Adult Beverages


Back in the late 1980s, I was a bright-eyed co-op student working at a now-defunct local health care company. There, I met my first real world boss, Jim, who thought it funny I should call him “Mr. Dunn.” When I had been there a bit, our mutual friend Pat heard me call him that and said, “Mr. Dunn?! His name is Jim!” We all became fast friends, went to happy hour after work and the occasional concert. Good times.

I lost track of good ol’ Mr. Dunn until, through the wonders of LinkedIn, we reconnected and would occasionally meet for “mariachi practice” at a Mexican place in Wallingford, CT, “Los Mariachis.” There, we became well acquainted with our friend Stan, our margarita of choice.

In honor of National Margarita Day, I’ve dedicated a standout margarita recipe to our good friend, Stan–and my good friend, Jim. Whattt?!!! You forgot? Grab your ingredients and celebrate tomorrow, then!

No matter how you decide to mix it up, you’ll never go wrong with a 2:1:1 ratio. That’s two parts tequila to one part fresh squeezed lime to one part some sort of orange liqueur. Now, let’s party with Stan!

THE “STAN” MARGARITA FOR TWO
Inspired by Los Mariachis (Wallingford, CT)

2 limes–roll and squeeze 2 ounces of juice
Save a slice of lime to use as a garnish
4 oz. tequila (They use Don Julio 1942 Ultra Premium–I really should get some for authenticity’s sake! But I used one of my heavy hitters.)
1 oz. Patron Citronge (They use Cointreau.)
1 oz. Grand Marnier

Shake or stir ingredients. Pour over salt-rimmed rocks glasses, filled with ice. Then celebrate! Dance in your kitchen! Concern your cat!

Ciao, amici! Unless we’re connected on social media, I know, it’s been a while. But I’m happy to be back in the kitchen with every good wish for 2020. We’re buzzing up something new in the blender that’s creamy, dreamy, coconutty, alcoholic and downright delicious! WOOOOW! I’ll give you a personal update after the recipe, OK?

First, let’s talk about coquito. Some say it’s Puerto Rican eggnog. And some recipes do include egg. But not this one. It’s coconut, cinnamon, two delightful cans of dairy–sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk–and a generous pour of our ol’ friend the Captain. That’s Captain Morgan to you. Oh, and drunken raisins. It’s fine if you want to leave them out. But damned if they don’t add a special something! Let’s get this party started right! Right on!

COQUITO
Adapted from The Novice Chef

1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
1 (13.5 oz) can organic coconut milk
12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons shredded coconut

Note: this recipe yields just a bit more than a half gallon of deliciousness.

In a large pitcher with a lid, add raisins, rum and cinnamon sticks. Let sit for one hour.

In a blender, add the remaining ingredients. It won’t all fit at once, so blend in two batches, then pour into the pitcher. Shake to combine with the rum, raisins and cinnamon sticks.

Chill for at least four hours. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month (as if!). Shake it like ya mean it before pouring. Use a ladle to dish out the yummy drunken raisins and add to each glass. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if you like (oh, we like!). Cheers, cheers, cheers to coquito! Careful now, this stuff goes down way too easy.

A personal update

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to let you know something important about the real star of this page, my precious April Katt. Sadly, I lost her last fall (April 1, 2000 – October 30, 2019).

My sunshine girl was the best friend, companion and little caretaker anyone could ever ask for. She made our little townhouse a happy home with her warm personality, caring gestures, curiosity and funny antics. She loved being part of whatever I was up to–including in the kitchen. You’ll remember those bright green eyes and shiny coat making an appearance in many recipes! She was always right by my side and often held hands with me. Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Many tear-filled days passed before I decided April wouldn’t want me to be sad and alone in a place that felt so empty without her. In her honor, I found a handsome gentleman from PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society)–the same shelter where I found AK almost 20 years ago. Mishu, Polish for “teddy bear” or “Sweetheart” came home November 9th. This charmer has done his best to brighten each day and make me laugh ever since. I’d swear April Katt either left notes or is in direct contact to guide him. How lucky I am to have two special soul kitties like these!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I know we’re just four days into 2020, but I feel good about the year to come. And I really hope you do, too. Onward and upward, amici–we got this!

We’ll be seeing you sooner next time.

Love,
Hope, Mishu and the ever-present spirit of Ms. April Katt

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Ciao, amici! Come stai? It’s been a wild ride these past few months, but I’m happy to report I’m back on track. Cheers! Let’s shake it up with a favorite classic cocktail, the Aviation. It’s old school cool with a new twist, using the majestically purple-hued Empress 1908 gin. So, as the Empress folks say, let’s live colourfully!

THE AVIATION
4 oz. Empress 1908 gin
1 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 oz. Liqueur de Violettes
2 oz. freshly squeezed (of course) lemon juice

Shake with ice, strain, garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Oh, no–here we go now! Stay good, amici! And we will do our best to do the same! See you sooner next time, OK?

P.S. Someone beautiful is feeling much better, too. Ms. April Katt celebrated her 18th birthday on April first! We like to hold hands. XOXOX ♥

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They call ’em cowboy candy and they’re loaded with sweet heat and a bit of crunch–along with that element of surprise: how hot will this one be? Seems the heat level can vary even within different bites of the same pepper. I ate a particularly spicy ring last summer, experienced an all-over “I’m melting” sensation, then fainted and literally hit the wall. For a while, I was afraid to eat more of them, but I soon got over it and ate the rest because a) they’re damn tasty and b) Yankee thrift prevents me from throwing away perfectly great food. 🙂

What to do with them? Whether you eat ’em like candy, perch them atop a spicy margarita or add them as a garnish for tacos, they’re a welcome guest at a variety of sweet or savory parties. And, as a bonus, the by-product is a fiery syrup you can use to make kicked-up margaritas. I even made my own spicy sugar for dipping the glasses–there goes that Yankee thrift action again. Let’s heat things up, amici!

CANDIED JALAPEÑO RINGS: COWBOY CANDY
And a spicy syrup by-product to boot!

6 jalapeños, cut into thick rings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground chile (I used 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
additional 1/2 cup sugar for dipping
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Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Dissolve water, spices and half cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high heat till it boils. Add jalapeños and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Using a toothpick, dip each jalapeno ring into granulated sugar. Coat the rings generously. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
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Bake sugared rings at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool and air-dry for several hours. You can even leave them uncovered for a day or two.

But wait! Save that syrup and stick it in the fridge–it contributes to a mean margarita.

You’ll see you have a bit of leftover sugar from dipping the rings–to that, add 1/4 teaspoon of the syrup. To make it pretty, add about 7 drops of food coloring. Stir thoroughly to combine. Now you can dip each margarita glass (dip first in a shallow dish of tequila or run a wedge of lime around the top) in the spicy sugar to make a colorful presentation.

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Be sure to have some tortillas or bread or crackers on hand just in case you need to rescue yourself from the ring of fire. 🙂 Cheers!
spicy-margaritas

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Your hometown may have its merits, but does it have a watermelon man? Mine does. How cool is it to pull over on a side street on a hot summer day and buy a watermelon from a friendly gentleman and former Navy SEAL?

Meet Cowboy, watermelon man

Meet Cowboy, watermelon man

Of course, after meeting Cowboy, my next mission was to go home and blitz up some fine watermelon margaritas. I made a couple of batches before I landed on the perfect formula to share with you. Ready? Here we go.

WATERMELON MARGARITAS
4 heaping cups of watermelon, cubed
3 limes, squeezed (plus 1 extra for garnish, if you like)
1 cup tequila
2.5 oz. Grand Marnier
2.5 oz. Cointreau

Into a pitcher, pour watermelon cubes, lime juice, tequila, Grand Marnier and Cointreau. Here’s where it can’t get any easier: grab a stick (immersion) blender and blend away! If you don’t have one, you can use a traditional blender, it will just give you one more thing to clean up. 🙂

Now that you’ve got that down, it’s time to make these drinks sparkle. Combine sanding sugar (the coarse kind you use to decorate cookies) and some Kosher salt on a small plate. Then dip the rim of each glass into some tequila you’ve poured onto another small plate, then into the sugar/Kosher salt mixture.

Is there a bit of tequila left? You can pour it into the pitcher, or bartender’s treat, just drink it yourself. 😉 Garnish with a lime wheel if you wish. And remember, if you drink, don’t drive, do the watermelon crawl! CLINQUE!

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Staying cool, amici? The forecast calls for a fresh pitcher of Arnold Palmer, that winning combo of brewed black tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade. So refreshing, especially when you need to beat the heat and take it slow. Like today. Like most of this past week and the week to come!

Feel like spiking it? Well, then it’s a John Daly. American flag pants not required. Let’s do this thinG.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

KATTY’S ULTIMATE ARNOLD PALMER

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 tablespoons dried lavender (optional, but nice)
4 teaspoons of your favorite black tea leaves*
4 cups hot water to brew the tea
2 lemons
2 cups cold water

*Mine comes from Sundial Gardens (Higganum, CT) in Higganum, Connecticut. Don’t live near here? You can order online if you’d like to give it a try, or use what you already like best.

First, make a simple syrup. I infused mine with lavender. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water and lavender (if you’re using it). Bring to a boil, then remove from the burner, let steep for 30-45 minutes.

Meantime, brew 4 cups of black tea. Once that’s all set, strain the simple syrup over the brewed tea into a pitcher. Slice a slice from both ends of each lemon and let them float on top before you squeeze the rest. Then add two cups of cold water and give it all a stir.

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When it’s time to serve, load up a glass–or drinking jar–with ice. Add a sprig of something–mint, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, lemon basil–to make it fresh and pretty.

Coolio has the right idea, “If you can’t stand the heat, get ya @$$ out the kitchen!” That’s how I’m livin’ today, too. Stay cool and enjoy this “Fantastic Voyage.” 🙂

blood orange ritas

Ready for a twist on the classic margarita? Half a lime is still invited to the party, it’s just not the primary fruit. Cinco de Drinko’s just around the corner. Color outside the lines with me, it’s fun–and delicious! 🙂

BLOOD ORANGE MARGARITAS

for two

6 oz. (3/4 cup) blood orange juice
1/2 lime, squeezed
4 oz. tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Grand Marnier
2 sugar-rimmed glasses of your choice

Stir, serve over ice and savor every sip!

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