This week on the Friday Fiver: More ancient and absurd holiday cocktails!
One of my favorite articles from X-E's last Christmas season is this one, where I mined our immense collection of old Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks for festive party drink recipes. It wasn't hard to find five more.
Most of these books are from the '50s and '60s, when our attitudes about food were just a wee bit different. This is best exemplified by red meat being as common an ingredient as flour. Even most of the salad dishes included parts from thirteen different animals. Everything is slathered in gravy and ketchup, and every photo looks like the first slide in a PowerPoint presentation about colon cancer.
Still, back then, Betty and friends really knew how to turn food into a party. Look no further than the cocktail recipes, which combined everything from ice cream to scallions to create dozens of drinks that were as loud and colorful as they were strange and unusual.
To complete this article, I needed all of the ingredients above. Incredible. Five nonalcoholic cocktails, and I had to find everything from Jell-O to celery to two kinds of milk. (For the second time this week, I'm giving milk a pass.)
As you could guess, these drinks aren't for everyone. We've either gotten more sophisticated or just boring, but I can't pretend that some of you won't be turned off at the first sight of tomato juice with bits of green onion swimming around inside. I can't even pretend that more than a handful of you have any interest in goofy neon cocktails formulated in 1957. This is one of those weird reviews that I do just for me. My secret wish is to be a housewife from forty years ago.
Just try to keep an open mind. I promise you, every last one of these is tasty. Except the "Banana Nog." That shit's gross.
What It Is: The "Calico Tomato Cooler" combines tomato juice with teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce. But that's not all! Hidden deep in the red are chunks of green onion and celery, while a pair of cucumber slices barely manages to stay afloat as garnish.
What It Tastes Like: An absolutely killer Bloody Mary mix. Not exaggerating in the slightest when I write that it's the best Bloody Mary mix I've ever had, even if it technically isn't one. Who knew it was this simple?
If you're no big fan of tomato juice but still aren't immediately repulsed by the very idea of it, this super-charged version will be much easier to swallow. The various sauces give it serious body and spice, while all the veggies floating around make the thing act more as a soup than a cocktail.
Because the liquids are so thick, the onion and celery bits don't just sit at the bottom, but float all throughout the glass, ready to give you something chewable upon every sip. That's why the Calico Tomato Cooler should never be consumed with a straw. Unless it's one of those silly straws, the ones shaped like ampersands. Then fuck the celery.
Also: Can any foodie or reasonably educated person explain this whole "calico" thing to me? There are dozens of old recipes with "calico" in the title, and I've never been able to figure out what it means. I know that there are calico cats, but I don't see why we'd name tomato drinks after them.
What It Is: Decadence, plain and simple. The "Strawberry Frosted Soda" is a milkshake on steroids. Here, we mix milk, strawberry ice cream, strawberry gelatin and a tiny bit of water to make something that is unbelievably pink and unbelievably delicious. It looks like medicine but tastes like heaven, and every sip contains enough fat to get a 400 pound bear through an entire winter.
What It Tastes Like: Oh, man. You have to try it. Please, do it soon. You don't need directions. Just mash everything together in a blender, and serve. The Strawberry Frosted Soda will quickly become your new drug of choice.
Keep in mind, I don't even like milkshakes. I never have. But here, the dreaded "M" word is so completely overtaken by the various strawberry flavors, you never once get the sense that you're drinking anything other than creamed fruit.
And the color! SO pink! This isn't one of those pinks that can barely maintain its pinkness. This is the pink by which all of the other pinks' pinknesses should be judged. The pink measuring stick. The Great Pinko de Pink. Pinkus Maximus.
What It Is: The "Lime Frost" is by far the easiest of today's recipes. You just blend crushed ice and a can of frozen lime-aid concentrate, and that's it. A maraschino cherry is the only thing keeping it from being ten thousand percent lime.
What It Tastes Like: Sour, very sour. I like it that way, but your mileage may vary. You can reduce the sourness by increasing the ice, or if that doesn't work, just cop out and throw a cup of water into the blender. If you limit the ice, it's almost as good as eating frozen concentrate straight from the can, which is something nobody worth knowing hasn't thought about doing at least twice.
The recipe suggests adding a few drops of green food coloring. You'll need it, because frozen lime-aid is actually quite yellowish, and nobody wants to drink something that looks like a urine Slurpee. Nobody worth knowing, anyway.
I tossed all of my Lime Frost into the sink as soon as the taste-test was over, and that's the best compliment I can give it. I knew I could plow through the whole mix in five minutes if left unchecked.
The best part is how easily the recipe can be modified. Don't like limes? Fine, just grab a different frozen concentrate and use another shade of Easter egg dye. Easiest homemade slushies ever, and ten times tastier than anything you'd find in a 7-Eleven. Except maybe those Buffalo Chicken Rollers. The Great Pinko de Pink.
What It Is: The "Banana Nog" blends a ripe banana with vanilla ice cream, evaporated milk, an egg and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. The ingredients still frighten me, but the end result is exactly what you'd expect Banana Nog to be: Banana-flavored eggnog.
What It Tastes Like: I'm trying to be objective. Since I like normal eggnog just fine, I have no right to complain about the milk or the egg. The banana, on the other hand...
I hate bananas. I just hate them. I hate the way they smell, I hate the way they taste. Any pack of multi-flavored candy including "banana" is a pack of multi-flavored candy I will never finish.
So, rating this one is tough. It tastes like bananas. Sugary and sweet, but still like bananas. If that sounds good to you, then you'd probably enjoy a Banana Nog. Since bananas are among my most storied enemies, I did not.
The recipe calls for a dash of nutmeg to top each glass. As you can see, I went a bit overboard. Maybe a lot overboard. What should've only been a sprinkle looks more like a pile of sawdust large enough to suggest that somebody is almost done building the world's tallest birdhouse.
Truth is, I was trying to kill the banana. No dice. Even half a pound of nutmeg couldn't make Banana Nog taste like Something Else Nog.
If this was a Friday Fourer, I never would've made this stupid Banana Nog.
What It Is: Better Homes & Gardens sure loved their punch recipes, but few were as complicated as "Golden Banquet Punch." This took serious effort, and required more ingredients than any of the previous cocktails. I'll skip the process and just list the materials: Boiling tea, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, ice water, aromatic bitters and a bottle of goddamned ginger ale. It's forty-five drinks in one.
What It Tastes Like: Great, actually. Somehow, when mixed together, the ingredients form a surprisingly light punch, flavorful but not so sugary that you'll bloat to twice your normal size after just one glass. I don't know how to describe the exact taste, as the umpteen ingredients work very hard to make that impossible.
"Fruity ginger ale" fits, but it doesn't tell the whole story. "Fizzy fruit juice" fits, but there's more to it than that. I think Golden Banquet Punch was put here to challenge me. I won't be a great writer until I can effectively summarize this beverage in three words or less. Surely some failed sitcom scribe runs an overpriced workshop with that very task as the class exercise. I'm moving to South Pasadena.
My request: Each of you must create at least one of the aforementioned cocktails before Christmas. Add alcohol, if that helps fuel the desire. It will be a challenge, as I didn't go out of my way to really explain how any of these drinks are made. When in doubt, throw everything in a blender and hit the setting that sounds the most exotic. Unless your blender cost more than $100, it's probably "frappe."
Oh, and I see that 106.7 Lite FM just made the switch to all Christmas music, all the time. Life is about to be so wonderful, again!Posted by Matt on 11/18/2011. E-mail me!