I am not, truth be told, much of a drinker. I was raised in a nearly teetotal household, and when I went to college, it took precisely one game of Thumper (during which I was returning from the men's room when someone else, between whom and the porcelain goddess no wise person would have wanted to come, thrust the door open and into my scalp; fortunately, the pain was temporarily dulled by the alcohol) for me to determine that binge drinking was not my thing. I did not acquire a taste for beer (calling whatever it was that we consumed during Thumper "beer" is a level of generosity to which I cannot bring myself to rise) until some years later, and there was not much non-beer alcoholic consumption going on in my dormitory. Wine, too, was a taste that I acquired mainly after I had left campus.
So I have never had much of an occasion to drink cocktails. Most of my friends don't really drink any more than I do, and if they are having a cocktail, it will be something that strikes me as not so much a cocktail as an abomination. When accepting an invitation to my last party, for instance, one of my friends asked whether he should bring the makings for chocolate martinis. I am afraid my response to him was rather impolitic, but I suspect that it is better to be thought slightly rude than to serve chocolate martinis.
V. certainly is not the cocktail type. Last summer, we went through one of the pantries and removed all of the bottles of alcohol that V. had been given over the years that seemed unlikely ever to be consumed. The dozen or so (full) bottles were then given to V.'s son who, in addition to being a thoroughly charming young man, appears to be a good deal more conversant with heavy alcohol consumption than we are. He also has a wife who appears not to mind being the designated driver.
Sometimes, however, cocktails seem like a good idea. This past weekend, for example, I had made plans with friends to see a movie, and we had invited them to dinner beforehand. Not knowing what the showtimes would be, I suggested 6 for dinner. The movie turned out to start at 9:45, meaning that we would probably leave the leaving three and one-half to kill, since leaving the house at 9:30 would give us ample time to be seated in the theater before the preview (singular: it is not a very fancy theater, but you can always get a seat). I was reasonably sure that this amount would be trimmed to three hours because my friend S. would likely attempt to arrive at 6:10 but would manage not to arrive until 6:45. He has a very unique sense of direction which has not been corrupted by his several trips to our place.
I had not planned an elaborate dinner, though, so I figured that a cocktail hour would be a good idea. But what to serve? During the summer, I would simply have served sangria, which everyone likes, and which, though relatively weak, is very tasty. I had considered serving Cosmopolitans, but a real Cosmo would have been too strong. So I made what is, essentially, a watered-down Cosmopolitan, the Suburban. I am aware that the name is not something that lends itself to marketing. I am also aware that many people would find this too weak to call a cocktail, but I thought it was pretty good, and my guests liked it. And everyone could have two and still drive safely after two hours and a glass of wine with dinner. You can always call it punch if you'd rather.
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/8 cup triple sec
3/4 cup vodka, from the freezer
3/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
approximately 2 cups cold ginger ale
In a one-liter pitcher, combine the first four ingredients. Stir and refrigerate. Immediately before serving, add the cold ginger ale. Stop adding the ginger ale before the pitcher overflows.
Serves four to six.
It is important that you use lime juice that has just been squeezed. You do not want to strain the lime juice: the pulp helps to keep the drink from being too sweet. The picture above was taken on the second day (to take advantage of daylight). When the cocktails have just been made, there will be more pulp, and this is a good thing.
You will, of course, want to serve some sort of nibble with the cocktails. I have mentioned before the recipe for Rosemary Walnuts made famous by Laurie Colwin. When I went to make them this time, I did not have any cayenne pepper, and I only had fresh rosemary (there's a big bush on the side of the house, and it hasn't been very cold here yet, but it is still amuses me that I could only find fresh herbs). I did have some ground chipotle pepper, so I substituted that, and I think that it was even better than the original. I also think that the butter and herb mixture coats more walnuts than the original recipe calls for.
2.5 T. butter
1 t. salt (sea or kosher)
1 T. fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 t. ground chile pepper
3 c. walnut halves
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Put the salt and rosemary together on a cutting board and cut until the rosemary is very fine. Add the salt and rosemary to the melted butter along with the ground chile pepper. Toss the walnuts in this mixture, then transfer them to a baking sheet. Bake for about 13 minutes, making sure that they don't burn.
These walnuts are seriously delicious and mildly addictive. The only thing that could possibly be easier to make would be a bowl of olives, and you can go ahead and serve both the walnuts and the olives. You only live once.