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Optimism is Great But Have You Tried Martinis?

Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was quarantined during the Black Plague. Sir Isaac Newton, quarantined during the Bubonic Plague, made a discovery that later became the foundation of modern optics.

I invented a cocktail using refrigerator condiments. We all contribute in our own ways.

Like many people, I’m trying to make the most of this forced down time by finally tackling projects I’ve been dreaming about, in some cases for months - like The Letter Project, which I’ll be posting about tomorrow; I’m working out a lot, spending a lot of very welcome time with my kids, and of course like nearly everyone else, I’m also drinking more, because balance. And terror. And time with the children. And because what kind of person goes to her doom with a full liquor cabinet? Smoke it to the filter, kids.

When it comes to cocktails, 9 times out of 10 I’ll choose a martini. So when the internet coined the term Quarantini, it felt as though the Good Lord was calling me off the bench. (Sidebar: if you’re the sort of person who is using this time to steam clean your carpets or learn American Sign Language, I salute you - but we probably should not hang out.)

If you typically keep a well stocked bar then nearly all of these recipes will be easy to execute. If not, then this post probably doesn’t apply to you anyway and you should go and check to see if you left the steam cleaner on.

Over the coming weeks I’m going to try to populate this blog with posts about all of the projects, recipes, music, meditations and other methods that are keeping the wheels on and the crazy down at our house, but in the grand tradition of my forefathers (hi Burke family!) we are going to start with a cocktail. So without further ado, here are my very favorite martini recipes, and a Quarantini of my own invention, to help get you through the weeks (and months) ahead. Drink them in good health, my friends. Godspeed.

The Espresso Martini

This drink. Oh…this drink. Legend has it that Kate Moss asked British bartender Dick Bradsell of Fred’s Club in London for a cocktail that would “wake me up and fuck me up”, and the espresso martini was born.

Kate and I could totally hang out.

I ordered it impulsively one night at our favorite restaurant, a total 180 from my normal order of a dirty martini, or my very favorite drink, the Tanqueray and tonic (oh how I miss you, you sexy, calorie laden beast), and it has since earned a spot in my top three. I love this cocktail. You will, too.

I use decaf espresso because I typically drink these at night (though you can totally replace your bloody mary or mimosa with one, I won’t tell; this is hard times, my friends), but people have weird hang ups about coffee, so just do whatever you want and let’s agree to move on, okay?


  • 2 oz vodka

  • 1 oz freshly brewed espresso (I use cold brew so I can have it on hand)

  • 1/2 oz of coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

  • 1/2 oz of simple syrup (*mixologists note: I prefer to keep the calorie count down, so I omit this ingredient and find that the drink is just as satisfying and delicious; again, do as you please)

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice

  2. Shake the shit out of it - otherwise you won’t get that lovely foam on top

  3. Strain into a chilled glass

  4. Garnish with three coffee beans and serve

Allegedly, you’re supposed to swallow the coffee beans for luck, but I don’t remember where I heard that or what the rationale is; I suspect I was drinking martinis when that information was passed along. As always, do you, and have fun.

The Cosmopolitan

If you’re going to write a martini post on a blog with 75% female readership and not include cosmos, do you even work in marketing at all?

This is where I confess that I don’t love the traditional cosmo, which calls for citrus vodka and a lot more lime juice than I prefer. Below is my version. Switch to citrus vodka and up the lime juice to half an oz for the classic version. No, the lime wedge garnish is not optional, you absolute philistine. Do you even have HBO?

  • 1.5 oz Vodka

  • 1 oz Cointreau

  • .25 oz Lime Juice (1 1/2 tsp)

  • Splash of cranberry juice

  • Lime wedge for garnish

  1. Mix the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake vigorously

  2. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lime wedge

The Lemon Drop

These were a no brainer for me because we always have lemons on hand, and we always have limoncello. It’s one of my favorite liqueurs to serve in the summer time; try it over a scoop of fruit flavored sorbet or vanilla ice cream, or a bowl full of fresh berries.

  • 1.5 oz Vodka

  • 1.5 oz Limoncello

  • 1 TBSP lemon juice

  • 2 tsp simple syrup (mix equal parts water and sugar; heat until the sugar dissolves then cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks)

  1. Mix the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice and shake vigorously

  2. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a strip of lemon zest, provided your lemons aren’t the sad, soft, past their prime kind that won’t peel well. Mine were. Again, this is hard times, people.

The Pickle Martini

Ironically, nearly everyone will have the ingredients for this one, but few will be wiling to try it. Use the Good Dishes, folks. You just get the one life. Also, this is a pandemic and mixers are in short supply, so if the choice is to grab the pickle juice or start shooting your vodka straight, at least try to wait until week three before you’re swilling from the bottle. Show some decorum, for fuck’s sake.

I happen to love both pickles and vodka so this is a marriage made in heaven for me. My all time favorite pickletini came from a great spot in downtown Rochester (RIP, Tavern 58), where the mixologist prepared his own homemade pickles and served the drink with fresh dill. If we all survive this pandemic to blog another day, I’ll make you one this summer. For now, we’re cleaning out the fridge.

Paint on a smile and let’s do it.

  • 1.5 oz dill pickle juice

  • 4.5 oz vodka

  • Dill pickle spear for garnish

  1. Pour into a shaker of ice, shake, serve, garnish. Easy as can be - and it goes down just the same.

The Quarantini

Here it is, folks, the Quarantini, a cocktail meant to fuck you up and build you up (your immune system, that is). Because obviously I’m just like Kate Moss…but you know, also…not.

Sorry, I’ve been recipe testing.

You’re very likely to have these ingredients on hand, but the great thing about the Quarantini is that it lends itself nicely to substitutions: mostly because let’s face it, I made this up anyway and collectively we really just don’t care anymore. Use lemonade or crystal light in place of the orange juice; Cointreau will work in place of the Triple Sec, but not ounce for ounce so experiment. You prefer gin? Good on you, girl. Let’s just fill these glasses as quickly as possible, shall we?

  • 1.5 oz vodka

  • 2 oz orange juice

  • 1 oz Triple Sec

  • 1 1000 mcg Vitamin B12 tablet or sublingual liquid (the liquid is more easily absorbed by your body but I cheaped out and bought tablets so I could buy all this vodka. I regret nothing)

  • .5 oz Grapefruit Sparkling Ice, solely because the kids have been fighting over it for a week and sweet merciful baby Jesus, the sooner it’s gone the better. This ingredient is optional. Feel free to substitute whatever it is your children have been fighting over - the last peanut butter cup, the Cheez-Its, the TV remote, your love and attention, WHATEVER.

  1. Mix all of the ingredients, including the B12, in a cocktail shaker full of ice

  2. Shake vigorously to ensure the tablet dissolves

  3. Serve in a chilled martini glass; pair with a Vitamin D capsule if you live North of the Mason-Dixon because you haven’t been outside in a fucking week and your bones are going the way of your morale - straight to dust

  4. Do not garnish. Just take straight to the head.

  5. Repeat as needed

I hope this post made you smile, and I really hope you’ll try these recipes. Schedule a virtual happy hour with your best peeps, and keep it fun and social. Most of all, remember that in times like this, a little alcohol goes a long way; booze, stress, sadness and anxiety can be a lethal combination. Have that Quarantini (fine; two) but make sure you’re squeezing in plenty of exercise and laughter too, in whatever way you can. It’s tough out there (in here? everywhere? I don't even know anymore).

I’ll be posting much more often as we try to get through this, and I’d love to hear from you. Connection is essential right now. Share your own favorite cocktail recipes, photos of your FaceTime happy hour, or of yourself enjoying one of the recipes above, and tag me on Facebook or Instagram.

Stay well, my friend. We can do hard things.

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