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Lucy's in the Sky with Cocktails

Book Review

Lucy Brennan, owner of Mint and 820, a popular restaurant and adjoining bar in Portland, Oregon, has forged a national reputation as a modern, mold-breaking mixologist.

Her signature drinks have created new fusions of flavors, incorporating fruits and veggies, spices, herbs and other foods you might not expect to find in combination with distilled spirits.

In Hip Sips: Modern Cocktails to Raise Your Spirits, her cocktail recipe book, Brennan makes it clear her culinary passion flows in a liquid direction. ‘Where chefs use flame, I use ice. Instead of copper pots, I prefer a stainless steel cocktail shaker,’ she reveals in the introduction.

Brennan gets things rolling with a section she calls Hip Sips 101, a primer on everything you’ll need to set up a proper home bar, including advice on glassware, tools, ice, and of course, booze. She also provides instructions on preparing simple syrup, fruit purees, and garnishes.

But what of the recipes? Are they really revolutionary? More importantly, how do they taste? Brennan says the ingredients she’s chosen for her libations have been selected to complement each other, not to disguise the taste of the alcohol. So we sampled some to see how they delivered.

Brennan’s Mojito recipe is relatively simple, calling for mint leaves, Bacardi Silver rum, fresh lemon-lime juice, simple syrup and a splash of soda water. The Food Channel chefs and I found it totally gulpable and refreshing—perfect for summer afternoon by the pool.

Brennan calls her ‘O’ creation, from the Lucy’s Twists section, ‘the Carmen Miranda of citrus cocktails, a hip-shaking invitation to cha-cha the night away.” Made with Cruzan orange rum, we found it to be our fruity favorite… ‘o,’ so orangey and crisp. Make mine a double.

Her Irish Stout Sangria, on the other hand, made with Murphy’s Irish Stout and ruby port wine, was a bit too stout for us, and her Vermont, concocted from Grey Goose vodka and Vermont maple syrup, was too…well, too syrupy and heavy.

Brennan’s version of the classic Pimm’s Cup was another refreshing revelation—very brisk and tasty. But the Avocado Daquiri, from Brennan’s Brave New World section just didn’t make it with us. The avocado was simply no match for the rum. I suppose this is one of Ms. Brennan’s ‘revolutionary’ drinks. We won’t be having another round.

If you’re like me, and prefer your mixed drinks made simply, with maybe two or three ingredients (or really simple, by using a prepared mix), Hip Sips recipes may seem a bit complicated. Most have at least six ingredients, counting garnishes and other finishing touches. But the recipes are presented simply, clearly and with a splash of wit, accompanied by artful photography by Sheri Giblin. Hmmm…that sounds like a very nice drink. ‘I’ll have a Sheri Giblin with a twist.’

Brennan’s Avocado Daquiri

Anyway, if you’re planning a cocktail party (people still do that, right?) or are having some friends over and want to impress them with a Guava Cosmo or a Mandarin Kiss, you might want to get a copy of Hip Sips for your liquor cabinet.