By Paul Nelson

I am sitting in Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok waiting to check in for my flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. I am alone. My wife is jetting back to Hanoi, and because of several unexpected twists and turns, my colleague isn’t accompanying me to HCMC. Neither is my interpreter. I’ll reconnect with him at the airport in HCMC, as we’re on separate flights and departing different airports in Bangkok. In the meantime, I’ve had to negotiate my own way to the airport, the check-in process shortly, and immigration when I reach my destination. I’m in a city I barely know, clinging to a Wi-Fi connection as my only real means of communicating with anyone I know. And the vast majority of people I know are on the opposite side of the globe. It’s a strange feeling to be a stranger in a strange land, and this is the first time I’ve had to sit with this reality alone, without my wife or my colleague.  I’m not worried but keenly aware that I stick out here like a sore thumb.

By Paul Nelson

Cocktails, as much as I love them, are not a universal thing.  Several of the places I’ve traveled over the years really just don’t do them. It’s not their culture. They may have a distilled beverage that they drink over ice, but there isn’t a history of mixing it with anything else to create a cocktail.  We’re finding out that this is sort of the case with Vietnam. I hope to report on some locally sourced and inspired creations at one place in town. But in the meantime, we relaxed on the rooftop of the second-tallest building in Hanoi, the Lotte building (check it out here if you’re curious) this evening after dining on street sushi. There we tried a cocktail with a Southeast Asian flavor courtesy of passion fruit juice. My guess as to the recipe would be:

By Paul Nelson

In a few days, my wife and I will be heading overseas to Vietnam and Thailand to visit with friends and do some other stuff.  It’s been over two years since we found a Vietnamese inspired cocktail in an issue of Sunset magazine, and while I hope to be able to share some local recipes in the next couple of weeks, for now, this is as close as I can get to a Southeast Asian cocktail I’ve actually made. This originated in Seattle, and is named for Tran Hung Dao, a 13th century Vietnamese general regarded by many as one of the most brilliant tacticians in military history due to his victories over, among others, Kublai Khan. It takes a bit of work, but the complexity of flavors will likely have you making it over and over again, particularly if you enjoy Asian food!

By Paul Nelson

We’re familiar with the major liquors that make up a majority of cocktails in the US: tequila, whiskey/bourbon, rum, gin, and vodka. Each has major brands that you’ll typically find in your liquor store or bar. Each also represents just one type of production or process. Around the world, there are other liquors that are similar in some respects to the ones we’re familiar with but different enough to be worth exploring.

By Paul Nelson

A couple of years ago my wife and I were able to get away by ourselves for a week. We headed up the coast to San Francisco and enjoyed time in that city and the beautiful country north of there. After a long day of walking around the city to see the sights, we found ourselves in the financial district. It was on a weekend so it was fairly deserted. We were pleased to stumble upon Harrington’s Bar and Grill, a delightful little pub in a historic building. 

By Paul Nelson

I was helping a group of colleagues host a happy hour at an annual collegial event earlier this week.  They asked me to bartend and left the choice of libations up to me. Remembering the same event two years earlier, I knew that the most popular alcohol of choice by far had been rye and bourbon whiskey, so I decided to limit the menu to drinks with those as the main base. One option that I added to the list is one I’ve made before but have never been terribly impressed with – the mint julep.