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Gin and tonics

It's a beautiful sunny summer day... a great day for a gin and tonic!

But not just any gin and tonic. I got an email from kegworks about their line of premium tonic waters. Premium tonic water? How did I not know about this?

They're prepared with real quinine and agave instead of artificial flavor and high fructose corn syrup. And they're much lower in calories without resorting to artificial sweeteners. What's not to love?

I got the sampler pack and set up my gin and tonic testing station:

ginandtonic1.jpgHere's the first one. And it is indeed delicious. I'm not going back to Schweppes!


How many calories in that drink?

I'm always looking for a tasty and low calorie beverage. Most of the time I drink plain water, but sometimes it's nice to get a little flavor. I decided to check out what I had in my house.

bev.jpg Along the front (bottom) row are my brews-over-ice iced teas for my Keurig.

The obvious lowest in calories is the unsweetened black tea. I add one packet of Sun Crystals, which is a 5 calorie mix of stevia and cane sugar. It's very good, and all natural. There are some zero calories stevia blends, but they generally have some sugar alcohols to make the stevia more palatable. I'll take the 5 calories for all natural.

The next two, sweet lemon black tea and sweet raspberry black tea are 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar. Celestial Seasonings sweetened teas for Keurig are sweetened with evaporated cane juice and stevia. Personally I wish they were a little less sweet, but that's probably just me.

I try not to drink my calories, unless alcohol is involved, but 50 calories is pretty reasonable.

It's the same as one of my soy chai lattes that I make from Keurig chai tea and steamed soy milk. Though the 4 oz. of soymilk only has 4 grams of sugar and more protein and healthy stuff.

The next two, berry lime twist sweet green tea and half and half black tea and lemonade are both 70 calories at 16 grams of sugar. 

The real surprise came from the canned sodas. I haven't had a sweetened soda in a long time, as they taste way too sweet to me, and I've been trying to cut back on the Diet Coke.

And, by the way, did you know that most canned soda uses aluminum cans lined with Bisphenol A (BPA)? A study done in Canada found 0.35 µg/L in Diet Coke and a shocking 1.1 µg/L in Fresca! And then there are all the chemicals they intentionally put in diet soda!

The Sprite and Ginger Ale are 140 calories and 38 grams of sugar, sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

The real surprise were the "natural" sodas.

The Jamaican Lemonade, 90% fruit juice, no sugar added, has 160 calories and 38 grams of sugar! It doesn't have high fructose corn syrup that the Sprite has, but it has more calories and the same amount of sugar!

The Mandarin Lime, 70 % juice, no sugar added has 170 calories at 39 grams of sugar.

And the Red Raspberry 100 % fruit juice has a whopping 200 calories and 44 grams of sugar!

I think the problem with the spritzers is that, while, most, if not all, juice, they take very sweet and neutral juice, such as pear, and concentrate it, which makes it mostly fructose. It's not high-fructose corn syrup but it might as well be, because it's still crazy high in fructose.

Incidentally, 1.5 oz. of vodka is 110 calories and the bargain in terms of calories is flavored vodka and soda water/seltzer/club soda.

And even though tonic water is equally clear, it's not equally low in calories as soda water. A 10 oz. serving of tonic is 110 calories and 27 grams of sugar, doubling the calories for a tall vodka and tonic vs. a vodka and soda!

Bar simple syrup

The secret to making a good margarita is using good lime juice. Preferably fresh squeezed. Or at least a good lime juice, preferably frozen, though a good 100 % juice in a jar without preservatives will do in a pinch.

"Real Lime" does not qualify, by the way. Nor does Rose's Lime Juice.

And, of course, good tequila. I like Sauza Horintos, myself, of the affordable tequilas, for a margarita.

But you can't overlook the sweetener, either. A well prepared bar simple syrup is the key to getting just the right balance of sweet and sour.

I make it at a ratio of 1:1, that is to say, equal weights of sugar and water.

As it turns out, 12 oz. by weight of sugar is actually only a little more than 12 fl. oz. if you pour it into a Pyrex measuring cup, so you probably could just fake it if you don't have a scale.

simplesyrup1.jpgAdd 12 oz. of water (which is also 12 fl. oz., because that's the way water works, at least at sea level) in a saucepan, stirring frequently.

First you won't hear the granules of sugar rubbing the bottom of the pan, then wisps of clear will appear.

Then the whole thing will turn transparent. Remove from the heat. This is all before it boils.

Bakers sometimes use a different variation of simple syrup that's reduced (often by 50 %), but that's not really helpful behind the bar. It's too viscous and clogs up the speed pour.

Note that even though you added 12 fl. oz. water and 12 oz. of sugar you'll only end up with a little more than 16 fl. oz. of simple syrup because the sugar dissolves into the water.


Simple syrup will keep for months in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Also, there is an alternative: superfine sugar. Note that this is not confectioner's sugar which is a completely different, powdery, thing. Sometimes superfine sugar is called bar sugar. It dissolves much more easily than regular granulated sugar, but I still prefer the pre-dissolved simple syrup.


What I ate: March 4, 2011

Breakfast: 1 organic scrambled egg, 1 slice of homemade 9-grain bread toast with Earth Balance spread and 3 slices of Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon.

Lunch: Seared tuna with sriracha aioli, pickled onion, lettuce, tomato on a roll with French fries at Bolton Valley. And Switchback beer.

ate.2011.03.04.l.jpgSkiing cuisine has definitely stepped it up a notch since the days when I started skiing, 35 years ago, when lunch consisted of a greasy cheeseburger from a frozen patty, wrapped in foil, sitting under a heat lamp!

Dinner: Stir-fry of tofu, scallions and broccoli. With rice.

Dessert: 1 square of Lake Champlain dark chocolate raspberry truffle and Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir, 2006.

0.7 oz. potato chips and French onion dip.

Weight at beginning of the day: 110.4 lbs.
Weight at the beginning of the next day: 110.8 lbs.

Absolut Mango and Odwalla Superfood

I'm pretty sure mixing alcohol with Odwalla Superfood "micronutrient fruit juice drink" kind of defeats the purpose. And it is a really unappealing greenish brown color. But it's pretty tasty and full of fruits and healthy grasses, so it can't be all bad.

According to the label, Superfood contains: apple, peach, mango, strawberry, banana, wheat grass, barley grass, and wheat sprouts. 

Sauza Hornitos Margarita

Happy cinco de mayo everyone!

In my opinion, Sauza hornitos reposado tequila makes the best tasting margarita, at least of any tequila that I can afford to put in a margarita.

Tequila, lime juice and a little simple syrup. Shake with ice. Serve on the rocks in a glass with a salted rim.

The lime juice is organic 100 % lime juice which is much better than Rose's lime juice (yuck). I would have squeezed fresh limes, and garnished with lime, except I didn't have any.

The simple syrup is just sugar and water (50 % by weight) heated to dissolve then chilled. Unlike pastry simple syrup, it's not reduced 50 %. I always keep some in the refrigerator for drinks like this.

Spicy Bloody Mary

1.5 oz. hot pepper vodka (*)
hot sauce (I used Cholula, but Tabasco or any other hot sauce is fine)
Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. horseradish
ground black pepper
celery salt (or regular salt, or omit)
Spicy V-8

Shake with ice and serve on the rocks in a highball glass. Garnish with celery stalk. And lemon, lime, and/or olive, if you so desire.

(*) I make my own hot pepper infused vodka by adding jalapeños and a few dried habanero peppers to vodka and letting it infuse for a week or so. You could also use a prepared pepper vodka like Absolut pepar.

Cantaloupe Daiquiri

DSC_0002.jpg5.5 oz. cantaloupe (2 slices)
1.5 oz. lime juice
3.0 oz. light rum

Blend the ingredients. Shake with ice. Strain in a cocktail glass.

There's quite a bit of lime juice, so it tastes mostly like daiquiri with a hint of cantaloupe, but is very refreshing! This is what I did with the leftover cantaloupe from the ricotta, prosciutto, and cantaloupe ravioli with habanero cantaloupe sauce.



This is so delicious that I will never be able to drink eggnog out of a carton again!

Makes 3 6-ounce servings.

2 eggs, separated
1.7 oz. (by weight) superfine sugar (about 1/4 cup)
3 fl. oz, brandy
1.5 fl. oz. light rum
1.5 fl. oz. apricot or peach brandy
8 fl. oz. milk
3 fl. oz. heavy cream

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick. Stir in the brandy, rum, apricot or peach brandy, milk and cream. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold gently into the eggnog. Dust with nutmeg and serve.

The original recipe called for peach brandy, but I didn't have any, so I substituted apricot brandy, which seemed to work fine. This recipe contains raw eggs, so there is a small possibility that it will kill you.

Scaled from the "Baltimore Eggnog" recipe from the House & Garden Drink Guide, November 1973, reproduced here:

Updated picture from Christmas Eve 2010. I did a better job beating my egg whites this time. My arm is still tired.