Mark Yocca/Supercall

Mommy Mixology


Children are tough. My 15-month-old daughter is a precious angel of life—at least, she is when she’s laughing and saying “mama” and toddling towards me. Adorable. Other times, though, it seems like she hails from some place a little south of heaven—like when she’s mischievously pushing the power button on the large standing fan in the living room, over and over and over. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. Or when she’s opening the liquor cabinet doors and reaching for bitters and bourbon like she’s a young Sally Draper.

So, when I recently found myself peering into said liquor cabinet, filled with relics of my pre-mom life, I decided to reward myself with a cocktail. My daughter was down for the night, I thought. Let’s dust off that old shaker! But, alas, I was without mixers. Defeated, I reached for the bourbon, ready to pour it straight into a glass—but then I remembered Do or Dive, a nearby watering hole known for its unusual libations, including one cheekily-named cocktail called The Bad Dad made with vodka and—wait for it—Pedialyte.

A wild idea entered my desperate brain: If I couldn’t mix up a cocktail with fresh juices and cordials, I would mix one up with something I had plenty of: baby food.

I lined up my bottles: Aperol, sweet vermouth, Barr Hill Gin, Stolichnaya vodka, VSOP brandy, Bulleit bourbon and Cynar. And my mixers: everything from applesauce to formula to Infants’ Tylenol. And I got to work because I really wanted (read: needed) a cocktail.  

Infants’ Tylenol + Vodka

I had high hopes for this syrupy medicine, which is bright red and tastes exactly like a Jolly Rancher. My daughter’s dose is 2.5 milliliters, but I decided to double that for my grown up cocktail. I pulled the plunger until the syringe (that’s how it’s dosed out) was filled to capacity.

I grabbed the vodka from the lineup and poured a shot along with 5 milliliters of the medicinal syrup into a shaker with ice. Shake. Pour. Sip.

I was floored instantly by the potency—not surprising, considering I was essentially drinking low-proof Sizzurp. It was sweet and nearly palatable—but straight vodka with a touch of cherry syrup does not a cocktail make. Grade: B

Squeeze Pouch of Pureed Apples, Kale and Avocado + Bourbon

Because I’m a daredevil lunatic, I decided to experiment with the pureed vegetable pouch. On its own, the baby food tasted sour and had a slightly chalky texture. (My daughter should be thankful for her underdeveloped taste buds.)

Into a shaker I threw some ice, a tablespoon of the puree and a shot of bourbon, thinking the whiskey might complement the earthiness of the kale and the tanginess of the apple. I shook it up and poured it into a glass. “Thick bourbon” is the only way I can describe the alien-like goop that came out. It needed something sweet, so I poured the “liquid” back into the shaker and added half a shot of Aperol. Shake. Pour. Sip.

The cocktail tasted like liquid fruitcake. For some, that might be the kiss of death, but luckily, I happen to like fruitcake! Grade: B

Homemade Applesauce + Gin

Out of all my “mixers,” the applesauce, made with local New York Cortland apples (juicy and sweet with pure white flesh), seemed the most promising.  

It deserved better than vodka so I opted for Bar Hill Gin, which is made in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and has a distinct flavor profile: raw honey on the tongue and evergreen in the nose. I poured a shot into the cocktail shaker along with a tablespoon of applesauce and some ice. Shake. Pour. Sip.

The flavor was not unlike an Appletini, that fruity bastardization of a perfectly wonderful classic cocktail once popular amongst some of my college friends circa 2004, but it was less cloyingly sweet thanks to the high-quality gin and apples. This was a winner—if slightly chewy. Grade: A-

“Chunky-Style” Chicken & Stars Baby Food + Vodka

After the easy applesauce, it was time to move on to my most challenging mixer: Chicken & Stars. The gelatinous substance was incredibly bland and the color of puke. It badly needed salt. Again, I envied my daughter’s yet-to-be-developed tastebuds. This called for a bold move.

I thought of a Bloody Mary, which some bars serve adorned with bacon, shrimp and, occasionally, an entire fried chicken. So into the shaker went a tablespoon of the gloopy soup, a shot of vodka and a teaspoon of ketchup as there was no tomato juice to be found. Shake. Pour. Sip.

It smelled like peas but tasted, astonishingly, like nothing. Its one distinctive quality was its texture, which was horrifyingly thick. In a last gasp effort, I poured in some brine from an old jar of green olives along with some hot sauce. No luck. Instead of a cocktail I had spiked soup, a muddled mix of boozy blandness that had somehow absorbed the added flavors like a greedy sponge. Grade: D

Formula + Vodka

Have you ever tasted baby formula? Unless you are, in fact, a baby, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s very sweet and leaves your tongue feeling like it’s been dusted with chalk. But still, in my manic completionism, I felt the need to use it in my final drink attempt of the night.

The most well-known milk-based alcoholic beverage is the White Russian, but since I didn’t have Kahlua I moved on to another option: Brandy Milk Punch. A recipe I found called for brandy, milk, vanilla extract, simple syrup and nutmeg. I had no simple syrup on hand but thought the sweetness in the formula would carry it. I was wrong. My Formula Brandy Punch desperately needed that extra kick of sugar, and the mouthfeel, which is so important in milky cocktails, was almost abrasive. Grade: C

At the end of the night, I may not have gotten the craft cocktail I was craving, but I did get pretty tipsy on sips of a few nearly potable drinks, which I consider to be a win. Next time though, I think I’ll stick to straight bourbon.

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