From Russia with Love

Hermitage and Winter Palace Russia

This stormy night in Florida conjures up an image in my mind of a rain-slicked street somewhere in Russia…gray and gloomy. Along those damp cobblestone streets and wrought iron bridges over the Neva River, Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, commonly known as Rasputin the Mad Russian, was said to have been the target of several assassination attempts due to his outspoken beliefs and philosophies.

It is said that Rasputin accepted money for political favors and turned around and gave it to the needy and poor. When I was in St. Petersburg, our guide Misha took great pride in showing us the bridge where Rasputin finally succumbed to an attacker.  The myths and legends surrounding him still live on with the people of Russia.

Russian vodkaWhat’s a visit to Russia without bringing home a bottle of real Russian vodka?  Carefully placed in excess bubble-wrap, I lovingly carried home a true local Russian vodka which I had purchased in a small knick-knack shop.  I don’t think I will open it any time soon…or at least not until I re-visit St. Petersburg and purchase a replacement.

Believe it or not, no one says “Na zdorovje” as a Russian drinking cheer. Literally it means “To your health”, but it is only said as a reply to “Spasibo”- Thank you.

In tribute to Rasputin, here is a drink in his honor:

Mad Russian – will make one cocktail
Ingredients:
1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
1/2 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/2 oz. Butterscotch Schnapps
5-6 oz. Milk

Blending Instructions:
Fill glass with ice, add 1 shot each of vodka and Kahlua and the 1/2 shot each of Baileys and butterscotch.
Add milk.
Shake or stir

And don’t say “Na zdorovje!”

Thar’s GOLD in Them Thar Glasses…

On my last visit to London, whilst (that’s what they actually say!) looking for a cute upscale bar (not a pub) at nearly 11pm with my Brit friend, we decided to head into this trendy looking bar on the ground floor of a quaint boutique hotel. 

Sitting in a couple of hugely over-stuffed leather armchairs (sort of like what I imagine Sherlock Holmes sat in to do his deep thinking) we were approached by a very friendly waitress.  Not wanting my usual straight-up Grey Goose Martini with olives, I suggested that our server choose my beverage du nuit.

A few minutes later, I was totally astonished when regally presented with a Gold Martini.  Real gold dust was gently floating on the surface, while some sort of edible flower (not eaten by this ‘tini Gal!) lazed nearby.  OK…not only was this the most expensive Martini in the world, there was no way that I would drink it or even sip it.  A milk moustache is one thing…a gold one? Eww.  The recipe is very similar to a typical Cosmo, but here it is:

Gold Dust Martini
4 parts Citron Vodka – Grey Goose is preferred of course!
2 part Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 part fresh lime juice
2 parts cranberry juice
Edible gold dust
Foo-foo flower for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.  Shake well
and pour into chilled Martini glass.  Dust surface with edible
gold dust, garnish with edible flower and serve.

Memories of The Drake

(Ed. Note: I’ve reposted this entry because it is so dear to my heart.  I’ve recently returned from a visit to Chicago and was able to spend time at the Drake.)

My mother had a fascination for collecting cocktail recipes as you might have guessed.  The photo of her book that I am using for this blog is here and my first replication will be The Drake Martini.  If you’ve ever seen the movie, My Best Friend’s Wedding, then you’ve seen The Drake Hotel (see photo).  Not only is it a monolithic structure looming on the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Walton Place, it is one of the most iconic hotels in the city. (Maybe the old Conrad Hilton would vie for first place).  Built in 1920, The Drake has stood the test of several owners, management and demanding celebrities.

It was in the Coq d’Or Martini Bar and Restaurant that The Drake Martini was invented. 

Gin has never been on my must-try drink list.  My parents drank Beefeater gin Martinis with an olive; they’d never allow me a taste of course, but I would lean over their just-poured glass and catch a whiff of gin and vermouth and an olive.

Tonight I tried my first gin Martini.  Not sure if I like it; I only bought enough gin today to sample the drink and it probably isn’t the “A” list gin.  Is there a gin equivalent to vodka’s Grey Goose? I’ll admit, gin has kind of a rousing taste, oddly, almost a bit minty when mixed with the vermouth.  This is a drink that could make someone feel oh-not-too-good the next morning, should several have been imbibed.

Here’s the recipe for The Drake Martini. This Martini formula has remained unchanged since 1933.

Ingredients for one (very potent!) cocktail
4 oz dry gin
1/4 oz dry vermouth

Pour into a shaker filled with ice. After a gentle stir, carefully pour into Martini glass.

These are the instructions of Ernie Byfield, a famous Chicago hotelier who also once ran the Pump Room.  He is said to have created The Drake Martini. He felt that the stirring of The Drake Martini is considered vitally important.

Ernie recommended only the “very slightest disturbance of the mixture – just enough to bring about a complete and peaceful marriage of the elements.”  Who am I to argue?  Here’s to you, Ernie!

Mindful Musings…

Mindful musing of the moment: 
Someone asked me the other day if I thought that two people who have been married for fifty-plus years would be as happy in that relationship as they might be if they had divorced thirty-five years earlier and found a new spouse.  Basically…

can you achieve the same degree of happiness with more than one person?
  
The answer to that question is best debated over a really nice Pinot Noir carefully poured into a beautiful piece of Reidel stemware.  Since that isn’t possible right now, if anyone has some insight to contribute, please leave a comment.

Senor Monchito’s Famous Concoction!

My Mission:
To find the best pina colada on Florida’s Space Coast!

A bit of background info: The pina colada was created in Puerto Rico in 1954. Don Ramon “Monchito” Marrero, who at the time was a bartender at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, came up with the ingenious idea of mixing rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream and ice in a blender to concoct what was to become the island’s favorite drink.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons….Make a Limoncello Martini!

After watching an episode on the Travel Channel whereby Samantha Brown samples homemade Italian limoncello, I had to buy a bottle when I was on an MSC cruise (the Italian cruise line). Carefully, I wrapped it in my suitcase and brought it home unscathed.  Immediately the bottle was placed in my freezer and later that evening I tried my first limoncello shot. This was an authentic limoncello, no yellow food coloring or added flavor and it was wonderful; a sweet, lemony taste without any bitterness or alcohol-y aftertaste.

Between sharing with friends and family, that first bottle of limoncello lasted only about two weeks.  I’ve since purchased it at my local liquor stores, but usually there is food coloring added, which I would rather not have in my drinks.

My daughter stopped by my house the other day and, after rummaging through my liquor cabinet and freezer said, “Mom, let’s make a limoncello martini, the recipe is on the bottle.”  Sounding like an interesting concept, we took out the usual supplies:  shaker, stirrer (just in case), shot measurer and two straight-up glasses.  The recipe called for equal parts limoncello and vodka.  In went the ingredients, a nice shake, pour and taste.  For me, it was too syrup-y sweet and my connoisseur co-bartender agreed.  We poured the contents back into the shaker and carefully measured enough vodka to make it a 2:1 formula.  This time I stirred the drink just to use my new stirring spoon and strained the martini back into the glasses.  This seemed to do the trick.

Next time I make a limoncello martini, I’ll try a 2 1/2 :1 ratio.  I am not a fan of a really sweet drink and I think this might be a perfect combination.  Be sure to float a very thin slice of lemon on the top as well as a curlicue lemon twist on the rim.

Now I’m on a mission to create my own of limoncello, using organic lemons, either vodka or Everclear and a simple sugar syrup.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Cheers!

Wednesday Friendsday…

It must be the axis of the earth or sunspots or something like that. One entire day without a decent internet connection and “Blam!” my world comes to a veritable standstill.  By four in the afternoon (almost Martini time) the cigarette-smelling cable guy arrived and realigned the solar system so that my internet was once again functioning as it should.

The chicken soup that gently simmered for over an hour yesterday was taken over to my friend’s house, along with eight matzo balls, three sliced carrots and several un-neatly diced boiled chicken breasts.  I hope he and his wife enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it for them.  Isn’t that how you should feel when you do something for friends? I hope so.

I also hope that someone finds this blog.  Yoo-hoo…anyone?  If someone finds it, what in the world would they comment about?  Hm. I need to do something catchy so that if someone lands here, well…at least they’d have a reason to leave their two cents. 

Good night.

Waiting for…Martini Time!

It’s nearly 4pm.  On my desk is my mother’s own hand-written guide to bartending, so to speak.  A shopping list of cocktail ingredients will accompany me to the store this afternoon.  My mission is identified.  While the Pink Martini Lounge is a great place to visit, to share ideas or leave comments, you’ll also be able to see what these drinks look like as I re-create them for you.


Here’s the much-awaited photo of my mother’s compilation of recipes.  This was my old school writing book, grease-splattered and dog-eared and turned into a bartender’s guide Not for the weak at heart. 

Friday Morning; A fish story

While patiently waiting for the “PC Tech” expert to arrive, I’d like to stress the importance of the word, “escalate.”  We are at the mercy of our internet connection and our wireless phone company. If your connections are down, lost or disappear and when your distress phone call finally reaches a human being, chances are they are at the bottom of the food chain (a remora fish, so to speak.)  I have learned that if I employ the word “escalate” accompanied by “I want to cancel my service” miraculously I am transported at light speed to someone, if not at shark level, then possibly at barracuda stage. 

So, here I wait on a Friday morning, for this PC Tech to arrive.  His mission: to re-construct the spaghetti-like pile of cords, wires and cables associated with my overloaded table of gizmos and gadgets into a functioning hi-tech armory.  I’ll let you know the results.  Happy Friday! (Sadly, it’s not Martini time yet.)

One more thought for the day…

I really have to get my act together and get this done earlier.  So many ideas to try.  Knowing the importance of a Mission Statement, I’ve written a very rudimentary sample and tomorrow will review and revise.  Online I found a fab web designer for Blogger, but cross your fingers that she’ll take on another customer.  Her website said, “Sorry, no more new designs.”  Maybe she can modify an existing one…something pink, sassy, with a hint of 1950s illustrations.  I can visualize it…so it will be. 

No martini tonight…opened a 2007 Kenwood Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  Was pretty darn good. Trying to conserve on my Grey Goose!  TTFN. Luv ya!