Category: Food and Drink



This was a heckuva coincidence. Thursday evening, I was flipping through vodka cocktail recipes on my Kindle during timeouts of my kids’ basketball games. I saw a reference to walnut liqueur and thought, “Man, walnut liqueur. That sounds nasty.”

Less than 48 hours later, a TDE reader sent me this: “Watershed Distillery uses to craft its luscious Italian-style liqueur, Nocino, an intensely nutty flavored spirit. In the early summer, long before the nuts have formed a hard shell, Cullman will thin out some trees and deliver about 750 pounds of soft, green nuts, still in the hull, to the distiller where they are quartered and steeped for 90 days in vodka made with grains from nearby Granville Mills. Finally, the vodka is strained and filtered, sweetened with sugar and flavored with orange peel, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla bean.”

It’s made in Ohio, about five hours from my house. I have to admit, it sounds good. And it’s pretty potent: 48 proof, according to Watershed Distillery’s website.

I doubt I’ll buy any. The one thing this “cocktailing hobby” has made me aware of: the assortment of liquors is stunning. Walnut, banana, watermelon, whatever. I think every flavor, and even some non-flavors, has a liqueur. And that’s just among traditional drinks. In today’s market, new liqueurs of concocted flavors are coming out every month.

The one good thing about liquor, though: it doesn’t go bad. It will evaporate (and I’ve heard that vodka can go bad, though a friend of mine who used to distill it says that’s ridiculous), but it won’t go bad. So I don’t mind buying bottles that I may use only … Read the rest


IMG_3150Brews You Can Use

I didn’t drink a whole bunch during the holidays, but I am on a diet with the aim of losing twenty pounds (to get my weight to 165), so I need to watch my liquor intake. No less a hard-core drinker like Kingsley Amis (who counsels, “the only requirement of a diet is that it should lose you weight without reducing your alcoholic intake by the smallest degree”), says that hard liquor “does, more than anything else taken by mouth, apart from stuff like cement, cram on the poundage.”

Nonetheless, I find it hard to believe that vodka packs on as much as weight as, say, beer or wine. An ounce of vodka contains about 64 calories. At eighty proof, I think you would need 1.25 shots to equal the alcohol in an average 12-ounce beer, so that would be 80 calories of alcohol. If you then add tonic or other sweeteners, the calories no doubt escalate, but if you restrict yourself to soda water and low-calorie items like lemon juice, there aren’t a lot of calories when compared to beer (average: 154 calories for twelve ounces) and wine (125 calories for five ounces). My main sweetening ingredient, simply syrup. contains 43 calories, which puts my typical cocktail slightly under wine (at 123 calories).

I’m slowly expanding my cocktail repertoire. I believe I have attained proficiency in the Tom Collins, the Moscow Mule, Electric Lemonade, and my own concoction, the Holiday Tom. Thanks to a generous in-kind gift from my mother, I am going to next try my hand at a variety of cocktails that call for Cointreau, Creme de Menthe, … Read the rest


Bar 2015

Regular TDE readers know I’m not a big fan of New Years Eve. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Relative to Thanksgiving Eve, I’m not a big fan of New Years Eve. Also, I’m more of a fan of New Years Eve afternoon, rather than night. This is the day that I gather with men to settle the last year’s sports betting, drink, watch football, and talk about whatever comes up under the sun. So although Thanksgiving Eve is my favorite drinking night of the year, today features my favorite drinking afternoon.

We’re gathering at a new drinking establishment in town. My eldest daughter went there last night. I texted her, “Hey, ask if they serve the Moscow Mule. I think that’s what I’ll drink tomorrow night.” Alas, she asked, but the waitress seemed confused and said she’d look into it. She never did, so I’m guessing they don’t serve the Mule. I’ll probably have to opt for vodka tonic or one of their funky drinks.

“What,” dear TDE reader you ask, “is a Moscow Mule?”

It’s vodka, ginger beer, and lime. More than that, it is the drink that put vodka on the map in the United States:

Until the late 1940s, vodka was virtually unknown outside Russia, Poland, and Scandinavia. In the West, America’s enthusiasm for whiskey and gin overshadowed any interest in vodka, which was known simply as a spirit vaguely linked to dark Chekhov plays and Tolstoy novels. That all changed, however, due in no small part to a Russian refugee named Vladimir Smirnoff, whose family previously ran the Moscow distillery that was the official purveyor of vodka to the czar.

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Tom Collins Glass

My gift to you: The Holiday Tom.

It’s my own concoction, though I know with virtual 100% certainty that it’s been made many, many times. It’s not very complicated and it’s basically the Tom Collins made with vodka.

Here goes: 1/2 shot of freshly-squeezed lime and lemon, one shot of simple syrup, three shots of vodka: shake. Pour over a tall glass filled with ice. Top off with soda water (a shot or two), splash with a little grenadine.

A friend and long-time vodka drinker came over to watch some of the Lions game last week. I made him one of these and he was taken back: “That’s fantastic. Wow. What a good drink.” Now, my friend is a rather gracious fellow, but we’re good enough friends that he’s more likely to greet me with, “Hey, faggot,” rather than compliment one of my drink concoctions.

Anyway, the Holiday Tom with its red color lends a festive air to your hand. The heavy dose of vodka lends a festive air to your head. Caution: it goes down fast and smooth. I would polish off one every 10-15 minutes if I didn’t consciously restrain myself.

BTW: If you want to pursue the Holiday Tom for party gatherings, get a hand juicer. You’ll need to juice a lot of limes and lemons. I got a hand juicer from Amazon, and it works great.

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Some advice from Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking, with my commentary in italics:

“If the red strikes you as thick, dark and heavy, feel no shame in cutting it with the local bubbly mineral water; worth trying in parts of Italy and Spain.” I’m gonna have to try that. I would’ve thought such a thing anathema, but if a man of Amis’ drinking culture condones it, well . . .

“Gin men should slip a small bottle of Angostura into their luggage. You can knock together some sort of drink with it—and gin—under almost any conditions, and you can never find it abroad.” This, I believe, was the passage that started my love affair with bitters. See link below for my favorite.

“Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, makes weariness forget his toil, and fear her danger, opens a new world when this, the present, palls.” Actually, that’s not Amis. That’s Amis quoting Lord Byron.

“The dipsomaniac and the abstainer are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard wine as a drug and not as a drink.” Channel GKC’s “Omar and the Sacred Vine” from Heretics.

Got a relative who grows troublesome when drunk? Here’s some neat, though borderline sinful, advice: “[A] friend of mine, whose mother-in-law gets a little excited after a couple of drinks, goes one better in preparing her third by pouring tonic on ice, wetting a fingertip with gin and passing it round the rim of the glass, but victims of this procedure must be selected with extreme care.”

“Charles Jackson’s marvellous and horrifying The Lost Weekend, still the … Read the rest



“The dipsomaniac and the abstainer are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard wine as a drug and not as a drink.” Kingsley Amis

This, of course, echoes GKC’s “Omar and the Sacred Vine.”

Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.

It’s May 1st, incidentally. I have officially declared May 1st as Opening Day of the Outdoor Drinking Season. We’re incredibly blessed to have it fall on a Friday this year.

Because Outdoor Drinking Season has begun, you are now officially authorized to enjoy your beverages on the front porch. Expect to see me on mine, with mine, frequently. Few things are better. Next month, it gets a bit too hot and too buggy. But May and drink? It’s one of the many things that make life worth living. … Read the rest



As I get steeped more deeply in vodka and gin, I’m enjoying the lost art of mixology.

Well, it was a lost art. With the advent of Mad Men, things like infusing vodka with herbs/spices and using bitters have made a comeback. I didn’t know that when I asked Marie to get me bitters for Christmas. I asked for them because Kingsley Amis recommended that every drinker carry a bottle of Angostura with him at all times, because it can always be used with gin to “knock together” something passable in a pinch.

I got the Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters for Christmas. They’re great. I like them so much that I posted a user review at Amazon:

This is not similar to Angostura. But I think it’s better . . . a lot better. Angostura is much more bitter; this is sweeter. For a middle-aged man who likes beer, I have a sweet tooth, with a particular fondness for cinnamon. This product fits my tastes perfectly. A friend of mine scoffed at me for putting these bitters in my vodka tonic. He then tried it and said, “That’s fantastic. I stand corrected.” Great product.

I guess there are scores (hundreds?) of flavors out there, plus a lot of websites dedicated to bitters (like this one). I have ordered a six-bottle sampler set and will continue to surf the web to increase my bitter knowledge. Expect recommendations and updates as my liver and I navigate these new waters.

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I decided I hadn’t been spending nearly enough time at Modern Drunkard Magazine, so I decided to surf around it last weekend during the Detroit Lions game. I wasn’t disappointed. It turns out they’re in the second “Clash of the Tightest,” which is “a ferocious, tournament-style, single-elimination, winner-walks-out-on-the-tab bottle-royale.”

They first came up with a list of 16 of history’s greatest drinkers, employing loose, yet common sensical, criteria:

First off, living drinkers were excluded because their story is not fully told; for all we know they’ll join the Anti-Saloon League and start bad-mouthing sweet mother booze.

Backsliders such as Jack London, who did turn against the booze in his latter years, were also disqualified because winners never quit and quitters never win.

Lesser-known hard pounders were also excused because everyone has an uncle who should be in the fight and we only have room for 16 contenders—and we’d have to take you and your aunt’s word for it and we personally don’t trust either of you.

They then pair off the historic drinkers with commentary offered by Howard Cosell and Laurence Olivier. After a lot of, ahem, colorful commentary and blow-by-blow drinking narrative, they declare the winner, who advances to the next round.

It’s funny, albeit PG-13 (or R), and you’re not too late to enjoy it. They’re still early in the first round. In the first match, Andre the Giant defeated Alexander the Great. They just featured the second match, Doc Holliday v. Hunter S. Thompson, last weekend (HST won by disqualification after Holliday muttered “Here’s your huckleberry, you son of a *****” and lunged at Thompson with a knife). … Read the rest