Cocktails: How to fail at picking up ladies, and the fabulous flavored cube

austinladies_new

There are so many wrong ways to meet women.

On our way to a cocktail adventure downtown, my gal pal and I added a few more to that list. Here’s one: A dark-colored car with tinted windows pulling up alongside us. Then an unseen driver slowly lowering his driver-side window to reveal a hand, palm up, and fingers beckoning in a “Bitches, come here.” gesture.
Nope.

Here’s another: A guy stopping his car on the corner at a green light, angry drivers honking behind him, while he’s shouting lame come-ons at us with a huge, naughty grin on his face.
Really big nope!

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Yeah, nope again. But kudos for originality!

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Maybe?
I mean, what woman could resist a suave, fashion-forward icon like Austin Powers, am I right?

After that obstacle course of weirdness, we made it to the bar and grabbed seats in front of the bartender. We like to watch the magic happen.

Luc Lac bar

The Single Knight cocktail at Luc Lac’s bar was a game-changing, Whoa!-inducing twist on the Old Fashioned cocktail that made our tastebuds do a double-take. First, a large cube made of deeply smokey Lapsang Souchong tea was placed in the glass. This was followed with their sigh-inducing blend of bourbon, pho syrup, and angostura orange bitters. But wait, there’s more! The finishing touch was a lemon twist, wrapped around a blowtorched bourbon cherry and cloves! Daaaamn!

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When I order cocktails that arrive with a large, slow-melting cube, I usually leave it alone for a couple of minutes before I take a sip. This is so a little of the ice will melt into the mix and make it less syrupy. One sip of the Single Knight and MIND BLOWN! The smokiness from the melting tea cube adding to the bourbon, further flavored by zest with burnt cherry and cloves – I was caught up in a swirl of amazingness.

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Citrus with burnt fruit and spice was all kinds of nice (especially in a bourbon), but that giant cube made of smokey Lapsang Souchong tea made me realize flavored ice cubes that bring out another flavor dimension in cocktails is a thing!

Luc Lac single knight cocktail


 

Single Knight Cocktail at the Luc Lac bar

I wish I had the recipe for this cocktail. However, I do have the ingredients list:

Four Roses single barrel bourbon
Pho syrup
Angostura orange bitters
Lapsang Souchong tea ice cube
Bourbon cherry
Cloves
Lemon zest

 

 

Life as a Cocktail: Trying Something New

 

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I had a rough week – the kind of rough week that made me want to re-think several of my life and career choices.  After surviving yet another one, I was trying to put it out of my mind and get to a happy place, as I sipped my vodka lemon drop. My thoughts started drifting off randomly to paths taken, and experiences that shaped decisions made along the way as I felt, figured and clawed my way through this existence. All while trying not to feel completely overwhelmed. Or fall flat on my face.

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I meditated and thought back to choices others I knew have made, and the happiness and fulfillment those decisions brought (or didn’t). It was easy to conclude that making those same choices, walking that same path, would result in the same for anyone else. Treading well-worn paths. But if our lives become all about playing it safe, how can we know there is another path, or level of happiness, that could be more rewarding? One more unexpected, surprising, even exhilarating, and perhaps more fulfilling? We really can’t know until we…pivot.

A great idea or quest for some form of happiness had to start somewhere, and it might have been an amazing journey along the way.

A cocktail analogy.

Pivot. Twist. Zag. Change IS scary, with no guarantees of success. Then again, it doesn’t guarantee failure, either. Think about THAT for a moment!

A well-made cocktail is a thing of beauty and wonder. The balance of ingredients, one in step with another, and that with another, and so on, creating the mesmerizing dance of flavors. But is it a perfect cocktail? That depends.

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On YOU, and if you want to stick with one recipe and be perfectly happy to never deviate from it, or decide that tweaking it a wee bit would make it different, and possibly better. Perhaps the art of the cocktail can be more interpretive dance, than classical ballet – creating your own new combination of moves, instead of following someone else’s footsteps.

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The well-worn paths, the classic cocktails, have withstood the tests of time, but they haven’t always existed. Someone started with a gin, aged and smoothed to perfection, added – just for giggles – a liqueur of 130+ herbs and botanicals whose recipe has been guarded by monks in Europe for centuries, then sweetened it with the fermented juice of a thousand cherries. A few more ingredients and experiments later, one of the most famous cocktails (and one of my personal favorites) was created.

But anyway, back to the story.

One evening at home, I decided upon a vodka lemon drop. Nothing like a sweet, citrusy kiss to smooth out my ragged soul after a long week. A few minutes relaxing in my lounge chair with a cocktail, and the world was slowly obscured by a veil of bliss. I wandered over to the refrigerator to choose ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Deciding on stir-fried veggies, I reached for the fresh ginger and noticed the stalks of lemongrass beside it.

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PIvot.

Hey…what if…?

I pulled out another martini glass and poured in a couple of ounces of vodka.

I sliced off a thick piece of ginger, pounded it with a mallet, and let it sit in the vodka while I finished my cocktail. Later, I put some ice in a mixing glass, and added the piece of ginger I had used to infuse the vodka.

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Zag (Ladies and gentlemen, now for my NEXT trick…).

I chopped some of the lemongrass and dropped it into the mixing glass. After muddling and pounding the lemongrass and ginger on the ice, I added a quarter ounce of triple sec, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, then the infused vodka.

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I poured in a wee bit more vodka (wink), shook the whole thing for a few seconds, then strained the exciting concoction into my martini glass.

MMMMM!! Ginger lemongrass martini – a delicious vodka martini with a couple of exotic twists. If the ginger is too strong, add less next time. If you like it sweeter, add more triple sec and simple syrup. The idea is to adjust it to your taste. As with life, the cocktail is all about you and your happiness, after all.

Also with cocktails, as with life, you can start over and try again – fix something, make it even better, or try something new. Who knows what brilliant schemes and cocktails you’ll dream up next!

 

Valentine’s Day

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“I took my troubles down to Madame Rue,
You know that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth.
She’s got a pad down on 34th and Vine
Sellin’ little bottles of Love Potion #9” (The Clovers)

Valentine’s Day for Her – A Recap and Reality Check

That time of year again. This afternoon I walked through the shopping mall and spotted that familiar long line of anxious-looking gentlemen, staring nervously at their watches, spending their lunch breaks at the See’s Candies store. On the way home, the usual quick stop to grab a gorgeous flower bouquet.

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So what should a lady get her man on Valentine’s Day? This is actually a two-part answer. With the male libido, it has to be a mind and body experience. The good news is, their needs are much simpler. Men are not nearly as complicated as us ladies.

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Guys Like Stuff

Men love getting gifts that they can have fun with, and make them feel good about themselves. This can be

  • The newest, coolest Xbox game, if he’s a gamer
  • A subscription to a wine club, if he’s a wine enthusiast
  • A gift certificate to a men’s spa, where he can sip craft beers during his pedicure
  • Elegant grooming kits for his beard or nails – there are online subscriptions where he can get a box of manly goodies to try out every month, and keep just the items he wants
  • A finely tailored dress shirt that he’d look great in at his next board meeting.

You ladies should certainly be amply rewarded with more than their happy, excited smiles. Which brings me to the next answer.

The “Meat” of the Issue

Now that you’ve gotten your man feeling special and more than a little…excited, the question is how to maintain the momentum. There is no shortage of online advice about which aphrodisiacs supposedly fan the flames of male desire. A recent Men’s Health article (“The Aphrodisiac Myth”) subjected many of these supposed aphrodisiacs to “the harsh light of science” and found them sadly “flaccid”.

But hey, it’s still kinda fun to look at corny, eye roll-inducing online images of whole bananas shown with a couple of scoops of ice cream on either side, ripe figs (I’ll let you guess what they’re suggestive of), and all matter of foods that are longer than they are wide.

I have my theories on what makes for an effective aphrodisiac, of course. In my opinion, aphrodisiacs should be chosen from a nutritional standpoint, not a visual one. It’s all about strength and endurance, ladies. Oysters, steak and other foods rich in protein and zinc. Get them feeling energetic, then keep that energy flowing.

It’s not completely self-serving, since your man gets a nice meal out of it. But even if it is, whatever! It’s Valentine’s Day!

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On that note, I will leave you with this short video clip from the 1994 movie “Sirens”, and what one of the artist’s models says about ambushing men and feeding them sea slugs.
Hint: Lots of protein in sea slugs.

Cheers!

sirens

Love Potion Cocktail
(Courtesy of Sandra Lee from FoodNetwork.com)

2 shots cognac-based red passionfruit liqueur (recommended: Alize)
1 shot red cranberry juice
1/2 shot half-and-half
Whole strawberry, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.

Shake vigorously and strain into rocks glass with ice. Slice halfway up middle center of strawberry and slide onto glass edge to garnish.

Sources:
The Aphrodisiac Myth
http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/aphrodisiac-facts
Video clip and screenshot the movie “Sirens” (1994)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2bK5pmX4A8
Photos: Cocktail and oysters, flower stand by JE Alexandria Julaton; Box of chocolates by rosevita; Grilled meats by ardelfin; Men with wine by GaborfromHungary

A Quiet Cocktail Moment: The Journey

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There was a time when we threw fear and self-doubt to the wind, and imagined our bright, shiny futures with wild, joyous abandon. Pah! We didn’t temper our dreams because…why should we? We knew they could happen; and believed even more so that they would. The journey was beginning. Armed with reckless hope and far too much confidence, we were on our way to glorious conquests. That big, gorgeous world was waiting just for us.

Eventually, we found the world isn’t such a nice place, and the cold slaps of reality really began to sting. For some of us, a dream is not an easy thing to abandon, even as the road becomes less solid and more difficult to see. The world, once a paradise, becomes a hard place, with lots of sharp edges. Still you chase the shards of your dreams on an uncertain path, in what has increasingly become a desert of hope.

Over and over again, we run eagerly towards each oasis.  When we get there, we fall to our knees and grab a handful of that sand, disbelieving that this was yet another mirage. Every time it looks like paradise is on the horizon, it’s more desert. Just like with the last oasis. And the one before that.

Eyes, once again, fill with liquid rage; bitter disappointment carves another notch on your soul. The journey is hard, and the journey is long.  There are days when you believe your life’s story will just be tales of disappointed journeys, eventually ending in a disappointing death.

As the sand slowly falls from your cupped hands, you shove the pain back in and get up again, just like you’ve done many times before.

But this time, you look around. You see that the desert that was before you is actually many roads. And on either side of each road, there are people you’ve never met, places you’ve never seen. Martinis waiting to be tasted, and laughter yet to be shared.

You realize that while devoting most of every waking moment of your life to reaching that dream and destination, you forgot to live. The quality of the journey matters as much as the destination. Your life could be tales of interesting, adventurous journeys, eventually ending in a more meaningful death.

The sad reality is, many of us will not reach our destinations, although many will. You may, or you may not. In the meantime, there is a choice to be made: That is, to enjoy the journey, to embrace the experiences of people and places along the path, or to stare and trudge straight ahead – to see nothing but desert on either side of you and always an oasis on the horizon.


Orange Oasis

1/2 oz cherry brandy
1 1/2 oz gin
4 oz orange juice
Ginger ale

Shake brandy, gin and orange juice with ice, strain into highball glass. Fill with ginger ale, stir and serve.

(Recipe from barnonedrinks.com)

Green Chartreuse: What Sexy Tastes Like

“Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a color after it.”   (From bartender Warren in the movie “Death Proof”)

Out of all the cocktail liqueurs I’ve ever tasted – and I have tasted many – Green Chartreuse has been the sexiest and most tantalizing. First created centuries ago by monks, it eventually found its way into classic cocktails and literature. The mysterious Jay Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”), whose parties were the stuff of legends, shared a bottle when lady love Daisy visited his mansion-size man cave. More importantly, it’s the main ingredient in my favorite cocktail – The Last Word. I like to hold a few drops in my mouth, slowly exhale, and feel the rush of 130+ herbs and plants distilled into a heady liquid made from a recipe known only to the Carthusian order of monks.  I wonder if they knew how much joy their “Elixir of Life” has given the world, helping to enrich it with bacchanalian delights that they denied themselves.

I held the martini glass up to the candlelight. So lovely. Its otherworldly color, indescribable. Its flavor, complex. With each sip, the world became slowly veiled by a comforting haze. Every bliss elevated, every trouble diminished. Green Chartreuse’s 110 proof guarantees no less than a robust experience.

I thought about the monks that have made this intriguing liqueur for over 400 years, initially as a medicine, to fund their call to prayer and meditation. Monks with structured, disciplined lives devoted to holiness and sacrifice, creating a potion flavored with mystery and wanton decadence. I sometimes imagined centuries of deeply buried desires somehow flowed into this arcane mixture.

Sexy tastes like forbidden pleasures.

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“Chartreuse is made only by Carthusian Monks of La Grande Chartreuse near Grenuble, France. Chartreuse today is still made from 130 alpine herbs according to an ancient 1605 formula. The secret method of preparation is shared by three Carthusian brothers and is protected by vows of silence.”

 


The Last Word

1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 oz good gin (Aviation, Tann’s, etc.)
½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (more if you prefer it less sweet)

Shake up in a cocktail shaker with some ice, serve neat in a Martini glass.

 

Happy Versus Happy Enough

Remembering Our Dreams

Nothing smoothes you out like slipping off your work day, and sliding into a sexy martini. First sip to test, the second to enjoy its perfection. With the third sip, you realize that all the worries of the day that seemed so important at the time, really don’t matter. Especially now. And certainly not in the grand scheme or big picture that is your life.

After that fourth sip, ah yes. The world starts to fall away, and all that is left is sheer bliss…and you. It is in this moment, when nothing and no one else exists, that you may ask yourself,
“Am I who I want to be?”
“Am I where I want to be?”

As children fearless of the future and of failure, we allowed ourselves the luxury of dreams. The fewer fears we had, the bigger our dreams were. Reach back, far far back, and remember those dreams, all of them. Even the outlandish and improbable ones you’ve had since then, plus the ones that gave you hope. And especially the ones that made you happy.

Hold on to those happy thoughts for just a little while, as you make yourself a fresh martini.

Happiness is a funny thing, isn’t it? Interesting how it’s so closely tied to our hopes and dreams. And yet, how often have we had to adjust those hopes and dreams down, as reality and adulthood set in? Did we find and embrace a different kind of happiness, or lower our expectations and told ourselves “Good enough”? What happened to us?

As the harshness and disappointments of life hit us repeatedly throughout the years, we had no choice but to shield and protect ourselves from those emotional blows. That meant closing off parts of our souls, guarding our vulnerabilities, slicing off pieces of our dreams to accommodate our new realities. We do this because we’d rather feel some happiness (maybe not a lot) and relief, than think about our disappointments and fears. It’s human.

But what we have forgotten is that in doing so, we have lost so much of ourselves. Take a sip and think: If I had nothing to fear, how would I live my life differently? Let your imagination run wild, let it overcome you and fill you as you remember what it was like to feel like a child unafraid of the future and of failure. Remember how powerful you felt, how happy and full of hope. Everything was possible; the world was waiting for you. And you will have your moment.

To you ladies and gents out there who have touched the stars, I salute you. To those who still reach for them, I raise my glass to you. Your minds and your lives are infinite with possibilities. To find your way again, you must reach beyond the cocoon of comfort and safety you have created to protect yourselves from your fears.

Stretch, reach and remember your greatness. Remember your victories, when you felt you could, even when you thought you couldn’t, and amazed yourself beyond your expectations when you did. You may not have “gotten there”. But that only means you are still on your way.

For more stories, visit The Ladies Chillout Lounge website.

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Peach Martini

2 oz Ciroc peach vodka
1 tsp Simple syrup (more if you like it sweeter)

Shake Ciroc peach vodka and simple syrup with ice. Serve neat in a Martini glass. Sip slowly and luxuriously.

The Whiskey Library

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“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” (Haruki Murakami)

I waited in line to get into the fairly new, and already very popular, Multnomah Whiskey Library one evening. According to the other customers I chatted with, there’s always a waiting list. If you wanted to make reservations and skip the lines, you’d have to purchase membership, and currently they’re full. The Library was a high-ceilinged, chandeliered modern pub of dark wood, leather and exposed brick, with two of its walls covered by shelves showcasing whiskies from around the world, along with other choice hard liquors. Jaunty Scottish and Irish instrumental classics played in the background, and yet the noise level was comfortably moderate; it never got so loud that you couldn’t hear what the person was saying to you from across your table, even with all the hard surfaces.

The Library made it a point to never exceed their maximum capacity of 50 customers in a room at a time, so there were never too many people loudly crowded into a room, bumping into each other and spilling their expensive drinks. As soon as I was seated and looked around, I noticed a majority of the patrons that night appeared to be in their late 20s to early 40s, with a slightly higher men-to-women ratio. My eyes explored the room and paused at a very well-dressed man sitting at a lounge chair a few feet away. He was slowly swirling a dark liquid in a snifter, possibly a Scotch.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch connoisseurs recommend sipping from a tulip-shaped glass, or any glass with a wide base and narrow mouth, to improve the tasting experience. For example:

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I watched him quietly sip his beverage with such obvious pleasure, and realized I have never seen a man rush through a glass of premium Scotch, or toss it back quickly. Oh, to be a glass of really good Scotch – to be tasted slowly, savored completely, and enjoyed with complete focus.

This place had pretty much everything that will put you in a really good mood – world-class liquors, tasty appetizers (the bacon-wrapped dates and crab fritters were fabulous!), and a very attractive staff. Lovely ladies greeted you at the door, my server looked like he’d stepped out of a men’s clothing catalog, the bartender with the great smile and brawny good looks was very attentive…I could go on and on.

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I turned my attention to the menu. The prices were a bit steep, with whiskey tastings ranging from $14 to much higher. Expect to pay for the level of selection and superiority one prefers in fine beverages, as well as for the exclusivity and ambience of a place that offers them. Classic cocktails, gins, vodkas, rums, beers, wines, and so on, were also well represented. But if you’re at a place that calls itself a “whiskey library”, you order the whiskey.

I ordered a Talisker Storm single malt Scotch, from the shores of the Isle of Skye. As I raised the glass for a sip, I was pleasantly surprised by the peat-y, smokey aroma. Some people don’t like a smokey Scotch. With that first sip, a delicious warmth spread from my throat to throughout my body. I gasped softly and shut my eyes as the room swayed a bit and my cheeks tingled pleasantly.

Wow. The boldness, the smoothness. And interestingly, the flavor wasn’t nearly as smokey as I thought it would be, considering the first fragrant impression. With its blend of new and old scotches, Talisker Storm managed to smooth out the smokiness. Nicely done!

Interestingly, there are articles online on how to properly drink and enjoy a Scotch. According to an askmen.com article, entitled “10 Things to Know About Drinking Whiskey“, the process is as follows:

Aroma: Swirl the whisky around the glass and take in the aromas as they are released. Don’t poke your nose straight into the glass, as all you’ll pick up is alcohol.

Taste: Take a nice, long sip and let the whisky feel its way around your entire mouth before swallowing.

Finish: A good whisky should linger like a fond memory, and you will still be feeling and tasting it for minutes afterward.

According to a “How to Drink Scotch” article I found online:

“Before actually drinking the Scotch, take a moment to savor the scent of the Scotch. Doing so will help to prepare the taste buds for the flavor that is about to come. Sip a small amount of Scotch. Allow the Scotch to settle onto the tongue and gently move the liquid around the mouth. This action will distribute the flavor and enhance the pleasure derived from the drink. After a moment, swallow the Scotch and prepare to enjoy another sip.”

In my opinion, as with any all-encompassing, sensual experience, I’d say the only right way to enjoy such a moment is to do so completely and at your own pace.

Cheers!

Gie him strong drink until he wink, That’s sinking in despair; An’ liquor guid to fire his bluid, That’s prest wi’ grief and care: There let him bouse, an’ deep carouse, Wi’ bumpers flowing o’er, Till he forgets his loves or debts, An’ minds his griefs no more. (Robert Burns)


Photos #3 & 4 courtesy of Multnomah Whiskey Library website
Articles mentioned in blog: http://www.ehow.com/how_2304608_drink-scotch.html http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/the-expert-10-things-to-know-about-drinking-whiskey_3.html