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Drink of the Week: Champagne Cocktails

ChamPino Cocktail

We have said it before and it still holds true: It’s never a bad time to open a bottle of champagne. Although we like to keep a bottle of bubbly in the refrigerator ready for any event, sometimes all it takes is dinner at home. There’s no reason it should only come out on special occasions. Whether you open a bottle of cava, prosecco, or real champagne from France, sparkling wine is great all by itself or as an ingredient for cocktails. Flavors vary, and so does quality and price, but you can make decent drinks with just about anything. We aren’t saying you should drink the cheapest stuff you can find, but you don’t have to break the bank either.

Over the years we have featured some popular uses for sparkling wine—the Mimosa, the French 75,

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Drink Of The Week: Between The Sheets

Here's a cocktail that combines two base spirits, brandy and rum. It's a prohibition era recipe that takes inspiration from the Sidecar, a delicious and flavorful drink that was itself the predecessor to drinks like the Margarita. That puts us squarely in the sour family, though there are differing opinions about how sour you should make it.

Whenever we make a sour style cocktail we are combining something sweet with something acidic. Like the Sidecar, the Between The Sheets cocktail plays lemon juice against Cointreau, though the lemon plays a less prominent role in this drink. And that's where documented recipes and opinions differ. Most references position the orange liqueur at a ratio equal to half that of the combined base spirits, but the amount of lemon juice tends to vary. There are recipes that call for a

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Drink of the Week: Eastern Sour

This Drink of the Week week is actually three drinks in one. The Eastern Sour is the first of a small family of sour cocktails invented by none other than Trader Vic, one of the founding fathers of the mid-century Tiki movement. Although it isn't as complex or as difficult as many Tiki drinks, for some people that's not necessarily a bad thing. The more ingredients—or often, the more obscure the ingredients—the less likely most folks will be able to execute the recipe. At least that was my theory as I looked for a tropical style drink to post this week. I thought we needed a change from all of the Manhattan variations I have been posting.

My source of reference is a groovy little iPhone/iPad app called Beachbum Berry's Tiki+. This app was developed with the full endorsement of Jeff "Beachbum" Berry and it's filled with recipes

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Drink of the Week: Brandy Crusta

The original definition of cocktail first published in 1806 was a simple combination of spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Drinks like the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac are good examples that have stood the test of time. Yet, recipes evolve, and it didn't take long for substitutions to occur. For example, instead of sugar and water, why not use simple syrup? And if you wanted a little exotic flair, perhaps you could even use a liqueur to sweeten your cocktail. At some point, citrus was introduced and by the time "Professor" Jerry Thomas wrote The Bar-Tenders Guide in 1862, the updated combination had a name. The Crusta was a fancy creation, all decked-out with a sugared rim and a huge lemon peel for a garnish. The good Professor predicted that the Crusta would eventually outshine the Cocktail.

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Cocktail Cherries

Click here for a newer post with a fantastic, easy homemade cocktail cherries recipe!

When fresh cherries are in season, it's time to make a delicious cocktail garnish. I have a strong opinion that you should take advantage of every opportunity to avoid using those glow-in-the-dark cocktail cherries you normally find on store shelves. Don't be fooled by their unnaturally bright red coloring or their artificially preserved snappy texture. They are not fruit—the sad shells of what used to be cherries have been completely purged of real cherry flavor, totally robbed of natural color, only to be resurrected in a sinister soup of chemical syrups and artificial flavors and colors. They are the zombies of the preserved fruit world—Frankenstein's monsters of the cocktail garnish tray. Of course, you can find good cocktail cherries, (I like to use Amarena cherries) but these options can be few and far between. The

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Cruise Ship Cocktails

Real Classic Cocktails in the Lobby Bar

It's a tricky thing, choosing cocktails on a cruise ship. Do you go with the signature Drink of the Day or pick one from the menu—a list that is bloated with overly-sweet tropical smoothies and misguided classics. It would be easy for a cocktail enthusiast to get discouraged, but it's a mistake to abandon all hope. After all, I spotted a bottle of Angostura Bitters on the back bar and even some Campari sitting neatly down below. Surely, a little patience, flexibility and some extra gratuity could rescue the situation.

Ingredients and Staff Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the mixologist at sea is the lack of fresh citrus juices. I found this ironic given the Caribbean climate, but for reasons unknown, Rose's Lime Cordial reigns supreme, as does a variety of mixes and mystery milk. On the other hand, most of the

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Drink of the Week: Vieux Carré

The Vieux Carré was first created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, head bartender at the Hotel Monteleone which, in addition to housing the unusual rotating Carousel Bar, is considered the gateway to the French Quarter for which the drink is named. The Vieux Carré (French for "old square") is as much a fixture of the New Orleans cocktail scene as the Sazerac, and it's another reminder of the golden age of mixology.

If you are a fan of spirit-forward drinks, this is another one for your house menu. Upon making it, you might recognize that this is just a Saratoga sweetened with Benedictine. Ok, there's Peychaud's bitters too, and by this logic, any cocktail is just another version of something else. You could say it's like a Monte Carlo, or a variation of the La Louisianne, but these are

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