Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:
What’s the Best Drink You’ve Ever Made Yourself?
Rules are simple: Everyone has a story about some damn mixologist putting egg whites and little bits of tractor tire together to form the absolute best thing you have to try, but can you do it yourself? When you’re left to your own devices at home, what can you do with just bottles and glassware? What does the mad scientist within come up with you let ’em out?
The best drink is three fingers of bourbon, two ice cubes, and a light pour of water. That’s the best drink, but there are times when bourbon and water will not achieve your goals. There are times that call for something sweet. One wintry night in Illinois we had nothing except root beer and Southern Comfort. There are a lot of ways to use Southern Comfort, but root beer is not traditionally one of them. We made the best of what we had and someone said “hey, I can’t believe there’s SoCo in this.” That’s the origin story of…
I Can’t Believe It’s Not SoCo (But It Is)
- 1 part Southern Comfort (100 proof or standard are both fine)
- 2 parts root beer (any brand)
- Scoop of vanilla ice cream
- Shot of caramel syrup (optional)
Mix the liquids without ice. Add the ice cream and drizzle the syrup over everything. It’s sweet — definitely too sweet — so make sure that’s the goal for whatever weird night you’re having.
The best drink I ever made happened about a year ago in a bar in Korea. One of my acquaintances was having a birthday party and in Korea, you tend to buy the cake while you’re out as opposed to getting it well in advance like most folks do in the States. This was pretty late in the evening and for some reason the bakery owner gave us some non-alcoholic sparkling wine/champagne to help along the celebration.
The drink we concocted felt like a terrible idea at the time but turned into probably the best mixed drink I have had that will never be on any menu. The simple recipe:
- 2 shots of Agavero tequila liqueur
- About half a glass of sweet alcoholic or non-alcoholic sparkling wine
- A slice of lemon or lime
Agavero is the best liqueur I have ever had and it goes down smoother than Bailey’s. Rosé would be a great choice for the wine, though if you don’t like sweet a drier sparkling wine would curb the sweetness of the Agavero nicely. We used lemon because limes are hard to come by in Korea. One more thing: This is not a shot. There is no reason to drink it warm, though you could as it is extremely easy on the palette.
That’s it and it was one of the only times people I know who HATE tequila were completely okay sitting and having a glass.
It’s a well-established truth that Southerners enjoy their sweet tea, and I have not come before you today, blessed children, to dispel such a central tenet of the Southern way of life. So, here and now is the quintessential sweet iced tea recipe. First, put about half a gallon of water on the stove to boil. As the water heats, take a gallon pitcher and add two cups of sugar (white, brown [I use brown]), then four large iced tea bags. Drizzle about two tablespoons of sorghum molasses over the sugar. After the water reaches boiling, pour it in slowly over the tea bags and sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Then just cover and let the whole thing sit for about 20-30 minutes. Afterward just remove the tea bags after squeezing them out with a spoon on the inside of the pitcher and stir in cold water from the tap to just below the gallon line. Now, don’t get me twisted–this is seriously sweet tea. Like pancake-syrup sweet. But if you want something to mix with a little whiskey on a hot summer night, there’s nothing better.
I would call myself a mixologist if that weren’t just the ugliest word with the most ridiculous associations. Point is, I put different liquors together a lot. After making myself what has to be at least a few hundred Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashioneds and Sidecars, I, like a chef that no longer follows recipes, struck out on my own bibulous odyssey. The key is simplicity: You have your base liquor, your modifying liquor, your pinch, and your garnish. You can do a little bit more, but too much will ruin the drink. Take the Manhattan (absolute king of mixed drinks; in bars, order this drink to find out how good the bar is). In a Manhattan, the base liquor is rye whiskey, the modifying liquor is sweet vermouth, the pinch is one or two dashes of bitters, and the garnish is a cherry. I’ve been playing with this general philosophy of simplicity, and it has yielded some interesting stuff (the Get Off My Plane: Green Hat Gin, lemon lavender syrup, habanero bitters, lemon peel) and some horrifying stuff (the St. Petersburg: white wine, vodka, St. Germain, and olives). The drink I’m proudest of is the New Fashioned.
- 4 oz Jim Beam
- 1 oz simple sugar (put equal parts by volume sugar and water in a glass, microwave it for a minute, stir it around)
- All the juice from half a lemon
- 4 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
Pour all of these ingredients over ice in a shaker, then use a long mixing spoon to mix them until all contents are cold. Finally, serve it in an Old Fashioned glass with the ice still in it or straight up in a martini glass, your choice. This recipe makes enough for two, so if you have someone to share it with, congratulations, and if not, at least you’re about to be drunk.
Sugar cuts the bite of the Beam, lemon is never bad with whiskey, and the cinnamon in the Fee Brothers bitters carries some transmutative properties, because its alchemy transforms Jim Beam into a fancy drink. I love this recipe so much because the base liquor costs under twenty dollars. The worst part of making cocktails for yourself is that after you make three or four, half your expensive bottle of booze is gone. This recipe keeps the assault on your wallet to a minimum.
One year a shitty retail job kept me away from home for Thanksgiving. I spent it with some friends of friends and holy shit, did they like to drink. One of our meal courses was a tray of shots. When I first arrived at the dinner I was told I had to make myself a “creamsicle.”
- Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka
- Orange soda
That’s it. And it’s fucking delicious and tastes exactly like a creamsicle. I didn’t come up with that myself because I retired from trying to invent drinks when I was 18 and decided to see what a “vodka gogurt” tasted like.