Smack That Basil!

Gin + Basil + Lemonade

Basil Gin Limeade drink

I’m not going to lie. I’m not a huge gin fan. Don’t throw something at me!

But I feel obligated to expand my horizons. I keep my eyes out for cool new flavor combinations. So hey – gin, lemonade, and basil. Why not?

My baby basil plants I started from seed were just big enough to produce decent leaves. As a fanfare to start the fresh basil season, I wanted to celebrate. Coinkydink? I think not. (That’s weird to see that word written down.)

Keeping it basic (seriously, some of these drinks recipes want you to steam or simmer the leaves beforehand), I settled for one part gin and three parts limeade over ice and basil leaves. Instead of muddling the leaves (green chunks in your teeth!), I opted to smack the three large basil leaves between my hands a few times to bruise them. Bonus is that my hands smelled good afterwards.

The Man did something similar with more gin, because he loves gin. Our gin of the night was Bombay Sapphire, something we readily have on hand. Again, The Man likes gin. And our limeade is generally Simply brand. No need for simple syrup or extra steps tonight. It’s Sunday and who needs that?

I think next round I’ll try more gin too because the flavor combination is quite nice. Citrus tends to highlight the best side of gin. And fresh basil will make almost anything taste awesome.

Old fashioned glass
Medium ice
3 large basil leaves, smacked like they asked for it
2 fingers of gin
Top off with limeade (or lemonade)

Great for a rainy Sunday evening.


Ba na NA ner NA Ner Na na … Tequila!

Milagro Silver Tequila

The thing about the Tequila song is that you can sing it after drinking tequila. It’s a beautiful marriage of practicality and fun. There’s only one word and you say it only three times. The rest is just instrumental, which can conveniently be ‘played’ using whatever is handy nearby for the dirty sax and percussion.

I can barely hear anyone mention tequila without hearing the sax start playing in my head. And everyone has a tequila story, so when drinking stories come up, tequila is mentioned. This is one reason I was in my thirties before I tried the stuff. Dread of acquiring a half-remembered tequila story of my own.

But yes, tequila entered my life eventually. Not the cheap stuff that makes you feel like Ron Jeremy the next day. The good stuff that costs enough to remind you to drink it slowly.

By now most people know real tequila comes from the actual region surrounding Tequila, an actual place in Mexico. And the tequila association will send coa-armed jimadores after you if you erroneously label your bottle tequila instead of mezcal. Oh and yes, we’ve all been updated that the worm was a marketing gimmick and nothing else.

Tequila is either 100% agave or ‘mixtos’, 51%+ agave and the rest made up of other sugars. There are generally five different categories of tequila based on how long its aged: blanco/silver aged less than 2 months, reposado/rested aged 2 months to 1 year in oak, añejo aged 1 to 3 years in oak, extra añejo aged more than 3 years in oak, and the oddball joven/young which is a mix of blanco and reposado. So just look for the agave content and the age length to determine what you’re actually buying in that strikingly trendy bottle.

That out of the way, let’s talk about Milagro. With over 900 brands of tequila to choose from, you could get arrested 50 times over before you try even half of them. And tequila is like all other liquors. There’s the good and the bad, which have nothing to do with price or fanciness of bottle. You’ve heard of Patron if you listen to hip-hop, and Jose Cuervo if you listen to country. Don’t get caught up in the marketing or you’ll be eating worms.

Of the easy-to-acquire, Milagro Silver is one of the nicer ones for price, taste, and quality. It’s 100% agave, and blanco, so it’s fairly young. There is the typical grassy and succulent agave fragrance at first, followed by citrus. It has a very wet mouth feel but a peppery flavor and an alcohol burn at the end, leaving a slight bitterness. For shots, it’s not bad, but makes an excellent mixer.

The night we emptied this bottle of Milagro, we were doing shots. It went surprisingly fast. Many of our guests felt fine the next day. No one committed a typical tequila blunder like urinating in a closet. It was remarkably tame. Almost spooky. I guess it could have been worse.

Silver, 100% Agave
750 mL | 80 proof
$40-60 bottle


The Girls Love Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry

I could make pirate jokes at this point, but I like to think I’m a little more creative than that. (Okay, so we do have Pirate Nights where we drink Piraat and make horrible puns and painfully tacky jokes, but that’s different. That’s drinking.) I’m not even going to make a joke about drinking Sailor Jerry all night and waking up to feel like you’ve been carousing with burly sea men.

Save it for Pirate Night.

But I have found the ladies do love Sailor Jerry. Even the ones that claim they don’t care for the hard stuff (heehee).

Having my book club ladies over so often, I’d gotten tired of having wine all the time, so I switched over to girly mixed drinks for a while when we had people over at the house. A half-bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum had been lurking behind the Bombay Sapphire and some odd Mexican liqueur that arrived as a gift. I suspect several of you have the same thing–a few odd bottles of assorted beverages in a cupboard or cabinet that you keep forgetting you have.

So I pull out the bottle of rum with the tattoo pin up girl on the front and try to decide if this is one of those bottles of liquor that have been handed around and regifted because it’s just plain nasty. I love rum, but Sailor Jerry looks to cute to be good. The story has a glossy Disney-esque spin put on it–the rum is actually named after a real guy, Norman Collins, who did tattoos for sailors in the Pacific for decades. Which is why the bottles have the classic old WWII pin up girl art on them. (Once you finish off the bottle, you’ll notice there’s one on the front of the label, and another lady on the inside of the front label.)

Sailor Jerry, inside bottleThe brand actually popped up as a clothing company that honored the art that Sailor Jerry created with his tattoos. Maybe it’s odd for clothing and rum to go hand in hand, but I suppose someone decided to give it a try. Come to think of it, a lot of rappers or ‘TV celebrities’ have their own line of anything they can stick their label on, so anything goes.

Rum has a long history, usually tied to the West Indies and sailors. Being made from sugar cane, it would be plentiful in the area, and being distilled, it would travel well at sea for great lengths of time. But early rum, like early humanoids, was pretty rough, and sailors often added spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg in it to make it taste less like pickled Neanderthals.

Like any other type of alcohol, there is a wide range of qualities, styles, flavors, and variations of rums. Sailor Jerry is a nice middle-of-the-road quality and it’s spiced so it tastes of cinnamon and vanilla with maybe a hint of nutmeg. This is not a sipping rum, and you probably wouldn’t get a lot of people willing to do straight shots of it. It tends to hit your mouth with abundant flavors, like your grandmother’s purse, when you’re expecting something simpler. It’s great to mix with things though. But what to mix it with?

I have a circle of friends that don’t drink (I know, what?), so I borrowed a favorite of theirs and added Sailor Jerry. Toss 1 or 2 cups of frozen berries in a blender, top off with limeade (we swear by Simply brand), and blend until it’s a party going on in there. Pour in your desired amount of Sailor Jerry (I usually eyeball it based on the people drinking, but somewhere at 1/2 cup or so), and some fresh mint leaves. Very gently pulse the blender a few times to get the rum swirling around and the mint leaves thrashed but not minced into bits. Pour into a pitcher and top off with half again that amount of ginger ale.

There’s usually one girl that says “I can barely taste it–make it stronger next time”, and she’s usually the one in a half hour asking for some water because the room got a little swirly. Not that I’m suggesting in any way to purposefully get people drunk. But for guests who aren’t comfortable with a beer or a glass of scotch, try something fun like this. (And you can make it without rum for those guests not drinking so they don’t feel singled out.)

So now I know that Sailor Jerry is a staple on our liquor bar for impromptu gatherings and other events where beer and wine just isn’t going to cut it. It’s smoother and tastier than some of those cheap brands, and the next day you won’t feel like you went overboard and were given the kiss of life by the ship’s parrot. At least the rum won’t make you feel like that. I surely don’t know what else you get up to in your spare time at parties.

Sailor Jerry
$15-18, 750 mL


Glenrothes Whiskey

Glenrothes Whiskey

First of all, this is not a lesson on what the Vs and Ss and assorted letters on a bottle of whiskey mean. Nor am I going to debate the distillation process, spelling, or origins of ‘proper’ whiskey. We are only talking about one thing here. Glenrothes Scotch. Scotch being the kind of whiskey made in Scotland. Almost everything else about Scotch can and is heavily argued over passionately drawn lines.

Our liquor cabinet is home to a varied assortment of excellent bottles of fine alcohol and wine, moderate every-day options, and the scurf of questionable stuff re-gifted during the holidays or left over after a party. You can usually measure our enjoyment of it by how much dust has settled on the bottle. There’s usually a respectable bottle of scotch nestled in with the Bombay Sapphire Gin and whatever vodka I am drinking at the moment.

The Man has been a big fan of Glenfiddich for a while, but from time to time, he splashes out on something else. We have a Glenlivet bottle and a Clynelish bottle now edging out the port bottle’s space. The obviously absent bottle is the Glenrothes. It was quickly shared with friends and finished off.

We came across the Glenrothes Select Reserve at Dorn’s–a short, stubby bottle in a sea of glamorously tall scotch bottles–and at a price just shy of $60, The Man decided life was too short to be boring. On the way home, we stopped and shared a first glass with a friend on his back patio. Enduring the early summer humidity and meditating on life as a grown-up while you wait for your ice to melt is not at all a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

The Select Reserve is a non-vintage-specific “house” bottle created by their in-house Malt Master. It is a surprisingly young- and bright-tasting blend, with citrus and vanilla high notes and a lingering orange liqueur fragrance that oddly reminds me of Halloween. Unlike our usual Glenfiddich, the Glenrothes has very little of the smoky peat flavor that is a signature of many traditional scotch makers. But it lacks that rough edge that sub-par scotch often has. It is smooth and caramel-creamy, with a buttery mouth feel that slides into a breathy finish.

Not only does Glenrothes reuse American and Spanish oak casks (sherry and/or bourbon) as is tradition, they have a cooperage on site where they rebuild, check, and mix planks from casks so the interaction between the wood and whiskey create unique flavors and characters. On their website, they have a collection of videos that elaborate on the scotch making process and Glenrothes’ style of processing, which I recommend if you have any spare time. These are scotch geeks, if there is such a thing.

Glenrothes produces a variety of vintages (their Malt Master has since retired, so there’s no telling what will happen long-term to the brand), and they seem to stick to their recognizable stubby round bottle. We returned to Dorn’s to scout out another bottle of the Select Reserve without any luck. They did have a bottle of what was possibly the ‘John Ramsay’ vintage behind the counter for $500, but that was a little too pricey for us. Maybe after we win the lottery.

The Glenrothes
Select Reserve
750 mL bottle, $45-65