Hello again, Jim the Guest Writer here again
This week’s post is a little off the normal track, but with New Year’s Eve fast approaching, it could help us Designated Drivers to avoid drink-time boredom, not to mention some fairly unattractive tummy upsets.
It’s a necessary evil, but someone has to be the Designated Driver, unless one is happy to wait multiple hours for a cab and take out a second mortgage to fund a trip home on the understanding that the cabbie actually knows where he is going …
There’s only so far one can go with regular soft drinks and fruit juices, without having a major sugar overload. You might remember last week’s post, The Pud which featured, among other things, tiny bottles of flavour essences; these little fellas can really come to your rescue on NYE!
If you’ve ever lived in a hot climate, especially in any former British colony, chances are that you’ve encountered Tonic Water. On its own, it can be hard going. However, with the help of my little friends, the essence bottles, one can make something not only tasty, but less calorific than regular soft drink, without having to resort to ‘Diet’ (“Ptttwahh!” … Curls up nose).
You are really only limited by your imagination here. My faves are (in a tall half-pint or 300 millilitre glass, like a highball, and using about a standard half-teaspoon, or 2.5 millilitres of essence):
Brandy essence with a couple of crushed mint leaves, over a little ice, topped with either the Tonic water or Soda water if you don’t like the bitterness of Tonic;
Aniseed essence over ice, topped up similarly – looks like Ouzo or Raki when topped with the Tonic;
Chocolate essence (believe it or not!) done as you would for the aniseed – this one is quite more-ish, and a mint leaf or two doesn’t go astray, either;
Rosewater essence is a Wild Card – it can be used either as a flavouring in its own right, or a couple of drops in addition to one or more of the other flavours can give you a multi-sensory delight. As I said earlier, you’re really only limited by your imagination.
( Spoiler alert! ) These drinks are ludicrously cheap to make. The essence bottles, 50 millilitre capacity (about 2 ounces) average out at about $1.25 each, and each of these little fellas is good for about 20 drinks. The Tonic retails between $0.75 and $2.00 a 1.25 litre (40 ounce) bottle, so as a worst-case scenario you can average out your costs at around 60 cents per drink. Try doing that with low-alcohol beer! (“Ptttwahh!” …Curls up nose, again)
While these essences can have an alcohol component, there is no way on this green Earth you can get intoxicated if you stick to the concentrations stipulated (about 1 part in 100). For those who are interested in such things, the actual alcohol components of these pictured essences are, respectively:
Even if you chugalugged the aniseed-based drinks all night, eventually consuming the whole 50mL bottle, at the recommended dilution you would be consuming close to two US gallons of extremely low-alcohol brew over the course of the night. The only people endangered will be anyone who gets in your way when you go to go, if you follow me …
Best of all, you can drink something tasty, staying totally hydrated and in control of your senses, while all around you are losing theirs. (If you are naturally mischievous, keep a camera handy!)
Going upscale, you could try using syrups like the big-bottle varieties shown in the photos. These are considerably more expensive than the little essence bottles (last time I looked, these were about $6 each, and one needs to use considerably more than one would with the essences), but they can still yield a tasty libation. The Chilli Lime mix is particularly tasty with tomato juice, if you’re hanging for a Bloody Mary.
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OK … You, and presumably your fellow partygoers, for whom you so graciously performed the driver duties, have awoken on New Year’s morning, ready to kill for a coffee … Nothing’s open, right?
My little friends, the essence bottles, can come to your rescue again. They can turn even the most Ordinary coffee (capitalised ‘O’ intentional) into something memorable.
Even if all you have in stock is totally No Frills, military-ration-grade-powdered-instant-you-gotta-be-kidding-me coffee, adding a tiny 2.5 millilitre dose of say, Chocolate essence for a Mocha effect, or Rosewater for a mysterious Middle-Eastern, or Brandy essence for a Poor Man’s Irish Coffee can work miracles.
See what you can come up with, and let me know how well it all goes, eh?
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