Paging Professor X to the Cocktail Bar…


X-Ray Specs Cocktail

Alphabetical series always have a few trouble spots and X is a biggie. I suppose I could have gone for something musical with a xylophone-inspired cocktail, but I opted to go with the other tried-and-true x-answer: x-ray.

There’s seldom, if ever, a good reason to go in for an x-ray–it’s almost always for a broken this or a not-working that–but we’re not talking fractures, today. Nope, we’re taking a slightly different sort of look inside, this time into your mind.

Two X-people immediately spring to mind (not ex-people, as in no longer around, necessarily, but x-people as in their names are the only x’s I can ever remember): Xavier Roberts and Charles Xavier. And while a friend and I did stumble upon possibly the most inappropriate memorabilia in the gift shop of the former (I mean, really, whose idea was the Cabbage Patch Museum’s shot glasses, hmmm?), I think we’ll go with Professor X, of comic book fame, for this week’s inspiration.

Thanks to the glut of comic book movies that have made their way to the big screen in recent years you don’t have to get anywhere near a comics shop to know that Professor X is the telepathic head of the mutants who try and stay just this side of the law and hope for equality and acceptance with the rest of mankind. And the Professor isn’t just your average side-show (or reality-show) mind-reader; no, his powers pack quite the wallop.

Just like this week’s Alphatini.

X-Ray Specs

1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Raspberry Liqueur
garnish: lemon slice

Combine the gin, vermouth, lemon juice and raspberry liqueur in a glass over ice and shake with all the power of your mind–or arms, for us non-mutants–until cold as steel. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a center-cut slice of lemon.

A few notes: the London Dry Gin is a nod, of course, to the wonderful Jean Luc Picard Patrick Stewart who plays Professor X in the first few X-Men movies. The lemon wheel, with it’s spokes, is a blatant homage to his wheelchair. The rest of the drink is overall dry with a bit of sweet. Because even if you are fighting both misguided mutant supremacists and the scared masses of humanity, I’d like to think you find at least a little time for fun so you don’t burn out.

Just don’t have to many of them, or I can’t vouch for the state of your mind the next morning.

(And for those who might be curious, a single X-Ray Spec comes in at a mere 165 calories.)

Dreaming of Summer

Watermelon Crawl Martini

Watermelon Crawl Martini

Or, well, at least the foods of summer.

Especially watermelon.

It was all I could think of when I saw that this week’s Alphatini was to be w-inspired and, despite the unseasonableness of the craving it just would not be stopped!

Now, true, our summers aren’t exactly the most pleasant and, despite my cold-natured body I do prefer being able to start a fire or put on a sweater rather than sweltering (or running up the utility bill with constant a/c runnage). So I’ll happily settle for this light and fruity cocktail version of summer in a glass.

Watermelon Crawl

1 1/2 oz Watermelon Pucker
1 oz Vanilla Vodka
3/4 oz Apple Juice
garnish: salt and black sugar

Combine liqueur, vodka and juice over ice and shake it like a watermelon queen who just won her first crown. Strain into a cocktail glass that’s been rimmed with a mixture of sea salt and black-tinted sugar.

But wait, didn’t you once say

This Will Never Do...

Yes, yes I did. But as it’s not at all unusual, at least where I’m from, to put salt on slices of watermelon. So this time I’m making an exception and salting a martini rim. The black sugar (really a very dark green, as you’ll see if you get it wet) adds the look of watermelon seeds to the rim, which is a nice touch.

And if you’re not sure you’ll like the sweet and salty combo but want to keep the look of a rimmed cocktail, feel free to only rim one half of the glass.

The only other question I had as I designed and tested this cocktail, is whether the vanilla vodka would be too much. Well, watermelon pucker is pretty doggone strong and it stood up just fine to the vanilla vodka. But what was surprising is that I really liked the unflavored vodka version just as well. With regular vodka the watermelon is a bit brighter, while the vanilla blends everything together a bit more.

Either way you go, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Watermelon Crawl–unless you have too many, then it might just live up to its name!

Good Evening, Mr. Underhill


Mr Underhill's Best Cocktail

My main objective in this week’s Alphatini was a more-or-less savory cocktail; we’ve had a lot of sweet going on and it’s nice to mix things up a bit.

Pun unintended.

But we’re on the letter U and, well, I was at a bit of a loss since I’d already used my upside-down-cake inspiration.

As it so happens, though, I’ve been hard at work on What to Feed Your Raiding Party and this past weekend inspiration struck as I was inking the cover to a Lord of the Rings-style comics chapter I was reminded of the hobbits and Frodo Baggins in particular.

In the scene at the Prancing Pony he gives an alias, a Mr Underhill. And Bag End and all the rest of Hobbiton is so green and lively that is proved the perfect inspiration for a savory cocktail with a botanical base.

Mr Underhill’s Best

1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz Apple Juice
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
garnish: 3 olives

In a mixing glass half full of ice, combine the liquid ingredients and stir and time or two, plus a few more for good measure. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with some speared olives.

I’d planned to garnish it with a sprig of Rosemary from the little bush I’d bought just after Thanksgiving but, alas, my green thumb has proven non-existent once again and the poor thing didn’t make it a week past New Years. Last time I tried to keep one I over-watered it, this time I think it suffered the curse of my overcompensation (i.e. under-watering).

Now, as to the ingredients, originally I’d planned this to be an all-alcohol cocktail–hence the stirring. But on first taste the various spirits needed something than a little melt-water to make them nice and merry, so I looked to my mixer shelf to see what could work without being too sweet. Apple juice was the safest bet and I’m quite happy with the way it softens the harder edges of the individual liquors without being too bossy. You do tend to get a nice, light apple aftertaste, which is a nice finish–I think–to an otherwise bracing, savory cocktail.

It’s also a rather wee cocktail, coming in at under 3 ounces, so perfect for those trying to imbibe with moderation after, perhaps, excessive celebration the previous months.

And +10 imaginary points if you caught the Hugo Weaving crossover nod in the title of this post.

It’s Not About the Destination…


It’s about the Quest.

alternate title #1: To Shake or Stir, That is the Question

alternate title #2: A Song of Fire-water and Dice

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Brainstorming for this week’s cocktail was, as I’m sure you can imagine with ‘q’ for the letter-spiration, quite interesting. Sure, I could have gone the easy route and done a jacked-up martini version of a gin and tonic but, like I said, that would have been the easy route.

Instead, we’re going to do things a little differently, this week. Quirky. Quizzical. Quixotic. I’m not going to make the cocktail: you are.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I really hope you do), is to follow the directions below which will guide you down the path for, perhaps, the most questionable cocktail of all time.

No, wait, there are still things called Cement Mixers being served at some college bar, somewhere.

The second-most questionable cocktail of all time.


The Quest Cocktail

Step 1: Assemble your materials.

You will need

  • a 6-sided die (or several if you’ve got ’em) so go ahead and raid the family Monopoly or Yahtzee boxes
  • Several types of alcohol: 1 vodka, 1 gin, and 6 flavored spirits (vermouth, liqueurs, cordials… you get the idea).
  • 3 non-alcoholic mixers.

My set-up would be Gin, Vodka, Italian vermouth, French vermouth, Goldschlager, Amaretto, peach schnapps, Kahlua, cranberry juice, pineapple juice and tomato juice. Just grabbed at random from my shelves. You could be a bit more calculating and go with safer ingredients but where’s the fun in that? What I would suggest is choosing the highest-quality items from your bar: the better ingredients, the better the cocktail (in general).

Step 2: Roll the dice.

If you have several dice this will go quicker, otherwise roll the same die each time and either make your selection after each roll or jot down your results before you start to pour. Either way works.

  • 1st Roll: Odd #s=Gin, Even #s=Vodka
  • 2nd Roll: Line up your flavored spirits and count from left to right, 1-6. Whatever number comes up, that’s ingredient number 2!
  • 3rd Roll: Line up your mixers and could from left to right, 1-3. The first mixer is used on a roll of 1 or 4, the second on a roll of 2 or 5, and the third on a roll of 3 or 6.

Using my line-up from above, my rolls come out to Vodka + Kahlua + Pineapple Juice. I’ve heard of stranger concoctions, frankly.

Step 3: Mix your drink.

Since we’re included non-alcoholic ingredients, the standard procedure is to shake your cocktail. If, however, you really prefer to stir it (or don’t have a shaker hand–really?), you can stir it up, just stir fast so some of the ice melts and mixes in, too, okay?

But, wait, what’s the ratio? That I’m going to be nice and leave up to your discretion (kinda like the challenges on Chopped: you don’t have to use a lot of each ingredient, but you do have to use some of each ingredient). You could, if you wanted to, go with a simple 3:2:1 ratio, assigning each portion to whichever ingredient you feel most comfortable with.

Also, I’m totally open to base-spirit substitutions. If you roll vodka, it has to stay vodka, but if you have a flavored vodka you want to substitute based on the other ingredients you’re stuck challenged with, I will allow it.

Step 4: Keep an open mind.

Not every drink is going to be a winner, naturally. As I said, above, starting with quality ingredients will up the odds a bit, but you might get a dud. Also, remember the 2-sip rule: you only get the true taste of a wine, spirit or cocktail on the second sip, don’t judge a drink by it’s first sip.

Now, why did I choose this method? Am I being passive-aggressive and making some sort of statement about how much skill goes into creating a cocktail (a la my Character Cocktail service)? Nope. (Though it’s true, creating a new cocktail each week isn’t always easy, but it’s fun, that’s why I do it.)

It actually has more to do with the gamers I’ve been hanging out with and rolling the dice to create our characters and determine the outcome of our games. That, and I’ve been working on a similar procedure for dinner problem-solving for What to Feed Your Raiding Party–let’s just say my head’s definitely in the game this week.

Seriously, if anyone is brave (or foolish, take your pick) enough to try this, please post your results in the comments. I’m dying to see what sorts of drinks you come up with.


A Nightcap for All Ages

64 Arts

Cup of cocoaSo! Originally I thought we’d finish up the preparation of drinks with smoothies and other non-alcoholic bevvies. Things change, however, and with the temperature dropping and folks spending early nights at home, together, a really good hot cocoa recipe can’t be beat. Here’s the one that Todd and I have been enjoying and I’ll bet you have have everything you need right in your cupboard and fridge!

Spiced Hot Cocoa*

1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg
3 cups Milk, divided

Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth and heat until steaming. Stir in the remaining milk and heat through (do not boil).  Place some mini-marshmallows into the bottom of a couple of handled mugs or cups and pour the hot cocoa over them.

This recipe makes 4 tidy 6-ounce servings. Or, if you’re like us, 2 normal 12-oz servings. I’m one of those girls that always uses more of the cocoa mix than the package calls for, so I took the original dry ingredients but used only 3 cups of milk instead of 4 and really liked the richness of this ratio instead of following their directions. Who wants wimpy hot chocolate, right?

*adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book