Writer’s Workshop: Mom’s Favorite Cocktail

Image by Catalin Stefan from Pixabay

Mom loved Manhattans, one of those traditional cocktails that’s falling out of fashion as drinkers get younger. Although, my brother Pat (who’s close to 20 years younger than I) goes out on his parents’ birthdays (Mom’s and his father’s, my stepfather) and maybe their anniversary and has a Manhattan in their honor. I think that’s a very nice tradition.

When I turned 13, Mom taught me how to make the drink. She preferred them on-the-rocks as opposed to in a cocktail glass. The two main ingredients are whiskey and sweet vermouth. Rye whiskey is traditional, but Mom preferred Canadian and others prefer bourbon. Using dry vermouth makes it a dry Manhattan; using both dry and sweet vermouth makes it a perfect Manhattan. The optional ingredient is bitters. Mom always preferred Angostura bitters, but you might prefer Peychaud or some other formulation.

The garnish is a Maraschino cherry (or two), though with dry vermouth some prefer a twist of lemon.

The recipe:

  • 2 oz. (60 ml) whiskey (rye, Canadian, or bourbon) (I always made them with 3 oz. (90 ml) of whiskey until I got yelled at…)
  • 1 oz. (30 ml) vermouth (sweet, dry, or half-sweet/half dry)
  • Dash (1 ml) bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. (Or, pour the ingredients into an "on-the-rocks" glass filled with ice.) Garnish with a cherry or a twist of lemon.

If you use Scotch whiskey, it’s called a Rob Roy. Slainte!

Writers Workshop: Six Of One, A Half-Dozen Of The Other

A dozen, as we all know, is 12 of an item. A lot of things come in dozens, including eggs and donuts. A baker’s dozen is 13, which is one more, probably stemming from the fact that bakers, when selling rolls, cookies, or donuts, will give you one extra to enjoy on the way home.

Which reminds me of an old joke: a guy goes into a bar and tells the bartender he wants a 13. The bartender says "what’s a 13?" The guy says "A 7 & 7."

The 7 & 7 was traditionally a highball made with Seagram’s 7 Crown blended whiskey and 7up, but it’s called that whether the person uses the traditional ingredients or they do some substitution, like replacing the 7up with Sprite or some other type of lemon-lime soda or using a different blended whiskey instead of 7 Crown. Most people can’t tell the difference, especially after three or four of them.

My mother’s aunt would come to our house for dinner on occasion, usually on a Sunday. Her favorite drink, the only thing I ever saw her drink, was a short bourbon and ginger ale with a twist of lemon. More often than not, it was noon (i.e. 12:00) before Mom would realize that we didn’t have ginger ale and/or a lemon and would send me out in search of them. Remember, this was in the ’60’s when stores either didn’t open on Sunday or were only open in the morning, and I’d end up running all over the North Side of Chicago looking for a bottle of ginger ale and a lemon. On foot. By the time I found both and got home, the aunt had been at our house for over an hour and she’d be sitting on the couch, happily sipping a bourbon and water, sans lemon.

The thing that really got me? Mom had sent me to the store (which had both lemons and ginger ale) the day before, and never asked me to buy lemon and ginger ale. The next time this aunt came to our house for Sunday dinner, I bought lemon and ginger ale on Saturday without being asked, and Mom asked me why…

Okay, we’ve gotten a little far afield, I realize. Anyway, carbonated drinks and mixers come in cans, available in boxes of 12 12-ounce cans, or in large bottles. Typically, so does beer. Sometimes the beer comes in larger cans, like 16-ounce or, in the case of Foster’s Lager, 25.4 ounce cans (I think it works out to 750 ml).

It’s been a while since I did any stream-of-consciousness writing for WW. It feels good, you know?

Writer’s Workshop: Five Favorite Desserts

Time to talk about one of my favorite topics: food. More specifically, dessert food. One of the prompts this week is to "list your top 5 favorite desserts." Frankly, I can go for just about anything sweet, and it shows…

Source: Delish.com

Klondike Bars. Given half a chance, I could binge on Klondike bars. It’s like an ice cream bar without the stick. They come in lots of flavors, but my favorite is the Original, a square of vanilla ice cream covered with a double layer of chocolate. Second would probably be the Mint Chocolate Chip, a square of mint chocolate chip ice cream covered with dark chocolate. But really, they’re all great.

Fresh fruit. Mary buys fresh fruit whenever she goes to the store. Berries are a particular favorite, especially blueberries (lots of antioxidants) and raspberries, and lately she’s been buying bananas. She also buys cut fruit, like cantaloupe, melon, and the ever-popular pineapple. She likes peaches, which I don’t, so she brings grapes home when there are good ones. Sometimes she picks up apples and pears, though not so often. When I was more mobile and we had a blender, I would make smoothies, with whey powder, water, a banana, and a couple of frozen strawberries, maybe an ice cube or two. Mmmm….

Image by Pam Carter from Pixabay

Pie. I really like pie, especially pie a la mode. Wednesdays at O’Charley’s are "free pie days," where you get a free slice of pie with an entree. We’ve started ordering meals from there and having them delivered, and on Wednesday they offer a whole pie with a family-style meal (two entrees, two family-sized sides). We can get at least two meals out of the family-sized meal, and that includes pie. The pies are made by Baker’s Square, which was a favorite of ours when we lived in Chicago. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, we buy a couple of pies, usually a pumpkin for her and a banana (or coconut) cream pie for me. Of course, Mary helps me polish those off….

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Cake. It was Mary’s birthday on Tuesday, and she picked up a small cake at the grocery store that we split. A real good one, too, with fresh fruit. Lately she’s been making pound cakes every couple of weeks, sometimes with fresh fruit, sometimes just a plain one. She makes it in a bundt pan, so we have it for a few days. Very tasty. She’s a good baker…

Image by Joseph V M from Pixabay

Milk Shakes. I was going to say "ice cream," but I’ve already talked about Klondike bars and pie a la mode, so I figured I’d talk about milk shakes, even though I usually have one with a meal, rather than as dessert. Of the fast food shakes, my favorite are the Jamocha shakes from Arby’s. Zaxby’s, which specializes in chicken sandwiches and tenders and is generally in the South, used to have a couple of shakes on their menu, but they decided it took too much time to make them and got rid of them. Before the coronavirus, Mary and I would go to Chick-Fil-A and get ice cream in the afternoon, and I’d have one of their shakes, or sometimes go to Wendy’s and I’d have a Frosty.

Of course, anything else (cookies, éclairs, donuts, etc.) fit in there somewhere.

In the near future, Mary and I plan to give all of this up and try to lose weight. It won’t be easy, and Covid-19 has been a good excuse not to, but really, it’s time. I can always indulge in my vices in my dreams, I guess, if I can quit smoking in them…

Writer’s Workshop: Things I Learned Recently…

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  1. If you’re going to drink coffee (or something else) near your laptop, having a mug with a lid (like a travel mug) is a great idea.

  2. Make sure you leave the lid closed when you’re not drinking out of the travel mug.

  3. If for some reason you get coffee on your keyboard:

    • Unplug your laptop and disconnect everything attached to it.
    • Turn the laptop off.
    • Remove the battery if you can.
    • Leave the laptop open at an acute angle (under 90°) and turn it upside down onto a towel (or paper towels).
    • Don’t touch it for 48-72 hours (the longer the better).
    • Reattach the battery (if necessary) and turn it on. If it turns on and works fine, great! If not, take it to be repaired.
  4. Buying a silicone keyboard protector is probably a good idea.

I learned this the hard way…

Writer’s Workshop: A to Z to Me

When I started blogging back in January 2012, I was under the notion that I would be a great novelist, and talked about all the great writing I was going to do… and somehow never got around to doing, because I was spending most of my days reading other blogs, listening to music and playing solitaire while fantasizing about writing the Great American Novel.

Yeah, I was one of those guys, all talk, no action. And I wondered why, and came up with the reason: I didn’t want to write fiction. For that matter, I barely wanted to read fiction. Seriously, I would buy books or get them out of the library, read a little bit, put the book aside and not get back to it. Mary and I have a joint Kindle library of about 6000 books, most of which are books Mary has read. Of those 6000 books, about 500 are books I bought with the intention of reading and either never started or never finished.

Seemed the only writing I was doing was for my blog. I got involved in several blog hops and looked forward to writing on those days. One of the first blog hops I was involved in was the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, which was my big impetus for getting into blogging. My first year I took the NATO spelling alphabet (alpha, bravo, Charlie, delta etc.) and used the words associated with each letter as my daily prompts. It was a fun exercise, and I found the challenge of figuring out what to talk about for each word exhiliarating. (How’s that for a $20 word?)

Many times, I’d start with the word and head off in a completely different direction. On S day, when the word was "sierra," I discovered there was a short-lived TV program called Sierra, produced by Jack Webb, who also produced Dragnet, Adam-12, Emergency!, and other shows. So I ended up writing about him. On V day, when the word was "victor," I thought of the movie Victor/Victoria, which was directed by Blake Edwards with music by Henry Mancini, who had worked together on a couple of hundred projects, so I wrote about them.

Talking about Mancini, and Dean Martin (the word for J was "Juliet," and that day I wrote about Juliet Prowse, who had been on Dean’s show a lot in the ’60’s and ’70’s), and Les Paul (who designed the echo chambers at Capitol Records) helped to point me in the direction of writing about music. Writing about Webb, Martin, and Mike Wallace (M’s word is "Mike") reminded me of my fascination with television, which I started writing about. Many of the stories I wrote for the A to Z Challenge that first year were stories about the world when I was growing up and funny things that happened to me on the road.

Those were the directions I took my blog in, and when I started daily blogging (July 1, 2014, and I haven’t missed a day since), those were the things I wrote about, and write about today. And I have no intention of stopping.