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Some Lenten Meditations

22 February 2012

With Mardi Gras fading into fatty, beaded memory, it’s time to take stock and think about a little self-sacrifice. This blog isn’t exactly known for its abstemiousness, so it may seem odd to come to Odd Bacchus for ideas about how to mark Lent. But even I try to respect the Lenten tradition of giving something up.

I have nothing but respect for those who give up sugar or Facebook or even alcohol, but most of us lack the self-control to achieve such a lofty goal. If you, like me, are not a paragon of self-restraint, set your sights just a little lower, and consider sacrificing one of the following instead:

Sour Mix: Many restaurants, bars and home bartenders use this fluorescent green concoction to make sugary sweet margaritas. Instead of this chemical brew of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and food coloring, try some fresh-squeezed limes and a dash of simple syrup instead. (Simple syrup is available in liquor stores, or make your own by  simmering one part water and one part sugar together.)

“Maraschino” Cherries: Speaking of food coloring… Give up the unnaturally bright red “maraschino” cherries you find atop sundaes. Instead, buy some true Maraschino cherries (also known as Marasca cherries), which are available on Amazon and in well-stocked liquor stores. Your Manhattan will thank you.

Old Vermouth: All too many of us home bartenders (myself included) have ancient bottles of crappy vermouth. Give them up! Pour them down the drain and recycle the bottles. A good vermouth can make a world of difference in your cocktail. Carpano Antica, a red vermouth, has lately taken the bartending world by storm, and it makes a mean Manhattan. Also watch out for Vya, which makes both red (sweet) and white (extra dry) vermouths. If you worry you won’t be able to use all of that relatively expensive vermouth before it spoils, you can always drink it straight.

Cheap Booze: Just because a wine or liquor is inexpensive doesn’t mean that it’s a good value. All too often, that $7 bottle of wine tastes like it should have cost about $3. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense. Give it up! In large amounts, alcohol is unhealthy, which means it should be both delicious and just a little expensive. Better to drink less of something really satisfying than glass after glass of plonk. Not all inexpensive wines are bad, of course — I’ve written about a number of decent wines that cost less than $15 (or even $10), but the good values in that price range usually require avoiding famous brands.

Your Go-To Drink: It’s easy to become a creature of habit and stick with what we know, buying the same brands of wine and ordering the same cocktails over and over again. Give it up! Try something new. Tell your (trusted) bartender or wine store clerk what you usually order, and ask for an interesting alternative to try. Who knows? Next year, you might have a new go-to drink to give up for Lent.

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