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!)

AlcoHOLidays | Election Day | Political Party


Back when I was first in college (in the dim mists of the late 20th century), I was incredibly political and planning to become an event planner. I even went as far, for a Intro to Business project, as creating a business plan based on my company-to-be, aptly named Party Politics. I’ve volunteered on campaigns, participated in straw polls, attended election parties, and become thoroughly disillusioned with the entire process.

And that’s about all I’m going to say on the subject of politics as I blog about cocktails to be convivial, not combative.

Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday of November (so somewhere between the 2nd and the 8th), was chosen for its “sweet spot” location of just after harvest but just before the bad weather. And while some states consider it a civic holiday, most folks have to squeeze in their voting before or after work (unless they use the increasingly available early voting options). I remember one Election Day in particular, again in college, where our economics professor was so disgusted that only a few of us had voted (it was only 9 am, by the way) that he cancelled class so people could go vote.

Didn’t matter than many of us didn’t have cars and taking the bus wasn’t practical when you had a 10 am class to be back for, but whatever.

This was also the same professor that held up class for a tirade on Valentine’s Day, so take that for what you will.

At any rate, when I decided to create a drink based on politics and elections, I had to think of what spirits would best reflect the process.

Political Party

1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Goldschlager
1/4 oz Galliano

Combine all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish patriotically (I  used a skewer of star fruit, blueberries, and raspberries).

With a bit of reflection I settled on vodka for the clean-as-a-whistle background you want to have as a candidate, Kahlua for the numerous cups of coffee those all-night strategy sessions can take, Goldschlager for the money that powers the campaigns, and Galliano for the bitterness of losing. After all, elections are the one area where they’ve yet to play the “everybody wins/there are no losers” card.

While this cocktail retains a certain sweetness (gotta lure you in somehow), it may not appeal to every palate. That’s okay… partisan politics isn’t to everyone’s taste.

Cosmic Cocktails | Gemini | Twist of Fate


Gemini's Twist of Fate cocktail

Depending on which lore you go with, the story of the Gemini is either based on the Greek twins Castor and Pollus or the Babylonian friends Gilgamesh and Enkidu–either way, you’re dealing with a mortal and an immortal, a pair of like-minded souls.

All mutable signs (signs that cover a change of seasons–in the case of Gemini from Spring to Summer) represent at least a little duality or element of change.

For The Twins, a common name for Gemini, the idea is very much in there being two, together, and sharing of their twin-ness. Gemini are adept at communication and learning, love to people watch, talk to new people and really listen if there’s half a chance of coming across an interesting stranger, but they also play peace-maker or go-between a lot.

Being an air sign, Geminis exhibit a bit of free spiritedness, relish spontaneity, and have a youthfulness that lasts throughout their lives. They love being in the know (which can lead to them being gossips), and can hold their own in any conversation. Many actors and actresses are Geminis, well suited by their desire to never be just 1 sort of person, and a career in journalism suits a Gemini quite well, too.

My mother is, in many ways, a typical Gemini. (Though the claims to be a “cusp” since she’s near the end of the sign, which would be fine if the concept of cusps had any real standing, astrologically–if you don’t fit your sun-sign profile, check your chart for “the rest of the story,” namely your Ascendant. Frankly I think it’s just her Geminian habit of not wanting to be pinned down exerting itself.)

This also explains why we butted heads more than the usual mother-daughter kerfuffles. I remember one summer, she had come to pick me up from Auburn (I was there for a Rotary Model UN) and on the way home she wanted to stop and do all these little road-side adventures (very Gemini) and all I wanted to do was get home, already (stubborn Taurus)! When I do road trips? Even my side-trips are planned.

But back to the Gemini.

Every sign has it’s “good” days and “bad.” On a good day the Gemini is flexible and go-with-the-flow personified. On a bad day? They are flighty and inconsistent. On a good day the don’t pin me down mantra contributes to an independent spirit, and on a bad day it shows up as disloyal or unfaithful. On a good day they’ll listen to your woes and offer sage counsel, on the other hand they can just as easily tell the stories of others–sometimes in painful or embarrassing detail–in the name of “communication.”

This sign is also associates with the color yellow, and the flavor of aniseed (as well as caraway and marjoram). And while true Geminis would bristle at being tied down to just one signature drink, I present this sunny-hued libation in their honor.

Twist of Fate

2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Galliano
.5 oz Limoncello
garnish with a red licorice whip

Combine the Galliano, limoncello and pineapple juice in a shaker over ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a red licorice whip, just to be contrary.

The flavor of the Gemini cocktail is a study in sameness and contrast. The pineapple enhances the sweetness of the limoncello while the notes of anise from the Galliano pick up the tart, and yet together they make a most brilliant yellow cocktail. Still, for those not sure about a licorice-flavored cocktail, be a bit adventurous and give this one a whirl as this really is a well-balanced drink and no single note stands out over the others. In fact, each sip is a slightly different blend, kind of like the Gemini from day to day.

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.

Convergence of Annoying Naming Conventions


the iTini cocktail10-6-2011 ETA: In light of the recent passing of Steve Jobs, I’ve decided to postpone the posting of the next cocktail and leave the iTini up for another week.


As much as I absolutely adore anything that Apple comes out with, I have to admit that the iEverything naming thing is a little much. In fact, it’s almost as annoying as the prevalence of calling anything in a cocktail glass a -tini.

Of course, the -tini appelation is appropriate when the drink is inspired by the original and, well, I suppose the leading lowercase i deserves the same benefit.

The iTini

2 oz Vodka
1 oz Anise-flavored Liqueur

Combine the two alcohols in a shaker over ice and shake like an etch-a-sketch*. Strain into a chilled-but-no-frills cocktail glass and whatever you do, don’t you dare add a garnish.

When I tried to envision what a Mac would taste like (other than plastic and wires and stuff), I envisioned something very clean, streamlined and, yes, an acquired taste. Immediately I thought of anise. Licorice is one of those things you either love or hate, there’s seldom a middle ground. And I think the same is true about the computer we’re paying homage to.

Using what I had on hand meant Galliano so the drink is yellow. Had I been willing to leave the house for the 1,256th errand of the day I would have picked up a clear anise liqueur to keep that sleek white look. But, hey, we all remember the fruity iMacs, right? (I still have a Blueberry G3 at the office!) And iPods come in all sorts of colors. You also want a very clean, crisp vodka so go premium or make something else, like the fabulous Cinco 5-Star I’ve used earlier in the series.

I happen to like both, but I have to be in the mood for licorice. I also use Mac and non-Mac computers–each have their strengths. So while this drink (which only barely qualifies as a true cocktail IF you count the 3rd ingredient as the water that gets mixed-in during shaking) isn’t an everyday drink (figuratively speaking, of course), it has it’s uses.

*Dilbert reference–we’re just name dropping all up in here and, no, neither Apple nor Scott Adams know who I am. But Cinco did send me a bottle of their fabulous vodka to try out and I can’t recommend it enough!