50 Shots of America–Hawaii


Pearl Bomber CocktailI suppose, pre-Internet especially but before the media made everyone so altogether global, traveling across country or to a different region could really feel like going someplace different. My own travels leads me to believe that’s not really the case anymore.

Except, perhaps, in Hawaii. (Granted, I’ve never been there myself but I’d be more than willing to undertake a research expedition should someone wish to fund it. Purely scientific discovery, you understand.)

A string of volcanic islands (some still active) and part of the Polynesian Islands, The Aloha State was actually a sovereign nation with a functioning monarchy before we, in our “infinite wisdom” started interfering and changing everything. In 1893 a group of American and European businessmen, calling themselves the “Committee of Safety,” deposed Queen Lili-uokalani, formed a Provisional Government (conveniently containing members of the CoS)  and asked the US to annex them as a territory.

Now the US, for what it’s worth, said ‘uh, no, you really shouldn’t have done that: put it back the way it was.’ The Provisional Government said ‘no, we don’t wanna,’ so the US looks at the matter again (under a new President by now) and basically says, ‘oh, wait, you meant THAT monarchy? Oh, no, you’re totally cool, carry on!’  (Sheesh, this empire building is so confusing!) But it’s cool, you know, because 30 years later we finally apologized for taking over a sovereign nation.

Anyway! After 4 years as an independent republic and 60 years as a territory, Hawaii became our 50th and final (to date) state on August 21, 1959.

Pearl Bomber

3/4 oz Gold Rum
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Banana Liqueur
1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake ’em like a Polynesian dancer’s hip tassels. Strain into a chilled double shot glass (or two singles–pineapple is the fruit of hospitality, after all) and get a tropical feel anytime, anywhere.

Most folks know that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, totally out of the blue. It’s what convinced the US to become involved in WWII. I knew that, but I didn’t realize Hawaii wasn’t even a state, yet, when all that happened.

The reason why it wasn’t a state was the ruling class–planters and banks–liked being able to take advantage of cheap, imported foreign labor to work the sugar cane, pineapple, coffee and other plantations (being a state would mean an end to that). But, when the local-born children of those immigrants–now US citizens–grew up they rose up and wrested control from the Republican powers that be.

But, hey, enough politics!

Have you ever worked in a place that observed Casual Fridays? Well, you have the Hawaiians to thank for that!

Known as Aloha Friday in Hawaii, it refers to the casual wear known as Aloha shirts (we call them, predictable enough, Hawaiian shirts)–acceptable business and formal wear on the islands! But it wasn’t always that way. In the 60s the garment industry led the change to casual wear as business attire for the summer months with the recommendation that employers relax the business attire (suit and tie) regulations on the last day of the week. It spread to California and eventually became the business casual we know and live for.

So throw on your Hawaiian shirt, kick back with a Pearl Bomber and Bombs Away!


And with that we’ve completed our cocktail tour of the United States! Around the country in 17 months (we took some detours on the way) and what’s next? Well, I do have another series coming up that will start on July 1st. Until then I’ll be wrapping up loose ends on some other projects. But this isn’t the last you’ll hear of our 50 Shots!

50 Shots of America–Alaska


East Meets EastI think it’s safe to say that more people know more about Alaska these days (thanks to shows like Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush Alaska and, of course, the Palin family escapades in and out of the political arena) than they ever did when all we had was Northern Exposure, Jack London and the Iditarod to shape our opinions of the 49th state.

Back in Middle School (you may know of it as Junior High), we had a transfer student from Alaska and the one thing I remember her saying, difference-wise between there and here was that she was shocked at the number of single-story houses, here. Apparently two-story was the norm in her Alaskan town and the cost of living was much lower. Whether that was truly the case (we’re talking about the observations of 13-year-olds, here) it certainly isn’t now. But it’s what sticks as my co-earliest memory of the state.

It’s pair is one is one of the very (very) few things I retained from any sort of American History class–that the territory (purchased from Russia in 1867 at pennies per acre) was known, colloquially, as Seward’s Folly. Of course, once gold was discovered in Alaska (the big Klondike rush in 1896), the tune changed dramatically, though it wasn’t until January 3, 1959, that the Land of the Midnight Sun achieved statehood.

East Meets East

1 0z Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
3/4 oz Sake
Crushed Ice

Combine the vodka, juice and sake over ice in a mixing glass. Shake vigorously, until the mixture resembles the icy tundra. Fill a small, chilled glass 3/4 full of crushed ice. Strain the cocktail over the fresh ice.

Why the 2 batches of ice? If you shake a drink with crushed ice, the amount of water you’re adding (i.e. dilution) will be greater and the ice will be “tired” when it’s time to sip your drink. If you don’t have an ice crusher, skip the blender and put some cubes in a clean flour-sack towel and beat it with your muddler or a rolling pin until the ice reaches the level of crush you desire.

This drink is a little larger than some of the “shots” I’ve featured in this series, but for the biggest state in the nation it seemed appropriate. Due to said size and the eastward spread of the Aleutian Islands, it’s both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States. Obviously it’s also the northernmost state. The flavor influence of the drink is a nod to the early Russian settlers as well as the Japanese that occupied the aforementioned Aleutian Islands during WWII.

The pomegranate, though, was pure fancy on my part. The long stretches of darkness and light (polar night and midnight sun, respectively) that Alaska encounters made me think of the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds. It adds color, flavor and balance to the vodka and sake mix.

50 Shots of America–Arizona


Copper TopAs with much of the southwest, what is now known as Arizona was first claimed by Spain, and then Mexico, before becoming known as Alta California. After that it was all kinds of shuffling as the CSA and USA differed on what to call it and where it’s boundaries really were, ending once and for all when it became the 48th state on February 14, 1912–do you think Oregon was jealous?

The Grand Canyon State wasn’t a popular place to live (unless you were in copper mining or cotton) until after World War II. What made the difference? Air conditioning. Suddenly that “dry heat” was much more bearable and became quite the place, mid-century, to retire to and escape those harsh winters of the Northeast and upper Midwest. Though now the state’s popularity is putting a strain on the water reserves–guess the monsoons of the winter and summer just aren’t enough to keep the water table up!

Another thing Arizona has in common with Florida (the first being a major retiree population)? It’s the home of the Cactus League, hosting more than a dozen MLB teams for spring training every year (in Florida it’s the Grapefruit League).

Copper Top

3/4 oz Gold Tequila
3/4 oz Orange Juice
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur

Combine all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and shake like your serving drinks after dark in the darkest saloon in Tombstone. Strain into a chilled cordial glass–it’s hot out there!–and sip away your fears.

It makes sense that The Copper State has it in abundance–even the state Capitol building has a dome on it made with enough copper to make almost 5 million pennies! And I’m not sure if the state still produces citrus like they used to, but past is present when it comes to cocktails. I’d suggest using a Cointreau or Grand Marnier in this recipe–you want the smoothness that regular Triple Sec is not exactly known for, especially in such a small drink.

Early in its history, Arizona’s economy relied on the “five C’s”: copper (see Copper mining in Arizona), cotton, cattle, citrus, and climate (tourism).

50 Shots of America–New Mexico


Because for the 47th state, OLD Mexico just wouldn’t do… (mostly because of it’s being a separate country and all…)


With a Smarty Spice Cocktailname like New Mexico, it’s not dangerous to assume that the Land of Enchantment once belonged to Mexico. Inhabited early on by the Navajo and Pueblo Indians (and others), it was 16th century Spanish explorer searching for riches to rival Mexico’s Aztec treasures who named the territory, a name that would stick with it as it became a state on January 6, 1912.

Fast forward to the war years and the state’s wide open spaces made it an ideal testing ground for things like the first atomic bomb and mining crude oil and natural gas. But it’s not all bombs and bunkers; New Mexico has a thriving arts scene reflecting local and international influences.

Smarty Spice

1 slice Jalapeño Pepper
1/4 wedge Lime
splash Club Soda
1 1/4 oz Silver Tequila
1/4 oz Blue Curacao

Muddle the pepper (remove the the seeds and membrane if you want to tone down the spiciness a touch), lime and club soda in the bottom of a mixing glass until the lime is well juiced. Fill the glass with ice, add in the tequila and curacao and shake like a maraca! Strain into a chilled cordial glass enjoy.

Between it’s low population density and high percentage of military and aeronautical careers, New Mexico has the highest concentration of PhD-holders than any other state. One New Mexican City, Hatch, is known as the Green Chile Capital of the World. And, seeing as they share a name and a section of border with Mexico, tequila just seemed the most fitting base. The curacao, though, is mostly for color–it comes pretty close to the state stone’s turquoise hue.

Now, just one word of caution: if you suddenly start seeing UFOs, check to see how many Smarty Spice’s you’ve had before calling the papers; chances are the more you drink, the less smart even the smartest of us become.

50 Shots of America–Oklahoma


The countdown has now begun, folks, as we’re making our way through the final 5 in our cocktail tour of the United States we’re also just now getting to the territories that reached statehood in the twentieth century!


Sooner Twist Than Shout cocktailOOOOOOOOOk-lahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains… (C’mon, tell me that’s not the first thing you do when you hear Oklahoma. It is the state song, after all, so I guess it’s meant to be just that memorable.)

Originally the Indian Territory–home to both native settlements as well as where the displaced tribes of the southeast were packed off to via the Trail of Tears–it didn’t take long (less than 30 years) before cattle trains between Texas and Kansas began making regular runs through there and the US decided, hey, we might want that territory for our use after all. First they subdivided and shrank the Native American lands and then they just started giving the rest away to anyone who could show up at the appointed day and time of the Land Run.

In fact, that’s where the state nickname originated: a “sooner” was someone who crossed into the not-quite-available territory before the allotted time, generally to stake out the choicer claims for themselves. Sooners became known as go-getters and ambitious folk… guess it does sound better than “sneakers.”

Of course, this was all before statehood was granted (that didn’t happen until November 18, 1907).

But, hey, it’s not like the early days of the Oklahoma Territory were anything different than any other settled area we managed to grow into, right? And the way I see it, we all have our fair share of karma from those decisions. Those plains-sweeping winds can just as easily be tornadoes as they could gentle spring breezes is all I’m saying.

Sooner Twist Than Shout

1/2 oz Dry Gin
1 1/2 oz Beer
1/4 oz Lime Juice
Coffee liqueur

Combine the gin, beer and lime juice over ice in a shaker and whirl it around like a truck in a tornado. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

To add the coffee liqueur to the bottom of the glass, draw the liqueur into a straw or pipette and hold it in place, put the full end of the straw at the bottom of the glass and release. You may have to tap or bounce the straw a bit to relative gravity issues, but it’s worth it–not only for the look of the cocktail but the tiny bit of sweet coffee that finishes the drink is an amazing finish to an otherwise tart cocktail.

Like Florida, Oklahoma has got quite the panhandle going for it and their panhandle is full to the brim with pinyon pines and others of that resinous ilk. Pine makes me think gin and this time I wanted a twist (get it? do I have to explain all of my cues and puns by now? we’re on cocktail #46, here!) on the classic gin and tonic, using good old American beer instead of tonic water (OK ranks 5th in wheat production).

With oil representing such a boon to the state’s early and continued economy (they have an active oil well on the grounds of the state capitol!), I wanted to make sure it was represented in the drink, as well.

Whether you serve this with the state meal or not–yes, they have one–of barbecue pork, chicken fried steak, biscuits, sausage and gravy, fried okra, squash, corn, grits, black-eyed peas, cornbread, strawberries, and pecan pie–it’s a great drink the end a long day. Just wait until after you pull off Route 66 before consuming any alcoholic beverages–we want us all to get to state #50 in one piece.