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Drinks for everybody

Drinks with John Fladd

Cocktails and mocktails created for flavor-seekers of all ages

The Dad: A new father does a fair bit of daydreaming in the early days, largely about the bonding experiences he hopes to have with his kid as they grow up — going to football games, field-dressing a deer, rebuilding a carburetor — that sort of thing.

Life often takes a jagged left turn, though, and for men like me at least, those stereotypical father-child moments are more elusive than you’d think. Being the sort of man I am, and the excellent but offbeat teenager my child has grown into, most of these experiences are off the table.

We are vegetarians and ambivalent about the outdoors, so the deer are probably safe.

Someone reminded me the other day that cars don’t even have carburetors anymore, which is frankly a relief, because I’m not sure what a carburetor is, though it sounds vaguely threatening.

And the closest The Teen and I would ever get to the going-to-a-game experience would be if we could score tickets to an off-Broadway, all-drag reboot of The Music Man.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you take your bonding experiences where you can find them.

Which is why I was happily gob-smacked recently when The Teen asked if they could make me a cocktail. I suggested that they make a non-alcoholic one, so they could taste it as they went along and develop something that they liked too. This led to several actual back-and-forth conversations and a week-long project that involved a frankly stunning lack of eye-rolling and muttering under the breath on both our parts.

These are the results of that project: The Teen has developed a set of non-alcoholic beverages, which I have then adapted for more adult tastes.

The Teen: There’s this idea that non-alcoholic drinks shouldn’t be super-complicated or fancy and I don’t like that because I am both super-complicated and fancy. There’s so much culture built around bars and drinking that I don’t think other types of drinks should be ignored. Non-alcoholic drinks should have a certain sophistication, a certain je ne sais quoi to them. I have tried to make drinks that are delicious and have a sense of style to them.

The Drinks

Non-Alcoholic Cocktail No. 1: Whispers of Ogygia

Whispers of Ogygia. Photo Courtesy of John Fladd.

½ oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

½ oz. non-alcoholic blue curacao

½ oz. simple syrup

2 sprigs (~ 1.5 grams) fresh mint

5 ¼-inch slices (~ 25 grams) cucumber

6 ice cubes

3 oz. extremely bubbly sparkling water, like Topo Chico Mineral Water

1. Add the first six ingredients to a cocktail shaker. (I like the kind with the built-in strainer in the top.) Shake until very cold.

2. Strain into a rocks glass, over more ice.

3. Add the sparkling water and stir gently.

4. Garnish with a cucumber wheel.

The Teen: This drink has a very islandy/oceany feel to it. The color is sort of a bougie Mediterranean blue. In Greek myths Ogygia was the island where the nymph Calypso was exiled. It’s the island where Odysseus was shipwrecked. This drink tastes sweet and fresh and windy, in a way. The citrus of the lemon is a good bridge between the cucumber and the mint.

Dad’s Alcoholic Riff No. 1 – Calypso’s Icy Gaze

Calypso’s Icy Gaze. Photo Courtesy of John Fladd.

The Dad: Greek myths are really rough on women. Calypso was imprisoned on Ogygia because her father was the titan Atlas, who had opposed the gods. Calypso herself wasn’t involved; this is just the sort of thing that happened to female relatives of jerks in the myths. (If you really feel like shaking your fist at the gods, look up what they did to Pasiphaë.)

According to The Odyssey, Odysseus was shipwrecked on Ogygia and Calypso found him so beautiful that she kept him there for years, before he managed to “escape.” Clearly, we are relying on his version of events here.

Calypso is not here for your nonsense.

2-3 sprigs (1.5-2 grams) fresh mint

4 slices (~25 grams) cucumber

1 oz. lemon juice

1½ oz. very cold vodka

A “slip” of traditional, alcoholic blue curacao

~ 1 oz. dry ice (optional, but highly cool)

1. Muddle the cucumber and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

2. Add ice, lemon juice and vodka. Shake vigorously. (I like to shake it really hard, until I hear the ice splinter. A lot of bartenders will tell you that this is not a good idea, because the ice fragments will dilute your drink too much, but that’s actually the effect we’re going for here.)

3. Strain into a martini glass. (See below.)

4. Pour a “slip” of blue curacao down the side of the glass. It will puddle in the bottom and give this drink a blue/green layered look.

5. Smile and take a picture of the drink, because it looks extremely fancy.

6a. At this point you can drink this and have a perfectly civilized cocktail. It will start out a little acidic and bracing from the lemon juice, then get sweeter as you work your way down to the blue curacao. If you would like it a little sweeter, add a tiny bit more curacao. The term “slip” is extremely vague and bartenders tend to use it as a code for “Use your own judgment.”

6b. If you decide to add dramatic flair to this cocktail, add a nugget of dry ice to it. It will bubble and churn and mist will flow over the side of the glass, making it a very good drink for Halloween. The bubbling and churning will mix the drink, turning it a very assertive green. Like the will of Calypso. [Editor’s note: Dry ice in cocktails is a whole to-do that requires some dry ice education and safety steps so that it doesn’t cause injury. The Betty Crocker website (bettycrocker.com) offers a good explanation.]

A note on cocktail strainers: There are all sorts of devices designed to help a home drink-maker strain a cocktail. The traditional tool involves hooks and a spring and intimidates me. Some cocktail shakers have an internal strainer in them. I find it takes a long time to strain some drinks through one of these. Recently, I have started using an inexpensive strainer that is designed to fit over the drain in a kitchen sink. It is extremely inexpensive, it works well, it is easy to clean, and it fits exactly over the rim of a martini glass.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktail No. 2 – A Cascade of Roses

A Cascade of Roses. Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Teen: At first, I wanted to make a drink that was similar to a Cherry Airhead, one of those really sour candies. I really like a combination of sweet and sour. Getting this right was a long and arduous process of mixing and drinking and mixing and drinking and mixing and drinking. I used citric acid because it seemed like a good way of getting the sour flavor I was looking for without adding any liquid. It ended up a little intense, but the seltzer spread the flavor out a lot and gave it some sparkle.

When I was done making this, I wanted a name that referenced its rosy red color, so I decided to call it “A Cascade of Roses.” After thinking about it a while, I decided to add rose water to make the flavor more rosy. Rose water can be tricky to use, but six drops is just about enough. I think it adds a subtle, background flavor.

1 oz. cherry syrup – as artificial as possible

½ oz. maraschino cherry juice

¾ teaspoon citric acid (available in many grocery stores this time of year, because of canning, or online)

6 ice cubes

6 drops rose water

5 oz. plain seltzer

Maraschino cherries for garnish

1. Combine the first five ingredients in a shaker. Shake until mixed and cold – about a minute.

2. Pour into a wine glass.

3. Add seltzer and stir gently.

4. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Dad’s Alcoholic Riff No. 2 – Les Cerises du Roi

Les Cerises du Roi. Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Dad: I love the idea of a deeply cherry-flavored cocktail. The trick is to try to avoid making it taste too much like candy. In the end, I had some good luck in making my own cherry syrup (see below), but the resulting drink was a little bit frou-frou. After thinking it over, I decided to reclassify it in my mind as “rococo” and really embrace the over-the-top effeteness of it.

1 oz. homemade cherry syrup

1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

1 oz. kirsch

3 oz. plain seltzer

Upscale cocktail cherries for garnish

1. Shake the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, with ice.

2. Pour into an extremely froofy glass – the froofiest you can find.

3. Add seltzer and stir gently.

4. Garnish with several upscale cocktail cherries. I like the Bada Bing brand.

Cherry Syrup:

1 part (by weight) frozen cherries (the ice crystals in the cherries will break up the cell walls and give you more juice)

1 part (by weight) sugar

(A pound of frozen cherries and ¾ cup sugar will give you ~1½ cups of syrup.)

1. Put the cherries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. As the cherries start to thaw, they will start giving off juice. Stir to combine.

2. When the cherries are thoroughly warmed up, mash them with a potato masher. It won’t matter if they have pits in them. The masher is a democratic tool and will mash any fruit regardless of its pit status.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved – three to four minutes.

4. Strain into a jar, label and store in your refrigerator.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktail No. 3 – Reverse Hot Chocolate

Reverse Hot Chocolate. Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Teen: This was not my idea. I want no part of this.

The Dad: I am a passionate ice cream maker. One of my favorite flavors of ice cream from when I was a kid is peppermint stick. It’s really hard to find anymore, so once a year or so I make my own. As I cook the base for the ice cream, dissolving peppermint candies in milk and cream, I always think how much I would like to drink a cup of it on a rainy fall day —never mind the ice cream.

This is a spin on that.

2 cups whole milk

1 cup half and half

75 g. crushed starlight mint candies (about 15 candies, once you’ve unwrapped them)

1. Unwrap and crush the candies. I use a hand-held vegetable chopper – the type with the plunger on top that you pound with your fist, often with a wild look in your eyes. If you decide to use your food processor to chop these up, you might want to freeze the candies first, so the dust doesn’t heat up too much in your food processor and get gummy and inconvenient.

2. Add all three ingredients to a small saucepan and heat until the candy fragments have dissolved, but before the mixture boils (about 200 degrees). It will turn a delicate shade of shell-pink.

3. Pour into mugs and serve.

Makes two to three servings.

Dad’s Alcoholic Riff On His Own Drink – Pink Cocoa

Pink Cocoa. Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Dad: The classic sitting-around-in-a-ski-lodge-with-your-leg-in-a-cast drink is hot cocoa, with a generous slug of peppermint schnapps in it. I’ve taken that and turned it on its head. This is a mug of hot peppermint, with a generous slug of chocolate in it.

10 oz. Reverse Hot Chocolate (see above)

1 oz. chocolate vodka (see below)

½ oz. crème de cacao

1. Add all three ingredients to a mug.

2. Stir.

3. Drink and pretend to be classy.

Chocolate Vodka

750 ml 80-proof bottom-shelf vodka (The chocolate flavors of the finished infusion will cover any subtle flavors you might get from an up-market vodka. You will be filtering this, which will largely remove any rough flavors from your discount vodka. Save your money for all the frou-frou, exotic ingredients The Teen and I have asked you to buy for our other recipes.)

½ cup (about 2 oz.) roasted cocoa nibs

1. Combine in a large jar with an airtight lid. If you worry about such things, place a small piece of wax paper between the mouth of the jar and the lid.

2. Shake vigorously.

3. Store somewhere cool and dark for four days. I put it on top of the freezer in our basement laundry room. That way, I remember to shake the jar every time I go downstairs to switch the laundry over or get something from the freezer.

4. Oh, yeah — shake two or three times per day.

5. After four days, filter into a bottle, through a coffee filter in a funnel. This will take longer than you think, so just walk away and let the filter do its job. It knows what it’s doing. If you stand there, watching it, you will be tempted to play around with it. You’ll probably want to do this in stages. Just walk away and watch a round of The Great British Baking Show or something, then come back and pour a little more into your filter, until you’ve filtered the whole jar.

6. Make sure to label your bottle.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktail No. 4 – Unnamed Passion Fruit Beverage

Unnamed Passion Fruit Beverage. Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Teen: I really like the flavor of passion fruit. I like how sour it is but still mouth-wateringly fruity. That is my favorite combination of flavors in the whole world. Passion fruit has a juicy quality that just exactly suits me. I’ve tried to make this drink passion fruit-forward, but not soda-like.

5 oz. passion fruit green tea, iced (I like Lipton’s Orange Passionfruit Jasmine Green Tea, made with four tea bags per pitcher.)

1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

½ oz. simple syrup

5 ice cubes

1 oz. commercial passion fruit cocktail (This is something you have walked past a zillion times in the supermarket, but you’ve probably never noticed. It comes in a cardboard container. It’s in the fruit juice aisle at the store, probably on the top shelf, with pear nectar and stuff.)

1. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until extremely cold. This may dilute the drink a little, but that is what you’re going for here — subtlety, Dad!

2. Pour into a Collins glass, perhaps with extra ice.

3. Drink this on the porch, with tasty snacks.

Dad’s Alcoholic Riff No. 4 – “What Are They Going To Do? Fire Me?”

“What Are They Going To Do? Fire Me?” Photo courtesy of John Fladd.

The Dad: The Teen has opted for subtlety in their final drink. That’s marvelous. There is a time for gentle and subtle. Like a delicate butterfly lighting on your finger.

Other times call for a brute confrontation with Reality. Like an angry buzzard crashing into you from a great height.

This is one of those drinks. It should be drunk in the largest, most garish glass you have. That shrunken-head tiki glass you thought was so cool on vacation that time, that you’ve never used? Break that baby out. It’s game time.

4 oz. passion fruit cocktail

2 oz. dark rum. I like Myers’ for this.

1 oz. crème de banana (Because bananas and passion fruit get along very well, like friends who often make questionable decisions together.)

3 oz. plain seltzer

lime wedge for garnish

1. Add passion fruit cocktail, rum, crème de banana, and ice to a cocktail shaker. It doesn’t really matter how you are shaking this particular drink, but if you’ve chosen this one, you’ll probably be in the mood to be pretty brutal about it.

2. Pour into your large, garish glass.

3.Add the seltzer and stir gently, if you can.

4. Garnish with a lime wedge and maybe a paper umbrella, if your trembling fingers allow.

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