Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The (Cosmo) Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes

Among a cosmopolitan’s many appeals is its rosy hue; what other color would such a girly drink be? The ones Barbara and I have been enjoying lately are not the traditional blush-tinted ones; because of the industrial strength Trader Joe’s cranberry juice, they’re more of a vibrant fuchsia. Still in the pink family, though. Still lovely.

During this holiday season, we had occasion to explore a whole new color palette, with surprising results. First, I was gifted with a bottle of blue gin. Magellan, it’s called; “Precious Distillation, Imported from France.” When I showed Barbara, we both thought it was the bottle that was blue, the way Bombay Sapphire is, but then we poured out a shot and found that the actual gin is blue, from iris flowers, which was exciting because pink + blue would equal purple, and we thought that would be kind of fun.

But no, the resulting cosmo looked exactly the same as one made with normal gin.

Then on Barbara’s Hanukkah-themed Christmas Eve, she had grape juice along with pot roast, latkes and kugel, and mixed up a batch with the deep purple juice instead of cranberry juice. Once again, the resulting drink looked exactly the same as the regular ones.

We may have to add color theory to our list of experiments, because I want to see what a cosmo made with white cranberry juice and blue gin would look like. Although I think I already know: despite not having one pink ingredient, it will look pink because apparently drinking cosmos makes one view the world through rose-colored cocktail glasses. Or something like that.

Happy Holidays from Searching the Cosmos.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Never Too Late to Become a Cosmo Girl

After all this cosmo talk, my mother-in-law, Min, wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Actually it was her daughter Jean who wanted to know, but Min was curious as well. So on a visit to Connecticut this past summer, I brought all of the ingredients plus the cocktail shaker and some glasses.

As you can tell from the attached photo, Min liked it. I like the way her shirt matches her cocktail.

Trying something new is nothing new for her, by the way; she lives for it. She’s talking about taking flying lessons, for example. Although now that I think of it, that’s not new because she had a license 70 years ago, when she and her mother were part owners of a Piper Cub.

Here’s to the newest cosmo girl in my circle, on the occasion of her 87th birthday today. Cheers, Min!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Have a Cosmopolitan Thanksgiving

After writing yesterday about how a particular cranberry sauce reminded me of a cosmo, I realized that the same thought must have occurred to someone else....

Happy Thanksgiving,

Barbara and Mary

From Epicurious:

Cosmopolitan Cranberry Sauce

This vibrant condiment takes its inspiration from the popular cocktail the Cosmopolitan. The alcohol heightens the sauce’s flavor, but for kids and nondrinkers, the recipe can easily be made nonalcoholic by substituting orange juice for the water and deleting the vodka and liqueur.

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vodka
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec [or Cointreau]

In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, combine cranberries, sugar, and ½ cup water. Bring to boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and reduced to about 3 cups, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to medium bowl and cool, stirring often, until tepid, about 30 minutes. Stir in vodka and liqueur. Transfer to serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 2 hours. (Sauce can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and refrigerated.) Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Karaoke and Cosmos, Texas-Style

Everything is bigger in Texas. How much bigger? When I made cosmos for my sister Laura’s 8th annual karaoke party earlier this month, instead of using a shot glass I used a measuring cup.

Traditionally, Laura only serves beer, wine or soda at these events, but last year she served a pitcher of margaritas to go with the chili that was on menu. I was the bartender and wound up making two or three small pitchers of them, at most. But Laura still liked the idea of a signature cocktail for this year. Because cosmos are alliteratively compatible with karaoke, in addition to being delicious, was the cocktail of choice.

I made up a big batch starting with six cups of vodka. (Even though Laura, like I, prefers gin, we agreed that many people do not, so we went with the traditional recipe.) When I was done, the decanter was too full to add any ice too and would have been to heavy to shake even if I could have, so we stuck it in a giant tub of ice.

That decanter held about 32 drinks, and there were about 32 people coming. Everyone would have one, or some people would have none and others would have two. Either way, we figured we’d have plenty.

What we did not figure on was the need to send someone out for more ingredients.

The cosmos were more popular than Laura’s rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” and that is saying something. Except for the guy who returned his for being not cold enough (which, frankly it wasn’t right then — he got the first one poured), people loved them.

Was it the cosmos or just coincidence that long-established permanent audience members (that is, enthusiastic boosters who never sang) found themselves onstage, microphone in hand, for the very first time? One of those people says she was just holding the microphone and mouthing the words, but it was still something the crowd never thought they’d see.

As great as my trip to Dallas was, there were two cosmo-related low points. The first came when I realized that during the post-party cleanup a quart of cosmos got poured down the sink. (Yes, I do remember dumping half a pitcher of margaritas last year, but this was totally different because those were margaritas and these were COSMOS, two of which I intended to drink when I got back to Laura’s — I was driving and so not drinking during the party.)

The second incident came the night after the party when a group of us went to my favorite barbecue restaurant, Smoke, for the second time in three days. Since I wasn’t driving, I ordered a "Real Deal" Cranberry Cosmo: vodka, Cointreau, fresh lime, cranberry juice and grenadine; I replaced the vodka with gin. Served in a large Tom Collin’s glass, it didn’t look anything like a cosmo, or taste like one either. I didn’t even bother to drink it.

So actually, I didn’t even really get to have a Texas-style cosmo. What would that be, anyway? Maybe it should involve jalapenos? I made a roasted cranberries with jalapenos dish last Thanksgiving that reminded me a little of cosmos. Hmmm. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make...Gin and Tonics?

The official drink of the group who gets together to watch Project Runway is not cosmos even though Barbara and I are the charter members. It’s gin and tonics, because one really hot night a few summers ago when Barbara came over to watch the premier of the third season, even though it conflicted with Lost. Having a cool cocktail seemed like the thing to do. I filled up a 16-ounce glass with ice, tonic, added a short shot of gin and a slice of lime and called that a gin and tonic, though it was really gin-flavored tonic, which seemed appropriate for a weeknight when there was work or 6 a.m. swimming practice the next day.

Before too long, the P-Run group had grown to include Barbara M., another Mary S. plus Sue and Carol. (I always say we need a Linda and Debbie to round out our “born in the 50s” names.) The big-gulp-sized gin and tonics were a big hit. We did taste tests with three different tonics (Schweppes won, with Seagram’s second and Canada Dry last) and later added diet tonic to the menu. As for gin, sometimes the bottle is green, sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s clear plastic. We don’t really care.

But we must have limes. If whoever is hosting doesn’t have limes, a panicked email goes out requesting that someone bring one. The result is an abundance of limes, because everyone brings one or two rather than risk doing without. If we didn’t have limes, I don’t think we’d bother with gin and tonics.

Which leads me to Little Bee, by Chris Cleave.* One of the characters is a bit of lush whose drink is gin and tonic with lemon. Lemon? At first I thought it must be a misprint. Bad editing. Then I thought maybe the preference for lemon was an idiosyncrasy of this one British character that would horrify the rest of the people in a country known for their love of gin and tonics.

So I checked and found this in a London newspaper blog: “Only lemon properly complements a gin and tonic.”

That’s the headline of a post at the Telegraph’s site by Gerald Warner, a “author, broadcaster, columnist and polemical commentator who writes about politics, religion, history, culture and society in general.” An excerpt:

“Gin and tonic with a slice of lime, sir? Leave it out! And I really do mean, leave it out. Of all the proliferating evidence that the world has gone to the demnition bow-wows, the most incontrovertible is the pervasive practice of poisoning gin and tonic with slices of lime. Ugh. Is nothing sacred? A proper gin and tonic is served with a slice of LEMON.”**

He goes on to point out that an enforced consumption of lime juice provoked mutiny on the “Bounty,” and says one can see Fletcher Christian’s point.

The letters to the editor about the post are heavily pro-lime, but that could be because the smug pro-lemon contingent finds addressing the issue as distasteful as the lime itself. There is plenty to read in support of both sides, and while I’m inclined to stay with limes, you never know.

P-Run ladies, another taste test is in order. When does season 9 start?

Literary footnotes:

*I loved Little Bee until the end, which was also true of the book I read before it, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and after, One Day. Three in a row where my enthusiasm lasted until the very last pages. For Edgar Sawtelle, that was my own fault – the book has themes out of Hamlet, how did I think it was going to end? – but for the other two I hold the authors responsible.

**“The world has gone to the demnition bow-wows” is apparently a quote from Charles Dickens, who used the word “demnition” a lot. I’ve never heard it before, and it took me a while to find a definition. It means “hot.” The one source I finally found says it’s American, which makes me wonder how the dickens Dickens knew it and I did not.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Searching Like Scientists Search

The Scientific Method is a process for experimentation used to explore observations and answer questions. It follows laws of logic first defined by Aristotle. It was used by Watson and Crick to determine the double-helix structure of DNA. And it was what Barbara and I used to uncover some insights into the cosmos.

Step One: Ask a Question

Since Mary will not get off the Triple Sec train, how can we use Triple Sec to make a cosmo Barbara will like?

Step Two: Background Research

Sweetness is Barbara's issue; we looked into elements of the drink that impart sweetness and thought about how to counterbalance that. We researched what kinds of bottled lime juice would provide the convenience of Rose's without the added sugar and investigated unsweetened cranberry juice. We found unsweeted key lime juice and, as Barbara had previously discovered, a tart Trader Joe's cranberry juice.

Step Three: Construct Hypothesis

If we use no-sugar-added Trader Joe's cranberry juice and either fresh lime juice or unsweetened bottled key lime juice to mitigate the sweetness factor, then we'll have a just-tart-enough version of the classic Rose's-Cointreau version.

Step Four: Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment

We filled one cocktail shaker using a recipe involving two shots of gin, one shot of Triple Sec, a shot of fresh lime and a short shot of unsweetened cranberry juice. At the same time under the same exact conditions we filled another shaker using the same recipe, but replacing fresh lime juice with bottled key lime juice.

Step Five: Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion

The hypothesis was false. The distinctive taste of ReaLemon that makes it an unpleasant substitute for fresh lemon juice is also found in bottled lime juice and was present and overwhelming in the drink. Fresh lime juice was better, but both drinks were mouth-puckering tart almost to the point of being undrinkable. Of course we drank them, in the interest of science.

Step Six: Communicate Your Results

That's what this blog is for.

Clearly more work needs to be done. We are laundering our lab coats and getting ready for the next round.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Searching the Cosmos, Circa 2050

I've mentioned that I started drinking late in life; here's proof. When Barbara sent me this drawing last night, I asked what all the glasses were for ("Are we having a taste test??") and wondered what she was throwing in my drink.

Beer Pong. Who knew? Sure I've heard of it, but I've never played it or seen it played. I better learn the rules and maybe start practicing, since apparently Barbara and I will be playing the Cosmo variation of it during our porch-side cocktails hours in our golden years. I kind of can't wait.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Price Cosmo?

Barbara and I have for months been talking about figuring out how much, exactly, we’re spending on cosmos. A few weeks ago I did some quick calculations in my head and estimated that they cost about $11 each. Barbara thought that sounded high and suggested I try it again, with a calculator.

A regulation cosmo — that is, one that’s half the size of the ones Barbara serves — costs $1.48. So the ones we’ve been drinking cost us $2.96. Still a bargain, compared to the $10 (minimum) they cost on Long Island and the $15 (or so) they cost in NYC.

Cointreau is the most pricey ingredient; $1.68 per big drink. To save some money, I decided to revisit triple sec. It costs 12 cents per drink! And I like that it’s not as strong as Cointreau. The resulting cosmo tastes fine. Cosmo lite.

But Barbara isn’t having any of it. That is, she doesn’t agree in theory (“How much do we drink, anyway?? It’s not like we’re buying bottles of Cointreau every week or even every month!"), and she refuses to practice what I’m preaching (extreme austerity and weaker drinks in preparation for Christmas overspending and indulging). So I will buy a bottle of Cointreau to use to prepare her cosmos when we have cocktails at my house; it’s only right. But I’ll be using the triple sec for myself until it’s gone or Christmas, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How We Spent Our Summer Vacations

We're back. As you can see from Barbara's illustration, it was an eventful summer. (Barbara can actually do a forearm stand, whereas I am still working on learning how to ride a unicycle. If anyone has any tips — or a unicyle, for that matter — please let me know. It was just a notion that I mentioned over cocktails a few weeks ago as something I wanted to do, and, now that Barbara's drawn it, feel I must do. As soon as I get a unicycle.)

Looking back over the summer, it's worth noting that in three months of weekly cosmo sessions, not one glass was broken. The reason: stainless steel. I gave Barbara a pair from Target for her birthday. At first they made me think of what a cocktail party in prison would be like, if prison had cocktail parties — I can practically hear the clanging as inmates demanded Cointreau, not Triple Sec — but now Barbara and I like them, both for their indestructibility and the nice job they do keeping a drink cold.

By the way, the cartoon caption comes from a comment Jan from Newport made via email several monts ago. What she actually wrote was, "It's comforting to know you will never fall victim to scurvy," which I misquoted when I reported it to Barbara. But the point is made.

This post marks the resumption of our once-a-week (at least) publishing schedule that we will stick to until next summer, at which point I will no doubt slack off again. But until then, please continue to check in (and comment!) as the search continues.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pinkie Power

As Barbara M. put it, “If we were 18-year-olds in bikinis, we wouldn’t have had our picture taken more than we did in our pink shirts.”
Team Cosmo rode the Ride to Montauk yesterday — 30 miles (or so; Laura’s bike computer showed 33.77), four kinds of pie (apple, cherry, blueberry and for one lucky Cosmo girl who got the last slice of it, strawberry rhubarb), lemonade (purchased from the enterprising boys of Jeffrey Lane in East Hampton), one lost bus driver and more questions and comments about the Searching the Cosmos shirts than we can count.
Everyone wanted to know what it was all about, from a professorial-looking couple at the ride start in Babylon who asked if we were astronomers to the woman at the finish line who said she’d like to join our cycling club and when told by Barbara K., “We’re not a cycling club, we’re a drinking club,” said, “Even better.”
We’re not really a drinking club, of course. Though we certainly have our share of cocktails when we get together, the ties among us are stronger than one of Barbara’s cosmos. And if you’ve ever had one of Barbara’s cosmos, you know that’s saying something.
Let the 18-year-olds have their bikinis. I’d rather wear the pink jersey of Team Cosmo. Long may we ride.
Jersey designed by Barbara K.; Photos by Judy (top) and some nice stranger (bottom).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Turks & Cosmos

Just back from Point Grace, a Turks & Caicos resort where rum cocktails were poured freely, and by freely I mean I didn’t have to pay for them, yet I opted for cosmos on a couple occasions; that’s how devoted I am to continuing the search regardless of economy or geography.

A brief introduction to my friend and Turks & Caicos traveling companion, Ilene: She and I have been friends since high school, good friends who see each other maybe once every few years, but good friends nonetheless. A few years ago she was at my house for dinner. I had cooked an Italian meal, with olives, focaccia and hunks of Parmasan cheese to start, all accompanied by a good bottle of red wine, which was my drink in the days before cosmos. It fleetingly crossed my mind that she might not like red wine or might not drink at all, in which case I wouldn’t either. I offered her a glass and she said, “No thanks, I can’t really drink red wine anymore, it gives me a headache.” Before I had time to process my disappointment, she continued, “Do you have any vodka?”

Anyway, cosmos are Ilene’s drink. We each had one at Point Grace with dinner on our first night here, hers made with vodka, mine with gin, and both were very good. Fresh lime juice and Triple Sec, instead of Rose’s and Cointreau, but in the exact right amounts, very cold, nice glass – a 9.0.

The next night we went for cocktails at the Gansevoort, a brand-new luxury resort down a mile or two down the beach from us. We walked there at around sunset, only to find that the main restaurant and cocktail lounge were closed for a private wedding. We sat at a small outpost where I had the worst cosmo ever. It was warm and had no bite at all. It didn’t taste like there was any alcohol in, nor any juice. It tasted like water. We sent it back, but the replacement was not much better. Shocking, for a place as groovy as the Gansevoort.

Later that night we crashed the wedding, just to dance, but after making some friends and being served wedding cake we felt okay about ordering a cosmo at the bar inside, again for research purposes. That cosmo was better, but still not great. I didn’t notice what gin was involved, but I’m thinking maybe it was a brand that just does not work for cosmos. At least twice Barbara and I have had cosmos made with a very expensive gin, and we didn’t like the results.

The fourth cosmo was at Point Grace on our last full day, and I micromanaged it. I requested Tanqueray gin and Cointreau. It was delicious. So were the free rum drinks we had most nights. I’m not going to start a blog about it or anything, but rum punch sipped poolside does have a certain Caribbean flavor. And after my first trip down there, I can say that it’s a taste I quite like.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Barbara Thinks She's So Clever.

Barbara did a drawing of what she imagines I must look like sitting around the pool in Turks & Caicos in my full SPF 50 regalia.

Is it me, or is she WAY off the mark?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Yankee Stadium Drought Is Over

On a recent rainy Tuesday night, I went to a Yankee game with tickets my non-baseball-fan boss had won in a raffle. The seats were not under an overhang, so during the one-hour rain delay Mary O. and I wandered around looking for some place to sit down. A Yankee employee took pity on us and gave us passes for the Audi Yankees Club, a fancy membership-only bar and restaurant. We scored a table near the window overlooking the field to sit out the rain delay and wound up watching the first few innings of the game as well. Despite my previous experiences with ballpark cosmos, I decided to try one, and it was delicious —made with Triple Sec, so not perfect—but ice cold, just the right amount of lime and cranberry juices, and served in a nice glass.

It never did stop raining, and the Yankees wound up blowing a five-run lead. But in general, May was pretty good for the Yankees. Mark Texiera came to life. And Nick Swisher hit four home runs in the Bronx, versus zero in April. The Yankee Stadium dry spell is over, for Nick and for me.

Photo credit: Mary O.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Drinking, not Drunkeness

Good post on Divinipotent Daily, a blog written by my friend and former boss Michele. She and I have shared a drink or two over the years; when we worked together, we regularly had a glass of red wine with lunch at Nino’s, and more than once she took the entire department out for cocktails. I remember celebrating Martini Week at Roosevelt Hotel’s Madison Club Lounge, and we once went to the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station. We’re due for a gin and tonic soon.

Anyway, she writes about a wide variety of topics (this month included the Blues and her Aunt Ella). One of this week’s post, Alcohol By Volume, is interesting, as is the Malcolm Gladwell article she mentions. Both are recommended reading.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Ride to Montauk: Whatever works.

Barbara has already signed up for the 66-mile route. Judy (of the vintage cocktail glasses) and I, upon learning that the ride snacks include bread from Balthazar, Briermere Farms pies and other delicacies, are planning to sign up for either the 30- or the 66-mile ride. But first I have to get a bike. Then I have to train. Here's one method that just might work.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Finding the Cosmos (in a manner of speaking)

Just a quick un-illustrated post because even though Barbara has drawings ready to go for what I told her would be the next topics, I haven’t had a chance to write them yet. But here are two things of note from the last few days:

1. Shortly after writing in my last post about how I was tempted to make the switch to small cocktail glasses, my husband and I went to a couple of estate sales specifically looking for them but didn't find any. A few days later while walking on Earl Street in Northport on my way to borrow a bike for a test drive before signing up with the Ride to Montauk that Barbara is already committed to (more on that in the future), I found four vintage small cocktail glasses right at the curb as part of post-yard-sale detritus.

2. A few days ago while cycling around Salem Lake in Winston-Salem with my husband and my sister Kathleen as part of the training for the Ride to Montauk (see, I told you there'd be more), we rode past a trestle over which one of those endless freight trains was traveling. “Look, memorize this scene so you can tell Barbara and she can draw it,” said my husband, too late for me to see what he was pointing at. Apparently, one of the cars on the train passing through the bucolic spot was decorated with a graffito that said in gigantic letters, “Cosmos.”

As signs go, these seem significant. Certainly, they're enough to give me pause and consider my place in the vast universe. Or cosmos, if you will. Everything is connected....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raising a (Small) Glass to the Movies

I love Turner Classic Movies, at least in theory; I record 10 or 15 every month and usually wind up erasing to make room for the next batch that I won’t watch. This morning as I was about to erase some Humphrey Bogart movies, I decided to watch one first. Hmm, African Queen, Casablanca or All through the Night? I chose the latter because it was the only one I’d never seen. It came out a month or two after The Maltese Falcon and a few years before Casablanca, so Humphrey Bogart was just establishing his hard-boiled noir credentials.

In one scene, Gloves, as he’s called in the movie (there’s also someone called Spats), drinks a martini out of a tiny glass that looks like something left over from the set of The Wizard of Oz, if they had speakeasies in Munchkinland. Three-and-a-half ounces, four tops.

And why does a martini/cocktail glass need to be bigger than that? The standard martini recipe is 3 oz. or so of gin (or vodka, these days), and some trace amount of vermouth. The recipe for a cosmopolitan (l.5 oz. gin, .75 oz. each of three remaining ingredients) makes a 3.75 oz. drink. So those big glasses Barbara has (which we measured the capacity of last week and were shocked to find held around 11 ounces) are when full the equivalent of almost three standard cocktails.

Reader Judy had commented via email about glass size a few weeks ago: “As you might remember, my favorite cocktail glass is a vintage cut-crystal stemmed bowl like Bette or Myrna dripping in satin and sashaying around would be holding. And they are tiny by comparison to today’s martini boat.” During my photo search today I saw one of Bette Davis in All About Eve holding a martini glass that looks a little bigger than the one Humphrey “Gloves” Bogart drank from, but still no bigger than 5 oz., I would say. I also found one of James Bond pouring a shaken-not-stirred martini into a glass less than half the size of the ones Barbara and I generally use at her house.

You may have read reader Brian's comment that Nick and Nora would be scandalized at an Atlantic Monthly column stating today’s cocktails are “too strong;” when you consider that today’s cocktails are two to three times bigger than the ones Nick and Nora were drinking, maybe they wouldn’t be so much scandalized as drunk off their asses. Or should I say more drunk off their asses. On the one hand, today I came across a movie poster for The Thin Man that shows they were drinking mini martinis, as was the custom at the time. On the other hand, the movie includes several exchanges like this one: Nora (to Nick): How many drinks have you had? Nick: This will make six martinis. Nora (to waiter): All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo, and line them up right here?

I’m tempted to switch out my glasses (which are “only” 7 oz.) for some vintage smaller ones. We could have the psychological advantage of being able to have two, yet still be able to stand up. And each of those two would be ice-cold, instead of room temperature like the last several sips from the “boats.”

Tomorrow Barbara is hosting a porch-side cocktail party. Barbara wondered what the theme should be (sometimes there’s a theme), and her husband said, “The French Resistance.” And she decided to go with that. I’m bringing a tureen of vichyssoise. The reason I bring it up is that I just realized that Casablanca, one of the movies I could have watched today, revolves around the wife of a prominent leader of the French Resistance. Everything is related. Here’s looking at you, kids.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Comments on Comments

Hello Readers,

For some reason, it didn't occur to me that good netiquette dictates that bloggers reply to comments. The thing is, most of the comments Barbara and I receive are via email, and we've responded in kind. But from now on, I will be commenting on comments in a timely fashion, and Barbara and I will at least once a month sit down and report on the emails. Starting right now:

Here's a note from Julie, a reader in Winston-Salem:

I’m unofficially manning the southern desk of “Searching the Cosmos."

So far, results are dismal and I haven’t even thrown the gin curve ball yet!

I had high hopes for The Inn at Biltmore Estate as they pride themselves on top drawer everything. The price came out of the top drawer but the drink itself came out of the cranberry-lemonade pitcher – nicely presented, of course.

Recently, I spent a week with my sister on Hilton Head Island and we frequented one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall, right-by-the-water fresh seafood places (Hudson’s). I wasn’t expecting much - the place is much more suited to sweet tea and beer but a girl’s gotta try! You know you’re in trouble when they don’t list the drink prices on the menu and the drink they bring you is in a rather small (but stemmed!) glass. Good thing I was much more focused on the fresh, steamed shrimp and only ordered one. At $8.50. (For comparison: a whole order of shrimp was $14.)

I’m way behind on my issues of MORE (I pass them on to your sister after reading and I’m sure she hasn’t seen one in six months) but I’m sure to have my feathers ruffled by the “Does this drink make me look old?” article. [I bet the editors secretly drink Green Apple Martinis anyway. Eewww!]

Finally, I LOVE that you rated Nobody’s Fool above the other Richard Russo books. My personal fave.

As I wrote to Julie, she should have her own blog; great writing! Barbara and I will be doing a cost-based posting soon; we'll figure out how much it costs to make one at home. And by the way, an $8.50 cosmo would be a steal in Manhattan, where I (Mary) frequently see them for $15. Julie, we hope to hear more from you! (I will be visiting Winston-Salem, Julie's hometown, in May and we will be having a Southern cocktail party: cosmos, daiquiris and cheese straws. We will be indoctrinating my sister Kathleen, who has never had a cosmo of any stripe, let alone gin. There will be a report.)

Here's a recent comment from my sister-in-law Jean:

I see from your cosmos blog that you are still wearing your foot boot. Does it hurt? "Searching the Cosmos" always reminds me of the Clemmie quote, "Hey Mom, tell me again, whats the universe?" or some such quote words to that effect. I also love the thing you wrote about feeling your age. Great play of words there. Thanks for doing that!

Yes, the foot boot: I had to wonder what people who don't know me (which is way more than half of our readers, since Barbara is a much better promoter of it than I) thought about that. I broke my foot in early January. How, I don't know; I didn't turn my ankle or do anything noticeable. I was in that boot until this past Monday.) Thanks for the comments, Jean.

Here's one from my sister Carol to Barbara, since Barbara is who sent her the link:

Museum and Planetarium Director that I am, I see searching cosmos, and I am thinking telescopes and planetarium and billions and billions of stars. Shows where my head is at. Maybe it would be better off in your universe.

That's it for today. More to come. Here's a suggestion to everyone who sends email comments: think about commenting directly on the blog. All of your comments are so funny and interesting that everyone would enjoy reading them. You don't have to use your real or complete name, if that's a concern to you. It would be fun to have dialogues going on.

Barbara and I have just finished our Sunday afternoon cocktail. We thought we'd be doing it porch-side, but it turned cold all of sudden. So we're sitting in her family room, thinking about how bad it would be to spill a cosmo onto my brand new MacBook. So far so good.


Barbara and Mary

Friday, April 16, 2010

Play Ball: How Our Local Teams Stack Up

I don't normally have a drink at a baseball game because I don't care for beer and anything besides beer seems wrong. But a few years ago my daughter Clementine and I went to a Yankee game at the old Stadium courtesy of tickets our friend Joel had gotten from a client. The seats were in a fancy section along the third-base line, so close to Alex Rodriguez we could practically touch him. In-seat wait service was available, so were cosmos, so I ordered one. It arrived in a shrink-wrapped plastic martini glass. Deep red, it looked like Jello. After peeling off the plastic and taking a sip, I found it tasted like Jello as well. I have since seen those cosmos-to-go at our local liquor store. I guess they serve a purpose, but I'm not sure what it is.

Last June at the Mets' new stadium, Citifield, I was sitting in even fancier seats for a Mets-Yankee interleague game. Once again the seats were courtesy of Joel, who attended the game along with a client from Spain and the client's wife. The wife spoke no English, but I was amazed at what I was able to convey with my grade-school Spanish: "Numero trece, A-Rod, esta el novio de Kate Hudson, la hija de Goldie Hawn. Madonna esta su novia tambien."

Our seats were in a section that had its own private wood-paneled bar and restaurant, so we went in for a pre-game cocktail. Since it was a real bar with top-shelf brands, I thought I'd be getting a real glass, but the drink was served in a plastic beer cup. Swing and a miss.

The only other time I had alcohol at a baseball game was when Joel gave us tickets to watch a game from the Mickey Mantle suite in the old Yankee Stadium. Clementine and I went, along with our friends Cathy and Mary. The suite was a room overlooking the field, with comfy reclining chairs, two big-screen TVs (even though the game was being played right beyond the big windows in front of us), a hot and cold buffet and a full bar, complete with bartender. I had a gin and tonic or two. (Or three; there was a 90-minute rain delay, so we were in that box for about five hours.) It was an odd experience, very much like being at a baseball game, but not quite. Last year, Joel gave us tickets that included access to the Jim Beam suite at the new Yankee Stadium. Clementine and I got food there, but didn't bother with drinks since the glasses were plastic. Wait, I take that back; she had a beer, because that's what you do at a baseball game.

I think it's clear what the lessons are here: Everyone should have a friend like Joel. And no one should order a cosmpolitan if Alex Rodriguez is in the vicinity.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Should we save time and just break these here?

Before Barbara introduced me to cosmos, I had no experience with cocktail glasses. No one I hung around with drank cocktails (beer, wine, gin and tonics yes, but no martinis or cosmos). I didn't even own any cocktail glasses. I had never seen cocktail glasses in use in a party situation, had never washed one, had never put one down on the table and then turned to pick up the remote. So I had no idea they were disposable.

Barbara and I together go through about 8 glasses a year. After I knew they were fragile but before I realized how much, I bought Barbara a pair of beautiful German crystal stained-glass-looking glasses that reminded me of other glasses of hers that we had broken. They were $48 each. I found and bought the exact ones for a lot less than that on eBay, but the point is that within about two months $100 worth of glasses was history. Now that I know better, I don't like to pay more than $2 a glass. My sister Carol found some nice ones at the Salvation Army for a buck a piece (she bought six and two years later there are five left, some kind of record). I recently got four at the same price at Fishs Eddy (great place; I went to the store, but the website is fishseddy.com). Barbara had some nice striped ones (gone) and ones decorated with fish (gone).

Certainly we could start using stem-less cocktail glasses. (I had one last week at Tabla, Danny Meyer's "new Indian" restaurant on Madison Square Park. Loved the food, but the cosmo was the lemonade-y kind, and the stem-less glass didn't help.) But I'd rather not. It's not all about the glass, but it's a lot about the glass, which was reinforced last summer when Barbara brought a thermos full of cosmos when we visited my sister in the hospital. We drank them from paper cups, and it just wasn't the same.

So the glasses are a necessary evil. As long as we are drinking cosmos, there will be a string of broken cocktail glasses. May they rest in pieces.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ashley Does Her Part

Just a few more words on cosmopolitans' bad reputation. Here's how Richard Russo describes a woman in his latest book, That Old Cape Magic, which I read last week (better than Empire Falls, not as good as Nobody's Fool):

“A woman, in her late forties, was all dolled up and taking in the Old Cape Lounge as if it were just too wonderful for words and she meant to commit its every detail to loving memory. Her dress was cut low in the front, revealing a body that, though thickened, remained somehow hopeful.”

Though he does go on to describe in her in more depth later, right then he doesn't need to go any further to convey her lack of sophistication and salt-of-the-earthiness; he merely has her order a cosmopolitan.

On the other hand, my colleague Ashley, a 28-year-old sultry tattooed brunette vixen, is doing her best to change the stereotype. Here is the transcript of texts from a few nights ago:

Ash: I'm having a gin cosmo!

Me: Have two!

Ash: I'm on my third!

Not the recommended dosage, but she's young. She and I went to Blue Smoke for a very late lunch a few days ago and while I had a gin cosmo (which I watched being made: gin, cranberry juice and that lemony stuff in the squirt bottle), she had a beer to go with her pulled pork. So she's not the total convert yet, but it's a beginning and can only be good for cosmos' image.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Magazine: Too Cool for Cosmos

I understand wanting to look the same age as you feel, and in fact I've succeeded in doing it. The problem is, I feel like I'm 80. But that's another story; this story is about how the latest issue of More magazine includes an article called "Does This Cocktail Make Me Look Old?" in which cosmos are called the official beverage of menopausal women.

When I was in high school and college, I didn't drink at all. I thought it was cooler to do the opposite of what was perceived to be cool than it was to do the cool thing. That perverse logic continues to guide me, though it's become harder to pull off in middle age where the line between "cool" and "eccentric crackpot" is, like everything else, blurred. So I will continue to order cosmos, partly because not thinking you're too cool for anything is still the coolest way to be, but mostly because I like them.

As for the cosmo alternatives More puts forth as less aging than mom jeans and minivans, who really wants to order a Friends with Benefits, a 28 4EVA, a Starter Husband or a Cougar Baitini? Not I, and not because I'm too cool for them. Though I am definitely too something.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Manly Cosmo

This past Monday night my colleagues and I had dinner at Bar Breton up the block from our office in the Flat Iron district. (Two-for-one burger night, but we didn't know that so one of the four of us ordered pork loin; it was delicious.)

Ash, who ordered a Stella for the first round of cocktails, was curious about my gin cosmo and asked for a sip. Next round, she ordered one for herself. A convert! And that wasn't even based on the taste of the superior ones Barbara and I have at home. This drink had the lemony taste that 95% of none-homemade cosmos have, but it was still good because the gin gave it a lot of flavor. (I've stopped specifying the ingredients beyond gin when I go out because I want to see what kind they make without my micromanagement. Also, the typical restaurant/bar cosmo is a weaker version of the ones we make, and I like that because it makes having two possible.)

Perhaps inspired by all the cosmo talk, Michael also ordered one for round two. A Ketel One cosmo on the rocks. A manly cosmo. It wasn't in a martini glass and it wasn't made with gin, but I still felt it was a big step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No Medals in the Luge Event

Last week the ad agency I work at hosted a party, with drinks sponsored by our premium vodka client. Since I don’t care about vodka none of the specialty drinks enticed me, but I felt I to try the White Cosmo for research purposes.

As the bartender mixed my cocktail, I floated my theory about gin being on the cusp of replacing vodka as the go-to Gen X and Y drink. He said he hadn’t seen much evidence of that. Maybe it’s too soon, but it’s going to happen. When he was finished mixing the drink, he poured it into the vodka luge.

Yes, vodka luge.

Now that I think of it, I had heard of ice sculptures through which drinks were poured — the U.K. office of the agency’s global network had scandalized its provincial U.S. colleagues one Christmas party (not holiday, Christmas; that’s the way they do it in the U.K.) with anatomically correct ice sculptures that required the putting of one’s mouth on the genitals of his or her choice to receive the drink directly, without benefit of a glass — but I didn’t know the name of it as an alcohol delivery system until I described the ice sculpture to a 25-year old colleague and said, “Have you ever heard of such a thing?!” and she said, “Uh, yeah, I went to college.”

Uh, thanks.

This vodka luge did not require any mouth-to-ice contact or a college degree; a glass was put under the chute exit. But despite the fact that most of the specialty drinks on the menu were called or actually were some version of a martini, there were no martini glasses in sight. My White Cosmo fell out of the luge into a heavy, squat old-fashioned glass.

That alone would have meant some deductions from this judge. But the ingredients are what kept the White Cosmo out of the medals. Citroen vodka, white cranberry juice and fresh lemon juice. Totally missing were the orange-flavored liquor, either Triple Sec or Cointreau or as Reader Barbara M. suggested Grand Marnier, and the lime juice. I had one sip, and that was enough. No one else who tried it was impressed. It tasted mostly like spiked lemonade.

By the way, that spelling of citroen is correct. I wondered about it, since to my mind citron = lemon and citroen = car, but it turns out that citroen is Dutch for lemon. The Citroen car was founded by a Dutch man by that name. So a Citroen car is literally a lemon. As is the White Cosmo.

The search continues.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vodka vs. Gin

Last night at Punch restaurant in the Flatiron District I ordered a gin cosmo and my friend Natalia ordered the more traditional vodka version. The drinks arrived in small, stem-less glasses (not my favorite; more on cocktail stemware later this week). I drank the one placed before me and found that beyond tasting very lemony it was virtually flavorless. Natalia took one sip from hers and almost gagged. “Taste this,” she said, “It’s so fragrant, it must be yours.” It was, deliciously so.

I think the reason I didn’t notice the mix-up was that I’m so used to inferior, insipid cosmos made with Triple Sec and watered down lemonade that I assumed it was just another one of those. Natalia thinks it’s because she is much more of the cosmo connoisseur, even though I’m the one with the blog.

But that’s clearly not true, because why would anyone with a cultivated appreciation for cosmos not switch to gin?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

552 Cosmos

Since the last post in June 2007, we’ve each had an average of 2 cosmos a week. 2 x 138 weeks = 276 x 2 = 552 total. That’s a lot of Rose’s lime juice.

A lot of gin too, much of it poured by surprised bartenders who had never heard of such a thing. Ordering a cosmo made with gin is always an adventure. Actually, not always: at Gramercy Tavern, my order did not raise an eyebrow. The only question from the cocktail waitress was, “What type of gin would you like?” At other equally tony places though, the order necessitated a comment. From the bartender at Pipa, “That is seriously wack.” Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse at Grand Central, “Really? I’ve never heard of that before.” To name just two.

Even when gin is not the issue, that lemonade-y mix instead of Rose’s and Triple Sec instead of Cointreau must be dealt with. To get a really good gin cosmo, all of the ingredients have to be specified, and a lot of times all are not available.

Since the stated mission of this blog is find a cosmo made the way it ought to be, we will keep looking, drinking and writing about the search.

A prediction: A gin cosmo will be THE cocktail in the near future. My daughters drink gin, partially because that’s been my drink and partially because it’s not vodka, which everyone else drinks. I think gin’s unique taste and status will be making a comeback with generation Y.

Until then, our work continues. Stay tuned.