What advice do you give your child the night before they leave for college? When I think back, I am not sure I gave my children advice when they went off to school. It was more of a plea to stay safe. The advice given to me the night before I flew 3000 miles away to school took me by surprise. I can remember it as clear as a cloudless California summer night, Dad said to me, “If you are going to drink, drink vodka. It is the purest of all alcohol so you won’t get a headache, and the cops can’t smell it on your breath.” “Ah, ok Dad.” Whaaat…? I mean what is an 18-year-old supposed to say to that?
Flashback to 1977 in California where I lived. I was moving to New York and in 1977 the drinking age was 18. I’m guessing Dad figured the likelihood of me drinking alcohol was a distinct reality. So maybe that explains his peculiar advice.
The other shock about Dad giving me advice on alcohol and drinking is Dad was not a big drinker. Yes, Dad enjoyed his cocktail at night, but he never had more than one drink. His ritual was a gin and tonic in the spring and summer months and a bourbon on the rocks in the fall and winter. He never drank in excess or was he a big fan of people who did drink a lot. Furthermore, I do not believe he ever took a sip of vodka in his life, so how did he know? Yet, there he was standing before me telling me what to drink. Maybe in his own way, he was telling me to stay safe and keep out of trouble. Giving practical advice is less emotional than saying I will miss you and you are moving so far away.
It wasn’t until I was married and with college-age children of my own, that I took Dad’s advice and vodka became my beverage of choice for cocktails. Maybe my influence came from Cosmos featured so elegantly in Sex in the City. Though, I made up my own Cosmo recipe using pomegranate juice, lime juice and vodka. However, the vodka gimlet I can distinctly point to my husband’s cousin for the credit.
We were at a pool party at Joe’s cousin’s home enjoying a small Palumbo family reunion one blistering hot summer day. His cousin was making vodka gimlets in honor of his father. I mean Uncle Frank was Joe’s Godfather so how could we refuse? Wow, Steven made them strong, but they were the perfect antidote on that sweltering hot day. Maybe more refreshing than the pool. It was love at first sip. From that day on, vodka gimlets became our preferred cocktail and set the standard for all vodka martinis to come.
Traditionally, gimlets are made with gin, lime juice and a splash of simple syrup. However, I prefer my gimlets made with vodka and without simple syrup. Adding mint leaves to the shaker and muddling the leaves with a slice of lime softens the strong vodka bite. The mint quickly infuses the cocktail with its herbal charm and tones down the alcohol. In my opinion, the mint infusion eliminates the need for the simple syrup.
I must confess, I do not mind strong cocktails because I like to taste the alcohol in my drinks and not be masked by a sweetener. Yet, making the perfect cocktail is all about balance, that is why I like adding fresh herbs to cocktails. In my opinion, herbs balance out all the flavors. Also, tasting the alcohol in your drink helps you to sip the cocktail at a slower pace. If a cocktail tastes like sweetened fruit juice, that cocktail will quickly disappear with a second trip to the bar already underway.
You do not need fancy vodka for a vodka gimlet, just a smooth and clean tasting one. For fun and to educate myself about local distilleries, I bought a vodka made in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Republic Vodka. It is made with grains from the Midwest, the NY Hudson Valley, and Brooklyn water. Don’t get turned off by Brooklyn water, the New York City Watershed is in my backyard with reservoirs all over Westchester County and this water is good and clean.
Brooklyn Republic Vodka has a clean taste with a silky smooth viscosity. I cannot drink most vodkas straight up, but I can drink Brooklyn Republic Vodka ice-cold as is. This is a delicious vodka and it is clear Brooklyn Republic Vodka knows what they are doing.
New York State, and in particular Brooklyn is developing a solid reputation for distilling local vodka, gin, bourbon and brewing beer all made with New York grain. It is an exciting development that is part of a resurgence for small wheat and corn farms all over the state.
Vodka Gimlet Variations
Vodka gimlets are a refreshing summer cocktail, but I enjoy them year round. For some variety, you can switch up the herbs. Thyme, rosemary or basil make terrific substitutions for the mint in a vodka gimlet or martini. Cucumbers are a nice addition as well. Muddle a slice of cucumber with the mint, or another fresh herb, then proceed as directed.
Maybe Dad was right about vodka being the purest alcoholic beverage which could reduce the likelihood of getting a headache after a night of fun. Yet, just to be on the safe side, please drink vodka gimlets, or any cocktail, responsibly. Have fun and please be safe.
Enjoy any one of these appetizers with your cocktail
Lime Mint Vodka Gimlet
Vodka gimlet is a very refreshing cocktail with the bright flavor of lime and fresh mint. There is no simple syrup added, which keeps the cocktail bright with a slight citrus sourness. The mint muddled in the vodka ties it all together. Fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to martinis. To me, they are a necessary ingredient to tone down the sharp bite of vodka.
Feel free to adjust the amount of vodka to suit your taste.
- 3-4 small fresh mint leaves
- 2 limes 1 lime for juice, the other used in the cocktail and garnish
- Handful of ice cubes
- 5 oz vodka clean tasting vodka that is not flavored
Add the mint with one thin slice of lime to a cocktail shaker and use the handle of a wooden spoon or a muddler and press down on the lime and mint to release the oils. Add a handful of ice cubes, then add freshly squeezed lime juice of one lime and the vodka into your cocktail shaker. Put the top on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 15-30 seconds.
Pour the cocktail in two 4 oz (125 ml) martini glasses, add a slice or wedge of lime for garnish. Serve immediately while it's ice cold.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
After you make Triple C Cranberry Sauce, you will have extra cranberry juice that needs a purpose. You could drink it plain for breakfast. Crantini’s are nice cocktails. Or, infuse the juice with herbs and spices for a festive signature cocktail. The latter is my choice, especially since I love martinis made with fruit juice muddled with fresh herbs and spices. Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail takes its inspiration from the classic Cosmo Cocktail and is perfect for entertaining.
There are many fun cocktails for the holidays, but my inspiration came for the need to use up some leftover juice, and a request from Joe, “If you’re going to make a cocktail, make a vodka cocktail.” How could I refuse? Vodka has a clean alcohol flavor which mixes well with many fruit juices. I am not a fan of flavored vodkas, they just taste artificial to me. It is also less expensive to flavor the vodka myself then buy 3 different types of flavored vodka. All you need to get the flavors of herbs and spices in your drink, is to add a small herb sprig or fruit, and muddle it to release its oils. Then add the remaining ingredients and shake away.
The scents and flavors of my cranberry sauce got me thinking about new ideas for a vodka cocktail. Many herbs pair nicely with cranberry and I started dreaming about adding rosemary, ginger and orange bitters to cranberry juice. I tried steeping rosemary, ginger, lemon peel and allspice into the cranberry juice. Unfortunately, after 36 hours the juice tasted no different. I am going to work on this some more, but until then a cocktail shaker and a muddle gets the job done.
When we drink cocktails, vodka is our preferred libation. Though I am not remiss for trying other beverages like tequila for a Classic Margarita, and stout in a Guinness Stout Float. Even cooking with spirits is fun like, Chocolate Stout Cake.
I am particular about my drinks, because I prefer them on the dry side. Many cocktails are too sweet for my tastes. Yet, I recognize some drinks need a touch of sugar for the flavors to balance out. There is a fine line of how much simple syrup to add before it gets too much, but it does make a difference. Spiced cranberry vodka cocktail needs just a pinch of sugar to offset the harsh vodka and tart cranberry juice. It is amazing how even a small amount can change a drink from good to wow.
Granulated sugar does not dissolve in cold beverages, but simple syrup does. Imagine that layer of sugar at the bottom of a glass of iced tea and you’ll get the picture. No one wants that slurry in a cocktail. That is why simple syrup is used. Depending on how sweet your juice is, you may or may not need the simple syrup. The first time you make it, taste as you go to figure out how much simple syrup you need to reach your desired balance of flavor. Simple syrup is a good option to have at your disposal, whether you want a cocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage.
Spiced cranberry vodka cocktail is a remake of two classic drinks, Crantini and a Cosmo. The fresh herbs and spice from the ginger make this cocktail a festive and refreshing beverage. It would also taste great in a non-alcoholic beverage using the herb infused cranberry juice with seltzer or ginger ale.
Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail
Spiced Simple Syrup
- 1/2 cup 125 ml water
- 1/2 cup 125 ml sugar
- 1 1/2- inch 4 cm slice fresh ginger, sliced thin
- 1/6 tsp pinch ground allspice, or 3 allspice berries
Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail
- 1 inch 2.5 cm piece of a rosemary sprig
- 1 thin slice of fresh ginger
- 2 oz 60 ml vodka
- 2 oz 60 ml cranberry juice
- 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
- Juice of half a lemon
- Less than 1/2 tsp of spiced simple syrup
Spiced Simple Syrup
Add all the ingredients for the simple syrup into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. When the sugar is dissolved, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for two minutes. Stir the whole time you are cooking the simple syrup, and gently pound the ginger with a wooden spoon to release its flavor.
Turn off the heat and cool for twenty minutes.
Pour the simple syrup through a fine mesh strainer resting over a glass container. Store in a glass container with a lid in the refrigerator. Simple syrup will keep for two weeks, stored in the refrigerator.
Spiced Cranberry Vodka Cocktail
Add the rosemary, sliced ginger, into a cocktail shaker and muddle the herbs to release their flavors.
Fill the shaker with ice, then pour the vodka, cranberry juice, lemon juice, simple syrup if needed, and 2-3 dashes of orange bitters. Cover and give it a good shake.
Pour into martini glasses and serve.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.