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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The Daisywise (aka the Sage Margarita)

The other fresh herb I needed to find use for after Thanksgiving was sage. Man, I do lovelovelove me some sage on a turkey or in a stuffing. (p.s. If you ever want my mother-in-law's recipe for outside-the-bird stuffing, trust me, you do. Also p.s., stuffing is an underrated foodstuff for when you're drunk.)

But sage in other places I had to think about, and then sniff about. Honestly, I wound up holding a bouquet of sage up to one nostril, various bottles of liquor to the other, and deciding which smells I thought went well together. (If there's a hard and fast science to cocktail-making, somebody send me the equation. I've got 99 ways to come up with a cocktail, but a formula ain't one.)

The sage and tequila, wafting together as one, struck my nosebuds hard, stinging and good. Sage kinda looks like a cactus, right? Cacti are, like, Mexican, right? (My cultural references clearly begin and end with Looney Tunes.) Starting obvious, I constructed a pretty standard margarita, replacing regular simple syrup with my sage syrup, going whole hog on the triple sec, adding a dash of honey lemon water as my X factor. Result: too sweet, or at least sweet enough that the sage couldn't really come through. Take two: I stripped down to the basics, ix-naying the triple sec and lemon honey hoo-ha. Now after a citrus-sweet jolt on the front end, the cocktail finished with a long, happy marriage of sage-tequila grassy-sourness.

Lastly, I thought to do a salt-and-pepper rim. The full-on salt rim typical of many margaritas, I see the logic to that; usually margaritas are way sweet, so you want an equally strong counter-punch of salt going up against that. But as that wasn't the case here, I thought it'd be nice to let the pepper come out and play with the sage and tequila. (It's like picking teams for kickball! Lime/sugar/salt vs. tequila/sage/pepper!)

Hey, by the way, did you know that margarita means "daisy" in Spanish? How did I never know this? Probably because a) I took French, b) I live in a place where they speak French, and c) they rarely spoke Spanish in Looney Tunes.

The Daisywise (aka the Sage Margarita)

2 ounces tequila blanco

1 1/2 ounces sage-infused simple syrup

2 ounces lime juice

Freshly grated sea salt and a little bit of freshly cracked black pepper, for the rim

Using a piece of cut lime, sticky up the lip of a martini or cocktail glass and roll in a salt-and-pepper mixture. Set glass aside. Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into your glass.

Tasting Notes

Why WHY didn't I save a sprig of sage to garnish this? Or go pick a freaking daisy and put that in?? (Um, because it's December in Canada, you hoser?)

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The Afterbird

My gosh, today kinda sucks, no? Not to rain (or snow, as it is up here in the Great White North) on anyone's Thanksgiving Eve Parade, but this is always a busy and stressful day. What with the last-minute cleaning and shopping and cooking and fretting that your mother-in-law is going to get stuck in a snowbank somewhere north of Albany on her drive up to see you. And, even if you're the self-employed, work-at-home type like me, the assignments you're trying to get out the virtual door before getting yourself out your actual one, where walkway clearing awaits so Mom doesn't kill herself on her way from her car to your apartment. Meanwhile, your dog won't let you type at full speed because she likes her paw held while snuggling on the couch next to you, which results in typos like this one that just happened: "ci 980hkmn."

Phew, *breathe*! My point is, I've got one more to-do to put on your list today, and it is worthwhile and it is this: Buy Underberg at your neighborhood's finer liquor store. (Or Dean & Deluca.)

Last November on TastingTable.com, I read about this pocket-sized vial of Germanic, herbaceous elixir: "This shockingly bitter, aggressively alcoholic Germanic beverage is meant to be taken in one swig from its handsome miniature bottle, which promises that 'after a good meal' it will confer brightness and alertness upon the drinker." Of course, they don't have Thanksgiving in Deutschland, but they do have Oktoberfest. For that reason alone I'll take their word on its overindulgence countereffects.

Mere days after I read this, the PhoBlograpHusband and I were stocking up on holiday booze essentials at The Wine Library in New Jersey and there was Underberg, lined up on the shelf next to the bitters. They come three 2/3-ounce bottles to a box the size of a cigarette case. I dutifully purchased one and held onto it for almost a year. Now I am here to share with you the digestif cocktail I invented so that you can incorporate your Underberg into your post-pie euphoria.

What does Underberg taste like straight? Like acrid licorice, like smoked Jagermeister. Kinda gah, if you ask me. Definitely not something I'd have any natural inclination to swig in one swallow.

As you may well know from my recent posts, the liquor supply chez Lorre is way low as of late. (Mom-in-law is bringing us a bottle of Buffalo Trace this afternoon! Go Mom-in-law!) At the same time, I happened to have some raw egg yolks, with a bit of whites, kept in an airtight container in the fridge, left over from when I made my Bathtub Gin(ger). Furthermore, I have been hellbent for months on devising a successful flip, a cocktail that makes use of a whole, raw egg instead of just the whites; I'd made a Cynar Flip a long while back, based on a recipe from a bar in Boston, but have had no luck writing a flip recipe of my own from scratch. Maybe now was the time; Underberg is as potent and pungent as Cynar, after all.

I wound up going a little crazy coming up with this cocktail, in what I think of as a very good kind of crazy. Adding raw egg to Underberg mellowed out the start of the cocktail but still left it with a long, unpleasant finish. I scoured my liquor shelf and decided to try yet another ingredient that I'd long longed to find a use for: Hispaniola Mamajuana, a Dominican, rum-based, herbaceous-yet-soft liqueur. (You learn about stuff like Hispaniola Mamajuana when you spend three years of your life living In The Heights.) The Hispaniola worked wonders on rounding the whole thing out, start to (still nice and long) finish. Then came the espresso (by which I mean, black coffee, but we're not fancy with the caffeine around here) and -- and this is great, truly! -- the Tabasco, which melded with the bitter herbs at the finish in a tongue-tickling way and reminded me a bit of a Sandinista. (Wait a minute, she said as she looked at the meager Google results for "Sandinista recipe." You mean nobody knows what a Sandinista is outside of St. Louis? The blog will remedy this soon. To the blogmobile!)

At this point, all that was missing was some heft and body -- I think the raw egg took some of that away -- which I added back with the Benedictine.

This cocktail is loopy, yes. But then again, so's your Grandma Ruthie when she takes her dentures out and puts them on the dinner table. It's in the spirit of the holiday! Let us rejoice and be thankful.

The Afterbird

1 1/2 ounces Underberg

1 ounce Hispaniola

1 ounce Benedictine

1 whole, raw egg

 3 drops Tabasco

1/2 ounce freshly made espresso

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake shake shake shake shake it! Seriously, shake it a lot, because you've got liquid ingredients of every possibly viscosity in there and you need to mix it all up really well. Strain into a cocktail glass that's been very very very well chilled. Seriously, like very well chilled, because thanks to the egg, this drink can get thin-tasting quickly and the chilled glass will combat that.

Tasting Notes

I have a hunch you could take this cocktail even further. Specifically, I suspect that an aged tequila (anejo or reposado) would be a good base liquor, in addition to or instead of the Benedictine, to drive up the heat quotient. If you'd rather emphasize the smoky, try adding an ounce of Scotch. Also, I am quite sure you could garnish this with sprinkles of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, maybe even cayenne pepper. (Tell me if you do! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P.S. Look how foamy this cocktail is!

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The Zihautanejo Julep

There are two types of people in my worldview: Those who say today is Cinco de Mayo, and those who say today is Kentucky Derby Eve Eve.

I'm one of the latter -- hence, the blog records today's date as the second of Three Days of Julep -- but I'm well aware that I'm in the minority. Luckily, I've found the perfect cocktail to cover both bases on this not-really-a-holiday-laden day. The Zihautanejo Julep is out of my Death and Co. stolen menu playbook, and it's a julep made with tequila.

It's also made with mint, so before I leave you to your recipe-following, I'll just highlight one informative bit of triv so you can learn a little something before completely blotting out all memory and winding up passed out wearing nothing but somebody else's sombrero: What makes a julep a julep isn't the mint. Death and Co., for example, has got a julep on its menu that's made with (in descending order) bourbon, rum, peach liqueur, sugar, bitters, another type of rum. (Yikes.) Merriam-Webster gives as a primary julep definition "a drink consisting of sweet syrup, flavoring and water." (Also yikes; so, like, Quik?) The crushed ice is what makes a julep a julep -- and imbues the entire imbibing experience with Southern-like languor, as you can't really down a julep in rushed swigs, lest you wind up with a face full of ice chips.

Furthermore, although this belies both the dictionary and Death & Co.'s aforementioned concoction, typically "julep" also means a single type of liquor served in a great (five ounces of so) quantity. So again, it's a sipper, not a shooter.

Having said that, it's Cinco de Mayo -- shoot yourself silly and enjoy your face full of ice chips!

The Zihautanejo Julep

(Adapted from Death and Company)

3 or so ounces Sauza Conmemorative Anejo

A dash of mezcal

Simple syrup

Mint leaves

Crushed ice

A cinnamon stick and a mint sprig, for garnish

Sprinkle mint leaves into a highball glass, enough to cover the bottom of the glass. Drizzle with simple syrup, enough to cover the mint leaves. Muddle until the syrup takes on a light-green hue. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in your tequila and top with a float of mezcal. Garnish.

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The Swamp Thing

Guest post by the very British Nick Leftley, senior editor at Maxim and a mate made for drinking with

A few months ago, I was out on a tequila-tasting night courtesy of the charming and spectacularly agave-obsessed folks at Don Julio. After tasting every variety of tequila they make (and at this point, I'd personally recommend the Don Julio 1942, an Anejo tequila that's creamy, peppery and as good for sipping as most decent Scotches), master distiller Enrique de Colsa introduced us to the concept of the Luxury Drop.

The Luxury Drop ­ -- rather than, as it sounds, being hurled out of a helicopter made of crushed velvet  --­ is Don Julio's attempt to bring civilization to the untamed wilds of the classic tequila shot. Everyone who's ever licked salt off the base of their thumb before throwing back a shot of cheap, nasty tequila and shoving a wedge of lemon through their grimace can probably agree that, as traditional as it is, it is also to classy drinking what eating a sandwich you found in the dumpster is to fine dining. (Anyone who has never taken this shot has clearly never actually been in a bar, ever).

That's why Don Julio want to re-invent it as something special, while still retaining the basic character, and to this end have invited several of the world's finest chefs and mixologists to whip up surprising and delicious alternatives. There are just three rules to making one: it has to involve a shot of tequila; it has to have a routine (something other than just downing the shot); and it has to have a name.

At this point in the proceedings, a large table covered in cocktail ingredients was unveiled, and every person present was invited to try their hand at inventing a Luxury Drop. So, brusquely bypassing the mounds of glistening strawberries and blueberries for the fripperies they were, I grabbed a handful of fresh basil and went to work. The murky green concoction I ended up with tasted like a delicious salad that's somehow managed to get wasted in an Italian bistro on its way out for tacos. Success! Briefly stuck for an appetizing name to give something that looked like particularly verdant marshland (and, also, being a huge nerd), I named it, in typically classy fashion, Swamp Thing.

Enrique ­ -- who, lest we forget, is Don Julio's master distiller ­ -- declared it to be one of the finest shots he's ever taken, and guys, this man knows about tequila shots. And so, in the happiest ­ and smuggest of all possible endings, a few days later I received a bottle of Don Julio 1942, signed by Enrique himself, to say thanks for inventing the Swamp Thing.

And we all lived drunkily ever after.

The Swamp Thing

2 shots silver tequila

Juice of half a lime

Spoonful agave syrup

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Cracked black pepper

Muddle the basil leaves in a shaker, then shake vigorously with the tequila, lime, syrup and ice. Strain into a couple of shot glasses, then sprinkle the black pepper on the base of your thumb. Lick off the pepper, down the shot.

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