Escondido, CA

No bar, no problem: COVID cocktails to get us through quarantine

Writer Jonathan Day tending bar at Swami’s.

Lockdowns. Face masks. No toilet paper. No bars! It’s been over a month since that fateful Sunday on which California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the shutdown of all bars in the state, forcing owners to lock their doors, employees scrambling to find ways to pay their bills and patrons left in the dark wondering when, or if, their favorite spots would ever reopen.

For many of us, the news was a hard pill to swallow as the places we loved to frequent most were now gone, a suddenly sobering situation leaving us all trying to figure out what to do next. Yes, worse problems do exist, but the local bar is what brought so many of us together for fun and an escape; now, sadly, we’re forced to be apart, for who knows how much longer. And though we may find ourselves in quarantine purgatory with no way out or end in sight, not all is lost.

No, we can’t go out to the bar for a night of drinks, but why not have the bar at home with us? As a bartender, I’ve heard plenty of friends tell me they’d love to do what I do-well here’s your chance. With the right spirits and a few easy-to-make recipes, you’ll be a bartender in less time than it takes to get an unemployment check. What better way to pass the time than by making something you know you’ll love while learning a new skill or perfecting a new one you can use? Who knows? For those of us newly unemployed, it just might pay off with a new job when we reopen soon. Now for COVID Cocktails, Round 1:

Home Alone

A spin on the classic Old Fashioned, an easy to make cocktail featuring only a few basic ingredients mixed together to keep you warm, happy and your mind off the world outside for as long as we’re locked inside. Find your favorite whiskey (my preference is rye for the right balance of spice and sugar, but bourbon works best for those who like their drinks on the sweeter side), grab the sugar, snag the bitters and dust off that old bottle of brandy stuffed in the back of the shelf, throw them all in a rocks glass, add ice and stir. Here’s the recipe:

2  oz. Whiskey

.5 oz. Brandy

1 Sugar Cube (Or 1 Teaspoon granulated sugar)

1 Tablespoon Water

3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes Orange Bitters

1 Orange Zest (Twist)

In a rocks glass, add sugar, bitters and water. Muddle and stir. Next, add the whiskey and brandy, followed by ice (1 large cube is best) and stir for 20 seconds. Peel an orange zest, squeeze over the drink and run peel around rim of glass. For added aesthetic and flavor, add 1 Luxardo cherry to the orange peel with a toothpick as garnish. In the words of Kevin McCallister, “You guys give up yet or are you thirsty for more?”

Groundhog Day

If the answer to the above question is yes, Groundhog Day may be your new go-to, over and over and over again. If you’re like me these days, each one seems the same. I wake up at God knows when, make some food, watch TV, watch more TV, make more food, wonder what day it is, back to TV, take a nap because of course I’m exhausted, eat again, maybe Zoom with my friends or family, scroll Facebook to debate the merits of staying home to save lives vs. ending quarantine to save the economy, eat again, ask Twitter which movie to watch, watch that movie, ask what time it is (now 2 a.m.), debate whether or not I should go to bed, don’t go to bed, watch another movie instead, find myself on the couch in the morning (it’s now 5 a.m.) I drag myself to bed, only to wake up to do it all over again. The best way to get through a day like this is the Groundhog Day, a coffee-based drink served hot or iced mixed with Bailey’s, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, chocolate and whipped cream. It sounds good because it is, all day every day. The recipe:

1 oz. Bailey’s

1 oz. Skrewball

1-2 Squeezes Chocolate Syrup

Coffee (Fill to Top)

Whipped Cream

In a mug (for hot) or pint glass (for Iced) add Bailey’s, Skrewball, Chocolate and Coffee. Stir (with ice if served cold) well and top with whipped cream. Honestly, it won’t last long, thus the need to have it over and over and over again. When you wake up in the morning, before going to bed, when taking the dog for a walk or binging seasons 1-7 of Ozark, this drink satisfies always.

Eye of the Tiger

And finally, in the spirit of everyone’s new quarantine obsession and guilty pleasure, for the man currently behind bars who may also be leading the polls in the 2020 Presidential race, we present Eye of the Tiger, a drink as wild as what inspires it, “Tiger King” the new Netflix documentary sweeping the nation. Highlighting the world of big cat breeding and amusement with its crazy cast of characters, most notably Carole Baskin, who may or may not have fed her husband to a lion and, of course, Joe Exotic, the eccentric, perhaps psychotic, no doubt colorful self-proclaimed “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.” Tiger King himself accused of devising a plan to take out his rival Ms. Baskins, for which he is now serving 22 years in prison, this series has taken on a life of its own. In tribute to this beautiful mess of a show, Eye of the Tiger combines a gaudy mix of ingredients including Amaretto liqueur, blood orange juice, grenadine, vodka and a splash of prosecco. Like Joe Exotic and the rest of his big cat buddies, this drink is big, fun and sure to help all of us party away our quarantine blues. Recipe:

1.5 oz. Amaretto Liqueur

1 oz. Vodka

2 oz. Blood Orange Juice (Orange Juice works, too)

1 Teaspoon Grenadine

Fill to top with Prosecco

In your favorite glass, combine Amaretto, Vodka and Orange Juice and stir with ice. Add Grenadine, top with Prosecco, make a toast to the Tiger King (or don’t because he may have actually conspired to murder someone) and drink away.

So there you have it. The bars may be closed, we may be stuck inside and our friends far away, but we certainly don’t have to suffer. Have fun with these drinks or make up your own, but whatever you do, stay safe, wash your hands, distance yourselves and meet here next week for another round, on me.

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