AlcoHOLidays | Memorial Day | Kilbeggan Waterwheel



***This post has been sponsored by Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey; a sample was received in consideration for Tuesday’s review as well as today’s recipe share. Other than that, no further compensation has been received and the opinions expressed below are entirely that of the author. No further affiliation with Kilbeggan Distillery is being claimed. And now with that out of the way…***

Memorial Day. Unofficial start to summer. Reason for barbecues and pool parties across the nation. Last 3-day-weekend until Labor Day. Excuse for car lots to piggy-back yet another tent sale with the waving of the red, white, and blue.

‘Oh, yeah, and military stuff, too.’

At least that’s what it appears to mean to most.

Starting after the Civil War, Decoration Day has a fuzzy beginning with several cities claiming first rights–though decorating soldiers’ graves goes back farther than our War Between the States–on both the North and South sides of history. The dates observed were varied, as well, with May 30th being the common date in the North and, gradually, the rest of the country. It wasn’t until that 1967 act that normalized a bunch of holidays into their nearest Mondays, creating those beloved 3-day weekends, that Memorial Day shifted from May 30th to the last Monday in May (though it took a few years to be put into practice).

Granted, if you’ve never lost a friend or family member while they served in the Armed Forces, chances are this holiday might have less personal significance to you, but as a nation it’s a time when we attempt to honor those who died in service and a sense of nationalism overall. For some, this means visiting a relative’s grave and placing a flag or flowers thereupon. Others volunteer to beautify all service-member graves, relatives or not, as a show of thanks for their sacrifice. While others might be more inclined to reminisce with those nearest, some solemnly, others more in the style of an Irish wake.

Or at least that’s how I’m going to segue into today’s cocktail, contributed by Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.

Kilbeggan Waterwheel
Recipe By Darren McGettigan, resident mixologist at Bar Beoga of the Menlo Park Hotel

1 1/4 ounces Kilbeggan® Irish Whiskey
2 1/2 ounces Pressed Apple Juice
1 1/4 ounces Pressed Pineapple Juice
6 Fresh Blueberries
1 Dash of Cherry Bitters
1 Bar Spoon of White Sugar
additional blueberries for garnish

In a Boston shaker, add blueberries and sugar, muddle hard. Fill the shaker with ice, and add all other ingredients. Shake well, and double strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with blueberries on a cocktail pick.

I can easily see this multiplied in a frosty pitcher to serve to your barbecue guests both on Memorial Day as well as the rest of your summer events. I’d skip the straining, obviously, and leave the bits of blueberries to float around for color, or freeze some blueberries to use as “ice cubes” to keep the drinks cool without further diluting it.

However you choose to observe this national holiday, please remember to do so responsibly and to use a designated driver or call a cab rather than risk some other sort of memorial being required. If you catch my drift.


AlcoHOLidays | Thanksgiving | Berry-Cran Cobbler


Berry-Cran Cobbler Cocktail for Thanksgiving

Growing up, Mom made no bones about Thanksgiving being her favorite holiday. Trips home to see family were in November, not December, and featured large gatherings of family and friends, food served buffet-style on every flat surface available, and (one memorable year) plates that were actually Chinet platters, because a normal plate wouldn’t come close to holding a little bit of everything available.

These days Thanksgiving is often relegated to the back-burner for many. Merely a carbo-load before Black Friday shopping begins (this year some stores are starting Thursday night, even).

Despite some of the more inauspicious beginnings of Thanksgiving (similar to the controversy surrounding Columbus Day), Thanksgiving is still widely celebrated throughout the United States on the fourth Thursday in November. Menus vary depending on your family’s heritage or adopted traditions, though turkey with all the trimmings is considered the norm. What makes this turkey dinner different from any other?

Cranberry Sauce

Sure, you can buy canned cranberry sauce year-round, but you can roast poultry year round, too. Cranberry sauce is just one of those things we don’t seem to buy much of (or make) except for Thanksgiving.

Berry-Cran Cobbler

1 Tbsp Dried Cranberries
1 oz Simple Syrup
1 1/2 oz Spiced Rum
3 Tbsp Raspberries & Blueberries
Crushed Ice
Cranberry Juice
Sprig of Mint

Muddle the dried cranberries and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the rum, fresh berries, and then crushed ice to the 3/4 mark on the glass and shake until nice and frothy. Dump the whole thing into a glass, add more ice (if needed), and fill with cranberry juice.  Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw.

Even though cobblers are traditionally made with sherry or other fortified wines, I thought rum better fit the feeling I was going for. The fresh berries should break up a bit during shaking and the cobbler is one of the few drinks that is served with the shaking ice rather than straining over fresh. It’s a fun sort of throw-back drink for a fun sort of throw-back holiday. It’s very sweet, so if you want something lighter, split the shaken mixture between two glasses and use more cranberry juice to thin it.

To be totally candid…

There’s a lot of crap going on in society today–Mother Nature is obviously not. pleased. with us, jobs are still scarce for many, and some people still insist on being grade-A asshats just because they feel like it. But in the face of all of that, we still have a lot to be thankful for. I’m not going to make you confess your gratitude. (Hey, if what you’re most thankful for today is your morning coffee, your earbuds to drown out an annoying co-worker, and the 30%-off coupon you’ve got for Kohls, you shouldn’t have to feel bad for standing next to the guy whose thankful his cancer’s in remission–we don’t judge, here. Be happy for you both.) But whatever you raise your glass to this coming week, I hope you have a good one.


50 Shots of America–Maine

Bitter Berry

Have a drink with Louie the Lobster (a leftover party favor from my 30th birthday party where he and his buddies were Crawfish Impersonators--it was a Bayou-themed party)

The Pine Tree State became the 23rd state of the Union on March 15, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise in order to balance the number of slave and free states. Before that, Maine was part of Massachusetts.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, was a native of Maine and wrote one of my favorite poems ever (and I’m not much for poetry)

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light!

It described me well, then, when I first read it in high school and still fits pretty well. Anyone who “likes to stay busy,” sometimes to the point of exhaustion, can probably relate.

She isn’t, of course, the only poet or author or “somebody” to live in or be from Maine, (the list is long and includes Stephen King, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Andrew Wyeth, Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Dempsey, and a whole bunch of folks whose names I don’t recognize but probably should) but she’s probably my favorite so far.

Bitter Berry

3/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Blueberry-infused Vanilla Vodka*
1 drop Angostura Bitters

*Soak a heaping tablespoon of dried blueberries in 4 oz Vanilla Vodka for a minimum of 2 hours. Muddling some of the berries increases the finished flavor.

Combine over ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cordial glass and garnish with three of the plumped blueberries on a toothpick.

I normally don’t go for garnishes on these little drinks but the blueberries are significant as well as the toothpick itself: Maine is the main exporter of both blueberries and toothpicks, producing 20 million of the latter each day at the Strong Wood Products in Strong, Maine.

And don’t be fooled by the name–this drink isn’t actually bitter. Tart, yes, with a strong flavor from the gin, alone, but Bitters tend to enhance and warm the flavor of a drink. Plus, there’s a common ingredient between Angostura Bitters and the state beverage, Moxie: gentian root. I would have named the drink Wild Moxie but the company sued a neighboring state’s soda company for infringement for having the name Modox–I’m just not going to go there!