AlcoHOLidays | Mother’s Day | Lavender Lovely



I do apologize for missing last week’s AlcoHOLidays installment. It was a combination of an expected sponsored post falling through and me falling ill Thursday afternoon. It was, however, Cinco de Mayo last Sunday and I trust I’ve “trained” you well enough to know margaritas were in order, yes? Good!

This weekend, however, we are celebrating dear old (or not so old) Mom, as this Sunday, May 12, is the US observance of Mother’s Day.

While the Mother’s Day that is celebrated as a formal holiday the second Sunday in May was started by Anna Jarvis in 1909, there was another Mother’s Day that never really got off the ground. Back in 1870, after the American Civil War, Julia Ward Howe tried to start a Mother’s Day for Peace on June 2, though it was more about stopping the wars that were robbing mothers of their husbands and sons and promoting pacifism than it was honoring the institution of motherhood.

They say Jarvis was rather disgusted by the commercialism of Mother’s Day by the time the 1920s came around. Frankly, I can see her point. I will be glad when this weekend is over so that the incessant ads for flowers, cards, jewelry, dinners out, and anything else that could remotely please a mom. Do you know that Mother’s Day is the busiest restaurant day of the year? The automatic assumption is that Mom shouldn’t have to cook on Mother’s Day and heaven forbid someone else take her place in the kitchen.

But I digress…

The funny (read as: coincidental) thing about the post-Civil War Mother’s Day is that my favorite literary mother is Ellen O’Hara, from Gone with the Wind. And indelibly printing on my memory, just as it was Scarlett’s, is that she always smelled of Lemon Verbena.

Now, as I first read GWTW  when I was very young, possibly single digits-young, (and way before the Internet was commonplace in business, much less the home) my mind figured that lemon verbena must be some sort of perfume combining the scent of lemons and whateverthehell verbena was–probably a flower of some sort, I reasoned, and lavender somehow made it’s way into my mental estimation of the scent. Now, of course, I know that lemon verbena is a stand-alone plant in it’s own right, and that it smells like lemon and is used for its lemony oils, can be found in some teas, and does actually have small purple and white flowers.

Which is a very roundabout way of explaining the inspiration that went into today’s cocktail: lemon and lavender and all things lovely. Lemon and lavender are not exactly strangers to cocktails, as I’ve had a wonderful martini with those notes in the past. But I wanted less of a sweet, syrupy martini and more of a refreshing tall drink, one that would be at home on the back porch with a picnic or barbecue spread. Something that tasted like spring, and renewal–but without the bugs and dirt.

Lavender Lovely

3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 barspoon dried Lavender
1 tsp Rosewater
1 oz Pisco
6 oz Sparkling Lemon Soda

In the bottom of a tall glass, muddle the syrup and lavender–you don’t need to crush the flowers into oblivion, you just want them to release some of their heady oils. Add the rosewater, Pisco, and enough ice to make the glass 3/4 full and give it a few stirs with the aforementioned barspoon, then stir in the lemon soda until chilled. Because the lavender will float on the top of the drink, I suggest serving this one with a straw!

I was debating base spirits on this one between rum and vodka, briefly considered cachaca for something a little different before I was reminded of the wonderful floral notes in KAPPA Pisco and there was suddenly no more deliberating! Pisco was the perfect choice for this cocktail but for those mom’s who are still expecting, I’m willing to bet that just using a bit more of the lemon soda (mine was California Juice Company Sparkling Meyer Lemon from Cost Plus/World Market) to make up for the missing Pisco would result in a lovely, all-ages sipper. If you’re short of sparkling lemon soda, I’d say some Lemon Perrier, the juice of one lemon, and a little extra simple syrup would do the trick.

Granted, I won’t be serving this to my own mother this weekend as she doesn’t drink any alcohol and overly-floral things give her a headache. Our tradition over the last several years has been to tour the local Parade of Homes on the Saturday before Mother’s Day and then go for a late lunch/early supper somewhere. It works for us.


AlcoHOLidays | Valentine’s Day | Loving Cup



Ah, yes, Valentine’s Day

Thought by many to be a wonderful day of expressing our love for others in various public and private ways. Thought by others to be a trumped-up excuse by the candy and card manufacturers to bilk out a little more money between the Christmas holidays and Easter. I’ll never forget the time my economics professor held up the start of class because he had to go on a tirade about how silly it was that the depth of his love for his girlfriend was decided by what he did or did not do on a single day of the year.

I’ve always been of the mind that days like Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries and the like are all wonderful for reminding us to show people how glad we are they’re in our lives. Yes, it’s fabulous if we do it the other 364 days of the year, but we’re human, we get busy and preoccupied and maybe we forget to show our feelings as often as we intended.

Obviously, I’m pro-Valentine’s Day.

And for those who blame major corporations for trumping up the Feast of Saint Valentine (and I’m not saying it’s not incredibly commercial these days), giving cards, candies and flowers on February 14th goes back to the 1400s–well before Ye Olde Hallmarke Shoppe ever opened.

So, whether you go “all out” with the flowers delivered to the office, a candlelight dinner at a corner table for 2, maybe something sparkly or shiny, or prefer a more laid-back approach (picnic in the living room or backyard, depending on the weather, a favorite movie and avoiding the crowds, and a handwritten note of affection are all grand ways to mark the day), if you’d like a creative drink to serve your sweetie, try this on for size.

Loving Cup

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Goldschlager
splash of Rosewater

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake like your heart is on fire. Strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass and garnish with a heart-shaped marshmallow.

The Loving Cup takes an old stand-by, the Cosmopolitan, and adds a little more sweetness, some spice, and a subtle perfume–all the things I think a perfect Valentine’s Day should contain.


Cosmic Cocktails | Taurus | Creature Comforts


Creature Comforts Cocktail

With the exception of having a green thumb (I’ve killed rosemary, folks, and that’s one of the easiest plants to grow, or so I’ve been told), I am pretty much the quintessential Taurean. Both the good and the not-so-good.

Methodical, creative, loyal and proper, I have had my moments of greed, possessiveness, control-freakishness and, above all, stubbornness, though as the years go by I’m getting better about those last ones. I’m still not all that great with change, though, unless it was my idea to begin with or I’ve had time, privately, to react (aka freak out) and review the situation.

But this isn’t just about *me*, the preening bull has to be reminded from time to time…

An excellent example is Ferdinand the Bull, that old Disney cartoon about the bull that would rather sit under his favorite tree and smell the flowers rather than be all rough and menacing with the bullfighters. Until we get a bee sting in an uncomfortable spot, yup, that about sums up the typical Bull.

Lovers of comfort, those born under a Taurus sun are often very hospitable, generous to those we love, and willing to splurge on the finer things. It’s that love of the creature comforts that can sometimes lead to excess, and that can lead to sloth and gluttony, but an enlightened Taurean can resist the siren song for long enough to keep some sort of equilibrium. After all, a dessert is even better after a fabulous day of exertion, right?!

In the spirit of such hospitality and indulgence, today’s cocktail serves two.

Creature Comforts

3 oz Whipped Cream-flavored Vodka
2 1/2 oz Godiva Liqueur
1 1/2 oz Kahlua
1 oz Spiced Sugar Syrup
splash Rosewater
garnish of sugar crystals, chocolate whipped cream, and edible gold leaf

Rim 2 cocktail glasses with sugar crystals and set aside. In a shaker over ice combine all of the liquid ingredients and shake until nice and icy cold. Strain into the prepared cocktail glasses, top with some whipped cream and a few flakes of edible gold. Share with a friend.

What’s the perfect gift for a (female) Taurus? Roses, chocolates and something sparkly. Could I be putting in my own birthday request? (*ahem* 17 days away *ahem*) Maaaaaybe.

You have heard the phrase ‘subtle as a bull in a china shop,’ yes?

Arabian Nights


Juniper Genie Cocktail

The metamorphosis of this week’s cocktail was a bit of a long and winding road. A road, in point of fact, that begins France or thereabouts* and ends somewhere in or near Morocco. Neither place I’ve been but both I’d like to visit one of these days.

At any rate, it started back when I was, oh, 10 or 11 years old and a family friend was being cute(?) and singing the song Jennifer, Juniper and saying that my name (Jennifer) meant Juniper. Now, being the precocious child I was I had already looked up the meaning of my name in the massive Encyclopedic Dictionary we had at home and knew full well that Jennifer is a modernization of Guinevere and had absolutely nothing to do with junipers. And told them so. Snootily.

Despite the misleading connection in the song, it did make me think of Gin–one of our two base spirit options for this series–which only left me figuring out what to add. I went through several j-possibilties and eventually devolved into j-sounding ingredients and ginger was the winner.

Now, at first I was going to be cute and spell it Jin and Jinger but I needed something else. Namely, another ingredient, another flavor. And looking around my bar shelves I found rosewater and that was all it took. Suddenly my mind was filled with the scent of chai, we needed spice and we needed it now!

Juniper Genie

1 1/2 oz Gin
1/4 oz Rosewater
1/4 oz Grated Ginger
a generous pinch of Cardamom
1 oz Ginger Ale
Crystallized Ginger for garnish

Combine gin, rosewater, ginger and cardamom over ice and give it a good shake to wake up the genie inside. Double-strain (to get out all the ginger bits) into a chilled cocktail glass, top with the ginger ale and garnish with a piece of crystallized ginger.

The flavors of the drink are well-layered, each one asserting itself as you continue to sip. First comes the rosewater–the scent is very strong and dominant, followed by the warm, sweetish flavor of the cardamom. Under that, the bite of the ginger starts to assert itself and, subtly at the bottom is the herbal taste of the gin. It’s what I imagine a small spice market would taste like.

Usually I’d infuse the alcohol with the spice but this time it really wasn’t necessary. Cardamom is so expensive that a suitable quantity for infusion would have been risky and the dried spice shaken in was plenty to get the point across. If you’ve never had cardamom that you know of, it reminds me of Apple Jacks cereal.

*Further research shows that the singer, Donovan, was actually Scottish and became famous as an English folk singer but the last verse of the song in question is in French, hence my misunderstanding.

50 Shots of America: North Dakota


In our continuing journey across the US via cocktail, we head almost to Canada, today, with a look at either the 39th or 40th state…


Rose Red

Rose Red

There’s some confusion as to which state rightfully comes next in our tour of the states by date of statehood. You see, North and South Dakota both came up for statehood at the same time (as part of the Enabling Act of 1889) and President Harrison knew there was quite the rivalry between the two as to which would be first. So, to remain completely neutral, he had his aid shuffle the petitions and did not look at which was which when he signed them. No one really knows which was #39 and which was #40, but North Dakota comes up first alphabetically, so that’s the way it’s usually listed.

Of course, when I think of North Dakota, I think of Fargo. Not the city, the movie, of course. And the infamous wood-chipper scene. I realize that it’s probably not the way most Dakotans (which means friend or ally) want to be remembered, but pop culture has it’s way. Still, if you’re planning a Fargo-themed movie night (for which I’d include Drop Dead Gorgeous even if it is set in Minnesota–there’s some cultural similarities thanks to strong Norwegian influences of both), this drink might be right up your alley:

Rose Red

1.25 oz Vodka
.25 oz Rosewater
few drops Grenadine

Combine the vodka and rosewater in a mixing glass with ice and stir until thoroughly chilled (30 seconds to a minute). Strain into a chilled cordial glass and drop in a bit of grenadine for effect. Garnish with a broken toothpick.

The wild prairie rose is the state flower of North Dakota and they are a leading producer of potatoes, among other agricultural pursuits, so that’s where the flavor notes for this drink comes from. If you can get a potato-vodka, even better, but any of your favorites will do.

There’s one other story I found fascinating about this week’s state: While Bismarck is, in fact, the capital of North Dakota, shortly after statehood was achieved, Jamestown was the preferred choice of many. Except those in Bismarck. A band of residents actually stole the state records from Jamestown, returned to Bismarck and refused to release them until the legislators came back to Bismarck. Realizing the move was more hassle than they wanted to deal with, the powers that be agreed to leave the capital as Bismarck but refused to official declare, proclaim or vote it into historical record.

Not bad, North Dakota, not bad at all.


Predictably enough, our next stop on the cocktail express (well, it’s more of a local with all the starts and stops) is just a smidgen south in the Black Hills of South Dakota.