The Greyhound Highball: vodka, grapefruit juice, lime wedge

The Greyhound Highball. Forget the Cape Cod. If they have fresh grapefruit, go for it!

The Greyhound is another of the New England highballs, a variation on the Cape Codder (or Cape Cod) that uses grapefruit juice instead of cranberry.

The Greyhound Highball recipe

In a highball glass, combine over ice:

  • 1.5 oz. vodka
  • 3.5 oz. grapefruit juice
  • lime wedge, for garnish

Again, the proportions are variable. If you like more vodka taste, add more vodka. If you like more sour, add more grapefruit. For some drinks, I’m a stickler about proportions. I wouldn’t advise adding an extra 0.5 oz. to a Vesper, for example. But the New England highballs aren’t those drinks. Vary them all you want according to your taste.

And as long as we’re talking about taste, I’m actually not a huge fan of the Greyhound. Last time, I talked about the Sea Breeze, which combines vodka and cranberry with 1 oz. of grapefruit juice, and that drink works perfectly. But the Greyhound is only grapefruit, so there is no sugar to balance out the sour. One commenter said they like to order Cape Cods at office parties, and I can see that. I wouldn’t order a Greyhound.

Scratch that! If you’ve never had a Greyhound highball, order one. Might as well try something new, right?

A note on fresh grapefruit juice

A note about grapefruit juice: I have been using fresh grapefruit juice for all of these drinks. It’s December, so grapefruits are in season in Texas, and I can buy a 10 lb. bag for $3.

That 10 lb. bag will give me about 5-6 cups of juice after lots of squeezing. That sounds like a lot, but not when you’re making drinks requiring nearly a half of a cup of grapefruit juice. Each. That’s waht 3 1/2 ounces is, after all! It’s almost 1/2 of a cup!

So I don’t recommend these for everyone at a party unless you use bottled grapefruit juice. But then you’re sacrificing a bit of quality for the sake of ease. Probably worth it in this case. If you want good grapefruit juice, I would go with Simply Grapefruit. Best I’ve had.

The Sea Breeze Cocktail: Vodka, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, lime

The Sea Breeze Cocktail: Grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, lime, slice of heaven

The Sea Breeze Cocktail is a variation on the Cape Codder Highball that uses less cranberry juice and adds a measure of grapefruit juice. It’s a great variation, worth trying if you like either Cape Cods or Salty Dogs or any of the other cranberry versions.

The Sea Breeze Cocktail recipe

The best recipe I have found combines over ice in a tall glass:

  • 1.5 oz. vodka
  • 3 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • lime wedge, for garnish

The Sea Breeze cocktail is a worthy variation on the Cape Cod or Cape Codder, at least in my opinion. The addition of grapefruit does two things to the drink that make it better than the Cape Cod: first, it adds a sour note that offsets the sweetness of the cranberry. Cranberry juice isn’t overly sweet, but it does have a lot of sugar in it to balance out the slight tartness of the cranberries. The grapefruit juice, though, makes it so much easier to drink because it isn’t like Kool-Aid anymore.

And that brings me to the second reason the Sea Breeze is better than the Cape Codder:

It is a more complex drink.

The Cape Codder almost seems like a child’s drink, a drink with no variation, simply vodka and cranberry with a sophisticated sounding,fancy name.

The Sea Breeze, however, is something different. It has a terrible, silly name, okay. But the addition of the slightly bitter grapefruit juice balances the drink and makes it subtler, an adult version of the Cape Codder. The Cape Cod is in your face with its sweetness but the Sea Breeze is laid back, and its complexity makes it more pleasing.

So when you’re at your next work function, and they’re serving Cape Cods, ask if they have some grapefruit juice. Even canned is fine. Not quite a good, but still worth drinking.

The Cape Cod highball: vodka, cranberry juice, lime slice.

It's not a cocktail because it's really only two ingredients. So it's a highball.
The Cape Cod Highball: cranberry juice, vodka, lime slice

I hope you’re ready for a series of entries on the Cape Codder and its variations. For the next few, we will go through all of them, so make sure you stock up on cranberry juice and grapefruits.

For my money, the Cade Cod is the drink for warm summer evenings (or mornings, when you’re on vacation). It is easily one of the most sip-easy drinks in the entirety cocktail-dom. And the best thing about it is that it is easy. And I mean easy.

There is some debate about the proportions of the drink, and I tend to like mine on the sweeter side. The drink is only vodka and cranberry juice, so some people recommend a 1:1 ratio while others recommend a 1:3 ratio of vodka to cranberry. Me, I like a 1:2.5 ratio.

The Cape Cod Highball Recipe

In a highball glass, combine

  • 1.5 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. cranberry
  • lime wedge, garnish

What I like about the Cape Cod and most of its Cape Codder variations is that they don’t taste like alcohol. In general, I don’t particularly like the taste of vodka, so I don’t want to taste it. Yes, it’s a weird thing about me and vodka. It’s not like with some people and their aversion to tequila. I will drink vodka, yes, I will. But I don’t usually want to drink it straight unless it is really good vodka, like Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

So the Cape Cod is my drink. The cranberry is a bit tart but also sweet, and it pairs very well with its vodka counterpart.

For next time, we try the Sea Breeze.

How to make the best Gimlet ever

It’s great because, frankly, Gimlets are great. Heck, see my post a couple ones before this, and you will know why I was interested in trying all of the different versions. That is one good cocktail, my friends.

For the Great Gimlet tasting, we had four variations:

  • Gin + Rose’s Lime Juice + cucumber + lime
  • Vodka + Rose’s Lime Juice + cucumber + lime
  • Gin + fresh lime juice + simple syrup + cucumber and lime
  • Gin + fresh lime juice + ginger syrup + lime + ginger piece

I will explain how to make ginger syrup later, but for now, let’s get to the results.

The Gimlet from Lance Orton on Vimeo.

Cucumbers? Limes? Both? Enjoy them all in a Gimlet!

Everyone liked the first one the best, and I have to admit, I’m not surprised. The Rose’s isn’t a very strong lime flavor, so the cucumber shines. The smell of the cucumber goes perfectly with the drink, and it is the cucumber flavor that everyone loved about this one.

The vodka didn’t enhance the cucumber at all; gin is the way to go here. Gin is more flavorful, so it didn’t seem as overpoweringly harsh as the vodka.

The simple syrup option didn’t work that well because it was too sweet, but everyone did like the addition of ginger. Again, it was too sweet, and it tasted like candy. Tasty, sure, but not like the gin with Rose’s option.

The verdict: stick with the original Gimlet: Gin + Rose’s Lime juice with a cucumber and lime garnish. You can’t go wrong.

The Economics of Stay at Home Cocktails: Go out sometimes, but stay in and enjoy, too!

Some of these liqueurs are downright expensive. You may not even be able to find something generic. When you want Chartreuse, you have to shell out the $60!

After working on this blog for a week and seriously trying to make cocktails, I began to think about the economics of the drink.

Let’s take the Sidecar. Imagine going to a bar and ordering one. First of all, if it isn’t a bar with a true mixologist, they’ve never heard of a Sidecar, or if they have, they have no idea what’s it in. It requires cognac and Cointreau, two pretty expensive liquors, even if you are only use V.S. cognac (that’s Very Special, for those of you wondering about cognac. Maybe I will even have a post about cognac at some point.).

The two ingredients–cognac and Cointreau–in the sidecar make it one expensive drink!

Even if the bartender does know what’s in it, will they bother to coat the rim in sugar? It’s the key step in my opinion because it adds the necessary sugar to make the drink palatable. Otherwise, it’s really just cognac and Cointreau with a little bit of lemon juice.

As a side note, even if you do get someone who knows how to make a drink, there’s 50/50 chance that they will use bottled juices instead of fresh. To me, that’s a critical distinction. Bottled juice versus fresh can make a great cocktail into a mediocre one and vice versa. (For the other side, see my posts on the Gimlet.)

 

 

 

 

 

Then, even if they do know how to make the drink, know what’s in it, and they even sugar the rim and use fresh juices, this drink will cost you at least $12. After all, it’s a top shelf call drink with two liquors. Those are usually $5-$8 a piece, depending on where you live. That’s a lot of cash when you enjoy more than one cocktail, and especially if you are the gregarious type and want to buy drinks for your friends.

But the Stay-at-home Cocktails model if a frugal way to live with good cocktails. Here’s the breakdown: with a 750 ml bottle, you can get at least 16 1.5 oz. servings. If you figure a bottle of Remy Martin costs $32, and a bottle of Cointreau costs $35, then we can make 16 Sidecars with half a bottle of Cointreau left over. If a bottle of Remy Martin Grand Cru V.S. Cognac costs $32, then each 1.5 oz. shot costs effectively $2. Each portion of Cointreau costs approximately $1. So the liquor portion of the drink costs about $3 if you make it at home.

Did you read that correctly? The Stay-at-Home Cocktails model will cost you $3 for a Sidecar, whereas the go-out-and-splurge-at-fancy-bars model will cost you $12. Savings of 75%.

Now imagine making or buying 16 Sidecars. The bar cost: $192. The Stay at Home Cocktails cost: $48. Savings: $144. And you still have half a bottle of Cointreau leftover.

Sure, my calculations don’t include the lime juice or the oranges or the sugar, so I guess we can figure that our cost goes up to perhaps $60. But those costs are nearly negligible anyway.

The verdict: stick with us and make your cocktails at home.

The simplest, best cocktail ever–the Gimlet! Gin, Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice, slice of lime

Just don't use vodka! Well, you can, but then it's a vodka gimlet...
The Gimlet! Gin, Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice, slice of lime

The Gimlet is a pretty simple drink that uses easy-to-find, off-the-shelf ingredients.

The Gimlet Recipe

To make the simple Gimlet, all you do is mix two ingredients:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 0.75 oz. Rose’s lime juice

and shake them really well with ice. Then pour into an Old Fashioned glass or something similar and add a lime slice. It’s very simple–too simple, in fact. Never having tried one, I was skeptical. It sounded too much like adding a liquor to a mixer, a sure-fire way to make a mediocre cocktail.

But it’s good, and quite refreshing. I could down a few of these without realizing how many I had drunk. The lime flavor is prominent but it isn’t that strong because of the pre-mixed Rose’s. It would be a very different drink with fresh lime juice, and there is a lot of debate about whether one should use fresh lime and simple syrup instead of the Rose’s. For me, the amount of sugar in the Rose’s is just right. And it makes it simple, too. In general, I don’t go for simple (to my wife’s dismay) only because it doesn’t taste good. But if something can be simple and also taste good, then I’m all for it.

For me, the best thing about the Gimlet is its name. It is most likely an early 20th century drink made for the Royal Navy to give them vitamin C. But the name itself conjures up the roaring 20s or the 40s. I feel as if I should don my fedora and sit at my own bar and enjoy a Gimlet.

And, heck, why not?

The Cosmopolitan Cocktail (the Cosmo, if you’re nasty): citrus vodka, Cointreau, cranberry, lime

The ladies love it!
My wife enjoying a Cosmopolitan. I don’t care if Sex and the City made it popular; it’s still a damn fine drink.

I first heard of a Cosmopolitan when the show Sex and the City was popular, sometime in the late 1990s. Sure, the drink had been around for a while, but I had never heard of it. Back then, I thought a splurgy cocktail was a bar brand whiskey sour, and Shiner Bock was the only beer with any flavor.

I first saw a Cosmopolitan sometime around the same time when I was at an event at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and they were serving something on trays that was in what I had always called a martini glass. But it was pink. Pink! I asked the waitress what they were, and she was aghast that I didn’t recognize a Cosmopolitan when I saw it. Obviously I wasn’t as cosmopolitan as I thought I was.

And then I decided to make my own. Here is the recipe.

The Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe

Combine and shake with ice:

  • 1.5 oz. citrus vodka (orange Smirnoff, in my case)
  • 0.75 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 0.25 oz. fresh lime juice
  • orange peel

Then strain into a martini glass.

Even a manly man like me, with sideburns and a SWAT t-shirt, looks girly drinking a Cosmopolitan.

It truly is pink. This drink is not only pink, but it makes everyone who drinks it look girly. It doesn’t matter how manly you are, even a lumberjack looks girly when drinking a Cosmopolitan.

But, my man friends, this is one drink that is worth looking girly for. It’s good when it’s made correctly. It’s delicious, in fact. But don’t skimp on it. Don’t use triple sec, and don’t use bottled lime; it won’t taste right. Go for fresh, and use good stuff. It will make a delicious drink. I served them after Thanksgiving, and they were a hit.

What I like about this drink is how it builds. The liquor is actually accentuated by the cranberry and its sugar. And the lime makes it into a kind of sour, but it’s definitely not a tropical or a typical sour. Everything just melds into something that tastes nothing like cranberry, nothing lime lime, and nothing like vodka. It is simply delicious.

Now I know why Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda were enthralled with them.

Hell, I am too.

The Bobby Burns Cocktail: Highland scotch, sweet vermouth, Benedictine

The Bobby Burns: a variation on the Rusty Nail and the Manhattan
The Bobby Burns Cocktail: scotch, Benedictine, sweet vermouth

If you like scotch or Rusty Nails or Manhattans or Vieux Carres, you have to try the Bobby Burns cocktail. After all, it combines just three wonderful ingredients: scotch, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine.

The Bobby Burns cocktail is named to recognize and remember Robert Burns, a late 18th-Century poet probably most well known for his New Year’s anthem “Auld Lang Syne,” that song that no one really remembers the words of. Robert Burns is adored in Scotland, and I mean they almost worship this guy. He wrote a lot of poetry, much of it somewhat bawdy, and all of it fit to be set to music. And most of it has. It’s no coincidence that the drink named after him is made with Scotch. As Bobby Burns himself wrote about the excise tax on whiskey,

Scotland, my auld, respected mither!
Tho’ whiles ye moistify your leather,
Till, whare ye sit on craps o’ heather,
Ye tine your dam;
Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither!
Take aff your dram!

I enjoy a good Scotch, but it isn’t the kind of drink I can drink quickly or drink more than one or two of. I keep a good single malt in my cabinet, both a Highland, an Islay, and a blended (usually Monkey Shoulder!). For this one, I used both the Monkey Shoulder and the Glen Moray Highland malt, and both of them were excellent.

The Bobby Burns Cocktail Recipe

To make the Bobby Burns cocktail, stir together these ingredients with ice:

  • 2 oz. Scotch
  • 0.75 oz. Italian sweet vermouth (Martini and Rossi)
  • 0.5 oz. Benedictine
The Bobby Burns uses more Benedictine than the Vieux Carre
Benedictine: an unusual animal, the nutty liqueur is most common in the Vieux Carre.

Then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Now if you’re not familiar with Benedictine, it’s a liqueur first made by monks in 1510. It’s sweet with a strong hint of cloves, and it reminds me of Drambuie, so I thought this would taste like a Rusty Nail, a drink I will describe in a later blog, I hope.

But the Bobby Burns is quite different. It’s just as sweet, what from the sweet vermouth and Benedictine liqueur, but it seems more balanced. It’s spicier, and the sweetness doesn’t overpower the scotch flavors.

 

Overall, the Bobby Burns is a quality cocktail, and it’s an easy one to make at home. If you keep a bottle of Benedictine around to make Vieux Carres, it probably lasts you a few years. Now you have another reason to use it.

Make the Bobby Burns when someone comes over who likes classic cocktails like Manhattans or something like that. The Bobby Burns will do them well.

The Sidecar Cocktail: Cognac, Cointreau, lemon

Take a ride in the Sidecar!
The Sidecar Cocktail: Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice

The Sidecar cocktail has one of my favorite things for cocktails: the prepared rim. I admit it, I like drinks with coated rims. I don’t care whether it’s salt, chile powder, or, in this case, sugar: I like the idea of preparing yet another aspect of the cocktail.

After all, we spend a lot of time procuring the different ingredients and juicing our citrus and making our syrups, but we usually don’t think about the glass itself. Coating the rim suggests that the glass can be an ingredient unto itself, and I like that.

For the Sidecar, you rub an orange slice around the rim and then dip it into a plate of sugar. Easy breezy. Then you chill it. For me, that’s the hard part because my freezer is always chock full. I have to make room for things that are important, though, right?

The Sidecar is one of those drinks, too, that has to be shaken well in order to get the bits of ice in the drink. I like that part of it. Sure, I guess you could serve it over ice in order to keep it cold, but any real cocktail shouldn’t be around that long anyway.

The Sidecar Cocktail Recipe

So you combine in a shaker the following ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. cognac (Remy Martin)
  • 0.75 oz. Cointreau
  • 0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice

and you shake it well. Go for forty shakes. Yes, I’m serious. The ice melts the right amount and the drink gets cold enough to hold it through sipping.

Then you garnish the Sidecar with a flamed orange peel, which is awesome to do for a party because no one has ever seen it before. Believe it or not, it does actually change the flavor. If you’re wondering what a flamed orange peel is, keep reading this blog, and I will eventually get to it.

I like the Sidecar. Let me rephrase that: I really like the Sidecar. I love it that the only sugar in the drink is the sugar on the rim. Sure, it’s considered a sour, but there’s no actual sugar in the drink except from the liquors themselves. The drink is sweet, though, because we took the time to prepare the glass itself.

What’s so great about the Sidecar is that it is a stout drink with 2.25 oz. liquor in it, as compared to the standard 1.5 oz. in a regular drink. But it’s still refreshing. I can imagine sitting outside on a hot day with the entire family and enjoying several of these in pretty quick succession. They go down so smooth that they’re easy to drink, but they’re so stout that they would make any day enjoyable.

I like it that the Sidecar works in mixed company, too. A lot of classic cocktails are enjoyed primarily by men, but the Sidecar is sweet enough to please a woman yet stout enough to hold a man’s interest.

No, I’m not being misogynist; just honest.

The Clover Club Cocktail: gin, lemon juice, grenadine, syrup, egg white

The Clover Club Cocktail: gin, syrup, lemon, grenadine, egg white

For tonight’s cocktail hour, we sampled the Clover Club Cocktail and the Sidecar, two classic cocktails. For now, we will stick to the Clover Club. We’ll look at the Sidecar next time.

The Clover Club
For the Clover Club cocktail, combine with ice:

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. grenadine
  • 1/2 of an egg white

Notice the last bullet there: an egg white. Most people haven’t made a cocktail with a raw egg in it, and some of the stay-at-home cocktail drinkers won’t drink one, even if it is made for them (you know who you are!). It’s like tiramisu, though: everyone loves it until they find out that it’s made from raw eggs. It never hurt you before, so why start worrying about it now that you know what’s in it?

Why put a raw egg in a cocktail anyway? It’s the texture. A drink made with either a white or a yolk has a much smoother texture. It actually stays on the tongue. It’s almost like when you make a pan sauce after cooking a steak and you have to reduce it by half until it starts to actually stay on the back of the spoon. A drink made with raw eggs stays in the mouth like that.

The only thing you want to make sure of when you drink something with a raw egg in it is that you shake it, always, and that you shake it hard. The egg needs to be fully emulsified so that you don’t get any kind of weird egg pieces in your drink. That would definitely ruin the cocktail.

The egg in the Clover Club cocktail sets it apart. This drink is good. Sure, it’s basically a sour with grenadine, but the color is nothing to sneeze at, either. It is a pleasing pinkish color with a frothy rim around the top from the emulsified egg. No garnish is needed because the egg froth is beautiful on top of the pink drink itself. I admit that I added a bit too much grenadine to one of mine, and adding too much made it almost taste like medicine. But the others were good. There’s hints of cherry, and it reminds me of a fruity red wine with a lot going on. It’s sweet at first, but then the sweetness stops rather abruptly, kind of like a lot of wine does. As the drink reaches the back of the throat, it loses it’s sweetness.

In another post, maybe we will talk about why combining sweet and sour is so pleasing, but for now, don’t be afraid of the egg and make yourself a Clover Club.

Cocktails, Spirits, Bars, and Beer in Houston and all over Texas