Jack and Coke: The Right Mix

jack&coke

Jack and Coke 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.

Popular Jack & Coke

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

— Fill a tall or Old Fashioned glass with ice. Pour in the Jack. Gently pour in the Coke.  Garnish with nothing. This is a balanced mix of Jack taste and Coke taste.

Ask your bartender for a 4-to-1 ratio or mix. Other mixes with 7 ounces and 9 ounces of Coke aren’t so good, for some reason,  8 ounces is perfect.

If the bar pours only 1½ ounces of Jack for a drink, then ask for 6 ounces of Coke.

Pro Jack & Coke

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

Recommended by the Jack Daniel Distillery, and brings the taste of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 to the forefront.  Strong, but not too strong.  It’s a 3-to-1 mix.  If using 1½ ounces Jack, add 4½ ounces Coke.

Smooth Jack & Coke

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

There’s just a hint of the taste of whiskey.  A 5-to-1 mix. If using 1½ ounces of Jack, add 7½ ounces Coke.

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 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.

Drink responsibly.

Make Hatch Green Chile Sauce

Green chile sauce doesn't look beautiful, but it's awesome.
Green chile sauce isn’t beautiful, but it’s awesome.

You may have an abuelita in Santa Fe who makes green chile sauce better than this, but to make your own requires a delicate balance of savory onion and garlic with the sweetness and pleasant burn of roasted green chiles.  A tomato adds just the right touch of acidity.  Many recipes add tart tomatillos, but that’s not New Mexican.

As a cameraman for an Albuquerque TV station, I traveled all around New Mexico, ate at a lot of cafés, and interviewed many cooks (and a few grandmothers) to develop this recipe.

If you’re ever in Santa Fe, I recommend the huevos rancheros with red and green chile at Cafe Pasqual’s (The breakfast center of the universe). The roast beef burrito smothered with green chile at Tomasita’s looks like a hot mess, but it’s amazing.

Best Hatch Green Chile Sauce Recipe

  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 1 heaping cup of roasted and chopped green chile (9 or 10 chiles)
  • 1 tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon instant tapioca (best) or regular flour
  • ½ cup Swanson chicken stock
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried or fresh chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper

1. Add olive oil to a sauce pan, turn heat to medium, and heat oil for 2 minutes.

2. Add onion, and saute until it turns golden (about 8 minutes). Don’t worry if it turns a little brown–it’s caramelized.

3. Stir in the garlic and turn the heat down to low.  Add the tapioca or flour, and stir frequently for 4 minutes.  Add the tomato, green chile, chicken stock and water, stir, and turn heat back to medium.

4. Finally, add salt, cumin, oregano and black pepper, then stir.  Let it cook for about 5 minutes on medium. You’re done, that’s it.  Green chile sauce stays fresh for 4 days in the fridge, or you can freeze it and reheat it with no loss of flavor.

Flour is the traditional thickener for green chile sauce, but tapioca makes it look shiny and bright, and doesn’t change the taste. The chile sauce will be gluten-free.

The Desert Hurricane

Just about every weekend we make a breakfast with bacon, fried eggs, and cheddar cheese on top of a pile of Ore-Ida hashbrowns. Then we pour hot green chile sauce over the top.  It’s called a Desert Hurricane, and it’s stunning.

greenchile2

Want to know how to roast green chile? Click here.  Don’t have fresh green chiles? Forget the ones in a can–the taste is off–but check the frozen aisle for Bueno Chopped Green Chile, it works great!

If you want to make a Green Chile Cheeseburger, use chopped green chiles (not this sauce), onion, mustard, tomato, and pickles.  Ketchup is not recommended, as the tomato already provides that taste.  The preferred cheeses are Cheddar, American, or Provolone.

Eater.com has a superb guide to green chiles, and if you’re ever in Santa Fe, a great list of restaurants to visit. Green chile also won a USA Today/10Best.com poll as the best regional cuisine, and the site also included great restaurants to try in New Mexico.

How to Roast Hatch Green Chiles

On a good late-summer day in New Mexico, you’ll smell tortillas being made, green chiles being roasted, and the smoke from burning piñon wood wafting in the air. Or maybe just the green chiles.  That’s good enough.

Directions

Heat your grill for 5 minutes on high, or fire up the charcoal.  Place the green chiles directly over high heat for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 5 minutes more.

The outside of the chiles will be scorched and black, but the flesh of the chiles will cook and make steam, which will make the skins separate from the flesh.  Some chiles will pop, or the skins will open up, and that’s good.

Grills usually have hot spots, so move the chiles around until they get charred and blistered. The color will go from a vibrant green to a dull green.

Remove the chiles that have cooked and drop them into a plastic bag, or a covered plastic 5-gallon bucket, and lightly close bag or bucket.  The steam will help the skins separate from the chiles.

Don’t worry, the hot chiles won’t melt plastic bags of any sort.

chilesteam

When the chiles are cooled enough to touch, rip off or cut off the stem end, and slide the skin off of the the chiles.  You can either tear open the chiles and rub out the seeds, whack them on the edge of a sink to make the seeds fly out of the open end, or hold the chiles by the tip with one hand, and slide the chile between the index and middle finger of the the other hand to squeeze out the seeds.

Skins on left, chiles on right.
Skins on left, chiles on right.

After cleaning the chiles, you can save them whole, or chop them for chile sauce.  To prevent freezer funk, put chiles in thick freezer bags and wrap the bags in aluminum foil.  Each chile weighs about 1 ounce, so about 8 or 9 chopped chiles make a cup.

Notes

It’s best to clean chile outside, dropping the seeds and skins into a plastic-bag line trash can.

Chiles can be roasted in an oven, directly under the broiler, for very good results, though your kitchen might get very warm.

If you clean more than a few pounds of chiles, use plastic or latex gloves to clean them, or your hands will become numb for a short while. These gloves are available in the broom and mop section of a grocery store.

If you rub your eyes while peeling chiles, don’t worry, you’ll never do it again.

Outside of New Mexico, Hatch green chiles are sold as either hot or mild.  The best way to test it is to break open a raw chile and eat a piece to see if it’s a heat level you like.  The heat of Hatch green chiles change every year, depending on the weather in New Mexico.

Click here for a classic Hatch green chile sauce.

Be careful if you’re not in New Mexico, and you have your chiles roasted in a mechanical drum roaster.  Some of the operators will roast them at too high a temperature, and the skins will get over-roasted and break into little black fragments that stick to the flesh and a beast to remove.

Some people don’t bother to peel the chiles after roasting, and put them in the freezer with the skins on.  That works just fine.

chilechop

A hot pepper in the Southwest and Mexico is a chile. Texans make pots of chili, with meat and no beans, and chillies are those little hot peppers that the Spanish spread around the world to Asia and other continents.

Pan-Grill Hot Dogs for More Flavor

“My favorite meat is hot dog, by the way,” Mitt Romney told his supporters, “That is my favorite meat”.

Sure, it’s easy to boil a hot dog and get decent results. After 4 to 5 minutes (package directions), the dogs will be soft and not too hot.

For the added flavor of lightly browned skins, grill them in a pan.

1.  Put a few drops of water in the skillet, turn heat to medium, and wait until the water boils away.  The pan is now hot enough.

2.  Put hot dogs in pan, cook for a minute on medium heat, turn the hot dogs 1/4 turn, and cook for a minute more. Turn 1/4 turn again, cook 1 more minute.  You get the idea. Turn and cook, turn and cook, 8 times, until all 4 sides of the hot dog have been cooked twice for 1 minute each.

3.  Keep the hot dogs next to each other in the pan, to keep them from rolling around. Don’t worry if a side or two doesn’t get properly browned.

4.  If you want, lightly butter the inside of the bun, turn heat down to medium-low, and put buttered down side for 2 minutes.  The buns will be Texas-toasted.

Texas-toasted bun

For easier hot dogs, boil a few inches of water in a saucepan, drop in the frankfurters, cover, turn off heat, and let them cook in the hot water for 10 minutes.  They will be firm, and 180° F inside.

Toppings

Mustard, pickle relish, onions (pictured) – a favorite

Onions, cheese, mustard – superb

New York Style – sauerkraut and spicey brown mustard, maybe some Sabrett’s grilled onion sauce – classic

German Style – sauerkraut, pickles, mustard

Carolina Dog – chili, mustard, coleslaw

Mustard, chopped onion, relish, cheese, and Cholula – great!

Mustard, chopped onion, relish, chili, cheese, and Cholula – even better!

South Carolina Style – Mustard, slaw, and relish – tasty

Mustard and slaw – good

Deli Style – grilled onions, kraut, and mustard – excellent

Grilled onions, grilled peppers, and jalapenos

Banh Mi Style – julienned pickled carrots, julienned cucumbers, long thin slices of jalapeno, and cilantro – terrific

Green chile, mustard, Swiss cheese

Kimchi – slice into thin strips

Chilean Style – sauerkraut, tomatoes, mayo, avocado – interesting

Cholula Hot Sauce – simple and delicious

Seattle Style – soft cream cheese and chopped onion – good, unbelievably, though not unbelievably good.  Thanks, Hanna Raskin.

Notes: I used KFC slaw, Wolf Brand Texas Chili (no beans!), Wickles relish, and Boar’s Head or Sabretta refrigerated sauerkraut.  Use whatever mustard you like, and if you like ketchup, do it, no matter what anyone says.

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia, pay a visit to The Varsity, and order a chili slaw dog, onion rings, and a Coca-Cola. It is one of the best hot dog meals available anywhere, even the Coke is better because Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola.

Best Shaken Margarita Recipe

margg

I tasted 66 different Margarita recipes (not all at once) and most of them were not good. The slight harshness of lime juice combines with the bite of tequila in most of them, while others have too much triple sec, which makes the drink unpleasantly sweet.

The secret of the Best Shaken Margarita Recipe comes from a Houston, Texas restaurant famous for Margaritas. A mere teaspoon of lemon juice brightens up the tequila and lime, and balances the sweetness of the agave nectar. Cointreau or other triple sec is no longer necessary.

  • 1½ ounces of 100% blue agave silver or blanco tequila
  • 2/3 ounce (2 measuring teaspoons) fresh lime juice
  • ½ measuring teaspoon or ½ barspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce agave nectar (undiluted)

— 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 shallow dish with a small pile of Morton Sea Salt (the kind without iodine) or other sea salt. To give you guests a choice of salt or no salt, merely dip half of the rim of the glass into the salt.

Add the tequila, lime juice, lemon juice, and agave nectar into a mixing glass with enough ice to fill the serving glass.  Shake 36 times and dirty-pour the entire contents of the shaker into the salt-rimmed serving glass. Garnish with a lime wheel, half of a lime wheel, or a lime wedge on the rim of the glass.

Lunazul Blanco Tequila is an inexpensive tequila that is ideal for Margaritas.

Recommended tequilas are Milagro, Herradura, Avion, Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas, Tapatio, Patron, and Corazon. Your favorite silver tequila is recommended.

A few reposado (gold) tequilas mix well in margaritas, such as Dos Lunas and Izkali. Expensive tequilas like El Tesoro or Pura Vida are better left for sipping.

Pitchers of House Margaritas (makes 6)

9 ounces 100% blue agave silver or blanco tequila (Lunazul is recommended)

4 ounces freshly-squeeze lime juice

½ ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 ounces agave nectar (undiluted)

— Fill a pitcher with the tequila, lime juice, lemon juice, and agave nectar. Add ice, thin lime or lemon wheels, and thin orange wheels if you wish.

Frozen Margaritas

Premium shaken margaritas are great for small gatherings, but if you have lots of guests, the drinks take too much time to prepare. With different proportions, and a little triple sec or orange liqueur, you can make these terrific Cheap Margaritas. If you want Strawberry Frozen Margaritas, just add two fresh or frozen strawberries per drink before blending it.

Best Cheap Frozen Margaritas for a Party

margariter

This Margarita was improved on December 12, 2020

It was never easy to make good cheap Margaritas, because the ingredients weren’t very good–cheap tequila was harsh, lime juice remains harsh, and orange triple sec isn’t something to drink on its own.

Nowadays there is excellent and cheap 100% blue agave blanco tequila available, and we have a secret ingredient to brighten the taste of lime juice.  A touch of lemon juice makes all the difference.

No need to use expensive tequila.  Cointreau is the best triple sec for this drink, but other orange liqueurs may be used.  You can make these Margaritas a little better with your favorite premium tequila, but that’s up to you.

Frozen Margarita (makes 4 servings)

  • 6 ounces Lunazul 100% Agave Blanco Tequila or other 100% agave blanco tequila
  • 1 ounce Cointreau, DeKuyper O3 Orange Liqueur, or other triple sec
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 2/3 ounce (4 measuring teaspoons) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 ounces agave nectar (do not dilute with water)
  • 2 cups of ice

— Blend the ice before adding the ingredients. Add the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, lemon juice, and agave nectar to the blender  Shake until chilled, and serve in a glass with ½ of the rim salted. Garnish with a lime wheel, half of a lime wheel, or a lime wedge on the rim of the glass.

For easier preparation, premix several jars, glasses, or other containers with this recipe, so that you just have to add ice and the contents of the premix containers to the blender.

Lunazul Silver is one of the lowest-priced 100% blue agave tequilas, and deserves all of its prestigious awards.  Olmeca Altos is also a good bargain. DeKuyper O3 Orange is half the price of Cointreau and as well as Cointreau with these Margaritas.

Other tequilas in the $20 range we’ve tested are Campo Azul Reposado (the gold one).  Espolon makes a smooth, sweeter margarita with a milder taste. Other highly-rated tequilas in this price range include El Padrino and Pueblo Viejo. Sauza Hornitos Reposado (gold) is popular in Mexico, and will give you an enjoyable burn.

If you want a Premium Margarita, use a more expensive blanco tequila such as Milagro.

For Strawberry Margaritas, add 8 fresh or frozen strawberries to the blender before mixing.

Cheap award-winning tequila makes cheap great margaritas
Cheap, award-winning tequila makes cheap great margaritas
Fancy margarita glasses or garnishes are not always necessary.
Fancy glasses or garnishes not required.

Best Mint Julep Recipe and Best Bourbon

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

While Maker’s Mark Bourbon, with its wheated sweet taste, remains the popular choice for this Kentucky Derby Day classic, spearmint blends perfectly with the taste of oak from aging barrels. Evan Williams 1783 adds a mild and tasty oak flavor, and a much better price.

Mint Julep

2½ ounces bourbon

1/2 ounce of simple syrup or 1 teaspoon white sugar with a teaspoon of water

6 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 better 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, powdered, or pebble 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.  Or you can bring the sugar and water to just below a boil in a pan, and let it cool.

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 party 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.

Best Gin & Tonic Recipe

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
  • 3 to 4 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water (or Canada Dry Tonic)
  • Thin 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. Stir to chill the gin. Gently pour in 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.

The Best Champagne for Mimosas Isn’t Champagne, It’s Cava

A Mimosa is the official drink of a Sunday brunch, and though it’s originally made with Champagne, there’s an inexpensive sparkling wine that tastes better than Champagne when mixed with orange juice . That wine is from Spain, and it is called cava.

There’s two great Mimosas. The first one is a stronger one, with a touch of orange liqueur, and the second is simply orange juice and sparkling white wine.

1 ounces fresh orange juice

Mimosa No. 1

1 1/2 ounces fresh orange juice

1/4 ounce Cointreau, triple sec, or other orange liqueur

3 1/2 ounces Spanish cava, Champagne, or other white sparkling wine. Make sure the wine is listed as the brut variety.

Orange peel, for garnish

— Add the orange juice to a champagne flute or white wine glass. Gently pour in the white sparkling wine. Float the orange liqueur on top. Garnish with an orange peel in the drink, or a thin orange wheel on the rim of the glass.

Recommended cava wines are Dibon Cava NV Reserve, Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, or Rondel Brut.

Fry Hash Browns in Olive Oil and Butter

hashbrwns

Meilin is a master of Spanish cooking, and when she was frying potato slices in olive oil and butter to put in her tortilla (the egg omelet from Spain), I snatched a slice to sample.  It blew me away how delicious it was, and I knew I had to use the same technique with American hash brown potatoes. The results were just as delicious.  Better yet, frozen hash brown potatoes taste even better than fresh ones, so it only takes about 12 minutes to make this part of a very satisfying breakfast.

Directions

1.  Preheat a skillet on medium heat with a few drops of water in it.  When the water boils, turn heat to medium-high.

2.  Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, then add a Tablespoon of butter to the oil.  When the butter stops foaming, swirl it around, and add 1/2 of the bag of frozen hash browns to the pan.  (Watch out, the oil may pop.)

3.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes (uncovered), lifting the edge of the potatoes to check with a spatula, to see if they are properly browned.

4.  When they are browned, flip the potatoes, and turn down the heat to medium.  (There’s less oil left in the pan, so they would burn on the higher heat).

5.  Cook 3 to 4 minutes, turn the heat to low, the stir the potatos a little. Let them cook about 2 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

potat

It’s easier to turn the potatoes if you divide them into three parts. If you don’t use butter, the potatoes will still be delicious with just olive oil, although the outside browned crust may be slightly crunchier than with an olive oil/butter mix.

A wooden mallet is good for breaking up frozen hashbrowns.
A wooden mallet is good for breaking up frozen hash browns.

Electric and glass-top stoves burn hotter than gas stoves, so you may have to use slightly lower heat on these types of stoves.  If you are frying the whole bag, increase the amount of olive oil to 4 or 5 teaspoons, and add a little more butter. Don’t overload the skillet with the shredded potatoes, or they’ll get steamed instead of fried.

breafast

Tasters for the California Olive Board determined that all olive oil tastes the same after you heat it. We don’t find this to be completely true, as it seems that Spanish has a slightly better taste when frying potatoes than Italian olive oil does. Either way, inexpensive supermarket virgin olive oil is recommended for these hash browns.