Del and AvaDelmar and Ava, young and in love, around 1938/39

I come by my love of drink quite honestly. My Dad’s folks, Delmar and Ava, had cocktails most every day. At the strike of 5 bells, the dry roasted peanuts would come out of the cupboard, the bourbon would resume it’s place on the counter, and the Whiskey Sours, Old Fashioneds, and occasional Manhattans would be prepared as accompaniment to a game of bridge (if the neighbors dropped by) or cribbage (if it was just the two of them) or the occasional game of solitaire (if no one really felt like talking anymore). I honestly never paid too much attention to the drinks themselves, other than knowing that the whiskey they drank – Ancient Age, as I recall – was purchased by the case and given to them at the holidays by my Dad. As a young girl, I learned loads of different ways to play solitaire, and am still an adept cribbage player, but it wasn’t until some point in my thirties when I developed a great appreciation for the twilight cocktail hour.

The daily cocktail hour drinkers. We don’t drink to get drunk. For me, it’s more that initial sensation that arrives with the first sip or two, the warmth that overcomes the body, followed by a flush rising to the surface of the skin. The forgetting of all the trials of the day, the annoyances, the 30 mile commute, Excel spreadsheets, conference calls, emails; all the “adulting”. The realization that the work of the day is done. The time has come to sit. Drink. Reflect. If only for a moment.

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If only for a moment. Because sometimes, that’s all you get.

I realize Luxardo cherries are pricey, and can be difficult to find. But they are certainly one of the better cherries I’ve had and make a wonderful addition to a classic Old Fashioned. My favorite recipe is the simplest of them all:

  • One sugar cube – alternatively, you could use about a tsp of simple syrup. The simple syrup is most certainly easier to mix;
  • A good squeeze of fresh orange;
  • Dash of bitters – Fee Brothers, Peychaud’s, or Regans Orange;
  • Bourbon of choice – although, Rye works just as well;
  • About 3 cubes of ice, and top it off with club soda or seltzer, add your cherry of choice and slice of orange.

I inadvertently poured tonic into an Old Fashioned once and, although it did in fact change the overall flavor, making it a bit more acrid, it balanced that with a bit more sweet (as tonic water has sugar). It wasn’t bad. A quick fix, if all you have is tonic water, would be to skip the sugar cube/simple syrup altogether, so you basically end up with a whiskey and tonic, which is rather enjoyable on its own. But I would recommend a better quality tonic water, making sure it is not one made with high fructose corn syrup. Fever-tree or Q-tonic brands are my preferred.

Jack and Ginger

Any young girl in the Piedmont area of North Carolina worth her Levis grew up drinking Jack and Ginger. Sure, there were future sorority girls who focused more on wine coolers and fruity beverages made with vodka. And there were girls obsessed with boys and skinniness who only drank lite beers. And, of course, there were plenty of swell girls (who were surely smarter than the rest of us) who didn’t drink at all. But then…there WE were. The girls wearing Levis and cowboy boots, t-shirts and flannels. Our hair was long, our laughter was loud, and we carried a sense of bravado and recklessness that all the other girls either hated or secretly admired from afar.

Occasional boyfriends we had, yet many more friends who were boys. We learned at a very young age, like around 12, that we really didn’t give a fuck. We already knew life was short and wasting time worrying about cliques and drama was never going to pay off in the end. What we didn’t realize was that by our mere existence, drama followed us everywhere.

We were friends with other girls’ boyfriends. We thought they were funny. They thought we were smart. We rocked out together to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. But, apparently, that was unacceptable.

We spoke our minds and said what we thought. We had opinions, dammit, and we shared them for all to hear. Come to find out, that was unacceptable too.

We questioned authority and sought new experiences. Keep in mind- we had already figured out the brevity of life. So we talked to strangers, skipped school, lied to our parents, argued with teachers, and still managed to graduate from high school on time. Talk about pissing off the status quo.

We were just trying to live and let live, but we seemed to be getting under the skin of a lot of people along the way. And so…we drank.

We drank. We smoked. We listened to music so loud in our friends’ bedrooms (friends who happened to be boys) that we became numb to the reality that we just didn’t quite fit. We smoked pot, we smoked cigarettes. We drank rum and coke, we drank shots of bourbon, we drank Jack and Ginger. And, if we managed to make it out the other side, we moved on and continue to speak our opinions, laugh loudly, and not give a fuck.

Life is short, after all.

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I no longer drink Jack and Ginger, but I do enjoy a Kentucky Mule on a hot day.

  • Healthy shot of bourbon
  • Juice of one key lime or 1/4-1/2 of one regular lime
  • 2-3 dashes of mint bitters – I prefer Fee brothers
  • Add ice
  • Top with Ginger Beer. As pictured, I definitely prefer Fever-Tree.

I was experimenting with Fever-Tree’s “Naturally Light” ginger beer at the time of this photo. Lightly sweetened with natural fruit sugars, if you’re watching your carb or sugar intake, it’s certainly a nice alternative. Ultimately, I prefer the regular version, sweetened with cane sugar.