Taking My Chances

…and that was another exhausting two weeks. Sorry for the online absence, but the day job occasionally gets in the way.

But after the deadlines are met and all the projects are wrapped up, I’m ready for a nice, quiet evening exploring the bottom of a cocktail glass. Problem is, I’ve been so preoccupied that I haven’t had much chance to think about the next drink I’m planning to try–sure, there are the “hmm, maybe” drinks that I pause over while flipping through a cocktail guide, but when a frenzied time comes around, it derails my train of thought. I could always mix something old and familiar–indeed, that’s what I’ve been doing late at night the past couple of weeks–but it’s time for something new, just for a little variety.

CocktailDB logoFortunately, for periods of option paralysis, there’s always CocktailDB.com. Probably the most extensive and thorough drinks database ever, anywhere, CocktailDB is the brainchild of Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh and Martin Doudoroff. Drawing on Doc’s extensive library of cocktail manuals and filled with photos and information from his even more extensive liquor cabinet, CocktailDB lists thousands of drinks and their various offshoots, complete with photos and descriptions of each component, including ingredients that haven’t been produced for decades. My goal? To take the whole decision-making process about what cocktail to mix tonight out of my hands, and instead make it the responsibility of a bunch of code and a scarily extensive liquor collection.

My plan is to make the first drink that comes up, for which I have all the ingredients (while I have enough booze on hand to pickle an elephant, I have nowhere near Doc’s 1,000-bottle collection). CocktailDB features a “Random Recipe” generator, which, as the name implies, snags a random recipe from the database. I got lucky with the second try: a Cuban Cocktail variation, calling for equal parts Bacardi light rum and pineapple juice, with some grenadine and maraschino thrown in for excitement. Easy enough–perhaps not something I’d have picked on my own, but nothing I regretted drinking.

Cuban Cocktail Variation

  • 1 1/2 ounces Bacardi light rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1/4 ounce grenadine
  • 1/4 ounce maraschino

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Still, after a near full two weeks of non-cocktail-oriented thinking, I needed something to throw me for a loop, a drink that would knock my tastebuds on their jaded little heads (go with me, here), and jump-start my thinking about drinking. For this, the Random Recipe is a bit too pedestrian. I need the Mixilator: The David Embury Random Cocktail Generator. Taking a further step into the unknown, the Mixilator uses CocktailDB’s awe-inspiring ingredients database and matches it with the complex cocktail-mixing theories of legendary home mixologist and cocktail-guide writer David Embury. A full writeup on how the mixilator works is available for your perusal, but, in a nutshell, you specify a few parameters for the kind of drink you’re looking for–sweet or sour, strong or average, something as an aperitif or something as a nightcap–and the Mixilator does the rest. if you’re looking for a random, blow-out-the-gaskets kind of drink, this is where to start.

Of course, drawing on all sources in the extensive ingredient database means a large number of the recipes generated by Mixilator will be simply impossible for the home mixologist (or professional, for that matter) to make. Fortunately, I get somewhat lucky within the first five tries, with a drink Mixilator dubs the Ballot Cocktail–Rum Pampero, Port and orgeat. Rum Pampero, I learn, is a proprietary dark rich rum from Venezuela; CocktailDB recommends using another dark rum as a substitute. Easily done, if I give myself the leeway of using a substitute rum.

Ballot Cocktail

  • 3 ounces Rum Pampero (substitute another dark, rich, sweet rum–I used Lemon Hart Demerara)
  • 1/2 ounce Port
  • 1 teaspoon orgeat

“Fill shaker with copious quantities of ice and, being careful to not knock anything over, vigorously thrust the shaker up and down to a frenzied synthetic beat. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.”

Hanging on to the Ballot, just in case I can’t find anything else that my liquor cabinet matches perfectly, I start searching again. More than 100 cocktails later I’m still searching, clicking past drinks such as the Aroma Cocktail, the Cowtown Pinner Cocktail and the Madison Externalization Miller Cocktail, that call for ingredients such as advocaat, Barack Palinka, butterscotch schnapps, Boonekamp bitters or–oddly–a surprising number that call for orange or lemon sherbets.

Eventually, after WAY too much time clicking for new drinks (and a short break to refresh myself with a Ballot, which, while not too bad, affirms my need to keep looking), I hit it: the bizarrely named Fish Fag Cocktail (Mixilator also randomly generates the drink names). Anejo rum–thank god for that impulse buy a few months back–sweet vermouth, simple syrup and raspberry liqueur (I’m ignoring, of course, the recommended garnish: “throw Jello into the drink”).

Fish Fag Cocktail

  • 3 ounces anejo rum
  • 1 teaspoon sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 2 dashes raspberry liqueur (Chambourd)

“Shake your moneymaker with a generosity of ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Throw Jello into drink.”

The Fish Fag doesn’t even taste too bad–vaguely weird and a little fruity, and the sweet vermouth/rum/raspberry combination makes it taste a little like something out of an old-timey drinks manual by someone like Jerry Thomas–poured over shaved ice and garnished with a bunch of berries (hold the Jello), it’d probably fit right in. Still, I can’t see myself–or anyone, for that matter–ordering this in a bar.

Did the Mixilator shake my brain and tastebuds out of the doldrums? Too soon to tell, though the next time I’m looking for a drink I’m definitely more inclined to start browsing through my bookshelf than take a crack at Quinn’s Blazing Eavesdropper Special.

Leave a reply