El Presidente #4

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In some circles, the El Presidente is otherwise known as a Cuban Martini. It's also one of those cocktails with slippery origins; in my Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails, this is the fourth of four known El Presidente recipes printed. Variations include:

- El Presidente #1: Light rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine; a slim change-up on a classic daiquiri, replacing its simple syrup with pineapple juice. (Which, now that I think about it, is a great idea.)

- El Presidente #2: Light rum, dry vermouth, bitters. Difford's describes it as "bone dry" and "rather like a rum-based, old-school Martini."

- El Presidente #3: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau, grenadine. A Trader Vic's recipe, of which Vic himself allegedly said, "This is the real recipe." (But I think he claims that about all of his concoctions? At least about the Mai Tai, which he said he flat-out invented.)

- El Presidente #4: Light rum, dry vermouth, Cointreau. "Dry but not bone dry, with balanced fruit from the triple sec and vermouth." Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!

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Now that I've tasted this, I might actually propose a fifth version with a splash of club soda or even tonic. The former because of  the mojito-Cuban link, the latter because this El Presidente also manages to remind me of a nice, sweaty gin and tonic, which is actually one of my most favorite things to drink on the first hot day of summer.

But as-is is still a-plenty good. Crisp, light... dare I say, in its own weird way, Moscato d'Asti-like? (There I go with the fizzy thing again.)

Just try it.

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El Presidente #4

(Taken pretty much straight-up from Difford's Encyclopedia of Cocktails)

1 ½ ounces Bacardi Superior light rum

¾ ounce Noilly Prat dry vermouth

½ ounce Cointreau

Lemon, lime and/or orange twists, to garnish

Pour all liquid ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add your garnish.

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The (World's Greatest?) Frozen Banana Daiquiri

Something that may or may not surprise you: I'm one of those people who likes to scour the Internet for variousDIYtutorials and then implement them all over my house, oftentimes to the mild chagrin of the PhoBlograpHusband. (Two nights ago, our kitchen table was occupied for 12 hours by our crockpot, wrapped in a beach towel, 'cuz I was making yogurt.) If I were born fifty years earlier,  I would have been a devout Hints from Heloise kinda housewise. As it stands, since the start of summer my freezer has contained a big Ziploc full of banana peels and eggshells, so I can spend my weekends making nutritious, eggshell-and-banana peel fertilizer for my outdoor plants.

Also in my icebox are whole, way-overripe bananas whose peels have turned brown. The peels will inevitably see the inside of the aforementioned Ziploc; the bananas themselves are there because a few weeks ago I read online about making a soft-serve, ice cream-like dessert using nothing but frozen bananas and a blender. Given that pregnancy has kicked my ice cream addiction into disgusting overdrive, I thought this was worth a shot. I also thought, frozen banana daiquiris.

Frozen daiquiris -- a regular daiquiri (rum, lime juice, sugar) buttressed with pureed fruit and crushed ice -- get a bad rap, of course, because their crushed-ice component has allowed them to become conflated with Slurpees and slushies, and so now they are most commonly made from chemicals and food coloring, served out of a whirring machine at someplace like a Sandals resort. This is tragic, because how often do we get to enjoy the wholesome flavor of pureed fruit in our cocktails? Who wouldn't enjoy the foamy, frothy wonderfulness that an ice-blended cocktail provides? (Even I capitulate to the delectable siren call of a Frappuccino at least once per summer.) And when was the last time you got to freaking drink a banana?

A frozen banana daiquiri seems like it should be arduous to make, but it is not. It is surprisingly simple (dump stuff into blender, turn blender on) and it is surprisingly good: Smooth and creamy, with a nice, tangy, lime-y undertone, and not at all too sweet. What I found most surprising was how well its constitution held up. I figured this drink would start separating, rum and melted ice sloshing atop a swamp of banana mush, within minutes. It absolutely did not. All in all, this cocktail was so impressive and enjoyable that Sean took it upon himself to drink the whole thing (after my one, obligatory sip). He even stored it in the fridge while he went to play Frisbee for two hours, came back and drank the rest and it still held up.

So how do we make the World's Greatest Frozen Banana Daiquiri? I think I'm still working on that. What I know so far is, you definitely want to use at least a 50-50 ratio of light and dark rum. I suspect 100% dark rum would be most pleasurable (but we ran out). Yes, you can taste the alcohol in the recipe below, but it wouldn't hurt to be stronger still. My other suspicion is that this should be topped with a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg. The banana and lime flavors do play nicely against one another, but I think there's room in there for a third, outta-left-field flavor.

Of course, most frozen banana daiquiri recipes you're going to find online are going to tell you a) light rum only, and b) garnish with a Maraschino cherry. Take that shit to the Bahamas, yo!

The (World's Greatest) Frozen Banana Daiquiri

3/4 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

3/4 ounces Bacardi Light Rum

1 tablespoon triple sec

1 1/2 ounces lime juice

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 banana, medium/large, preferably frozen and preferably overripe, sliced up into a handful of pieces

1 cup crushed ice (usually takes about 3-5 ice cubes depending on size)

Lime peel, to garnish

Combine all ingredients except peel in blender. Blend on a low speed for five seconds, then blend on a higher speed until drink is smooth. (Shouldn't take more than 10 seconds.)  Pour into chilled hurricane, martini or cocktail glass. Garnish.

Tasting Notes

OK, so what rums would kick this drink into World's Greatest territory? Honestly, name your poison. If I had more than a splash left of the Kraken, I would've gone whole-hog Kraken. Spiced Navy rums would be great, I'm guessing; I'm partial to Sailor Jerry.

You don't *have* to cut up the banana beforehand, or pre-crush the ice -- but I did both, the latter using my hand-cranked Ice-O-Mat. It'll just cut down on your blender time. This is important to someone like me who has a crappy blender as I'm always worried I'm going to kill the damn thing someday. And I really did only need to blend on high speed for like another 5-10 seconds.

You want to use an overripe banana because the riper it is, the more sugars it's got in it. You know how when you eat an underripe banana, it can sometimes have that unpleasantly bitter, "green" taste to it? I don't know why, but that taste tends to come out even more when you puree the banana, even if it's a just-ripe banana. I know this from trying to make the banana "ice cream" using a just-ripe banana. Stick with as-overripe-as-you-can bananas.

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The Blackbeard

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

Hello Readers! It's been quite a while since I last guest posted. As a matter of fact exactly four months, or in other words one semester of grad school. To my dismay, my writing and research of late has more to do with the Blues Brothers, Randy Weston and Fred Astaire than bars and cocktails. OK, it's not such a bad gig, but I did miss the rigorous mixological testing required to write a post!

Today I bring you the Blackbeard, a cocktail I've only found in one bar, once, more than fifteen years ago. Picture it if you will: My 21-year-old self, along with a certain friend I will only identify by his initials (TMO) are whiling the Spring 1997 semester away in London as part of the Syracuse University International Live Abroad and Pretend to Study Program. Spring break comes and we're off to Edinburgh, Scotland to meet up with my friend Andy, a true Scotsman -- gregarious, burly (former national U-19 rugby player), and generous to a fault -- who I met while working as a camp counselor the year before.

After a long evening of carousing and paradin' about the city, Andy suggests that we drive out to his hometown of Musselburgh for a nightcap at his local pub. TMO and I have never passed up a free drink in our lives, so we consent to the 10km trek in search of the perfect end to the evening. And found it we did! It was on this night that I was introduced to the Blackbeard, perhaps the most perfect last drink I've ever had.

The Blackbeard

1 1/2 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

5 ounces homemade cola

about 2 ounces Guinness Stout

Mix Kraken and cola in a Imperial half-pint glass (or whatever 10 ounce-ish glass you happen to have on hand), top with Guinness (from a tap if you can, if not the draft cans/bottles will do fine).

Tasting notes

The original Blackbeard calls for Captain Morgan, Coke and Guinness, but we just couldn't resist trying a few substitutions. We found the Kraken added a depth to the flavor that the Capt. couldn't muster (while keeping the pirate theme in place) and the homemade cola... well, that stuff makes everything better!

So just why is this fairly odd-sounding, Frankencocktail a great way to end a night of drinking? Why have I been bugging bartenders for years to recreate this for me? I've never really been able to really pick apart just what it is... I think perhaps it has just the right mix of creamy texture (from the Guinness), sweetness (from the Coke) and kick (from the rum) that has something to do with it. What I do know is, that when made right, the Blackbeard leaves you with a warm, content, time-to-take-the-last-train-home feeling.

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The Stanley Cocktail

This is gonna be one of those babbling brook o'consciousness posts I write from time to time, lending special credence to the word "babbling."

Sean and I made this cocktail a couple weeks ago -- before my Moms swooped into town for a week-long six-day (she'll correct me in an e-mail if I don't do it now) stay. Why don't I cocktail *more* when hosting family? God knows I need it badly-er during such times. Oh, right. I'm up the spout. Good thing that I don't forget that too often.

Anyway, my home office is also our guest room, so when we've got folks staying here I basically don't write, don't work, don't check e-mails, and generally grow more and more discomboobulated and unmoored from real life. Which is probably why I sound the way I sound right now. Me no typie so good when brain cloudy with word farts what is thesaurus?

So, the Stanley! Why did we make the Stanley? We made the Stanley because we had lemon juice about to turn in our fridge and because after many sadistic false starts, Mother Nature has finally gotten her big, compostable ass into gear up here and delivered a proper Montreal spring. (I am the last person who should be making fun of other women's fat asses at this point in my life/pregnancy, but she is not a real person so she can suck it.) The Stanley, rather audaciously, combines gin and rum, two liquors that a) you rarely see mixed, yet b) speak to the same joyous thermometer creep that ought to be celebrated with a proper cocktail, preferably including them. Grenadine and lemon juice take away from that audacity, make it more like the Banality of Cherry Coke than the Audacity of Hope (the Audacity of Hooch?) but we decided to give the Stanley a go all the same.

We got the Stanley from our trusty-dusty Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide. Sometimes this book -- as much as I insist upon treating it with reverence, for it is really old and its starchy pages smell wonderfully like pickled dust -- is like a big clusterwuh? Like when it gives you a girly-ass drink called the Stanley. Who invented this shit, or at least named it that? It is very pretty, though. In fact, I bet if I just keep looking at those pics above my head fog will lift before long...

Every time I say "the Stanley" in my head, I picture two things in quick succession. One, Mrs. Roper. Two, Pretzel Day.

I like Pretzel Day...

The Stanley Cocktail

(as per the Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

1 ounce Bombay Dry Gin

1 ounce Bacardi

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce grenadine

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled cocktail or coupe glass.

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The Pregnant Pause

It's been un longtemps and a day since I've posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you're one of my kindly regular readers -- let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).

Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I'm not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn't it awful how I'm letting y'all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?

Talking like a normal now... I'm totes pregs! A girl is due in August. I drink a lot of nonalcoholic beer these days (it takes the edge off, it really does). I also allow myself one sip per cocktail ordered by the PhoBlograpHusband whenever we're out, and when out at restaurants with ace bartenders, I ask them to mix me up a mocktail of my own.

At MEDIAnoche in St. Louis (my old stomping ground, was there in February), one bartender complied with a lemon juice-ginger syrup concoction that was damn fine and delightful. I found myself relishing its memory (and replicating it in pic below) as if it were a real, actual drink. I hadn't caught every move he'd made in its construction; was it really just lemon juice and ginger syrup? I might have tasted fizz. At least mocktails are still getting my mixology mojo going, right? At least I still have that?

FYI, I have no plans to turn this blog dry for the next few months. My one-sip rule stands for the full-hooch tipples I'll continue to roll out here. Is that controversial? If so, let some modern-day Carry Nation twist up her bloomers, cause a stink online, and pave the way for my appearance on Anderson touting my hedonistic child-ruining. Cocktail-book deal to follow, natch.

Having said that, today's cmocktail is, in fact, without alcohol. I started with that lemon-ginger base and wanted to see what I could work up from there. Turns out it was the sprightly kick of fresh ginger that felt like fizz, so no soda needed, but the recipe I drafted this weekend did include grapefruit soda and a quick hit of Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup, which I was kindly sent as a review sample several weeks back and do recommend as a quirky, comfortably priced change of pace from bitters. (Think Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, with a more concentrated flavor and a quinine-y finish, bought at a half-off sale.)

Impregnate the Pregnant Pause with light or dark rum or tequila, or gin, or even bourbon. I think this recipe's got legs, versatility-wise, and damn if it's not refreshing as all get-out. Maybe not as refreshing as the half-gallon of mint chip I downed last week, but that's just the expectation talking.

The Pregnant Pause

1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce ginger-infused simple syrup

1/4 teaspoon Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup

Grapefruit soda, to fill

Cucumber wheel and rosemary sprig, to garnish

1 1/2 ounces booze of choice, to taste (optional)

Combine juice, syrups and liquor, if including, in ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a Pilsner glass over ice. Top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with cucumber and rosemary.

Tasting Notes

My grapefruit soda came from SodaStream. It's one of the little flavor-adding packets you get when you buy the start-up kit. FWIW, I only used half the packet and the soda turns out just as flavorful and (I'm assuming) not as sweet.

As I suggested above, swap in Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Whiskey Bitters for the tonic syrup, or even Angostura. You basically just want a couple dashes (maybe 2 or 3 to taste) of something that plays against the other flavors.

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