Evening Cocktails – The Essentials

I’m-Not-My-Father’s-Daughter Cocktail

Growing up in my family meant time out for a cocktail at the end of the day. I knew Dad was home from work when I heard the clink of the glass rod against the wall of the cocktail pitcher. He was definitely a stir-don’t-shake kind of guy when it came to his evening Manhattan (although the shaker was always on hand when needed).

When Dad’s Manhattan mix was ready, it was time for everyone to gather round. He would pour one drink for himself, one each for Mom and my Grandfather and, as my sister and I moved into teenage years, a short one for us as well. While this is likely considered shocking by modern-day standards, a bit of alcohol at home in the evening always seemed to be a pleasant and harmless routine to me. In winter, we would snug into the living room, and in summer we would settle outdoors on our simple but lushly-green back-yard patio – family dog in tow.

Taking a breather after a busy day with a cocktail in hand is a sweet luxury that I continue with my family. It used to be the time that my husband and I would compare notes about busy work days and now, in retirement, ia time to catch up on the day in general.

But, like so much in cooking, there is no need to be a slave to a recipe. Creating your own cocktail traditions is fun. And if you’re lucky, perhaps your family will look back on your signature cocktail with fond memories – as I do now. To this day, I don’t think I can drink a Manhattan without a rush of warm memories about my Dad.


What are the requirements for a cocktail?  While there are no “must haves”, here are my basic flavor elements:

    • Base Alcohol
    • Sweetness. This could be non alcholic like simple syrup or agave or a sweet liquor like Triple Sec.
    • Sour/tangy. My favorite here is citrus.
    • Add-ins for flavor complexicity.  These could be bitters, herbs, spices, etc. 
    • Top-ups for “tall” cocktails.  This could be as simple as sparkling water, or it may include additions to the flavor palate

These flavors don’t need to come from separate ingredients, and you don’t need to include all of them, but the ones you do include must be balanced. A classic cocktail that balances these elements beautifully is a Cosmopolitan: vodka (base alcohol), Cointreau or Triple Sec (sweetness), lime or lemon juice (sour) and cranberry juice (flavor complexity).

To mix your own creation, just pick a few flavor elements that you like and experiment with the proportions. You’ll know when you get it right.

I must admit that Manhattans are not my favorite cocktail – although, made correctly, they have a great flavor palate. My favorite drinks are a bit lighter than a Manhattan and lean toward the tangy/sour/citrus side of the spectrum. Here are two that I regularly ask my bartender/husband to whip up. The first, I’m-Not-My-Father’s-Daughter (at least when it comes to beverages), includes one of the best Asian flavor pairings: lime and ginger. The second, my version of a Lemon Drop Martini, was inspired by my golfing friend, Sue.

Ginger Liquor


I'm-Not-My-Father's-Daughter Cocktail

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce Domaine Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 ounce lime juice
dash lime bitters
lime for garnish



Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, pour and garnish with a twist or slice of lime.


Lemon Drop Martini

Lemon Drop Martini

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


2 1/2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce lime liquor
1 ounce lemon juice
lime or lemon for garnish


Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir, pour and garnish with lime or lemon.


Patron Lime Liqueur

Tamale Party – a.k.a. Bridge-Playing Gringos Tackle Tamales (Part 1 of 2)


Steamed tamales for a crowd.

Last week our bridge group (16 of us) descended on our kitchen to make tamales – with time off for a bit of bridge, loads of fun and, of course, some serious eating and drinking.  How did a group of bridge-playing gringos end up elbow deep in masa?  It all started with a side-conversation around Friday night bridge: Continue reading

“Hope Chest” Root Vegetable Baskets — Celebrating 20 Successful Years!!

The Hope Chest

The Hope Chest, LaGrange, IL, USA

A group of busy women were looking for efficient ways to raise money for our favorite charity:  the Constance Morris House, a Chicago area shelter for victims of domestic violence.  We had tired of exhausting raffles and holiday events.  But what else could we do??   “Perhaps a second-hand clothing shop?,”  someone suggested — “something sustainable rather than multiple whirlwind events?”  We thought it was a fabulous idea! Continue reading

A Malvern Hills Ramble – Sustained by Hearty Granola

Earthworks at British Camp, Malvern Hills

Earthworks at the British Camp, Malvern Hills, England

If the word “ramble” brings to mind someone droning on without focus, you are probably not English.  In England and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, a “ramble” is a walk. One “rambles” the public rights of way that lace through the UK countryside – paths established before the days of Downton Abbey.  And, like many things English, time has done little to change them.   Continue reading

Lille – A Macaron Mecca

Lille, France

Lille, France

Wandering the streets of Lille, you begin to wonder how this small French city sustains a patisserie on virtually every corner. Are the locals required to eat in a patisserie as least once daily? Or is it because the window displays look so good that it is impossible to resist the treats within??  Or is it that Lille is the home of Paul, the famous French pastry shop? Or is it the colorful and ubiquitous macaron that weakens ones resolve?? Continue reading

Rural England at its Best – Including a Shepherd’s Pie

Worcestershire from The Malverns (AKA The Shire)

Worcestershire (AKA The Shire) from the Malvern Hills

When I lived in England, my American friends often inquired about our home across the pond.  My response was that “I live in the Shire” – J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical green land, bordered by rivers and fertile valleys.  The statement, inspired by my mental image of the land of the Hobbits, was in fact remarkably close to the truth.  I later discovered that Tolkien modeled his Shire after rural Worcestershire, where he spent his childhood and where I lived more than a century later.

Mr. Tolkien, you were so right – it was and still is a lovely green land. Continue reading