Red Wine and Coke (aka Kalimotxo, Cocavino)

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The first time I ever drank alcohol (Mom, stop reading now) was at a party at Jeff Dakin's house. I was 16, I think, and there was Budweiser in cans. As I couldn't stand the taste of the champagne of beers, I emptied a can into an oversized, plastic cup and mixed it with OJ, which was all I could find in the Dakin family fridge that struck me as even plausible to combine with pissy lager. And so my career in mixology began .

I remember being so embarrassed by this that I only did my mixing when nobody else was in the kitchen, but I also remember coming up with a name for my concoction -- the Rosebud -- which means I must've talked to other kids there about it, or at least that I saw the humor in what I was doing.

If I'd known then about red wine and Coke, think 0f how boldly I could've plundered Mr. and Mrs. Dakin's wine stash instead of making do with OJ'd-down, mass-produced swill. Imagine my rapt, pimple-pocked audience as I explained that rendering cheap booze palatable for consumption was a noted hallmark of youth across the seas! Think about what a precocious, pretentious ass I would've sounded like, expounding upon my own multiculti self-awareness. (Why, I may as well have checked my humility at the door and enrolled as one of Suri Cruise's classmates at Avenues!)

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In Spain, red wine and Coke -- sometimes known as Kalimotxo or Cocavino -- are often mixed together to drink at parties or street festivals. It's kinda considered a kids' drink (as in "these crazy kids today," not "my kid just turned 9 months old") because, as my behavior chez Dakin evidences, an adolescent's bank account mandates the purchase of cheap, less-than-desirable-tasting bilge, just as a teenage mindset is a prerequisite for believing that mixing dolla hooch with Coke sounds like an awesome idea.

Myriad suggested ways to prepare/guzzle red wine and Coke: Sometimes Kalimotxo is served in a short, glass tumbler; other times it's served in a "tall" glass, except for those other, other times when a "one liter, plastic drinking glass" is what's called for. Then there's that thing where you half-empty a two-liter of cola, pour your one-liter bottle of vino in, and voila! You've just bartended up a party-sized batch that comes in its own, cooties-friendly, communal chug jug.

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Likewise, varying flavorings abound. I've read that ouzo, blackberry liqueur and a lime twist are all good ideas (not all at the same time). So when I decided it was time to try my hand at red wine and Coke -- grownsed-up style, mind you -- I systematically worked my way through the options. My findings:

- I started with just red wine, Coke and a healthy-sized lime twist. Getting that hit of citrus up the nostrils before diving in was palate-confusing, but in a good, refreshing, smile-inducing way.

- Instead of blackberry liqueur, I did a 15ml of creme de cassis, as that was the closest facsimile I had on hand. This combo tasted like a good imitation of bad wine. It was like church wine, really -- very heady and juice-like in the way cheap, sugary booze often is.

- I will admit, I did not try doing a dash, nor a splash, nay, nary a drop of ouzo. That just sounded nasty.

- Ultimately, straight-up, equal parts red wine and Coke was what I liked best. The drink was pleasingly crisp rather than syrupy sweet. Still a curious bugger, to be sure, but one I could easily envision myself enjoying around adults my own age, which is probably how old Mr. and Mrs. Dakin were at the time, now that I think about it.

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The Kalimotxo

4 ounces red wine

4 ounces cola

Lime twist (optional), to garnish

Pour red wine, then cola into a large, ice-filled tumbler or stemless wine glass. Garnish with lime twist if desired.

Tasting Notes

Ice is key here. I simply cannot recommend this beverage at room temperature, even though I'm sure it's often consumed that way, what with its bottle-swigged-at-street-fests rep. Don't. Use lots of ice! (Pre-chill your red, in fact.)

I made this using a Spanish Garnacha. It is literally the cheapest red wine they sell at my nearest SAQ (about $10), but it's not bad at all. (We drink it at dinner all the time.)

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The Expat

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Fitting as it may be, I did not name this cocktail.

Lantern's Keep did. Lantern's Keep being a swankadoodle cocktail spot inside NYC's Iroquois Hotel on West 44th Street. I've never visited there, but I'm already kinda in love with the place just based on its website, where it describes itself as "a salon devoted to the art and enjoyment of great cocktails. This secretive salon [seems to be a speakeasy-style place located off the hotel lobby, hence the need for the lantern] is already luring cocktail aficionados in and transporting them back to a turn-of-the-century Parisian salon." Which immediately makes me think: Midnight in Paris! C'est l'age d'or, Marion Cotillard! I want in!

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Now what I liked about this cocktail right off the bat -- before I even tasted or tried making it, when I'd only read about it in Life & Style Magazine (um, which I was reading... on a plane? While getting a mani-pedi? Let's go with that one) -- was its simplicity. The more I experiment with cocktails, the more I appreciate those that get to the point, that express an intention and just get over themselves and get on with it already in as few ingredients as possible.

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The L&S write-up didn't mention how much Angostura to use, so I started with one dash. I mixed that up, and in one sip I went to my happy place; immediately, visual pictures of me cozied up in alluringly dim cocktail boites came to mind. The PhoBlograpHusband tried it and felt it had a too-sweet-bordering-on-cloying finish, so I made another with two dashes of bitters. The result was simultaneously a) weirdly muted, b) all tartness with no anchoring bottom note, c) completely devoid of any sort of finish at all.

It's amazing how much a quarter-ounce of syrup, or a single dash of bitters, really matters in a cocktail.

The Expat

(based on Lantern's Keep's recipe as printed in Life & Style)

2 ounces Buffalo Trace

1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

1 dash Angostura bitters

Mint sprig, to garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Give your mint sprig a smack and then arrange it atop the drink to garnish.

Tasting Notes

Let me explain, if necessary,what I just wrote about the mint sprig slap. This is something commonly done at your better cocktail lounges and I've been remiss not mentioning it here. The mint's not just something pretty to look at or a pop of contrasting color; it really does make a difference in your overall enjoyment of The Expat if you get that whiff of mint up the shnozz right as you're taking a sip. By smacking the mint, you get an extra release of those minterrific notes. You're literally smacking the mint outta that mint. So hold your sprig by the stem with one hand and give it a thwap! against the open palm of your other hand.

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The Stork Club

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The real reason we all drink, I think, when you get right down to it (and I'm paraphrasing myself here), is to whisk(ey) ourselves away in our mind's eyes to another place and time, preferably involving fedoras, garters, cigarette holders, evening gloves, watch fobs and other accoutrements of a halcyon generation past.

This is certainly true when you now do all your drinking at 9 p.m. in your messy kitchen, with your kid finalllllly asleep a couple rooms away, a geriatric dog who perpetually smells like pee hanging out at your feet and a mound of dirty dishes staring you down from across the room.

But I don't want any of you to think, now that I've got a daughter and a book that happens to be called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms, that this blog is taking a permanent turn towards all things parental. Far from it (just a little for my first week back, perhaps), and my proof to you of this is the Stork Club cocktail.

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In the book, I recommend the Stork Club as the perfect potable to toast the anticipation of a second (or third, or fourth) child. (And p.s., why my publisher let me get away with recommending that an expectant woman drink alcohol is beyond me, but good on 'em, I guess.) While the cocktail's name may sound like I made it up for the sake of the book, I didn't. The Stork Club was a real place in New York City that enjoyed a 35-year run (1929 to 1965, by most accounts) as the place to see and be seen -- and, I'd imagine, the picture-perfect place we all imagine when we imagine that other place we go to on our little magic cocktail rides. (A theory as to why the cocktail tops gin with lots of citrus is that bathtub gin was the hooch of the day during the Prohibition, and that its awful taste was often masked with lots of juice. Note the overlap between the Stork Club's opening and the end of Prohibition.)

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Take a gander at the Stork Club's commemorative website and you'll see what I mean. A scene from All About Eve was set at the Stork Club; so was a second-season scene from Mad Men. Enough said; pass me my make-believe mink stole.

The Stork Club

(From The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

1 1/2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1 dash Angostura bitters

Lime and/or orange twist, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with citrus twists.

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The Pineapple Gimlet

I've been wanting to make this cocktail for months, ever since I scheduled my Midwestern roundabout (Mtl -->StL -->CHI -->TOR -->Mtl) for late April and knew I'd get the chance to revisit The Matchbox, that sliver of a Chicago watering hole that is basically the greatest bar on Earth. To sate myself in the weeks prior, I read through Matchbox's Yelp reviews and saw that, time and again, opiners were recommending the pineapple gimlet. Doesn't that sound ah-mah-zing? A pineapple gimlet!

And then the PhoBlograpHusband and I finally went to The Matchbox and got the last two seats at the bar during happy hour. It seemed foolish for me to order and pay for an entire cocktail that I could only take one sip of (per my own pregnancy rules) so I asked Sean to order himself a pineapple gimlet and he said no. He was in the mood for a Manhattan. I suppose I could choose to call my husband a big, fat jerk at this point but it's really OK. I pouted for a moment and then moved on.

Except not entirely, because I still just knew that I had to try making a pineapple gimlet of my own, at home, for you, me, the blog and that selfish hubs o'mine. And in fact, when that finally happened, it was Sean who took the wheel and hammered this recipe out (because every now and then in my 30-something weeks of pregnancy I just hit a wall and have to go sit comatosely for a while).

Sean did everything right with this pineapple gimlet recipe, and the cocktail is quite divine: light in body yet full and round in flavor. You taste the lime juice first, its citrus tang bullish out of the gate, and then for an aftertaste you get the comparatively soft and lilting taste of pineapple.

Sean used less egg white than I probably would have, resulting in a drink with more visual clarity (and probably more clarity on the palate as well). Usually, out of sheer laziness, I just plop the entire, raw white of an egg into my shaker, but here Sean carefully portioned out just half of the white. Adding raw egg white to a cocktail, as well as complementing the drink with a rim of confectioner's sugar, are two tricks I learned years ago thanks to The Matchbox.

The Pineapple Gimlet

(inspired by the offering on the menu at Matchbox, but I have no idea how similar our recipes may be)

2 ounces Akvinta Vodka

1/2 ounce triple sec

3/4 ounces freshly squeezed pineapple juice

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/2 of the raw white of a large egg

Confectioner's sugar, for the rim

Lime slice, to garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with confectioner's sugar and set aside. Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds (aka, a dry shake). Then fill with ice and do so again. Strain into your glass and add garnish.

Tasting Notes

Yeah, I made this a vodka pineapple gimlet rather than a gin one. Again, thought it might result in a flavor with more clarity, plus it gave me the chance to use our gifted Akvinta Vodka, which is clear-tasting in all those good vodka ways to say the least.

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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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