Escaping the Gray
Maintaining Connections with Colorful Cocktails
In The Devil Wears Prada, as Anne Hathaway’s character answers yet another call from her domineering boss, her boyfriend says, “You know, in case you were wondering—the person whose calls you always take? That's the relationship you're in. I hope you two are very happy together.”
Since the COVID crisis hit 15 months ago, my husband and I have held a nightly videoconference call with two other couples. The cover was virtual cocktails, but the point of the exercise was maintaining our connection to each other.
Everyone’s pandemic experience is unique. While some have been merely inconvenienced, others have suffered terrible losses of incomes, homes, and lives. My family of five (yes, I count the dog) was fairly insulated from the worst of the pandemic’s effects because we retreated to our small cabin in the woods of Western Maine, could continue to work remotely, and had control over our own risk mitigation. The virus did eventually breach our defenses, but it did not infect everyone in the family, and recovery was swift. We certainly count ourselves fortunate.
One thing that became difficult almost immediately for me was not being able to have family over for dinner, not meeting friends for drinks, not socializing… not even a little. I can’t remember which one of us had the idea to create the cocktail hour connection, but it may have been the idea that saved our sanities.
Early each day, one of us shares a cocktail recipe, either made by our own design or inspired by a classic cocktail. We all make the same cocktail in our own homes, dial in, and share them virtually, together. We’ve even standardized our ingredient list so there is no excuse to not drink exactly what everyone else is drinking. The shared cocktail experience really helps to solidify the connection.
We have taken pains to hold this call every single day. Our twin boys grew from 11 months to 23 months in front of everyone’s eyes in the first year of this virtual cocktail club! Traveling couples have called in from the car (with mocktails, of course), and we have plans to meet our newest (non-imbibing) member of the group in this fashion when she is born. In fact, we have decided that our daily cocktail club will not end until all are vaccinated and can meet in person in public.
Here are a few of the colorful creations inspired by our time sharing cocktails together, yet apart.
The Italian on the Beach
Inspired by a classic Negroni, this ambitious drink is colored by Campari and homemade sweet vermouth. We use Bimini Coconut Gin from Round Turn Distilling in Biddeford because it blends well with the Campari.
1 ½ ounces Bimini Coconut Gin
1 ½ ounces Campari
1 ½ ounces homemade sweet vermouth
Glass: Double rocks
Garnish: Lemon peel
Preparation — Stir liquors over ice, strain into glass with one large cube, and garnish.
Homemade Sweet Vermouth
Like many who got into making sourdough bread from scratch, we tackled DIY vermouth. If you don’t want to source all these ingredients to make your own, the results are like Carpano Antica Formula.
Makes roughly 1 ½ quarts
1 cinnamon stick
½ scaped vanilla pod
10 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon wormwood
1 tablespoon angelica root
1 tablespoon gentian root
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon allspice
5 dried apricots, sliced
1 orange peel
1 cup vodka
1 bottle (750 milliliters) dry white wine,
such as pinot grigio
1 cup tawny port
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brandy
Preparation — Combine cinnamon, vanilla pod, cardamom pods, wormwood, angelica and gentian roots, juniper berries, allspice, apricots, and orange peel into a nonreactive container and add vodka. Infuse for 24 hours. Strain infusion, pressing firmly to extract as much liquid as possible, then strain again through cheesecloth or coffee filter into a large jar. Add white wine and tawny port.
Combine sugar and ¼ cup of water in a saucepan and place over high heat. Swirl pan so that the sugar melts. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, and keep swirling until the syrup caramelizes. Remove from heat and add brandy, stirring to recombine if the caramel seizes (you may have to stir for a while). Add this mixture to your new bottle of homemade sweet vermouth. Like all vermouths, this should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3 months.
Inspired by the Aperol Spritz, this drink has a tangerine bent that plays nicely with the Aperol. Made in Gorham, Lone Pine’s Oh-J Craft Seltzer adds a touch of tangerine and hops to this light and flavorful cocktail.
2 ounces Lone Pine Oh-J Craft Seltzer
2 ounces sparkling wine
1 ounce Aperol
Garnish: Grapefruit twist
Preparation — Combine all ingredients in glass over ice, stir gently, and garnish.
The Honey Don’t…
Forget Your Mask
Inspired by the Bee’s Knees, this drink leaves out the gin and swaps in Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Split Rock Distilling in Newcastle. To make a honey simple syrup, combine equal parts honey and water.
1 ½ ounces Split Rock Distilling Straight Bourbon Whiskey
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce honey simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
Glass: Nick and Nora
Garnish: Lemon twist
Preparation — Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into glass, and garnish.
The Tongue Wiggler
This margarita is both spicy and herbaceous. You can’t call it tequila if it isn’t made in Mexico, but we think the Reposado Agave Blue from Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York can hold its own in this and any other margarita.
1 thick slice of jalapeño (or more if you prefer)
1 small bunch of cilantro (omit if you dislike)
¼ ounce agave (or simple syrup)
2 ounces Wiggly Bridge Distillery Reposado Agave Blue
1 ounce lime juice
½ ounce Cointreau
Garnish: Jalapeño slice
Preparation — Muddle jalapeño, cilantro, and agave. Add remaining ingredients, shake vigorously with ice, double strain into glass, and garnish.
Cape Air Flight to P-Town
Inspired by the classic Aviation, this deep-hued drink features the delicious citrus and coriander notes found in Round Turn Distilling’s Bimini Gin.
2 ounces Bimini Gin
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce HoneyMaker Blueberry mead
¼ ounce Luxardo maraschino liquor
¼ ounce blue Curaçao
Garnish: Luxardo cherry
Preparation — Combine all ingredients and shake with ice, strain into glass, and garnish.
This is a fresh-tasting and summery drink, featuring notes of sweet-tart blueberry and savory basil. We used both Blueberry Organic Simple Syrup by Royal Rose and vodka from Split Rock Distilling.
1 ounce blueberries (a medium handful)
5 basil leaves
½ ounce Royal Rose Blueberry Organic Simple Syrup
2 ½ ounces Split Rock Distilling vodka
½ ounce lemon juice
Garnish: Basil leaf
Preparation — Muddle blueberries, basil, and simple syrup. Add vodka and lemon juice, shake vigorously with ice, double strain into glass, and garnish.
Chris has always had a love of food and its use as a medium for the creative process. Having spent many years in the restaurant industry he learned as much as he could from every person around him. Chris loves gardening at his home in Greenwood, ME and typically spends each spring planting and each fall harvesting and canning to enjoy his bounty throughout the long Maine winters.