Corpse Reviver No. 2


At the New York Botanical Garden this week, a corpse flower that is ten years in the making has finally begun to bloom. Scientifically known as amorphophallus titanum (translated as “giant shapeless phallus” – stop giggling!), the corpse flower is fascinating. It can reach over 3 meters in height and when it blooms it looks magnificent, with a single, giant spathe (petal) that is green on the outside and deep burgundy red on the inside, wrapped around a core (spadix) that looks like an enormous loaf of french bread or a huge, misshapen penis. The flower takes 7-10 years before it blooms for the first time and when it does, it remains open for only 24-48 hours. Even more amazingly, the blooming flower smells like rotting animal flesh (hence its name), in order to attract carrion beetles and flies that help it pollinate.

So, in celebration of the New York Botanical Garden’s corpse flower blooming as I write this, pull out the cocktail shaker and make yourself a Corpse Reviver No. 2. I don’t know what happened to No. 1 (did it ironically die?) but this drink is everything I love in a cocktail. Bracingly sour, not too strong but strong enough to give you a pleasant buzz after just one, and very refreshing. Cheers!

Corpse Reviver No. 2

Makes one drink


1 oz. gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 dash absinthe or ouzo or Piccard


Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake until outside of shaker is frosty 15-20 seconds. Strain in chilled martini or coupe glass and garnish with sprig of thyme.

Toddy Tonic


“She keeps washing her hair and walking outside into the cold before she dries it. That’s why she keeps catching a cold,” my mom told me on the phone the other day. She was talking about my niece. “Mom, you know that you don’t catch a cold if your hair is wet, right?” I said hesitantly. “Of course you do!” she replied emphatically.

My mom is not the only one who believes that. Most people in Cyprus do. When I was a kid, once we showered and washed our hair, we were expressly forbidden from walking outside until it was bone dry. Cold foods and drinks were also thought to cause sore throats and colds. Ice cream was banished in winters, as was refrigerated water.

When we were little and we did get a cold or the flu, my parents cupped us. They put some cotton at the end of a fork, dipped it in alcohol and lit it on fire. They placed the burning ball in a small drinking glass and then quickly placed the glass on our bare backs. The heat created a strong (and painful) suction that pulled our skins into the cups for several minutes. It was believed that it “sucked out” the fever. All I remember is that the next day, my sister and I would laugh at the “salami” marks on our backs, the perfectly round bruises from the cups.

There were many such medical myths in my childhood. It was, for example, absolutely forbidden to eat raw cake batter or cookie dough, because it could cause worms to grow in our stomachs. Whether this belief came out of mothers trying to keep kids out of their baking bowls or from stories of people getting tapeworm and blaming it on what they ate, I don’t know.

Perhaps the most bizarre medical myth I remember was a story that was all the buzz in Cyprus for a few months when I was little. According to this story, there were people in the Philippines that were able to conduct surgery without cutting with scalpels. Instead they used “special energy” to reach with their bare hands through skin and muscle, repair the damage, and remove their hands without leaving a scar. In those days before the Internet and Google, the story took a life of its own and became national news, science be damned.

Today’s recipe is a hot drink that claims to be a “digestive sleep aid” and a “healing elixir,” thanks to the “anti-inflammatory properties” of turmeric. I have serious doubts about all that. But what I do know is that it’s absolutely delicious. Hot apple cider, spiced with six different spices, with a touch of butter, I mean, what’s not to love?

Toddy Tonic – Slightly adapted from the New York Times


6 cloves
2 cups apple juice or apple cider
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom ghee, optional (recipe below)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the cloves on a baking sheet, and bake for 5-7 minutes to release essential oils. Set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, warm the apple juice/cider over medium-high heat.

4. Add the cloves and ground spices to the juice and let come to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes.

5. Strain out the spices before serving.

6. Stir in the cardamom ghee, if using, and enjoy.

Cardamom Ghee

¼ cup ghee
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the ghee.

2. Once the ghee liquefies, add the cardamom. Turn heat to low and let steep for 3-5 minutes.

3. Strain the ghee and remove and discard the cardamom granules.

The Sommer


“What did Steve get you for your birthday?” my sister asked me on the phone. It was a beautiful morning a few weeks ago and I was indeed celebrating my birthday. “A few gifts,” I said to her, “but I will open them tonight, though I did get to open one this morning.”

“What was it?” she asked eagerly.

“Vinegar,” I replied.

We both burst out laughing. “Is he trying to tell you something?” she asked jokingly, which made us laugh even more.

No, this wasn’t a symbolic gift. It was a thoughtful one, since I had expressed a desire for this vinegar for a while. It’s a Thai drinking vinegar that I was very curious to try. Steve knew that and got me the pineapple version. As it turns out, it’s irresistibly delicious. As in, when you taste it you want to chug the bottle (which you shouldn’t). As soon as we tried it, we knew this would have to be an ingredient for a cocktail.

I’ve tried inventing cocktails before, but I’ve never been successful. My ability to create food recipes does not seem to translate to cocktails. But this time, I got lucky. After the first try, I came up with a cocktail that we both loved. In fact, we may have to order a second bottle of the drinking vinegar soon.

The Sommer

Makes 2 drinks


3 oz gin
3 oz Pimm’s No. 1
3 oz Pok Pok Som Pineapple Drinking Vinegar (you can buy this from many stores or online from places like Amazon)
2 maraschino cherries (optional)


In a shaker, add gin, Pimm’s, and vinegar.

Add ice to above the level of the liquid. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds.

Strain into chilled coupes and garnish with a maraschino cherry in each coupe.

Pomegranate Aperitif

DSC03813For the last few weeks and until the end of the month I am working on Saturday afternoons. Every Saturday I leave home after lunch and get back around 6pm. As I am leaving work, I send a text message to Steve: “On my way. Cocktails?” I did it the first Saturday I had to work and it’s now become a tradition. I show up around 6pm and we share a cocktail, different each week. This is one of those cocktails. It’s a little tart and a little fizzy and one hundred percent refreshing. It’s the kind of cocktail you gulp down in less than 2 minutes without realizing it. In other words, my favorite kind.

Pomegranate Aperitif – Adapted from Bon Appétit

Makes 6 drinks

Note: If you don’t have boiled cider syrup or saba (wine-grape juice that’s been reduced until syrupy and concentrated), use a few drops of good balsamic vinegar.


1 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons boiled cider syrup or saba
2 cups Lillet Blanc
4 dashes celery bitters
Club soda


Whisk pomegranate juice and cider syrup or saba in a large pitcher, then stir in Lillet and bitters. Pour into rocks glasses filled with ice; top off with club soda.

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix


For my sister and I, Christmas and New Year’s, were pretty close to being the best time of the year when we were growing up. Much of how we celebrated was similar to how people celebrate in the U.S. We had a tree (always a fake one; nobody had a real tree) that we decorated with ornaments. But our favorite part was always hanging the dangling, silver tinsel. Or more like throwing it on the tree, in an attempt to make it look “natural,” with the result always resembling clumps of shiny hair stuck on the plastic green branches. We had a nativity scene that we put under the tree, surrounded always by cotton balls, to simulate snow, because we all know how much snow falls in the winter in Bethlehem.

And then there were the gifts. Our tradition for those deviated slightly from the American version. Santa Claus (the same one, with the white beard and red uniform) didn’t come on Christmas eve but on New Year’s eve. On that night, we’d always be at a party of some friends of my parents and right at midnight, at the end of the countdown, an adult who had sneaked away secretly, would pull down the main circuit board so that all the lights in the house would go out. As soon as the year turned, he or she would turn them back on. The reason, we were told in all seriousness by our parents, was so that Santa could come in without being seen. Never mind that the presents never showed up under the tree until the next day. So I would keep my eyes wide open, trying to catch a glimpse of this elusive, jolly gift-bearer. But alas, the dark would always hide him well.

So, the next day, the first day of the new year, my sister and I would wake up and jump out of bed. We knew the routine. Behind our headboards there was one wrapped gift for each of us. This was the gift from our parents. We’d open it and then run to the Christmas tree, where right next to the snowy nativity scene there were two more wrapped gifts, one for each of us. These were from Santa. Minutes later, we’d be sitting at the table, sipping the hot cocoa my mom made for us, talking excitedly about what we got. “How did Santa come into our house if we don’t have a chimney?” I asked my dad one year. My dad must have panicked, because his immediate answer was “he comes through the keyhole.” It was a statement that puzzled my young brain for years, until I learned the truth about Santa.

 Malted Hot Chocolate Mix – Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Note: This makes a thick, rich, and dark hot chocolate. It’s not very sweet at all. If you want it sweeter, you can add sugar to each mug to taste.


1 cup (7 oz) sugar
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (3 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1.5 oz) malted milk powder (substitute nonfat dry milk for a non-malted version)
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Process all ingredients in a food processor until ground to powder, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months (longer in the freezer).

To make a cup of malted hot chocolate, heat 1 cup of milk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until small bubbles start to appear at the edge of the saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of the hot chocolate mix and continue to heat, whisking constantly, for about 2-3 minutes longer, until the mixture just starts to simmer. Pour in a mug and serve.

Watermelon Margarita


Remember when you were a kid and summers seemed endless? When school would come to an end and you couldn’t even imagine that it would ever start up again? My childhood summers were like that. They were also hot, incredibly hot. Temperatures would routinely get above 110° F but we had no air conditioning to fight the heat. Just standing fans that seemed to blow non-stop during the whole summer, providing us with little to no relief. There were ice cold bottles of Coca Cola, rose-flavored ice cream, and jiggly jello desserts. There was the beach, the one we saw very few times each year, even though we lived on an island. This was the time before highways, when a trip from our home, in the middle of the island, to the beach took a long time and required meticulous preparations by my parents. These summers were filled with the sounds of crickets in the quiet, dense, and damp air that you could cut with a knife. The slow, lazy mornings were interrupted by the man with the pickup truck, driving from neighborhood to neighborhood and shouting over his megaphone: “Watermelons! I got watermelons!” We heard him before we saw him and his truck slowly driving down the road, its cab filled to the brim with enormous green-and-white, misshapen globes. Their bright red flesh would often be that night’s dinner, along with a slice of bread and a piece of halloumi cheese.

This year’s summer seemed anything but endless. It hadn’t even begun back in late June when I could feel the stress of its end bearing down on me. The weather has been mild, pretty close to perfect. The AC has kept even the hottest days at bay. There were no crickets and no rose-flavored ice cream. But there was watermelon. Perhaps disguised as a cold margarita, it can help you accept the summer’s end a little easier.



Watermelon Margarita

Makes 2 drinks


4 oz tequila
1.5 oz lime juice
1 oz Cointreau
fresh watermelon juice (see directions below)


To make watermelon juice, blend cubes of watermelon flesh (you can leave the seeds in) in blender until smooth. You can pass it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the blended seeds if you want. Or leave it in the fridge and the small bits of seed will sink to the bottom. Or you can just leave them in the juice.

Pour tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau in a shaker with ice cubes. Shake for a few seconds and strain in two tall glasses with ice. Top with watermelon juice.

Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz


Steve and I took a short vacation last week, hence the lack of post over the weekend. We visited our friends in California and the four of us rented a house in Palm Springs for three days. We did nothing but eat and drink and be lazy. It was hot and mostly sunny there, perfect weather for an ice cold cocktail, so we made one of our favorites: vodka rosemary lemonade fizz. The first time we made this was a few years back for a party we had. We thought it would be a bust, that people would find it too simple or the herbal taste of rosemary too strong. But it was a huge hit and the recipe has been passed around from friend to friend ever since. It’s a simple recipe, really. Basically a rosemary infused lemonade, mixed with vodka, and topped with club soda. Pour yourself a glass and toast the arrival of spring.

Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz – From

Makes 8 8oz drinks


1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 (8-inch) rosemary sprigs
unflavored vodka
Chilled club soda or seltzer
Garnish: 8 (3-inch) rosemary sprigs


Bring lemon juice, sugar, and rosemary to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Discard rosemary sprigs.

Fill 8 (8-ounces) glasses halfway with ice. Divide syrup (about 2 tablespoons each) among glasses and add vodka (1-2 tablespoons each, depending on how strong you want it). Top off with club soda.