If you think only “mixologists” can create good cocktails, think again, my friend. I have always believed that any of us can make a deeply satisfying drink, with or without alcohol. In fact, I'm living proof that it can be done.
Just after college I was a French wine drinker all the way, but two decades ago I became interested in cocktails. I visited bars across the Northeast, especially New York City, watching cocktail making royalty. At The Pegu Club in Manhattan the bartender managed to make the single best gin and tonic I've ever encountered. How was it done, I kept asking myself, eyeing the bartenders all night? I went to Tiki bars. I read countless cocktail books. Several times I interviewed a cocktail master, Dale DeGroff. After it all I reached one conclusion—a few decent quality ingredients are all you need to make a drink guaranteed to delight your senses.
Sure, you can use expensive equipment, team up with restaurant chefs, roast and juice farm-fresh beets, or whip up an intoxicating drink that is nothing but vapor (not kidding). There are artists, even geniuses in the cocktail world. But you don't have to be one of them to make one hell of a drink. We have recipes to prove it.
While we were getting ready for the 4th Annual Faith Middleton Food Schmooze Martini Competition, I asked the show's contributors to come up with cocktails; this made them nervous, but in the spirit of fun—our specialty on the show—we went at it.
Here's the secret… make a cocktail of flavor combinations you enjoy; chances are your friends will, too. Use the best quality spirits and mixers you can afford, but no need to break the bank. (Yes, a high quality vodka will matter when the drink has only two of three ingredients.) Remember that you can chip in with friends for a decent bottle of something. And, once you buy a decent bottle, use that spirit many times in the weeks ahead to make other drink recipes—that way, it doesn't go to waste, or seem as expensive.
Recently, at a the Blue Canoe Oyster Bar on The North Fork of Long Island, I ordered a good quality vodka, very cold, rocks on the side. And when I asked if they had a slice of blood orange hanging around, the waitress went to the kitchen and returned with a few ounces of fresh blood orange juice. Into my vodka it went. Two ingredients. Sensational! (Phenomenal customer service, earning my permanent loyalty.)
The game is not to be intimidated by the experts, the artists, the mixologists, the authors, or even a long–time public radio food show host. Try things. Have fun. Starting right now with our cocktail recipes.
And if you'd like to attend the show's Martini Cocktail Competition, featuring bartenders trying to wow you to capture your vote, go to ctmartini.org. CPTV will be there June 19 at Riverview in Simsbury, Connecticut. to capture the action as it unfolds. Top restaurant chefs will be cooking up a storm. All you do is wander the food and drink stations, ballot in hand, until you're ready to vote for your favorite. At the end of the night, we'll crown the Martini King or Queen of The Food Schmooze based in large part on your votes. (The president of the U.S. Bartenders Guild will weigh in.)
Tickets, at $65, benefit The Food Schmooze, WNPR, and CPTV. There is a discount for designated drivers, and, of course, we urge you to drink responsibly.
One last thing—the music's hot at this sell-out event. Bring your dancing shoes.
- Chris Prosperi is owner and chef of Metro Bis Restaurant in Simsbury, Connecticut.
- Alex Province is a wine expert and frequent contributor to the show.
- Anthony DeSerio is a mixologist and President of the Connecticut chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild.
- “Shake,” Otis Redding
- “People Make the World Go Round,” Milt Jackson
- “It’s a Raggy Waltz,” Dave Brubeck Quartet
- “Straight, No Chaser,” Thelonious Monk
- “Sparks,” Wynton Marsalis
- “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” Dion
- “Electric Relaxation,” BADBADNOTGOOD
- “Habasha Diaspora (Addis Piano Mix),” Samuel Yirga
- “DOOM,” BADBADNOTGOOD
- “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground),” The Jackson 5
- “Get a Move On,” Mr. Scruff
- “Sinnerman (Felix Da Housecat’s Heavenly House Mix),” Nina Simone
- “Honey,” Moby
- “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia),” Us3