Monday, August 12, 2013

Mixed Plate: Raising a Glass to the Bowling Ball Named Homer

"Happy Birthday/Anniversary/Commercialized Judeo-Christian Holiday, I got you a bowling ball named Homer." It's a saying we've co-opted from a classic episode of The Simpsons, where for Marge's birthday, Homer buys her a top-of-the-line bowling ball (liquid center... mmmm), anticipating she'll never use it, so he gets his name custom engraved on it. Marge is rightly miffed, keeps the ball and learns to bowl. There's a mysterious Frenchman tutor, an almost-affair, and a great explanation of what a Continental Breakfast is, but the point is, The Bowling Ball Named Homer is the gift you give someone else, that is essentially a gift for yourself, at least for longterm cohabitated couples like us. I gave the Mister a Homer Bowling Ball gift for his birthday earlier this year, a subscription to cocktail-of-the-month club, Julibox, but at least I can say we're equally enjoying this gift!

Clover Club, a delicious Bowling Ball Named Homer gift - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I had heard the name Julibox get bandied about by food and cocktail friends, and it's a pretty cool concept in our world of one-click/online-o-rama buying habits. You sign up for a subscription (you can do month-to-month or 3, 6 and 12 month memberships), and every month, a beautifully packaged parcel is delivered with most or all of the ingredients you need for 2 classic or specialty-designed cocktails (2 servings each, so 4 total, if you're bogarting all the drinks for yourself, you great big, beautiful lush, you.). I say "most" ingredients because some drinks require fresh citrus, but the important stuff is there: mini bottles of spirits, wine, or seltzer, and equally mini bottles of mixers like tonics or bitters. Yes, you need to sign for each delivery, so I recommend having this sent to your office, or somewhere you'll be to trade your autograph for the precious Julibox.

Cocktail hour, delivered to your door, just BYO citrus - Photos by Wasabi Prime
For fans of things in miniature -- like me -- it's a Cute Overload of squee-worthy admiration of all the little bottles. True, you can just order a cocktail on an airplane and you'll get a wee bitty bottle of vodka, but I have to say, I was loving the perfectly-scaled Grey Goose vodka bottle, which I enjoyed taking trick photos of, making people think it was a regular sized bottle with the biggest lemon in the universe sitting next to it.

Mini bottles galore and a refreshing sangria - Photos by Wasabi Prime
But simpleton pleasure aside -- WHAT ABOUT THE COCKTAILS? So far, I'm very happy with what we've been making and drinking. I signed Brock up for a six month Homer Bowling Ball gift, and we've only been getting them since May, but it's been a nice thing to have mixologist-quality cocktails that you can easily make at home. The first Julibox delivery was the Lindell Blvd. 1917 Collection, which included mixings for a Clover Club and a classic gin and tonic (recipes posted on the Collection page). The gin and tonic was great because we never think to fuss over a good tonic syrup, but what a difference it makes when you find a great one! I became a big fan of Tomr's Tonic, and definitely want to get an all-growns-up-sized bottle. The herbal infusions in the tonic made such a flavor difference in the cocktail, pairing nicely with the G'Vine Floraison gin. A good tonic syrup will surely ruin you forever from the typical g-and-t's slung at the local sports bar.

The Clover Club was the drink that had me feeling a little anxious. It's a beautiful cocktail flavored with raspberry syrup, fresh lemon juice and Bols Genever, a Dutch-made distillate made from three different grains, blended with distilled juniper berry, and basically a gin, but with a more of a complex flavor that nicely balances the fruit flavors. It's also an egg white drink, and it's not the raw egg that makes me quake in my boots so much as the ability to shake it long enough, with a good seal on the shaker (I've had oops's before), to get that incredible, creamy protein-matrix foam. Don't worry about the raw egg part -- the alcohol and the vigorous agitation essentially denatures it, plus for this delivery, they included powdered egg white, which is pasteurized and quite handy. This was an easy drink to split, so I mixed it twice, first with a fresh separated egg white, and one with the powdered stuff they provided. I probably didn't shake it long enough, as the first Clover Club's frothy foam was rather lackluster (see top photo - sadhorns). The drink was marvelous, the presentation, less-so. On my second mixing, I tried the powdered stuff, which you hydrate a little before using, and I just shook the hell out of that cocktail shaker, and got a really nice, tall froth. Is the powdered stuff better than fresh eggwhite? Likely not, as most skilled bartenders only work with fresh egg whites, and their drinks turn out like rockstars. It's likely a case of, whatever the recommended time of shaking your egg white cocktail is, double it, especially if you have short, stubby t-rex arms like me.

Celebrating cocktail-thirty every month! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
We're very Scroogey with our Julibox drinks in that we take our time enjoying each cocktail. The June Punch Drunk Collection had mini bottles galore, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sangria Parisienne. That had a combination of Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, Esprit de June (a curious liqueur made from the flowers of different grape varietals that only bloom in June - neat, right?), and Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc, along with slices of fresh orange and lemon, and sugar to taste. Sangria taken to a fine cocktail level -- and easy to size up; Julibox was kind to include pitcher-sized recipes for this, along with their Honey Bee Lemonade. That uses Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur, Caravella Limoncello, fresh lemon and sugar -- it sounds good, doesn't it? As of the writing of this blog post, we have yet to make it, but I'm sure it'll be summertime-perfect. Like I said, we're Scroogey with mixing these drinks because I know they're designed by amazing bartenders from all  over the country. I don't want to just guzzle these things down without appreciating every bit of it, from the process to the imbibing, especially if I plan on making them again. Think of Julibox collections as tasting boxes, giving you a chance to sample different spirits and mixers, without the fear of committing to a giant bottle of something. I have a giant bottle of Bakon Vodka staring at me every day. I don't regret buying it, but it's a reminder that I need to make a lot of Bloody Marys soon.

This is a totally honest review of Julibox, no freebies or anything was involved -- I needed a birthday gift for Brock, so I hit the Bowling Ball Named Homer button and thought he'd appreciate Fancy Cocktail Night more often at home. And we've been really pleased so far! We just got the cachaca-filled Latin Lovefest Collection, which is for July, but we probably won't enjoy it until August. That's fine, because it's good to be a month behind on something worth savoring. Cheers, everybody!

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