AlcoHOLidays | Carnival & Mardi Gras | King’s Cup


King's Cup Cocktail for Carnival (aka Mardi Gras)

Following right on the heels of the Christmas season–when most people are beginning to experience the post-holiday doldrums–certain parts of the world have one thing in mind: continuing the party.

For most areas, Carnival starts somewhere between January 6th (Twelfth Night or the Feast of Epiphany) and just before Lent, flowing merrily onward for a month or more, culminating in Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (I know a lot of people refer to the entire festival as Mardi Gras, and I suppose these days it’s not entirely wrong to do so, but technically Mardi=Tuesday Gras=Fat or thereabouts, so take what you will from it), the last day of feasting and indulgence before the aforementioned Lent begins with it’s fasting and restrictions.

Regardless of the extent of debauchery that an area’s Carnival parties may or may not have, the prevailing goal is truly to eat, drink, and be merry–since rich meats, fat, and sugar are traditionally prohibited during Lenten observances that follow. In some lower-key celebrations, like Shrovetide, pancake flips are a common party-theme. The celebrations I’m most familiar with, though, include rich seafood dishes, the meat and cheese-filled muffuletta sandwiches, and King cakes decorated in green, gold, and purple (colors symbolizing faith, power, and justice, respectively).

Because Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, and Easter is a movable holiday, the exact date of Fat Tuesday also varies from year to year but usually falls at some point during February. In 2013, Fat Tuesday falls on February 12th.

And, yes, while most people in the United States consider New Orleans the place to be for Mardi Gras, it’s American seat is actually Mobile, Alabama (and their celebrations start in November!). Of course Mobile was originally settled as the capital of French Louisiana, so the state still has ample claim to the tradition.

When it comes to a Carnival cocktail, there are plenty to choose from. Hurricanes, made famous (or, perhaps, infamous) by Pat O’Briens, make a great party punch for this time of year. And then there’s the Absinthe-laced Sazerac, born in New Orleans.

But you know I can do more than just post a cocktail everyone else has already seen, right?

So I set out to concoct something on the savory side, a foil to some of the sugar-laden goodness that the holidays are known for, and kept going back to the muffuletta sandwich. Those savory flavors have formed the basis of today’s cocktail,

The King’s Cup

1 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Galliano
1/4 oz Agwa de Bolivia
1 barspoon Garlic-infused Olive Oil
splash Olive Juice

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass half-full of ice and shake like you’re trying to get a Krewe-members attention. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a spear of 3 olives (or one large olive, preferrably stuffed with blue cheese).

The King’s Cup takes the idea of the dirty martini and turns it on its ear. After all, the muffuletta is just an Italian sub sandwich until you add the amazing olive salad, redolent with garlic.  Yes, I’m serious about the garlic-infused olive oil–it’s fabulous to cook with, so you won’t have to worry about it going to waste, the garlic flavor is pronounced but not overpowering and the oil gives the drink a velvety smoothness. The grapefruit juice keeps the gin and herbaceous liqueurs from making the drink overly strong without sweetening it up too much.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!*


And we’re back! Thank you all for your patience while Sips & Shots (and the rest of the Helper Monkey Network) took a much needed break during January. A lot of the work we did was behind-the-scenes, but if you read these posts in a feed reader, you might want to head on over to Sips & Shots and take a gander at the front-of-the-house sprucing-up that has gone on, too! As always, we welcome your feedback and hope you’ll share the posts you like with family and friends.

*(That’s “Let the good times roll” for those who don’t speak Carnival!)

Introducing: AGWA de Bolivia


AGWA de Bolivia banner
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of press releases from different companies running contests or touting new or improved alcohols and I’m thrilled to be able to share then with you guys. Don’t worry, though, I won’t be turning this into an announcement list for beverage distributors–we’re going to be pretty choosy about what makes it through the gate.

One bit of news that did catch my eye was about the new liqueur, AGWA de Bolivia. Not going to lie, what made me sit up and take notice was the fact that this liqueur is distilled from Coca leaves.

Yes, really, those coca leaves.

A few years back I picked up a book that looked interesting, mostly because I misread the title as I wandered through the bookstore. What I though was about Native American medicine (thinking medicine wheel or trail of tears sort of thing) turned out to be about alternative/natural medicines among various ancient cultures spread out around the world. And while the author did spend quite a bit of time searching for and describing the potential of a Viagra-substitute, the book was an interesting read and featured a bit about the importance of coca to the Peruvian culture.

And, of course, being from the South we all know about coca being part of the original Coca-Cola.

But back to the topic of the day! AGWA de Bolivia is a coca leaf liqueur (along with over 30 other herbs) but before anything else happens, the leaves are decocainized. I didn’t know that was a process, either, but I suppose it’s like decaffeinating coffee beans or tea leaves. And, really, it’s not like it’d be allowed in this country if it were truly laced with cocaine, right?

The same folks who kindly offered to send me a sample of this new liqueur also included a few starter recipes to try it out.

Trio of Agwa de Bolivia applications

The 3 AGWA-migos!

First I tried the Bolivian Kiss–it’s a simple 1-2 punch of bite the lime, take the shot. Only I don’t really see the point in shooting alcohol: it want to taste what I’m drinking, not get drunk. So the shot? Not so much. But the flavor combination of the lime and the AGWA was quite refreshing. On the agwabuzz website they also have a recipe for the AGWA Fresca and I’ll bet it’s delicious with the lime and soda water.

Next up was the Red Devil: AGWA and Cranberry. Todd and I both found this one to be surprisingly good. I mean, cranberry gets mixed with a lot of different alcohols and does pretty well, but on it’s own the juice can be a little thin, a little sharp, and very tart. It’s cranberry, after all. But add about an ounce of AGWA? Totally different story! The AGWA doesn’t assert itself over the cranberry, it blends together and creates this warm, soft, round flavor and feel–even on the rocks. This one we will be trying again.

Finally it was time to test the recipe that really made me curious from the original information: the Green Angel. It has two ingredients I dearly love–gin and limoncello–so I knew we had to give it a whirl.

The Green Angel

4 large Basil leaves
1/2 oz Limoncello
1 1/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz AGWA de Bolivia
3/4 oz Apple juice
Lime and Vanilla sugar for garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, bruise the basil leaves into the limoncello with a muddler. Fill the mixing glass half-full of ice and stir to coat with the limoncello. Strain off the limoncello and add the gin, AGWA de Bolivia and apple juice to the mixing glass. Shake like your attempting lift off and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with vanilla sugar.

I adjusted their recipe a little–converted it from milliliters to ounces, muddled the basil with the limoncello rather than just stirring it around (and using only half of what they called for since I had huge basil leaves), and I shook it instead of stirring. It’s a preference thing.

The Green Angel reminds me of these little candies a friend gave me back in high school. They were French rosewater sugar drops with a little bit of licorice in the center. This cocktail has almost an anise touch to it–Todd said it reminded him of the monkey-face licorice we got back in Nebraska–but I don’t know that there’s any licorice actually in there, it’s just the first impression we each got. The lemon and basil are subtle, the gin in pretty good accord with the AGWA and the apple adds enough sweet to balance out the herbal notes from both alcohols. Not as sweet as I thought it would be, but a very tasty libation.

The Red Devil was obviously our favorite. If you’d like to give it a try you can find out who in your area is likely to carry AGWA de Bolivia (if you’re lucky enough to have a BevMo, try there first) at

Oh! And an aside about the limoncello. For the love of lemons do not just pour out the limoncello and discard it! The hint of basil in the limoncello adds an amazing depth of flavor. In fact, I’d even suggest giving it a try on purpose.

FCC Disclaimer: If it isn’t already obvious, I was provided with samples of the product to try. The rambling opinions are entirely my own.