Creating an original cocktail is no simple task. There are a lot of great drink recipes out there, along with a lot of bad ones. It’s easy to scour the internet for ideas while feeling like there’s nothing left to be invented, as if there aren’t any cocktails left to create. You come up with an idea, only to Google it and see that it’s already been done before. Or maybe you come up with something, only to drink some and realize that it’s so bad there’s no way to fix it. And then you look at your liquor stash and resort to making a classic cocktail like a daiquiri or a margarita because it’s safe, easy and you know it’ll taste good.
That’s the journey I went on when I set out to create a cocktail in honor of Case Western Reserve University and in commemoration of CWRU Legacy Week. It was hard. I wanted to make something truly unique, but it felt like I was just reinventing the wheel––and our school deserved better.
I knew the drink had to be blue for our school color, so I’d have to use blue curacao. That may sound like a fancy ingredient, but it’s just an orange-flavored liqueur that’s been dyed blue. After that, though, I got stuck.
However, with Legacy Week arriving, I had an idea. The history of CWRU has a unique aspect that just about every student knows. Before they merged together to form CWRU, the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University were two separate institutions. In 1967, the two schools came together to form the CWRU that we know today.
With that history in mind, my vision for the cocktail became clearer. Every aspect of the drink would be split in two: the hard liquor, the citrus juice and the sweetener. Instead of using 2 ounces of hard liquor like a standard drink, I’d use 1 ounce each of two different liquors. Instead of 1 ounce of either lemon or lime juice, I’d use half an ounce of each. And for my sweetener, I’d use 1 ounce of blue curacao and then one-fourth of an ounce of simple syrup. This recipe would yield a nice blue drink that represented the unique history of our university.
After that, it was only a matter of selecting which two hard liquors to use in the drink. I eventually settled on an aged Jamaican rum and a blanco tequila. Both liquors have strong and distinct flavors that I felt stood up to each other but blended together at the same time.
In truth, though, you could use any two kinds of hard liquor that you think would work together. I really enjoyed what I made, but you may not have both on hand. The important thing is to use two different alcohols, in the spirit of the mixture and our university.
As we approach the end of the year, it’s an appropriate time to raise a glass to our beloved university and all you’ve accomplished and survived over your time here. And so, I give you the Case Western cocktail, a product of my own imagination. Make it, try it, enjoy it, maybe add a little more simple syrup if you think it needs it. And, as always, please drink responsibly.
1 ounce aged Jamaican rum
1 ounce blanco tequila
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice (1/3 ounce if using bottled*)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (1/3 ounce if using bottled)
1 ounce blue curacao
1/4 ounce simple syrup**
Add ingredients to your cocktail shaker filled with ice***
Shake until sufficiently chilled
Strain the drink into your preferred glass with or without ice
*While there’s nothing wrong with using bottled citrus juice, in my experience, it tends to have a harsher flavor than fresh-squeezed juice, so I like to dial back the amount of juice I use if I’m using bottled.
**To make simple syrup, combine sugar and water into a pot and heat up until the sugar is dissolved. The standard ratio in most recipes is one part sugar to one part water, which will last about four weeks in the refrigerator. You can also make what’s called a rich simple syrup by using two parts sugar to one part water, which will last for about six months in the refrigerator. I like to use this 2:1 rich syrup.
***If you don’t have a cocktail shaker available, you can use a protein shaker bottle, a Mason jar or a thermos that gets a really tight seal.