I'm sorry if my writing about cutting back on alcohol gives you a bad feeling. I know that feeling well, since any time anybody quits one of my many habits of excess, I feel like I'm on the Titanic watching everyone sail away from me, waving merrily and healthfully from their life boats while I snort a bump of cocaine off the side of the iceberg that's jutting into my cabin. But I am trying to drink a little less, even though I really love drinking, because WWIII and empty nest and apocalypse and maybe I should try not to self-medicate quite so robustly.
In terms of purchased stuff, I like the Sam Adams non-alcoholic IPA called "Just the Haze." It's bitter and citrusy, and it looks great in the glass.
But I wanted to make a drink that would have the bracing spice and tannic bitterness of something like bourbon, and I did a bunch of research to reverse engineer the flavors I was looking for. (I am too cheap to buy the expensive NA booze that the Instagram ads want to sell me.) In the end, I settled on strong black tea as the base (I use decaf because I don't want the buzz), smoked hot paprika flakes for oakiness and spice (you can use regular chili flakes or part of a whole dried chili if you prefer), and then a little glug of vanilla for that rich barrel-aged kind of sweetness. I love it straight-up, but it also mixes great. Try it and report back! And please take care of yourself, whatever that means right now.
Copycat Jack Daniels
At the risk of belaboring this, here are my thoughts on the spice: I really just want a hint of it, to mimic the way booze feels in your mouth. I like just a dash of the smoked hot paprika flakes which are shown above and which I got at no lesser a gourmet emporium than Marshall's, and then I make up the rest with some dried chili my friend Nicole grew 2 years ago. You can experiment and see what you like best! I would toss in an oolong tea bag for smoke, but I don't want the caffeine. . .
3 black tea bags (caffeinated or not, as you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (smoked or not) or a piece of dried chili (you can also get the burn from fresh ginger, but that's not the flavor I'm craving)
Between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Put the tea bags and chili flakes in a regular pint-size mason jar and fill it with water (just under 2 cups). Microwave it for a minute longer than you would if you were making tea (for me, with my Jurassic microwave, this is 4 minutes, but it's probably more like 3 for you). Or put these things in a small pot, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Fish out the tea bags, add the vanilla, screw on the lid, and refrigerate. The chili flakes will likely settle to the bottom, but if they don't, you can just fish them out with a spoon or pour it all through a sieve. Serve over lots of ice.
Makes 3 servings
Both of the following cocktails are so convincingly good that I guiltily catch myself swigging them, and then remember that I can swig away.
Whiske(r)y Menopause Sour
1/2 cup Copycat Jack Daniels
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup Copycat Jack Daniels
1/2 cup unsweetened sour cherry juice (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both sell this)
A few drops almond extract
1 tablespoon simple or maple syrup (optional)
Did you pre-order my novel? Will you please? Better yet, ask your local bookstore and/or public library to order it for you.