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There are plenty of reasons to drink, but only two good ones:

1. To achieve that flush of heady, giddy, tingly optimism that comes quick on the heels of the day’s first tipple. (All successive swigs are nothing but guileless attempts at holding onto this fleet feeling, although I still over-partake all the time.)

2. To imagine being in another time and place, preferably involving fedoras, topcoats, garters, nylons, evening gloves, watch fobs, spats, held doors, cigarette holders, cigarette cases and the right to make use of all this enchanting cigarette paraphernalia indoors. (I’m not anti-smoking bans; I’m just saying there’s nothing romantic about going outside to smoke. Besides, I quit smoking, although I still over-partake all the time.)

I love (love, love, love) The Moscow Mule — vodka mixed with ginger beer and lime juice, on the rocks — for conjuring both of these moods so effortlessly.

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I had no idea how I was going to wrap up Alexander Week. Any sort of liqueur-based Alexander seemed too obvious/easy, the thought of a Rum Alexander held no appeal (maybe if I used a sorbet instead of an ice cream/gelato? But still, meh) and a Vodka Alexander — well, I’d actually made one of those a few weeks ago, using an unflavored vodka and the exact-same recipe as I did for the gin Alexander (with the white creme de cacao and the mint chip gelato). It tasted OK, not at all bad, but from a mixology standpoint I was uninspired by it.

Then I remembered the espresso-infused vodka we’d made a while back, and then I thought about affogato.

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January can put me in a certain mood, a dicey mix of contemplative and bored (for which booze is probably never a good chaser, but anyway). Since nothing happens in January, my mind’s left to dwell on December’s heedless indulgences and… well, let me start from the beginning.

When I originally made this cocktail for a friend’s holiday party two years ago, it was the first time I’d written a recipe entirely in my head. In fact, I don’t think I’d even tasted Absolut Kurant before I thought to put it in this drink. A chef I interviewed years prior told me he subscribed to a “that sounds great” philosophy of dish-inventing, that if your tongue relishes articulating “coriander encrusted mahi mahi” or “sweet potato fries dipped in banana-guava ketchup” then it’ll probably enjoy eating those things, too. So, having just moved back to New York and with no money to spare on cocktail experimentin’, my party drink came together hypothetically. I wanted it to taste like ice skating on a frozen pond. I pictured Charlie Brown’s friends catching snowflakes on their tongues. (“It’s fun!”)

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Reader(s), I’m going to try to be more honest in 2011. I’m going to try to be more diligent, too, particularly as it pertains to this blog, while simultaneously somehow figuring out a way to weigh less while drinking as many cocktails as ever.

My stated intent of The Five O’Clock Cocktail Blog is to publish a recipe each weekday, whether an original creation, a tweak of a classic drink or an homage to a drink I’ve drank elsewhere (probably at this bar, knowing me). This has already proven arduous and I might still scale back to twice or thrice weekly. (Thoughts? Please tell me in the comments what you’d like to see!) The part of my brain responsible for wild-footed fantasy stubbornly maintains that The New York Times’ Dining section is more likely to profile me if I stick to the five-a-week conceit. (My blog-to-blockbuster deal with Nora Ephron will surely materialize soon after.)

So, regarding that honesty promise, here goes: I like this Cosmopolitan.

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We made coffee espresso-infused* vodka this week. It was totes easy! We just took a cup of fresh, dark-roast beans and gently cracked them open by applying pressure with the bottom of a measuring cup. (See photo.) Then we dumped ‘em into a fifth of vodka (something middle-shelf; I think we used Stoli or Ketel) and stored it in a cool, dry place for a few days. Voila!

We’ve suffered through fiasco infusions before. (Would you like to taste the most terrible homemade peach-flavored vodka ever? No, you would not.) This one’s practically foolproof because, unlike a delicate peach, the robustness of the beans lets you know by smell whether or not your infusion’s balanced, needs more time, etc. We knew we had something good after about a week, when the espresso aroma actually eclipsed the alcohol-y smell of the vodka. Next, of course, came the question of what cocktail to invent with it…

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