Read to the bottom of the post for a chance to win a free copy of the book!
This is part two of my review of Mix Shake Stir – part one is here. Now, where was I?
Picking a few drinks to try was difficult. I’m a lightweight, so each cocktail is a two hour commitment for me. Thankfully I have many lovely lushy friends who were more than willing to help out.
First up was the R&R on page 139. With bourbon, black tea and simple syrup, this drink was divine. Its slightly bitter and caramely notes blended well with the rose water, and the caffeine from the black tea kept the buzz at bay for a bit. Definitely a winner.
The Velvet Underground on page 145 is a lovely tequila cocktail spiked with clove-spiced liqueur. I’m a big fan of citrus and passion fruit, so this drink was destined to be a favorite of mine. I haven’t really done the tequila thing since my [much] younger years, but the spicy fruitiness of this cocktail kept the Herradura’s eye-popping ick factor in check. We left out the simple syrup to decrease the amount of sweetness, which turned out to be a wise choice – it was completely unnecessary, though a touch might be appreciated if you’re less of a tequila fan.
Blue Smoke Martini
Next up was the Blue Smoke Martini, page 56. I’m not a huge martini fan, so this drink didn’t really turn me on. I got about halfway through before I offloaded my drink into someone else. A friend who does like martinis wasn’t wild about the bleu cheese olives. He gave this cocktail three stars out of five while I refrained from scoring at all due to martini-prejudice.
Ah, the Pomegranate Gimlet on page 61. When I do imbibe these days, I’m a gin drinker and proud of it – something about the floral notes of juniper berries just gets me every time. The original recipe for this drink was way too sweet and very un-gimlet-like, but I was determined to salvage this cocktail and turn it into something tasty. We remade the recipe sans the simple syrup and a touch more lime to create a much more balanced drink.
The Summer Sangria on page 161 looked to be amazing. It really wanted to be amazing. But holy freaking dental visit Batman, this recipe was WAY too sweet. Why would anyone want to drink straight sugar while sitting in the sun (which, where I come from, is how you drink sangria)? Can you say epic headache? We took out the two cups (?!) of simple sugar, allowing the OJ and canned pineapple juice to pick up the slack. I suppose if you used fresh pineapple sans canned juice you’d want to add some of the simple sugar back in, but this drink was way better without the tooth-achey sweetness.
Blood Orange Margarita
Finally up was the Blood Orange Margarita on page 177. Um, wow. I’d say this was one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had. The blood orange puree recipe wasn’t too sweet, and this drink had a lovely, refreshing bite that just made for a perfect summer cocktail. I loved this recipe so much I’m going to give it to you in a separate post, because this really just needs to be shared.
Gourmet Pub Grub
Now, on to the food… oh my God! If more bars served fare like this, I’d probably drink more. The Grilled Watermelon with Heirloom Tomatoes on page 209 is the quintessential summer appetizer, with colors that’ll make you cry. The sweetness of the melon held its own against the tart tomatoes and balsamico, and I added a little alderwood smoked sea salt to turn up with flavor. It went great with the blood orange margarita, and I suspect it would be a great match for any fruity drink.
The Tequila Lime Shrimp (page 213) was another winner, and I think I ate half the plate before anyone even knew the plate was out. A friend loved the Crostini with Root Vegetables and Goat Cheese on page 207, but being of the gluten-free persuasion, I had to pass. I’d be interested in working on a version that’s free of teh glutens, though.
< rant>One thing I found really annoying about Mix Shake Stir is that it’s peppered with amazing little quotes and tips, but they’re not attributed to an actual person. Instead, they’re quoted to ambiguous entities such as the “Blue Smoke Bartender” and “The Modern Bartender.” I found this not only distracting, because my brain wants a name to match to a quote, but it also detracted from my personal experience. Sure, in some traditional 1940s world it might be better for the bartender to remain anonymous and melt into the bar environment, but these days I want a name, a face and a personality to go with words of wisdom. Otherwise, they’re just nameless fluff that I can’t relate to. < /rant>
Overall, though, I really liked Mix Shake Stir. It’s one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I’ve ever seen in my life, and besides the tendency to over-sweeten several of the drinks we tried, the recipes were for the most part balanced and well thought out. I was actually inspired to drink, which says a lot. If I had to score this book, I’d give it a four out of five martini olives – minus the bleu cheese.
Win a Copy of Mix Shake Stir
To celebrate this gorgeous summer cocktail weather, I’m giving away three copies of the book, compliments of Little Brown and Hachette Book Group. It’s easy to enter the drawing – all you have to do is subscribe to the Wasabimon mailing list. I promise not to spam you or sell your email addresses. In fact, the only emails you’ll get are notifications of new posts.
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I’ll announce three winners on Monday, August 10th. Good luck!