Vodka Collins

I'll be honest with you people. We've known each other long enough. I didn't pick out this drink because it's iconic, or because it's one of my favorites, or because it's got a really interesting history behind it, or any crap like that. I know next to nothing about Collins drinks and I can't remember ever having made one or ordered one. But I recently bought this fancy-pants Icelandic boutique vodka, and I wanted to drink some of it, but I didn't want to just take it straight because it's midnight and I'm alone and I've already had three really strong drinks in a row and it's taking me like twenty minutes to write these posts by this point because I'm misspelling every third word. So I had to mix it with something, and the only fresh fruit juice I have in the house is lemon juice. And it just so happens, cowboys and cowgirls, that lemon juice + sugar + vodka + soda = a vodka Collins. A vodka Collins just like this one.

I garnished it with what was left of my fresh lemon and a cherry. The cherry, for reasons far too complex to go into at the moment, was also lemon-flavored, making the whole thing altogether too citrus-intensive and also lending a somewhat surreal air to the entire proceedings, but what can I tell you? It was still a perfectly good little mixed drink -- maybe not the best nightcap in the world, but the soda water helps calm the stomach and overall it was very refreshing. And I may not be much on God or country, but goddamn it, I believe in refreshment.

The Recipe: 3 oz. vodka; 1 1/2 oz. lemon juice; 1 1/2 tsp. sugar. Combine with ice in a highball glass and stir; top off with soda water. Garnish with lemon wheel and cherry.


Look, I don't have to tell you why this drink is the King of Cocktails. There have been whole books written about it, by people who drink a lot more of them than I have, and who have much more clever things to say about them than I do. If you don't know, you better ask somebody. All I'm gonna tell you is that if you have a martini to hand, you're smarter, you're funnier, you're better-looking, and you're a joy to be around.

I have heard it said, by actual human beings with mouths attached to their brains, that they do not like this or that jernt's martini because it is "too strong". This makes no sense to me, because a martini is all liquor. There is nothing in it for the liquor to be stronger than. If you don't want a strong drink, don't order a martini. But if you do -- and you should -- there are a few musts. I am not snobbish about martinis in some ways; I'm perfectly happy with gimmicky fauxtinis, and in fact there will be many of them in this space in the future. But if you're making a real martini, which I suggest you do at least once a week to keep body and mind running smoothly, it must be made with gin (Bombay Sapphire is the only kind for me, and that's bet), it must be served in a cocktail glass, it must be shaken and not stirred -- shaking a gin martini agitates the molecules and brings out the flavor of the herbs -- and it must be coooooooooooooooooold.

I take my silver bullet very dry (8:1 gin/vermouth ratio). Any more vermouth is too 'winey' and detracts from the spicy, lemony, super-crisp flavor of the gin. It can be drier, but I don't cotton to this "walk the gin through a room where someone who held a sealed bottle of vermouth once stood" bullshit. If you wanna drink gin, drink gin -- even more than a martini or Scotch & water, straight Bombay Sapphire on ice is far and away my favorite drink. But can the pseudomystical one-liners and just do it, already. You can be funny after. Martinis can be tricky out; they're often not as cold as they should be, and people never know what proportion you like best. I've had some fantastic martinis in bars, but they're never as good as the ones I make at home, and this one was a killer -- even with the slight oily residue on the surface I got (probably from using a feta-stuffed olive, the only kind I had in the house), it was pure and cool and perfect and went down like an enthusiastic sophomore. (By the way, I'm in favor of the olive in a martini instead of the lemon peel or other garnish; it carries the weight of tradition, it makes it more iconic, and you get the little treat at the end of getting to eat the olive: it's like, mmmm, tasty cocktail. And hey, dinner!)

"When I have one martini," said Big Bill Faulkner, "I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have the second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there's no holding me." Of course, the martinis helped kill him. But what a way to go!

The Recipe: 1/2 oz. dry vermouth; 4 oz. gin. Agitate thoroughly in a frosted, ice-filled cocktail shaker and serve in a cocktail glass immediately. Garnish with olive.

Cuba Libre

Tables and chairs, as a wise man once said, you got a dinette set. No chairs, you got dick.

Now, I am not trying to say that the combination of rum and Coca-Cola is dick. It's not dick. It's easy to make, its components are complementary, its ingredients are found in any well-stocked home, and it is delicious. But it is a half-formed drink, an incomplete grade, a preemie. Put rum and Coke together and you have something utile but predictable, as evidenced by its purely functional name: what you have there is nothin' but a rum and Coke. But add one ingredient, one simple little squeezing of lime juice and you've got something magical. You've got yourself a Cuba Libre.

Rum and coke, you got yourself something your 17-year-old kid brother drinks when he doesn't want to get busted. Cuba libre, you got yourself something that Vito Corleone and Hyman Roth sipped when they were bootlegging in the '30s. (It's a testament to Fredo Corelone's mushy character that he favored the banana daiquiri.) And all it takes is that little jolt of lime that cuts the sweetness of the rum and the soda with an opposing adult element of sour. To make yourself feel even more like a pre-revolutionary Hemingway tough guy (no time for cocktails in Fidel's Cuba, comrades), do what I did: head to your local bodega and pick up some real, hardcore, old-school Mexican Coke -- glass bottles protect the fizz and real sugar gives it that extra kick.

A lot of people will drink a Cuba libre from an old-fashioned glass, with a 1:2 mixture of rum to Co-Cola, but there are often mitigating factors. For me, it's that I'm a thirsty motherfucker, and I live in south Texas where it's 85 degrees out at 9PM. So I go for the taller highball glass with about a 3:1 ratio, so you don't get the nasty edge right away if you're dry enough to guzzle. A lot of people are trying to boutique rum the way they have vodka, but this is the perfect drink for your plain ol' drunkenness-delivery-vector light rum (I used Appleton Estates White). Also, while it's not necessarily a big deal to use other colas, going with Coke really does make a difference -- it's crisper and less sweet than Pepsi and gives you a nice blend with the lime. (Stay away from diet colas, though, which lends an unpleasant chemically aftertaste.)

I didn't have any fresh limes, but I did have some Dream Foods Volcano lime juice, a packaged organic thingamabob from Mexico with lime essential oil in the cap that's incredibly flavorsome and just takes a spit's worth to really liven up a drink. If you're eyeballing the prep, you want to put in just enough Coke that it's brown, but not so much that it's dark. It should have a caramel or light tea look about it, but it'll be eminently gulpable with a hell kick for when you get it all down. This is a pretty great anytime drink, but it's especially great in the summer or when you're outdoors: stir one up, and viva la revolucion, motherfucker.

The Recipe: 2 1/2 oz. light rum; pinch of lime juice; 8 oz. Coca-Cola. Serve over lots of ice in a highball glass.


Facing what it calls "unfounded criticism" from pubic interest groups, Anheuser-Busch has killed its 'Spykes' product line, a gimmicky series of caffienated, cutely-flavored novelty malt liquors in nail-polish-sized bottles meant to 'enhance' your drinking of cheap beer, energy drinks, or whatever it is you swill when you're too young and trendy to get your hands on a decent bottle of Scotch. Never having tried the stuff, I can't say whether or not it's a major loss to the market, but I can't honestly say I'll mourn the fact that I'll never be able to pay three bucks for two ounces of hot chocolate-flavored Zima. While A-B blames the kerfuffle on frowny pressure groups, it's much more likely that no one was buying the "liquid lunchables". A New York Times article last month on Spykes suggested that if teen drinkers weren't abusing the stuff, it was because they couldn't find it; even one of the critics demanding the recall of the product had to visit nearly a dozen liquor stores before he found anyone selling it in the first place.


This is "Draining the Glass", a blog about drinking.

We like drinking. We like it a lot. We don't drink to get drunk, or to forget our troubles, or to be sociable. We don't drink to make ourselves or other people more attractive, or because it's simply the thing to do; we drink because we like drinking. It's as simple as a dry martini.

We think it's unconscionable that there are thousands of food blogs, narrating the adventures of lively people in the world of cuisine, narrating exciting adventures at restaurants all over the country, and giving you recipes and cooking tips for how to prepare gourmet wonders at home -- but almost nothing comparable for the world of alcoholic beverages, which is just as rich and diverse, and what's more, gets you lit. We aim to rectify that, right here and right now, with a cocktail glass in hand and a sense of conviviality in mind. We do this in the spirit of friendship, and with any spirits we can think of.

The blog will feature taste-tests of liquor, beer and wine, new and old; little narratives of how alcohol has enhanced (or hindered) our daily lives; liquor in the news; and, most of all, recipes. We're going to try a drink recipe as often as possible (we're shooting for once a day, but there will be times when we're drinking away...). We'll make cocktails at home, teach you how to make them, provide photos, and tell you how they were. We'll do the same when we go out, if time and technology permit. We'll even, on occasion, make up drinks, and let you know how that worked out. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions, because as much fun as it is to drink alone, we do love the clink of someone else's glass. We're dead serious about our drinking, but we're also lubricated enough to know that the most serious subjects must be approached with a sense of humor. We may be liquor snobs, but there's nothing we won't try. Cheap beer, fortified wine, and the kind of liquor you keep under the bathroom sink for when the divorce papers show up will make their appearances here in due time.

Our project starts tonight, with the king of cocktails. Join us anytime. And never forget the words of our musical icon, Phil "The Jazz Butcher" Fish:

I'm broken-hearted, with all that this entails
It takes some concentrated drinking to keep me on the rails
I have to hide my face, I have to hide my shame
I don't wait 'til I'm sober 'til I get drunk again

I drink at home, I drink out, I drink in cocktail bars
Falling down, seeing stars
It suits me; it suits me
Going astray in all the bars from here to Mandalay
They never close, we never pay

My, oh, my, we can't compete
It's only heavy drinking that keeps us on our feet
My, oh, my, we can't complain
If it weren't for heavy drinking, we'd never play "Sweet Jane"
My, oh, my, the days go by
I never quite forget her, but goodness, how I try
Believe me; believe me
Falling apart in bars -- I like to suffer for my art
Just one more before we part...

Don't want to think about how much I drink
It's a habit that's out of control
Hope I never get dry before I get old.

Drained away...