Hibernation Libation

Week 50 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Glühwein and Glögg.

Wow, week 50! Just two more adventures to go and the year is done. That was fast…

This time of year, when the weather turns cold, a lovely way to warm up from the inside is with a mulled wine, warmed, fortified and flavored with spices. Many a holiday shopper in the Christmas markets of Europe, especially Germany, may enjoy a cup of cheer as they battle the chill. In the United States, most mulled wines are a half hearted imitation of the glühwein (glow wine) ladled out in the open air huts of the markets. That’s what happens when a nation is founded by a bunch of tee-totaling Puritans…

A traditional mulled wine done right includes a base red wine, cinnamon, sugar, spices like anise and clove, a dash of citrus –either orange or lemon– and for even more fortification, a shot of brandy or rum. The Scandinavian version of glühwein is called glögg and differs from the German mulled wine in that it uses port as a base and is fortified with akvavit or vodka rather than brandy or rum. Other additions may include raisins and almonds. I decided to experiment and make my own glühwein.

I started with an inexpensive domestic merlot -so much other flavor will be added, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on the wine. Then I tried two variations: one with the cognac, the other with the Kill Devil Hills Rum I brought back from the Outer Banks this fall. I figured the pecan and honey would make a nice flavor addition to the glühwein. (I was right!) Since the candied ginger had sugar and the rum had honey, I didn’t add any extra sweetening to that cup.

Here is the way I made mine: in a small saucepan, I heated six ounces of the wine with a shot of the rum, tossed in three slices of the ginger, a thick slice of lemon, dash of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Do not boil! You will evaporate the alcohol and what fun is that? In the cognac variation, I added a spoonful of dark brown sugar to the mix. I used my tea strainer when I poured the glow wine into the cup. Both of these variations were delicious and fortifying, indeed.

Now, if we would just get some snow. The Mid-Atlantic region is missing out on all the fun. Wow, Lula, only two more adventures left. Where did the time go?


It was a dark and stormy night…

Week 48 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Ginger beer.

Right about now you’re asking yourself what business ginger beer has being part of a drinking adventure. Ginger beer, as well as ginger ale is a non-alcholic beverage. Right? Right? Well, it so happens, ginger beer is a product of fermentation and as such does contain a trace amount of alcohol -less than 0.5%, the legal threshold for marketing something as non-alcoholic. And in fact, ’twas not always the case. Ginger beer, when it originated, was a much more potent potable than its modern day counterparts. Today’s ginger beers are heated to kill off the fermenting yeast and to boil off the majority of the alcohol, leaving a scant remnant behind.

51fffcpqPZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_According to our guide, several ginger beer brewers have returned to their roots and rather than halt the fermentation process, are allowing the yeast to work its magic and produce more alcohol. I was unable to sample the products recommended, however, but I’ll list them here in case you want to give them a try: Crabbie’s, Ginger Grouse, Hollows & Fentimans -all companies in the United Kingdom. Maybe Lula had better luck…

I do occasionally indulge in a cocktail that makes use of the ‘non-alcoholic’ ginger beer, however, and this is the connection to Snoopy if you hadn’t figured it out…

The Dark and Stormy: dark spiced rum (I like the Captain Morgan Black Rum) over ice mixed with ginger beer. Basically it’s a Cuba Libre with ginger beer instead of Coke. And it’s definitely better in the summertime by the pool. But why not sip as you sit in front of the typewriter,  composing your noir thriller.

And an update from a couple weeks ago… Remember the pickle back? A shot of whiskey or other spirit followed by a shot of pickle juice? Well, in an attempt to be a good sport, I tried it. I had a shot of Woodford reserve bourbon followed by a shot of Klaussen’s kosher dill pickle juice. And…. it wasn’t awful. I can’t quite grasp the point of covering over the flavor and warmth of a nice whiskey with the brine of pickle, though. At least I can say I’ve tried it. Cheers!

Image (of course) from Peanuts by Charles Schulz

Bloody Mary is the girl I love…

(Sung to the tune From South Pacific. And yes, this is likely to be a very silly post.)

It’s Week 44 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Bloody Mary.

I love a Bloody Mary. My ex-brother-in-law’s step-father, Sheldon, (long story) used to make the best Bloody Marys. Then he went and died without telling anyone his secret ingredient. Don’t you hate when that happens? Listen, if you have a secret recipe for something, for heaven’s sake write it down, lock it away where no one can get to it, but at least leave it behind for posterity. I’ve been trying to replicate it for twenty years.

Bloody Mary purists look away. The guide this week featured not just the classic bloody Mary (vodka, tomato juice, tabasco, Worcesterchire, salt and pepper and a stalk of celery) but a host of variants. Apparently there’s a place in Portland called Tasty and Sons (Lula I’m thinking you’ve been there!) which has a Bloody Mary menu. They offer something called a Tasty Mary which is fairly traditional save for the addition of horseradish, lemon and house pickles (I think this was old dead Sheldon’s secret ingredient, personally and the reason I can’t replicate it is because he used to buy the pickles from Goldstein’s Deli in Kingston, PA, two hours away) and swapping out the tabasco with Sriracha sauce.

They turn up the Eastern volume with a drink called the Dim Summore, which uses hoisin, lime and ginger. The Lady Vengeance (named for a Korean crime film) replaces vodka with rye whiskey (right there it quits being a Bloody Mary for me) adds in kimchi juice (gross), lime, fish sauce (even grosser), and Korean chili salt.

The bar also has a variation of the Bloody Maria which swaps out the vodka for tequila. It’s called the Cholullan and uses Cholula hot sauce, pimento and Calabrian chiles. Last but not least is the Scandinavian version called the Tasty Maiken, which has dill, pickles and Aquavit instead of vodka.

All right, whatever… Truth is, I am likely to keep working on my own twist on the classic. So this weekend, I experimented with the basic recipe and came up with this: The Bloody (Margaret) Mary:

2 oz premium vodka (life’s too short to drink cheap booze)
3 oz tomato juice (I make mine fresh with Italian plum tomatoes and season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
2-3 dashes tabasco sauce
dash of Lawery’s seasoned salt (no MSG!)
1 teaspoon pickle juice from a good kosher dill pickle
garnish with celery stalk

Rot in hell, Sheldon.