July 14, 2023
Earlier this year (this year as I type being 2023, in case you’re reading this from the far future or something), I was lucky enough to get to write an article on the whole ready-to-drink explosion happening currently – if the RTD phrasing hasn’t hit your ears yet, I’m talking canned and bottled and whatevered premade cocktails (hard seltzer fits in, too, though I only touched on it briefly in said article, as I’m, and it was, more cocktail). Oh, I wrote said article for the scrumptious Sip magazine (visit Sip and look for the 2023 Annual Collector’s Edition, if you want to read it). Anyway, weirdly enough, having nothing to do with that particular article, I received some cans of Casatera in the mail recently. All of which has been rambled through so I could say: coincidence is neat and the universe does interesting things, which have led to me being about to enjoy a cold Casatera on this summertime Friday.
Specifically, Casatera Coconut! I didn’t know much about this tequila-based seltzer-y bubbly canned brand until this summer, and thinking you might not either, let me give you a little background. Casatera has zero sugar, carbs, gluten and artificial flavors or sweeteners, uses actual tequila from an actual real award-winning Mexican distillery, and boasts a robust 7% ABV. There’s a whole host of flavors now available, including the original trio of Lime, Grapefruit, and Strawberry, and the new sibs Mango, Pineapple, Passionfruit, and Coconut.
I have to step in for honesty’s sake (if one can’t be honest, even with booze, well, what’s the world coming to?), and admit to not having fallen in overall love with the hard seltzer movement. Not that I haven’t tasted some decent ones. But many just don’t have the flavor umph I’m looking for. Casatera, for me, definitely rises up to the upper regions of those I’ve tasted. For one, that 7% kick of real tequila is smoochy. You get a nice tequila essence and ripple, along with an overall crisp clean lightness that’s ideal on a hot day. And, that chemical echo many of the lesser RTDs come accompanied by isn’t in evidence. Would a little more Coconut or Passionfruit (my favorites) or whatever punch be good for me? Sure! But I understand that many want to keep it lighter and stripped back. When the Mercury’s risen, who can blame them? I did find I dug the Casatera best with a smidge of fresh citrus, but that’s personal preference. And have enjoyed – and will continue such – both over ice and right from the can. You be you, and stay cool!
December 16, 2022
As the end of another year looms in front of us (along with the joyous and jolly holiday season), it reminds me that – I am old, hahaha! So old that I remember being in New York City, the biggest city in the world, make it there, etc., to teach a cocktail class or some such, and when I went into a bar, a good bar, and asked for a Negroni, they didn’t know how to make it. Now, you youngsters with your Negroni weeks and endless Negroni variations probably can’t believe it, but it’s true! The booze world of modern times is an oft-marvelous place, even though not all Negroni relatives are as marvelous, some are. And the Rosita is one of the top international Negroni, let’s call it a cousin. The usual modern-day Rosita recipe I believe goes back to the great, friendly, fantastic Gary Regan (sadly now shaking and sipping at that big ol’ bar in the sky), back to his Bartender’s Bible. The drink is – if you don’t know – a drink that combines tequila, both sweet and dry vermouths, Campari, and Angostura bitters. Delicious! Shades of the Negroni, changed up by tequila’s vegetal smoke and the dry vermouth’s lighter and bitter’s darker notes, holding on to the deep herbs and coloring of the Campari and sweet vermouth.
The other evening, I almost made that very drink, with some DE-NADA Reposado tequila (which had, lucky for me, shown up in the post recently). Almost! DE-NADA Reposado, beyond the all-caps, is crafted from 100% estate-grown blue agave in Jalisco by the fifth-generation Vivanco family distillers, aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels for a minimum of four months, and ends up a swell, approachable, sipper, smooth, with peach and pineapple fruit notes mingling with almond and cinnamon, underlined by a caramel vanilla yumminess. In the same way as it’s Blanco sibling, it’s confirmed additive free, too (it’s part of the additive-free family – unlike a fair number of others), and certified Carbon Neutral. A good thing to make a drink with! Probably good to make a regular Rosita with, in the normal style. But I, I was feeling contrary, and decided it would be even better subbed for gin straight into my normal Negroni recipe (which is the classic 1:1:1). And, while I’m not saying it was better, it was certainly darn good! The tequila’s vanilla-nut-spice-fruit-ness gets to shine a touch more, and went wonderfully with the sweet vermouth as the only vermouth, while keeping the Campari at an equal level ensured that the sweetness didn’t take over. I also garnished with an orange slice, and that bit of fresh citrus, well, it was a treat I tell you. Try it before you get too old, and see if I’m right!
The Sweet Rosilita
1-1/2 ounces DE-NADA Reposado tequila
1-1/2 ounces Campari
1-1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Add the trio of liquids to a mixing glass. Stir well.
2. Fill an Old Fashioned or comparable glass three-quarters up with ice cubes. Strain the mix from 1 over the ice into the glass. Give a brief stir.
3. Garnish with the orange slice (be sure to squeeze over the glass and drop it in after you take the photo).
July 8, 2022
Here is something I learned recently: nearly 80% of the tequila brands sold in the U.S. have additives, things to add sweetening or alter coloring or change up the natural taste. I mean, I knew that additives like caramel for example have been used for, well, ever (or a long time) to change up certain aspects of whiskey or what-have-you, but for some reason never thought this extended in general to tequila. I mean, obviously (by taste alone) you can tell that chemicals are in certain boozes, including tequilas. But just didn’t realize the reach. Until recently, about the same time I was lucky enough to have a little DE-NADA tequila show up in the mail (lucky me!). A newer brand to me, DE-NADA tequilas are confirmed additive free – which means taste, coloring, everything, is coming from the natural ingredients in the tequilas, and the time-honored processes used to make real tequila. Neat! They make both blanco and reposado tequilas (both at a fifth-generation tequila distillery in Jalisco), and while the blanco is a treat – smooth and bright on the tongue, with some fruit notes, peach, grapefruit, and some herbal notes, anise, mint, a hint of pepper at the finish – when I was craving a Rosita, I went with the reposado.
The Rosita (you probably know this, being in the know, but just in case), is a relation in a way to the Negroni. Not, to me, a sibling, but at least a cousin. As well as a cousin to various other drinks served over ice that have spirit + vermouth + something else. The something else here is Campari, and hence the Negroni connection. Oh, though, there are both sweet and dry vermouths – that makes it a cousin only. And also extra bitters (which maybe means, second cousin). But it has a little of that memorable Campari-sweet-bitter-ness (which I love, so much), even though there is less here, allowing the tequila to shine. I feel to stand up to a party properly with the Campari and vermouths, that slightly deeper reposado is needed – and the DE-NADA Reposado shines in the drink. It’s, like the bianco, smooth, very smooth, but the flavor leans nuttier, with almonds and vanilla (okay, a bean, but nut-like), mingling with toasted oak and caramel, roasted agave, and hints of cinnamon, mellowing out buttery at the finish. Yummy! And goes really well with the vermouth, and the bitter-ing undertones. The Campari, too, which might seem an odd pairing at first, but trust me, the end result is lovely summer drink to savor.
1-1/2 ounce DE-NADA Reposado tequila
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Dash Angostura bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything, except the ice cubes! Stir well.
2. Add some ice cubes – about halfway – to an Old Fashioned or comparable glass. Strain the mix from Step one over the cubes and into the glass. Garnish with the orange twist.
April 29, 2022
Does it feel like brunch season to you? It does to me! Spring when springing always sings out “brunching time is on” in my old ears for some reason. More sunshine, perhaps, or the blooming of things equates in my brain having pals over for meals that aren’t really breakfast, but aren’t yet lunch either. Bascially: brunch! Great idea, brunch, by the way. Not that I don’t like brunches throughout the year, between us, but brunching in spring is best. Perhaps because you can, after a long winter (for many), have said brunch outdoors again if you want? Perhaps because by spring the days are longer so you can work up more of a brunch appetite (lots of weeding to be done in the morning, too)? Who knows! But in honor of, let’s call it, brunch season – which of course demands more brunch drinks – here’s a new effervescent cocktail for you, the Good Morning Sunshine. I like my brunch drinks bubbly in the main, and a bit fruity, while still having a smooth kick to help ease you into afternoon napping! That little rubric leads to the ingredient list here: two kinds of juice (oj, pj), the citrus-ish lightly sweet beloved of the nation (currently) Aperol, Aperol’s tight pal Prosecco (bringing the bubbles), and then a bit of a brunch surpriser: tequila, which adds the underlying strength while also bringing a hint of smoke and vegetalness. Quite lovely I have to admit. Brunch lovely, even!
Good Morning Sunshine
1 ounce blanco tequila
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce orange juice
4 ounces chilled Prosecco (see Note)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add all but the Prosecco. Shake well.
2. Strain into a flute glass or comparable vessel. Top with the Prosecco. Brunch = on!
A Note: Could go five ounces here if you want and are feeling extra bubbly. Up to you.
January 21, 2022
I’ve had a fair amount of lush, creamy, type drinks on the ol’ Spiked Punch lately (with Holly Jolly homemade cream liqueur and the Silk Stocking cocktail a couple of example), and I’ve never been shy about my love of dessert drinks (really, nearly all drinks), so perhaps it’s not a surprise that I’m going to continue this month with another that falls into those categories, this time, a brand-new cocktail called Tre Baci. I hadn’t actually planned on continuing along the sweeter road, but then a bottle of Borgata Chocolate Liqueur showed up, and, well, here we are, sweeter bottoms up!
Borgata Chocolate Liqueur is from Italy (which I love!), but I hadn’t had it until recently, and it is sort-of over-the-top, in a delicious way. Like the best chocolate syrup ever, plus booze (and a boozy chocolate syrup would be the best ever): rich, smooth, ultra-chocolate-y, yummy. Worth trying solo, but it’s almost too much richy goodness alone – well, depends on the person! In cocktails, it’s dreamy. Here, I mixed it with just a few other standouts, starting with tequila. Specifically, Corralejo Reposado tequila, which has a fetching agave-nature and smokiness mingling with vanilla and oak. Tequila’s smokiness is underrated as a chocolate pairing, as this cocktail aptly demonstrates. For the third member of the trio, I went with Grandeza, an orange liqueur made in WA (using agave syrup, btw, which ties nicely into our tequila!), and I’m guessing by now you can imagine the orange mingling with smoke and chocolate; I’m salivating just typing it! A little cinnamon on top and ta-da, there’s a drink ideal for late evening sipping (probably with your favorite someone else, cause sweet drinks are best with a sweetie).
2 ounces Corralejo Reposado tequila
1 ounce Borgata Classic Chocolate Liqueur
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
Sprinkle of cinnamon, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add our liquid trio of awesome. Shake well (I know this might not appear a shaking drink at first to some, but the Borgata is so creamy, I feel it needs it).
2. Strain into a cocktail or comparable glass. Sprinkle a touch of cinnamon on top (freshly-grated, if you have it).
December 10, 2021
Hey hey howdy-o holidays (the winter variety) are nearly upon us, and for reasons known only to the back part of my brain (and it ain’t talking) I tend to smoothly smooth my way into sweeter, creamier drinks about now. Well, maybe I can come up with some reasons. First, they tend to match all those Christmas-and-other-winter-holiday desserts perfectly. Second, on the creamy-side, these drinks often look like little winter-snow-wonderlands, at least those in dreams (and dreams are free, as the song says). Third, hmm, I get cold and drinking a lot of Alexanders and their brethren helps insult me. Does that work? The Silk Stocking definitely works as a holiday treat in the set up I’ve just set up. It’s an Alexander relation indeed, though slightly different. Well, one big difference: tequila instead of gin! That’s big. Then, the ratios in the recipe I use are slightly different than the classic Alexander’s (which is, of course, the king of dessert drinks), and I like them here cause that slightly smoky tequila-ness is allowed to shine, and allowed to mingle more firmly with the chocolate-y crème de cacao, while still having the cream to dress things up like a nice holiday suit (one snow white). A little cinnamon on top, and, delicious is unwrapped like a favorite present with each sip. Yummski.
The Silk Stocking
1-1/2 ounces tequila blanco
1-1/2 ounces crème de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
Grated or ground cinnamon, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the three holiday liquid pals. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon.
A Note: My guess is there are a few Silk Stocking cocktails around – it’s such a delightful and frisky name. But this particular lineup matches it best. In my humble opinion, as they say, of course.
April 13, 2021
I recently (finally!) picked up the sixth collection of Day Keene stories from the glory days of pulp magazines, a collection called Homicide House and Other Stories. Like past volumes, it’s a pulp-y gem of fast-paced, twists-and-turns, tough men and tougher women stories, many following the Keene trope of “how are they ever going to get out this predicament” style, but here – I think for the first time – we see a couple of stories that were later fleshed (hahaha) out into novels, perhaps when the mystery/pulp/action/detective realm took a turn from magazines into easily-tote-able paperbacks. One of those is the story “My Little Gypsy Cheat-heart,” which I’ve read and loved in a longer version, My Flesh is Sweet (read the My Flesh is Sweet Cocktail Talk why dontcha – actually, don’t miss all the Day Keene Cocktail Talks). In the latter, there’s a little more character development, a little more plot, a little more this and that, but that doesn’t mean the former wasn’t fun to read – it was! And neat to see how Mr. Keene built on it, as if the story was still in his mind after his first take. The story version of the story, if that makes sense, led me to wanting to highlight the below quote, too, which is an apt one as the story (and the novel) start with a murder in Mexico, before moving stateside for the murderous finale. It also has a lovely description of how one might feel the morning after too many.
The phone bell was loud and insistent. I sat up mouthing the cotton the tequila I’d put away had seeded and looked at my watch. It was five minutes to two.
“Ad Connors speaking,” I said into the phone.
“Come over to the Flamingo,” Elena begged. “Please. As fast as you can get here, Ad.”
— Day Keene, “My Little Gypsy Cheat-heart”
April 2, 2021
I must admit (or partially at least), I stole this title from Ed (the best poet in the world) Skoog. Or think I did, as I had his latest book Travelers Leaving for the City next to me when I was trying to come up with a title for a new drink I’d made, and so I picked up his book and randomly opened it up, and picked the first phrase I saw, but then my mind wandered, as it does, for a moment, and “Work By Lamplight” was what I remembered when fingers finally met keyboard.
And, you know what, it works well, as, though this tipple could be tipped earlier in the day, I feel it’s best later in the hours, after dinner. It can serve, in a way, as your after-dinner coffee and a dessert all in one glass. How, you ask? It starts with Tia Maria, a newly-designed bottle of which showed up neatly packaged on the porch recently (I know, I’m lucky!), and which reminded me of how it’s made with 100% Arabica coffee beans and Madagascar vanilla on a base of Jamaican rum, and in the popular cold brew method. That’s good, yes? Yes! It’s a touch sweet (but so am I), but the coffee-ness comes through smoothly and it melts on the tongue in a swell way. And coffee goes with more other bottled beauties than people give it credit for. Tequila, for example, which is the base for this cocktail, goes deliciously with coffee. In some ways, those two together in the right ratios might be okay all by their paired-ness, but we want better than okay, right? Right! So, in come two delights near-and-dear to all good drinker’s hearts. First up, Pierre Ferrand’s orange curaçao, which bring what you think of curaçao to another level in the same way this drink brings what you think of coffee cocktails to another level (if I may be so bold). And then, Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters, which utilizes organic toasted cacao nibs to add chocolate and herbal notes, without which the drink would feel ridiculously underdressed. And then, a mandarin orange twist, whose citrus oils cut the sweetness charmingly. Altogether, a layered number you’ll want to sip slowly as the evening turns. If you want to read poems while drinking, all the better.
Work By Lamplight
2 ounces silver tequila
3/4 ounces Tia Maria
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand orange curaçao
Dash Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters
Mandarin orange twist
1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker halfway full of cracked ice. Add all but the twist. Stir well, but be mellow about it, cause it’s the evening.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the mandarin twist (if you only have a non-mandarin orange, that’s dandy, too).