Today is New Year’s Eve’s Eve’s Eve’s Eve (or New Year’s Eve4); which is good enough reason to have a drink.
How to make a Holiday Hangover
4 oz Rum (Light)
5 oz Soda (Lemon-Lime)
Stir Ingredients together and garnish with a candy cane. Serve it in a Highball Glass.
- Do get a kegerator. If you drink beer regularly, then it’s worth it. The beer is cheaper when you buy it by the keg, and it’s more convenient to just take your glass to the tap.
- If your wife or girlfriend objects to the kegerator, then tell her you are doing it to save the environment. After all, re-usable kegs are much more eco-friendly than all that glass for the bottles.
- Do clean your beer lines each time you switch out your keg(s). The beer in those lines is the perfect growth medium for bacteria and yeast that will make your beer taste like crap. Your lines should be cleaned once per month at the least.
- Do everything you can to convince SWMBO to approve putting the kegerator right in the living room. It’s more convenient there. If you can’t get approval, then just put it there anyway – she probably can’t move it out to the garage by herself.
- Do set your regulator to about 10-12 psi for proper carbonation and to drive your beer faucet. If you accidentally over-carbonate your beer because you set your regulator higher, you can always unhook the gas line for a day or two. The carbonation in the keg will push the beer out even without the gas line, and it will help to relieve some of the pressure.
- Don’t buy your own CO2 tank. You can get a tank for less money by just putting the deposit down on a tank at the welding supply store. If you buy a brand new steel tank, then the first time you try to get it filled, they are just going to switch it out for some old banged up aluminum tank anyway – so why “donate” a new tank to the supply company?
- Don’t enclose your kegerator into a bar without proper ventilation. Refrigerators (and kegerators) need airflow around them to operate efficiently. If you are going to put it under a bar, then make sure you have ventilation grates or fans to blow air around it..
- Don’t allow beer to back up into your regulator. The best way to avoid this is to make sure your tank is open all the way before you attach it to a carbonated keg. If you homebrew, then it is also a good idea to suppress the temptation to hook your gas line up to your “out” port in an effort to force carbonate faster.
- If you are a homebrewer, then don’t buy your kegs new. You can buy a used keg on eBay for about 1/5th the cost of buying new. Or, alternatively, you can buy 5 kegs for the price of one!
My keg went dry in the kegerator at around 10:15 in the evening on Christmas Eve. I was in no condition to drive, and a winter storm had just started to drop what would turn out to be about 9 inches of snow at my house. Even if it weren’t snowing, I’m sure the liquor store was already closed anyway. Most men would have panicked, but I wasn’t worried.
There was no way I was going to drive my drunk ass to the liquor store through that kind of weather. No matter, I have enough booze stockpiled in my basement to last me until about March. By then I’m sure the snowplow will come by.
It does go to show that you can never be too prepared for an emergency. To help you avoid Keg’s Empty Grief Syndrome (KEGS), I have developed a little list here that should go a long way toward making sure you have everything you need in case a weather or civil emergency strikes your neighborhood.
- Beer – it’s a good idea to keep at least a week’s worth in your home. Take the number of beers you drink per day and multiply that number by 12. That’s how much beer you drink in a week.
- Liquor – You will want to make sure you can make it through a month of weather related turmoil without drinking up all your good Scotch. Liquor stores may be closed for a long time, so it’s important to get some cheap stuff and hide it in the crawl-space under your house.
- Food and stuff – You will also need some food. Keep in mind you should stockpile nutritious foods that you enjoy and can keep for a very long time:
- Maraschino Cherries
- Pop Corn
- Beef Jerky
There is no point in keeping too much beer in the house. Beer will spoil over time, and if your idiot friends find it, then they will probably drink it all anyway.
Remember that by following these simple precautions, you will never run out of alcohol or nutritious food during an emergency. What’s more, keeping a stash of supplies also helps in case of an unplanned period of unemployment.
How to make a Christmas Tree Water:
1 oz Gin
2 oz Sprite
1 Pinch Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Mix the Gin and Sprite together using whatever method is available at the moment – Toothpick, Chopstick, your little finger. If you want to spice it up a bit, you can add a pinch of Cayenne (Red) Pepper. Serve it in a Cocktail Glass.
If you’ve ever consumed the tripe that is passed off as Lambic here in the States, then you might want to consider having the real thing. I always thought I hated Lambic until I went to Brussels – to an ancient bar at the end of a tight little alley barely wide enough to walk through.
The bar was called La Bécasse, and it has changed my perspective on this wonderful style of beer.
As with many things of value in this world, the atmosphere is one of the most incredible parts of the story. While most of the cafes and bars in Brussels are located in these cool little houses that are just a few feet wide and several stories tall lining the cobblestone streets for miles around the Grand Place; La Bécasse is almost impossible to find unless you already know where it is.
A tight little curved alley takes you a hundred feet or so away from the crowded street. At places the alley is so narrow you can reach your arms out and easily touch both sides. The alley ends in a door set into a façade that is clearly very old. In fact, there are two façade that are visible from the alley; the current one, and a much older one behind it.
Stepping inside, my Belgian friend who was with me at the time informed me that this bar is the oldest in Brussels. Judging by the centuries-old architecture everywhere in Brussels, that is not an insignificant fact.
In fact, the bar was established in 1793, making it well over 200 years old. From the perspective of this American, that is just really incredible.
The mood in the place is distinctly Belgian. There is no loud music blasting into the bar – it is subdued, the ceilings are low, the people avoid eye contact, and everyone talks in a low voice. The interior is wood and brick and copper. The tables are long, wooden and have high-backed wooden chairs. It is a truly gorgeous bar.
The picture here shows my Belgian friend Luc pouring me a glass of the Lambic from one of the cool little ceramic jugs (we also had a couple glasses of Kwok for dessert as you can see). I feel fairly confident that I was the only person in the entire city who was wearing a red striped shirt that day.
So, let’s get down to the beer.
Usually if you can find good Belgian Lambic in the States, it comes in a tiny little bottle roughly equivalent to 7 ounces, and it costs about $8. Not so at La Bécasse. You get a little jug all to yourself, and there is plenty in there to have a nice drink.
If you are not familiar with Lambic, it is a style of beer that is brewed using wild yeasts and bacteria. In stark contrast to the method of producing most commercial beers, many Lambics are fermented in open fermentors that purposely allow certain types of bacterial infections to occur in the beer. Traditionally, a brew house in Belgium will brew their beer in the upper floors of the house, and serve it on the ground floor. The wild yeasts live in the ceiling and rafters of the roof. As a result, the beer can only be made in that place, and no two batches are ever exactly the same.
Lambic is served “live”. The product is not filtered or pasteurized, and the character changes over time. The brewmaster monitors the Lambic and when the time is right, it is served. This is the reason it is almost impossible to find good bottled Lambic. The taste simply does not survive the bottling process.
La Bécasse Lambics are smooth, not harsh like the junk you get in the States. The fruity versions have a lot of character, but the fruit doesn’t blow the drink away. It is balanced, just as it should be. I sampled their Faro (a Lambic that is sweetened with brown sugar), and the Framboise (a raspberry version); both were absolutely delicious, and had me contemplating – if only for a moment – how much a flat in Brussels might cost, and would it maybe make sense to … oh, that wouldn’t make sense.
Here’s the bad news. If you want to try La Bécasse then you are going to have to travel to Brussels. They simply do not bottle it. You can only get it by going to the source, walking down that long narrow alley, and ordering up a jug for yourself at the bar.
If you do, you will not be disappointed. Stepping into La Bécasse means stepping back in time over 200 years into a bar that was established 11 years before Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.
One of the first types of tests that most beginning home brewers measure is the alcohol content of their beer. This is an easy test to do, and it is something many people like to know before they start drinking. I find it is one of the first questions anyone asks before they take their first sip of by brew, “How much alcohol is in this stuff?”
Before we go into the methods of measuring alcohol, a little explanation is in order. There are no devices that measure the alcohol directly. The best we can really do is infer the amount of alcohol based on other observable data.
Yeast produces alcohol by metabolizing simple sugars (Dextrose) into two primary by-products: ethanol and carbon dioxide. All the other by-products occur in trace amounts that are irrelevant to our interests here. The carbon dioxide (CO2)is released into the atmosphere, and the alcohol remains.
Because the CO2 has left the liquid, the beer becomes less dense. The more sugar the yeast metabolize, the higher the amount of CO2 that is released, and consequently the higher the percentage of alcohol.
In order to determine the alcohol content of your beer, you need to measure the beer before it ferments, and after it ferments. By determining the difference between these two numbers, you can infer the amount of alcohol in the brew.
There are two ways of doing this measurement. You can measure the density of the beer, or the amount of sugar that is in the solution. We refer to the measurement of the density of the beer as it’s Specific Gravity, and the amount of sugar is expressed in units called Brix.
The Specific Gravity of water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit is 1.000. Everything else is either more or less dense than water. You use a simple little tool called a Hydrometer to measure the Specific Gravity of a solution. It is essentially just a glass cylinder with a weight on the bottom and lines showing the different gravity points going up the side. Technically, you are supposed to cool the beer sample down to 60 degrees in order to get an accurate reading. However, as long as the beer is around room temperature, your reading will be reasonably accurate. Just keep in mind; a hydrometer reading of boiling liquid will be way off.
When brewers talk about Specific Gravity they will usually specify either the Original Gravity (OG), or Terminal Gravity (TG). The OG is a measurement of the beer before it ferments, and the TG (also called Final Gravity – FG) is the measurement that is taken after fermentation is complete. The difference between the two tells you how much alcohol is in the brew. As an example, a typical Pale Ale will start off with an OG of around 1.045 and finish off with an TG of around 1.008.
Calculating the percentage of alcohol is as simple as plugging some numbers into the following equation.
% Alcohol = ((1.05 x (OG – TG)) / TG) / 0.79
So, given a few numbers suggested above:
OG = 1.045
TG = 1.008
The equation would look like this:
.0487 = ((1.05 x (1.045 – 1.008))/1.008) / 0.79
So, this beer would be about 4.9% alcohol.
Another great way to measure alcohol content is by measuring the sugar level. You measure Brix using a nifty little device called a Refractometer. These things are great because all you need is a drop of wort or beer to take a reading, and you don’t have to cool it off before you take a reading or perform mathematical gymnastics to compensate for temperature variances.
There are complex formulas to out there on Internet Land if you want to get super duper accurate, but the simple formula is to just take your Brix level and multiply it by four to get a Specific Gravity.
For our example, let’s assume a Brix reading of 11.25. Therefore we find the Specific Gravity this way:
4 x 11.25(Brix) = 45
So, the “45” in this case means 1.045. In brewing language, “45” actually means 1.045 – which is why this little trick works. You can now take this number and plug it into the formula given above to calculate your alcohol level.
My personal preference is to use the Refractometer instead of the Hydrometer. There is just no way to express the ease of putting a drop of wort on the Refractometer while I’m mashing my grains, or to make sure my gravity is spot on when the wort goes into the fermentor. The alternative of using a Hydrometer is such a pain in the ass that quite frankly I almost never take gravity readings.
On the downside, Refractometers cost much more than Hydrometers. You will pay about $60 – $120 for a Refractometer versus $12 – $25 for a Hydrometer. If you are considering all-grain brewing, then I would highly suggest a Refractometer.
“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”
Vodka stands out among liquors as the leader without any serious rival. It outsells all other categories many times over. The strange thing about Vodka, however, is that of all the liquor categories, it is probably the least defined in terms of its production procedures and requirements.
Whiskey, for example, is subdivided into many sub-genres such as Scotch, Bourbon, Irish, Canadian, and so forth. Each of these has its own requirements for the percentage of the wash that must be made with corn, barley, or other feedstocks. In the case of Scotch, particular types of peat moss must be used to smoke the malt. Bourbon has to be aged for at least three years. And this is just the beginning for the Whiskey category.
Similar wild rules exist for other categories of Spirits such as Gin, Tequila, Rum, and Brandy – but not for vodka.
Vodka is made from many feedstocks including Potatoes, Corn, Sorghum, Rye and Wheat. I’m just waiting for someone to make Carrot Vodka. Don’t laugh, it will happen.
The reason is quite simple, of course. Vodka is such a pure form of ethanol and water that it doesn’t really need a lot of definition other than the requirement that it not taste or smell like anything in particular. Watered down ethanol is probably the best description one can come up with for Vodka – good vodka that is.
All this begs the question. Is Vodka the undisputed king of Liquors because it is undefined? Or is it undefined because it is produced by so many different types of distilleries using so many different feedstocks, and distilled in so many different ways.
That’s a rhetorical question of course; however it may lend some credence to the cliché that variety is the spice of life!
I know it doesn’t sound very Christmas(y), but today’s cocktail of the day is Shellshock. Basically this is like a scorching hot Bloody Mary that is made with beer instead of Vodka. Or, if you want to be a real drunk, you can modify it to include Beer AND Vodka. So it’s great at breakfast, before work, under a bridge, basically anywhere – anytime.
There is no celery in this – celery is for pussies who have extra money for vegetation. No, with this drink, all you need is half a beer (it can even be flat beer), some Clamato Juice, Lemon Juice, Tobasco Sauce, and some Cayenne Pepper.
Also, just like a Bloody Mary, this can help knock the wind out of a hangover. I know, I just tried it.
One alteration I would suggest. Some hot sauces are hotter than others. For me, putting an entire ounce of Tabasco Sauce in this thing is way too much. One quarter to one half an ounce is plenty. As they say, you can always add more.
How to make a Shellshock:
6 oz Clamato Juice (you can substitute Tomato Juice or V8 if that’s what you have)
6 oz Beer (a light lager like a Pilsner would be best, but use what you have)
1 oz Hot Sauce (Probably 1/2 oz is better)
1 dash Lemon Juice
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper
1 pinch Salt
Pour clamato juice over salt, pepper and lemon. Then add beer. Stir slowly with a spoon to mix the hotness with the beer, but don’t make the drink fizz too much. Serve in a Pilsner glass.
On the Drunk Man’s Guide, most drinks are expressed in Standard Bar Measurements that correspond to U.S. measuring practices. Others use Metric. To clarify, following is a conversion guide you can use for all our recipes if you happen to reside on the opposite side of the pond from wherever your recipe was developed.
1 1/2 oz. = 1 shot = 44 milliliters
Standard Bar Measurements:
1 Dash/Splash = 1/32 ounce
1 Teaspoon = 1/8 ounce
1 Tablespoon = 3/8 ounce
1 Pony = 1 ounce
1 Jigger/Bar glass = 1 1/2 ounces
1 Wineglass = 4 ounces
1 Split = 6 ounces
1 Cup = 8 ounces
Standard English Measurements:
Half-Gallon = 64 ounces
Quart = 32 ounces
Fifth = 25.6 ounces
Pint = 16 ounces
Half-Pint = 8 ounces
1000 ml = 34.1 ounces
500 ml = 17 ounces
200 ml = 6.8 ounces
29.5 ml = 1 ounce
1 fluid ounce = 29.5 milliliters
1 quart = 9.5 deciliters
1 gallon = 3.8 liters
1 quart = 1 liter
1 centiliter = 10 milliliters
1 deciliter = 10 centiliters
1 liter = 10 deciliters