The Exposure of Cranberry Cocktails in Pop Culture
Today we are going to talk about two cocktails that are not so different from each other. One is the Cranberry Martini aka Crantini and the other is the slightly more complex Cosmopolitan aka Cosmo.
When I think about cranberry juice, I remember that line from the Departed. Where Leonardo Decaprio’s character orders a cranberry juice at the bar and then the other character goes, “that’s what my girlfriend drinks when she’s on her period, are you on your period?” Then Leo kicks his ass.
Needless to say, with the prominence in the Sex and the City and the one line from the Departed, which is my favourite movie, cranberry juice in general has a certain femininity to it. I now have this preconception that cocktail with cranberry juice in it are for women. Which although might be socially agreed upon is not politically correct. I should be able to order any cocktail without having to feel self-conscious.
The first drink I ever ordered, officially, by myself, without getting ID, was a gin and juice (cranberry juice). It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I like cranberry juice. There is certain dry taste to the drink that other juice doesn’t have. It makes me feel more mature when I’m drinking cranberry juice as opposed to orange or apple or grape.
How is the Cranberry Martini Different from the Classic Martini?
A traditional martini consists of gin or vodka and some dry vermouth with an olive to garnish — a bit of olive juice too if you want to make it dirty.
The thing about a cranberry martini is that it is mostly always made with vodka and doesn’t contain any dry vermouth at all.
The cranberry juice kind of takes over the dryness of the vermouth, but as a cocktail, it’s not really a substitute, it makes it a completely different drink. You can almost say that a Crantini isn’t a Martini at all. While it may have some boozy quality that you may love in a Martini, a Crantini in my opinion should be classified as a simplified version of the Cosmopolitan.
So my question is, does the simplification make the drink that much worst? If you don’t have the triple sec or the lime juice, can you have the same level of enjoyment with a Crantini? Or should a simplified cocktail have its own identity?
The Cosmopolitan and the 90s
The Cosmopolitan is one of those artifacts that brings you right back to the 90s. It’s funny thinking of the 90s as a long time ago, but in a way it is. It’s retro the way disco is now retro. I wasn’t of age in the 90s or the early 2000s, so I wasn’t a part of the Cosmo buzz, and even if I was around back then, I don’t think I would order the Cosmopolitan at a bar. Unless of course I end up at the Odeon in Tribeca, New York, where the origin of the Cosmopolitan began.
It’s tricky ordering drinks at a bar sometimes, because you don’t know what glassware it’s going to come in. Up until recently, anytime I ordered a cocktail and the drink comes in a coupe glass, I would feel a little embarrassed — as If I was drinking a girly drink.
I’m not a big fan of coupe glasses as their little stem makes it more prone to being broken. Coupe glasses were originally designed for champagne in the 17th century, but later became a fixture for cocktails. I guess what makes me uncomfortable with it is that it looks like a boob. When you are holding it, you are cupping a boob. It’s been said to have been inspired by Marie Antoinette's left breast, so there you have it.
Anyways, making a Cosmo really does test my sexuality, which to be honest is healthy to do every once in awhile. Do something feminine and indulge in it. Take a bubble bath or go shopping with a group of friends, boys, it’s good to acknowledge that side of us.
How to Make a Cosmopolitan
Ingredients for Cosmopolitan
1.5 oz vodka
0.25 oz lime juice
0.25 oz triple sec
0.25 oz cranberry juice
Pour vodka, lime juice, triple sec, and cranberry juice into shaker, add ice, shake. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
How to Make a Crantini
Ingredients for Crantini
3.5 oz vodka
0.5 oz cranberry juice
Pour vodka and cranberry juice into shaker, add ice, and shake. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
It’s hard to say that a simplified drink can ever resemble its more complex version. A slight adjustment in ingredient and proportion is enough to throw the flavour off of any cocktail, therefore, it’s fair to say that any drink with a different recipe should have a different name. A Crantini can certainly exist off of a branch of the Cosmopolitan and represent itself as a distant cousin, but it cannot replace a Cosmo in the sense of flavour — appearance maybe, but not flavour.
A Crantini does have that Martini tone to it. It is bolder, boozier. Whereas, the Cosmopolitan — in my experience — is a sweeter beverage, more suited for lunch date, as opposed to being the after dinner drink for a Thanksgiving or a Christmas dinner that a Crantini is more suited for. One of these drinks may be considered a simplified version, but it is by no means the substitute when you don’t have the ingredients. Yes, you can make due, but the structure of the drink will be completely altered.
Give it a try at home: make yourself a Crantini and then make yourself a Cosmopolitan and see which one you like more. Let me know what you think in the comments!
All Hail the Caesar
Not everybody loves tomato juice, but I do — and I really enjoy the Caesar.
The Caesar and the Bloody Mary are the perfect drinks during a lunch or a brunch date. Nobody thinks you have a problem if you order a Caesar during lunch. They just think you are eccentric and that you know how to relax. If you were ordering a rum and coke during lunch, they might think otherwise.
In the summer, there is nothing like making a Caesar or a Bloody Mary and taking it easy on a patio.
Either way, growing up in Canada, the Caesar is a solid choice, but I later found out that the nation below us, America, they don’t have the same type of Clamato as we do up here.
Clamato is tomato juice with certain spices and also CLAM BROTH. Yes, clam broth. What a concept. I know, the idea of a fishy seafood liquid doesn’t really sound appetizing in a cocktail, right? If you haven’t tried it, I know it can sound weird, but give it a shot. Anyways, apparently it’s hard to replicate this drink in the states, because there is something special about the Canadian Clamato (I’m guessing, it’s clammier or spicier — one day, I’ll find an American bottle of Clamato and give it a taste). Nevertheless, there is a variation of the drink that literally anyone in the world can make with regular tomato juice. It is called the Bloody Mary.
The Lore of the Bloody Mary
The Bloody Mary was invented in 1921 in a bar for expatriates, such as Hemingway.
I think the name Bloody Mary is a wonderful name for a drink. It’s dark and I love it. It’s like drinking the blood of Mary Tudor. And the folklore of Bloody Mary haunted my childhood dreams. My friend, so I thought she was my friend, told me that I would see her materialize in front of me, if I say “bloody mary,” three times in the bathroom mirror while I flicked the lights on and off. I tried it once and didn’t see the ghost of Mary with my own eyes, but my childhood imagination was enough to give me the spooks.
It turns out that this lore is just an optical illusion. The phenomenon was explained by Giovanni Caputo, who writes in a report called “Strange-Face-in-the-Mirror Illusion” where he discussed how staring at a mirror in a dimly lit room can cause hallucinations. Because you are looking in the mirror, your brain ends up making a mistake, a facial recognition that is disassociated from your own reflection.
Even though, I’m confident that there is nothing haunting my bathroom, I won’t be standing in my dark bathroom, uttering “Bloody Mary” anymore. Thinking about Bloody Mary cocktail, still gives me a little visceral double clutch. Which is what a good cocktail name should do.
Want to learn more about the history of the Bloody Mary cocktail? Check out this podcast from Food Stuff: Bloody Marys: Dubious Historically and Hangoverly
The History of the Caesar aka Bloody Caesar
Ginger Beef, Tommy Chong, and the Caesar — next time someone asks you what came out of Calgary, you will have an answer.
Out of those three things mentioned, I can confidently say that the Caesar tops the list. Sorry, Tommy.
The Caesar was invented by a mixologist in Calgary, Alberta, in 1969 to celebrate the opening of a new restaurant in the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Calgary), Marco’s Italian. The cocktail was inspired by the Italian dish, Spaghetti Vongole.
If you come up to Canada, you can now get Caesars that are decked out with garnished that might as well be called a meal. It’s a novelty for sure, but people love cocktail gimmicks, don’t they? Celery, bacon and even a whole sandwich can be stacked on.
In the States, if you order a Caesar, you might even be calling it a Canadian Bloody Mary — if they know what you are actually wanting. God forbid they bring you a salad. >_<
How to Make a Bloody Mary?
Begin by rimming a collins glass with sea salt and pepper. You must do this before you put ice into the glass, otherwise, it becomes a whole thing…
Fill up your shaker tin with ice, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and lemon juice. Then top it off with tomato juice. You’d want to chill the drink, but you don’t want to shake it with ice as it’ll cause too much air bubbles to get into the tomato juice — and we don’t want that. So you’d want to roll the drink.
Finally, pour it into the collins glass, and garnish with celery — but literally any leftover vegetable or even a slice of bacon will work. Heck, put your whole lunch on it.
How to Make a Caesar?
Much like the Bloody Mary, you’d want to start off by rimming a collins glass. Rim first, ice after. With Caesar, the recipe calls for celery salt, as opposed to run-of-the-mill sea salt. I’d like to experiment with my rimming salt. Try using steak or chicken BBQ rub. It adds another unique layer of spice to the whole experience.
Then in a shaker tin, mix vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco Sauce, lime juice, and finally the Clamato juice. Roll it to chill the drink — don’t shake as it’ll cause the juice to get bubbly and weird. Strain it into the collins glass and garnish with whatever you have lying around.
There is a very noticeable difference between the two drinks. The Bloody Mary is like a high school band on stage during a community battle of the bands, where as the Caesar actually feels like a complete orchestra. All the flavors are fuller, harmonizing. For you tomato and clam flavour lovers out there in the States, and I know you’re out there, if there is a reason to come up to Canada, it’s for a Caesar— oh and Ketchup chips.
The Caesar for the win!
If you want to add another dimension to your drink, I recommend using a flavoured vodka. Not any flavour vodka, find a Maple Bacon one if you can. It’s delightfully sweet. The bottle that help me make that discovery was was Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Maple Bacon Vodka.
Have you noticed that some cocktail ingredients aren’t available where you are from — looking for substitutes? Let me know in the comments.
Pre-tasting: Are two lime wedges worth it?
Today, we are going to talk about Cuba Libre vs Rum and Coke. Some people would say that these drinks are synonymous. I disagree because what sets a Cuba Libre apart for the Rum and Coke is one key ingredient: lime.
It’s also not called Rum and Coke and Lime — it’s Rum and Coke. Unless the customer asks for additional lime, you wouldn’t pop a lime in there for them.
So there you have it, the main difference between the two concoctions. But does the lime really make that big of a difference to the overall characteristic of the drink? Does it have any other differences?
Before we go into flavour, I can think of another potential difference. Cost. As someone who is just out at a bar, I would never order a Cuba Libre. There are so many drinks to choose from, why would I choose what is essentially Rum and Coke with a bit of lime juice in it. Sorry, that is the snobby me talking.
Still, odds are, if you were to order a Cuba Libre, the bartender might just take the liberty to charge you more for sounding fancy. Next time you are at a bar, try this: Order a Cuba Libre and then order a Rum and Coke and see if they charge you more. I bet they would, those swindling barkeeps. The thing is, I’d also bet that if you order a Rum and Coke with a couple of lime wedges, they will give you the wedges on the house. Life hack, I think...
Let’s talk about Highballs?
The thing about Cuba Libre and Rum and Coke is that many don’t even consider them a cocktail — they’re a highball. Here’s what I think. I think a Cuba Libre is a cocktail and a Rum and Coke is a highball.
My standard for a highball is that it is made with just two ingredients: well spirit and whatever the bar has on their gun: usual coke, juice or some other mixer. Highballs are there for efficiency, not for quality, so they are always built directly in the glass. No shaking, no stirring.
What do you think?
How to Make a Cuba Libre?
Fill glass with ice. Cut the lime into wedges and squeeze two into a glass (muddling optional). Add rum and top off with coke.
How to Make a Rum and Coke?
Please you don’t really need me to tell you, but keeping with the format:
Get a glass. Pour the shit in. Done.
Post-tasting: The lime makes all the difference.
I must admit, the Cuba Libre is a much more balanced drink thanks to the sourness of the lime. When you have a cocktail that is too sweet, bring in some sourness, and vice versa. If you have dark rum, it’s supposed to be better for dulling the sweetness of the cola as well. Go ahead, you have my permission, make yourself a rum and coke with lime at home and call it a Cuba Libre.
However, if you are at a dive bar looking to get smashed — which is probably the most popular time to be drinking a rum and coke. I’d avoid getting too fancy. Cuba Libre if you want to sound pretentious. Rum and Coke with lime if you are modest, like me. That’s the MAIN difference.
Let me know what you think about the two drinks in the comments. If you do end up ordering the both at a bar — let me know if there is a price difference from where you were.
Today we are going to talk about two very similar drinks: the Gin Fizz and the Tom Collins.
What is Gin Fizz?
A Fizz is a traditional drink. Usually a sour cocktail with soda water or sparkling water added on top to give it an effervescent, bubbly — fizz — quality to it. Without the fizz, it wouldn't be a Gin Fizz, it would be a Gin Sour.
The Story of Tom Collins
I love the story of the name Tom Collins. It's kind of funny. It might not be where the name Tom Collins originated, as there was a whiskey drink named John Collins that existed before it.
Apparently, back in 1874, there was the practical joke going around, this sending someone on a wild goose chase kind of thing. So the practical joke goes something like this: You're walking down the street and all of a sudden, someone comes up to you and goes, "Hey, Tom Collins, at the bar right now, is talking shit about you." Then you would get all worked up. "I'm gonna go and show that Tom Collins — I'm going to have him say that to my face." — or something like that. So you go all the way to the bar and you look for this Tom Collins person. You go up to the bartender and say, "Bartender, where is Tom Collins?" And he serves you a drink, because there was no Tom Collins person. It was very funny.
How to Make a Gin Fizz
Add gin, lemon juice, sugar into shaker tin. Shake with ice. Strain and pour into tall glass. Top off with soda water. Garnish with lemon slice or cherry.
One distinction between the Gin Fizz vs Tom Collins is that the Gin Fizz can have egg whites added, where as the Tom Collins never identifies as having egg whites.
How to Make a Tom Collins
What the Difference Between Gin Fizz and Tom Collins?
The two practically identical drinks only have a slight variation in the amount of gin, sugar and lemon juice added — of course, this ends up affecting the amount of soda water in the glass as well. Thus making one more boozy than the other (Gin Fizz). In the grand scheme of things, you can call one the other and nobody will say you are a liar. They might say you've mistaken, or that you are too drunk, but can they be 100% sure themselves? No way!
My suggestion: if you are ordering from a fancy cocktail bar, order a Gin Fizz. They'll most likely use a top shelf gin as the flavour of the spirit has the spotlight in the Gin Fizz, where as the Tom Collins is more of a beverage with ensemble players. Tom Collins is the more balance choice for those who are just getting their feet and lips wet with gin.
If you are using a high quality gin, go for the Gin Fizz — if you are looking for a more refreshing beverage to down during a hot sultry day, order the Tom Collins.
In the end, only you can make the decision of which one you truly like more. Give it a try at home or out a bar. Let me know what you discover in the comments. I'd love to hear your experience.
Why did we start raising, clinking our glasses and saying cheers?
Let me set the scene: your friends have gathered around, each holding a glass of champagne or a shot of tequila — it is a night to remember, even though you may forget in the morning — and you know there is only one way to complete this scene, with a toast and then the obligatory clink of the glasses.
The three-traditions-in-one of raising the glass, clinking it, and saying a few kind words may have originated at different times for a variety of reasons. Some historians believe that the act of raising the glass came from the Greeks, as an offering — a prayer to the Gods for good health.
Whereas the clinking of the glass, or making any sort of noise with the glass or goblets, might have come from Germanic tribes. It was believed that the noise would scare the ghosts and bad spirits away who were often suspected of frequenting large social gatherings and festivals.
Then there is the small speech, the toast. The toast, was once used in a literal sense, as people used stale toast to soak up the acidity in the wine. As the vintages back in the days were not as high quality as they are today, this helped with the flavour. It’s also worth mentioning that the act of wasting food just wasn’t something that people took part in back then. Think of it as a wine-soaked French toast.
I digress. The toast, the small speech version, was established in the 17th- to 18th-century when offering a praise or a shout-out to friends, family, and associations and then taking a large gulp of wine was an apt way to get drunk. Eventually, toastmasters were established to reign in the people who were giving toasts. Left without officiating, people would end up toasting everyone in the room.
Nevertheless, the explanation of why we clink the glass and say a few words before drinking that I appreciated the most is the idea of Oneness — how drinking excites all our senses.
Think about it. What do we do when we drink a glass of wine?
Before we drink a bottle of wine, we are most likely in a liquor store, browsing through the aisle looking for the right one. Now, you might already have one in mind, but sometimes, you need a bit of marketing to help entice. Whether that is the label, the award badges, the copy, the price, or just the way the bottle looks — as superficial as it sounds, sight is often the first attractor when selecting wine.
Then, once you pour the wine into the glass, you bring it up to the light and appreciate the colour. Is it red or white? Had it been influenced by oak during the process? Before you even touch the wine to your lips, you already have an idea of what your are dealing with.
Depending on the type of wine, we might chill it or we might serve it at room temperature — heck, we might even heat it up. The temperature of wine matters if you truly want to experience the drink at its ideal state. This can rather mean storing it in the right place, like a wine cellar or putting it in an ice bath before service.
Then you have to find the right glass to serve the wine in. This also equates to the sense of touch. The way your hand holds the glass when bringing it to your mouth, the way your mouth contorts itself and creates the pathway for the liquid to flow. As wine lovers know there is a certain art to the way your wine sits and aerates in your glass and the way you hold the vessel. Certain structures of the glass change the way you hold and drink. It changes nothing, but in a way, it changes everything.
The third sense of consuming wine is the sense of smell. We all know how smell affects taste, and this is quite clear when you are wine tasting. We all have this postage-stamp-size nerve cell in our nasal gland called the olfactory tract. Some believe that our olfactory tracts do more for the way we appreciate taste than our tastebuds. The sense of smell opens a channel, enabling us to taste the wine in an expansive way.
I always like the idea that you can only taste something for the first time once. It’s like watching a movie or reading a book for the first time. You are taken on a ride and each turn or dive the author takes you on is a surprise. The second taste is when you actually get to experience the nuances of the product. You recovered from the slap in the face. You begin to notice the red herrings and the details of the story, the same way you start to sense the full bouquet of the wine.
Lastly, here is where I like to think the clinking of glass comes from. By contacting glasses together and uttering a word — “cheers,” for example — we complete the experience. We give the moment what I like to call Oneness, where the act of drinking wine becomes an act that evokes all the senses, thus completing it.
We often like to think of ourselves as one physical thing. We are not. We are the combination of many living particles. We, like the universe, are made up of a bunch of interlinking elements. We are the bacteria living inside of us, we are the thoughts drifting in our head, we are the perception that other people have of us, and we are the presence when we enter a room. Yet, when it is all combined, we have this Oneness.
The idea of Oneness teaches us to take care of every little part of ourselves. In wine tasting, in order to achieve oneness, a completion, a care for every part, we needed to add it ourselves. We have to go out of our way to do it. So it goes with achieving oneness with other aspects of our lives.
For more on oneness, check out this trippy article.
A Secular Prayer for Good Health
Is alcohol good or bad for you? This has been the perplexing question I’ve been trying to understand from the day I was young, watching my father drink and get super drunk. That light-weight. He also smoked cigarettes too, but that’s another thing. Let’s be honest though, sugar is the real silent killer.
I digress. Back then, I thought I would never drink. Then as a teenager, I thought people who didn’t drink were nerds. Those fucking nerds. That thinking lasted all the way to today, where I consume an adult beverage almost every night. It’s not a problem yet.
My lifestyle is by no means excessive. I can afford it and I am a rather healthy person. Don’t let me tell you about all the stairs I climb. However, many believe that drinking alcohol is like traversing a slippery slope. One step you are fine, the next you are fine, and then you slip into a crippling addiction. Let me tell you something, addictions come in all forms. Video games, work, and pornography can all be equally addictive. Pick your poison and allow it to kill you, I say.
Back in the days, people had no idea that alcohol is bad for you — yes, in small quantity it is no worse than a slap on the ass — they drank it all the time. In fact, it kept them alive, because natural water was often polluted by unsanitary living. It was a means of life and less of an opportunity to get blitz on a Friday night. But you can bet your slappy ass that there was some freaky shit happening on Friday nights back in the days too.
Health. It’s arguably the most popular sentiment when someone holds up a glass to say a few words. “To good health,” they’d toast. It’s like saying grace before a meal. Cheersing is a little secular prayer.
This act of wishing good health unto your company was made famous by the Romans. At one point, the Senate even made a decree that every drink had be a well-wishing toast to Emperor Augustus. It is also believed that three times every meal Attila the Hun would be graced by wishes of good health from his entourage. I bet back then there was a lot of half hearted, insincere toast to good health.
Whether the God be the speck of light in the sky or the ruler of the kingdom, a cheers is a little wish for wellness.
Fear of Poison
The first origin of clinking glasses before drinking that I was aware of was probably the one you heard of too. The fear of being poisoned was a genuine concern back in the old days. Today, you’ll see folks like me mixing a variety of alcohol and fluid together in a Gatorade bottle: whiskey, jagermister, Red Bull, and whatever this is. Classy.
But back then, the way they ensure their company that the drink they are going to partake in was not tainted was to clink the glasses together, thus splashing the liquid in one’s glass into the companions. By doing so, the poison — if there was any — would have been transferred.
This is obviously a darker side of the world of cheers and toasting. Although there is no historical evidence that this act was done to prevent poisoning, it seems absolutely plausible. We don’t need to get Bill Cosby to comment on this, but we know how something as innocent as handing someone a drink can turn sinister. We don’t always get to drink with friends in this life and sometimes we are in a watering hole alone, fending for ourselves. We act confident, but in reality we are all preys. Be cautious of each drink you hold — it can be your last. And isn’t that a nice thrill?
Let’s talk about food for a moment, specifically food at a restaurant. When I was growing up, I wasn’t taught to wait for everybody’s dishes to arrive before eating. I would just chow down. That was Chinese tradition where we shared all the courses. We didn’t have our own individual plate, we have one of many communal dishes and my family would poke at everything with their chopstick. That was the world I grew up in and I was quite content with that.
As I grew up, I went to more dinners with people of other origins, most noticeably the European origin with their North American ethics. Either way, they tended to go to restaurants where the dishes were brought out one at a time, even though the servers, and probably the cooks too, did their best to synchronize it so that everybody was served at once. Now and then, someone would be left waiting for their dish. The polite thing is to have everybody wait to for the sad sad to get his or her food before they dug into theirs. I went by the customs lest I be rude, but in my mind I’m thinking, “well, that’s dumb… now your food is getting cold.” When I’m the sad sad without the food, I would insist that everybody start eating. There is no point waiting for me… I'd think to myself, I’m already dead.
I get it though. It’s all about coming together. Like a team, we eat together. Cheers and the clinking of glass, at the end, is the same kind of idea. It’s about coming together with good health. It like the offensive line of a football team putting their hands in during a huddle. We are coming together and we are bound by this moment. We are bound by all our sense. We are bound by our health. And here’s to that.