Last weekend, my life revolved around spirits -- and I don't mean of the supernatural kind.
One of the good things about having a best friend with the same birthday is you always have someone to commiserate with about being another year older -- and you always have someone to celebrate with.
This year, Nancy, her daughter Noelle and I started the night at Desperado's. Why not go Mexican when your birthday is 48 hours ahead of Cinco de Mayo?
The food was delicious -- the two pitchers of margaritas were sublime.
With the night still young (although two of us weren't), we headed to the State Street T to continue celebrating. It was karaoke night and no, as tempting as it was after a few more margaritas to belt out The Commodores' "Brick House," Nancy and I refrained. Well, maybe not all that much. When a talented young woman sang it for us, we sang along, as loud as she was -- and she had a microphone!
As we left the tavern around 11:30 p.m., a fellow patron assured me, "What happens in the State Street T remains in the State Street T." Probably a good thing.
The next morning, as I lay in bed, unable and unwilling to move, I began to regret a few of the margaritas. Then I remembered the pudding shots that magically had arrived at our table at one point. I blame everything I did and the hangover on the pudding shots. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
I'm getting too old for this sort of partying ...
Sunday afternoon I roped a neighbor into helping me make beer. I gave my son a beer-making kit for Christmas two years ago, which remained unopened in his room. I opened it one day in April to discover it was "best when used by May 2013." The clock was ticking.
I read the directions, my neighbor read the directions and then I read the directions again. We could do this, couldn't we?
The process didn't take long. We sanitized the equipment to be used, we boiled the water and booster together as directed, and added a can of syrup that smelled and poured like molasses. We poured it all into the sanitized plastic beer keg and added the yeast and stirred again. We were done.
The beer has to sit and ferment for two weeks, then has to be bottled, and sits for another two to four weeks. I'm waiting for a loud bang in the middle of the night as the whole thing explodes ...
In college, my friends and I experimented with making balloon wine, which I've been told was a common way to make wine during Prohibition. It is what it is, a fairly sweet, very unsophisticated wine.
To make balloon wine, you need a glass gallon jug, a large heavy-duty latex balloon, a rubber band, 3 cups of sugar, 1 4 teaspoon of dried yeast and 3 cans of juice concentrate. Grape juice (Concord, red or white) works well, as does apple, and I've tried a grape/cranberry mixture. Citrus juices will not work. Make sure the concentrate is 100 percent juice.
Mix the juice, sugar and yeast in the jug, add enough water to fill to just below the shoulder of the jug, and shake well to dissolve.
Place the balloon over the neck of the jug and secure with the rubber band. Place the gallon of juice mixture in a dark, cool spot. As the wine ferments, the balloon will inflate, and after about three weeks it will deflate. Siphon the wine from the jug into another clean jug, leaving the sediment behind. Chill and enjoy.
For an inexpensive sangria, take 4 cups of the balloon wine and add:
1 2 cup freshly squeezed lemon
1 2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 4 to 1 2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet the balloon wine is)
1 2 cup brandy
1 cup orange and lemon slices
Put all the ingredients in a large pitcher, stir and enjoy.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.