46 | Build Your Own Phrasebook

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing exploration of The 64 Arts.

While it’d be great to be fluent in as many languages as possible, the reality is we either don’t make the time to do so or might not even have the luxury of learning much at all if an impromptu trip comes up. Whether you’re still learning or in a hurry, compiling your own phrasebook will be more beneficial than trying to flip through a larger one you can pick up in the bookstore or download to your smartphone.

Not only will it be a customized cheat-sheet, writing or typing it out will help it stick in your memory better.

Greetings and Politeness:

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Excuse Me
  • Please
  • Thank You
  • Ma’am
  • Sir

It’s worth looking up if there are formal and informal versions of any of the above–you don’t want to go acting too chummy with the wrong person and cause an international incident! Same goes for the male/female versions in some languages.

Food and Shelter:

  • Hotel
  • House
  • Restaurant
  • Bathroom
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Sandwich
  • Soup
  • Eggs
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Soda
  • Dessert

Obviously specific names of places and dishes will be part of your itinerary and you’ll have those close at hand, but if you find yourself stuck those words should at least get you through a rough patch.

Good to Know:

  • Police
  • Hospital
  • Fire
  • Help
  • Doctor/Nurse
  • Pharmacy
  • Medicine
  • Currency

While not strictly a language issue, it also wouldn’t hurt to take note of the current exchange rate between your home currency and your destination. Keeping that in mind (or maybe having an app handy) could prevent you making a costly mistake at the market. Tipping practices and other customs–while, again, not specifically language-related–are good things to scout out before you go.

We live in a global world. Travel can’t just be about our own wants and desires, we have to take our destination in mind. In scouting and other outdoorsy groups it’s often said to leave the space how you found it, if not better. By being able to communicate well and observe local customs with grace, you may just leave those you encounter with a better impression of your country than they had before. At the very least, let’s not make it worse, shall we?!

Anything else you can think of that my short lists above don’t cover but need to? And even though this is meant for foreign languages, remember that not all English-speaking countries use the language the same way. Good thing we’ll be moving onto slang shortly!

Review | KAPPA Pisco



If you are a cocktail enthusiast (which you must be if you’re hanging around here, right?) you’ve probably at least heard of that classic drink, the Pisco Sour. You may have even browsed the recipe, thinking it was something you’d like to try, only to pull up sort when you saw it requires a raw egg white.

Before you think me cavalier on the subject, I consider food-born illness pretty high on the list of things to avoid. Memories of my Safety & Sanitation class are still vividly imprinted on my brain, even though it’s been almost 15 years! Salmonella is the bacterial baddie that could be in a raw egg, but the chances of that happening with a properly processed and stored egg is about 1 in 20,000 or 30,000. Hence, I have no issue at all eating the occasional raw egg white.

Granted, it’s usually in something like Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, or the occasional scoop of raw cookie dough (quality control, I assure you), but shaking one into a cocktail isn’t really that alien of a concept to me.

But plenty of classic cocktails make use of an egg white, what else is it about the Pisco Sour that makes it one of those drinks so many of the cocktail curious set skip?

Namely, the Pisco.

What is it and, more importantly, what does it taste like?

Pisco is a grape-based brandy from Peru or Chile, possibly named for the port city of the former. I was fortunate enough to receive a bottle of KAPPA Pisco from the same house that makes the fabulous Grand Marnier, Marnier-Lapostolle.

Before I get into tasting notes, can we just take a moment to admire that gorgeous bottle?! I fully admit that I’ve been known to purchase spirits for the beauty of the bottle alone, and this one is just a feast for the eyes. Apparently it’s designed by Ora-Ito (I might just have a new design crush) and at first I though the silvery sides were mirrored or some trick of a bottle within a bottle–then I realize it was just sections of clear glass letting the clear, crisp liquor shine through. It’s still a sexy as hell bottle.

When I opened said bottle I was reminded of tequila–that warm, enveloping sense of comfort that tequila evoke–but the taste is nothing like tequila. I found KAPPA Pisco both sweet and tart with a decided flavor of rosewater, like the perfumed French candies from the import stores. Todd found the flavors way too strong on its own, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how palatable it was neat.

Of course I had to try the classic sour with the KAPPA twist:


2 oz KAPPA Pisco
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 egg white

Combine KAPPA Pisco and rest of the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice.  Shake vigorously and strain into a small champagne flute.  Top with tree drops, or half dashes, of Angostura bitters (to create the shape of the Southern Cross).

And how was it?

Amazing. The lemon juice amplifies the refreshing tartness of the KAPPA and the heady floral notes are toned down–though whether from the additional citrus or the egg white I’m not sure. As for the egg white, shaking it creates a head for the cocktail somewhere between a beer’s foam and a meringue and the texture it adds to the cocktail is just wonderful. Overall, the KAPPA Sour might just become my new favorite summer cocktail!


I received a bottle of KAPPA Pisco for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The One-Two Punch


So, here it is, the Friday before Halloween, guests are due at some point over the course of the weekend and you’re still not exactly sure what beverage to serve them.

Oh, sure, there’s the usual soda and stuff, but maybe you want something a little more festive. Still, there will be kids or others who don’t drink alcohol, and you don’t want to leave them out. But you also don’t want to have to monitor two beverage stations over the course of a night, either!

Is there an easy solution to this dilemma? Absolutely.

Punch to the Rescue!

Vampire Punch with Clots

Vampire Punch, with Clots!

Early punches contained 5 ingredients–some sort of alcohol, sugar, juiced lemons, water and tea or spices–and gets it’s name from the Hindi word pañc, which means five. Has nothing to do with boxing or being so strong it knocks you on your ass. A little bit of trivia for you, there.

These days, punch can be as simple as a couple of fruit juices and a 2-liter of clear(ish) soda. Add some sherbet in a complementary color of flavor and you’ve got plenty of festive going on.

For example, for 2007’s BYOP I served the delightfully-named Vampire Punch (with Clots!). Yes, there is a raspberry sherbet “brain” bobbing around in there and the clots? They’re a package of frozen strawberries, partially thawed and stirred into the punch. Effectively gross and very tasty.

And the punch bowl? It’s a cake dome and stand! You flip the platter over and the dome settles into the stand, making a  serving bowl. It’s perfect for a medium-sized punch bowl (just add a ladle). I love items that can pull double duty without taking up more space than necessary in my kitchen!

But What About the Adults?

Not that all adults drink alcohol, but for those who do, here’s that simple solution I promised you.

Start with a basic punch base that can then be combined on a per-drink basis with the alcohol of your choice.

See, I told you it was simple.

The only sticky part is which liquor to use with the punch? But I’ve got you covered, there, too!

If Your Punch Flavor is Mostly… Think This… …and Use That!
Berry Juices
(Cranberry, Blueberry, etc.)
Gin & Cranberry
or a Fruity Martini
Gin or Vodka
Tree Fruits
(Apple, Pear,  etc.)
Mulled Cider Spiced Rum
or Brandy
Citrus Juice
(orange, lemon, lime, etc.)
Mimosas or
Sparkling Wine
or Tequila

Pineapple juice is the wild-card, of course. A pineapple-based punch could go the tropical route withe Spiced Rum but it so often hangs out with the Citrus family that Tequila wouldn’t go amiss, there, either. Use your best judgment on that one.

This Year’s Punch

For tomorrow’s party, my inspiration comes in part from the aforementioned Vampire Punch as well as the amazing Blueberry-Pomegranate Martinis we had at the Chef’s Sampler last year. Though the latter, we figured later, was probably made from a mix, we were able to recreate it after several trials (more about that in the next series, by the way).

So, tomorrow I’ll be mixing up a dispenser full of cran-pomegranate juice (much cheaper than straight pom, and when you’re serving a crown that’s important!) and blueberry juices and topping it off with ginger ale (club soda or your preferred clear soda would also do just fine, I just like the zing of ginger in there). We’re calling it Blue Blood Punch.

For those that want, I’ll be happy to put some in a shaker with ice and a shot of vanilla vodka and serve them a Blue Blood Martini for their troubles.


Have a Happy–and SAFE!–Halloween, folks! As always, drink responsibly and use a designated driver: we want you around for next year!

A Well-Stocked Bar


Cheers! This week I’m at MegaCon in Orlando, Florida, and am away from my home bar. 50 Shots of America will resume next week. Until then, I hope you’ll find the following enlightening–it’s long, but for good reason.

The Basic Spirits

To make a wide variety of drinks, a bar stocked with a bottle each of Gin, Vodka, Rum, Whiskey, Tequila and Brandy. You don’t have to go out and buy all of them at once. If you’re still in the process of building up your stock, choose a particular cocktail to serve at each gathering, and use the opportunity to add another basic to your bar. Scotch isn’t used as much in mixing drinks, but it’s another good one to have on hand.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, you might want to add some variety in your vodkas and rums. Vanilla vodka is exceptionally good in sweet drinks and there are plenty of flavored vodkas on the market–the only problem is picking which ones you think you’ll like! Rums come in white, dark, golden and spiced, each with their own applications. Once you’ve managed to get those basics down, you can also moved into the flavored varieties; coconut and pineapple are especially nice.


Liquor is only the beginning of a cocktail. A lot of variety can be achieved with just a few liqueurs to add to a vodka or rum base. Used in smaller quantities, these bottles can last a while (as long as you don’t leave the caps off! Alcohol evaporates, after all, and while speed pour tips may look professional they’ll cost you in the long run with the shrinkage of your stock). Triple Sec (an orange liqueur) is one of the first you’re likely to want, though you should consider the more specific Cointreau if your budget allows as the latter is smoother and less overpowering in a cocktail.

Schnapps can be found in many flavors, with peach and butterscotch being two of the more popular–and tasty–options you should lay in as soon as possible. A good chocolate liqueur is nice to have, along with a coffee liqueur and an Irish Cream (not a schnapp–is there a singular for schnapps?–but it goes best here; just buy some!).

Vermouth, a fortified wine (the others are distilled from liquors) is integral to making a classic martini. It comes in both dry and sweet varieties, the former more common these days.

Bitters, also available in several forms, are misnamed. They do not add an unpleasant taste to a drink, instead they smooth out the other flavors. Angostura and Peychaud are two you should look for. It comes in small bottles with an equally small price tag. Since you only use a few drops per drink they will easily last for ages!


So we’ve covered hard liquor and liqueurs, the last component to most drinks I make is a good dose of a non-alcoholic mixer. I enjoy the flavors that come from the booze, but I don’t want to be knocked over the head by the fumes or have my mouth burn from an imbalanced drink. Know what I mean?

Of course, since most cocktails are small, opening a 2 liter of soda or half gallon of juice for just a couple of ounces can lead to a lot of waste if you don’t drink those things often (we don’t, most nights we drink water that we keep in the fridge–just refill it when empty and move onto the next cold one, lol) or a very crowded fridge if you like to mix up your drink list frequently.

Instead, look around the juice and soda aisles for the tiny bottles and cans they carry, and keep these on the bar or in the pantry for whenever you need just a bit of something or another. Right now we have 12 oz (or so) bottles of apple, cranberry and orange juice along with 6 oz cans of pineapple, pink grapefruit, mango, peach and tomato juice. Again, the trick to not breaking the bank is to stock up gradually and then, as items are used, pick up replacements.

Sodas are also a popular mixer and we usually keep a 12-pack of caffeine free Coke classic and Sprite. Since I don’t drink soda often, these 12-packs last AGES and are tucked away on the bottom of a bookcase we have near the bar to hold just this sort of thing (along with extra glasses, liqueur overflow and bar books). Ginger Ale, Tonic Water and Club Soda can be found in both liter bottles (fairly handy) or cans and small bottles. An excellent invention for the really non-soda-drinkers among us are those wee 6-packs of the mini cans. Perfect for a single hi-ball or the like.


This is one thing I don’t often do at home. For parties? Yes. But usually I don’t worry about garnishes when I’m testing a recipe or just mixing up something for me. Still, having bottles of martini olives, onions and maraschino cherries in the fridge can come in handy when you want to go all out. Lemons and Limes (both for muddling and garnishing) should be chosen for their blemish-free rinds and even color. A small, green-skinned lime is much better than a big lime with brown spots on it, no?

So, to sum up this slightly epic (in length, if nothing else) post:

  1. Cover your basic spirits
  2. Add variety and specialty items slowly
  3. Buy mixers in small, non-perishable forms