Prompted by my desire to find a recipe for margaritas that I enjoyed and could do a passable job with at the house, aided by Costco’s price for a 5-pound bag of limes for just $4.39, I’ve had a lot of limes to work with. I was steered toward cocktails that might use lime in addition to those margarita trials. Gin and tonics, of course, but I had to expand my repertoire.
Other than for the margaritas, the mantra was easy and refreshing for our warm climate. Ice. Like most Americans I demand it with spirits most of the time. I didn’t mind squeezing a lime or two, but nothing much more than that other than stirring and sometimes shaking. And no garnishes. Other than for the margaritas, I generally wanted lower alcohol, too. I had grown to appreciate the Italian approach to the apertivo, the pre-dinner cocktails that not only provide some alcoholic pleasure, though not a lot, and also help open the appetite often with their hints of bitterness. For that, vermouth and soda didn’t work out that well for me. I didn’t really like any of the versions that I made, with Cocchi Americano and another semi-sweet vermouth, Dolin Blanc. Dolin Dry, which I employ for my martinis, didn’t do the trick either, but at least one Italian product did work.
A big take-away from the nearly daily mixing research was that Fever Tree is near necessity for my palate, both its tonic waters and its club soda. Another is that lime really does help a great many cocktails. Using limes and lemons – usually half of each at a time – generally makes the drinks more vibrant, refreshing and tastier, adding some welcome balance to the spirit, in part. Below is a quintet of easy mixers that I’ve quite liked in recent months.
(Irish) Whiskey and Soda
Tullamore Dew, a smooth and easily enjoyable Irish whiskey, with more balance and flavor than the most popular Irish renditions, was reintroduced to me by the fine folks at The Mucky Duck, where it is used in their excellent version of the Irish Coffee.
Two ounces of Tullamore Dew mixed with five ounces of Fever Tree club soda over plenty of ice with two lemon quarters squeezed in, stirred a few times. Fever Tree’s tonic water very conveniently comes in 8-packs for just about 5-ounce cans that makes for a single drink. I’ve only seen those at Spec’s, though. I prefer lemon to lime for this and the similar Scotch and soda, but lime works quite well, too.
Scotch and Soda
Scotch and Soda / Mud in your eye / Baby, do I feel high, oh me oh my / Do I feel high. The opening words and melody of “Scotch and Soda” from the Kingston Trio recorded in the early 1960s had been a memory of my youth from an LP of my mom’s, many years before my first taste of scotch. Very oddly and coincidentally, the song was discovered by one of the members in the home of the parents of Tom Seaver, Tom Terrific.
This is a very good way to use an affordably priced blended Scotch. Save the more distinctive single malts for sipping solo. Two ounces of good blended Scotch – Famous Grouse is what I am using now – mixed with five ounces of Fever Tree club soda over plenty of ice with the juice of half of a lemon, stirred a few times, just like above.
Campari and Soda
It took me quite a while to appreciate the assertively bitter Campari, maybe Italy’s most iconic liqueur. In addition to an occasional well-made Negroni, I’ve grown to like Campari and soda, usually as a pre-dinner refresher and a liter bottle of the bold red concoction has been getting replaced at a greater clip in recent months. I mix at least two parts Fever Tree club soda to one of Campari along with the juice of half a lime over ice is often an enjoyable and relatively low alcohol starter..
Gin and Tonic
I’ve long liked gin and tonics, mostly as a warm weather cocktail, much of the year here. I grew a greater appreciation of these with the wonderful, inventive Spanish-style gin and tonics done up at BCN. I haven’t tried to replicate the somewhat elaborate versions there, as I’m sure I’ll fall woefully short of its skilled bartenders, but I’ve come to appreciate the quality of Fever Tree tonic waters. That had been affirmed at Public Services through a few, or many, gin and tonics there. It is the tonic portion of the gin and tonic that is the most important part of the equation as it’s the largest part, so high-quality tonic water is key. It makes a big difference. For me, it’s Fever Tree. Its tonic waters, in all its forms, I much prefer to the similarly priced ones from Q Tonic.
Concerning the fun part, the gin, though long my go-to for martinis, I’ve determined that London Dry gin, with its familiar taste featuring prominence of juniper flavors, is also my favorite for gin and tonics. The ones I like the best are the ones among the most widely found and modestly priced: Bombay, Tanqueray, Tanqueray No. 10, and Plymouth’s. Ford’s has been well employed at bars and restaurants.
For me, an ideal has been either Citrus and Mediterranean Fever Tree tonic waters mixed at 2-to-1 or 2 ½-to-1 ratio to a good London Dry gin over ice with the juice of half a lime and stirred gently a few times.
This drink, a popular way to take the edge of the heat in far west Texas, came to my attention in recent years, likely from Texas Monthly. I had my first one at Eight Row Flint and was nonplussed. As it got warmer here in the spring, and with all the limes I had courtesy of Costco packaging ethos, I thought I could actually do better at home. I did, with some guidance.
Adapted from a recipe in Texas Monthly, I have been using two ounces of a nicely priced but well-done blanco tequila – mostly El Jimador and its pricier sibling Espolon – two ounces of lime Juice, which usually means two limes, poured into a pint or shaker glass with a salted rim and filled about two-thirds the way with ice. Topo Chico is then poured over the rest and stirred a few times. I’ve that the salt helps to balance the flavors of the tequila and lime, and its acidity. There is a reason that margaritas are served with salted rims. For a spicy kick, my brother-in-law suggested using jalapeño slices. I prefer serranos. It works well, two thin horizontal slices should provide sufficient kick for most. Three was too many for my tastes.
These are the easy ones. Look for information about the more involved, and alcoholic, ones in the near future.