Poker Night: A Foolproof Cocktail Formula

Poker night. It's an institution worldwide, but seems to be especially common amongst American males as a form of bonding. It consists of cards, snacking, comradery and drinking, and while it may remain a bit of a mystery to girlfriends as to why this is such hallowed ground, there is no debating the social role of poker.

And just like many other cultural traditions, it takes place around the table. Food & drink is a must, and we always prepare a little something special when it's time for poker at our house. You can find great "poker food" all over the web, but going beyond beer into the cocktail realm is a tad more mystifying.

Well, I am going to introduce a secret weapon to your arsenal that may or may not help your poker game: the Campari formula.

Campari is an Italian liqueur that dates back to the mid-1800s. It's a bright red bitter that is made by infusing alcohol and water with a variety of herbs. With a lovely spicy, bitter taste, it is often enjoyed alone, over ice. I, however, find it a bit strong for my tastes when served solo. Enter Campari as cocktail game-changer. Its unique flavor profile gives it an incredible quality as a bonding agent in cocktails.  It brings together grain alcohols, liqueurs and fruit juices in a very special way.  Not a math person? Here's one formula you can (and should) remember:

1.5 oz spirits + .5 oz liqueur + .5 oz citrus juice + .5 oz Campari.

This combo of spirits (gin, tequila, whiskey, vodka), juice (lemon, lime, grapefruit), and liqueur (Cointreau, Chartreuse, Southern Comfort, Drambuie, whatever) could be lethal and ill-advised. But there's something about the Campari that has the ability to draw them all together in perfect harmony and create a balanced cocktail that could be at home on any fancy-pants cocktail menu.

As I type this, I can't believe I'm making this secret public. Now everyone will know I'm not a super mixologist. Oh, well. Don't believe me? I put this theory to the test and blindfoldedly selected three liqueurs, three spirits, and three fruits from my fridge and cabinet and randomly matched them in order to create a cocktail for the boys and their poker snacks. The surprise? All of them were good. Here goes the results:

Random pairing #1: Bulleit Bourbon + Cointreau + Lime. This was a manly cocktail if there ever was one. With the bite of whiskey present in a strong way, the Cointreau brought an unexpectedly delicious orange note into the mix.

Random pairing #2: Jose Cuervo Tequila, Licor 43 (vanilla and citrus), Lemon. There is no way this should be good. Tequila mixed with vanilla and Campari (along with the typical citrus suspects)? Oh yes, oh yes it was. This was my personal fave.

Random pairing #3 (and the poker party taste test winner): Tanqueray gin, Drambuie, grapefruit. Wow. The whisky liqueur played so well off of the gin and grapefruit (which for me is a cherished combo anyway).  This one is worth a whorl any night you need a quick drink. Sometimes a little structure allows you to be even more creative.

And here you have it, in its shining glory, the winning cocktail from the experiment. It appears that this combination is fairly unique, so I feel entitled to name it: Poker Night Pote. (From the Spanish potear which basically means to go around drinking all night).