AlcoHOLidays | Banana Cream Pie Day | Banana Cream-Tini


Banana Cream Pie-inspired Martini against a striped yellow background, copyright 2013 Jennifer "Scraps" Walker, Sips & Shots

You gotta love it when the holidays lend themselves so easily to a cocktail, right?

March 2 is Banana Cream Pie Day and I’m having trouble coming up with any objections to such a day existing. Banana pies and banana cream custards go back to the late-1800s, but the first written record specifically for the banana cream pie is found in 1906, courtesy of The Blue Ribbon Cook Book. Every pie maven surely has their own version of the pie these days, a favorite for pot lucks and spring holidays, and there are plenty of cocktail versions around, too.

Of course, I wanted to play around and come up with my own.

Banana Cream-Tini

2 oz Coconut Milk
1 oz Banana Liqueur
3/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/4 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake until rich and frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

We’ve been using a lot of coconut milk in our house, lately, and had a hunch that it would give this drink a richer feel and flavor than regular milk without being as cloying as sweetened condensed milk or even Irish Cream would have been. My hunch proved correct and this is a delightful twist on the original. The coconut milk makes for a very opaque cocktail, of course, so this is a perfect candidate for serving in something decorative.

Garnish for a cocktail like this is tough. Banana would be the obvious choice but there’s little more unappealing (!) than a browning banana slice resting on the rim of your glass. While most banana cream pies are poured into a standard pastry crust that have been baked blind (unfilled), I suppose you could take a half-step to the left and rim your glass with graham cracker crumbs. Some demerara sugar might make a nice rim, too, come to think of it.

Bottom line, making a banana cream pie takes some effort. This cocktail? All the flavor and less than a minute of real work.

Not such a tough decision, is it?


Cosmic Cocktails | Aquarius | The Bleeding Heart


As we wind down our trip through the cocktail cosmos, we come to our next-t0-last sign: Aquarius.

The Bleeding Heart, Aquarian Cocktail

Symbolized by the water-bearer, Aquarians often find themselves happiest when helping others–both in face-to-face, person-to-person encounters as well as large-scale humanitarian efforts that benefit many. They also tend to be incredibly idealistic, but with follow-through: eschewing businesses that employ third-world factory labor, for instance, or even those without corporate recycling programs. With this idealism can come a rigidity, though, that we wouldn’t normally expect in an air sign.

What is in line with their air-sign brethren is the propensity to do their own thing, society be damned. Often ahead of the curve, if you find an Aquarian you click with on something, watch them! They will spot trends and spout truths yet to be proven and be off on the next thing by the time it catches on. But you have to be quick, our Aqua slips down that stream of consciousness and keeps moving right along.

Loyal friends, once you’re in sync with an Aqua you can count on them for life. They are often strikingly handsome, though not always in a conventional sense, and often so likable, even if you don’t agree with anything they say. “New Age” medicine is much more their speed, when ill, than the more Westernized “there’s a pill for that” theory, even to following not-exactly-legal sorts or regimens.

Now, if you happen to be born between January 21st and February 18th and do not recognize yourself in the above, have no fear. Probably the most over-riding feature of Aquarius is their different-ness. Not just from all the other signs, but within the sign, from member to member. It’s not even a matter of being outwardly quirky, sometimes the individuality is more subtle, in a can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it way.

The Bleeding Heart

2 oz Vodka
1 1/4 oz Banana Liqueur (like 99 Bananas)
1/4 oz Creme de Menthe (clear)
2 oz Club Soda
1/8 oz Grenadine

Combine vodka and the liqueurs in a mixing glass over ice and shake until icy. Stir in the club soda, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Pour the grenadine (preferably homemade or locally-sourced) over the back of a bar spoon or add with an eye-dropper. Swirl just before ready to drink.

I mean bleeding heart in the best possible sense, of course, but you probably already figured that out.

Making your own grenadine is not tough at all (equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar, cook until sugar dissolves and the mixture reduces by half–simmer slow or you’ll end up with more of a brown mixture–and a splash of orange flower water to finish) and worth it, especially if you like Shirley Temples and other non-cocktails.

This drink might sound a little bananas, but it’s bracing, gets straight to the point, and is definitely ahead of it’s time. Strong-willed, too.


Dreaming of a Tropical New Year


tangerine dream cocktail

Because you can always dream, right?

This week’s alphatini called for something fit to a tee–and I began thinking Tangerine.

Namely, the tangerine liqueur we picked up in Roatan on our last cruise (which has been far too far in the past). A Dreamsicle martini would be the easy route, but since I was thinking tropical, I figured the tangerine could use a few friends to make nice with in the glass.

Tangerine Dream

1.5 oz Heavy Cream
1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Tangerine Liqueur
1/2 oz Pineapple Rum
1/4 oz Banana Liqueur
garnish: citrus peel

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice and make like your in a mini Conga-line for a moment or three. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a twist of whatever citrus you can get your mits on, and dream of your next vacation.

Yes, you can substitute a high-quality citrus liqueur like Cointreau if you don’t have any tangerine liqueur handy.

It may well be 2 years before my next cruise getaway (the honeymoon counter is ticking, folks), but until then I can sip this and remember the leisurely days from my last trip.


A Little Change of Plans


So, this week we were supposed to all be surprised with the fabulous E-Alphatini, right?

Yeah, about that, I’ve discovered my deadline for the cookbook project is coming up fast so a lot of my blogging time is taking a backseat for the month of August so I can get some serious, sloggy, un-fun data entry done.

In the mean time, why not make up a batch or two of this drink that was previously posted as part of a Food & Game Pairing over on What to Feed Your Raiding Party.

You sip, I’ll type, and we’ll all meet back here in 4 weeks to solve the mystery of the E-Alphatini!

Summer Monkey

1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Peach Schnapps
1 oz Banana Liqueur
Ginger ale

Combine the juice and liqueurs in a tall glass (highball, pint glass or even a hurricane will do) and stir to combine. Fill the glass 3/4 full with ice and fill will ginger ale. Stir with a straw and serve. Optionally, garnish with pineapple.


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!