Punch Summer in the Face!!

Why on earth would you want to live in Seattle?!  It is cloudy or rainy the vast majority of the time.  We don’t get much snow and when we do the entire city shuts down.  The sun makes rare appearances throughout the year but downtown Seattle only gets 71 clear days annually.  Only 71!

I live in Seattle specifically for those 71 days… I believe that everyone else lives for those days too.  Whenever the sun comes out in Seattle, the wary and slightly soggy residents of Seattle emerge from their homes in great numbers and crowd the grass at Cal Anderson Park, fill Pike Place Market and the Waterfront to capacity and nearly burn down Golden Gardens Park with the combined might of a thousand separate beach bonfires.  In short, we flip out for these summer days and live our outdoor lives to the fullest!  Those 71 sunny days in Seattle are the home of backyard BBQs, housewarming parties, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, Cherry festivals, Strawberry festivals, Tulip festivals and many other festivals that bear the name of a product, fruit or vegetable.  Seattlites frolick in the sun, eat good food, and, generally, drink horrible drinks.  I’m out to change that!

The category of summer drinks in Seattle tends to include a lot of Bud Light Lime, Rainier, PBR and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a nice, cold, mass-produced can of whatever is on sale at your local convenience store, sometimes you need to impress.  Maybe it’s a date.  Maybe it’s a party with your co-workers.  Maybe your brother is getting married.  Whatever the occasion, there’s a recipe that will do the trick.

My wife works for an amazing local nonprofit and last week we were invited to a staff barbeque at the home of their Board President.  As a semi-professional drinker, I was asked to prepare a punch that everyone could enjoy… here’s what I made.

Seattle Summer Punch

1 Liter bottle Trader Joes Sparkling Lemonade

1 bottle gin (750ml)

2 Lemons

2 Large CucumbersphotoCombine the gin and lemonade in a punch bowl.  Cut lemons and cucumbers into wheels and toss them in the punch bowl.  As the fruit sits in the mixture, the flavors will combine and blend together.  This punch gets better and better as the party goes on.  If you want to get a little classier and do a lot more prep, you can switch the Trader Joe’s Sparkling lemonade for a homemade version of fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar and club soda.

It’s tempting to add a large amount of ice right away… and I totally did for this party. As the party goes on, the ice will melt and water down the drink.  After a couple hours, the punch was definitely more watered down but it was nice on a hot Seattle night.

However, if you want the drink to stay strong and flavorful throughout the party, you can keep the ice separate and have your guests add ice to their individual cups.  Another cool way to spice up this punch would be to make an ice ring.  Grab a bundt cake pan, fill it with water, add a few slices of lemon and cucumber to the water and put it in the freezer.  Once it’s frozen solid, remove the ice from the cake pan and put your super awesome ice ring in the punch bowl.  It’ll float on top with the cucumber and lemons slices and add even more class to your punch.  Give it a try!

This punch is a delicious blend of citrus, bubbles, and cucumber.  It’s light and refreshing.  It’s classy and unique.  Seattle Summer Punch is a great drink for a party with friends or colleagues.  It’s dangerous though, the cucumber masks the alcohol content and it tends to hit people hard.  Which may or may not be a good thing depending on which coworkers are attending your party!

Cheers to a great drink and a long, sunny Seattle summer!

It’s Time for LIME!! – Two Lime Cocktails You Don’t Drink Enough

As someone who loves those small green balls of citrus amazingness, I am pleased to announce that the Great Lime Shortage of 2014 is officially over!  For those of you who were not paying attention to the dynamics of the citrus market, the price of limes were up for a while this year… way up!  Prices rose to about 10x the normal price for these little green miracle workers.  Our local grocery had limes for up to $2 EACH.

Bars and restaurants started feeling the squeeze and replaced limes with lemons (eww!) in standard drinks and dishes.  I saw lemons in Guacamole.  I saw lemons in Margaritas.  How dare you, bartenders!  The struggle is real.

Anyway, that’s over now!  The news said so… it must be true.

Now that they are affordable again, let’s enjoy them as much as possible!  Most people will stick with a margarita to get their lime fix, but I love variety in my drinks!  I’ve gathered a couple of my favorite lime cocktails that aren’t enjoyed enough by the average drinker.

The Daiquiri

Hemingway Drank Them… why don’t you?

A simple daiquiri is one of the most basic and fundamental drinks in the bartender’s repertoire.  This simple combination of rum and citrus is attributed to an American mining engineer working in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.  The drink varies from author to author and that is why so many people think that daiquiris are terrible… it’s not the drink, it’s the bartender.  Here’s how to do it right…

Standard Daiquiri – 2oz White Rum, 1 oz fresh lime juice (strained), 1/2oz simple syrup

Combine these ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime twist.

Betty Draper and her standard Vodka Gimlet

The Gimlet

A favorite of Mad Men enthusiasts and fans of The Long Goodbye, the Gimlet is actually a favorite of mine because it is versatile, simple and refreshing.  Many recipes call for Rose’s Sweetened Lime juice, which is good in a pinch but adds a little bit of a processed feel to the drink.  The citrus’ bite is tamed when using Rose’s.  Here’s how I like it…

The Gimlet –2oz Vodka or Gin,  3/4oz fresh lime juice (strained), 3/4oz simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice.  Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

These are both great cocktails to make at home.  They’re refreshing, easy to make, and pretty forgiving if you mess up the proportions a bit.  They are also good drinks to whip up in a large batch or to add your favorite seasonal fruit for a local twist on a classic.  However, both the gimlet and the daiquiri rely on the quality of the limes so make sure to get good ones before making batch.  Now that limes are affordable again, I highly encourage you to make these two drinks!  Viva la affordable citrus!




Break Out The Good Stuff: What to Serve When You’re Celebrating

I don’t know if it is a Seattle thing, a young person thing, a hipster thing or a WASP thing, but far too many people I know are far too reserved when they do something great.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool, I guess…” they say.

“It was such a team effort…” they say modestly to deflect attention.

“I couldn’t have done it alone…” they cry as they turn their head and blush.

This is a tragedy.  It is a travesty.  It is an injustice that our world puts a negative stigma on being proud of your achievements.  I am proud of the things I have done and have a lot of reasons to celebrate in my life .  However, I freely admit that I conform to the social norm of being humble… you wouldn’t catch me yelling “HELL YEAH!! I just ran a local 5K and dominated that bunch of senior citizens!!!  I’m AWESOME!!  In your face, Ernesto!!!”

Anyway, defeated elderly runners aside, my point is that if you can’t yell about your successes on the mountain tops, you can, and should, drink to your successes with friends and family.  Don’t be afraid to break out the good stuff… enjoy life through the finer things.  Celebrate what should be celebrated.  Don’t hold back.  Here are a few of my rules for celebratory drinks…

If it’s a big life accomplishment, break out the good stuff…

The people who read this blog are responsible and awesome people.  It is a well known fact that responsible and awesome people should always have a bottle on hand that they are saving for a “special occasion.”  Now, a special occasion can mean anything you want it to mean.  It could be the big stuff like being elected President of the United States or single-handedly curing a major disease… or the little stuff like new socks or finally cleaning that ring out from the bathtub.  Whatever you’re celebrating, break out the good stuff.  A nice bottle of scotch brings you no pleasure if it sits in a cabinet until you are dead.  You have to drink it!

I graduated with my Masters degree this weekend and I finally opened a bottle that I had been saving of a delicious 10 year aged rum that tasted like it was made with real angel tears.  It was amazing and made my night that much better!

Whatever you’re drinking, share it with someone who matters…

What made that drink even better was that I was able to share it with my family and friends, including my teetotalling mother.  We toasted to achievement and had a wonderful time!  Seeing the enjoyment that a good drink can bring to the ones you love is a reward unto itself.

Celebrate with something you actually like…

It might be your style to celebrate with a high-end craft beer like Elysian’s specialties or Sam Adams Utopia ($190/bottle!).  It might be your style to grab a bottle of Glenfarclas 40 year old Single Malt Scotch.  It might even be your style to celebrate with a bottle champagne, or whipped vodka or Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Whatever you choose to celebrate with, make it something that is uniquely yours and something that you’ll truly enjoy.

Champagne is the MANLIEST drink there is…

One of my favorites

Champagne has gotten a bad reputation as a girly drink that only the weak will enjoy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of our greatest manly heroes like Ernest Hemingway and James Bond drank champagne on a regular basis.  Even if you don’t drink real champagne (from the Champagne region of France), sparkling wines like Cava and Prosecco are just as manly.  What other drink has the possibility of mortally wounding someone just by opening the bottle?  Don’t be afraid to celebrate with this delicious drink.  Champagne = uber manly and potentially lethal.

For a big group, go with punch…

As a professional do-gooder, I don’t make a ton of money.  I have a budget and like to stick to it, if I can.  For a big celebration, go with a large scale drink like a punch with your favorite spirit as a base.  What’s your favorite punch?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Final thoughts…

While it may be uncool to be excited about your accomplishments, as I celebrate my Masters and have a birthday (tomorrow!), I am breaking out the good stuff and sharing it with my friends!