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Last month I took an online Spanish cooking class. The tortilla espanola and gazpacho turned out decently, but the sangria was awesome. As I sipped that strong, red liquid laced with apples, oranges and lemons, I was transported back to an evening in Madrid devouring paella accompanied by a large picture of sangria.
So that got me thinking, what other cocktails could I make that would conjure up memories of exotic places I’ve been? The list was long, but I tried to focus on drinks that could be made from what I already had in my liquor cabinet. Fortunately, I’ve always been a cocktail drinker, and my cabinet is pretty well stocked.
Here are the results of my trip around the world in 5 cocktails. And just in case you're looking for some food to accompany your cocktails, be sure to read Cooking Around the World Part One and Part Two.
Last year I spent a week in Cuba, and every meal (ok, maybe not breakfast) was accompanied by a mojito. In fact there were even a few mojitos between meals. One day while touring Old Havana we had the opportunity to participate in a mojito making class. How many people can say they learned to make mojitos in Havana?
In the U.S. many cocktail menus feature a variety of flavored mojitos, but in Cuba, there is just the original--a drink made with rum, sugar, club soda, mint, and lime. Typically the drink is made with a cheap white rum. However, thanks to one of my travel companions, Fred, we learned that if you asked for a better quality of rum, the taste of the drink definitely improved. This cost a bit more money, but was totally worth it.
Classic Cuban Mojito
10 fresh mint leaves
½ lime cut into 4 wedges
2 tablespoons sugar (this is the traditional way to make it, but at home I prefer simple syrup)
1 ½ ounces white rum (or something better if you have it)
½ cup club soda
Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a glass. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime to release the mint oils and lime juice. Add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again to release the lime juice. Do not strain the mixture. Fill the glass almost to the top with ice. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with club soda. Stir, taste, and add more sugar if desired. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge.
I love everything Italian, so my trip to Florence last October was one of my all time travel highlights. And how can you be in Italy and not try an Aperol Spritz? I think it’s illegal. I had several during our five days and then came home to buy all the ingredients and make some more. In case you’ve never had one of these glorious drinks it’s made of Aperol--an orange colored, slightly bitter liquor--prosecco, sparkling water and a slice of orange.
Traditionally this drink is not served with a meal, but is enjoyed on its own in the afternoon, preferably while sitting at an outdoor cafe around a piazza. Since we can’t travel to Italy right now, your patio will do.
3 ounces Aperol
3 ounces Prosecco
1 ounce club soda or sparkling water
Slice of orange for garnish
Add ice to the glass. Add in Aperol, then the Prosecco and top with the sparkling water. Finally, garnish with the orange.
England–Gin and tonic
The first drink that comes to mind when I think of England is beer, hopefully served in a very old pub. And while I was in London last year, I enjoyed plenty of beer. But the next English drink I think of is a gin and tonic. One night we dined at The Ivy before seeing a show and I was so excited by their G&T menu. So many unique options! After leaving London and moving on to Madrid and Berlin I learned that gin is a wildly popular spirit in much of Europe.
For all of our great cocktails in the U.S., we are not very creative with the G&T. By varying the type of gin as well as the botanicals added, there are many delicious versions. My all time favorite gin is Hendrick’s, and below is a terrific recipe using this brand.
Cucumber-Rosemary Gin and Tonic
3 sprigs rosemary
2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin
4 oz. tonic water (my favorite brand is Fever-Tree)
Peel one half of a cucumber, and slice a lime into eight wedges. In a highball glass, add three slices of peeled cucumber, 1 sprig rosemary, juice from a lime wedge and 1 ounce gin. Muddle with the back of a spoon.
Strain through a mesh strainer into a second highball glass. Add several cubes of ice, and three slices of unpeeled cucumber. Top with remaining gin and tonic, and serve garnished with rosemary sprigs.
For most travelers, Spain doesn’t evoke quite the same level of passion as Italy does. But after two trips to Spain I’ve definitely fallen in love with this country as well as it’s food and beverages. Don’t even get me started on the joy of tapas.
While in Barcelona two years ago we took a tapas and wine tour with Devour Tours and it was excellent. Since in person tours aren’t possible right now, they have made virtual tours and cooking classes available instead. I jumped at the chance to learn to make a few food items along with sangria in my home under the guidance of a Spanish tour guide sharing his family’s recipes. Many thanks to the delightful Enrique for sharing this recipe.
1 liter of young (unaged) red wine
1 liter of homemade lemonade
½ cup of brandy
One stick of cinnamon (I forgot to purchase this ingredient, but the result was still delicious!)
4-5 whole fruits. Citrus is a must and other good options include apples, pears, and peaches
Wash all the fruit and cut it up into pieces. Put the pieces of fruit in a jug then add the wine, the lemonade, the Brandy and cinnamon, and let it sit for a while. Add ice cubes if desired.
As a kid, anytime we went out to dinner with my Grandma Carlson, she ordered two Manhattans. I was alway impressed by the dark brown liquid in a stylish glass with a cherry languishing at the bottom. After she died I sort of forgot about this cocktail until I was at a restaurant one night and saw it on the menu. I ordered it and was shocked at how strong it was. My petite Grandma clearly wasn’t a light weight. I’ve made it at home many times, and in my mind this is a classic American cocktail. And I love that it brings back memories of Grandma. So I’ll end my trip around the world in 5 cocktails with my personal recipe for a Manhattan.
2 ounces bourbon or rye (I frequently use Bulleit)
1 ounce red vermouth
2 generous dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherries (I really prefer brandied cherries, but they are rather pricey)
Mix all but the cherries in a mixer filled with ice. Shake or stir until well chilled. Strain into a glass and add in the cherry. I prefer my Manhattans on the sweet side, so I’ve been known to add a touch of the liquid from the Maraschino cherry jar.