Friday, June 11, 2004

Bottom's Up

Last spring in Moab, I was introduced to the wonder of the Mojito. For those of you who are unaware of this beautiful drink, it consists of lime juice, mint leaves, light rum, and some soda water. Various recipies include dashes of bitters and simple syrup.

So, I've decided to come up with my favorite combination, the ultimate Mojito recipie, if you will. Of course everyone has their own favorites, but mine will be the tastiest. I think the key ingredient might very well be some Grand Marnier.

time passes...

Yup, Grand Marnier is key to an awesome Mojito. I spent about a week making Mojitos for myself, about two a night. After that I had to lay off the alcohol for a little while because I'm getting old.

So my favorite mojito combination so far is (roughly - like I'm going to give away the best drink recipe ever):

1/2 a lime, cut into wedges
3-6 sprigs of fresh mint (I like spearamint)
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 oz sugar syrup
2 oz good light rum
cubed ice
selzter water

In a highball glass, muddle the lime, mint, bitters, and sugar
syrup until thoroughly mixed. Add ice, rum, and selzter water.
Give it all a quick stir, garnish with a lime slice and a grilled
shrimp skewer. mmm... barbie


Speaking of drinks, my wife and I encountered two very interesting drinks while in Australia last year. They're both easy to make and very yummy.

My wife and I met my sister-in-law and brother-in-law after their work day at pub in downtown Perth on the waterfront, named The Lucky Shag. Evidently, that's the name of a local bird. Whatever, it was a pub on the water, and they served alcohol.n

However, since I don't like beer, I don't usually drink wine, and cocktails are only made well in the good-ol U.S.A., I ended up sipping a non-alcoholic Lemon Lime and Bitters.

Quick digression, you can only find a good cocktail in the U.S. Sure, there'll be some errant bartender in another country who can mix up a decent rum and coke. But by and large, the rest of the world wouldn't know a Manhattan if it was thrown in their face - let alone how to properly garnish a cocktail. Cocktails are more American than just about anything. Besides, until relatively recently, the US didn't produce any good wine or beer - so we had to make due with cocktails. But now we've got hundreds of micro-brew makers, and the wines are getting to be world-class But back to the story.

Yes, it (lemon lime and bitters) is a chick drink. But since I was already carrying around the new embroidery book, feeling masculine was not exactly high on my list. Plus, it's a damn fine drink - made with fresh lime, a lot of bitters, and their version of Sprite. Here's a pretty decent version that I mix up at home:

1/4 fresh lime
1/2 fresh lemon
5 dashes bitters
3 oz sugar syrup
cube ice
seltzer water

In a highball glass, squeeze the lime and lemon. Add the
bitters and sugar syrup, mixing well. Add cube ice and
seltzer to fill. A quick stir and a lime slice as garnish.

The drink should have a slight brown tint from the bitters
(you can also float the bitters on top or bottom - that looks
cool too). If the drink isn't visibly tinted, you're just
drinking Sprite.

The last drink we discovered was completely by accident. We were walking along the waterfront and decided it was time to eat some lunch. Unfortunately, there was nothing nearby - just grass and trees. So we left the waterfront and found a Thai restaraunt tucked into some office-type building. Very odd location.

The menu listed, "Thai lemon drink". I figured, why not, you only live once. The drink was delivered - it looked like lemonade. I took a sip and wow! what a tasty drink.

Of course I wanted to know where they got it. And of course the waiter barely spoke any english. He was real nice and tried pantomiming the recipe.
"Lemon, sugar, sauce and water."
"Huh? sauce? what kind?"
"No ... sauce." And he starts shaking his hand as though he were having some sort of seisure.

After struggling for about five minutes, he goes back to the kitchen and brings out a salt shaker.

I was sure it was going to be fish sauce, an ingredient used in Thai cooking as much as we use salt in our cooking. And I'm tempted to try making the drink with fish sauce - though I've not been quite that brave yet.

This drink is really touch and go with the ingredients. I usually have to adjust after making it because I've added too much or too little salt or too little lemon, or something. You know you have it right when it's very lemony, you can taste the salt, but you've got a very nice balance of sweet, sour and salty. It'll probably take a few tries, just start with a bunch of lemons and don't give up. Here's a rough guide to get you going:

1/2 fresh lemon
2 oz sugar syrup
2 tsp table salt
cube ice
selzter water

Mix the lemon, sugar syrup and salt until the salt dissolves,
then add the ice and selzter.

Instead of sugar syrup and selzter water, you can just use Sprite or 7-UP, but it's nice to be able to control the sweetness. And don't try using honey, it's a pain in the rear to dissolve - pretty near hopeless after you've added the ice.

Bottom's up!

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