The following is a sweet shooter.
Another draft of my own head, I wanted to make something that goes down quick and easy - like the liquid courage one downs before a tough job. We'll need two fruity liqueurs, some vodka, and a smidge of cola.
The Sidearm Recipe
1/2 oz Raspberry Liqueur
1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Peachtree Schnapps
1 oz Coca-Cola
...Makes about 2 shots or one shooter.
Mix it up, pour it out, and suck it down. If too fruity, swap out the Vanilla Vodka for a measure of standard or Black Vodka.
Good job, kid, now go punch that Orc in the face! You'll be fine.
Easy going this week.
Shoot straight and responsibly.
One of the first games I ever ran professionally had a stalwart knight with a belabored backstory full of twists, turns, and dead siblings. His name was Denimus Umbra, oldest brother to the main not-villain of the first arc, Warrick Umbra (whom he thought was dead; actually nearly assassinated by the head of the church of Tiamat, along with his two younger brothers...who Warrick saved by summoning hounds to hold their spirits to the material plane) ...He wasn't in the right campaign.
Let's drink to his memory!
The Classic Daiquiri
Even before all your frozen daiquiri variations found their marks, the Daiquiri was a creature of elegance. Another simple cocktail of minimal ingredients, best served cold.
It is a vehicle for light rum, simple syrup, and a little lime. Simple and to the point.
2 oz light rum
1 oz Lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Serve chilled or not, whatever works.
Denimus was a Paladin in the Third Age of Ionian Lore. He served his station with heroism and virtue. ...Which means, we have some nasty smite damage to work into this simple cocktail.
The simple answer is to roll in some dark Rum; probably Kraken. Instead of Lime, how about some Lemon? Grenadine (simple syrup with pomegranate) will fill that role. And then we need something else; a tiny radiant punch at the end.
2 oz Kraken spiced rum
1 oz Cherry Liqueur
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Grenadine
---Makes 4 shots total
This is where the metaphor gives way in favor of convenient alliteration. This will not remind you of a valiant knight charging into battle. Instead, this goes down smooth and sweet, SMITING you after the hit with a nice buzz. As I'm discovering, I make things that are tasty and strong, so be careful how many spell slot shots you dole out with this one.
A Gimlet is something I never would have found had I not dedicated some measure of my being to the study of mixology and freelance bartending. If you've been reading me for a while, you probably have some idea why.
There are some ingredients that I can use easily across many facets of my repertoire, and this is because I understand them more intimately through personal experience, experimentation, and requests. So that's Rum, Whiskey, Vodka, and Tequila.
I've had one request for Gin. That's it. (and, if that taste-tester is any indication, I did REALLY WELL with it)
The Classic Gimlet
So the Gimlet, wink wink, uses Gin as its Core. If that doesn't float for you, Vodka can also take that place. After that, we just sweeten the pot with Simple Syrup and Lime. Try this out:
2 oz Gin (or Vodka)
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
3/4 oz Lime juice
Serve over ice and enjoy.
Now, there are some snobs out there who will INSIST on the idea that this is emphatically NOT a Gimlet, and for those people...fine. Omit the Lime and Simple Syrup for 1.5 oz of Rose's Lime Cordial (chalk full of high fructose corn syrup).
Both are pretty yummy, and I'm going to break it anyway, so pick your poison; I don't really care.
A Dwarven Gimlet?
Dwarves love Ale and Whiskey, and this will be neither, though some tones will be represented. The lime and the gin complement one another splendidly, so the additions are minute and serve only to slightly darken the effect.
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz Lime juice
1/2 oz Drambuie
3-5 dashes of Aromatic Bitters
A splash of Lime Tonic Water
Pour this sucker over ice and enjoy.
The Moscow Mule is a simple alchemy. A little vodka, even less lime, and a whole bunch of ginger beer. It's simple, clean, fizzy, and satisfying.
How To Make A Moscow Mule
The ye olde classic doesn't need much at hand.
2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Lime Juice
4-6 oz Ginger Beer, or just fill your glass to the top
Don't forget ice!
The Den's Spin on a classic
The true star of this drink is the Ginger Beer. It is the vehicle for every heavy-hitting alcohol in the main suite. In fact, switching out only that aspect and leaving the rest is where we get all of our usual variations on this drink.
The Moscow has Vodka
A Mexican Mule uses Tequila
The Kentucky Mule is Bourbon Whiskey
The Gin Gin is...Gin. With some mint and simple syrup.
Jamaican Mules use Rum.
A Glasgow Mule uses Scotch.
Irish Mules use Irish Whiskey.
After that, we start changing more of the fundamentals. We dash in some chocolate bitters, or some fruity vodkas, or maybe change up the soda. A REALLY simple variation would be to take the Mexican Mule and try it with Ginger Ale and GOLD Tequila. I call it the "Midas Touch."
But in the spirit of Moonriver, experimentation lends to experiential discovery, and though I may study this pretty deeply, I still find combinations that surprise me. So what hasn't been done yet by the mainstream?
Let's look at the fundamentals. You have:
A Core Liquor
A Sweet or Sour element
Ginger is the blanket that brings this all together, but what if I broke that first? Sprite doesn't get enough love in this house, so that's our new Soda component. Lime? How about Cherry instead? Now, the Core. I'm inclined toward a cinnamon whiskey just because I know it might tick people off.
2 oz Fireball
1 oz Cherry Liqueur
Fill with ice and Sprite
It's a Blood Moon Mule. Let's try it out...
I'm a Goram genius.
Drink responsibly and try not to howl too loudly.
Today we're going to revisit my youth and share with you one of the first drinks I ever learned, and continue to enjoy!
I first learned about this drink while visiting a friend in Maine, and it stuck with me. However, it seems that very few people actually know about it. When I ask for it, I'm often met with a confused look. Luckily, it was burned into my memory, so every time I might order it I get to teach someone a new drink. Also, in my responsible social gatherings, this was the drink of request for many of my friends; they knew I could mix it and it was downright delicious.
Sex With An Alligator / The Alligator Tail
Ordering this is often hilarious. It usually comes out as "Could I have a Sex With An Alligator?" The waitress would nod, walk away...then return after about five minutes and ask, "You want the drink, right?" ...I didn't realize the alternative was an option?
The "Alligator" is a layered drink. You are to pour each element in order, so as to build a certain aesthetic as well as the progression of flavors.
The Recipe I Learned
1. Midori (melon liqueur) - usually 2 oz
2. Pineapple Juice - 2 oz
3. Raspberry Liqueur (Razzmatazz or Chambord will work great) - 2 oz
4. Thin layer of Jagermeister - about 1/2 oz or less, depending on preference, floats on top
The visual effect...is a murky swamp. Like the home of our favorite big scaly body of teeth.
This is a shooter, approximately 3-4 shots total. A little licorice at the front, then nothing but candy. It sneaks up on you, though. Make sure to respect the big green.
Want a little more orange in your drink? Then you want my Crocodile variation. Just switch out the Pineapple juice for Orange juice instead.
Other versions cite using Whiskey Sour mix, but that wasn't the tasty version I learned. You want it? Switch out the Pineapple juice for a Sweet and Sour mix, or the Whiskey Sour. Go figure.
Next on our simple "classics" is the Manhattan.
Clearly a vehicle for Rye whiskey, the Manhattan is a staple in any bartender's repertoire. It's simple, clean, and a deep amber. Another "gentleman" drink.
The Classic Manhattan
1 oz Rye Whiskey
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes Aromatic Bitters
Garnish with a cherry
So, how can I screw this up?
Most variations on this classic mess with the basic components. Substitute Bourbon instead of Rye, and you have something new. Use Chocolate Bitters for some weird new brew.
I want something that honors the "spirit" of the Manhattan, but changes it around so some schmuck like me can enjoy it like a Real Man.
Let's make a syrup.
Nothing too complicated. Just something to add a little spice and sugar to this lovely thing.
I propose the following preparation:
The Royal "Syrup"
1 oz Fireball (Cinnamon Whiskey)
1/2 oz Drambuie
1 tsp brown sugar
1-1.5 oz Dr. McGillicuddy's Cherry Liqueur
Stir that up.
1.5 oz Jack Honey (Tennessee Whiskey)
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
5 dashes Aromatic Bitters
Pour Masa into a high ball glass with ice, then pour the Royal over that.
Sit back by the fire and sip away as you watch the dragonkin gamble across the way.
Not smooth enough for ya? Then do the blasphemous thing and pour some Coca-Cola to fill the glass. You won't be disappointed.
Sip responsibly, travelers.
It's time to go Old School.
Though the origin of this particular recipe is shrouded in layers of complicated debate, the colloquial agreement is that it is a direct reference to the mixture left behind in a shaker, drawn and poured as a chaser. This is referred to as the ever-delicious Sidecar.
Original Sidecar Recipe
Certain drinks stand the test of time often for their simplicity and accessibility, and this "high class" gentleman's drink is no exception. The garnishes are optional, but depending on your region or the era of your audience, may end up being requirements or at least a spot of debate.
The original Sidecar is a vehicle to elevate Cognac, a white-wine brandy. We splash it with elements of an orange liqueur like Grand Marnier, and, usually, "freshly-squeezed" lemon juice. After this point, you can garnish with an orange slice and/or coat the rim of the glass with sugar.
Proper amounts are as follows:
1.5 oz Cognac
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
Garnish with orange slice or twist
Garnish rim with sugar
So what happens if I have no Cognac?
Well, there are many Brandys, some more flexible than others. I could substitute a Blackberry Brandy, but I'm concerned for the Orange Liqueur being "corrupted" by the Blackberry. The Wild Cherry Brandy might swing the other way, but still spoil the batch. So what if we avoid the Brandy altogether?
And that's where this little recipe came into being.
I'm a super nerd, and I love me some Eldritch Horror. Let's make a pact, you and I.
1.5 oz Kraken or Captain Morgan spiced rum
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
2-4 dashes of Aromatic Bitters
Splash of 151 Rum on top
...then light that sucker on fire for a few seconds.
Blow it out (and wait a bit to cool) and enjoy the smoked rum of your pact with the ancient Kraken.
Sugar and twist are, again, purely optional.
For me? Not so much. But I know some of you out there love this stuff.
To make this a little more palatable for peeps like me, add these to the Eldritch Sidecar:
1 more oz of either Kraken or Captain Morgan Rum
2 oz of Whiskey Sour
A splash of seltzer
Fill glass with Orange Juice to help out that orange liqueur
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.
I recently had another opportunity to draft some more drinks for my fellow players, and what began as an exploration of whiskey pairings turned into something truly special. A drink I find myself returning to just as often as I would to my token Grandfather drink (a hit among my players, and something that they're now testing with ice cream? - I'll have to follow up on that one).
The concept is simple. Each "gear" is a whiskey, and the blend may not be what you expect. This was originally crafted and tested by my palette, which struggles with bourbon, so the measurements aren't equal. Good thing, too, because not every whiskey's flavor is created equal. If one flavor is equally as powerful at 1 oz as another at 3 oz, we have to adjust volume appropriately, so the sum is a smoother kick.
Let's get into it!
5 oz Fireball (Cinnamon Whiskey)
2 oz Drambuie (Scotch Liqueur)
3 oz Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey
1 oz Four Roses Bourbon Whiskey
2-4 dashes Aromatic Bitters
Top with Ginger Ale OR Coca-Cola
*Makes 2-4 Shooters, depending on soda pour
Especially considering the delicate nature of my tummy and my limited exposure to certain alcohols, this began as a purely academic exercise in flavor and mixology. Even this early on, I could not have predicted the level of self-discovery in this pursuit. Finding a use for Gin, a love of Whiskey and Bitters, keenly paying attention to the smells and tastes of liquor and actively imagining their pairings...this is a skill. And I feel like I was meant for it. :)
Not like I'm amazing at it. I'm just ENJOYING THE HECK OUT OF IT. And, hey, it's exciting to discover things about yourself!
As for the drink, the Cinnamon and Scotch elevate each other, while the Bourbon darkens that pairing, and the Jack Honey is the bridge between them. The Bitters bind the mix, and the sugars of the soda brighten it for simpler stomachs. Personally, the Coca-Cola wins over the Ginger Ale.
Pick your poison. Enjoy your discoveries. And please, drink responsibly.
See you at the table.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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