Jack & Coke: The Right Mix

jack&cokeJack Daniel’s and Coca-Cola may seem simple and unsophisticated to some people, but it’s damn good, and there’s five ways to mix it for five different tastes. It’s convenient, too, as Jack and Coke is one of the few great drinks that doesn’t require fresh ingredients, and is ready to pour at a moment’s notice.

Jack and Coke

  • 2 ounces Jack Daniel’s No. 7
  • 8 ounces Coca-Cola

— Fill a tall or Old Fashioned glass with ice. Pour in the whiskey. Gently pour in the Coke.  Garnish with nothing. This is a very balanced mix of Jack & Coke.  Ask your bartender for a 4 : 1 ratio or mix. The mixes with 7 ounces and 9 ounces of Coke weren’t good, for some reason, but the Golden Mean of 8 ounces was predictably, perfectly balanced.

Pro Jack & Coke

  • 2 ounces Jack Daniel’s
  • 6 ounces Coca-Cola

This mix is recommended by the Jack Daniel Distillery, and brings the fine taste of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 to the forefront.  Strong, but not too strong.  It’s a 3 : 1 mix.

Smooth Jack & Coke

  • 2 ounces Jack Daniel’s
  • 10 ounces Coca-Cola

There’s just a hint of the taste of whiskey.  A 5 : 1 mix.

Strong Jack & Coke

  • 2 ounces Jack Daniel’s
  • 2 ounces Coca-Cola

I like this one a lot, it has a slight caramel taste.

Coca-Cola from Mexico is bottled with sugar, and tastes better with alcohol than corn-syrup Coke. Many drinkers will enjoy Jack with a splash of Coke.  What’s a splash? It’s a bartender’s one-count, and since a 4-count is an ounce, that’s about ¼ ounce.

Other Whiskey?

Jack Daniel’s just has the right stuff, and it’s better than other whiskey, even expensive Bourbons, when mixed with Coke.   The only whiskies that come close are Wild Turkey 101 and Crown Royal.

Found this American Icon at Schneider's of Capitol Hill.
Found this American Icon at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, my favorite liquor store ever.

In England, this drink is called JD & Coke, and in the rest of Europe it’s a Whisky Cola.  Serve a glass of cold water with every drink, to reduce consequences.

Manhattan Cocktail : The Right Mix

manhattan

Rye whiskey disappeared for decades, but thank goodness Americans were smart enough to bring it back. While it was gone, most Manhattans were made with Kentucky bourbon.  While bourbon makes for a sweet good Manhattan, rye whiskey adds a solid spicy kick. The stronger the rye, the better.

Manhattan Cocktail Recipe

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • ¾ to 1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth
  • 2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish
  • Tiny piece of lemon peel, for garnish, optional

— Combine whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir 40 times, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with the cherry placed in the bottom.  A wisp of a lemon peel adds a subtle tang.

With 3/4 ounce of vermouth you’ll taste whiskey more, but increasing it to 1 ounce tips the taste toward vermouth.  Try it both ways.

A simpler option for preparation is to pour whiskey, vermouth and bitters over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass, and stir.

Rittenhouse 100 Rye is the preferred rye for a Manhattan, when mixed with Martini & Rossi or other Italian vermouth. High West Rye is also recommended. For an impressive Manhattan, Carpano Antica, one of the most complex Italian vermouths, is highly recommended. I’ll guarantee it’s worth the added expense.

Since bourbon is a little sweeter than rye, Dolin Rouge French Vermouth is preferred over Italian vermouth for a bourbon “Southern Manhattan”. After a vermouth bottle is opened, it should be consumed quickly, or stored in the refrigerator, where it will last a month or more. Write the date that you opened it on the label. Better yet, to keep your vermouth from slowly turning into herbed vinegar, pump out the air with a low-cost Vacu Vin, and the vermouth will stay fresh even longer.

New Mexico Guacamole

guac1Guacamole is a balance of delicate flavors.. A big secret of great guacamole was revealed to us in a small café on the High Road to Taos, where the guacamole was made tableside, by a woman whose family had lived in the small village for hundreds of years.  After slicing up the avacado, she chopped a tomato, and put the pieces in a sieve to drain the juice, while she mixed the rest of the ingredients. “Tomato juice and avocado don’t go together,” she said.

  • 2 avocados, ripened
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 serrano chile pepper, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons onion, finely minced
  • 1 small tomato, peeled, chopped, and drained (preferably a Campari tomato)
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional, especially if you hate cilantro)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt (Morton’s Sea Salt is cheap and pure-tasting)
  • black pepper to taste

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit, then scoop the flesh into a bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except tomato. Mash all the ingredients together, leaving a few small chunks of avocado. Stir in the drained tomatoes.

Serve with fresh warm tostada chips  (Tostitos Restaurant-Style Tortilla Chips are easy to find).

guac

Picking Avocados

Choose avocados that are bright green, but just beginning to turn dark.  Leave them in a plastic bag overnight, until they begin to dark with touches of light green,  or no light green at all.  If you squeeze them and they are slightly soft, refrigerate them. They will be ready to make into guacamole for at least a week, but don’t wait too long!

Gin & Tonic : The Right Mix

Tanqueray and Fever Tree

One taste of Tanqueray Gin and Fever-Tree Tonic, and you’ll know why it’s the most popular mix in Spain.  Never mind the traditional lime garnish, this cocktail tastes better with a lemon wedge.  And the Spanish don’t stop there, adding all manner of spices, herbs, and fruit to their “Gin Tonics”.

Tanqueray and Tonic Recipe

  • 2 ounces Tanqueray gin
  • 2 to 3 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water (or Canada Dry Tonic)
  • Fat wedge of a lemon (or half of a Key lime, or a wedge of regular lime)

Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice. Pour in the gin, and listen for the crackling sound. Gently pour in the tonic.  Squeeze the fat wedge into the glass, and drop it in for garnish. Notes:  2 ounces of tonic makes a gin-strong drink, 2½ ounces has good balance, and 3 ounces brings out the tonic.

Canada Dry Tonic is made with corn syrup rather than sugar, but tastes very good with Tanqueray.  Also, Q Tonic is very popular, and goes well with Bombay Sapphire as well as several other gins.  Fever-Tree is now widely available in supermarkets, Cost-Plus World Market, and Whole Foods.

Citadelle Gin is also recommended for this drink.  To make a Spanish Gin Tonic, use a globe-style round Burgundy wine glass, and add lots of ice.  Pour in 2 ounces of gin, and 4 or more ounces of tonic. Lemon or lime juice is added, along with peppercorns, grated nutmeg, star anise, or cardamom pods.

Original Cuban Mojito: Hierbabuena or Spearmint?

mojitoa

The first time I drank a Mojito, I felt something was slightly off. Spearmint is good with some rums, but it was awful with the one I drank. My friend Richie exclaimed, “I’d rather drink a cup of straight gasoline.”

Just weeks later I received a surprise visitor from Havana, who showed me a souvenir paper napkin with a Cuban bartender’s handwritten recipe.

“What’s hierbabuena?” I asked, “Is that spearmint?

“No. The Cuban mint isn’t very minty,” he replied.

I made him a spearmint Mojito, and he said it was not the Cuban taste. I researched hierbabuena, and ordered some from a Canadian nursery. The mint has a citrus-like flavor that comes from the stem, whereas spearmint has a minty flavor from oils in the leaves.

Spearmint smells like chewing gum, but hierbabuena has an herbal fragrance with just a hint of mint. The Mojitos they make are completely different so here are recipes for the Cuban Mojito (hierbabuena) and the American Mojito (spearmint).

Cuban Mojito

  • 1½ ounces Bacardi Superior or Havana Club 3 Anos white rum
  • 1½ teaspoons white sugar (or 1 heaping teaspoon or barspoon)
  • 1/3 ounce (2 teaspoons) fresh Key (or Mexican) lime juice
  • 2 sprigs hierbabuena (preferably with dark stems)
  • 2 ounces and a splash of sparkling mineral water (Topo Chico is recommended)
  • 2 or 3 large cubes of ice

Add the sugar, lime juice, and hierbabuena with a splash of mineral water to a tall glass.  With a muddler or a wooden spoon, press lightly on the stems, rather than the leaves.  Add the 2 ounces of mineral water, then the ice cubes, then the rum.  Serve with a straw, cut off to about 2 inches above the rim of the glass.

If you put 2 teaspoons of sugar in this drink, it’s noticeably sweet. Cubans often add a dash or two of Angostura bitters to this drink, and it’s good!

What Kind of Lime?

Many Cuban and Caribbean cocktails taste better if they are made with Key lime juice. Key limes can be found in the produce section of many Walmart stores in the United States.

Regular limes (called Persian or Tahiti limes) aren’t as good in this drink, but they’re good enough.  A better taste, if you don’t have Key limes, comes from mixing 2 parts of lemon juice with 3 parts regular lime juice. Use ¾ ounce of this mix, with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 3 ounces of mineral water.

The Rum

Bacardi Superior is the original rum for this drink, and it’s recommended. Havana Club 3 has a stronger sugarcane taste, and is the preferred rum in Cuba. Gold rum will make a slightly sweeter “dirty mojito”.

This hierbabuena recipe is adapted from La Bodeguita del Medio, the famous bar in Old Havana, Cuba. Click on link below to order hierbabuena from Richters herb farm in Canada.

http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=X4025

Gently muddle the stems, not the leaves.

Spearmint Mojito Recipe

  • 2 ounces white rum (Flor de Caña Extra Dry)
  • 5 thumb-sized spearmint leaves (removed from stems)
  • 1½ teaspoons white sugar
  • ¾ ounce regular lime juice
  • 2 ounces mineral water and a splash of mineral water
  • cubes of ice
  • neatly-groomed sprig of spearmint, for garnish
  • A dash of Angostura bitters, optional

Put the mint leaves, sugar, lime juice, and a splash of water in the bottom of a tall glass.  Muddle. Add 2 ounces of mineral water. Add the ice, then the rum. Garnish with a spearmint sprig. Add Angostura bitters, if you wish. Serve with a straw.

Decrease sugar to 1 teaspoon to make the drink slightly tart, or increase to 2 teaspoons to make it soda-pop sweet. Do not muddle spearmint stems in this drink, because, unlike hierbabuena, the stems have a bitter taste.

Flor de Cana for American Mojito

Check your local nursery, as some of them are now providing mojito mint.  Note: The Bonnie brand mint being sold as Yerba Buena at Lowe’s and Walmart is spearmint (mentha spicata).  Cuban Mojito Mint is mentha villosa.

Growing Mojito Mint

Like spearmint, hierbabuena (also called hierba buena, yerba buena, or yerbabuena) grows like a weed, and is harder to kill than to grow.  However, there’s a way to get better sprigs.

  • Plant in rich soil that drains well, but retains moisture
  • Use a 10-inch or larger pot.  If planted in a garden, confine the roots, or they will take over the garden.
  • The plants like lots of water, but don’t waterlog them.  Let plants dry out a little before watering again, to develop more flavor.
  • Fertilize every few months.
  • Keep plants cut back to 10 or 12 inches tall, or it will get spindly and ungle.  I keep most of it cut back, except the sprigs I plan on using.
  • Hierbabuena grows best in the sun or partial shade.  In hot summers, it likes morning sun or partial shade.  Planting in pots allows you to move them around.
  • After cutting sprigs, be sure to rinse them before using, or you may get a cute tiny spider in your drink.

If the leaves are chewed up, or have holes, look for little green worms on the undersides of leaves.  They’re hard to find, as they match the color of leaves and stems.

If the leaves on top are curled up, check for tiny aphids, which are tiny and black-colored.  They cluster together at the tip of a few sprigs, so pinch off the affected sprigs and stomp on them. If aphids get overwhelming, soak the entire plant with Neem Oil Spray, and then wait for new mint sprigs to pop up before cutting off the sprigs that had been soaked in Neem Oil.

When white spots or streaks appear on leaves, it’s usually tiny spider mites.  Spray plants with vodka, or 1 part alcohol to 4 parts water, during a time when the plants are in the shade.  The spray will also reveal the mite’s tiny webs. Use Neem oil to stop them from breeding.

To get rid of whiteflies without pesticides, place a bright yellow piece of cardstock or plastic coated with motor or mineral oil, and the flies will be attracted to it and get stuck on it. Use Neem Oil to stop them from breeding.

When the roots fill the container, slice down the middle of the dirt with a sharp knife. Remove 1/2 of the root ball and replant it in a separate pot (give it to a friend) or toss it out.  Fill the empty half of the pot with new soil, then water.

If the whole plant looks raggedy, cut it all back to soil level.  It will grow back. In hotter climates, the temperature will get hotter than Havana in July and August.  Keep the plant in a shady area, and cut back sprigs that look too spindly.

In freezing climates, say Chicago, the mint will grow back in the spring, if it’s planted in the ground and not in a pot. You can also keep a plant indoors, in a south-facing window. The plant will not thrive, but it will live until you put it outside in the spring.

moj

Quick Natural Cure for Warts

 

teatree

When John was complaining about chronic foot pain, I told him to wait a few days, hoping it would go away like most maladies.  Unfortunately it got worse, so I took a look, and saw 2 plantar warts on each foot, with one of them taking over the bottom of his piggy toe.

Wart treatments in the drugstore promised results after 4 weeks, so we decided to do a natural cure that I’d heard about–tea tree oil.  There were several brands at Whole Foods, very expensive as usual, but I found this cheap one for $6.00.  It was Tea Tree Oil with bonus Vitamin E.

I took a Q-tip, dipped it into the bottle, a dabbed it on a wart. Then I dipped the other end of the Q-tip and did the same with the other wart (no double-dipping!) and repeated on the other foot.

John didn’t want Band-aids to cover it, so he put on socks and shoes.  Nothing really happened for about 4 days. The next day we noticed the warts were smaller, and the next day they all started to get little black spots. The boy was grossed out, and thought they were turning into tumors, but I could tell the spots were the death-knell for the shrinking warts.

The plantars got smaller and blacker over the next few days, and 2 weeks after treatment started, all 4 of John’s warts fell off the same day.  We’re keeping the bottle around, as Tea Tree Oil works on all kinds of skin fungus (too nasty to show).  We’re not too big on natural cures, as most of the ones we’ve tried don’t work, but it’s definite recommend for Tea Tree Oil.

Perfect Broccoli in Three Minutes

brocci

Little wonder why so many people hate broccoli.  John and Michael–like most kids–used to hate it too!  When we cooked it 30 seconds too little, the broccoli was still raw and chewy. When we cooked the veggie 30 seconds too long, it got mushy, and turned the color of green olives, which is not a good look for broccoli.

This technique nails it–just right–and simply requires a timer.  John and Michael eat this broccoli 3 times a week.

1.  Bring 3 inches of water to boil on high temperature in a covered saucepan or pot.

2.  Cut the florets off the broccoli head, and if the florets are too big, cut them in half. Put the florets in a bowl so that you can dump them all into the boiling water at the same time. Set your timer for 3 minutes, but don’t start it. Have a big spoon ready.

3.  When the water boils, remove the cover, dump the broccoli into the water, and give it a quick stir so that all the broccoli gets dunked.

4.  Clamp the lid on tightly, and start the timer.  When the 3 minutes are up, turn off the heat and immediately drain the broccoli, or remove it with a slotted spoon.

5.  Put a few pats of butter on the broccoli, and leave it uncovered until the butter melts. Stir the broccoli with a large spoon or chopstick–very lightly so you don’t break off pieces of the florets.  Salt and pepper the broccoli, and serve.

If desired, sprinkle the broccoli with cheese, preferably a cheddar or other yellow cheese.  White cheeses aren’t the best for this vegetable.  Tostito’s Medium Salsa con Queso is cheesy delicious poured over the top.

Best Margarita Recipe with Cointreau

margg

The most important element of a premium Margarita is the lime juice. Key limes, also known as Mexican or West Indies limes, are important. They can be found in most Latin or Asian supermarkets, and in the exotic produce section of many other markets.

This shaken margarita is a mix of accclaimed tequila, Cointreau, and Key lime juice that balances the sweet, sour, and spirits with no added sugar.

  • 1½ ounces of 100% blue agave silver tequila
  • ¾ ounce of Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce fresh-squeezed Key lime juice

— Hold a tumbler glass upside down, and rub a cut lime on one half of the rim.  Dip, but don’t twist, the outside of the wet rim into a dish of Morton Sea Salt.  Pour tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice into a mixing glass with ice.  Shake 40 times and strain onto ice cubes in the salted glass.

If you can’t find Key limes, then a mix of 2 parts lemon juice with 1 part regular Persian) lime juice is better than pure Persian lime juice.

Recommended tequilas are Milagro, Herradura, Avion, Pura Vida, Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas, Tapatio, Patron, and Corazon.  A few reposado (gold) tequilas mix well in margaritas, such as Dos Lunas and Izkali. Expensive tequilas like El Tesoro or Don Julio are better left for sipping.

The Cointreau can be replaced with Marie Brizard Triple Sec or Combier, but they’re harder to find. Grand Marnier is made with cognac, so it adds that taste, as does Ferrand Dry Curacao. Patron Citronage is not recommended.

Frozen Margaritas

Premium shaken margaritas are great for tiny gatherings, but if you have lots of people, they take too much time to prepare. Replace them with these tasty Cheap Margaritas.  Guests will be pleased, and so will you.  If you want strawberry frozen margaritas, just add two fresh or frozen strawberries per drink before blending it.

 

Best Bourbon Mint Julep

The Bourbon Julep was born here at the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel, Washington DC
The Bourbon Julep was born here.

A bottle of Maker’s Mark sits atop the Round Robin Bar in the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC — where Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced the Bourbon Julep to these United States. That’s the bourbon of choice for the drink that remains the Round Robin’s signature, and it’s a very good choice for this icy beverage.

Though Henry Clay was born in Ashland, Virginia, the town is is named after his Kentucky estate, and this Virginia-bred drink has been historically tied with Kentucky bourbon and the Kentucky Derby in Louisville.

While Maker’s Mark Bourbon, with its wheated sweet taste remains the popular choice for this drink, there’s another bourbon that we prefer when mixing this cooler for enjoyment on a hot summer afternoon.  Evan Williams 1783 adds a mild and tasty oak flavor, and a lower price.

Mint Julep

2 ½ ounces bourbon

2 teaspoons (1/3 ounce) simple syrup

8 to 10 leaves of spearmint

A neatly-groomed sprig of spearmint, for garnish

A dusting of powdered sugar, for garnish, optional

Lots of crushed, cracked, or powdered ice, or easier yet, Sonic Drive-In pebble ice.

— Add the simple syrup and mint leaves to a mixing glass.  Press lightly on the mint leaves with a muddler.  Add the bourbon, and stir well.

Fill an Old Fashioned glass or silver Julep cup with crushed, cracked, or powdered ice.  Strain the contents of the mixing glass into it.  Add more ice to the top of the julep cup or glass, and make a mound of ice on top of the drink.

Insert a sprig of spearmint into the mound of ice.  Dust the top of the ice and mint with powdered sugar, if you wish.  Cut off the bottom of a straw so that the top of the straw is 1 inch above the rim of the julep cup or glass.  Serve, and as the Southern novelist Walker Percy relates,  “Then settle back in your chair for a half an hour of cumulative bliss”.

To make simple syrup, add equal parts of white sugar and good-tasting water to a jar with a tight lid.  Shake vigorously, rest 5 minutes, shake vigorously again, and rest 5 more minutes.  No need to boil the stuff.

Other Recommended Bourbons

Maker’s Mark and Evan Williams 1793 are standard around our porch, but Old Grand-Dad 100, and Old Forester Signature are also recommended bourbons. Generally speaking, the sweetness of “wheated” bourbons taste best in a Julep.

Don't be fooled by the low price. This bourbon makes a fantastic Julep.
Don’t be fooled by the low price. This bourbon makes a fantastic Julep.

Ice

Sonic Drive-In sells bags of ice from their drive-thru windows.  The pebble ice is perfect for Juleps, Daiquiris, and Margaritas. You can also make powdered ice by using a Lewis bag, or putting ice into a clean canvas tote bag and smacking the ice-filled  bag with a wooden  mallet.

Hong Kong Cognac

hongkongcognac

Cognac has become a sought-after luxury in China, but like Scotch, it’s not to the taste of many drinkers there.  Fortunately, the mixer of choice used to make it palatable–7UP– happens to make an excellent cocktail, which pairs well with many dishes in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine.

Hong Kong Cognac

  • 1½ ounces Cognac
  • 4½ ounces 7UP
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish

— Fill a highball or Collins glass with ice.  Pour in the Cognac. Gently pour in the 7UP, and stir slowly seven times with a chopstick.  Garnish with a cherry, and let the drink sit for 5 minutes to blend and chill.

7UP is recommended for this drink, but Sprite may be substituted.  St. Rémy VSOP Brandy is inexpensive, and mixes well with Sprite and lots of ice.