Cocktails with the Cult: Bourbon Rocks

Recently I’ve discovered bourbon. I was always a vodka girl, but I feel like a lot of vodka drinks come with sugary mixers, like fruit juice or sweet liquors–chambord, Bailey’s, that sort of thing. And I find since I started on my most recent cancer drugs, when I have a sugary boozey drink, it makes me feel icky, like, burpy and queasy. Vodka alone is alright, I guess, but it feels a little odd drinking a tumbler of it. I’m not Roger Sterling, much as I adore him.

So, I’ve started drinking bourbon. I’m officially living like a 78 year old.

I drink it on the rocks, because dude, I’ve got cancer, and I’m on a zillion drugs. Adding a little water with my booze isn’t a bad idea. Plus, you get the nice buzz going from drinking more bourbon-y bourbon at the start, and finish with a less bourbon-y, more water-y drink at the end, which seems to help avoid a hangover for me.

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for me to develop a taste for bourbon. Good bouron, mind you. I’m too old to be drinking crap. I like to buy a craft bourbon if I can. At the LBBC conference, I drank a bourbon called Hooker’s House. Because, hookers. Recently I drank some Pendleton bourbon, and that was lovely too. 

Thus, I bring you: Bourbon Rocks.

Pour some good bourbon in a tumbler. Careful, it’s strong. OK, a little more. Add ice. I like bigger cubes, they melt slower, so you can nurse your drink a little longer.

Cheers, y’all! Share your favorite bourbon in the comments!

Cocktails with the Cult: The Hormonal Sunset

The title of this post is misleading, because usually my Cocktails with the Cult posts are about actual drinks that you can have. But this edition is about the drug cocktail I’m on, and an explanation of why.

So, two weeks ago, I finally had that PET scan that my former insurance company refused to pay for last year. At this point, I’d like to give a shout-out to the federal employee Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for being the expensive but very comprehensive plan that I need. I read their policy like 14 times to make sure that it actual said that diagnostic imaging didn’t require preauthorization, and that PET scans were a covered procedure, because a lot of insurance plans are refusing to cover PET scans these days, or only approving them after other scans are inconclusive. I will save my rant about that for another day. Suffice it to say, if you’re a federal employee and looking for the Cadillac of insurance plans, rather than a low-cost-I-don’t-expect-to-get-seriously-ill plan, go with Blue Cross/Blue Shield over GEHA.

Anyway, the PET gave us mixed news. The good news was that the hip and sternum tumors didn’t light up, which means at this point the PET found no cancer there anymore. Thank you, chemo and radiation from last spring! In addition, we saw nothing in the chest area where my breast used to be.

The bad news is, I have new tumors, one each on two of my vertebrae. And the bone marrow in my right humerus lit up as well. In addition, the lymph gland near my heart that lit up on the first PET lit up again, like it did on the first PET, and it’s gotten a bit bigger. This means my disease has progressed.

This is by no means cause for panic (I keep thinking of that Monty Python sketch–“Bring out your dead!” “I’m not dead!”), but it’s definitely not good news. My oncologist (who my readers will, by now, realize that I trust 100%) and I agree that sitting on our laurels would be a really dumb idea. He’s not ready to jump into chemo right away, and I saucily told him “Yeah, I’ve got a book launch to do, chemo now would be inconvenient.” Instead, we’re adding a new drug to my cocktail, which I am naming The Hormonal Sunset. Because the goal is to sunset all that pesky estrogen that my cancer likes to eat so much.

So, here’s the recipe for my cocktail that you can’t have. I bring you The Hormonal Sunset:
1 part anastrozole, taken in pill form every day
1 part leuprolide, taken as a shot every 3 months
1 part fulvestrant (the new addition), taken as a shot every month, but with a loading dose at the beginning requiring a shot every 2 weeks for the first month
1 part denosumab, taken as a shot every month to help strengthen the bones my cancer is trying to eat
1 part gabapentin, taken as a pill every night for hot flashes
2 parts calcium with vitamin D, one pill taken in the AM and one in the PM, to keep my bones strong in the face of menopause

We might be adding palbociclib, which is a drug that literally JUST got approved by the FDA this month, to my cocktail if Blue Cross/Blue Shield agrees to pay for it (see how I said such nice things about them earlier? I’m trying to be their new favorite patient so they’ll keep paying for everything I need) and/or if I end up in a trial for it. (I’ll be writing a post on clinical trials in the coming weeks–stay tuned.)

You’re probably wondering how I’m doing with this news. Am I freaking the fuck out? Not really. Because the other thing my oncologist and I talked about is where we’re going with this whole treatment thing. I asked him if getting to no evidence of disease (NED for short) is the goal, and if so, if that’s a realistic goal. And he was like “Yes and yes.” He feels like we can get there with the addition of fulvestrant, but even if that turns out not to work, we’ve still got chemo in our back pocket. It worked so well last spring–remember how the big ass tumor in my breast was just scattered cells in scar tissue when I had my mastectomy?–that we’re hopeful my cancer will respond as well if we need to try it again. That NED is on the table as a realistic possibility, and not just some pipe dream, means I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s very good news indeed.

Which again brings me back to my shameless sucking up to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, because I’m going to need another PET in 3 months to see how the cancer is responding to The Hormonal Sunset. That would put us in May. I promise to keep you all posted about how that goes.

I’d say cheers like I usually do in my Cocktail posts, but I really don’t want any of you to have to take this cocktail, ever. Seriously.

Cocktails with the Cult: The Godmother

Continuing on with my “in college” theme as my arrival in DC rapidly approaches (I’ll be departing for NYC as you read this!): in college, for a time, I acquired the nickname The Godmother, because my grandfather was Italian and he worked in Reno as a casino doctor in the 1950’s and I always wondered if he was, well, you know. He’s since passed away at the ripe old age of 93.

One time when I was in law school, he pulled me aside and said, “How’s law school going?” in that very Marlon Brando as Godfather voice he had, and I said, “Good, Grandpa.” And he said, “Anybody giving you any trouble?” And I said, “No, Grandpa, everything’s fine” and he said, “Well, we’ll be keeping an eye on you.” And I thought “WE?!?!?! WHO THE FUCK IS WE?!?!?!” Luckily I didn’t get an offer I couldn’t refuse when I graduated, although there are times when someone pisses me off and I think “I wish Grandpa was still alive, because I bet he’d know a guy.”

But enough about my sociopathic tendencies. Did you know there’s a drink called The Godmother? And it’s got vodka in it? And that it’s only two ingredients, so it’s easy to make? Clearly this drink has my name all over it.

Here’s what you do: mix equal parts vodka and amaretto. Pour over a glass filled with ice and stir. Bam, done.

I’ve always liked amaretto, ever since my college BFF introduced me to it (her favorite drink in college was an amaretto sour), but I never thought to mix it with my favorite liquor, vodka! So tasty. Cheers!

Cocktails with the Cult: Alexander

When I was in college at The George Washington University, we had a center playing for my school’s basketball team named Alexander Koul. He was enormous and Russian, and folks called him Sasha, because Russians do that. I’ve been thinking about Alexander lately because I’m headed back east next week and I’m going to be spending some time with old college friends and watching a game on TV (both our men’s and women’s teams are out of town that week–I planned badly) and I’m sure we’ll be talking about our college days.

So, I was trying to figure out what my next Cocktail with the Cult would be, and I’m really into old-timey cocktails because I wish I was a hipster. So I was looking at the list of classic cocktails on the website of the International Bartenders Association, and lo and behold, the first one on the list is a cocktail called the Alexander. And I thought, “Brandy Alexander, blech” but it turns out, the plain old Alexander is not made with brandy, it’s made with cognac. Which I happen to have in my liquor cabinet because I use it to bake these muffins. Which would be DELICIOUS with this drink.

Thus, I bring you, the Alexander.

1 part cognac
1 part creme de cacao
1 part creme

Shake over ice, strain into a glass.

Holy moly, that’s strong. But also so tasty–definitely a good sipping beverage with those muffins, or really with any dessert. Cheers!

Cocktails with the Cult: Midnight Moon Apple Pie

No, this isn’t a sponsored post. You may have noticed by now that I don’t do sponsored posts. I just talk about the products I enjoy, because I’m a nice person.

A few months back, one of our neighbors brought us over a basket of awesome treats, including some amazing dulce de leche candies for the kids, and a jar of Apple Pie flavor Midnight Moon. Midnight Moon is a small batch distiller that makes moonshine. They make it from corn, and you can get it in just the plain old moonshine flavor, or you can get it like my jar of Apple Pie flavored moonshine, with juice (there’s several flavors, including blackberry, which I can’t wait to try) and spices. When I got the jar of Midnight Moon, I wasn’t at a place in treatment where I could drink alcohol, so I stuck the jar on our liquor shelf in our pantry and promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to now. I’m cleaning out my pantry because there’s shit in there that expired in 2010 (oh hello old bag of pistachios that The Hubs bought and never ate because I stupidly put them in the back of the pantry where he’d never find them) and I come across the jar of Midnight Moon. And I thought, “MOONSHINE!” Because I’ve just finished binge-watching all of Boardwalk Empire (shit, you guys, that was a long series–it gets a little Scorcese for my taste the last couple episodes, but otherwise it’s good) and of course moonshine would go fantastic with Emily’s latest album, especially Big Butter and Egg Man.

Drinking straight moonshine sounded like it would be a bit much for me (I talk a big game, but seriously, I’m a lightweight) so I just started with a tiny sip to see what it tastes like. HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS, it’s like drinking apple pie! Loads of cinnamon and apple flavor, really delicious. On the other hand, that tiny sip plus the alcohol fumes coming off my glass was enough to make me buzzed. So then I then I thought, “Dude, I wonder what kind of delicious cocktail you could make with this?” Turns out, their website has recipes, so I don’t even need to make one up for you guys. Which is good, because I’m lazy. Thus, I give you a link to their recipes that you can make with their Apple Pie flavor. I’m partial to the Ginger Johnson, but let me know which one you like best in the comments. Cheers!

Cocktails with the Cult: Rumnog

The holidays are coming, and that means it’s eggnog season! Fuck you pumpkin spice, eggnog is where it’s at. It’s got the spice of pumpkin spice in it, without all that healthy pumpkin. Vegetables are for losers–cholesterol-laden eggs are sooooooo much more awesome.

Eggnog is tasty on it’s own and it also makes an awesome pie. (Because fuck you pumpkin.) But it really shines when you put booze in it. I mean, what ISN’T better with booze in it?

A lot of people I know like whiskey in their eggnog. But me? I prefer rum. Spiced rum, to be specific. And I call it Rumnog. The best part of this recipe is you can serve it cold, or, if you are constantly shivering like I was before they put me into instant menopause, you can heat up the eggnog first and then mix it with the rum. And as usual, you can make pitchers of this stuff if you’re serving at a party.

4 oz. eggnog (I am partial to Darigold’s eggnog, but use whatever you like)
1.5 oz rum

Stir and serve in a mug. That’s it, that’s the drink. We’re you expecting something more complex? We’re talking about me here, people, I don’t do complex. I do FUCKING DELICIOUS.

Cocktails with the Cult: Chocolate Raspberry Birthday Martini

You guys may or may not have known that my birthday was last week. How did I spend it? Inventing a new cocktail, that’s how! I was sitting on my couch surfing the internet and thought “Hey. I want a drink. And it’s my birthday, so it’s OK to start drinking at 3:30 in the afternoon.” Don’t judge–what’s the worst it can do, give me cancer? (It’s OK to laugh. Dark humor is the best kind of humor.)

So I thought, “Hmmm, what kind of drink.” I was out of box wine, and not in the mood for a dirty martini–I thought about it, and I really wanted something sweet. So I went to the liquor cabinet, and saw a bottle of Chambord, and thought “Raspberry IS nice. But it’s even better with chocolate.” Then I spotted the bottle of creme de cacao, and thought, “BAM.” But the two on their own were waaaaaaaaay too sweet, so then I thought, “Vodka makes everything better.” And thus the Chocolate Raspberry Birthday Martini was born.

1 oz creme de cacao

1/2 oz Chambord

2 oz vodka

I’m lazy and the vodka was in the freezer, so I didn’t even shake it with ice or anything, but if you’re feeling fancy, get down with your bad self. Serve it in a martini glass. Cheers!

Cocktails with the Cult: Box Wine

I am totally half-assing this post because I am on vacation right now. I’m sorry. Actually I am not even remotely sorry, because you know what? Box wine is totally awesome. And here’s why.

1. It is always ready. No mixing. No measuring. No finding halfway through preparing it that you are out of olives or tonic to whatever. It’s just hanging out there in your fridge saying “No pressure, I’m ready when you’re ready.”

2. It’s inexpensive. Even the fancy pants box wine I like (Black Box Chardonnay, and no, they aren’t sponsoring this post but I wish they were!) is at least as cheap as regular wine, if not cheaper. Vodka and fancy olives can get pricey.

3. It doesn’t go stale like regular wine. I don’t see it on the shelf in my fridge and think “shit, I need to finish that before it starts tasting funky.” So when I am in treatment and can’t even imagine wanting a drink, no biggie, it’s not going to waste.

4. It’s easier to serve when your friends come over than cocktails. They can help themselves from the handy spigot.

5. It’s not pretentious. It doesn’t say “Look at me, I am a fancy expensive beverage with terroir, pay attention to my legs and smell my bouquet.” No. You just drink it and feel good. Period.

Obviously there is no recipe for this post. Just go to the grocery store and buy a damn box, will you?

Cocktails with the Cult: Aunt Mandy’s Sangria

I have a really awesome sister-in-law, the kind who shows up with a mocha for me to just hang out for a bit and talk. And she never complains when we ask her to babysit the Kids, who call her Aunt Mandy. She’s not a huge drinker, but once in a while, she’ll imbibe a little, and when she does, she makes a mean drink.

For example, last summer, she and a close family friend and I got together and had a yard sale, and she made sangria for all of us to drink while we sat out in the yard selling a little off our junk. (I made the most money, and yes I am totally bragging about it. Rematch, ladies?) It was the perfect thing to be drinking with two girlfriends in the sunshine. I asked her to share her recipe, and she graciously did. Without further ado, I give you Aunt Mandy’s Sangria!

1 bottle Chardonnay
1 6 oz. can pineapple chunks
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup triple sec
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1/2 cup grapes
1 apple, cut into chunks
2 cups lemon-lime soda

Put everything except the soda together in a large pitcher and let chill for at least four hours. Add the soda at the time you serve it, and enjoy!

Cocktails with the Cult: Irish Up Your Coffee

Back before we had kids, The Hubs and I used to travel to distant places that require long plane rides. In 2005, we took a cruise around the British Isles with my parents and some friends, and man, that trip totally kicked ass. We met some awesome friends on that cruise who have remained our friends since then, even though they live far away–thank goodness for the Internet!

One of our stops on that cruise was in Belfast, and we took this amazing tour where we drove around the city, hung out at the Giant’s Causeway, saw Dunluce Castle, had lunch in a pub, and stopped at the Bushmills Distillery, where we bought a very nice bottle of Irish whiskey.

Now, I am sure my Celtic ancestors are rolling over in their graves, but I am not a big whiskey drinker. It burns, man. But that Irish whiskey we bought is fucking smooooooooov. I’m told that Irish whiskey, unlike Scotch, is triple distilled. I have no idea what that means except to say that whatever they did to this fancy can-only-be-bought-at-the-distillery stuff? It made it go down easy. Even I can drink it on the rocks. That said, my favorite way to drink it is in an Irish coffee.

Some people think Bailey’s in coffee is an Irish coffee. NO NO NO and FUCK NO. Bailey’s is a lovely thing, it’s great in coffee and milkshakes and cheesecake and whatever. But when someone offers to Irish up your coffee, they’re gonna put Irish Whiskey in it, not Bailey’s. And, they’ll probably use Jameson because they aren’t from Ulster and they aren’t unionists. And that’s OK too. Personally, my ancestors came over to America from Ulster after surviving the siege of Derry, and they were Protestants, so I have no qualms about drinking my orange whiskey. But I don’t mind a little Jameson’s either, because I love a good democracy overturning a monarchy. So just buy whatever whiskey you like.

Irish coffee, like many things of beauty, is pretty simple. Start with good coffee. Add in a shot of Irish whiskey. If you like your coffee sweet, add in some sugar. If you want it fancy, add whipped cream. If you want it really fancy, like, for a party or something, get a Celtic knot stencil and shake some cinnamon onto the whipped cream so it has a fancy pattern.

And there you have it, Irish Coffee. Sláinte!