Two interesting things in regards to imbibing during the pandemic: One – Americans, stuck at home and without social interaction, have been drinking more, and two – Americans, despite the abundance of increased free time, have been turning to convenient drink mixers and even pre-mixed cocktails like never before.
A noted psychologist, Dr. Scott Kilgore from the University of Arizona, conducted a six-month study from April through September 2020 that showed what he deemed “hazardous” alcohol use by individuals in states under so-called lockdown increased from a pre-pandemic level of 21% to almost 47%. Kilgore said being “cooped up” with family (his description, not mine) for weeks and months without respite can be, again using his word, “difficult.” I don’t know who financed this illuminating discovery, but I daresay the good doctor could have simply asked folks about their drinking during such family-centric holidays as Thanksgiving and gotten similar results both quicker and easier.
Imbibing for the most part at home led many folks to broaden their alcohol horizons. People tried new liquors, experimented with making something called oleo saccharum (look it up – it’s like a college course in chemistry that results in super-citrusy syrup), they invested in better barware (a new barspoon, shaker and muddler for me), and bought bitters in flavors they’d never dreamed of previously. All this in quest of alleviating beverage boredom!
On the other hand, for many it was just too much effort to measure and mix ingredients for a stellar cocktail. And thus the exploding demand for mixers. I admit; I got onboard myself. I have tried Proof and Barsmith, and enjoyed both. I had to order my first bottles of Proof – but I recently saw a small selection available locally, as is Barsmith.
During the just ended cooler months, my wife and enjoyed many an Old Fashioned crafted from Barsmith’s Old Fashioned mix. Basically, the stuff is just a handy mixture of sugar, water, honey and natural flavors – for which you pay a bit of a premium. Mix it with your favorite bourbon and the result of your laziness yields a really fine Old Fashioned in seconds. Add in a Luxardo cherry (and maybe a dollop of the juice) and you’re in the recliner with cocktail in hand whilst others are still assembling ingredients.
Pre-mixed cocktails take sloth to its next level. Everything – including the booze – is already in the can or bottle. I tried a bottle of Crafthouse Old Fashioned recently that was pretty palatable and, interestingly, made with two kinds of rum instead of bourbon. One thing: the alcohol content is generally a bit lower than the usual mixed-to-order drink. That can be a good thing if you decide to enjoy a couple or three.
I bought a new bottle of orgeat in preparation for Mai Tai season. This nonalcoholic almond syrup is absolutely key to crafting this island drink. Orgeat (say OHR-zhaht) blends with tropical juices and rum to produce a perfect warm weather drink. I saw a hysterical presentation online in which the drink was served up in an empty Spam can – no doubt a nod to the popularity of that meat (?) product in Hawaii. I’m talking complete with crushed ice, lime slice, mint leaf and little paper umbrella. If you eat Spam please save the cans for me. What a photo op!
1 oz. light rum
1 oz. gold rum
½ oz. orange Curaçao
½ oz. orgeat syrup
½ oz. lime juice
1 oz. dark rum
Crush a cup of ice place in a glass, and place in freezer.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a shaker with additional ice; shake until well-chilled. Strain into the crushed ice-filled glass (or Spam can). Top with the dark rum. Garnish with a pineapple wedge, cherry, mint leaf and paper umbrella.
These are yummy good and, obviously with 3 ounces of rum, quite potent. Plan on relaxing at home. And early to bed.
Flavored vodkas are no longer a trend; they’ve become an accepted fact of liquor store life. Much newer is the trend of flavoring gin. Several well-known brands have introduced seasonal or limited selections with changes to their usual mix of botanicals. Notable is Hendrick’s, an upscale gin noted for including cucumber and rose petal in the usual botanical mix. You might try Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice (an extremely floral concoction perfect for a summery spritz) or maybe dare to experience Hendrick’s Lunar (which goes heavy on the citrus). Either make excellent, and, as the Hendrick’s folks would phrase it, somewhat “peculiar” refreshments.
2 oz. Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice
¼ oz. elderflower liqueur
Big squeeze lemon juice
Place 3 ingredients in a Collins glass and stir. Add ice and top with club soda. Garnish with an orange sliver.
2 oz. Hendrick’s Lunar
¾ oz. lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
3 oz. club soda
Stir everything together gently with plenty of ice. Garnish with a long thin cucumber slice.
Finally, one of my favorite gins, Boodles, has introduced a pink product that incorporates rhubarb and strawberries. It is surprisingly tasty on the rocks, but really shines mixed with lemonade.
Mix 2 parts Boodles Rhubarb & Strawberry Gin with 4 parts good lemonade. Stir and pour over ice. By simple multiplication it’s easy to make in large pitcherfuls – this would be a hit at brunch!
I can’t hear the word rhubarb without reminiscing about my wife’s grandmother, who died a few years ago just short of being a centenarian. She lived alone well into her late ‘90s and once, when we were visiting, we asked about an unusual plant growing outside her back steps. When asked what it was she replied, laconically, “pie plant.” No matter how many times we rephrased our query, the answer was always “pie plant.” My wife eventually asked her mother who clarified things by telling her it was more usually called rhubarb. From which one can, with copious amounts of sugar, make a pie. Mystery solved.
I’ve, to this day, never had rhubarb pie. But the Boodles fruity and tart gin makes me want to.