I’m basically a wine girl, with my favorite varieties coming from vineyards in Northern California, the Barossa in Australia, or the Amarone in Italy. Wine is an excellent complement to food of every kind, from freshly popped popcorn to chocolate to steak to omelets.
However, every once in a while I break from tradition and enjoy a few mixed concoctions, especially during the spring and summer months when a cool and refreshing libation is preferred after a hot day of toiling in the urban garden. Nothing quenches thirst or slows down hemorrhaging sweat glands faster than a good mixed drink.
My beverage of the moment is the Cosmopolitan and/or martinis. I know, I know. A typical Cosmo is pink and girly, and dry martinis are as far away as you can get from that on the manliness scale, but each, presented in the trademark giant bowl of a glass, is an experience.
Despite the attempts by the Sex and the City girls to elevate the drink to a New York City-only phenomenon, a Cosmopolitan or martini isn’t just a prop to help the otherwise hapless mortal look sophisticated and worldly. These are damned good drinks!
In the bar setting, they can be über-expensive, especially if you’re in a venue such as the Top of the Mark, but never fear and take heart: The basic Cosmo is relatively simple to make at home. Take an ice cold shaker, some ice, one and one half ounces of vodka (leave the Popov for the bums — the better the vodka, the better the drink), an ounce of cranberry juice, some Cointreau or triple sec, and a splash of lime juice. Give the container a good shake and strain the contents into an ice cold glass.
Change it up by changing the vodka. Citron is my favorite these days, but I might change my mind tomorrow. Add raspberry Chambord instead of triple sec and kick it up a notch.
A basic vodka martini is simpler, if you can believe that: three ounces of vodka, splash of vermouth and a speared olive and you’re in business. A martini may lack the feminine charms and pastel hues of a Cosmopolitan, but depending on the alcohol used, the drink can be just as refreshing.
Last summer, my brother-in-law, who is also enjoying a martini kick, introduced me to a homemade blood orange Cosmo — the orange substituted for the cranberry juice — which was to die for, likely because the oranges came fresh from his neighbor’s backyard. I tried to replicate it using the sorry blood oranges that managed to make it to my local supermarket, but it was not the same.
During a recent trip to San Francisco, my son and I took advantage of the limited run Cliff House $3 Happy Hour martini. (Actually, we had a couple.) This was necessary to offset the $13 Cosmopolitans at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Three dollar martinis? Inexpensive, yes. Delicious, double yes.
In case you need inspiration, the Swank Martini web site lists every martini recipe known to man. I don’t know about you, but I plan on starting at the beginning and working myself all the way from Abracadabra to Zippy Martini.