The first time I had to make a cocktail from scratch I was in a foreign country. I lived in Denmark for four months in college, and by the time our visit was concluded, I wanted to stay forever! I arrived in January, in the middle of one of the worst winters they had had in 30 years. The cold coupled with the fact that the Danish only get a handful of hours of light in the winter had me feeling a little bleak some days. Luckily a friend who was also visiting from my college was rooming with a Danish family who took me in as one of their own. The first weekend we were there they hosted a Danish dinner party for us. I will never forget the pickled herring on toast or the sharp, tasteless schnapps sipped from tall, elegant shot glasses that paired with it. Perhaps the most memorable dish of that meal was the leverpostej which was baked liver pate covered in bacon. I had never had liver in my life, but what an introduction! Some day I will recreate it for you all so you can have the pleasure.
One day my college friend and I wanted to return the favor and make a Mexican feast for them. There was only one “Mexican” restaurant in town and it was a hybrid “Mexican-Italian” place – it was as awful as it sounds. So we went shopping and with a little language trial-and-error were able to procure most of the items we needed to make pico de gallo, mango salad, and tacos. All that remained was margaritas. Copenhagen is not known for having “mixed drinks” in its bars – beer and wine and straight liquor only. The liquor store did not sell a margarita mix which was all we knew about making margaritas (being young in drinking at the time). We were stumped, so we did a little research and discovered the recipe for margaritas without the mix. Since then I have perfected my from-scratch margarita and gone on to make other drinks without a mix and with a level of creativity that I had not known was possible so many years ago.
Whiskey is a liquor we have on hand often because Mr. Foodie likes a basic whiskey-coke more than most other types of cocktails. Good for us since yesterday was National Whiskey Sour Day! Each week I always grab a handful of lemons because I end up using them in all sorts of ways throughout the week. They are also handy for several from-scratch cocktails that we both love. My recipe for whiskey sour is the simplest version: 2 shots whiskey, half a juicy lemon squeezed over, and 4 teaspoons of sugar or to taste – this makes one good sized cocktail. Mr. Foodie and I like to taste our liquor typically, so most of my cocktail recipes are designed to feel the heat of the liquor on your tongue. You can, of course, adjust the amount of lemon and sugar you add to make it palatable to your taste.
What I love about this drink is its balance – the smokey whiskey, the tart lemon, and the sweet kiss of sugar make this cocktail the kind you don’t mind sipping while making dinner or staring out at the water watching boats float by. One is usually perfectly satisfying for me. I’m looking forward to sharing more of our cocktail recipes with you in the coming weeks! Do you have a favorite from-scratch cocktail recipe you’d like to share?
Whiskey Sour Recipe
3 oz (2 shots) of Whiskey
Juice of 1/2 a juicy lemon (or more if desired)
4 teaspoons of sugar (or to taste)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 5-6 times, pour over ice in a low ball glass. Garnish with lemon and/or sugar if desired.