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When I picture my perfect Memorial Day — meaning the Monday proper, after most of us have had our share of barbecue beers and whatnot — what I’d really like to do on that day is sit on a porch, in a nice, big, comfy chair (rocking, or Adirondack — I’m not picky) and spend the afternoon reading a good book and sipping on something wonderful. 

The key part of that scenario is the porch. I love porches. Back decks are for frat boys; porches are for ladies. Patios are for Ice Storm-era outdoor key parties; porches are for timeless, halcyon-hazy relaxation and reflection. Stoops are for selling your old shit; porches are, gloriously, for doing as little shit as possible.

I’d made some iced tea earlier this week. I’d made it for Sean’s Uncle Kit, who had dinner at our place while he was in town for work and who doesn’t drink. I made an iced white tea infused with lemon and spiked with ginger water. (Ginger water = what’s left over when you boil fresh ginger to make candied ginger. I made a lot of candied ginger in the fall and saved the water in Popsicle molds.) It was so good that I couldn’t wait for my teetotaler to leave so I could use it to whip up a cocktail.

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The following post is sponsored by Frangelico. Cocktail name, development, recipe and photography are completely my own. Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.

Is it summer finally? Are we there yet, Mother Nature?

Up here in the tundra Montreal, the warm weather has been *such* a tease lately. We’ve had one of those springs where two days of delightful, sun-dappled, sleeve-shedding weather are followed by a near-week of chilly, damp, Debbie Downer-weather.

At times like this, I find that crafting a pre-emptively summery cocktail helps. It’s like a rainsundance for fanciful imbibers like us! (Here in French Canada, we might call it a bellwether for belle weather! *har*har*snort!)

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Now, a lot of you know me. You know I can’t resist the occasional chortle-inducing pun (see above), just as you know that my usual summer-sippin’ routine calls for juleps, juleps, juleps and juleps.

A julep’s got most everything I look for in a summertime cocktail. The crushed ice keeps the drink colder, longer and the mint’s cooling and refreshing. But the bourbon — can I do one better on the bourbon? I love (read: luuurrrve) bourbon’s languid sweetness, but how about lightening up its syrupy-ness with some more playful flavors, a little tartness and an unexpected grace note or two three: A hint of nuttiness, a whiff of vanilla, a certain je ne sais noisette? (p.s. Bonus points if I can do all this without glopping on a ton of calories. What up, bathing suit?)

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To make the Summertime Smash, I improved upon (if I do say so myself) the julep by halving the bourbon and replacing it with Frangelico. The hazelnut-flavored liqueur, more delicate in flavor and body, makes for a less heavy cocktail and one with more going on in the glass. The flavor of the Frangelico also allowed me to introduce some lemon into the recipe.

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(Note: I know it seems that a plain-old julep, nothing but mint and bourbon, should pair easily with lemon, but you’d be surprised. It needs a bridge ingredient, a harmony-maker if you will. Enter Frangelico!) (I’ve also done this before with ginger beer.)

Once the hubs and I open our backyard for the season, I’m thinking the Summertime Smash may end up my go-to cocktail for entertaining al fresco. I have a hunch that those friends who find my mint juleps too heavy and cloying will appreciate the more lilting qualities of the Summertime Smash, while those who do love juleps will enjoy the refreshing, slightly fizzy presto-change-up. (Which I’ve also done before; see World’s Greatest Rye Perfect Manhattan.)

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Hey, summer? Ready when you are.

Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.

The Summertime Smash

1 ounce Frangelico

1 ounce bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)

1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (granulated sugar, simple syrup, or mint-steeped simple syrup; see Tasting Notes below for recipes and tips)

A splash of two lemon-spiked seltzer 

About 8 large mint leaves

Crushed ice

Mint sprig and lemon wheel, to garnish

Place mint leaves in bottom of a rocks glass. (It’s up to you whether you want to use a highball, a Collins glass, etc.) Pour sweetener on top of leaves and muddle together well. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, then Frangelico. Top with seltzer. Give the drink a gentle stir, then add your garnish. Enjoy!

Tasting Notes

My preferred method for making simple syrup is to mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.

To make mint-steeped syrup, add a good handful of mint leaves to the above mixture as soon as you’ve removed it from heat. Let the leaves steep 10 or so minutes, then strain them from the mixture and toss.

If you choose granulated sugar as your sweetener, pour just a teaspoon or so of water on top of your mint and sugar before muddling. The liquid acts like a hood that keeps the mint’s fragrance down in the bottom of the glass where you want it, rather than allowing it to release into the air.

Make lemon-spiked seltzer by simply squeezing a lemon wedge into a liter-sized bottle of seltzer. Or, you can just use plain seltzer when making your cocktail, then squeeze a little lemon over your Summertime Smash to finish it off.

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H.L. Mencken called the martini the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet, but I think the Sidecar goes one better: It’s as engrossing and enrapturing as the Great American novel.

Cue the Jay-Z soundtrack bandwagon sound effects Jazz Age music — it’s The Great Gatsby week at The Five O’Clock Cocktail Blog!

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I’d like to talk about cocktail geekdom in this post, which I realize is like talking about the pink elephant we’re all seeing in the room.

When Googling “aviator cocktail,” one of the top search results is this 2008 story from the NYT’s Dining section entitled “A Brotherhood Formed with Cocktails and Ice.” While the boys’-clubbish headline does make me wince (here’s one occasion where I’m all for a “personhood” amendment; how about “camaraderie,” Gray Lady?) the story tickles my historical fancy, as I feel like it’s sort of the ur-trend piece about us modern-day cocktailians (as one of those quoted in the piece preferred to be called, rather than “cocktail geek”).

A recipe for the Aviation Cocktail No. 1 is one of two that accompany the piece. Note that I just wrote Aviation Cocktail No. 1, not Aviator Cocktail No. 1. [Inner cocktail geek jolted awake by persnickety clarification.] The latter is actually more obscure, it seems, and therefore much harder to come by online. [Geek full of pride for self, knows more obscure cocktail knowledge than most, is so cool!] And as the numerical nomenclature suggests, both the Aviation Cocktail and the Aviator Cocktail come in more than one accepted form. [Geeeeeekkkkyyyeeeeaaaahhhhh!]

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Last week:

PhoBlograpHusband: “What do you want to do for our [second] anniversary [on June 5]?”

Blogtender: “Let’s, like — let’s go out and see Montreal, some part of the city we keep saying we should see but haven’t yet. Not anything too crazy, obvs [because I’m seven months pregnant] but something different.”

PhoBlograpHusband: “Yeah, we need to get off our couch this summer.”

Two nights ago:

Blogtender: “You know what I really want to do for our anniversary? I want to make cocktails and eat junk food and watch TV. On our couch.”

Ah, yes, while I believe the traditional second-anniversary gift is something like clocks or coffee or leather, chez Lorre it was a much more sublime trifecta. Smiley face-shaped chicken tenders and Mad Men (we just subscribed to this season on iTunes, NO SPOILERS LA LA LA LA) and, among other libations, this Lemon Raspberry Mint Ouzo-Ade.

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I need to make an Ur-Cocktail. Like, I want to just mix a liquor (bourbon, a-doy, although I’d then be game for trying several others) with sugar, water and bitters — the original notion of what constitutes a “cock-tail” — and see what it tastes like. I kind of assume it’s gonna taste awful, or at least undesirable, right? Because, for one, when have I ever employed water as an ingredient, and for two, what kind of cocktail enthusiast thinks it a swell idea to include a diluting agent as a key part of a recipe? Water’s what you drink at the bottom of your near-emptied highball while you’re waiting for the barkeep to make you a fresh one.

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The story of this cocktail (highball, technically) begins at Montreal’s Macaroni Bar, where the PhoBlograpHusband and I have parked our kiesters atop bar stools recently (although mine barely fits nowadays) because that’s now where Tao and Tony work. They’re pretty much given free rein behind the bar there, creatively speaking, so long as they also keep up with customer demand for vodka sodas and pitchers of sangria.

Speaking of pitcher drinks, the last time we were there, Tony told us about some summertime refreshers he’s been tinkering with, including a fresh lemonade made with a rosemary-infused simple syrup. He let us try some, and upon first sip, I was awash in an aura of complete summertime relaxation spiked with my ever-bubbling-near-the-surface total jealousy. How had I never thought of rosemary lemonade myself?

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Are Bloody Caesars a thing where you live? As in, a Bloody Mary that swaps in Clamato for toe-mah-toe juice? They seem to be a thing in Montreal — or all of Canada — and I had my first (virgin) one last weekend at Cafe Sardine (to celebrate my Saveur best-blog nom; vote, won’t you?). Let me rhapsodize on this place for a sec before I continue:

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It’s been un longtemps and a day since I’ve posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you’re one of my kindly regular readers — let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).

Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I’m not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn’t it awful how I’m letting y’all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?

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Spring has come to Montreal one day ahead of schedule, and man, has it come correct. It’s a splendiferous afternoon up here, one I’ve happily wasted flitting around like a little butterfly, gazing through my office window as neighbors garden their front yards and stray cats strut about the sidewalk, repeatedly checking to see if the snow in our backyard has completely melted (it has not) and just generally jumpy as a junebug and grinning like an idiot. Seasonal affective disorder — what a real thing that is!

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