks.

Once mixed, pour into a glass over ice. Top off the glass with the soda water and give it a final, gentle stir to mix completely. You can put the slice of lemon either in the bottom of the glass or float it on the top. Enjoy!