Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Beer Cocktail

El Nino is playing havoc with our holiday season. That little southern scoundrel is guaranteeing a snowless Christmas and street-corner Santas in Bermuda shorts. It’s also messing with the Firewater Lounge and its Lizards. Why? Well, if the Lounge is known for one thing, it’s for our Christmas tipples: Hot Buttered Rum, Tom and Jerrys, Hot Spiced Drambuies, and Gringo Hot know, all the drinks that keep the holiday spirit cozy, bright, and warm. But the weather this year in December is damn close to March.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Chocolate Brew Face-Off

As the weather gets cooler again, we will shift gears and highlight a four brew face-off between chocolate stouts. Of craft beers, chocolate stouts and ales are some of the best beers to make great beer cocktails. Chocolate stouts and ales play well with coffee liqueur, cream liqueurs like Amarula, dark and navy rums and many amari like Averna. Bitters like Angostura, Bokers, and Aphrodite bitters can add more depth and interest to your beer cocktail. So which one should you try? How about these-

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gringo Hot Chocolate

Thanksgiving always puts us back into recipe mode. It must be something about the combinations of cold weather, warm kitchens, and the aromas of fall spices. The first snowfall of the year is upon us, so kick back and enjoy a riff of semi-homemade goodness from our Lounge to yours. Warm yourself with a bit of Gringo hot chocolate.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Carpano Manhattan

One of the toughest common cocktail ingredients for the typical red-blooded beer-drinking Wisconsinite to get through is vermouth. Vermouth is just fortified wine (wine with a distilled spirit like brandy added) to bring the proof up to around 30-34 in most cases and also aromatized. Aromatization is the flavoring of wine with various botanicals like roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bell’s Brewery Beers

Bell's Brewery Porter and
Bell's Brewery Kalamazoo Stout
One good thing about a big warehouse liquor store like Woodman’s is that you can readily buy great beers a bottle at a time without the fear that your 99 rated porter smells and tastes like a skunk’s butt because it has been sitting on the shelf since 1987. Woodman’s also pulls out some of the highest-rated brews especially for impulse buying; it works because we occasionally snag some of these brews to see what the fuss is about.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Salem, Massachusetts

A morning full of witch shop window-shopping and 18th century cemetery crawls in Salem, Massachusetts, can sure make a guy pretty darn thirsty, so I wandered ever deeper into the bowels of Witch City to partake in some home-grown witches’ brews. Off Derby Street, I found Salem Beer Works. There are actually six Beer Works locations in Massachusetts- one at Fenway Park, one in Boston’s Bullfinch Triangle, one in Lowell, one in Hingham, one in Framingham. Besides the Beer Works at Fenway, the Salem location is the oldest, pouring suds since 1996.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fox Barrel Pear Cider

We haven’t reviewed hard cider in a few years so we grabbed a Fox Barrel from Viking Liquor up in Reedsburg. I was intrigued by the label since it declared that it was flavored similarly to a Belgian ale. Fermented by Belgian Wit yeast which is fed honey, Fox Barrel is also mixed with orange peel and coriander for complexity.

The pour is a pale yellow and noses a bit of yeast and a bit of honey, but mostly pear. I was expecting a sweet pear flavor, which I got upfront, but was surprised on the heavy tide of coriander on the finish. Honey is present throughout, although the finish almost makes Fox Barrel savory. The orange peel bitterness is lost; in fact, there isn’t much pf a trace of orange in it at all, which isn't a detriment since the lack of bitterness and acid allows for summer day-drinking last all day long without gut rot.

Now, it looks like Fox Barrel themselves are no longer. They have sold out to Crispin, so to try their version of this pear hard cider, you have to look for Lion Belge pear cider under the Crispin label.

As for a cocktail using this pear cider, try a shandy made with your favorite lager 1 to 1 with pear cider (known as a Snakebite). Or replace the pineapple juice with pear cider in a modified Pepper Pot. Recipe below.

Pepper Pot
Drinking Notes

5 ounces chilled pear hard cider
1 ounce amaretto
3-5 dashes Tabasco (or muddled Jalapeno)
splash freshly-squeezed lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch curry powder

Pour all ingredients, except curry, into an iced highball glass. Stir gently. Top with curry if desired.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dock Sway

We happened to be listening to Otis Redding and were thirsty for something summery, so we worked up a fun little number our friends in Madison (and near Madison) can pour. You will have to go to the oil and vinegar shop Vom Fass in the Shorewood Shopping Center just off University Avenue. Vom Fass sells speciality oils, vinegars, spices, and liquor, but we mostly go there for their vessels and corks of all sorts. You’ll have to find their liqueurs section (which won’t be hard, the store is not that big!). One of their better sellers is the Ginger Liqueur which is notable for its warming spice and its added gentle azure color. The cool thing about Vom Fass is that you can buy the liqueur in different sized vessels, so if you are not entirely sure if a particular liqueur is for you, then go with a small bottle. We think you’ll like the ginger though.

Otis was crooning about sittin’ on the dock of the bay, hence the need for something blue. We eschewed the idea of a totally blue curacao cocktail and made the main players a decadent trio of coconut, orange, and ginger with Vom Fass Ginger driving the color. We added a touch of sour with lemon and tamed the overall sweetness with Peychaud’s bitters (which if you do not have, grab a bottle at Old Sugar Distillery which is just down the road).

Dock Sway
Holly's Original

1 1/2 ounces coconut rum (We used Sugar Island)
1 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce Vom Fass ginger liqueur
1/4 ounce Maraschino
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 dash curaçao
1 dash Peychaud's bitters

Throw all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain. Enjoy Otis Redding.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Oklahoma City, Part 3

There is no doubt that we could have easily spent the rest of our night in Oklahoma City at Whiskey Chicks, but with more of the Bricktown neighborhood to explore, we made our farewells and walked back out into the summer heat.

Part of the construction of Bricktown included an artificial riverwalk called Bricktown Canal and a large amount of the Thursday night music drew us to that area. Unfortunately, since we were out on a weekday, many of the places were closing, though people were still having a good time canalside at last call at Jazmo’z Bourbon Street Cafe and Captain Norm’s Dockside Bar. Loudspeakers were blasting rounds of Billy Joel and Journey songs from the nearby Michael Murphy’s Dueling Pianos; we tried to get in, but they were going to charge us a late cover so we moved on.

A local blues band was just finishing up on a patio on the west end of the canal, so we headed over to see what they had left. The patio was attached to a nondescript dive bar, a bit tattered but clean, everything screamed that a shot-and-a-beer was what you’d get here. The bar used to be called The Biting Sow in its heyday (if it had one), but now it was called Mojo’s Blues Club for his nightly live blues. We took a seat at the bar and both ordered 7 and 7s. Our bartender, Jay, obliged.

As we cooled off with our second-to-last drinks of the night, a bar patron on my right struck up a conversation with bartender Jay, reminiscing about the last time he visited Mojo’s; the bored female half of a couple that had already been sitting at the bar prior to our arrival, decided to light an entire book of matches up for her own amusement. She dropped the flaming cardboard into an ashtray, which Jay promptly smothered with a second ashtray. She smiled craftily and said something to Jay who looked more and more like he wanted to go home for the night.

Instead, I extended his night. The rule for drinking creatively at a dive bar is to scan their top-shelf liquor for something you rarely have (or never have had) and think of a common mixer that can go one-to-one with it. So for my nightcap, I saw a dusty bottle of Old Overholt rye. I called Jay to mix me up and Old Overholt and 7. After procuring a second bottle of rye (since the dusty bottle was down to dregs), Jay poured up a sweet, spicy treat to end the night.

Drink: Old Overholt and 7
Establishment: Mojo’s Blues Club     
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
First Connoisseur: Holly

1 part Old Overholt rye
1 part 7up
Fill a large mason jar with ice. Fill ½ of the jar with Overholt. Stir. Top with cold 7up. Give the drink a couple of gentle stirs. If you really need to, you can garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Oklahoma City, Part 2

Last time we introduced you to Oklahoma City’s best-kept secret, the Bricktown neighborhood, starting with Bricktown Brewery. Continuing down Sheridan Avenue, you will encounter a myriad of restaurants and tap rooms including the titan-sized Spaghetti Warehouse, the swanky TapWerks Ale House, the tagged-up Crabtown and its watering hole, the down-home Wormy Dog Saloon, and the burlesque lounge Dollhouse.

Already full from our meal, Cindy and I avoided the dance and food vibe of Sheridan and walked down to the southern border of Bricktown, Reno Avenue. There we stumbled upon blaze-red fronted Whiskey Chicks Parlor, fully prepared to quench an Oklahoma summer thirst. Immediately we were greeted by Elizabeth Haden, a tatted spitfire in daisy dukes who guided us to a table and a drink menu. A look around the bar’s decor which alternated between suicide girls’ boudoir and bourbon distillery, which obviously speaks to guys, but the bartender skill and wait staff enthusiasm keeps you coming back to the cocktails. Our first round were Whiskey Chick creations; here are our recreations of both.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Oklahoma City, Part 1

There’s a good chance that our family vacations are a bit different from yours. Of course, the trips are mostly about the kids, but if we get the opportunity to bring something back for the Firewater Lounge, we take advantage. So we drove 3000 miles round-trip to catalog our some of the cocktails of the south and we will present them to you starting with one of the best kept secret drinking locations in America: Oklahoma City.

Ground zero for this drinking adventure is OKC’s downtown historic Hotel Skirvin. The Hotel Skirvin, first opened in 1911 and then re-opened in 2007, is allegedly haunted. As the story goes, the hotel owner, Bill Skirvin had an affair with a maid and got her pregnant. To avoid scandal, Skirvin locked away the girl on the 10th floor of the hotel. When the child was born, Skirvin still would not released her, so in her depression, she jumped with her child from one of the hotel windows.

Most of you will not believe this, but I knew none of this before check-in. As the concierge collected my information for our reservation, he slowly asked without looking up, “Is a room on the 10th floor o.k.?” Thinking I had a shot at an awesome view, I said, “Sure” not knowing that we would be sharing the floor with a 100-year ghost chick and her spawn!

Regardless, the hotel bar is not even close to as awesome as their ghost stories, so it was off to the restored warehouse district, named Bricktown, a mere two blocks from the Skirvin. Sandwiched between Sheridan Avenue and Reno Avenue on its respective north and south sides, and bordered on its west by the Cox Convention Center and its east by Redhawks Stadium, Bricktown is an amalgam of drinking establishments and restaurants that caters to all tastes, from breweries to burlesque, from piano bars to shot and a beer saloons.

Our tour of Bricktown starts with its namesake brewery for supper. Bricktown Brewery sports a huge array of tasty accompaniments to suds. Our family partook in corn dogs, quesadillas, barbequed pulled chicken and the Oklahoma state meal- chicken fried steak with black-eyed peas. Naturally, the food required beer. So, let’s give you drinking notes to a couple of their brews.

The first draught we encountered was the 46 Star Oklahoma Amber Ale, which was the standard light-bodied ale of the brewery. Low in bitterness, but decent depth of malt and pretty lacing makes this beer a great all-around selection for pizza, burgers, and nachos. Since I had the chicken fried steak, I asked for another round; this time ordered up the Remington Red Ale, another malty delight that brought more hops and paired wonderfully with the Oklahoma state meal as it would with pulled pork, barbeque brisket, and ribeyes.

You know that Bricktown cocktails are our next stop, but for that, you’ll have to wait until our next entry...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Canadian Wildfire Cocktail

Today, we got more smoke than we bargained for. It was the Fourth of July, of course, so we were expecting fireworks smoke, barbecues, and the like, but the high altitude smoke from raging Canadian wildfires had drifted south. An hour before sunset, the sun was beet red and hazy. It gave us inspiration to create a drink.

We have never smoked a cocktail before. We, instead, often use ingredients that are smoky prior to the construction of the actual drink like a Laphroaig wash or the addition of smoked salt or sugar. To smoke a cocktail efficiently, most bartenders now use a cold smoke gun. They get the job done for about $100. Now, I know most of the Lounge Lizards aren’t going to drop a Benjamin on a smoker, even if you can use it for food too. So we used wood chips (toothpicks) to light a mound of tea to gather our smoke and it worked pretty well; what you have to remember is that gas from a lighter and sulphur from a match don’t taste very good so do not use these as your smoke source.

If you would like to use a smoke gun, you can see mixologist Jamie Boudreau apply one using tea leaves here:

Canadian Wildfire Cocktail
Holly’s Original

1 1/2 ounce Canadian whisky (We used Canadian Club 100)
1/2 ounce Cointreau (or premium triple sec)
Dash Angostura bitters
Contents of a bag of Chai tea

Combine whisky, Cointreau and bitters in a service vessel.

Open the tea bag and pour out its contents in a flame retardant container (we used an aluminum pan). Alight the tea with a wood chip. Invert a glass over smoke for a short time. Extinguish fire.

Add a large ice cube to smoked glass. Pour the cocktail over the large ice cube. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Memories and Happy Fourth of July!

Our 15th Anniversary party was a success. We thank all of you who came out to spend the evening with us, especially Marilyn, who removed Jason’s kitchen shackles for at least one night. In many ways we wouldn’t be the people we are without all of you.

Most of the night we reminisced as much as we drank, and a few times we reminisced about drinking! Since some of you couldn’t make it for the drinking how about repeating some of these college classics for your Fourth of July weekend.

Corrie, M.J., Aaron and I were pondering the oldest bottle in the Firewater Lounge, a bottle of Aftershock. We rarely pour the cooling cinnamon schnapps, especially since Firewater was the mainstay of Winterfest. However, we did have this college shooter we used to evaluate the worthiness of friends-of-friends that would come to our parties. The shooter is half Firewater, half Aftershock, poured over a speared cherry. We would tell newbies that this was a sophisticated little drink that you should be able to tell the cherry nuances after pounding the shot. In reality, the drink is 90 proof, so no one but suck-ups would claim they taste cherries. Those people were soon to be very, very drunk (or out snipe hunting).

Iron Maiden
Holly's Originals

3/4 ounce Aftershock cinnamon schnapps
3/4 ounce Firewater cinnamon schnapps

Use cocktail swords to skewer a maraschino cherry like shown in the photo. Place speared cherry on a shot glass. Pour liqueurs over the cherry into the shot glass. Remove cherry and shoot! Taste like cherries?

A second shooter we tested the green drinkers with is the classic cement mixer. Purposely, this shot coagulates in your mouth and has caught many a college drinker off-guard and those in the know, loving it.

Cement Mixer
Classic Pour

1 part Bailey's Irish Cream
1 part lime juice

Pour both ingredients in a shot glass. Take the shot, but retain it all in your mouth. Shake your head like you are a dog with a fun chew toy. Chew and swallow.

If you haven’t caught on, we have given you a red drink and a white drink, so how about a blue one to complete our Fourth of July/15th Anniversary/college memory blog post. Often times we need a name for a newly concocted drink. Back in the day, we leaned on M.R. Hoffman to do the honors. This is what he came up with for this one...

Floating Blue Balls
Holly's Originals

1/2 ounce Herbsaint (or Absinthe)
1 1/2 ounce pineapple rum
1 1/2 ounce blue curacao
1 ounce Champagne (we use Aria Cava here)

Wash the inside of a cold Champagne flute with the Herbsaint, then discard remainder. Stir rum and curacao on ice (I added five drops of Boker’s bitters to make this a true, tastier cocktail) in a separate vessel. Strain contents into your Herbsaint-prepared flute. Add chilled Champagne. Garnish with blackberries.

Friday, May 15, 2015

D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer Double Imperial Stout

We don't normally buy anything because of the label, but you have to love a beer named after a frog called D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer. This 22 ouncer is a huge beer - a strong meaty aroma and long complex savory taste. From Akron, Ohio's, Hoppin' Frog Brewery, Doris pours out like motor oil. Like a lot of the aspects of this stout, we are not altogether sure if this is a good or a bad thing. When pouring, the label urges you to 'pour carefully to avoid disturbing the natural yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle.' For us at the Lounge, we didn't like this advice. First, it left us a lousy head, thin and laceless. Second, we didn't have the breadiness that would help Doris' savory balance. Luckily, since Doris comes in 22 ouncers, you can pour it both ways to see which way you like it.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Crash Cart Cocktail

A long time ago, we put together a little black book of cocktail recipes for our friends and family for Christmas. It was elementary, a bit amateurish, and some of the recipes are, as the boys would say back it the day, ‘hard on the parts.’ It was also a lot of fun to put together. Now that we are a lot older, smarter, and better looking, we like to stun you with outstanding unique cocktails illustrated with top-of-the-line photographic excellence. Sadly, it has come to our attention that not all the Lounge Lizards can pour the cocktails we post because they are not privy to the contents of the Lounge. Point taken. Therefore, we dipped back into our little black book for an original that you can all pour and will keep you partying all night. Not only is this drink one of our truly favorite originals (we still pour it all the time), it’s the only drink in the little black book whose recipe was wrong! Why? Well, M.J. pointed out that we forgot the Mountain Dew!

Crash Cart Cocktail
Holly's Original

2 parts Desert Island Long Island Ice Tea Cocktail Mix
1 part orange juice (we use Simply Orange)
1 part Red Bull (or your favorite energy drink)
Splash of fresh-squeezed lime juice
Splash of Mountain Dew
Spash of 7up

Combine all ingredients in a vessel of your choice. The original Triple C was invented in a hurricane glass. Because this is made whopatooli-style, stir instead of shake.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Karben4 Block Party

Finally Karben4 has a second beer in a bottle. The best young Madison brewery has been wowing restaurant goers for a couple of years now with its little beauties like Lady Luck and NightCall on tap but had resisted bottling until last years offering Fantasy Factory IPA. While Fantasy Factory is good, we at the Firewater Lounge had been waiting for what Karben4 is known for: a big malted draught. Look no further because Block Party is here (although you may have to wait a bit since we took the last six-pack from Woodman’s and left a huge hole in the rack labelled ‘Karben4’).

Block Party is a medium-bodied American Amber Ale. It pours out a hazy, dark amber-red with a finger-and-a-half head that dies quickly. It smells full of bread with hops underneath with a bit of citrus. Drinking Block Party is easy. Smooth and clean, less hoppy than even its muted aroma, this beer is all about biscuity malts and a tint of floral citrus. On hot days, you’ll drink a growler in no time and look for more. It’s wonderful clean flavor makes it a great partner to food, but not cocktails, since it would become lost quickly. Our recommendation is to enjoy it with pretzels, pizza, and tacos.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lake Louie's The Twins

If there’s one thing that completely irritates us in the Firewater Lounge about greenhorn bandwagon beer snobs in the popular craft beer scene, it’s the idea that the hoppier the beer the more sophisticated and good it is. So these so-called connoisseurs choke down an extra Indian, extra pale ale with extra, super-modified hoppy hops and proclaim how awesome it is, while holding back bitter tears and a gag reflex that would impress Katie Morgan. It would be akin to us handing a Firewater Lounge Lizard a cocktail composed of Angostura and Peychaud bitters alone, promise its tastiness, and promptly watch said Lizard spew it back over our virtual bar, screaming, ‘What is that crap!'

Bitterness is a characteristic that is rarely the star; to get it to intelligently perform in your beverage, you need to know your craft. To drink bitterness intelligently, you need to understand what balance in a drink means. That means you must drink more than IPAs to understand and appreciate good beers. So let’s point you in a good direction.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Visit to Spec's

Heaven is Spec’s. The Texas liquor superstore is everything the alcohol connoisseur needs and wants- aisles and aisles of liquid awesome. Boasting 150 stores all over Texas, if Spec’s doesn’t have it, it’s likely able to get it for you. I stopped at my first Spec’s outside San Antonio and spent $200 without blinking. I was kicking myself because I didn’t have cash since Spec’s has a policy of 5% back if you pay with cash. So, to get this discount, I got cash, and stopped at the Spec’s in Austin. I spent another $100. I know, either I have to leave Texas or find a clinic that specializes in liquor warehouse addiction.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Forbidden Secret

The last original cocktail that we put up in on the blog was a pre-winter cream cocktail, the Butterscotch and Cream. Now that it’s mid-winter, we will add another cream cocktail; however, we’re going to hold off on the Bailey’s. Actually, here in the Firewater Lounge, we’ve held off on the Bailey’s for a while now. Why? Well, the traditional Irish cream is a flexible mainstay, one of the 30 Essentials, and likely in the fridge for Winterfest XXII, but, quite frankly, Bailey’s is not alone at the top of the cream liquors anymore.