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I want to say two words to you. Just two words. Are you listening?

Aperitifs, digestifs.

There’s a great future in aperitifs and digestifs. I don’t just mean that in a Benjamin-Braddock-searching-for-meaning-in-the-60s-oh-I-get-it-she’s-referencing-The Graduate kind of way. Italian liqueurs are mega-trendy big right now and I say good on it, because they’re relatively cheap (~$20 a bottle, less for vermouths), a little goes a long way, they’re becoming easily available, they have the best ad posters, they were born to make nice in endless kinds of cocktail recipes, and once you start you’ll want to collect them and play with them and come up with neat at-home displays for them like you used to do with your Smurfs.

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This cocktail comes via SeriousEats.com, courtesy of Gramercy Tavern in New York. While I needed to make a few detours around the restaurant’s recipe in order to tailor it to my diminishing stock, it also calls for certain ingredients I’ve got too much of lurking around my post-Thanksgiving fridge, so yay! (In case you haven’t noticed, this week on the blog is unofficially Make Use of T’giving Leftovers Week.)

What I was happy to have reason to use was my fresh thyme. Someday, I swear, I’m going to construct the world’s most impressive year-round herb garden (complete with shoe-organizer mini-plots!), but until then, I find myself all too often buying fresh herbs in presized packages, using a few sprigs for one recipe, then watching the rest wilt in the crisper. Not this time, Mother Nature! Half of my leftover thyme went into an infusion (reveal date TBD); the rest made the thyme syrup for the Fall Classic.

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So, now that my little Benjamin Button-esque ankle biters have been safely ferried off to see friends in Kingston, Ontario, methinks it a perfect time to unwind and chillax, the chilly autumn air providing the perfect backdrop for a little respite and reflection, and the flavors of the season (this is already starting to sound like a Hallmark card) taking the edge off frazzled nerves.

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“A belly laugh is like a cocktail without the hangover.”

Nobody said that; I just made it up to justify today’s post, which had me LOLing so hard I ran out of time to write!

The following is what my friend P. wrote in a card that arrived in the mail the other day. It included a check as a wedding gift. Our wedding, it is important to note, took place a year and 24 days ago. It’s also important to note that Sean and I are moving to Montreal at the end of July, hence the Canada references.

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Today began with my slogging through a backlog of e-mails, which included this plea from my Minnesota-livin’ bestie, Danette: “I’m hosting a Cajun boil this Saturday. Some of the ladies are either pregnant or breastfeeding so they can’t go too hard on the cocktails. We’d like to have fun pitchers of mixers that would taste good as their own drink, or you could spike them with some booze. Rescue your friend who falls back on cranberry juice and vodka whenever I have to mix a drink!”

I suggested just making a really good Bloody Mary mix and letting people choose to spike it with vodka. I also suggested (after a bit of Googling on my part, I wish I could claim total credit) a virgin white sangria. Wuh? How you make-a sangria with no alcodehol?

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Folks, I couldn’t care less that it’s St. Patrick’s Day — and as you’re all high-functioning alcoholics experienced drinkers like me, I know you feel the same way. It’s amateur night out there, and we’re all contentedly holed up in our respective abodes, our home bars pressed into service.

‘Tis nothing wrong, of course, with tipping a glass towards the Irish in mature fashion. And as we’re cocktailers first and foremost, the glass to tip is a Pilsner, in which you’ve crafted the World’s Greatest Shandygaff.

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We close Death & Company week with a cocktail that, on paper, scares the hypothetical caca out of me. A drink made up of three hard liquors, and when I read the names of three hard liquors and one of them is bourbon (facilitator of happy Rose) and one of the others of them is scotch (moody-bordering-on-surly Rose) and then there’s simple syrup — well, it makes me not trust the simple syrup, makes me paranoid that the simple syrup’s lurking in there as some sort of sleight-of-hand trick with the scotch dodging behind it and getting away with murder, and I think this is not going to be a very productive Friday night.

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If you want to drink at Death & Company, you talk to the guy standing outside with the pad and pen. In winter, he’ll be the one donning a puffy coat as big as a monster-truck tire. You give him your name, your cell’s digits and the number of people in your party — a number which should always be exactly two. (Seven’s the max, but take a moment to picture seven liquored friends trying to divvy up a tab of several $13 cocktails.)

He’ll then instruct you to go somewhere else (try Tile Bar or the McDonald’s on the corner) until you get a call from him that your table’s ready. This is when you kindly inform him that you’d actually prefer seats at the bar. This is how you will insure having the time of your life at Death & Co. — and getting your money’s worth.

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Inventing cocktails is hard, y’all! Especially when you think you’ve come up with the wittiest cocktail moniker this side of an H.L. Mencken bon mot and don’t want to waste it on a subpar recipe. Even more especially when you’re putting together said recipe and discover that more than one authority has published more than one set of rules for what, exactly, constitutes a swizzle.

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Guest post by Stephanie Klose, a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, a contributor to Serious Eats New York, a blogger at stephanieklose.com, and apparently someone who feels a tremendous amount of upstate pride.

When you prune an apple tree, you need to cut the branches back far enough that you can swing a dead cat through them.

That is a piece of advice I got in 1993 or so, from an old man in Castleton-on-Hudson, NY. I was 16. He was drinking at the bar of the restaurant where a guy friend I very, very much wanted to be my boyfriend worked and we struck up a conversation while I was waiting. I learned a lot about his time in the army and the dogs he used to breed and whatever assorted useful facts he saw fit to share. Granted, his pruning guidelines inspired a lot more questions than they answered*, but that’s not the point. The point is that I grew up in the kind of place where that was the sort of thing a drunk, lonely old man would think a 16-year-old girl would need to know: rural eastern New York State.

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