Eureka Hits the ‘Burbs! | My New Article in New England Home

One of my favorite magazines to write for is New England Home. My latest contribution is this fun update about smart home technology. Enjoy!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER
Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorsed any unrelated video advertising that may appear on this blog, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

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Margaritaville | You Know You Want to Go

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I love margaritas! There. I said it and I’m proud. Bite me.

I slouch with distinguished company. Other lovers of the Elixir of Youth include Rachel, Joey, and Charlie (a.k.a. Aisha Tyler) on Friends. Bing Crosby loved margaritas so much, he became the original importer of Herradura (my fave tequila!), because how else could you get a decent margarita in Hollywood in the 1950s? Ernest Hemingway famously drank 15 margaritas in one sitting, and they’re what he was chugging when he died (and the reason it took so long to finish the job). I am not making this up.

“I had a dream last night that I drank the largest margarita in Texas,” said P. Salyer, a total stranger on the Interweb. “When I woke up, there was salt on the toilet lid and rim. Sure, it sounds gross, but at least now I have an explanation for the blue tongue.”

Yes, the margarita is a widely beloved American libation. Okay, an American libation probably invented in Mexico. (They make them with key limes there. You can too — yum!) Depending on which story you believe, the drink’s origin was a bar in Ensenada, or Tijuana or Galveston or Acapulco, in the 1940s. The bartender was farting around with new cocktails when in blows the German ambassador’s daughter, or a Ziegfeld girl or a Dallas socialite or Peggy Lee or Rita Hayworth, all of whose names coincidentally are (or translate to) Margarita in Mexicanian. You can guess the rest.

More recently, Esquire Magazine interviewed four Wall Streeters in a bar who gave the following reasons why they were drinking margaritas:

1. “Because he got one.”
2. “The vodka didn’t go down well.”
3. “Because it’s been a long week.”
4. “Because I’m an alcoholic.”

Yep, you just can’t go wrong with a margarita, be it basic or tarted up. Tequila. Triple sec. Fresh lime juice. Heaven in a trough, I say.

There are many kinds of margaritas, some quite tasty and worth trying. That’s why this special holiday installment of Drink To Write, Write To Drink focuses on — duh — margaritas.

Don’t get me wrong. I won’t drink just ANY margarita. Like, I think most frozen margaritas are stupid. And stay away from that fake lemon/lime stuff in a packet — that crap’s for astronauts. And I hate cocktails that don’t taste like liquor (mudslide, dog?). They’re for teenyboppers (and my next post), not sophisticated sots like me and you. On a diet? Can’t help you there, either. This is a different type of therapy.

To me, a margarita says, “So what if my day sucked? I have THIS!” I even own a collection of ridiculous glasses just for serving margaritas. I say if the Lord didn’t want you to drink margaritas, S/He wouldn’t have put so much vitamin C in them.

So here are some great margarita recipes. Each makes one drink unless otherwise stated.

—————–

Let’s just get this part out of the way upfront. Always use fresh juice (and fresh fruit, if possible and where applicable).

And here’s how to rim a margarita glass with salt (or whatever):

Rub the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with a lime or lemon wedge and dip the rim in salt until it’s coated. Coarse or kosher salt works great.

—————–

Classic Margarita
2 parts tequila
2 parts triple sec
1 part lime juice

Rim the glass with salt. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into the glass, and serve.

Chocolate Margarita (C’mon — I dare you!)
1-1/2 oz tequila
1 oz Godiva liquor
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
3/4 oz cream or half and half
2 oz orange juice
1/2 oz lime juice
Stirrings Cocoa Rimmer
Ice

Rim the glass with the cocoa rimmer. Combine all ingredients in a shaker full of ice and pour into the glass.

Chambord Raspberry Margarita
4 cups frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 oz tequila
2 oz Gran Marnier
3 oz Chambord
2 oz lime juice
Whole, fresh raspberries (for garnish)
1 cup sugar (for glasses)

In a blender, combine frozen raspberries, lemon juice, tequila, Gran Marnier, Chambord and ice. Blend until smooth. Rim margarita glasses with sugar. Pour the raspberry margaritas into the glasses.

Strawberry Margarita
Cracked ice
1 oz lime juice
2 oz strawberries (frozen okay)
1/2 oz strawberry schnapps
1 oz tequila
Sugar

Rim a cocktail glass with sugar. Fill the glass with cracked ice. Add tequila, strawberry liqueur, lime juice, and strawberries. Shake and strain into the glass.

Blue Margarita
Yields: 2 to 3 servings

1 teaspoon coarse salt
4 oz tequila
2 oz triple sec
2 oz lime juice
2 oz blue curacao
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 (1/4-inch) slices of star fruit for garnish (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Place tequila, triple sec, lime juice, blue curacao, and sugar in the shaker; shake hard for 30 seconds. Rim margarita glasses with coarse salt. Strain the margarita into the glasses. Garnish each with a slice of star fruit or a lime wedge.

Carrot Margarita (sounds worse than it tastes)
3 oz blanco or reposado tequila
3 oz carrot juice
1 oz lime juice
1-1/2 oz orange liqueur
ice cubes

Combine all ingredients and serve on the rocks.

Red Chile–Guava Margarita
Yields: Many

2-1/2 cups chile-infused tequila (see recipe)
1-1/2 cups triple sec
1-1/2 cups guava nectar
1 cup orange juice
1-1/2 cups lime juice
10 lime wedges
Salt
Ice
10 small red chiles, for garnish (optional)

Chile-Infused Tequila:
6 small, dried red chiles (or fresh serranos), halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 750-mL bottle of tequila
Place red chiles in tequila. Allow to infuse for 1 to 2 days.

Drink prep: Combine tequila, triple sec, guava nectar, orange juice, and lime juice in a pitcher and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to use. To serve, rim a rocks glass with salt. Fill the glass with ice, add the margarita mixture, and garnish with a skewered chile pepper (but only if you want to).

Banana Margarita (just shut up and try it)
1 oz creme de bananes
1 oz gold tequila
1/2 oz triple sec
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 mashed banana

Rim a frosted double-cocktail glass with sugar. Fill the glass with crushed ice, add the ingredients and blend briefly. Serve with a lemon juice-dipped slice of banana.

Blackjack Margarita
1-1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur
4 oz lime juice

Fill a large margarita glass with ice. Add tequila, triple sec, and Chambord. Add the lime juice. Shake, garnish with a lime wedge and serve.

Watermelon Margarita
16 oz seeded, blended watermelons
1/2 lime
6 oz tequila
3 oz triple sec
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut up a watermelon, removing seeds. Liquify in a blender until you have about 16 oz. Add remaining ingredients, top with ice and blend until smooth. Taste and add sugar if watermelon isn’t sweet enough. Serve in a margarita glass with a sugar-coated rim.

Jamaican Margarita
This recipe uses hibiscus blossoms. They can be found at Latin grocery stores. Take the time to boil the blossoms in sugar and water as described and then steep; this infuses more flavor than just steeping them in warm water.

1 cup dried hibiscus blossoms (about 2 oz)
3 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups tequila
1/2 cup lime juice
1/3 cup triple sec or other orange-flavored liqueur
8 lime slices

Place blossoms in a strainer; rinse under cold water. Combine blossoms, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Strain; discard blossoms. Cover and chill hibiscus mixture. Combine hibiscus mixture, tequila, juice, and triple sec. Serve over ice. Garnish with lime slices.

Blackberry Margarita
Yields: 8 servings (about 1/2 cup each)

1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (for glasses)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lime
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup blanco tequila
3/4 cup Grand Marnier
2/3 cup lime juice
12 oz fresh blackberries

Combine 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar and the salt in a dish. Cut the lime into 9 wedges. Use one to rub the rims of 8 glasses, and dip them in the salt mixture. Combine water and 1/2 cup sugar in a microwave-safe glass cup. Microwave at high for 2-1/2 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar; cool. Combine syrup, tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, and blackberries in a blender; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a pitcher; discard solids. Serve over ice. Garnish with remaining lime wedges.

Almond Margarita
1-1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dozen almonds

Put all ingredients in a blender with ice and pulse for a minute. Pour into a salt-rimmed margarita glass. Garnish with an almond.

Asian Pear Margarita
Yields: 2 servings

3 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz asian pear cider
3 oz silver tequila
1 oz triple sec
ice

Put ice in a cocktail shaker, add ingredients, and shake vigorously until ice cold; strain and serve on the rocks or straight up.

Ginger Margarita
Kosher salt
1 quarter-size slice of fresh ginger
One 1/4-inch slice of Thai chile
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-1/2 oz anejo tequila
1/2 oz Cointreau
Ice
1 lime wedge

Rim a margarita glass with the salt. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the ginger, chile, sugar and lemon juice. Add the tequila, Cointreau and ice and shake. Strain into the glass over ice. Squeeze in the juice from the lime wedge and fasten it to the glass.

Blood Orange Margarita
Yield: Serves an army

1 quart fresh blood orange juice or fresh orange juice
1-1/2 cup lime juice
1-1/2 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
3-1/2 cups silver tequila
Coarse salt
1 blood orange wedge or orange wedge
12 thin blood orange slices or orange slices
Ice
12 small sage sprigs or leaves

In a large pitcher, mix the juices, Cointreau and tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes. Rim a couple million martini glasses with an orange wedge and salt. Add ice to the pitcher and stir well, then strain into the glasses. Garnish each drink with a blood orange slice and sage sprig.

Azuñia Margarita
2-1/2 oz Azuñia Platinum or Reposado Tequila
1 oz Azuñia Organic Agave Nectar
1 oz water
2 oz lime juice
sea salt

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 5 seconds and pour into a salt-rimmed Pilsner glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Obamarita
2 oz silver tequila
1 oz blue curacao
3/4 oz lime juice
dash of simple syrup
splash of prosecco
Lime twist to garnish

In a cocktail shaker, shake tequila, blue curacao, lime juice and simple syrup with ice. Strain into rocks glass with salted rim over ice. Top with prosecco. Garnish with lime twist.

Yellow Watermelon Chipotle Margarita
1 tablespoon organic sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
2 oz reposado tequila
1-1/2 oz watermelon juice (see instructions)
3/4 oz elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice
lime wedge

To make the watermelon juice: Remove rind and seeds of watermelon and cut flesh into 2″ chunks. Place in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Then process until smooth and liquidy. Strain through a fine sieve. Transfer juice to a large squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to use. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

Place the sugar, salt and chipotle powder in a bowl and mix well. Spread on a small plate. Moisten the rim of a cocktail glass with the lime wedge and dip the glass rim in the sugar/salt/chipotle mixture. Shake all the other ingredients with ice cubes until a thin layer of frost appears on the outside of the shaker. Pour into the glass and serve.

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

A Halloween Story | RENOVATION UNREALITIES

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psycho-house

Never buy a house!” my mother ragged me. “You’ll have to pay the taxes. You’ll have to fix the roof. You’ll have to mow the lawn.The horror! 

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER — All Rights Reserved

Like a lot of New Yorkers, I was always a renter. Always, that is, until the day I saw a Brooklyn brownstone with a weedy lawn and a leaky roof, fell in love, and bought it on the spot.

It was a gentrifier’s dream dump, with great bones and a provenance dating to 1887. Its first owner was a Cunard Line executive. He was followed by two less classy stewards who energetically transformed his manse into a dive. During the Great Depression it was a boarding house, its magnificent wooden mantles repurposed into magnificent firewood. Then in a chilling portent of late-twentieth century condomania, it was divided into not-so-hot apartments.

Every electrical system ever in it was still in situ, from naked DC wires we hoped were hooked up to nothing, to 1970s aluminum wiring so combustible it’s outlawed now.

A mess? You bet. But it was our mess. Many period details survived that sang to us: parquet floors, carved doors, leaded windows, stone mantles unsuitable for fireplace fuel and, as my mate and I would find out, very special guests.

The house soon reverberated with the racket of power tools and things bashing into other things. We bounded rowdily up and down the stairs, yelling to each other from three floors away because there was no landlord yapping at us to stop. Sometimes our noise was answered by loud stomping; we reckoned it was a message from the neighbors who shared our uninsulated party wall — a lovely family of four generations who disagreed violently with each other about everything, had a boom box in every room, and flushed thunderous toilets all night. We usually forgot to apologize.

Anyway, turns out the loudiness wasn’t them. We determined this after one particularly raucous stompfest. It was accompanied by cigar smoke. See, we don’t smoke cigars. Plus the neighbors weren’t home.

At the time I was too panicked to be analytical. You smell smoke in an old house, it’s probably burning down. As I ran with the fire extinguisher to see which cheesy wiring was ablaze, the smoke stopped. Just like that.

Eventually the stomping stopped, too. It was a relief, because … well, who do you complain to?

We still hadn’t figured that out when the canceled show was replaced by other entertainment. I was taking a shower when unfamiliar singing wafted through the bathroom air shaft. It was nice singing, childlike. Not the sort of thing that sends one screaming naked into the tree-lined street, giving the neighbors even more to talk about. I decided to find it charming.

Over time my husband and I became accustomed to smells and sounds that didn’t add up, and finding things not quite where we’d left them. Many of our conversations started out with “Where’d you put the wrench?” or “Have you seen my keys?” Sometimes we’d come home to find every light in the house burning. Once I saw some kid standing in the butler’s pantry. We had neither children nor butlers.

We did have six cats we adopted. They were loads of fun. They’d abruptly launch into the air like cartoon characters, running before their feet hit the floor. Then they’d bullet down the hall after — or away from — something we never saw.

Weird? Duh. Were we budging? Nope.

I’d be yanking your chain if I said it outboogied the Overlook Hotel. Exorcism much?, you ask. No way. The landmarking had started and dumpsters were everywhere, and who needed a bunch of caped baby buggerers around messing that up?

So gradually we renovated the whole place. It was huge. We each had an “office” — big creaky rooms full of junk and dreams — where we logged quality goof-off time.

Coming home late from work one day, I expected to find my husband in his top-floor office with his guitars and amp projects and mountains of CDs. Sure enough, the unmistakable licks of B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel” poured forth, cranked up to eleven. I started up the stairs. “Hi!” I called out. “I’m home!”

No reply. The music stopped. I went as far as the second floor. “Hello?” I said, and got no answer. I headed back down to the kitchen and waited for my husband to come home.

The next concert was in my office, a candy-colored room full of movie posters and toys, with a cloudy sky painted on the ceiling. My guitar leaned against the wall. I was plundering a flea market score of Barbie outfits instead of writing. All was quiet. That’s when the guitar went THWANG!

I whipped around to see what had fallen on it. Nothing had. The guitar was still propped upright, exactly where I’d left it, all six strings wound nice and tight.

Above: Actual guitar thwanged by actual ghost

This seems like as good a time as any to explain that we don’t believe in supernatural events or earthly manifestations of the restless dead or any of that shit. My husband says ghosts are really other-dimensional things we glimpse by accident, because the lives of everyone who ever lived coexist in endless loops on parallel time planes that occasionally overlap. Sort of like when you take two photographs without advancing the film, producing something you’re not supposed to see.

I have a theory too. I think my husband reads too much science fiction. Hell, this was New York. We’ve seen plenty of stuff we’d rather not — Glock-toting muggers, knife-wielding crackheads, drunk drivers, car thieves. Bikejackers. Pickpockets. Arsonists. Hysterical boroughphobic cabbies. Why not ghosts?

In practical terms, the only difference between them and corporeal troublemakers is crowd control. While street hoodlums are often unresponsive to reason, or even to English, they do come with more management options. You can chase them down, show them a taser, call the cops, or (my personal fave) follow them home and tell their mothers. We were far less resourceful at dealing with our skyrocketing Con Ed bills courtesy of our guests (or maybe we were theirs) firing up every bulb in the house. Mother never warned me about that.

But I will say this: No burglar ever left a light on to welcome me home.

ghosts

Well, it certainly doesn’t look haunted…

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER — All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.