Identify Your Barfly – The Washed Out Star

Now for another installment of know your barfly. In our sites today is that one slightly annoying but mainly pitiful specimen known as the washed up star (WUS). Nearly every bar has one. Some are annoying show-offs to the extreme, while others make a great conversation partner but leave you feeling slightly depressed at the end of the night.

The most common type of WUS is the former partier. He's either a little or lot past his hardest partying days. Usually all his old buddies are now married off and have better, more fulfilling ways to spend a Tuesday evening. But back in the day he partied with the best and he has a million stories to tell, from the funny to the embarrassing and everything in between.


Some were small time stars, and these tend to be the most annoying. Examples of this type of WUS include the high school football king and the guy who starred in that local commercial once upon a time. If your bar is home to a full-on WUS, such as an ex-B actor, find a new watering hole. This guy expects special treatment and after a few drinks may actually start fights with anyone that doesn't recognize him from his glory days speaking three lines in a failed sci-fi series.


There's generally no need to avoid the more common WUS varieties. They are usually nice guys. They are just lonely and looking for a conversational partner, but they won't force you to lend them an ear. If one does get a bit annoying, just walk away. WUS butts tend to be permanently glued to the bar stool since they are beyond the days of putting any effort into anything.

An Ode to Guinness

Some call it the elixir of the gods, while others refer to it as motor oil. For me, Guinness is a king amongst beers, something that only those with a taste for a truly good brew can enjoy. Guinness isn't meant for chugging (usually), nor is it suited for barbecues at the lake. No, Guinness is a beer that is an experience, much like coffee to a Seattlite, or Green Chile to a New Mexican.

The proper way to drink Guinness is warm, just at or slightly above room temperature. As for me, I enjoy it both warm or cold, but it does go down smoother when warm. It is a bitter brew, especially if you are used to sweet, pale American beers that come in a can.


By its very nature, Guinness develops a thick head when poured from the tap. Personally I don't mind, but some do and go through all sorts of rituals to minimize the head. If it really bothers you, do what the professionals do and pour it off. The head is so important, that Guinness has jumped through all sorts of engineering hoops to design cans and bottles that release the head when opened. That is why there is a hard plastic, um, thingy, in each.


Finally, if you must chug, the Irish Car Bomb may be just the shot for you. Only attempt this if your goal is to get drunk, and get there quickly. Make arrangements so you don't hit your head when you pass out, especially if the evening consists of several of these delicacies. Fill a shot glass with half Irish cream liquor and half Irish whiskey. Then, feel a pint glass ¾ full with Guinness. Drop the shot glass inside and chug quickly, or the resulting head will soak you. Look at the pictures of your shenanigans the next day and enjoy.

One Night in Edinburgh

Just after my 25th birthday, my younger sister and I set our sights on a Scottish adventure. We were two traveling vagabonds, living out of our backpacks for a month and trekking around the highlands. We stayed in hostels, got everywhere by train or foot, and carefully counted out our pounds and pences (yes, we were broke).

Naturally, we visited quite a few pubs during our travels. On the Isle of Skye, I got a bit hammered off thick Scottish beer in a little pub called King Haakon's in the small fishing village of Kyleakin. Ahh, what a night! Drinking with the locals, dancing with young and old in the cramped pub, and one old gent trying unsuccessfully to marry me off to his 15 year old grandson. I escaped unwed and only slightly hung over.


The most memorable night of all occurred on our last evening in Edinburgh. We had teamed up with Lori, a Canadian girl whom was sharing our hostel room. We wandered the city, popping into pubs for a drink before moving on to the next one. Finally we ended up in a modern establishment attached to the hostel. Neon lights and funky barstools declared this was the place for the hip and young.


We ordered Jaeger shots since they were the advertised special. Well, that and 10 pence mugs of Bud Light, but who goes to Scotland to drink Bud Light? The bartender informed us they were fresh out of Jaeger but they would give us shots of absinthe for the same price.


Oh, the green fairy is a cruel mistress! The sickly sweet drink went down smooth. Countless shots later, after a long conversation with a barstool and a mocking session of a young player from Houston whom thought he was a gift from the gods, we stumbled up the stairs to our room and passed out. The next thing I remember is waiting to board our flight home in Amsterdam.

Adventures in Brewing

Thank you, Mr. Beer!

A few years ago I bought my husband a Mr. Beer home brewing kit. He had always joked about being able to brew a better beer than some of junk turned out by local microbreweries, so I figured it was time for him to put his money where his mouth was. To my surprise, that little cute plastic barrel delivered exactly what it promised.

At first he used the beer ingredient kits offered by Mr. Beer. He even made some root beer for the kids. While these kits didn't taste bad and they delivered admirably on the alcohol front, they really were no different than the beer we could purchase at the local liquor store. He decided it was time to kick his brewing habit up a notch.


We found a home brewing store nearby and ventured in. Wow, who knew there were so many kits, doo-dads and ingredients available for the relatively simple process of making beer! He was like a kid in the proverbial candy store, assuming that the candy can get you stinking drunk.


Suffice it to say that our basement is now home to an ongoing science experiment. The adorable Mr. Beer barrel still gets used on occasion, but it has been joined by plastic buckets, vapor locks, tubes and other equipment. It looks like a veritable mad scientist's lab down there.


His habit, er, I mean hobby, has even begun to take over the garden. A border bed was ripped out last year so he could begin growing his own hops. The good news is although some experiments have failed, he has yet to blow up the house.




















Identify Your Barfly – The Know-It-All

If you are a regular at any sort of bar, you know that there are other regulars and they all seem to fit a common mold. I probably even fit into a mold, as much as my Gen-Xer self tries to deny it. The common barfly ranges from quiet and introverted to obnoxious to downright scary. Yet one of the most annoying types in the Know-It-All.

The Know-It-All, or KIA as my cronies and I like to say, tends to gravitate toward dives or sports bars, but you can find them in any type of drinking establishment. Bars that offer trivia games may attract even more KIAs, which can result in premature hangovers due to the loud arguments and one-upping that ensues during a multi-KIA gathering. The best way to handle a KIA is by:


a) avoidance

b) anger them so much they are speechless

c) ignore them (the most difficult because a KIA is naturally socially inept)


My first experience with this particular type of barfly occurred in my junior year of college. I visited a local sports pub to catch a hockey game. It was my first time in the bar alone, but everyone I knew was working and my cable was out. It was also the Stanley Cup playoffs so waiting until the next morning to find out the score just wasn't an acceptable option.


The bar was packed, due to the game. There were two open seats, on either side of a gentleman I had seen before but never spoken with. I felt comfortable enough here and knew some of the regulars, so I innocently took one of the two open seats. Little did I know that those seats were empty for a reason. I spent the next three hours being regaled with all sorts of “facts,” few if any true and not solicited by me. The more I ignored the guy, the more he jabbered. And heaven forbid if I pointed out his error.


Case in point: he informed the Russian military invented hockey when working on landmines that slid across the ice in the Bering Straits in an attempt to invade Alaska. Yeah, a lot of factual errors in that one... When I pointed out that the Alaska Purchase was in 1867 and hockey was officially invented in the 1870s, based off a similar game with a 100 year history, he got a bit red and angry, but I got to watch the game in peace for a few minutes even though I stooped to his level to do it.











Crazy Cocktails

It happens to all if us barflies at some point. We're sitting there nursing our boring beer or passe apple-tini, when we see someone across the room presented with something that catches our eye. “What the heck is that?” we wonder. These crazy drinks usually feature a multitude of colors or insane garnishes that make us wish we were brave enough to order the same. Now you can, if your bar is well stocked and your bartender is hip to these concoctions.

BLT Cocktail

You can't go wrong with bacon, right? The BLT cocktail features bacon-infused vodka. If that doesn't put you off your drink, it also has tomato water and lettuce flavored ice cubes. Supposedly this gives your vodka on the rocks the same flavor as a BLT, but I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to try it.


Pop Rock Martini

I have a soft spot for pop rocks, you know, that fizzing popping candy that was all the rage in the 80s? I used to down a packet with a swig of soda to really experience the full burst of the popping action. Top a raspberry vodka martini with the candy and you get a fizzy drink that draws all eyes to your table. This is one I may try. As in right now. If I can get my hands on some pop rocks.


Alien Brain Hemorrhage

I have to thank my friends over at Geekologie for introducing me to this sin against booze everywhere. While not technically a cocktail, this shooter looks exactly as you would imagine a hemorrhaging aline brain to look. You layer peach schnapps, Bailey's and blue curacao. Top it off with a splash grenadine then examine the lava lamp-like affect. Yeah, I'm not too sure about this one either.


Something Sweet for Your Sweet

Are you looking for just the right love potion for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Whether you're heading out or staying in, these drinks might be enough to win her heart, or at least impress her for the night. I avoid the tacky red and pink drinks, preferring a bit of elegance. Those tacky drinks also tend to be sickly sweet, something that just doesn't appeal. My favorite romantic drinks are elegant and never overly sweet, especially if you use only top shelf selections when mixing them up.

Champagne Cocktail

I don't mean just any champagne cocktail. Use frozen strawberries or raspberries for the color of love, then pour the chilled champagne over it. A splash of a berry liqueur up the flavor and the alcohol content. Another favorite way to serve this is with a scoop of berry sorbet. This one is easily made at home for those romantic interludes.


Chocolate Martini

Most bars and restaurants can whip up one of these, making it an excellent choice for a night out. Chocolate, a long known aphrodisiac, is sure to get the evening off to a good start. Vodka and white crème de cacao are all that's needed. A cocoa-rimmed glass finishes off the presentation.


Vodka Truffle

This is my favorite, not just on Valentine's but anytime! The always popular flavor of Kahlua combines with vodka and whipped cream. A splash of raspberry or berry liqueur finishes it off. For the best presentation, serve it in a champagne flute and add a sprinkle of chocolate shavings to the top. This is a truly decadent addition to your romantic meal.


Irish Up Your Mornings

You don't have to wait until Saint Paddy's Day to start your day with a little Irish in you. Irish coffee is a tried and true favorite for morning, noon or night. There is nothing like a creamy cup of goodness to wake you up after a large dinner as you sit back with friends, or as a weekend treat with a late and lazy breakfast. A lot of people seem to think that all you need to do is dump some Bailey's into your normal brew, but if you want a truly enjoyable cuppa there's a bit more involved.

Although Bailey's is good stuff, I prefer St. Brendan's cream liqueur. It's also a bit less expensive than the better known Bailey's. Brendan's has a thicker consistency and the alcohol adds a bit more bite so it isn't quite as sweet as Bailey's. For the best cup, though, I would definitely stick to one of these two Irish creams, since most other American knock-offs are far inferior in flavor and thickness.


You can use any type of coffee, but I prefer a strong black brew. Avoid instant coffee at all costs! Stronger and bolder blends work best because they can stand up to the flavor of the cream liqueur and whiskey. Speaking of which, use a good Irish whiskey. Jameson's seems to be the popular choice, but any smooth whiskey will work.


You can top the whole thing off with some good quality cream, if you prefer, or add a sprinkling of chocolate curls or cinnamon.


Kampai! Bring on the Sake


I know winter has hit my hometown when my husband busts out the kettle and out sake set. Cold evenings are spent with friends around the table, talking, laughing and sometimes playing cards. They are made all the more warmer with a bit of warm sake to put a fire in the belly and loosen the tongue.

Sake is traditionally served hot or cold. In winter we naturally enjoy it hot. We received a Japanese sake set as a wedding present years ago and it has served us well. You fill the little jugs with sake and heat them in boiling water. Then you take turns serving each other little shot-sized servings of the rice wine. In summer, the jugs accompany us out to the patio where we sit sipping cool sake until long after the fireflies have gone to bed.


Selecting Sake

The higher grades of sake are best served chilled, while lower grades, similar to a table wine, are better suited as a warm drink. If you are going to be making sake bombs or another mixed drink or shot a table variety is fine. Save the good stuff for savoring on its own. Most liquor stores carry sake in a variety of bottle sizes. Unless you are having a lot of people over or planning to drink a lot, stick to the small bottles. Sake drastically declines in quality once you open the bottle.


Serving Sake

Although you can use your normal bar ware, one of the joys of enjoying sake is in the presentation. Sake is rarely poured from the bottle and is instead served from small flasks that contain enough to fill two or three cups. Small sake cups resemble ceramic shot glasses. Bowl-style and wooden cups are also available. Sake sets generally come with five cups as opposed to the four cups for most western style glassware. The reason? Shi, the word for four in Japanese, also means death so is considered bad luck.


















My Friend Jeremiah

I am as adventurous as the next person when it comes to food and libations.  I saw an advertisement for a drink by Jeremiah Weed.  Living in the south, sweet tea is an everyday staple that you can order at any drive thru and dine in food establishment.  You don't have to brew it yourself and you can even buy it by the gallon from your neighborhood grocery store.  When I saw the commercial for sweet tea that can effectively get you buzzed, I was intrigued.

I had a hard time finding the different varieties at he retail outlets that I usually went to.  One of the vendors that I frequent actually ordered it for me.  I tried some of he premixed varieties that come in the cans but my favorite by far was the sweet tea flavored vodka.  Yes, you read that right, it is not sweet tea with a little vodka in it.  This is vodka flavored with the tea.  Are you as excited as I was?

I found that this was a little strong for me to drink on its own.  Don't get me wrong, it is very good and if you are in a hurry to get inebriated, go for it.  I created my very own version of a drunken Arnold Palmer.  I mixed it with my favorite lemonade over a glass full of ice and I was in heaven.  I decided that I needed to stock up.  Jeremiah Weed products are not as hard to find as they once were in my little town and I like to think that I had a little something to do with that.  

Give it a try but please drink responsibly!