Drink and Cocktail Recipes


A cold beer next to a hot grill, a bloody mary before the football game or a glass of wine to get things started…all good options. During the winter, nothing beats a Tom and Jerry after snowblowing the driveway. I like traditional cocktails…martinis , manhattens, margaritas and Irish whiskey on the rocks. Of course, growing up in Wisconsin, we can’t forget the brandy old fashioned. As for the flavored vodkas and sweet liqueurs…I will leave that to someone else.

Here are some recipes of my favorite cocktails. Enjoy!

The Martini. King of the classic cocktails. There are many opinions on the proper recipe. Whether gin or vodka, shaken or stirred, wet or dry, twist or dirty…all good, if it works for you. I use a variation of Hawkeye Pierce’s description of the finest, dry martini: “I’d like a dry martini…a very dry martini. A very dry, arid, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini. I want a martini that could be declared a disaster area. Mix me just such a martini.” OR “You take six jiggers of gin, and you drink it while staring at a picture of Lorenzo Schwartz, the inventor of vermouth.”

My recipe: Up. In the cocktail shaker, 3 oz. vodka and a splash of olive juice (dirty, not filthy). Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with 2 Mezzetta Queen olives on a sword pick. On the rocks. Add ice to a rocks glass, add 3 oz. vodka, splash of olive juice, and stir with 2 Mezzetta Queen olives on a sword pick.

The Old Fashioned. As this cocktail has had a resurgence with dozens of wild-to-mild variations, I grew up with the Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned. Start with an old fashioned or rocks glass, add a sugar cube, 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, splash of soda water, slice of orange, and a stemless maraschino cherry. Muddle until all are well incorporated and then add your ice. Add brandy (in Wisconsin we usually fill “almost” to the top of the glass). Top with 7-Up for sweet, Squirt for sour, or half 7-Up and half club soda for press. Garnish with a cocktail pick of an orange slice, cherry and two cocktail stirrers. I have friends who are very serious about the two cocktail stirrers…tradition.   

The Bloody Mary. The possibilities for this drink are endless. Bars are competing to add more and more outrageous toppings for the garnish, everything from cheeseburgers to mini pizzas. Here is my recipe: Using a cold, 1-pint cocktail glass, fill with ice, add vodka (your call on how strong), 3 dashes Tabasco sauce, 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp celery salt, and 1 tsp horseradish. fill to the top with tomato juice and shake well. Garnish with lime, green olives, pickle spear, beef stick, and pickled asparagus if you can find some. I also like a “snit” of beer on the side. Some people like to pour this into the drink after it goes down a bit. I just drink the beer as a chaser. If you want to cut some corners, use Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix. Just add vodka, shake and garnish. 

The Smith and Kearns. Probably my favorite after-dinner drink. The Smith & Kearns was created in 1952 and named for two oilmen who were regulars at a bar: Smith and Curran. According to the stories, the loud atmosphere in bars caused the name “Curran” to be misheard as “Kearns.” No matter the name, if somebody tries to make you a S&K with Kahlua and milk, cry Foul! The recipe is 2 oz. of crème de cacao, 1 oz. real cream and a healthy splash of club soda over ice. FYI, Fever Tree is my go-to club soda. 

The Moscow Mule. A trip to your favorite watering hole and you will find lots of “mules.” Irish, Mexican, Kentucky, Pineapple, Mint, Jamaican, etc. etc. I like the traditional Moscow Mule. You will need a couple of items that might not be behind your home bar: Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer and the iconic copper mug. Start by filling the copper mug with ice. Add 2 oz. vodka, the juice of half of a small lime and top it off with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!

The Bus Driver. Sometimes you just make up drinks. I give credit for this one to a friend of mine. It makes for a great drink on a hot day. Very refreshing modification of a Greyhound…hence the Bus Driver. Tall glass, ice, 2 oz. vodka, 4 oz. grapefruit juice and a splash of Pom pomegranate juice. No special garnish, just a simple stir straw.

The Tom & Jerry. This is the famous Upper-Midwest holiday drink. Served hot, this sweet, eggnog-like concoction really warms the body and heart. There are several locally-made frozen batters that you can find, depending on your location. If you want to make you own batter, it’s basically eggs, sugar, and spices. I choose to purchase the local batters and keep a tub on hand throughout the winter months. Start with a big mug, add 1 oz. brandy, 1 oz. rum, a big dollop of batter and finish with boiling water. Stir and add a cinnamon stick and top with ground nutmeg. Here is one of the batters that I recommend: Mrs. Bowen’s.