Category Archives: Have a Drink

Have a Drink: Sangria


Sangria cocktails date back to at least the 1700s

Sangria can make for a sunny weekend diversion for those red wine lovers out there. Clearly Spanish in origin, and especially popular in Barcelona, the wine and brandy-based cocktail has become a worldwide hit. Sangria comes from the Spanish word “sangre” for blood, since wine is often connotated with blood in religious doctrine and in appearance.

Rather than sophistication as many presumptuous wine snobs prefer as they front and preen socially, this recipe is all about enjoyment and refreshment. and is not for the snooth.

Here’s some broken history on Sangria.

The term sangria dates to the 18th century. Sangria’s origins “cannot be pinpointed exactly, but early versions were popular in Spain, Greece, and England.” Sangaree, a predecessor drink to sangria that was served either hot or cold, likely originated in the Caribbean, and from there was introduced to America, where it was common beginning in the American colonial era but “largely disappeared in the United States” by the early twentieth century. Sangria as an iced drink was reintroduced to the U.S. by the late 1940s through Hispanic Americans and Spanish restaurants, and came to greater popularity with the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

So, how do you make one of these fruity concoctions? Here’s what you’ll need and how to mix all the ingredients.

  • 1/2 chopped apple
  • 1/2 sliced orange
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup Brandy
  • 1 bottle dry Spanish red wine (Tempranillo is a good choice)
  • Ice cubes (optional)

Add apples, oranges and sugar to a large pitcher and stir. Add orange juice and brandy and stir again. Add red wine and stir, then taste and adjust flavor to suit you. Serve with or without ice. (I prefer without ice.) You can garnish with orange slices as in the photo, but I usually prefer not to.

Cheese and crackers make for one of my favorite side dishes when drinking Sangria. As always, enjoy!

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Have a Drink: Dark ‘N Stormy


A storm is moving in this weekend

Dark ‘n Stormy Cocktail | Relampago’s Rating: Star16Star16Star16Star16StarBW16

Popular with sailors, this cocktail gets its name from its appearance, which is similar to a dark storm cloud overhanging the sea. It uses ginger beer and rum, and is a simple cocktail to throw together once you’ve located the beer. Ginger beer is similar to ginger ale, but ginger beer is stronger and spicier than ginger ale.

Jim Sabataso gives us the history of the drink. There are several accounts of how the Dark ‘n Stormy got its name:

Bermuda, 1860. The Gosling family begins experimenting with rum, as families do. The result is a dark, distinct, full-bodied “old rum,” which would become Gosling’s Black Seal. Elsewhere on the island, the British Royal Navy, satisfied with having conquered the known world, does the next logical thing: they start brewing beer. Ginger beer. It’s unclear why exactly, but one theory suggests it may have had something to do with ginger’s effectiveness in combating seasickness. Another posits that is was an effort to wean sailors off rum.

At around 20 square miles, Bermuda’s not a big place so it wasn’t long before these two beverages ended up in the same glass. According to a legend, the name Dark ‘n’ Stormy was coined by a sailor sometime after WWI who, while enjoying the cocktail, commented that it was the “colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.”

Here’s what you will need to make a Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail:

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  • A dash of bitters (if you have them)
  • 1/2 cup ice

Once you have all the ingredients, combine them in a old-fashioned glass. Add ice and stir. That’s it! Ride the storm this weekend with this vintage (and tasty) cocktail.

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Have a Drink: Whiskey Sour


Whiskey and citrus (lemon juice) – a great combination

Whiskey Sour cocktail | Relampago’s Rating: Star16Star16Star16Star16Star16

This weekend, here’s how you can whip up a recipe for a nice Whiskey Sour. Some recipes call for using an egg white or pineapple juice, but this recipe is a little different. It lives up to the “sour” claim more so than other recipes. (Moreover, an egg white with whiskey just didn’t sound as appealing to me.)

This is another cocktail that has been around for a long time. Some history of the Whiskey Sour:

The oldest historical mention of a whiskey sour was published in the Wisconsin newspaper, Waukesha Plain Dealer, in 1870. In 1962, the Universidad del Cuyo published a story, citing the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio de Iquique, which indicated that Elliott Stubb created the “whisky sour” in 1872.
Whatever the origins are, here’s the recipe. Not a tough one as far as cocktails go.
  • 1 1/2 oz. whiskey (or bourbon)
  • 1-oz. lemon juice
  • 1-oz. sugar
  • 2 oz. water
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • Crushed ice

Combine lemon juice and sugar, then dilute with water and stir to dissolve sugar to make sour mix. Combine whiskey (or bourbon) and sour mix in a glass with ice. Stir, garnish with cherry, and enjoy!

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Have a Drink: Mint Julep


More than just the traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, the history of the mint julep goes back about 300 years in America

Mint Julep cocktail | Relampago’s Rating: ?

A Southern classic and a staple of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. Each year 120,000 mint juleps are served at the Derby in Churchill Downs. This cocktail has a long history, originating in the 1700s in the present day United States. Originally a drink for the elite, i.e. those who could afford ice back in the day, the drink has become an icon of the American South. A book from 1840 written by novelist, British Royal Navy officer, and acquaintance of Charles Dickens, Frederick Marryat describes the perfect mint julep experience.

There are many varieties [of Mint Julep], such as those composed of Claret [and] Madiera, but the ingredients of the real mint-julep are as follows. I learnt how to make them, and succeeded pretty well. Put into a tumbler about a dozen sprigs of the tender shoots of mint, upon them put a spoonful of white sugar, and equal proportions of peach and common brandy, so as to fill it up one-third, or perhaps a little less. Then take rasped or pounded ice, and fill up the tumbler. Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with a piece of fresh pine-apple, and the tumbler itself is very often incrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink.

As Marryat alludes to, there are many ways to make a mint julep, and this method reaches back to 1916 in Virginia.

…the famous old barroom, which was approached by a spiral staircase. Here in this dark, cool room, scented with great masses of fragrant mint that lay upon mountains of crushed ice, in the olden days were created the White Sulphur mint julep and the Virginia toddy, for which this place was famous the world over. The mint juleps were not the composite compounds of the present day. They were made of the purest French brandy, limestone water, old-fashioned cut loaf sugar, crushed ice, and young mint the foliage of which touched your ears…

Most modern recipes use bourbon rather than gin, as the following highly-rated recipe does. According to Bill Samuels, whose recipe is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars, this is how you make the perfect mint julep:

  • 4 cups bourbon
  • 2 bunches fresh spearmint
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool. To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon. Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors. To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.

This is obviously a complicated recipe, so be sure to attempt this when you have a lot of free time on your hands. Juleps are traditionally served in silver cups, but you often find them in regular old glasses, too, in modern times. It is a strong drink as it uses a lot of bourbon, but reviewers say it is delicious. I’ve personally never had one, but the recipe looked so appetizing and mint juleps have such an extensive history in the States I have to try to make one soon. Enjoy!

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Have a Drink: Old Fashioned


Reaching back to the days of Jefferson, the Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail

Old Fashioned cocktail | Relampago’s Rating: Star16Star16Star16Star16StarBW16

In the mood for something different this weekend? Let’s take a journey back to the earliest days of America, days in which an appropriately named Old Fashioned cocktail was a new invention. You could down a few Old Fashioned in between mongering with some of the girls at the saloon. Ah, how a man longs for the days of true freedom and not the false sloganeering about freedom we put up with today. According to Serious Eats it’s easy to make and it is very tasty:

This one’s hard to screw up. The Old Fashioned is one of the most venerable of cocktails, predating not only the motor car but the presidency of Abe Lincoln. Properly made, it’s strong, but not too much, and sweet, but not too much; most important, it’s dead simple to make, and absolutely delicious.

Here’s a history of the cocktail:

The first documented definition of the word “cocktail” was in response to a reader’s letter asking to define the word in the May 6, 1806, issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York. In the May 13, 1806, issue, the paper’s editor wrote that it was a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar; it was also referred to at the time as a bittered sling. J.E. Alexander describes the cocktail similarly in 1833, as he encountered it in New York City, as being rum, gin, or brandy, significant water, bitters, and sugar, though he includes a nutmeg garnish as well.

By the 1860s, it was common for orange curaçao, absinthe, and other liqueurs to be added to the cocktail. The original concoction, albeit in different proportions, came back into vogue, and was referred to as “old-fashioned”. The most popular of the in-vogue “old-fashioned” cocktails were made with whiskey, according to a Chicago barman, quoted in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1882, with rye being more popular than Bourbon. The recipe he describes is a similar combination of spirits, bitters, water and sugar of seventy-six years earlier.

The first use of the name “Old Fashioned” for a Bourbon whiskey cocktail was said to have been at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky. The recipe was said to have been invented by a bartender at that club in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller, who brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City.

This recipe uses bourbon, sugar, and bitters. Interestingly, while we are discussing bourbon, this corn derived whiskey derives its name from the French Bourbon dynasty although there’s a debate over whether it got its name from Bourbon County, KY or the infamous Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Here’s how to use bourbon to make an Old Fashioned:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon fine sugar
  • 2-3 dashes of bitters; Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Bitters are recommended

Place the sugar in a glass and sprinkle in the bitters; add a few drops of water, and stir until dissolved. Add the whiskey and stir. Ice cubes are optional, as is a cherry garnish. Cheers!

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