I’m not much of a hunter. OK – I’m not a hunter at all. My idea of a “hunt” is selecting just the right frozen Butterball from that cavernous and icy display in the aisle of my favorite supermarket. I know several hunters – among them a very good friend and my brother-in-law. I was once going to go deer hunting with my friend; even though I had no plans to shoot a deer personally, I thought it’d be a fun time of male camaraderie. I was a little taken aback when he told me we’d have to leave home WAY before the sun came up and climb up into a frigid platform perched unsteadily in a tree – but, hey, we’d be bonding – right?
I’ll never forget our conversation.
Me: It’ll be fun! We’ll sit up in our tree stand (the technical name for the precarious perch we’d occupy), talk about stuff and swill a little Canadian Club to stay warm. It’ll be fun!
My buddy: Uh … Jim. We won’t be in the same tree, we’ll be in separate stands. And we have to be totally silent so no talking. And we can’t drink.
Me: I love you man but this is sounding totally UN-fun.
Since then I’ve figured I must be sort of the après-hunt type. Like my futile attempts at skiing (at which I was seriously bad) but redeemed myself by excelling in the après part of the day – meaning hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
My thinking as I write this column is … after a long day of stalking quail, or wild turkeys or Bambi (oops – I mean deer), the average hunter is probably in need of refreshment. Something warming and invigorating to drink that’ll satisfy an appetite whetted by the time outdoors. As a subscriber to Garden & Gun (a magazine of which I am truly unworthy both financially and by hunting ability) I have access to many fine ideas on how to regroup and refresh after an outing in the field or the forest. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more welcoming than a stiff drink after coming in wet and chilled (and in my case, likely empty-handed) after a morning in a tree-stand or duck blind.
1 oz. cognac
1 oz. Cointreau
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Splash of fresh lime juice
Sugar half the rim of a cocktail glass (you can skip this step if the returning hunters are gloating about their prowess – they won’t need it and the sour taste will suit them fine).
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into the prepared glass. Add a lemon twist garnish, unless your buddies eschew garnishes on principle.
The side car, of course, has a back story as to the name. The cocktail’s origin dates back to World War II. The story goes that a military man (let’s say a colonel) pulled up in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The colonel ordered a cognac, but the bistro bartender, ashamed of the abysmal quality of cognac on hand, offered to create a special cocktail for the colonel, with a cognac base. The sour concoction was a success and immediately was christened the “sidecar.” From this story you can correctly surmise that investing in a pricy cognac to use in your sidecar is totally unnecessary. Save the Louis XIII for another occasion.
After the cocktail, hunger is the next order of business. I’d enjoy nothing more than a delicious oyster or three – especially as well-crafted shooters.
ELEVATED OYSTER SHOOTER
4 oz. Tito’s vodka (it’s from Texas so it’s perfect for a hunting outing)
4 oz. green juice (see below)
1-½ oz. Tabasco green pepper sauce
2 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes liquid smoke
4 lime wedges
1 T barbecuerub
4 shucked oysters
In a cocktail shaker combine first five ingredients with ice and shake well.
Rim shot glasses with lime wedges and dip in bbq rub to coat.
Place an oyster in each glass and pour over with the cocktail mix.
To make green juice: simply but a bunch of spinach, some celery, parsley and a good squeeze or two off lemon juice in a blender and whir until pulverized. A coarse chop is OK.
Naturally you’re going to have to triple or quadruple this recipe as folks will go through these shooters rapidly. Have plenty of pre-made green juice on hand in the fridge and you can avoid the groans and cat calls when you drag out the blender.
At some point the oysters will give way to a full-fledged dinner. Afterward there’ll be drinks by the fire and conversation. Robert Ruark, in his book “The Old Man and the Boy,” stated that the best part of hunting and fishing was the thinking about going and the talking about it after you got back. Now that we’re to the talking about it part we need to get serious with an appropriate drink.
2 oz. Angel’s Envy bourbon
1 oz. Apple Cider
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
1/2 oz. lemon juice
2 dashes of bitters
Combine all ingredients except bourbon in a small pan and heat until warm. Pour into a glass and stir in bourbon. You can, of course, make a large batch by multiplying. A cinnamon stick stirrer is a nice addition. You decide – you know your hunter crowd better than me.
I’m off to the frozen turkey freezer case. I’ll have a nip of bourbon upon my triumphant return – and deservedly so. Shameless plug: Watch future issues of Coastal Illustrated for tales from my recent journey on Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Trail. Touring and tasting in a pandemic. And they have horse racing too!