Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dog Days Drinks

With Historical References, I might add...

The dog days of summer are definitely upon us, when scorching hot days and simmering, sultry nights call for crisp linens, afternoons spent at the coast or poolside and evenings on a patio with a breeze, and of course, a cool refreshing cocktail in hand.

The Good Guy has dragged himself from a chaise lounge to give you the low down on a handful of classic summertime cocktails, sure to ease the oppression of the summer sun’s rays. And I’ve thrown in a little anecdotal history with which you can regale your friends as you mix, pour and consume them.

The Margarita

Probably the most famous and most copiously consumed of the summertime cocktails is the margarita. Although stories of its inception vary in many ways, they invariably reference a bartender in the early 1940’s, typically in Mexico City or Tijuana, who created the libation as a tribute to a woman named Margarita – possibly Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Cansino. It gained national acclaim and popularity when Esquire magazine named The Margarita Cocktail its "Drink of the Month" in December 1953.

The Good Guy eschews today’s frozen, mass-manufactured recipes for this classic combination.
• Two parts Patron Silver tequila
• Half part Cointreau or Grand Marnier, or substitute with a couple of dashes of orange bitters for an even less sweet version
• One part fresh lime juice.
Combine and shake, pour over cracked ice into glass with salted rim.

And here’s another simple, unique favorite I often employ, especially poolside.
1 Part Tequila (almost any brand will do in this situation)
1 Part Frozen Limeade
1 Part Lemon Lime Soda
1 Part Beer (yep, Beer. I use Negra Modelo, but any Mexican brand, dark or light, will suffice)
Stir it all together in a pitcher and pour over cracked ice into a glass with a slated rim. Trust me on this one – incredibly simple and surprisingly refreshing.

Gin and Tonic
The Gin and Tonic, often referred to as a G&T, was introduced by the British East India Company in India in the 18th century. Tonic water contains quinine, which was used to prevent malaria. Because the tonic water of the period was extremely strong, making it taste very bitter, gin was added to make it more palatable. The bitter flavor of quinine complements the green Juniper notes of gin, much as dry vermouth complements the gin in a classic martini. Although tonic water today has less medical use, this classic concoction has remained a popular drink, particularly in the warmer climes.

A simple drink, and often an acquired taste, don’t over-think it.
1 part Tanqueray Gin
2 parts Tonic Water
Over cracked ice with a lime wedge

The Daiquiri
Technically, the Daiquiri can refer to any of a family of cocktails whose main ingredients are rum, lime juice, and sugar or other sweetener. While any reference to the drink today probably calls to mind the frozen, fruity, paper umbrella-embellished monstrosities that no self-respecting Good Guy would be caught sipping, the original Daiquiri boasts one of the most manly pedigrees of any cocktail. Invented in the El Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba near the turn of the 20th century, it was introduced a decade later to the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. by an Admiral who had enjoyed the drink in Cuba. It’s popularity grew steadily over the next several decades, reaching it’s peak in the 1940’s when it was a favorite of both John F. Kennedy and Ernest Hemmingway. You can’t get much more Good Guy than that.

1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 2 limes
3 ounces of 10 Cane Rum
Stir vigorously with cracked ice and strain into a chilled, stemmed glass.

The Vodka Press or The Presbyterian
The story behind this drink is that non-drinking Presbyterians , tired of being derided for their tee-totaling ways, would mix equal parts of Club Soda and Ginger Ale in a highball glass, to mimic the look of the days most popular drink, 7&7. Over time, the refreshing nature of the drink, though not its non-alcoholic attribute, caught on and Rye whiskey was added, creating the original Rye Presbyterian, or Rye Press. Today the Vodka Press is a more popular, though often overlooked evolution of the same drink, and a refreshing alternative to the standard Vodka and Tonic or Vodka and Soda.

1.5 ounces vodka of choice
(The Good Guy humbly suggest the under-priced and underrated Monopolowa)
1 part club soda
1 lemon lime soda
Lime Wedge

An Ice Cold Beer
Seriously, what is better on a hot summer day than an ice-cold beer? Whether at the beach, the pool, the golf course or as reward from an afternoon of yard work, or any other excuse you create in order to enjoy a tall frosty one, there’s simply nothing more versatile, portable, affordable and refreshing than a cold brew – or 6.

In the summer months, stick to the lighter brands, and look south of the border for something to combine with a juicy lime wedge – Corona, Dos Equis, Sol, Pacifico and Tecate are all popular choices. The Good Guy prefers Carta Blanca, or the darker Negra Modelo when indoors. Or, pour a cool Blue Moon into a chilled pint glass and add a healthy sized slice of orange for a citrusy, wheaty diversion. (I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention my personal favorite, St. Arnold’s amber. Not the lightest of beers, but with the perfect combination or bright and bitter – and packing a bit of a punch.)

So that’s The Good Guy‘s shortlist of summer cocktail classics. As always, The Good Guy welcomes your feedback, so feel free to send your favorite takes on these or other warm-weather favorites, or just put your two sips in.

And one more Cliff Claven-esque anecdote…
In the summer months, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. During late July Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that the heat of this brightest star, added to the heat of the sun, created a period of increasingly hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days” after the dog star, not Dogstar, the 1990’s grunge band which included bassist Keanu Reeves and also contributed to the unpleasantness of many a summer evening.

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