Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Mischievous Mixologist: The Vortex Cocktail

The Vortex Cocktail

2 ounces Calvados
2 ounces Dry Vermouth
2 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce (homemade) grenadine
5 dashes Angostura bitters
5 dashes Bittercube orange bitters
Juice of one cutie (mandarin orange from California )
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Shown here: half recipe

            I made this drink for my husband recently, to celebrate a promotion.  I was going to call it The Polar Vortex, since it was -20 degrees outside at the time.    But I decided the word Polar made it sound like a frozen drink.  And I don’t like frozen drinks, unless they’re made of ice cream.  So I guess what I’m saying is, I will post a frozen drink recipe here, when Hell freezes over. 

            If Hell is anywhere in Wisconsin, of course, it did freeze over this week.  I’m not entirely sure on Hell's location, cuz I don't have it on my weather app.  But everyplace else around here pretty much froze over.   Between you and me, I didn’t think the Polar Vortex was all that bad.   Granted, I was locked inside on house arrest with my kids for two days straight.  But was it really necessary to cancel school because of a little cold snap?   As far as I’m concerned, negative 20 degrees would not have seemed extreme when I was a kid.  Several of my childhood friends on Facebook agreed with me on this.  One year in high school, when I was too cool for a coat, I just wore one of my dad’s flannel shirts outside.  All winter long.   I didn’t get frostbite!   Nobody sent me home for not having a “coat”!   Now get back to school, whippersnappers.  Also, get off my lawn.

            But really, if my husband can survive these kinds of temperatures, anyone can.   I dragged him here, practically against his will.    Despite having spent several years in Boston -- and many more in New York City -- he was raised in Sacramento.  More than any place in that state, Sacramento deserves to be called: “the Midwest of California.”  It’s a plain speaking place.  A capitol town.  Nothing glitzy about it.  Still, my husband had never considered moving to a place that shares meteorological events with northern Canada.   He didn’t even know people still moved to the Midwest. 

Polar Vortex.  Cold.

And really, his worst fears were confirmed during our very first winter here.  People have been freaking out about this Polar Vortex thing.  But I don’t need to hearken all the way back to my childhood to remember frigid air.  Just back in 2008, there were several weeks in January when we were in the negative double digits.   Mike was using a lot of double negatives of his own too.  He’d say things like, “There isn’t a day that I don’t regret moving here.”  And, “I’m not sure I haven’t made a terrible mistake.” 

Not long after, we came across a news story about an old Norwegian woman in Minnesota, who slipped on some ice in her driveway, and got stuck in a frozen snow bank for several hours.   She temporarily lost her heartbeat!  And yet, once she arrived at the nearest hospital -- and her body temperature was warmed back up to whatever is normal for Norwegians -- she revived.  And suffered no permanent damage.  My husband took this cryogenic miracle as irrefutable evidence that in the Midwest, it was too cold outside even to die.

Over time, I have found him to be pretty resilient in extreme cold weather.  This has been a little surprising.   Californians, generally speaking, care about nice weather.   So maybe this Wisconsin thing is a self-selection issue.  Maybe the ones who agree to come here with their spouses are already descended from heartier stock.  My husband’s family, for example, has relatives in Illinois.  They also claim to be related to someone who used to live in North Dakota.  According to family lore, this North Dakota ancestor once went outside in the winter with wet hair and “his eyebrows froze and fell off.”  I’m not saying that really happened.    But I do love it.  I mean, could you imagine a better story about North Dakota, told by people from California? 

Actually, I find Californians who adjust to this climate very admirable.  I have another friend here from California who -- when she and her husband first came to visit, and daytime temps were well below zero -- showed up at my front door wearing a fleece.    When I told her she needed a warmer jacket, she said: “Our coats are in the car.”   This surprised me because - other than hockey players and on-call plumbers -- people in Wisconsin typically wear their coats all the way into the house.  That way, the coat is warm when you want to put it on and go outside again.  Where it’s cold.  But I didn’t want to be too presumptuous, and tell her that.  I hardly knew her at the time.  For all I knew, she’d leave my house and freeze to death, and I’d never see her again.

Oddly, though, my husband sometimes leaves his coat in the car, too.  From these two universal examples, I have concluded that Californians – even those who move to a place where people throw boiling water into the air, and watch it transform into snow, for fun – just really don’t like wearing their coats.

Well, I made this celebratory drink for my California husband.  I used a mandarin orange -- from balmy Bakersfield -- because they come to us here, sweet and juicy, in the wintertime.   Along with that cutie, I used Cointreau and the orange bitters. So it has a really orangey flavor.  Note: The recipe for the homemade grenadine is same one that I used HERE.   Store bought one would be fine.

grenadine, cutie, bitters, vermouth, Cointreau, bitters, Calvados

The best part about this drink is its subtle strength. Vermouth is technically a wine, I suppose.  But the combined 3 spirits pack a wallop.  After a few sips, you’ll be ready to throw off your coat, run outside, and throw boiling water into the air.   

Or just, to have a good time.  No need to wait for a promotion, friends.   It’s cold outside!  It might even be Polar Vortex cold.  And yet, the good people of California – all 38 million of them, all of them without coats -- still send us yummy oranges.   For that, we should celebrate!

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