Flavor vs Aesthetic
My focus is flavor first. I've never been one to faun over cool-looking drinks if they still taste like garbage, so aesthetic is always second to the mix.
But just as great cooks work to expand their expertise to include pristine plating, mixologists expand their craft to include interesting looking drinks that also happen to taste good. Unfortunately, in my experience, it seems that many bartenders have perfected the look well before taking the time to ensure that it tastes like anything other than spoiled orange juice. Just sayin'.
Where I tend to struggle is in what to add or subtract to create a pleasing visual without sacrificing the flavor. Because at the end of the day, the flavor is my guiding star. Who cares if it looks a little weird if it still goes down your throat and offers a pleasant drinking experience.
I decided to stretch outside my comfort zone and craft something that not only tastes lovely, but looks neat too. :)
Theme and Taste
I've been stuck on Rangers lately. Something about the earthy aesthetic; a natural warden and accomplished tracker.
So earth tones. Deep greens, umbral browns, golden or silver clasps.
Initial knowledge leads me straight to Midori, or melon liqueur. Vibrant color, fruity and powerful tones.
So let's use that as our Base. Next, what goes well with melon tones?
Since Midori's tone is powerful on its own, a simple answer is Vodka. It won't fight for flavor dominance, and it's your entry point to make this a truly alcoholic beverage. It's also clear, and therefore won't change the aesthetic of GREEN. So we'll hold onto that one.
The obvious answers are forms of sweet and sour tones to imbalance the deep MELON already happening. We find those in lemon and lime juices, and often the classic Whiskey Sour mix. However, TART is not where I'm going with this. But let's pluck from that the Whiskey and think on it.
Bourbon, Midori, and Sprite is a thing I know, but we're not quite there yet. And, for this one at least, I'm going to avoid the soda route.
If I go down the train of my most recent hits...I might come up short. Cinnamon Whiskey and Melon sounds like a terrible idea, but I've been surprised before...
And I stand surprised. A cinnamon melon is not only delicious, but pushes the color toward a golden green.
Other iterations of learning:
Honey Jack + Midori ... Not great, not bad. Not quite memorable. In fact, I'd wager that you could hide Honey Jack in a dose of Midori without losing any sweetness. So it works, but it doesn't. That's a pass for now.
Amaretto + Midori ... Creates a Shirley Temple. Seriously. That is the most cherry that ever cherry'd on Cherry Mountain in Cherrytown.
Bourbon + Midori ... Is surprising. And really it's a testament to the strength of the flavor found in Midori. In most other drinks, my Four Roses Small Batch bourbon WRECKS the palette. It overpowers everything if you're not careful, hence when I use it it's often 1/4 - 1/3 the strength of everything else around it. It's a multiplier of its own acidity, and yet, with Midori in the mix...it is mitigated. The harsh edge is at the onset, but isn't strong enough to matter. Huh.
Vanilla Vodka + Midori ... is a mountain of yuck. No thank you. Plus, no color change.
Rum + Midori ... ... ... It's too hot for this. It works. A little smokey, mostly melon. I need more ingredients.
The Quest Continues...
So by now I'm having a rough time, but for "good" reasons. Initial tests went BETTER than expected, meaning more things go with Midori than I thought, or are hidden with Midori in the mix, but I'm left with the same dilemma. Choice.
With so much to work with, and some choice points I didn't expect, I suppose this might be the best opportunity to explore Aesthetic.
I've got a few more points to hit (before I devote myself to 1000 pushups and a 10 mile run to work through this last round of "data mining").
Two ingredients is too little for the Aesthetic AND the Flavor. Both challenge and original focus have not achieved success. Oops. And by now I've consumed enough fermented melon to kill a horse.
But all is not lost! We've got...a lot of ambers to work with. I'm going to avoid the vodka for now. That's boring. Instead, we'll test out amounts.
Midori remains the Base, so we're thinking around 3 oz. Everything else is in comparison to this measurement, tones and notes augmented with their own chemistry. Amaretto is too much on its own, now that we know the CHERRY EFFECT. So instead, I'll parcel in a Whiskey bomb, and some bitters to even it out. And then, of course, I'll TRY IT.
3 oz Midori
2 oz Fireball (Cinnamon Whiskey)
1 oz 151 Rum
1 oz Jack Honey
1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
3-6 dashes Aromatic Bitters
The tones that waft from the rim of this glass unlock old memories. Times when I was a young, religious boy away at Christian camp. On the last day we'd always make our own bread; an assortment of simple seasoning and old traditional tent baking. Every year, it was delicious, and long after I left the faith, the memory of that bread that we made ourselves lingers in the joyous parts of my spirit. Fermenting yeast and pressed wood with dough.
This drink is no joke. Put it on ice and sip it slow.
After long weeks on the road hunting, tracking, and trapping, fighting off beast and brigand alike, this is a drink that a Ranger enjoys in the safety of their homely tavern. A warm bed and a safe blade at their side. Do not imbibe too much, dear traveler, though weary you are, for one too many and you may be slow to awaken and face the next day.
Do imbibe responsibly, dear trackers.
See you at the table.
A Modern Viking
The Ironwrath came into being when I picked up a bottle of Semi-Sweet Honeymaker Mead. I had just finished watching the Norwegian Netflix series Ragnarok (not bad, maybe check it out), and possibilities were percolating. Then another Drinking and Dragons came into my purview and I set to work crafting something new.
I wanted the base of the Ironwrath to feel like a "modern viking." So, of course, MEAD is key here. Beyond that, I can give way to a few sensibilities of today to finish it off, but the middle mix is the trick. I remember lying on the floor imagining this. A Kraken rising from the depths to crash into an ancient vessel of warriors. Their battle rages for eons, frozen in time and space somehow, until they smash into the present.
The first iteration blended literal Kraken spiced rum with the Mead, a thematic choice that made the alcohol taste rotten. Perhaps an earthy approach, then? No, the Oakheart made it worse. Like fermented seaweed. Ouch.
But keeping with boat feel, a simple Captain did well to accent the mead without demolishing it, and now I have a beautiful amber base to add to.
Now, this is where experimentation began. Originally, by smell, I had picked out a Blackberry Brandy to add in. ...This was wholly UNPLEASANT, and abandoned immediately. Wild Cherry Brandy had a similar outcome. And standard Brandy did not mesh well. Okay. No Brandy for the viking warrior.
Still needed something, though, so I settled on my modern spin. Root Beer Liqueur. Root Beer blends well with a lot of things I've been trying lately, and it's a no brainer with Captain Morgan.
That did the trick well, but I was still craving that little Kraken spice. So I traded a few ounces for a "splash" with the squid, and there it was. Sweet and smooth at the onset, then warm, and a kick at the end. When my players tried it, they said it had "layers" to its taste. Awesome-sauce.
3 oz Dry or Semi-Sweet Mead
2 oz Captain Morgan (Spiced Rum)
2 oz Root Beer Liqueur
A splash of Kraken Spiced Rum
Mead is becoming easier to find, and that serves me well, but I really wish I could locate something more interesting than Dry, Semi-Sweet, or freaking Blueberry at more local stores. There are so many fantastic meads and makes out there, and I encourage anyone who struggles with the "heavy" feeling of beer or suffers from lack of sufficient organs to handle even cider, to try mead. Who knows... Maybe you'll unlock your inner viking.
See you at the table.
Today we'll be taking a spin on the Moscow Mule to give you a nice, refreshing drink to add to your 4th of July celebrations, no matter where you are!
This drink utilizes a brighter flavor than the classic mule, so we're switching out the standard base of vodka for MEAD. Unleash that inner viking and grab some Semi-Sweet or Dry Mead, a small bottle of sweet Lime Juice, a can of Ginger Ale, and some Aromatic Bitters.
4 oz Mead
2 oz Lime Juice
8-10 dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Fill the rest with Ginger Ale and enjoy!
What you'll get is a bright, refreshing drink with a little acid and soda.
Not my usual, but a pleasant diversion.
If you're looking for something neat and different and fresh, maybe try this one out.
And, as always, Game (and drink) Responsibly.
See you at the table.
Something To Unwind With
Some days are rough, some nights are tough, and sometimes you just need a little sweet and smooth to take the edge off.
Let's try a "cool" hot chocolate with a boozy twist.
Measurements for this will be less measurement and more pour time (like in spoken seconds, but no "Mississippi", got me?)
First, boil up some hot water and make yourself a "dense" hot chocolate in a mug. Dense means I'm only filling the mug a quarter and stirring in the mix. I then pour in two splashes of 2% milk, and stir. Now the second pours:
2 seconds your favorite Chocolate Wine
4 seconds white chocolate liqueur
4-5 seconds milk chocolate liqueur
Stir and place in the fridge for a few minutes
Once you take it out you're good to go, but if you're feeling cute, put some whipped cream on top and snuggle up with a short stack of cookies and your favorite show, and enjoy your cheat night.
On rough days, my wife will contact me on her way out of work and I know just what to prepare. We're simple people when it comes to flavor palettes, and low ingredient count serves us well, both for effect and digestion.
On your next rough day, try this out.
Walk in, drop your stuff, and down a shot of straight Cinnamon Whiskey (Fireball will do just fine).
Then take a saunter around the house and mix yourself a lovely Disaronno and Coke. The Cinnamon Whiskey will mix well with the smooth amaretto and peppery Coca-Cola.
And that's all for now from the Moonriver.
Don't forget to love each other, and please enjoy responsibly.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, and aspiring fiction author.
Mondays: Patreon Mini
Wednesday: Other Corners
Thursday: Moonriver Bar
Friday: Podcast goes up!
Sunday: REST DAY