A READER ASKED me to write about the cocktail I most like to make for myself at home.
I considered lying.
After all, I am an alcohol columnist. I regularly scold you about the provenance of your absinthe, and wax novelistic about pre-Colombian hot chocolate. I should encourage you, the reader, to imagine me standing behind my encyclopedic bar of obscure Eastern European schnapps and Japanese whiskeys, adding a drip of this and a dab of that to a perfectly weighted snifter every time I want to relax in the tub with a drink after work.
But despite all my pointed opinions about gin, coffee-tasting notes and the merits of a bacon-scented rauchbier, I don’t actually spend my evenings polishing my Vermouth bottles. Yes, I enjoy a nice aged Scotch on a winter’s evening (peaty if I’m eating something fatty, clean if I’m not); bubble over a cocktail made with bubbly; and, if I’m trying to impress you when you come over, I’ll craft something with bespoke bitters and homemade Falernum. But if I’m just looking for a cocktail to sip while I make soup, binge-watch “The Witcher” or clean out my closet, my go-to cocktail recipe is:
• 1 glass of fizzy water, on the rocks
• 1 shot of vodka (not plastic-handle vodka, but not Grey Goose, either)
• 1/4 to 1/2 a lime’s worth of juice, depending on the size of the lime
(Variation: Replace vodka with white wine, and reduce fizzy water by half. Yes! Wine!)
DIRECTIONS: Place berries in an empty glass. Smoosh berries with a spoon, or similar implement. Add ice, vodka, fizzy water and a squeeze of lime. Hit “play” on Netflix.
It will not have escaped the sharper-eyed among you that this is, essentially, a homemade White Claw.
Sure; it doesn’t have the artificial flavors and is slightly more inconvenient to prepare, in that it involves something more onerous than opening a can. But in terms of mixological prowess, I’m not going to pretend that this Wija House Fizz is anything other than booze with some bubbles and a bit of citrus. But most hard seltzer is just LaCroix with cane alcohol and a little citric acid to hide the taste of booze.
Not that I begrudge hard seltzer companies capitalizing on the great idea of adding alcohol to the great millennial answer to Coca-Cola — I’m sure the only thing anybody ever found lacking with LaCroix (except for the rat-poison thing) was that it couldn’t get you drunk. The thing that offends me is that hard seltzers are so expensive — $13.99 for a six-pack? Really? When I can purchase a six-pack of a truly fine local microbrewery pilsner containing actual ingredients for $10? IS THIS THE WOMAN TAX REARING ITS UGLY HEAD? Because as much as we would like to hem and haw around it, women are the primary customer base for these seltzers. Our deodorant costs more than men’s, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that our party booze costs more, too.
The folks at Trader Joe’s seem to have realized the vastness of the margin on this product, because they offer their branded version for only $5.99 for the same volume of alcoholized soda water as a six-pack of the same by Truly or the industry-leading White Claw, and I bet they’re still making money. Which is not to say all seltzers are alike (you can find a handy breakdown here. And because you’re going to buy them anyway (and by you, I also mean me), there is even a local brand, San Juan Seltzer, that comes in an oh-so-PNW — and rather delicious — huckleberry flavor.