Bottoms Up as Five to Try Ends with December Antics

Happy New Year, everybody! Who doesn’t love this time of year…fresh starts, new challenges we finally agree to tackle. I’ll be doing the same as everybody else, including here on this blog – more blogging this year (I’ve made this promise to myself and to my faithful subscribers!)  And I’ll also be launching a new creative exercise for the new year shortly…look for this soon, soon, soon.

But before I completely move my focus to the 2012 fun ahead, I still have one more Five to Try to reflect on for December 2011! The month started out strong with a visit to a local theater venue that was “new to me” but then, like everyone else, I lost sight of time with holiday tasks, gift shopping, Christmas card preparation and more, and before I knew it – December 31 had arrived. I quickly determined that this called for a Five to Try marathon of sorts, and what better night to do so than New Year’s Eve with a cocktail-a-thon — four drinks I’ve never made or tasted before. Woot woot! This would be a fun challenge, albeit potentially one that I might forget about by morning.

Five to Try for December #1 – The Studio @ 620

I had always wanted an excuse to stop by The Studio @ 620, having heard so much about the arty hot spot as a positive, collaborative arts forum for theatergoers, visual artists and poets. I had even referenced the place in a previous 83 Degrees e-zine article based on feedback from others whose opinions I valued and trusted. I finally had an opportunity to check out the venue for myself. Little did I know, the event would be standing room only for some folks attending.

On December 1, 2011, the Tampa Bay Plays group (a recently formed non-profit theater festival organization focused on supporting local playwrights and performers) hosted Tampa Bay 60:25, 60-second plays by 25 local VIPs.

Performed by a half-dozen of some of our area’s most charismatic, adaptable and in some cases, hilarious actors, these 25 “plays” were supposed to last just one minute in length (though most lasted much longer…tsk-tsk!) and ran the gamut from poetry and glorified stand-up routines to sketch performance and full-fledged mini-productions written by known and not as known figures around the Bay area. We witnessed clever pieces from Creative Loafing Editor-in-Chief David Warner (who it turned out I happened to be sitting beside) and local children’s entertainer Shana Banana with her daughter Gracie Grape to poignant shorter pieces by popular Tampa social media personality Miss Destructo, an enthusiastic, pro-buy local piece by founder Ester Venouziou and heck, even a contribution from St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster. Like anything with 25 contributions, there were high points and low points in the work but the overall message was strong – clearly, Studio @ 620 understands the importance of supporting local arts and judging by the packed room of supporters and lack of nearby parking that resulted, the St. Pete community does, too. I’m not sure how many people traveled as far as this writer from Pasco, but there was definitely a real feeling of support and enthusiasm in the room that I found encouraging (sometimes moreso than the work on the stage frankly). But the talented performers kept things fresh, light and fun, and I’m glad that I had a chance to be a part of the debut of this event at the popular venue, though I would like to return some time to check out a smaller, low-key art showing or production.

Five to Try for December #2-#5 – New Year’s Eve Cocktail Marathon

I make no secret that when it comes to drinking, I’m a full-fledged WIMP. Beer, wine and the occasional 7-up and Seagram’s 7 are about the extent of my drinking resume. I’ve tried a handful of old standby drinks (like margaritas, strawberry dacquiris, Tom Collins, mojitos, sloe gin fizz and others), but generally speaking, quite green about cocktails – typically before and after I try one! Do you know I actually had my first martini ever just a few years ago? And I’m in my forties! Unusual, I know. (I haven’t had one since, by the way…)

So this time around, my goal was to find four drinks that were really old-timer drinks – something that may have shown up in a 1940s Hepburn-Tracy flick. And what better source for old fuddy-duddy drinks then…tada…drum roll, please…

A really old bartender’s manual. Circa 1971! Yep, that’s right. I was one when this baby was published. Perfect for the job at hand.

Every hour on the hour starting at 7pm, I was set to try a new drink – though at 9pm I was in the middle of a really bad movie and decided to double-dose it at 10pm instead. My first cocktail – Bees’ Knees – ever heard of it? We’ve all heard the old corny expression, “Oh he’s the bees’ knees,” an equivalent of the much beloved and just as retired “gee, he’s swell.” The ingredients:

How to make a BEES’ KNEES:

1 jigger gin (this translates to 1 1/2 ounces)

1 teaspoon honey

Juice from 1/4 lemon

Shake with ice and strain.

The result: Ugh. While I did taste some of the lemon, I didn’t even notice the honey (I wonder now if it even slipped off the teaspoon!) Certainly tasted the gin though. I was too busy looking for a fire extinguisher to put out the rumbling inferno in my tummy. Drank two sips and to the sink drain it went!  One good development: hands smelled quite lovely following the removal of the lemon guts after my hubby juiced it into the cup.  I think my stomach is still burning from this one. Imagine if I finished it. Oy.

So 8pm arrived, and I knew that meant Cocktail Time. Round 2? A Manhattan – the ingredients:

How to make a standard MANHATTAN:

1 jigger whiskey

1/3 jigger sweet vermouth

Dash of bitters (okay, I didn’t  have bitters for any of the drinks tonight, so hopefully this didn’t have a huge bearing on results)

Ice optional — stir and drain. (Suggested to serve with a cherry – but none present. Oh well…)

The result: this one truly had bite. I’m discovering that unless there’s some kind of sweet element to an alcoholic drink, I want absolutely no part of it whatsoever. And for me, this one had not a damn thing going for it! Two swigs and it was hanging out with the yet unminced leftovers loitering in our garbage disposal.

At 9pm, I was absorbed in my final movie viewing of the year (well, not exactly – more like absorbed in the Papa John’s spinach alfredo pizza leftovers as we watched a horrible final flick of the year – Red Riding Hood – avoid this Amanda Seyfried vehicle at all costs, and just watch Once Upon a Time instead!) So I knew this meant I would have to swing double duty at 10pm but I was ready and rested. (See, I took a nap during the boring film about two-thirds of the way through it…) But I saddled up to the kitchen and prepared for Cocktail #3 — The Cowboy.

Never heard of it? Me neither. But when you hear the ingredients, you’ll know why.

How to Make a COWBOY (the cocktail not a gunslinger):

2 jiggers Whiskey (yeah, that’s right THREE OUNCES of the stuff…dear god)

1  jigger Cream (we went with regular whipping cream as opposed to either extreme – half and half or heavy whipping cream)

Add shaved ice, shake and get ready for the hoe-down.

The result? What do you think? Really. How could this possibly taste good? I don’t know what I was thinking. There’s no sweet element included. Maybe if I had tossed in a little Cool Whip it would have helped, but even my prediction that the cream would dull the whiskey was waaaaaay off. This one hit me like a speeding train. Two sips and I knew I’d never make it to 11pm let alone midnight if I drank all of it. And why the hell would I anyway? Ugh, awful…

The final moment had arrived – the fourth cocktail I had decided to try in the spirit of New Year’s Eve and Five to Try. It was time for what surely would be the one pleasant-tasting drink of the night, right? Another beloved old-timer drink…the Whiskey Sour.

How to make a standard WHISKEY SOUR:

1 jigger Whiskey

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Add  ice, shake and strain. (I didn’t have the orange slice or cherry handy for garnish.)

The result: why, why, why did I do this activity again? My husband had promised me that he had tried this drink years ago and enjoyed it. What on Earth had he done differently then because this drink was simply dreadful. There was no sugar anywhere upon my tongue but merely the sour characteristic amplified eighty-fold! Yes, I took my obligatory second sip, and felt a slight numbing buzz sweep over me after what became my seventh and eighth nasty sips of the night, but I didn’t enjoy it. I’m sure our sink basin was fairly intoxicated by the end of the night, though.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we toasted to the new year with my good old-fashioned high-balls and these were sweet, tasty and yes, I did empty my glass. Twice. I slept quite peacefully that night knowing that I had finished my annual creative exercise with a bang and was armed and ready for what the new year might bring!

Cheers to you, everybody – wishing you all good things as we set out to conquer our challenges, tackle our to-do lists and discover our dreams. I’ll have another fun (non-alcoholic) creative activity coming to this blog very soon. So stay tuned and have a beautiful new year!

And if you want to see scenes from this potent potable mayhem in action, click here for a video recap from the evening.

And remember: don’t try this at home, don’t drink and try while operating any kind of a motor vehicle and don’t, don’t, don’t try any of these drinks unless you enjoy pursing your lips and experiencing flames running down your esophagus, in which case, if you do, bottoms up!



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