RSS
 

Posts Tagged ‘Drinks’

Magnetic bottlecap rings are like wine charms for bottles

19 Apr

Labeled magnet, ring, and finished bottle cap holderI often pour one glass of cider and recork the larger bottle for later. This has one drawback: no longer do I know what type of cider inside the bottle. Without caps, my blank bottles are impossible to tell apart.

My solution? With a magnet and a steel ring, I can attach the cap to the neck of the bottle. These things are require no tools to make, and they are infinitely reusable. I keep several stuck to the fridge in case I have a bottle-labeling emergency of some kind.

How to make one: Stick the magnet on the ring, and drop the ring around the neck of the bottle. The magnet will hold the cap there as long as you like. Magnetic or ring-based charms could also help people identify their bottles at a party.

Magnetic cap holder on bottleMagnetic bottle cap holder

Where to get the parts: I used magnets from hard drives because they’re powerful and semi-elegant, but any magnet that keeps the cap from flying away under normal drinking conditions should be fine. As for the rings, large ones work best — they need an internal diameter of at least 1.1″ (28 cm) to fit past the flared mouths of most bottles. Split rings (a.k.a. key rings) are fine if they’re large enough. Hardware stores also have a number of cheap plumbing fittings that would work as long as they’re ferromagnetic (made of metals like iron or steel) and will attract to a magnet.

 

Sugar cane: worth the extra cost (and calories)

17 Mar

Real sugar Coke and tonic waterThe debate over corn syrup and cane sugar is a remarkable case of mercantile debates playing out through public policy. Coca-Cola used to be made with real cane sugar, but now it is made with America’s favorite product, corn syrup. Have you had real sugar lately? Just as a real Coke tastes better than a Diet Coke, a Coke made with real sugar tastes better than a typical, corn-syrup Coke. Sugar tastes delicious. Unfortunately for the thrill-seekers out there, cane sugar has been largely dismissed due to the low price of a native agricultural product.

I don’t want to encourage the consumption of empty calories. Then again, soda isn’t healthy to begin with. I believe that sugary sodas have helped make America fatter. I also would assume that the artificial sweeteners in sugar-free, “diet” drinks may have unexpected (if still unknown) long-term health effects. Therefore, the only safe route is to have nothing.

Good luck with that.

Let’s ignore the agricultural politics behind corn syrup’s low price and go straight to flavor. If you love a delicious beverage, you owe it to yourself to try sodas made with cane sugar. They taste better than the corn-syrup alternative. Drink them in moderation, of course, but if you’re going to drink the calories, you might as well have something delicious rather than merely good. Specialty brands like Jones Soda, Izze, and the recent Pepsi Throwbacks have demonstrated the growing market for premium, sugary beverages.

365 tonic water detailMexican Coke detail

Here are my top recommendations:

  • Tonic Water: Whole Foods’ 365 Tonic Water is the most widely-available tonic water that uses real sugar. Highly recommended for gin and tonics, which are raised to a new level compared to the usual stuff. This will make any tonic-based cocktail better. Even if you don’t normally drink tonic water, buy a six-pack and put in the back of your liquor cabinet as a foolproof bubbly mixer.
  • Coca-Cola: The real Coke is available in many parts of the U.S. at Passover (look for yellow caps marking them as Kosher) and is also available imported from Mexico (check Costco or any local Hispanic store). This makes a much better Coke-based drink than the more pedestrian types of Coke. Recommended for rum and Cokes especially. You also get to enjoy the bottles.
 

Save past-their-prime bananas to make banana milkshakes

24 Jan

Bananas and banana milkshakeI love bananas, and I hate wasting them. Overripe bananas turn soft and mushy inside as the skin blackens. However, that doesn’t make them useless. I have an old trick passed on from my father to turn mushy bananas into a delicious, healthy shake. If you have milk and vanilla extract, you’ll never need to throw away a banana again.

The key is advance preparation. When you have bananas that are mostly black, peel them and freeze them in a plastic bag. Once they’re frozen, all you need is milk and vanilla to make a milkshake whenever you want. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Make a wine aerator from plumbing fittings

22 Nov

Letting wine breathe involves exposing it to air for up to 20 minutes before drinking it. This will generally improve a wine that has not yet fully aged, particularly a high-tannin red wine like a Syrah or Cabernet. On the other hand, a wine expert might gasp in horror (losing his monocle in the process) at letting a well-aged Pinot Noir breathe. Those of us with less-refined palates or a taste for bargain-hunting may get more bang for our bucks by letting our cheap wines mingle with the air before drinking them. Wine cannot breathe well in the bottle because there’s so little surface area exposed to air. Common breathing methods involve pouring wine into a decanter, which has a broad cross-section for maximum air exposure, or just pouring a glass and letting it sit for a while.

Of course, impatient cheapskates everywhere want to make this process go faster. Enter the wine aerator: a device intended to expose wine to a lot of air in a short time so that it can go from bottle to glass to mouth almost immediately. Vinturi makes a well-known, well-regarded aerator; it looks handsome and makes a cheerful slurping sound as wine funnels through it into your glass. However, the Vinturi aerator costs anywhere from $24 to $40 (that’s actually cheaper than it used to be), which is just enough that I decided to build my own aerator. I’ll show you how to do it with $10 worth of plumbing parts. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Halloween decorations should be creepy (and cheap)

18 Oct

Store displayHalloween is my favorite holiday (after the ones with presents and the ones where I get to eat cake all day). Judging from the cutesy, neutered Halloween decorations I’ve seen, it appears that America wants to forget that Halloween is supposed to be scary. If an October passes without me fearing for my life during a horror flick or at least worrying about skeletal hands creeping out from beneath the couch, then the year gets chalked up as a personal failure. (watching The Orphanage guaranteed that I would succeed this year). Thankfully, the wife and I have a deal: in October, we watch horror movies; in February, we watch romance movies.

October is also when I get to break out the Halloween decorations. I’ve assembled my own batch of Halloween icons over the years, and I try to add something new every year. Today, I’m going to go through some ways to bring the true, creepy spirit of Halloween into your house with minimal expense and effort. My specialties include creepy creatures in jars and horrifically-labeled bottles.
Read the rest of this entry »

 

Make flavored ice for instant cocktails

12 Sep

Flavored ice cubesManhattan in progress

Ice-cube trays are far more versatile than they get credit for. When it comes to cocktails, ice cubes containing liqueurs, coffee, or even chunks of fruit have an advantage over regular ice: they add flavor to your drink rather than watering it down. I’ll give you three good examples:

  • Maraschino cubes: Put a Maraschino cherry and a generous splash of the accompanying juice into each section of an ice-cube tray and top the tray off with water. The cubes will freeze solid, although they will have a softer consistency than pure ice cubes. A few cubes in a glass of soda can make a cherry Coke or a Shirley Temple, complete with a cherry at the bottom. For a cocktail party, you can make instant Manhattans by serving bourbon and bitters over a Maraschino cube in a snifter or other small glass. By the time you finish your drink, you’ll have a delicious whiskey-soaked cherry for dessert.
  • Coffee cubes: Save old coffee and freeze it in an ice-cube tray. You can keep iced coffee cold (or even faux-Frappuccinos) without watering it down. Coffee cubes are also great additions to creamy or Kahlua-based drinks like White Russians, making them a hit at Lebowski parties.
  • Lime cubes: This versatile cube can go in all kinds of drinks, from Coke to tonic water and from whiskey to vodka. Just take an ice-cube tray full of water and add small wedges of lime to each compartment before freezing.

Shirley Temple

The possibilities go on and on. Flavored ice is great for parties and punch bowls but also for day-to-day treats. I make batches of various flavored ice cubes periodically and keep them in separate containers so the trays can get back to making regular ice.

Embrace the ice-cube tray! It has a lot more tricks to come.

 
 

Make a bottle of mint juleps

03 Aug

If you want a mint julep, the easiest thing to do is to tackle the nearest gentleman in a white suit and hat. In the rare event that you aren’t at a horse race and can’t find any southern gentlemen to relieve of their beverages, you could make your own at home. In fact, you can keep an entire decanter of mint juleps steeping in your liquor cabinet at all times. It’s a good way to talk yourself out of a duel with a pistol-packing Colonel Sanders, especially if you just knocked him down and stole his drink. All you need is a bottle and a desire for sweet, minty whiskey. Read the rest of this entry »

 
2 Comments

Posted in Recipes