Jun 212010

Recently a dear friend and faithful reader sent out a Saucy SOS (see above), a Mixology Mayday, a Desperate Call for Cocktail Assistance.

And what was the emergency?  Well, he was in the throes of despair after trying unsuccessfully to mix himself a cosmo at home for the first time.   In all honesty I’ve not made nor ordered/drank a cosmo in several years.  For me they hearken back to the late 90’s (when Shaker One was just twelve*wink wink*).  I remember when they were my drink of choice at stylish uptown bars.  Well, me and every other 20-something gal trying to be cool.  Now, as with shoulder pads, I think enough time has passed that we can revisit this retro classic cocktail (wow, the 90’s are now retro?).  It is, after all, a tasty beverage and should not be besmirched by its association with a certain fashion harpy film that shall not be named.

“John”- we’ll call him that for the purposes of this post- “John’s” problem: limited home mixology experience meets unlimited online recipe options with conflicting ingredient ratios.  It has happened to the best of us at one time or another.  As Shaker Two and I have learned, out of many failures a great success can be born.  And we’ve mixed many abysmal beverages since starting the blog-sometimes wondering if the “recipe” authors bothered to sample their creations.  Early followers of the blog will recall many “salvage-tinis”.  I assembled the cast of characters.

I hunted a few trusted recipe sources and hit upon the following  to start with:

The Esquire Cosmo

Hello 1997.  I’ve just come out of the Wayback Machine! Very light in color and flavor.  Perhaps a bit sweet-which for many cosmo drinkers would be a selling point.  For me- 2 1/2 olives.  Your mileage may vary.

The Self Avowed “Perfect” Cosmo

First of all, a cosmo does not contain fresh mint.  Even as a garnish.  Cleverness for cleverness’ sake is not cool.  Mint at your own risk.

Pretty~ and it matches my kitchen!  As for the taste? A thousand times better.  The fresh lime juice makes a huge difference for me.  And the quantities here seem more balanced. The Howard Hughes in me loved the precision of the recipe (whatever you do, don’t add the ingredients in the wrong order!!!  Something terrible will happen I’m sure!!).  I garnished with lemon zest strings just for fun.  Go ahead and use a lime wedge or slice.  Still not sold on the inclusion of mint here.  This is really nice- maybe 3 1/2 olives!  I’d do this again.

I’m a firm believer in coloring outside the lines, so don’t be afraid to adjust the lime/triple sec/cranberry quantities to get your desired level of sweet or tart. I prefer the use of fresh lime juice over Rose’s, but that’s just me.

You could make a summer project out of discovering the perfect cosmo recipe for yourself…..so many options to choose from.  Small note:  I used regular vodka, but the inclusion of a quality citrus vodka would be nice (The Balcony Bar just happened to be out at the moment).  And some people prefer cointreau to triple sec.  Pick your orange liquor of choice, I won’t judge. Quick addendum- I just dashed a bit of Fee Bros. Bitters into the “Perfect” Cosmo and now I’m in love .  4 olives w/ bitters~!

Ok “John”- get out your shaker and give it a try!  Bonne Chance!

Jun 132010

After far too long away from the Balcony Bar, Shakers One and Two got together to celebrate (somewhat belatedly)  two very important events:  Shaker Two’s Birthday and the one year anniversary of The Red Shaker Blog!  Awww, they grow up so fast don’t they?  It seems like just yesterday we were picking out a name…….

Back to the shaking shenanigans.  We were joined by two lovely guests to help us try out a few new martinis.  On the menu, some old favorite treats from the first year of the blog:

Gougeres, shrimp cocktails, stuffed mushrooms and vichyssoise! (YAY!! some of my favorite niblets from the Shaker One kitchen!! ~Shaker Two)

Stuffed Mushrooms

Gougeres, shrimp, vodka


We began the evening with a champagne toast.  If you’re looking for a lovely bubbly, this is the one to try. Marc Hebrart Brut!

Our first ‘tini of the evening was The Pineapple Basil Martini

Pineapple basil martini

“Refreshing” “The basil made the pineapple taste more mild” “An interesting touch”

Shaker One and our two guests enjoyed this a bit more than Shaker Two (who is not the biggest basil fan out there)

3 3/4 to 4 olives from S1 and guests, 3 1/2 from S2.

Next up: Rosemary Ruby Cocktail

Rosemary Ruby Red Cocktail

I know, I know- it’s from Rachael Ray.  Cast aspersions at will.   I can guarantee you neither Shaker One nor Shaker Two has ever been considered perky.

The consensus here was enjoyable, but a bit too sweet.  It needs to have more grapefruit flavor, perhaps a splash of lime juice to brighten it up and definitely dial way back on the simple syrup.  Pleasant, but as one taster put it “it smells better than it tastes”.

As written 3 olives…..needs improvement.

We moved on to a take on The Rosemary Lemonade Cocktail– martini style.   I found this recipe in the comments section here

Rosemary Lemonade Cocktail

A refreshing cocktail, but needs more lemon.  We all agreed it would be fantastic over ice as a summer sipper.  Shaker One says this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with iced tea for an herbal Arnold Palmer.

As written 3 olives, over ice 3 1/2 +

We ended the evening with a special birthday cake made by Shaker One. (soooooo awesome and soooo tasty!! I hated to cut into it!!)

Martini cake!!!

All in all a  lovely evening and a wonderful double celebration.  Thanks to Jenna and Lyndsey for helping us taste, rate  and mark our first year of martini madness.  Here’s to another year of searching out the best things you can put in a martini glass.

May 162010

This evening, we are honored to have with us our first official guest blogger (meaning he is not only participating, but also taking the reins for writing all of this evening’s post…) Welcome Chip Latshaw, blogger at BigRhinoDog. Chip has been a friend of Shaker Two for a number of years and we finally get Shaker One and Chip together for an evening of burgers, martinis and conversation. If you get the chance, take a look at his blog and read about the trip he is about to embark upon. I am so glad we were able to work in an evening together before he heads out on his Great Adventure……

“Is this a little bit too much of a chick drink?” I ask the Shakers as they pour a Strawberry Basil concoction into a glass.
“I don’t think so” Says Shaker 2
“Well it probably won’t pull in the chicks.” Adds Shaker 1
“Of course you could say you grew the berries in your urban organic garden.”Says shaker 2.

“You don’t have to drink all of it” Says shaker 1 and we all laugh.

Shaker 1 calls the strawberry thing 3 1/2 olive with a lot of promise
Shaker 2 says “I’ll concur with that one.”
I say that it makes me feel like a girl and we need something with more bite.

Then I eat two olives and give it a three.

the conversation turns briefly to politics then Shaker 1 puts some white corn with lime jalepeño butter on the grill and Shaker 2 suggests that we have more drinks.

Everyone agrees.

Shaker 1 starts making something called a “Tony Danza” which has grapefruit vodka, Simple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Limoncello and an orange wedge. Carefully made orange twists settle into tall cocktail glasses. Shaker 2 pours me a shot of limoncello so I can see what it tastes like.

Its good but i still wonder what Tony Danza has to do with anything.

Shaker 1 finishes the drinks and we all try a sip.

No one says anything.

I laugh inappropriately. Shaker 1 says “You know what these need?”
“Not to be made with Absolut?” says Shaker 2.

Shaker 1 says that it would be better with real grapefruit juice instead of grapefruit vodka. I think if she makes it that way she would really show it “who’s the boss” and then it would be more name specific.

Then I find out it really called a “Private Danzka” and in addition to its questionable taste it now has a lame name. I give it 2 olives based on the lame name alone. (this is found on the same page as the recipe above)

Shaker 2 gives it: 2 1/2
Shaker 1 says: 2 3/4

The shakers explain to me that infused vodkas are almost always preferable to manufactured brands. I agree and hope look forward to the burgers on the grill and whatever the next drink will be.

Hang on, the burgers are almost done: I think we are going to have a traditional martini with the grilled meat.

{much later}

Good burgers, good grilled veggies – good traditional sapphire martini with one olive. Shaker 2 is doing dishes, shaker 1 is getting more ingredients and I am being obedient and “just sitting here being pretty’ That’s right, I’m a super star.

I give my trad-tini 4 1/2 olives because I’m a ridiculously conservative person.

Bring on the dessert!

The shakers are making something called “Lemon Meringue tinis” which sound suspiciously girlie and fruity but I do like Lemon Meringue so I’ll feign anger and try the sweet concoction.

Shaker 2 is talking about shots and tasters and sweetness and whipped egg whites while mixing and pouring like a madwoman.

I wish I was an egg white.

Apparently we’ll do “tasters and then a hero” whatever, just bring on the lemon-ness. The shakers make drinks the way other people cook – take a recipe and call it a starting point, then add a dash of this and a pinch of that. The idea is that drinks should be accessible as cooking.

“The whole world is your bar!” says shaker 1 while shaker 2 pulls heavy cream, powdered sugar, eggs and lemons out from the pantry. “Its still missing that creaminess” says shaker 1 and I smirk while drinks magically appear.

Shaker 1 is right though and I start to see the fun of home-mixology. We try two drinks, one with egg whites and one with heavy cream. neither one quite works so we talk about improving it. I want a graham cracker crust, and the ladies want more meringue. Shaker 1 goes to work on the drinks while shaker 2 makes a tasty dessert with blueberries and maple syrup and ginger snaps.

The lenom meringue things need work. (as does my spelling) Shaker 1: says “its not there yet” and declines a rating. Shaker 2 gives it 3 1/2 olives as is. I think it was tasty on par with the fruity strawberry thing.

Then we start talking about mass transit in the Los Angeles valley.

Soon its after 6:00 and i need to get back on the bike and head back to the ‘bu, so Shaker 2 downloads my out of focus pictures and I quickly change clothes and get ready to get out of Culver City.

How do you wrap up a guest post? okay I guess that’s all I’ve got to say – everything the shakers say is real and true – follow the recipes and find your way to tini bliss.

I’m down the road.

Apr 082010

A summer-like spring day led us to thoughts of more citrus fun…..and from that comes:

The Citrus Bliss Martini

We based this off of the success of the Nasturtium Flip, but pulled in an old friend we hadn’t played with since last summer:  Rain Honey Mano Melon Vodka!  Added to this-fresh squeezed orange/key lime/lemon juice, simple syrup and a few dashes of Fee Bros. Lemon Bitters…….mmmmm, happy summery citrusy goodness in the glass!  We skipped the flip (egg white) this time and just let the fresh flavors shine through.  Delicious!

We give this golden child 

We also enjoyed some fresh home made salsa, chips and roasted pepper quesadillas with lime cumin cream.   Can you see us smile  from where you are?  Not a bad way to end a workday.

Well, since it is a work night, we moved on to dessert:

Ok, so were a bit late with this one, but here is our Easter martini~

The Cadbury Egg~

We based it off of this recipe, but substituted Godiva Chocolate Liquor for the white chocolate liquor and used Stoli Vanilla (which we had on hand) instead of Grey Goose Vanilla Vodka.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not expect to enjoy this one (Shaker One here).  Color me oh so happy to be wrong.  Wow.  Creamy, chocolate-y, fantastic.  The star here is clearly the Godiva chocolate liquor.  It would simply not be as good with a lesser chocolate booze.  And as you can see, we had some fun with the cream~ coloring it w/ get food color to create the “egg” effect.  After the photo op, we whisked the cream into the drink.  Wow again.  The more cream the better here..thicken it slightly and throw in about a tablespoon of powdered sugar.  You could have a lot of fun here with chocolate egg/bunny/peep garnishes.  If you’re not trying to make it pretty, go ahead and shake the cream up in the shaker and strain into the glass.

The Shakers give this a belated Easter

A wonderful dessert martini for the chocolate fan…. you probably won’t want more than one…very rich.   Of course, we have to get our fruit and veggies in there, so we served it with chocolate covered strawberries.  Mmmmm,a balanced diet!

And so we close a short school night shake with satisfied smiles.  Until next time~happy drinking!

Dec 082009

This evening’s get together was unplanned. It ended up being a result of new technology not working as well as promised. In other words, the digital transmissions to Shaker 2’s place sucks and she was unable to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” so Shaker 1 offered to open up the Balcony Bar for a special screening.

Could we leave it at just watching this fabulous holiday classic? Of course not.

While Shaker 2 thought it would be perfectly fine to have tried and true classics like dirty and twisted…. Shaker 1, as usual, raised the bar a bit higher. She was again inspired and created:

The Mistletoe-tini!

A combination of Rain vodka, champagne sorbet, pomegranate juice and triple sec.

All I gotta say is “well done, Shaker 1!” {*blush*thank you}

Not too sweet, a slight fruity undertone balanced with the dryness from the champagne. Lovely! This puppy would even rock in the summer. 4 1/2 olives! And it’s a pretty festive color.

As the twinkle lights cast a festive glow on the Balcony Bar, the Shakers enjoyed “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the ushering in of the holiday season.

Nov 092009

Good evening . Shakers 1 and 2 here, squeezing in a school night shake just because.
NPR (yes, that NPR, I don’t listen to it either ~Shaker One (Shaker 2 does.)) recently had a contest to incorporate ginger into recipes. One of the winning recipes was for a ginger martini.

As written, a bit too “limey”. We increased the pineapple juice and the result was very nice! Light, fruity, with a subtle ginger kick. We give this one 3 3/4 with our modifications.

Next stop: The Reindeer Martini!

It’s never too early to start testing holiday martinis for the upcoming entertaining season. We stumbled upon this recipe randomly googling. Google, a thirsty ‘tini drinkers bestest friend! After tasting the exact recipe, we decided it needed a bit more cream and Frangelico…..an extra half part Frangelico plus a very generous splash of heavy cream. The result is very tasty, creamy, not too sweet. Garnished with ground cinnamon, this reindeer could join in our reindeer games anytime. Shaker 2 gives it a 3 3/4 olives and I concur.

We served this badboy with dessert grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, you read that correctly. Warning, these can be highly addictive. Shaker 1 devised this devilish delight in a moment of kitchen experimentation. It’s breakfast, it’s dessert, it’s damn near illegal in 23 states. Make some for yourself, you won’t be sorry.

So we draw this night to a close with happy tummies and thoughts of tinis to come. Good night and remember, it’s never too early to start enjoying the holiday season!

Oct 032009

Shaker 1 here. While Shaker 2 enjoys her lengthy European adventure, I thought I’d do a little research. First, off to boozy nirvana (otherwise known as The Beverage Warehouse) to replenish the voddy vault. While cruising down the vodka aisle (no, we don’t have a personalized shelf there, yet), I grabbed a bottle of Rain Vodka and what did I see? Why, they’ve come out with some really interesting sounding flavored versions! Lavender Lemonade, Red Grape Hibiscus, Cucumber Lime and Honey Mango Melon. Now for you regular readers, you may recall seeing Rain Organic Vodka used pretty frequently by the Shakers. We enjoy the smooth taste and reasonable price point. It has become a regular in our vodka repertoire. I was tempted by the Lavender Lemonade and Red Grape Hibiscus flavors, but reluctant to buy a whole bottle only to end up being disappointed (I’m looking at you Pearl Vodka).

So I headed for the checkout line and what did I see? They had minis of every new flavor! Huzzah! I love you Beverage Warehouse.

First up is the Rain Relaxer*, made with Rain Lavender Lemonade Organic Vodka.

At first glance, this is a seriously girly drink. Very pretty color, but I don’t see a guy holding this daintily with pinkie raised. And then I tasted it.

Oh my. Lovely. A very soft ‘tini on the tongue. Sweet without being cloying, a hint of the lavender floral tones, the surprise of blueberries……wait, I need another sip before bestowing the olive score……..this babydoll just gets more enjoyable with every taste. I give this a solid 4 olives. I look forward to making this one for Shaker 2. I think she will approve. Still put this one firmly in the Chicktini category.

Next up is The Rain Hawaiian Breeze made with Rain Red Grape Hibiscus Organic Vodka.

Another chicktini, based on color. I do love the way pineapple juice foams up a martini. Hmmmm, I like this one also. I have to say that I wish there was more hibiscus flavor and less red grape. The hibiscus emotes another subtle floral hint, but I can’t help but think of koolaid when it comes to the grapey-ness. Still a very enjoyable ‘tini. Maybe 3 1/4 olives. I just squeezed the lemon wheel garnish into it and it got much better. That seemed to tone down that grape lollypop note I’m not loving. 3 1/2

Ok, I lied. I’m going for a third recipe. This time it’s The Rain Spa-tini with Rain Cucumber Lime Organic Vodka.

This one is sort of a spa cosmo. Not unpleasant, but as with the Red Grape Hibiscus, I sense a slight synthetic flavor. I don’t dislike this and it makes an ok ‘tini, but I long for a more pronounced “real” lime/cuke tone. 2 1/2 olives. Actually, the more I taste this one, the less I enjoy it.

2 olives and some serious doubt about this flavor. Not finishing this one.

The verdict: I will definitely buy a bottle of the Rain Lavender Lemonade Vodka and very much look forward to trying new recipes. I may go for a bottle of the Red Grape Hibiscus, but will first see if anyone does a plain hibiscus vodka. Still have to try the Honey Mango Melon. The jury is out on the Cucumber Lime,but it may want to consider a plea deal.

{note to readers: please excuse the temporary lack of visual bells and whistles while Shaker 2 is abroad. My technical skills do not match my mixology skills}

Good night and good shaking!


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