Your Cinco de Mayo Roundup

Time to whip out those tiny velvet sombreros!

Am I really going to introduce a brand new and innovative Margarita recipe today? Nope. Right now you can search any number of food sites and see 60 different ways you can customize your Cinco de Mayo drink. Sometimes it’s hard to feel innovative. However, what I can do for you is make it easy to find all the drinks on THIS site that you might like to have this weekend, since you’re already here.

Let’s just start with last week’s Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler. It’s in a pitcher and no one can tell how many you’ve had until that pitcher is empty.
And then, really, who’s going to say anything?

Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

 Mangoes and mezcal and chile peppers. Come on. You need this today.

Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If you want to be lazy, just throw a bunch of stuff into a blender. This will work for you.

lazy sunday punch // stirandstrain.com

If you have a lot of time on your hands, get creative with this hibiscus, vanilla-salt, inside-out take on a Margarita.

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And if you just have to have a regular Margarita, here’s my favorite take on one with smoked salt and mezcal.

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Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler

Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAs much as I love throwing together some cocktails when a friend or two stops by, when a small crowd starts to gather I freeze up, spill liquor all over the place and add salt when it should have been sugar. That’s why I love pitcher cocktails for crowds at my house. Besides turning to all thumbs, I’d rather be mingling, drink already made in my hand, then trying to mix and half listen to a story being told to me. Anyone else like this?

Spring and Summer tends to pack the weekends with parties, and this bright, floral pitcher cocktail is just SO refreshing and delicious you could serve it at least a couple of times before changing it up. Now, I know this is calling for limes. Don’t let that ingredient mean you’re passing this up! You can easily switch out the lime for other citrus combinations; grapefruit and lemon, kumquats, tangerines… as long as you get a fragrant, slightly sweet and not too sour flavor.Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Another nice fact about pitcher drinks: they can mostly be assembled beforehand and topped off before the party starts. Less stress this summer; you are welcome.

Note: my pitcher is on the small side, serving about 6. If yours is much larger this can easily be doubled (or hell, tripled). And be careful with the hibiscus! This little flower goes from tangy to bitter super fast so don’t walk away and forget about it when you’re steeping.Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Hibiscus-Lime Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 dried hibiscus flowers
zest from one lime
2 ounces lime juice from 2-3 limes

Over medium-high heat, bring sugar and water to just under a boil. Remove from heat and add hibiscus and lime zest. Stir, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, let cool and add lime juice.

For the drinks:

1 lime, sliced thin
1 cup hibiscus-lime syrup (recipe above)
1 cup tequila, Herradura Tequila Silver used here
2 cups tonic water, chilled

For the drink: In a pitcher, add lime slices, syrup and tequila. If not using right away, store in refrigerator. Otherwise, add tonic water and stir to combine. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

Tart and tangy, the hibiscus-lime mixture provides a lift to the vegetal nature of the tequila. The tonic gives a hint of bitter and sweetness to the final drink, along with a nice effervescence. If tonic is too overpowering for you, club soda can be substituted.

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site.

Violet’s (Garden) Party

Violet's Garden Party Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis week I’m dialing it back a little with the ingredients. I’m sure you lot would love it if the drink recipe didn’t include a laundry list of items that would mean at least two separate store trips. And possibly an Amazon purchase. I get it; I want simple sometimes too. But let’s not get too lazy. One item I have in my bar at home that may seem odd but worth picking up is violet liqueur.

But it tastes like flowers. Well, no, not really. While its uniqueness does come from the floral aroma, it imparts a delicate sweetness as well when used in moderation. You’ve had an Aviation, right? Did it taste like you were choking down a garden? If it did it wasn’t made properly, and if you really want a good one, check out the Improved version.

So let’s just get this out there, you will need violet liqueur for this drink. But, everything else you should have on hand, or have a neighbor who could help out.

A short while ago I was sent a copy of The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair which I’ve been perusing as of late. Besides a multitude of more complex cocktail recipes, which are projects I always love, there were also the smattering of more approachable recipes that one is drawn to since it can be done with ingredients you probably have on hand. Today’s drink stems from one of those.

There are just 3 key players in this drink, but the complexity of each ingredient transforms this into a much livelier concoction than expected. Also, it doesn’t hurt that this is an easy drinker and that here in Southern California it’s pretty dang hot outside still in January. Perhaps you should turn your heat up and make one of these while watching the Travel Channel’s island report show. I swear it will help combat any SAD symptoms you may be experiencing.Violet's Garden Party Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Adapted slightly from The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair*
Yields two cocktails
3 oz. Partida Anejo Tequila*
1-1/4 oz. Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, Bearss used here

lime wedge for garnish

Mix tequila, violet liqueur and lime juice in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice to chill for about 20-25 seconds. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with the lime wedge.

The violet liqueur is one of those “a little goes a long way” ingredients and I believe is actually a good match for another strong character found in the Anejo. I actually cut back the violet a 1/4 ounce from the original recipe and upped the lime juice a 1/4 ounce to balance my own ingredients. The result was a refreshing drink that was both floral and bright, and really a good day drink for me. The tequila I found to be more prominent on the nose but blended nice and evenly once mixed.

Anyone have any other recipes with Violet Liqueur? I’d love to hear about them!

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Sudden Blush Cocktail

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOk folks, let’s shake off that sugar hangover from the last Low Rent Cocktail. Thank god those are only once a month! Now back to the class…

Can a cantaloupe be classy? I think so. No, wait. I KNOW so.

The last of the season’s melons had landed in my CSA basket and I stared them down thinking what to do with them. I’d made watermelon ice cubes, and a melon salad, but I wanted to showcase them in a cocktail. Last year I was all a-craze with this watermelon cocktail, the Salty Melon. I was making them by the pitcher with no shame what-so-ever and drinking them, mostly, all by myself. This year I decided on cantaloupe syrup. Surely I would find a cocktail to put it in…

But it sat next to the Dijon mustard for 3 weeks.

3 weeks and maybe a few days. Until a bottle of Dobel Tequila showed up on my doorstep.

As I have been desperately clinging on to daylight as it starts to get cooler here in Los Angeles, one reminder of summer, besides taco trucks, is melon gazpacho. There is something SO refreshing gulping down this sweet and savory soup. I like mine with a little heat, go figure, and a sprinkling of cilantro. So why not spike this melon syrup with a bit of tequila?

1-1/2 oz. Dobel Tequila*
1/2 oz. Cantaloupe Melon Syrup (recipe below)
1/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 slices of serrano pepper with seeds removed, adjust according to your desired heat levels

cilantro sprig for garnish

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the pepper slices with lime juice. Add ice, then add in syrup and tequila. Stir for about 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

For this cocktail, I wanted to keep the heat to just a flavor and tiny bit of fire. Overpowering the cocktail with too much spice kills the delicate cantaloupe flavors and in turn ruins the drink. The cilantro gives a nice aroma and you can decide whether to drop it in you drink or not. I almost always want more cilantro on everything, personal preference. The drink is well balanced between the earthiness of the tequila, the just-sweet-enough melon syrup, tart lime and touch of spice. The sudden blush refers to the color the drink takes as you pour it, turning a cloudy silver to a peachy blush color with tiny specs of red from the pepper (yours might have tiny green, orange or yellow depending on your pepper).

One word on the garnish. I think the cilantro looks dainty and fragile, Christopher says it looked sad. I think that if we were looking at a bunch of a Ballerinas I would think they looked dainty and he would probably think they were all sad statues.

 

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cantaloupe Syrup

1/2 cantaloupe, orange flesh only cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive medium sized sauce pan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Throw the cantaloupe chunks into the pan and with a potato masher or large fork, crush the melon, breaking it down into the sugar water. You want it to resemble the consistency of a thick soup, with no visible large melon chunks. Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer over low heat for a half hour. Stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let cool completely. Fine strain mixture into an airtight bottle. Add 1/2 ounce of vodka if not using entire syrup completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*This bottle of Dobel was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page

Mixology Monday: Lazy Sunday Punch

lazy sunday punch // stirandstrain.com

mxmologo

Sundays should be lazy. You shouldn’t have to think that far ahead in your day; events should just roll in and out. And no one judges you if you stay in your soft clothes until Monday morning. This drink came about in that lazy Sunday way. There was definitely a driving force behind it. Mixology Monday was due the next day, and clearly I had to produce something to show for it. Not to knock this month’s theme Drink Your Vegetables, hosted by Fogged In Lounge (whose blog name is so fantastic by the way). This month has just been particularly hard for posts due to outside circumstances, any other month I could have been running wild with fennel and kohlrabi and other vegetables. But here I am on Sunday with a couple cucumbers, and a blender, in my yoga pants.

Mainly when I think of cucumbers I think light, refreshing, and I wanted this drink to come off that way. And it does. It’s not very sweet, although it is sweet enough for me. There is an overwhelming taste of cucumbers, which is the point since we are highlighting veggies here, but it’s not like drinking a V-8. The citrus gives a nice sweet-tart bite, while the elderflower and rose water take away some of the ‘green-ness’ of the drink with a peppery finish from the mint. The tequila is very soft in the background, cucumbers are surprisingly overpowering in flavor. I chose to blitz it all with ice since it seemed like a perfect way to imbibe it on this warm afternoon.

If you find the need for a bit more sweetness, a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of simple syrup should do the trick.lazysundaypunch-2

4 oz Cazadores Tequila Blanco
1-1/2 oz St. Germain
4 oz freshly squeezed oro blanco grapefruit juice (or sub white grapefruit)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz rose water
2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded
small handfull of mint leaves

1 cup of crushed ice
cucumber spear for garnish

Add all ingredients except ice to a blender and blend for 15 seconds to combine. Add ice and blend for another 15-20 seconds. Pour into chilled margarita glasses or oversized martini glasses. Garnish with cucumber spears.

I am just realizing that this post is also killing two birds by getting a MxMo post up and getting another round of drinks for two into the mix. Although this makes more like drinks for two and then some.

Happy National Margarita Day!

When did we, the world, decide to make almost every day of the year a food/drink holiday? Sometime in 2010?

Hey, I’m not going to pass up a day dedicated to tacos or, in this case, Margaritas. I’m just going to go with it.

Need some inspirational cocktail recipes? Here are my two takes on the Margarita. Cheers!

El Jardín de mi Abuela

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The Bar Keeper Margarita

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Want even more Margarita inspiration? Check out my Stir & Strain Pinterest board for some recipes I pinned.

Mixology Monday: El Jardín de mi Abuela

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mxmologoMixology Monday time again; how quickly this year is flying. This month’s host is Stewart Putney of Putney Farm who has asked us to “invert” our cocktail ingredients.

When I first read the announcement I was all on board for busting out some of my crazy chemicals and turning liquids into solids, etc… until real life got in the way and I had to abandon those ideas real fast. Some day you’ll see some posts on that, some day.

Instead I liked the idea of turning a cocktail into a ‘long drink’ and having a new batch of hibiscus infused tequila on hand I opted to make one from a Margarita recipe. Not just stopping at switching the proportions of the tequila and lime juice around, I added some extra touches to turn the other ingredients on their heads. Lime wedges encased in ice? Yes. Dry Orange Curacao syrup? Why not. Vanilla salt?! Let’s do that too!

Sometimes I want a project to work on, and this particular cocktail seems to be just that. However, once you make a couple of the ingredients that go into this, you can use them in lots of other ways. That vanilla salt is going atop some dark chocolate cookies soon. And the limeade is perfect without the booze in it too.

Let’s build this.

2 oz. Hibiscus Infused Tequila (recipe on this post)
1/2 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup (recipe below)
6 oz. Limeade (recipe below)
3 drop of Bitter Tears’ “Hina” hibiscus and rose bitters
pinch of vanilla salt (recipe below)

lime wedge ice cubes (add lime slices to ice cube tray and freeze)

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Build the drink by adding lime wedge ice cubes to a Collins glass. Pour in tequila, syrup and limeade. Add the bitters and pinch of salt and stir with a straw gently to combine.longmargarita-3

Limeade Recipe

3 cups of water
1 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup of sugar

Heat all three ingredients over medium heat and stir to combine. Cool and transfer to a pitcher. (Those may look like lemons, but the Bears limes from my in-laws trees are more yellow than green this year).longmargarita-2

Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup

1/2 cup of Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao

Simmer the curacao over medium heat until reduced in half. This can take about 10-12 minutes. Cool and bottle.

Vanilla Salt (this recipe is adapted ever so slightly from The Chocolate of Meats website)

1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
1/4 cup of kosher salt

Combine the salt and vanilla bean and shake vigorously. Let sit for a few hours before use to allow the vanilla bean scent to permeate the salt. Store in an airtight container.

The result? Instead of a strong tequila forward/ sweet and sour mix, this cocktail becomes a softer, lighter version that is both fruity and floral, with a bite of citrus at the finish. Hibiscus and lime are a wonderful pair, and with a pinch of the vanilla salt, this drink is well balanced. I purposely made the limeade not too sweet so that I could control that with the orange curacao syrup. That syrup’s sweet orange contrasts quite well with the tart lime, creating a more dynamic version of a sweet and sour mix. The drink also has strong floral notes from the hibiscus tequila that are pushed forward more from the bitters and from the vanilla salt due to the Tahitian vanilla bean. Tahitian vanilla is more floral than Mexican or Madagascar vanilla beans. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t taste like perfume.

The name? It translates to the garden of my grandmother. And that came about because the rose scent and the hibiscus flowers reminded me of her garden. Why in Spanish? It’s a riff on a Margarita. I couldn’t just name it in English.longmargarita-5

Thanks to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday alive and to this month’s host Stewart. Cheers!

I’m trying to be better about posting the roundup post for MxMo. Here’s this month’s!

Make It: Grenadine // Semi-Homemade Tequila Sunrise

grenadinespoon-1About 8 or 9 years ago I finally had an apartment to myself, no roommates(!), and in celebration went to the closest liquor store and picked up a bottle of Tequila. OK, it was Jose Cuervo. I already had OJ in the fridge, and had picked up a bottle of grenadine at work. It was a time in my life where I thought it would be adult of me to have a small ‘bar’ at my place. This was fancy for me; I was in my early twenties. Having picked up my first cocktail recipe book, I had decided on making a Tequila Sunrise. This was a cocktail name I had heard before, it was less scary than some of the other recipes in the book and I knew all the ingredients (even if I had no idea what went into grenadine). You have to start somewhere.

The other day, flipping through one of the Bum’s cocktail books, I realized I had no grenadine in the house. That lone bottle I bought some 8 or 9 years ago had stayed with me through several more apartments, a couple boyfriends, and my own wedding. Its existence being extinguished at one of our Tiki parties two years ago. I hesitated to go buy a bottle. There are more bad reviews of grenadine out there than good, and I recently had been reading about just how easy it was to make it. There are two approaches one can make their own grenadine with: the cold method (pomegranate juice and sugar shaken together until the sugar is well incorporated), and the cooked method. I went with the cooked method. Taking inspiration from the SippitySup blog and the Imbibe site, I combined a method I was happy with. I wanted to keep it simple, and the addition of the orange flower water gives it just the subtlest floral hint without being too perfume-like.

2 cups of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice (or freshly squeezed if you have it on hand)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of Orange Flower Water
1/2 oz of Vodka (for a preservative), optional

Combine juice and sugar in a pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then leave at simmering until reduced by half (I ended up with about a cup and a half). This can take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, add the orange flower water and leave to cool. Once cool, stir in vodka and bottle.grenadine-2grenadine-4grenadine-1

Couple notes here: Why heat? Testing the cooked method, I enjoyed the more syrupy consistency of the end result. It also resulted in a more intense “berry” flavor. Does orange flower water taste like orange? No. Have you ever smelled fresh blooms on an orange or lime tree? It’s like that, floral, not citrus.grenadine-3

Reminiscing about the grenadine, I thought, for nostalgia reasons, I’d make a Tequila Sunrise to test out the final batch. With a couple of tweaks it was just as satisfying as I remembered drinking it standing in my ‘bar’ of that first studio apartment.This time around, I juiced my own oranges in a rather large batch (I am finding new uses for this juicer we just committed to buying), which, because of how sweet they are this season, I decided on adding a touch of lime juice. And to round the whole drink out, a few dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.tequilasr-1

2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
2-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
Splash of grenadine (house made if you got it!)

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice and bitters. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the grenadine to the center of your drink so it drops to the bottom of the glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon and watch as the colors float up.

A touch of sweet earthiness from the grenadine floats throughout the drink. I know that in this case it’s mainly a beautiful way to add color, but the richness of the syrup cuts through some of the sweetness of the orange juice too. Those bitters provide a subtle balance to the drink, that tends to just be very citrus forward and not much else.

I hope this post shows just how easy it is to have this bar staple on hand! No need to buy, just shake or simmer…

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at $40. So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: throw some tequila in it

For reasons I cannot fathom, because it’s not like they were the best of times in my life, I was reminiscing over my high school days and what we used to drink. While many kids start ‘experimenting’ in college, when I was 16 my parents moved us from the city, where I could amuse myself with all sorts of culturally stimulating activities due to a public transportation system that took me places, and plopped us out to the country. Where I was smacked with the realization that going out to a quarry to get drunk and light an abandoned car on fire was about as good as it was going to get (I sincerely hope I am not offending anyone that I know who did/still does this. We’re adults and can ponder this tragic comedy of circumstances). This new set of stimulating activities caused me to experiment on pretty much a weekly basis. Heavily.

During this heyday of debauchery in my early years came my early starts in amateur ‘mixology’. This was due to an intense dislike of beer that necessitated moving straight up to hard liquor pretty quick. And the sweeter it tasted, the better. I remember a dozen or so concoctions that I came up with and pounded down because I couldn’t help thinking, and proclaiming, this stuff tastes AWESOME.

The thought of reliving these recipes now makes me gag a bit. However, I still find the idea of these low brow concoctions fun in a sort of ironic way, I just couldn’t think of any reason to put them on here. Until now.

When my husband was in college he had a weekly ‘column’ (I guess it would be considered a column) where he came up with the ‘Low Rent Cocktail of the Week’. Perfect. He quite willingly relinquished the name for me to use here, I told him he can guest post of he wanted to. And so now I can bring you guys some quirky, kinda ridiculous, concoctions.

First up is just a random ‘fix’ to an incorrect drink from Starbucks for my husband. I have been told to stress here that an iced green tea was ordered and what was incorrectly delivered was a passion iced tea. I guess the fruity purple drink was just not cutting it, so it was thrust into my hand with the direction to ‘fix it. Maybe throw some tequila in it’. He could have just poured some tequila in, but seemed convinced that I could make it more palatable. I gave it a shot.

1 grande sized iced passion tea, unsweetened
2 oz of tequila (on hand was Partida Reposado, but whatever you got is fine)
juice of 1/2 a small lime

lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in your cup on hand. If you’re feeling the need to garnish, a slice of lime will do. It’s sweet and tangy, and will do in a pinch for a summer cocktail.

So, here is the first of a probably semi-monthly exploration. I have never touched Boone Farms, so you will not see that here. I have heard of Strawberry Wine, but I hated wine too until I was around 22. I do think though that I need to unearth some Rumplemintz, my bottle of choice when I was 17. And red bull in anything should certainly have a place in this category.

What filth were you swigging in your tender young years? I’d love to hear about it…